Rebecca Haviland

Big Apple Singers and Mighty Kate at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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What do you do when an extremely talented group of musicians doesn’t blow you away, then announces a new show? You go, without hesitation. No two shows are alike and the likelihood of a repeat experience is low.

When I noticed that The Big Apple Singers (TBAS) were playing last night at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 10:15pm, I admit to a second’s hesitation (making my second sentence above a bit of a white lie). However, when I also noticed that it would be a night of songs exclusively by The Band and would likely be TBAS last show for a while (ever?), I really had no hesitation.

It was a fantastic set. The only complaint was that much of it was too loud, but not in exactly the same way as the last time.

TBAS is four people and they brought up four guests as well. I’ll get to the guests after I mention the main guys. Left-to-right on the stage:

Greg Mayo on keyboards (grand piano and organ) and vocals. Greg has an excellent voice and he put it to good use last night on leads and harmonizing with the others. Greg is my favorite local guitarist, but he doesn’t play guitar in TBAS. Greg is an excellent keyboardist (aside from seeing him with TBAS before, that’s his instrument of choice in his own band, the Greg Mayo Band).

GregMayoPiano

I have always enjoyed Greg’s keyboard play (at every show), but last night he took it up a notch. He played some parts with both hands on the grand, others with both hands on the organ and many with his left on the organ and right on the grand. All were tingle-worthy.

GregMayoOrganPiano

All three of the lead vocalists (including Greg) took one very long solo (without any accompaniment whatsoever) to start off one song each. Greg’s was entirely on the organ. He played for somewhere between 3-5 minutes while everyone on stage and in the audience stared at him and his fingers in amazement.

GregMayoOrganSolo

Evan Watson on electric guitar and vocals. Evan is an excellent guitarist and has a powerful voice. As I mentioned in my last post about TBAS, he’s very generous on stage. When Josh sings or does a drum solo, Evan squats on the stage so that the audience can see Josh. I didn’t mention it in the last post, but this is the second time that Evan broke a string on his primary guitar. Just like last show, rather than string a new one, he grabbed a spare electric guitar on the next number.

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Just like Greg above, Evan took a 3-5 minute solo on the electric guitar to kick off a song. It wasn’t too flashy, more like a building melody that kept the crowd interested, with their pulse (or at least mine) rising slowly but surely throughout, so that we were primed for the full band to kick in when the solo was done.

On the last number, Evan wailed on the harmonica quite well. I knew he wasn’t going to play it again that set, because when he was done with the harmonica, he tossed it (unceremoniously) on the floor and immediately switched to a guitar lead. Smile

EvanWatsonHarmonica

Josh Dion on drums and vocals. I was late to the party on hearing about and seeing Josh. He’s a favorite of many people whom I respect and that goes for me as well now that I’ve seen him a number of times (on drums and on keyboards). He’s an excellent singer and an amazing drummer.

JoshDion

Just like Greg and Evan, Josh took a 3-5 minute solo. He’s soulful when he’s drumming slowly and blazingly fast when the sticks are just a blur. At either speed, he’s tasty and captivating. The looks on the band’s faces (let alone the crowd’s) were priceless!

JoshDionSoloSticksFlying

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. Chris did a great job on the bass. In addition to singing harmony, Chris took the lead on a verse in at least two separate songs. The only other time I’ve heard Chris sing lead was at the last TBAS show. He does it quite well.

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAndersonSinging

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. Rebecca jumped up on stage a number of times. Twice by herself and two other times with the ladies I will mention next. What can I say about Rebecca’s voice that I haven’t said before? Well, I’ve mentioned how powerful it is (coming from a tiny person), but not how easily she was able to be heard over the too-loud music. Such a force. Rebecca has her own set at Rockwood 1 on Thursday at 8pm. We’ll be there. Join us and experience this dynamo first hand!

RebeccaHavilandSingingTambourine

The first time Rebecca came up, three other women joined. Two of them are the leads in a group called The Vanity Belles. Carrie Welling (no good individual link) and Jessi Rae Waltz (also no good link) both added to the vocals and dancing, standing on either side of Rebecca. Both Carrie and Jessi joined Rebecca on a second song later in the set.

CarrieWellingRebeccaHavilandJessRaeWaltzAshleyLehmann

Ashley Lehmann joined Rebecca and The Vanity Belles the first time they were all up on stage. Considering that all four members of TBAS sing (well!), that made eight voices rockin’ it out on that number. Fantastic!

I am very glad to went to see TBAS again. Smile

Before going to a show at Rockwood, I always check to see who’s playing the set before. Aside from the opportunity to discover good music serendipitously, I do it because Rockwood has limited seating and we prefer to sit. Back in January, when doing exactly that, the set before was Mighty Kate (Katy Pfaffl).

