October 10th, 2011:

Jeff Litman at Rockwood Music Hall

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It’s been 3.5 months since we last saw Jeff Litman headline a set at Rockwood Music Hall, so we were due. The band was the same (a very good thing considering their skills), including the same guest keyboard player. There were two additional guests, taking Jeff’s always excellent performances up a notch.


A quick recap about Jeff (I’ve written about him a number of times now, so if you want more details, find any one of those posts on this site).

Jeff is an excellent songwriter. He plays the guitar really well (both electric and acoustic). He happens to be a very good bass player too, but that’s not the instrument he plays in his own band. He sings well.

Most importantly, he surrounds himself with top musicians and delivers an upbeat show that is hard to resist (so we don’t bother trying).

The first of the two special guests spent much of the set on stage, starting on the very first song.

Maddy Wyatt sang harmony on roughly 2/3’s of the songs. On one number she also played the flute, beautifully, an instrument that is sorely lacking at Rockwood.


The other guest was Shanna Zell (who headlines her own sets, as well as being a member of The Ramblers, another of my favorite groups). Shanna was slated to sing on Back to You, the third song on the set.


Jeff announced that Shanna’s bus was running late and he was going to push that song down the list. What he didn’t know was that I personally arranged for Shanna’s bus to be late, not because I didn’t want to hear her, but because I wanted to move the fourth song up one notch, happily listening to Shanna a few songs later.


My evil plan worked! Winking smile

When I tell you above that Jeff is an excellent songwriter, I mean it across the board. That doesn’t mean that one song doesn’t stand out (for me personally). In my case, that song is Maine. Jeff knows it, I know it, anyone who reads this blog knows it (and for sure, the Lord knows it).

It’s been great every time, but last night was a real treat. On the CD (Postscript), Jeff sings the entire song harmonizing with a female voice (Kelly Jones). Since this was the first of Jeff’s shows where he had a female guest, it was the first time that he was able to perform the song as it is on the CD. Maddy was invited back up (while we waited for Shanna’s bus, bwahaha) to sing with him.

Thanks Jeff and Maddy. I should mention (for those that didn’t read the other posts) that Jeff switches to acoustic guitar on Maine and plays the harmonica as well.

Later in the set Jeff played a new song (he’s getting very close to releasing a brand new CD!) that he also played acoustic guitar on. The band took a break and Maddy sang with him (I think it might have been the song that Maddy played flute on as well). Wow. Maine may get some competition from this new CD (this song, or likely others that I haven’t heard yet). Very exciting.


The superb band, left-to-right on the stage:

Bryan Dunn on electric and acoustic guitars and vocals. Bryan is good at everything he does (at least the things he does on stage). Winking smile For most of the set he played acoustic guitar while Jeff played electric. When they switch, Bryan shows off his considerable skills playing lead. He sings extremely well, though he deferred to Maddy more than he does during a more typical Jeff Litman set.


Matt Basile on electric bass. Matt is excellent, making bass play seem effortless (while keeping the sound just right).


Elliot Jacobson on drums. It was a treat to see Elliot for a second time in four days (he supported Bess Rogers on Thursday night for her CD Release Show). He’s excellent no matter who he’s supporting, but Jeff’s music is generally so upbeat, that Elliot’s precision, speed, stamina and notorious hard-hitting style are so perfectly suited to it. The rest of the band needs to nail every song because Elliot sets a demanding example.


Jason Wexler once again was a guest keyboard player (grand piano and electronic). He joined for the last two numbers and was an integral part of both, in particular the only cover of the night, the closing number, Pump it Up.


We couldn’t have been happier with the set. Thanks Jeff, Bryan, Matt, Elliot, Maddy, Shanna and Jason.

Owen Danoff at Rockwood Music Hall

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We had plans to be at Rockwood Music Hall last night for two sets, 5pm and 7pm. Under normal circumstances, we’d have stayed for the set in between no matter who it was, or at the very least checked them out in advance. That wasn’t our original plan. Considering the early set time, my thought was to have dinner from 6-7pm and return.

