Keeney Koolers Concert Series Gets Wethersfield Dancing
WETHERSFIELD - Latanya Farrell of the Bookman Styles Band only got through belting out the first three letters of the word “respect”--the first lyric of the famous Aretha Franklin song--before the microphone cut out on her. But she was undeterred.

       Farrell kept on singing, with vocals that made her sound almost as if she didn’t need a mic, before stopping, smiling sheepishly, and waiting a couple of minutes for the technical difficulties to be addressed.

       But she had already won over the 300 or so Wethersfield residents who had gathered on the front lawn of the Keeney Cultural Center for the Wethersfield Historical Society’s July 22 concert--the third and final event of its Keeney Koolers Summer Concert Series. Audience members seated in lawn chairs in front of the stage smiled and tapped their feet to the music as Farrell began singing the words to the Natasha Bedingfield song “Unwritten.”

       The hook for that one begins with the sage advice “release your inhibitions,” which is exactly what Farrell and her band five-member band got the audience to do.

       “She had everyone going,” said Wethersfield Historical Society Program Coordinator Lisa Walsh. “There was probably 25 to 30 people dancing in front of the stage by the end of the concert.”

       Latanya Farrell and the Bookman Styles Band have been doing this since they got together eight years ago. The group, which consists of guitarist Keith Gibson, drummer Jason Arnold, bassist Dave Smith, keyboardist Scott Wattel and percussionist Bill Rosa, has been everywhere from the Greater Harford Festival of Jazz fests to shows at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. They have even opened up for Javier Colon, the first winner of the NBC sing-off The Voice, in 2011.

       “We’ve shared the stage with some incredible people,” Farrell said at the concert, before the group took the stage. “These guys are diverse enough to do it all.”

       Gibson described the band’s style as “R&B with a flair of soul,” but it’s really impossible to put them in any specific box genre-wise, Farrell said.

       “[It’s] just upbeat, positive music with soul-originals infused with soulful hits,” she said. “Something you’ve heard before, but with a twist.”

       Concert-goers attended the event for free, courtesy of a grant from the Robert Allan Keeney Memorial Fund that is administered to the Historical Society through the Hartford Foundation of Public Giving.

       “This is my favorite type of venue,” Farrell said. “I love to sing for kids and families.”