Scholarly series looks at influential music of the early 20th Century

The late Wiltonian Dave Brubeck is probably Wilton’s most well-known jazz musician and composer, and on Sunday, March 13, Wiltonian and jazz history authority Bob Riccio will discuss the dawning of the era of the music Brubeck became known for during the third installment of this year’s scholarly series.

During his Jazz Heritages lecture at Wilton Library, Riccio will discuss the beginning influences on American Jazz from Africa and Europe in the early-1900s, the Jazz Era of the 1920s, and its implications on America’s outlook as a society.

The scholarly series is an annual collaboration between the Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society. This year’s series — From the Guns of August to the Gathering Storm 1914-1939 — focuses on World War I and its aftermath.

“I’m looking forward to sharing some of the historical, cultural and musical trends that were brewing during the 1900s to 1930s in America that helped to seed the creation of Jazz,” said Riccio, who will also touch on the religious music of that era like gospel and the blues, as well as early New Orleans and ragtime influences, dixieland, boogie-woogie and end with the emergence of swing in 1932.

Blind Lemon Jefferson, also known as the “Father of Texas Blues,” was one of the most popular blues singers of the 1920s and had a profound influence on Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, a folk and blues musician born in Louisiana in the late 1880s with ties to Wilton.

For three months in 1935, Lead Belly lived in a farmhouse in Wilton with John and Alan Lomax, a father-and-son duo collecting songs for the Library of Congress. During his time in Wilton, Lead Belly recorded 89 selections and worked on a book of himself and his songs with the Lomaxes, which was published a year later.

Lead Belly met and played with Jefferson in Dallas in the early 1910s and later wrote a short tribute song called "My Friend Blind Lemon.”

Riccio, who has been performing, teaching, writing and arranging music for more than 30 years, said he is “really excited” to be a scholarly series lecturer and will be “encouraging some audience interactivity.”

“I've invited two musical colleagues of mine to share in the musical experience of that evening,” he said. “It should prove to be a both entertaining and educational evening.”

All scholarly series lectures run from 4 to 5:30 and are free of charge, although donations are welcome.

The last lecture two lectures in this year’s series are:

  • March 20: WWI and the Future of America with Matthew Warshauer at the Wilton Historical Society.

  • April 3: Folk Music and Social Consciousness in the Interwar Years with Stephen Armstrong at Wilton Library.

For more information or to register, visit or call 203-762-6334.