Back in the old routine….

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…



Lots of playing as we move into August…

I’ve got a bunch of gigs coming up this month – lots of chances to hear some great trad jazz with a variety of groups.

On Tuesday, I close out July by playing again with the Empire State Jazz Band at the Kismet Inn on Kismet Beach on Fire Island.  There’s great food, a friendly bar & staff, and an excellent band which generally features Peter Ecklund, Matt Koza, Bob Hovey along with other fantastic players.  Playing time there generally runs from 7:30 PM until just before the final ferry of the night leaves.

Meanwhile, the Sunnyland Jazz Band will have recurring gigs at opposite ends of Long Island.  In addition to our regular Thursday nights at Bonnie Jean’s in Southold, we have picked up three dates at Ralph’s Italian Ices in College Point, Queens – located at the Whitepoint Shopping Center.  The shopping center is located on 14th Avenue at 132nd Street.  We are scheduled for three dates – Friday 8/10, Friday 8/17 and Wednesday 8/29 – each from 6 to 9 PM.  Great opportunities for friends and family on the western end of the Island to catch us!

There are also several upcoming public performances with the Isotope Stompers.  On Friday August 3rd, the group will appear at the Bellport bandshell (by the beach) from 8-10 PM.  Two days later on Sunday, the Stompers play from 7-9 PM at the Stony Brook post office building (under the clock with the eagle which flaps it’s wings each hour).  Then on Saturday the 11th, the Isotope Stompers play for the annual Lobster & Clambake at Christ Church in Bellport…contact the church for ticket availability.

It’s also my great privilege and pleasure to play two gigs (on one day!) with the great Galvanized Jazz Band on Saturday the 18th.  The first one is private, but the second will be my first performance with any group at Connecticut’s well-known Music Mountain (usually a more classical venue) in the northwestern corner of the state.  Follow the link above for more information on the amazing and accomplished group of musicians in the GJB.

A couple of updates…

On Thursday July 12th, the trio will be playing at Bonnie Jean’s once more.  It’s a bit emotional for me as it may be the last time I get to have my mom visit a gig before she departs to Florida.  She will be returning in late August for my daughter’s wedding, but I will miss the occasional “surprise” appearances she’d make at our performances and the friends who frequently accompanied her.  On the other hand, it will provide me with a chance to visit her in winter months on Florida’s sunny west coast…perhaps during the Suncoast Jazz Festival in November??

The following Thursday, Sunnyland will be on a one-day hiatus from Bonnie Jean’s while I am playing with the Isotope Stompers at the gazebo in Westhampton Beach.  It’s always great to have a musical excuse to return to the area where I grew up and see what has and hasn’t changed while seeing some old friends from the neighborhood.

RIP Uncle Lionel Batiste

I was saddened to hear the news of the passing of Lionel Batiste – known to everyone in the Vieux Carre as “Uncle Lionel” – one of the most colorful and recognizable figures of the neighborhood.  Always superbly dressed and with an almost regal carriage, he was a kind of ambassador of the Quarter – whether greeting folks with the tip of his hat, a warm and enthusiastic handshake, or stopping by for an impromptu “sit-in” as guest vocalist with a band at the Palm Court.  Uncle Lionel was strutting on the street in front of the first band I ever jammed with down in Jackson Square when we were first introduced. It seemed almost inevitable that I would cross paths with him at some point on every subsequent visit I made to the city.  In a city with a history filled with notable nicknamed characters, Lionel Batiste always offered encouragement to players and bands, surely becoming a symbolic “Uncle” to many who will never forget him.  As they say, “He was a good-timer…”.Photo of Uncle Lionel

June is busting out all over…with Sunnyland

A brief missive to inform our followers of a flurry of activity this coming weekend.  Thursday is the regular night for the Sunnyland trio at Bonnie Jean’s in Southold.  We’ve been happy to see so many of our steady fans showing up to support us and enjoy the great food, too!

If you can’t get out to Southold on Thursday, then come on down to Friday’s concert for Riverhead Townscape.  The performance takes place behind the East End Arts Council at 7 PM, and features an expanded lineup with John Pinto on saxophone and Henry Newberger on trombone.  It promises to be a great night of music & fun – don’t forget to bring your chair.

