Returned from Sturbridge MA

This past weekend was a fantastic event – a combination of musical joy meets family reunion. The New England Jazz Banjo Fest had lots of great players (as usual) with Steve Caddick, Mike Hashem, Lance MacLean, , David Cavage, Albie Bernard, Paul Monat, Nathan Garrett (another Roy Smeck alumni) all present along with Arlene Boucher, Ruth & Frank Vitale, Paul Poirer and dozens more performers and fellow banjo players & enthusiasts. As usual, a fantastic time organized by Allen Padwa and Alice Caldwell. I was thrilled to have this great group of friends to play with and for – and get the chance to play some of the slightly “outside” material that I love so much. I was especially happy to pay some (long overdue) tribute to Tom Fee and his old band of pals – “The Yo-Yo’s” – who were a great inspiration to me in appreciating and trying to ferret out lesser known but no-lesser quality tunes of the Tin Pan Alley golden age. There’s not a better group of people one could possibly know!!
There are some upcoming Sunnyland JB appearances in early October – all compressed into one weekend. On Saturday the 7th, the trio of John, Jeff & myself will be appearing at the relatively new Jamesport Farm Brewery on Sound Avenue from approximately 1:30 to 5:30. It’s your one chance to hear our core trio in action, support a new local business venture and enjoy tasty fermented fruits of the harvest season! The following day, October 8th, I will be playing another edition of the Riverhead Country Fair. Due to a scheduling conflict, the band will be performing as a “split squad” that day and Jeff Furman will be in Riverhead with myself and a special guest performer while John Klumpp directs the (private) other performance.
Speaking of guest performances, I am happy to announce that the following week (October 14th), I will be part of a quartet at a special performance at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall along with the following visiting musical dignitaries: Jeff Hughes on cornet (from the Wolverines Jass Band, Paramount Jazz Band, Brahmin Bellhops); Albie Bernard on tuba (one of New England’s finest tubaists – as they say, has played with “Everybody” and please note the capitalization); and Sarah Spencer on saxophone (traveling here from Britain across the Big Pond – premier New Orleans/Blues saxophonist and powerful vocals, too!). Be advised, this is a fleeting and special opportunity…you’ve got to come out and be part of this!! And, for the bravest music students reading this post – there will be a master class/workshop earlier in the day wherein the aforementioned quartet will impart their collective history and expertise to others. Email the Music Hall for more information: vlmusichall@gmail.com. You’ll also get to visit (if you haven’t already) Downstate New York’s oldest theater…20 years older than the oldest on Broadway and celebrating its 136th birthday that very weekend!!

Emerging from under the rubble of circumstances…

I get a chance to catch my breath & update my dedicated followers of happenings & statuses. A brief overview:

  • Six months of family health issues which demanded attention but are increasingly well-managed; All good wishes are appreciated!
  • Continuing efforts advocating and promoting the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall (more info coming soon!)
  • Some intermittent gigging with (as usual) some AMAZING and wonderful musicians
  • A well-controlled obsession with grandchildren Natalie & Nicholas – my favorite people on the planet
  • Preparation to return for the start of my 32nd year at Suffolk County Community College

I’ve been recently honored and humbled by the requests and comments by friends and associates to the very slight uptick in online activity I’ve managed in the past week or two. I’ll try to document more, but must admit that the intensity and distribution of my time to doing lots of stuff doesn’t leave me much time to plan or deal with documenting that stuff. I try to tell my students to be present in the moment as opposed to documenting from within the moment, but have to train myself to simply take a few seconds to shoot some pix or video along the way. As Vince Giordano told me, “We’re all learning, man….”

I have had a wonderful time this past month playing north of Long Island Sound, including an annual party following the Falmouth Road Rally on Cape Cod and for “Gatsby on the Isles” on Star Island, NH with John Clark’s Wolverines Jazz Band.

At the latter gig, was privileged as well to meet and work with the talented and beautiful Elise Roth as guest vocalist. Click here to visit Elise’s website – She’s got the makings of “I knew her when…”.