MightyKatePiano

If you visit the site I linked above, at the time I’m typing this, the song Better Days starts playing automatically. That’s all I needed to hear to know we’d be attending the earlier set independent of the desire to sit. Unfortunately, Katy (or should I call her Kate, or Mighty?) got very sick and canceled that set back in January. I admit that I forgot to track her, but it turned out she didn’t reschedule until last night anyway (I’ll explain later!).

Imagine my surprise when I checked who was on before TBAS and immediately recognized the site and song. This was a no-brainer, we weren’t going to miss a second chance to see Kate/Katy/Mighty (OK, I’ll stop now). Winking smile

The set before Katy was a paid show, so even though we arrived way too early for her set, we had to wait outside. Thankfully, the weather was nice (it ended up pouring at some point while we were enjoying the two sets and was nice when we left again!).

Even though we were the first two to line up for Katy, the line got long pretty quickly. It was amusing to see how many people showed up claiming to be performing with Katy. It felt like a cast of thousands (it ended up being seven people in total).

Kate (see what I did there, I switched to her performing name) started the set off solo, playing the grand piano and singing. A very mellow, jazzy number that highlighted both her incredible voice and her excellent piano skills. Not the greatest song to grab a somewhat noisy crowd by the throat, but for those who listened, a well executed opener.

For the most of the remaining numbers (very few exceptions), Kate was joined by a drummer and bassist (electric). I’ll get to them shortly.

In addition to having such a great voice, Kate is also a mutli-instrumentalist. In addition to her piano play (most of the songs), she played an acoustic guitar (mostly picking, a little strumming) and a violin (on one number). She’s good on all three, but the piano play was the strongest (and most consistent).

MightyKateViolin

Not every song grabbed me, but all were very pleasant to listen to. Some were great. Many of the lyrics were deep, sophisticated and flowed very naturally. She’s a very talented woman (more on that in a bit).

Rich Mercurio on drums. I can’t find a good individual link for him, but here’s a summary on a band page (a little outdated, but wildly impressive nonetheless):

Manhattan based producer/musician/songwriter, has produced and written for various record and television projects. Rich has recorded and/or performed with artists including Enrique Iglesias, Jewel, Chris Whitley, Vitamin C, Jonatha Brooke, Michael Bolton, and Ronan Tynan. Appearances include The Tonight Show, The Late Show and Late Night with Conan O’Brian. He can currently be seen in the broadway production, Martin Short, Fame Becomes Me

RichMercurio

Richard Hammond on electric bass. Read his performances and discography. Be prepared to have your mouth agape while you’re doing it.

RichardHammond

That accounts for two of the seven people that performed with Kate, the two Rich’s (as she called them) forming the core band members.

Matt Doyle joined Kate to sing a cover, Thin Air by Aqualung. Kate played acoustic guitar and they sang harmony throughout. They were amazing together. Matt’s voice was buttery smooth.

MightyKateMattDoyle

This is as good a time as any to fill in why Kate waited five months to reschedule at Rockwood. Both she and Matt are currently appearing in War Horse at Lincoln Center. While Kate was on stage entertaining us, War Horse was winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play! Nicely done, Kate, Matt and all involved in the play.

Kate brought out two women to sing harmony with her on two numbers. Morgan Paige and Nisha Asnani. Very nicely done ladies.

MorganPaigeNishaAsnani

Jody Shelton joined Kate toward the end of the set for another duet with Kate on acoustic guitar. Another winning combo. In other words, in addition to singing so well alone, Kate is masterful at singing harmony with others and at choosing the right people to sing with.

MightyKateJodyShelton

OK, we’re down to one last (very special) guest. Kate brought out Scott Chasolen to accompany her on piano while she sang a gospel song (the only song that Kate did not play an instrument on). Scott wowed us the only other time we’ve seen him, at a recent Rockwood-based Backscratch show. I found out after the show that Scott is Kate’s husband. They too were well matched, but Scott, who has an excellent voice himself, didn’t sing on this number.

ScottChasolenMightyKateSingingGospel

Kate closed the set with Morgan and Nisha singing harmony. She explained that she tries really hard to sing at least one new song every time she performs. Given her current schedule, she hasn’t had much time to write. She performed a song that she said she wrote mostly in her head, Bright Star. It was awesome, truly, so perhaps we need to lock her in her loft bed (I think that’s where she said she wrote it) more often. Smile

There was quite a large crowd there for Kate and they wouldn’t let her get off the stage when her set was over. She was given permission to play one more. She performed it solo on the piano. It was another brand new song, that she begged forgiveness for in advance if we didn’t like it. This was the first time anyone was hearing it in public.