Finally, for those on the South Fork, the Sunnyland Jazz Band will be performing as we have for many years at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club holiday fireworks.  While this is properly a private affair where we perform for the yacht club, there are plenty of people who come to sit within earshot of us by the bulkheads nearby, enjoying the music until the grand fireworks display takes place over the harbor.  Every year I am astounded by the quality of the fireworks show put on by the SHYC – it’s the best on the East End for sure.

There will be still more Independence Day celebrations the following week….more later!

Sunnyland Jazz Band returning to Bonnie Jeans!

Ah, as the swallows annually return to Capistrano and the crabgrass and dandelions come back with a vengance …we mark the return of the Sunnyland Jazz Band to Bonnie Jean’s on Route 25 in Southold for another season of jazz jubilance featuring triumphant trumpet and tuba and banjo beatitude.  Come on out & enjoy great food, fun music and a great cup of coffee too!

——- UPDATE ——– UPDATE ——– UPDATE ——–

A fantastic time  was had by all last night.  Thanks to everyone for coming out & celebrating our return (and Sherrie’s birthday, too!)

A Presidential Day Phrase – “A Return to Normalcy”

President Warren G. Harding is probably most remembered for the scandals which sullied his administration and reputation (particularly after his death in office), but he also provided us with the invented vocabulary word “normalcy” to describe the return to regularity or normality.  By whatever label is placed upon it, I am happy that my family’s health issues seem to be gradually moving into the past.  The only exception is a rotator cuff injury in my left shoulder diagnosed this week; I am hoping that it can be addressed promptly to have minimal effect on my playing this summer.

On the present horizon, tomorrow will be the Vail-Leavitt Fat Tuesday fundraiser.  I will be performing with some old friends including Bob Hovey, John Lovett and Marty Stromsten along with some new musical acquaintances where we will perform a mix of New Orleans-style standards along with a few tunes reminiscent of our long-time Thursday night jams at EastEnders Coffee House.  Visit the Vail’s website for more information.

I was also informed by Eric Devine that he has made some videos available from my recent exploits at Jeff & Joel’s House Party featuring all-star jam sessions throughout the weekend event.  Here’s a link for “Them There Eyes” featuring the lovely and talented Bria Skonberg and some of the featured performers.

Report on a great weekend & upcoming events

I returned from Connecticut after a fantastic musical weekend at the home of Joel & Donna Schiavone (hosts of the house party which I posted about) which was as great as one could expect.  Fifteen of the best musicians around played to a capacity audience in three 5-hour performance sets over the weekend, and the rotation of musicians varied their lineups without a single tune repeated over 15 hours of musical joy.

Most of the players were past associates from recordings, concerts & festivals in the past – Jeff Barnhart, Jimmy Mazzy, Lew Green, Noel Kaletsky, Robin Verdier, Kevin Dorn, Albie Bernard and Vince Giordano (musical director for the Grammy-winning HBO series Boardwalk Empire).  Additionally, I got to play along with Fred Vigorito, Tom Palinko and Herb Gardner – three great musical friends who I have too rarely gotten the chance to work with.  Lastly there were three new musical introductions for me – Bria Skonberg, Joe Midiri and Craig Grant – players who I’ve heard and admired in performances before and got to work with for the first time.  It was an incredible lineup and great fun.  I especially enjoyed an unplanned early mini-set Sunday when Jeff, Jimmy and I played a few old favorites together.  The house party was a success and is likely to become an annual event – stay posted for next year’s edition as I expect it will sell out quickly in advance based on this year’s buzz.

On a more subdued note, it was a rather nerve-wracking week personally as both my mother and wife each suffered TIA’s (more commonly expressed as “strokes”).  Sherrie’s was resolved rather quickly…likely the result of some shifting of scar tissue in her brain from her past health issues.  My mom’s attack was more severe, but it fortunately (?) occurred while we were visiting my nephew Connor at NYU Medical Center which resulted in very prompt attention and treatment.  She is now back at home, but will be starting a combination of physical, occupational and speech therapy to assist her recovery.  To those friends who have met her at performances in the past, we appreciate all you wishes, thoughts and prayers for her speedy and thorough recovery.

