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!
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”.
Fast 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!!
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:
Who could resist?? so buy one, already!!
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.)
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!!
Happy to be posting a couple of happy items…
First, I took 2nd place in a songwriting contest through the internet’s Free Music Archive to attempt to supplant the copyrighted Goliath of birthday songs, “Happy Birthday to You” – whose owners charge $10,000 a pop for use of the tune in public media venues such as national restaurants, movies, TV, etc. I submitted a hasty, late-night version recorded in the wee hours of the pre-dawn in my office only equipped with a portable H2 Zoom recorder and a small ukulele. Since part of the intent was to have a tune that could be used royalty-free in the settings described above, I felt that it would be helpful to have some structural similarity to the familiar tune we’ve all been singing privately at home with our families for most of the last century; before concerns that the copyright gestapo might suddenly take a battering ram to our door and lay some legal process on the birthday boy or girl or whomever initiated its singing before seizing the cake into evidence. At any rate you can hear my 21 second masterwork, the winning entry, and over 125 other entries by clicking the link below:
(As a tip of the hat to a fellow competitor, I’d encourage you to listen to the submission of Chris Trapper, whose song was recorded with assistance from members of John Clark’s Wolverine Jazz Band of Boston – good friends of mine…and who I have a live CD coming out later this year with myself!!)
As for the second wonderful item, I was pleased and proud to find myself profiled in the Arts & Entertainment section of this week’s Dan’s Paper – the long-time, standard-bearer publication of the Hamptons and Long Island’s East End. The article has not yet appeared in their online version, but I was enthralled sufficiently by the effervescent writing of Debbie Slevin that I clipped and scanned the article. It becomes unreadable if I include it in a regular blog posting, but you can…
Thanks to Debbie Slevin, Dan’s Paper & all Sunnyland’s fans for your support!!
Played a lovely gig last night with the Isotope Stompers, shaking off some of the winter snow and cold, but something was missing…Larry Pearlstein. If you check out the Isotope Stompers page on this site, you’ll find this photo of the band taken a couple of years back at the dock in Bellport.
Until a few weeks ago, this was the standard lineup – Frank Hansen on bass, Jerry Cohen on trombone, Artie Miller on clarinet, Ron Hammond on drums and washboard, Larry Pearlstein (holding sign) on piano, Ken Butterfield on trumpet, and myself on banjo. Being the East End/North Fork members of the band, Larry and I regularly car-pooled together to gigs. He taught at Mahattan School of Music in the past and gigged throughout the NY metro area for years, notably including a long stint at Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center. He had an extraordinarily light touch at the keyboard, able to effortlessly transition from thoughtful accompaniment and punctuating rhythm patterns to technical and speedy solo passages. Sadly, Larry passed away suddenly in mid-January. The band and I greatly appreciated his musicality and sense of humor and we miss him terribly.
It’s been a busy winter season, and there’s only a couple of more opportunities to catch the Sunnyland Jazz Band at Bonnie Jean’s before the January hibernation (actually, going down to Florida to visit family).
As a holiday treat of sorts (for me), I’m including a photo taken this past Friday of the trio with a special guest – our friend and one of my early banjo inspirations, Harry Gustafson. As you can read in my bio section, Harry was part of the first band I was ever part of , The Singing Banjos, and was also the person who introduced my dad and I to the Long Island Banjo Society. Harry’s still playing and singing in his 80′s – even jamming with his son at a night spot down in North Carolina! Go Harry!!
October began Sunnyland with a small flurry of activity like swirling, falling leaves – a community apple picking party in the Hamptons, the annual Riverhead Country Fair, and a reprise of Jeff & Joel’s House Party in Guilford, CT.
Along the way, we re-connected with old friends and associates – Jeff Barnhart, John Clark, Fred Vigorito,Vince Giordano among others, and met some new friends at the house party. Pam Pamejier is the drummer for the New Black Eagle Jazz Band – a New England institution for over 40 years. I’ve been a long-time admirer of their great sound and eclectic repertoire, and Pam proved to have some solid washboard skills as well.
Another musical discovery was Genevieve Rose, a phenomenal bassist from Massachusetts. She has played in a variety of groups and styles and showed amazing adaptability, quickly mastering unfamiliar tunes within one chorus…and within minutes, confidently gliding into a beautiful solo.
I was also surprised and excited to meet in person Michael Steinman, host of Jazz Lives – my favorite topical blog (it was one of the first I included in my “favorite links” on this site…check it out over in the right side column). He is all one would expect after following the blog – an intelligent and witty commentator with insightful perspective driven by his passion for the music and it’s social environs. He’s also an English professor. (Don’t be caught dangling your participles!)
On a more bittersweet note, the farewell tour and accolades have begun for Bill Toiano, one of our long-time tuba associates, who is moving away to Austin, TX – soon to become the next center of the tuba universe. Bill performed at the Riverhead Country Fair with us and was given all kinds of well-deserved accolades and proclamations honoring him for years of dedicated musical service to the community. He also gets one last grand hurrah – completing his stint as founding director of the Howard Hovey Tuba Day on Friday, November 2nd. This year’s festival will be held at Connetquot High School at 7 PM. As usual, the festivities begin with a pre-concert performance by myself and John along with Bob & Arthur Hovey. Thanks Bill, on behalf of all the students and musicians you’ve inspired over the years! Austin’s tuba revolution begins in December…
Oh…The trio is still running strong at Bonnie Jean’s – with slightly altered hours. The band performs is featured every Thursday from 6 to 8:30 PM – along with a fried chicken special. Farm-raised, served hot, not too greasy – and the chicken’s not bad, either.
After a family wedding (my daughter) kicked off the month, we’re back in the swing of things with performances at Bonnie Jean’s on the Main Road (Route 25) in Southold on Thursday the 13th and Thursday the 27th from 6:30 til 9.
In between, I’m happy to be performing once again as “special guest” of the fantastic Galvanized Jazz Band. For any interested parties in western CT, we will be playing at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford on Sunday, September 9th from 3-5 PM. Also appearing with the band is trombonist Jerry Zigmont, a well-known figure of the New York City jazz scene as member of Woody Allen’s jazz band (led by my old pal Eddy Davis). I’ve heard and admired Jerry’s playing for some years now, and pleased that this will be my first opportunity to work with him.
Next up, the Isotope Stompers will be playing a concert the following Sunday the 16th at the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Libary on William Floyd Parkway in Shirley from 1 to 3 PM. It’s a great (free) opportunity to see Long Island’s premier and long-cherished classic traditional jazz band.
On Thursday night September 20th, the trio will be on hiatus from Bonnie Jean’s for a special cause. The Sunnyland Jazz Band is playing at a benefit dinner for Heidi’s Helping Angels – named in honor of Heidi Behr, a member of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance corp who died in an accident while responding to an emergency several years ago. In her memory, a fund was created to benefit those volunteer emergency workers in our community who encounter unexpected difficulties. One such case is past EMT leader Ron Rowe, who was seriously injured in a car accident earlier this year requiring significant medical attention and surgery. To help defray his expenses and raise money for the Heidi Fund, a benefit dinner is being held at the Riverhead Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue beginning at 5:30 PM. Advance tickets are necessary, available through Heidi’s Helping Angels, PO box 911, Riverhead NY 11901. $35 per person buys a full steak dinner with all the trimmings, but tickets are going fast (250 as of this writing!).
We finish out the month with a happy return to Bonnie Jean’s…you can only miss the Thursday night fried chicken special for just so long…