Rallying The Sunnyland Troops – Vote For Us(…and I didn’t even know we were running!)

Dear friends -

As you should realize, it is not often that I weigh in on a local election…but there’s always room for an occasional exception.

Voting is going on for Dan’s Papers annual “Best of the Best” for the East End, and I find myself directly involved with two nominees on the North Fork…The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall as best theater and my own Sunnyland Jazz Band for best band!!

The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall is a national and state historic landmark, is the oldest theater in the entire downstate region (LI & NYC) and has the nicest all-volunteer members a person could ever find on a non-profit board.  It also makes itself available for lots of charitable and fund-raising events for the entire community.  Show your support with a vote in lieu of birthday wishes – Saturday 10/12 is the Vail’s 132nd birthday!!

…and unexpectedly, I discovered when I went to vote for the Vail that the Sunnyland Jazz Band has been nominated as best band on the North Fork (which by deductive reasoning clearly makes us the best trio – or at least “band without a drummer”).  Send a message that tiny, peculiar bands with tuba and banjo and virtually no amplification will no longer be ignored – Goliaths beware, little pigs fight fiercely!!!

Any votes you can cast on behalf of these two long-standing organizations with whom I am personally affiliated is greatly appreciated.  Voting closes at 11:59 pm on October 24th, so vote soon & often!!

Thanks to all – here’s a quick link to the contest:


Get a dose of musical medicine before flu season begins…

…by availing yourself of one or more of these 3 great opportunities before Columbus Day arrives!!!

If you want the closest thing to immersion therapy, you must experience Jeff and Joel’s House Party. Hosted by Connecticut’s paragons of the jazz community – musical director and entertainer extraordinaire Jeff Barnhart along with Banjo Hall of Famer and house host Joel Schiavone.  Jeff is one of America’s premier jazz pianists – specializing in ragtime and stride stylings – and  features one of the most diversely deep and entertaining catalogs of music to be heard from any musician you may ever hear.  I am also proud that he and his wife Anne are dearly cherished personal friends as well.  Joel gained fame as the Ivy League business mastermind who created the national sing-along clubs known as “Your Father’s Moustache” rather than simply resting on his laurels (!!) as one of the great sing-along banjoists in the world.  Of course when these two throw a party, you can expect some amazing musicians to be there and lots of great music.  Click on this link to get a look – act fast, ’cause there’s only limited seats available & food is included! 

Next, we have the Thursday night regulars appearing at Bonnie Jean’s in Southold from 6:30-9 PM.  We have recently learned that the restaurant has been sold, so please come out and show your support….hopefully we can continue being there for each other as we have for over 3 years!!!

Notwithstanding the status of Bonnie Jean’s, we will be playing on Thursday, October 10th at Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue in Riverhead’s historic Polish Town for the annual steak dinner fund raising event for Heidi’s Helping Angels to benefit  EMT’s and emergency workers.  Led by good friend and former town supervisor Jim Stark, the group is named in honor of Heidi Behr, a Riverhead volunteer EMT who lost her life while serving her community.  It’s always a great night with lots of food, raffle prizes and neighborly good will…and all for a great cause.

Hope to see you soon!



Sunnyland hits it’s stride in August!

I’m making a second consecutive weekend trip to Massachusetts this Sunday, where I will be playing with a band under the ever-enjoyable leadership of Jeff Hughes – cornetist extraordinaire of the Wolverines Jazz Band.  The occasion is on Cape Cod, where we will play at a rally of antique motor vehicles…or as the locals say, “caahs”.

On the three Mondays until the end of the month (August 12th, 19th, and 26th) from 7pm to 9pm we will be performing outside of the Hampton Bays Carvel. Feel free to bring some furniture if you would like to stick around for awhile. The Hampton Bays Carvel is located at 73 East Montauk Highway. If it rains on Monday, we will play on the Tuesday weather permitting.

On the next three Wednesdays (August 14th, 21st, and 28th) from 6pm to 9pm, we will be again be performing at the Ralph’s Italian Ices located in the Whitepoint Shopping Center in College Point located at 132-07 14th Ave.   I can personally vouch for the Malibu Bay Breeze ices!

As usual, we will be performing our regular Thursday evening at Bonnie Jean’s Cafe from 6:30 to 9pm and, if all goes well, right through the fall.  Hopefully, ‘Tuba John” Lovett  will be subbing for Jeff on August 22nd while he’s in Port Jefferson playing something else. (Remember that kids, tubas are ALWAYS in demand!)  Bonnie Jeans is located at 55765 Main Road in Southold.  Fantastic fried chicken is the special on Thursdays, but everything they prepare is delicious.  Their phone number is: 631-765-6766 or find them on the web at  http://www.bonniejeansnofo.com/

Sunnyland, Weather Turn Up Heat Across Long Island

Simultaneous with the current heat wave, the band and I have been covering the Island almost literally from end to end.