I’m involved in a couple of upcoming events worth noting – one coming up quickly and the other is a date to hold on your calendars in the summer.  First up is the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall‘s Mardi Gras fundraising event to be held on “Fat Tuesday” February 21st beginning at 7:30 PM.  I will be playing with an assortment of friends as the opening act.  The featured performer for the event is Joe Lauro’s “Who Dat Loungers” playing energetic and entertaining New Orleans-style music.  There are a number of local downtown Riverhead restaurants who are participating with promotional discounts for folks who buy their tickets online. Tickets for the event are $20 each.  Connect to the Vail-Leavitt’s website here for more information.

And speaking of the Vail-Leavitt, I’m happy to report the return of the Riverhead Blues & Music Festival to downtown Riverhead on June 16th & 17th.  This signature event is the primary fundraiser for the historic Music Hall’s mission for the cultural, educational and social benefit of the community.  This year we’re happy to report that blues legend Johnny Winter will be one of our featured headline acts.  Hold the date & stay posted via the Vail-Leavitt website as more details become available.

Return from Florida (Yet another Sunny-land!!!)

Just came back earlier this week from Florida – visiting with family in Naples /Marco Island and friends & family in the St. Petersburg area – and wanted to provide a bit of an update to begin the new year.

First, all prayers & good wishes are appreciated for my 12-year old nephew Connor Cosgrove.  A little less than 2 weeks ago, he suffered some symptoms and was quickly diagnosed with a brain tumor.  (For those who do not know, we have some prior experience…my wife Sherrie is now a 15-year brain tumor survivor.)  Connor underwent two brain surgeries in two days at NYU Medical Center, first to remove the mass and a second to remove a blood clot which presented itself on the following day.  As he starts his rest and recovery from this ordeal, a website provides updates on his status.  You can leave messages of support there for Connor and his family as well at: . Once there, you may create an account using your email address or sign in with Facebook Connect.  Good luck & stay strong, Connor!

Second, on the final day of our trip I made a most pleasant musical discovery – a music store in Madeira Beach that must certainly be considered the Gulf Coast Mecca of Ukulele, Compass Music.  I had brought my Kamaka concert uke in a “chipboard” case as my traveling musical device, being less bulky and more portable than my regular banjos.  I spotted the shop a day or so earlier and fortuitously chose to peer in the window.  When what to my wondering eyes should appear but … a WALL FULL of UKULELES!!  I stopped in and met Chris Rooney – the extremely helpful & knowledgeable proprietor – who provided me with an unexpected choice (!!) of properly sized hard-shell cases.  I also purchased a wonderful little 17-fret Vega tenor which will soon be transformed into a nice compact travel banjo.  Visit the website & definitely check the store out if you are in the area.

Third – time is running out for your opportunity to be part of the unique and singular event that will be Jeff and Joel’s House Party.  Check out links and info in my previous post – don’t miss out on what is sure to be a most memorable musical experience!!!


Jeff & Joel’s House Party – February 11th & 12th, 2012

Let me tell you about a MOST SPECIAL AND UNIQUE event which I will be part of on February 11th & 12th, 2012 in Guilford, Connecticut –  Jeff & Joel’s House Party.

The coordinators of this event are both legendary musical figures.  Jeff (Barnhart) is a world- renowned pianist and entertainer, stars on a multitude of recordings and playing with groups around the world – notably the Titan Hot Seven, who are generally acknowledged to be among the finest and popular ensembles on the festival circuit.  Joel (Schiavone) is a well-known entrepreneur, banjo player and musical promoter/impresario.  He was the force behind the national chain of clubs named “Your Father’s Moustache” which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary at no less a venue than New York’s esteemed Carnegie Hall.

What other kind of a house party would you expect to be thrown by Jeff & Joel but one which features 15 of the East Coast’s most outstanding purveyors of traditional jazz – including notables such as Vince Giordano, Lew Green, Jimmy Mazzy, Herb Gardner, Bria Skonberg and Kevin Dorn.  (I am honored to be included among such “fast company”.)

Anyhow, this party should not be missed by anyone considering themselves a serious fan of this musical style.  The musicians are a dynamic group which will undoubtedly be mixed into a variety of creative aggregations which could astound even the most jaded of listeners.  I can promise that the musical excitement and enjoyment will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone involved….potentially more fun than humans should be permitted to have…. FOLLOW THE LINK TO THE EVENT WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO!!!

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