I’m headed up with Sherrie to enjoy the company of Jeff & Karen Hughes (Jeff is the extraordinarily tasteful cornetist for the well-known Paramount and Wolverines Jazz Bands of Boston) before I return to classes at SCCC. I am scheduled to be part of the New England Jazz Banjo Festival at Sturbridge, MA in mid-September. For Long Island audiences, it appears we will have a couple of Sunnyland appearances in the first half of October and the developing possibility of getting some special guests to visit & play at the Vail. Stay tuned….I’ll try to as well.

Long time, no speak…

After more than 2 years dormant, I finally resolved to once again begin posting (intermittently) to this website.  There are a complex multitude of motivational reasons for this.  Primarily, this website seems like the easiest way for me to keep friends, associates and curious members of the public at large informed without resorting to managing social media…which can distract me from fully immersing myself in experiences.

Lots of great stuff on the personal front, including my wonderful family – now featuring two grandchildren who are my favorite people on the planet.  Musically, I remain active with Sunnyland locally and increasingly have been freelancing with other groups and playing a broader variety of music.  I enjoy every opportunity to cross the LI Sound to perform among many great friends and musicians throughout New England, and getting some playing time on regular visits to southwest Florida.

I am also still the president of the Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, a 501(c)3 charitable corporation which operates Long Island’s oldest theater (built in 1881).  For more information on the Vail-Leavitt ==> CLICK ON THIS LINK TO VISIT THEVAIL.ORG.

As gratifying as musical and charitable works are, I maintain my full-time job as Assistant Professor of Business & Information Systems (along with the “History of Jazz” course) at the Riverhead Campus of Suffolk County Community College – my employer for the past 31 years.

Most recent notable information: If you look through the links on this site related to my musical history, you will find that I recorded a home-brewed CD in 2008 with a group of young musicians in New Orleans called “Loose Marbles”.  When the group disbanded, many of those musicians achieved recognition as parts of other groups including Tuba Skinny, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, the Shotgun Jazz Band and many others (each unique & fantastic IMHO). Notably, I’ve been watching the rising career of Alynda Segarra, the vocalist on the aforementioned CD.  Her band, “Hurray for the Riff Raff”, provide scenery for Alynda’s poetic and emotionally deep and evocative songs with great emotion, drive and musicality.   I’m privileged to now be among the older musicians who can say “I knew her when…”.

I can promise that as long as I am not struck by infirmity the next update will come in a more reasonable interval….

An update before 2014 reaches its end…

As many personal friends and family are aware, my mother Irene Barta passed away this summer.  While my life and activities have gone on, it has certainly been an emotionally charged and difficult time over these past 4+ months.  I will always be grateful for the support and advice which she gave me in her life.  Along with my father – who truly became a lifetime best friend – I could not have possibly wished for better parents or a family to be born into.  I miss them both; sad that they are not here to enjoy the joys that I hope are yet to come but ever grateful for all the gifts and love that they brought to me, my family and their friends in their lives.

Mom’s passing (along with other personal and work events) reduced my usual level of music activities dramatically and consumed much of my available time to update this site or promote appearances.  There have been several of note: a series of performances at Whitepoint Shopping Center in Queens, the Cape Cod road rally, the Blues, Brews & BBQ benefit for the Masury estate in Center Moriches, the annual Riverhead Country Fair and – most recently – a great gig in York, PA with a star-studded band led by the talented and beautiful Barbara Rosene.

As the situation settles in at a “new” normal level, I look forward to resuming a more regular schedule of performances and web updates – I’ll keep you posted here & thanks to all for your kind thoughts & support!

 

Peace & Justice –

Bob Barta

Long time, no post – an update.

The Sunnyland site & blog have been dormant for a while, only in part due to the unusually harsh and extended wintery weather.

Over the winter months, I’ve been helping my mom & uncle who have each had major health issues. I am pleased to report that both are stable and well at this writing.  Much happier home front news came in February with the arrival of Natalie – our first grandchild!!  Our daughter Samantha and her husband (and primo blues guitar-slinger) Josh are the proud parents.

