'Dr. Joe' helps bring jazz to Branford

Radiation oncologist Dr. Joe Cardinale has a second career as a jazz musician, a passion he’s helping to share through the Branford Jazz on the Green series. 

Radiation oncologist Dr. Joe Cardinale has a second career as a jazz musician, a passion he’s helping to share through the Branford Jazz on the Green series. 

The Shore Newspaper | Published July 12, 2017
By Jen Matteris, Editorial Assistant - Content Reporter

Most towns have a summer concert series. So, too, did Branford—until it swapped to a weeknight Jazz on the Green series in 2009. But that doesn’t mean the music is the same each night.

“Jazz is a very broad type of music—there’s many different types of jazz,” says Joseph Cardinale, M.D., who’s helped organize Branford Jazz on the Green for the past five years. “For instance, this year we have some groups playing jazz standards, we have a Latin jazz group, we have jazz fusion, and we have several smooth jazz performances—the crowd seems to enjoy that a lot. And this year we’re also having a gypsy jazz band. I’m really looking forward to that particular performance.”

The series runs on Thursdays through Aug. 24, starting at 6:30 p.m. Although the concerts only take place during the summer, the committee behind the series works year-round, meeting once each month.

“We start meeting very shortly after the last concert of the season to start planning the next season,” says Joe.

It’s a lot of work, especially for those like Joe with a full-time job and then some. A cancer specialist at the Yale University School of Medicine, “Dr. Joe” also plays guitar with his own jazz band: Dr. Joe & Friends. As the only musician on the committee, it’s Joe’s job to decide which bands will perform on the Green each year.

“There’s a lot that goes into it. It’s really a labor of love for all of us,” says Joe.

He emphasized that his fellow committee members give their all, too—he gave a special shout-out to one of the series’ founders, Charlotte Mattei.

“It’s a great group of people and we all do it because we love music and to give back to the community, too.”

In Joe’s eyes, the payoff is well worth it.

“People love them,” he says of the concerts. “We estimate we get between two and three thousand people per performance. It’s a really wonderful thing.”

Joe first became involved with the jazz series as a performer. Today, he performs on Sundays at the Thai restaurant Ayuthai—a favorite restaurant of his in his hometown, Guilford, that he decided could use a musical boost. He also performs at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook with his six-piece band: sax, piano, drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. His daughter, Elise, fills the latter role.

“She started singing with me in high school or even before then, she pursued a similar path to me,” Joe says. “She sings for the love of it. The two of us have that in common.”

They are also both doctors. Elise has a PhD in neuroscience and is currently working at the National Institute of Health.

Joe has lived for 35 years in Guilford with his wife, Filomena. Beyond music and his family, community is one of the most important things in his life. Working on Branford’s jazz committee is one way for him to fulfill that interest.

“Everybody’s in it for the right reasons,” he says of the committee. “It’s really great working with a bunch of people like that.”

As a final note, Joe pointed out that Jimmy Cobb will perform at the July 27 concert on the Green. Fans will recognize him as a legendary jazz drummer who played with Miles Davis; his work includes Kind of Blue, the number one best-selling jazz album of all time.

“We try to keep it fresh and new,” he says. “We have professional sound, it’s a great venue.”

The Branford Jazz on the Green series runs on Thursdays through Aug. 24, with shows starting at 6:30 p.m. on the Branford Green. Dr. Joe & Friends features a variety of artists every Sunday night at Ayuthai, 2279 Boston Post Road, Guilford. For more information, visit www.branfordjazz.com or www.drjoeandfriends.com.