Wednesday July 17th began a set of six dates (the last 3 Wednesdays in July and August) at Ralph’s Italian Ices at the Whitepoint Shopping Center in College Point, Queens.  While John Klumpp had a conflicting schedule commitment, we were thrilled and privileged to have the legendary Randy Reinhart filling the horn chair.  As one might have expected, the results were musically fantastic and stylishly seamless.  Of course, some of last year’s audience were looking for John – “the Nijinsky of traditional jazz” – and they will undoubtedly be ready to greet him when he returns to action with us for the remaining dates.  For those who complain that the band always plays “too far out East”, come to Ralph’s where you can voice your complaints in person!

The All-Stars who played down the block from Ralph’s at Citi Field this week haven’t got anything on the “bench” players for Sunnyland, as demonstrated by the stellar turn of Christian d’Lestrade last night for our Thursday night regular at Bonnie Jean’s.  His clarinet and soprano sax playing have the undeniable energy and thoughtful phrasing of one with a true passion for this music.  We are hoping to have Christian join us whenever the next opportunity presents itself; it’s always a pleasure to hear him and his enthusiasm is clearly infectious to both the band and audience.

A couple more gigs round out this week. Tonight at 8 PM, I will be performing with the Isotope Stompers in a free public concert at the Bellport bandshell down near the bayfront. (See, there’s even something if you live toward the middle of the Island…)

Finally on Saturday the 20th, I will be part of the band backing the ever-lovely and talented Barbara Rosene in concert at a unique location – the Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, Queens.  The cemetery is the final resting place of a number of musical notables including Jimmy Rushing, LaVerne Baker (vocalists) and Tony Sbarbaro (drummer of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band).  Reservations are required; ticket prices range from $20-25 for non-members.  For more information, contact the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery at 347-878-6614.

Here comes summer – and another CD!!

Things are starting to hum & strum along into another busy summer season.  In addition to our regular Thursday’s at Bonnie Jean’s and a few private parties, I will be performing with the Isotope Stompers on Saturday, June 15th in a free concert at the American Legion hall in Glen Head – sponsored by the Gold Coast Public Library.  The following week, I’ll be performing with John Banker’s Riverboat Ramblers at the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival, benefiting the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang’s kids camp. (I will likely also make a guest appearance with the Wolverines Jazz Band, who will also be appearing on Saturday the 22nd.)

As if this all weren’t enough, here’s another CD for your enjoyment:


 The Loose Marbles have recently disbanded, but I was fortunate enough to have recorded with this fantastic and energetic group of young New Orleans-based musicians.  Available now through the “Buy a CD” link or at Bonnie Jean’s!!

Double dose of great music at Bonnie Jean’s this week!

The weather is warming up and so is the musical season – a double shot of great music will be found at Bonnie Jean’s this week.  In addition to the regular scheduled performance by the Sunnyland Jazz Band, I will be privileged once again to work with the lovely and talented vocalist Barbara Rosene on Friday, May 24th. You should definitely pick up a copy of her latest CD “Nice & Naughty”…one of my most frequently played collections over the past several weeks. It contains a cornucopia of lesser-heard Tin Pan Alley classics – just the type of music I and fans of Sunnyland enjoy so much.  It’s even better to hear her and see her live, where you can experience her bubbling personality and stage presence as well – accompanied by Chris Jones on bass and your truly on the other strings.  Great food & great music as always at Bonnie Jean’s!

A wonderful addition to the schedule…

Over the last few weeks, it has been my privilege to be re-acquainted with Barbara Rosene – a beautiful and heartfelt singer of tunes from the very same eclectic Tin Pan Alley catalog as I (and Sunnyland listeners) have appreciated for many years.  I first met Barbara through our mutual inspiring influence – Eddy Davis, the Manhattan Minstrel – back in the day at the Cajun.  The Cajun was a unique and warm atmosphere for fans of this music, but became especially joyful on the nights when Eddy played his special variety of tasteful and joyous music to the venue.  Eddy is one of the best people for a “jam” environment, as his natural style and encouraging manner draw in both listeners and musicians at all levels of experience.   Well on one of those special evenings, I happened to meet Barbara and immediately saw and heard the delivery and deep understanding of this music that, in the words of Michael Steinman, “lights our way”.