This past October, I also lost a great friend and supportive musical mentor, Bob Greene. Bob was an incredible writer and historian who was known most widely for his deep understanding, expression and interpretations of the music and style of Jelly Roll Morton.  I was privileged to play with Bob numerous times, including multiple concerts and presentations at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.  Before my Dad passed away in 2007, he recalled Bob over fifty years earlier playing at the Central Plaza in Manhattan when Dad was a college student.  Since this entry must be brief owing to time, I will make a more comprehensive posting about Bob and some of his affect on me in the near future.

Musically, I’ve been playing lots of places other than eastern Long Island and with a variety of musicians other than my regular Sunnyland colleagues.  In and around New York City, I’ve had several gigs working with the talented and beautiful Barbara Rosene.  Her band regularly includes pianist/musical director Conal Fowkes (Grammy winner), renowned violinist/bari sax player Andy Stein (another Grammy recipient) and more recently….me (or in the audience’s word “who?”).  Moving out of state, I’ve played with my old pal Jeff Barnhart at the Essex Winter Series in Connecticut performing rarely heard tunes of the immortal Fats Waller with an all-star band including Gordon Au, Kevin Dorn, Vince Giordano, Dan Levinson and … (who again?).  Back in January, Sherrie and I traveled to Florida to visit our moms where I inadvertently discovered a great jazz band playing about 5 minutes away from my mom’s place.  The band was led by trumpeter Bobby Tess along with great players including tubaist Howard Smith.  I’m looking forward to reconnection with Bobby’s band again on my next trip down.

Finally and most recently, I just returned from the North American International Banjo convention (NAIBC) in Dearborn, Michigan.  I was picked up at the airport by the festival’s director, Brian Newsom.  Brian was an excellent host and along with his wife Vickie, Richard Shinske, Bob Ervin, Amy & Jerry Reutlinger – in short, the entire team made the festival comfortable, entertaining and friendly.  Shortly after arrival, I had a great lunch and did some catching up with my cousin Joanne Rice – who lives right in the area.  The display rooms had plenty of instruments to ogle.  It was my first opportunity to meet Wayne Fairchild and play some of his instruments including a flat top tenor guitar with cherry back that left me wishing I could somehow get an advance on summer gig money. Another discovery was Michigan luthier Jeff Branch, who was extremely helpful, knowledgeable and friendly and brought a stockpile of unique accessories and parts along with a nice mix of affordable banjos and guitars.

Of course, there was a FANTASTIC ARRAY of music and musicians that make it hard to include everyone.  My banjo-uke buddy Mel Collie from Canada is such a joyous and engaging entertainer that he belongs on TV.  Debbie Schreyer and Tom Owens are polished performers who make the audience feel like extended family members invited into their living room. Mike Moe and Mike Vignola are “relatives” of mine from the LIBS family tree (they’re both named in my bio/history pages) as well as New England banjo “cousins” Steve Caddick and Paul Poirer.  I met Mal Cooper, a wonderful and genial banjo player from Tennessee who is always tasteful and also a talented songwriter. The Chiodi family from Pittsburgh were a revelation, too – a tight family, fine musicians and just the most wonderful and genuine people.  Another new acquaintance was Toledo piano titan Ragtime Rick with Banjo Betsy who tore it up on Saturday nights show. Linda Lehmann, John Ruskinoff, Al Allotta – all fantastic.  I didn’t even mention Johnny Baier yet – he’s just the editor of AllFrets, director of American Banjo Museum…and a heck of a banjo player. He and Bob Alexies (bass) kindly helped me along through my featured set.  Finally and CERTAINLY not least, I got to play multiple times with another great friend and musical hero, Buddy Wachter.  If you have never heard him, check out any of the innumerable YouTube clips, instructional videos or superb recordings of this masterful banjo virtuoso.  Buddy is an ideal for stringed instrument players – he uses the instrument as a set of parallel chromatic keyboards through which he can express harmonic, melodic and rhythmic nuances of interpretation that are rare…especially on banjo.  It’s inspirational to perform and jam with a musician of such tastefulness and quality.

I know I’ve forgotten more than I remembered (as usual) but it was a great time – hoping to come back next year!

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:

http://danspapers.com/best-of-best-2013/northfork/arts-entertainment-vote/

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:

Space-front

 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!!

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