A few hours before heading down for the early set, I decided to click through from the Rockwood site to at least know who/what I was missing. Needless to say, our plans changed once I did.

Owen Danoff is a singer/songwriter (last night he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar). The site linked to his name is not what Rockwood linked to. They linked to an event page promoting the show on Facebook, where I then clicked through to Owen’s band page and listened to everything on there.


It had a country feel to it, with a nice full-band sound.

Instead of appearing with a full band, Owen had one other person on stage, playing guitar and singing some harmony with him. It worked very well, but the sound/feel last night was noticeably different from what I was expecting.

It was completely captivating, on every song, so Owen can hold his own with or without a full band.

Owen is all of 21-years-old (at least for another month). His songwriting is fantastic (which never ceases to amaze me in someone so young). His lyrics flow so naturally. To me, that means that he either works incredibly hard to make it sound/feel so effortless, or he’s one of those rare people who is a vessel to some very deep well of ideas and their better expressions.

He has an excellent voice. He played the acoustic guitar very well, mixing rhythm with finger picking, with a few licks thrown in for good measure.

I’m following him on Twitter now and I’ve “Liked” his band page on Facebook, so we’ll be sure to catch him when he’s next in town. He’s currently based in Washington, DC, and this was his second show in NYC.

Adrien Godat accompanied Owen on acoustic guitar and sang some harmony (no good individual link). Adrien did a fine job, occasionally pulling off very nice leads on the acoustic guitar. He sounded very good singing with Owen at times.


That said, I felt that his real abilities were held back by either nerves, or the desire to not step on Owen’s performance (which if I’m correct, was an error in judgment). He often sang too softly, or seemed to give up on a line. When he sang, he sang well and the two sounded really good together.


Only after the show did we find out that Owen’s talents have deep roots. We chatted very briefly with his cousin and she told us that Owen’s dad is Bill Danoff. Whether it’s genetics, or growing up around a musical great (or more likely a combination of the two), it’s likely that Owen is well on his way to a successful career following in his father’s footsteps.

We will certainly be tracking him over the years. Smile

Devyn Rush at Rockwood Music Hall

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I really don’t want to write this post. I am not a professional music critic. I prefer being positive about the many things that there are to celebrate and promote. Still, I find myself compelled, mostly because of my previous comments about Devyn.

Devyn Rush appeared at Rockwood Music Hall yesterday. We had previously seen her perform three songs as part of the American Idol Rejects Show at Rockwood 2. I wrote a long-ish section about her in that post. In the middle I wrote this:

While I was impressed with her performance in general, I’ll need to see her in a different setting to know what I really think of her. I wasn’t drawn to the particular song selection.

Having seen a full set of hers last night, accompanied by her own band, I’m unfortunately left with the same impression.


Devyn has an excellent voice. She plays the piano reasonably well and the guitar well enough. She moves gracefully (if a bit provocatively) and projects beams of sunshine on stage.


Her song selection didn’t move me. Her songwriting has room for improvement. Her set preparation (rehearsal with the band, etc.) could have been better.

She was accompanied by three people, left-to-right on stage:

Adam Price on clarinet (Devyn mentioned he also plays sax). Adam’s solos were exceptional, he’s clearly very talented. When he played fills while Devyn was singing, or in the brief moments between verses that weren’t solos, the clarinet didn’t seem to fit as well. On his site he mentions that he’s new to Devyn’s band so the arrangements are probably still being worked out.


Jason Bookman on acoustic guitar (no good individual link). Jason did a fine job (rhythm) and seemed to be the band leader.


Zac Greenberg on upright bass (no good individual link). Zac was very good throughout the set.


Half of the set was covers. A couple felt like curious choices given the specific band setup, which at times sounded jazzy.

I have no doubt that Devyn’s performances would appeal to many people, so don’t be dissuaded in going out to see her on account of my opinion.