Barbara RoseneFast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when Barbara & I (via the great re-connector that is Facebook) chatted a bit, followed by her spontaneous appearance with my trio at Bonnie Jean’s!  She is now spending time on the East End and recently booked a performance at the newly renovated Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead (where Sunnyland played at the ribbon-cutting!).  I was delighted when Barbara asked if I’d like to join her group for a performance titled “A Night At A Speakeasy”.  What fool would say no – Miss Rosene always has the most stellar musicians in her band and this night will be no exception.  The musicians include Grammy & Oscar-award winning Conal Fowkes on piano, ace New York reedman Mike Hashim and the multi-talented and exquisitely versatile Andy Stein on violin.  What can I say – a thrill and an honor to be asked to join this group for this show!

Get your tickets at suffolktheater.com while you can!!



Hey pal, wanna buy a CD??

Well, if you check on the “Buy a CD” link, you’ll discover that another musical product has been added to the inventory at Sunnyland Industries. It’s title is quite apropos for my collaboration with the legendary Galvanized Jazz Band of Connecticut – “I’ll Be A Friend, With Pleasure” – as it is indeed a pleasure to count each of these wonderful and talented people as friends.  The band is led by cornetist Fred Vigorito whose knowledge of the history and background of the tunes is surpassed only by his outstanding hot horn chops.  Laying down the reliable and highly crafted bass lines is Art Hovey.  If you have read some of my writings, you’ll know that Art is the son of my long-time associate Howard Hovey.  Howard led the trio that ultimately evolved (descended?) into the core trio of the Sunnyland Jazz Band.  Arthur is a world-class tubaist as well as teacher and mentor to countless young jazz players across Connecticut and New England.  I have played on numerous occasions with both reed men – Noel Kaletsky and Russ Whitman – and it was great to work with both at the same time.  Their styles are each distinct, but blend together from years of experience.  Bill Sinclair plays both tasteful accompaniment and artful solos at the piano while Bob Bequillard on drums delivers  rhythmically precision with polish.  Here’s the cover photo:

Galvanized CD cover

Who could resist??  so buy one, already!!

Triumphant trumpet! Thrilling tuba! Banjo beatitude! Additional alliterative adjectives!

Everybody sing along now!

“Spring is here, a-suh-puh-ring is here
Life is skittles and life is beer,
I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring (I do, don’t you? ‘Course you do!)
But there’s one thing that makes things complete for me,
And makes ev’ry Sunday a treat for me….”

              – Tom Lehrer, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” (c) 1953 & 1968

Well, if Mr. Lehrer were teaching math and the American Musical Theater on the East Coast today, I venture a guess that he would be calling Thursday a treat as well beginning March 28th.  It marks a week since the official return of spring AND the thrilling return of the Sunnyland Jazz Band to Bonnie Jean’s on Route 25 in Southold for a third season of jazz jubilation (I warned you in the title there would be more).  Come on out & enjoy great food, fun music and a marvelous selection of coffee drinks and select light alcoholic beverages!!!

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I also will take this opportunity to offer a “plug” for our friend Henry Newberger, longtime host of the public access television program “Still Trying”.  Henry has filled in on various gigs on tuba or trombone with Sunnyland, the Isotope Stompers or various other friends in the trad jazz circuit.  He and Banjo Bob Fuhr have been local staples of the sing-along scene on Long Island for many years.  “Still Trying” is shown on most cable systems throughout Long Island and Westchester – look for it on your local station!  (Riverhead Cablevision regularly broadcasts the show on Sundays at 6 PM on Channel 20.)

Bringing back two cherished institutions…

The Sunnyland crew got a chance to knock of some rust this morning at the ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the re-opening of the Suffolk Theater on Main Street in downtown Riverhead.  (I’ve seen a couple of facebook photos begin cropping up already.)  It was a wonderful event with lots of old friends from the community turning out to support what certainly is a keystone event in the revitalization process.  The theater interior has been beautifully and carefully renovated and restored by Robert & Dianne Castaldi, who along with Executive Director Bob Spiotto (also a great performer) and events coordinator Kim Folks create a veritable dream team of skills to make the Suffolk Theater a centerpiece of Riverhead’s downtown for years to come.

Another cherished institution was temporarily postponed due to Superstorm Sandy – the annual Howard Hovey Day of Tuba & Euphonium!! For many years, this event was led by Bill Troiano – a frequent “sub” with Sunnyland.  Bill moved to Texas, but I’m hoping he may grace us a visit since we were cheated out of a proper farewell four months ago.  The “opening act” for the event for many years has been myself & John Klumpp along with Howard’s two sons – Art Hovey on helicon/tuba and Bob Hovey on trombone. Both of them are extraordinary musicians – Art as a vital part of the famous Galvanized Jazz Band in Connecticut, and Bob playing with many diverse groups and musicians including the Blues Collar Band, King Scallop & the Oysterettes, the Protruders, Dominic Duval and Teddy Charles. The pre-show festivities begin at 6:45 PM at the Bellport Middle School in Bellport, 35 Kreamer Street (just west of Station Road).  Hope to see you there!!

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