Kate, no need to worry, it too was beautiful. Lois was particularly drawn to that last number, so you left us on a high note. Smile

MightyKateSetList

Backscratch 13 at Rockwood Music Hall

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Given how awesome last night was, I’m still a little in shock that I missed the first 12 Backscratch sessions. This was the second time it was held in Rockwood Music Hall.

Here’s the concept: gather a bunch of musicians. Each plays three songs. Traditionally (or so the legend goes) each played one original song, one well-known cover and one cover of another of the evening’s musicians, which they were each assigned at random! Now, it’s often two originals followed by the backscratch.

It’s great for many reasons (just come to the next one, June 27th, and make your own list of reasons to keep coming!).

Since there were so many people performing last night, I’ll be really brief (ha ha, I didn’t believe it when I first wrote it, but now that I’m proof-reading, I know it’s a lie!). Winking smile Refer back to the first line for how much we enjoyed the three-hour show: awesome!

Shwa Losben opened the show on vocals and acoustic guitar. I had never heard of him. Excellent! After playing two originals (both wonderful songs) his backscratch was an Alexa Wilkinson song (Alexa was new to us too, more on her later).

ShwaLosben1ShwaLosben2

Scott Chasolen on vocals and keyboards. Another one we hadn’t heard of. Also excellent! I loved both of his originals. His backscratch was a Matt Simons song (I’m Already Over You). We’re big fans of Matt and Scott did him proud (IMHO).

ScottChasolen

Scott performs with two others and they are known as the Scott Chasolen Trio:

Adam Minkoff on electric bass and light harmony. Very nice job.

AdamMinkoff

Josh Giunta on drums. Excellent. A lot of eyes were on Josh during a fair amount of Scott’s set. No good photo of Josh, sorry.

Sierra Noble on vocals, acoustic guitar and violin. We’ve seen Sierra Noble backing up both Rachel Platten and Martin Rivas (back-to-back sets on the same night). I am aware of how much her fellow musicians respect and love her, but that night, while she did a fine job, I didn’t see the light. Last night, headlining the three-song set, I got it. She has an incredible voice. She writes beautiful songs.

SierraNobleGuitarSierraNobleViolin

Sierra was accompanied by Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and a lot of harmony, Chris Anderson on electric bass and light harmony and Craig Meyer on the drums (Craig is the co-founder of Backscratch with Martin Rivas).

ChrisAndersonCraigMeyer

Not much else needs to be added. But, let’s add an anecdote (actually two!) anyway. Her backscratch was a Chris Ayer song. Sierra was expecting Greg Mayo to show up in time to perform it with her (and Martin, Chris and Craig). Greg must have been held up in traffic. Somehow, that threw Sierra off a bit.

While she did a great job on the parts that she got out (did I mention she has a great voice?), she also lost it (laughing) a number of times (including dropping the lyrics on the floor). The mood was light in the room and everyone got a kick out of it, including Chris Ayer. Sierra correctly noted that Chris is a poet and that it was difficult to sing his song because she hadn’t graduated from college (could be a joke, but it was an honest homage to how wonderful Chris’ lyrics are!).

The other one is a small world story. I’ve written a number of times about a great singer/songwriter, Jesse Terry. We’re going to see him again twice in May, once in Rockwood (next week) and the week after at a house concert (where we first saw him). Appearing with him at both shows is a friend of his, Michael Logen. Jesse has told me how much I am going to like Michael. One of Sierra’s originals was co-written with Michael Logen. Martin sang Michael’s part in gorgeous harmony with Sierra.

Martin Rivas on acoustic guitar and vocals. Martin opened with Raise Me Again. That song gets to me every time (including last night). His second song was a new one (excellent!). Rachel Platten was standing behind us and she couldn’t resist singing some soft harmony with Martin (wonderful).

MartinRivas

Pick up Rachel’s new album, Be Here (released today!), it’s fantastic!

For his backscratch, Martin drew Bess Rogers. He played Come Home. In case that wasn’t good enough (it was!), he morphed the end into a song that most people in the audience recognized, but I believe were still caught completely by surprise!

Bess Rogers is in the final four days of a very successful Kickstarter project. You should watch the video on her Kickstarter page to see how records are made. Martin performed that song (perfectly) and everyone was blown away (especially Bess). You still have a chance to contribute to Bess’ record. Stop thinking, just do it. Smile

Chris Ayer on acoustic guitar and vocals. Chris played Graduate and Stranded (two of our favorite Chris Ayer songs). Throughout the evening (3+ hours), there was generally a background noise of some people talking steadily at the bar. Occasionally it was annoying, most of the time it was reasonably white noise. When Chris played Stranded (a relatively long song), you could have heard a pin drop (as it should have been for every song by every performer!).

ChrisAyer

On Graduate, Chris was accompanied by Matt Simons on keyboards and Chris Anderson on electric bass. On Stranded, Matt accompanied and Chris Anderson left the stage. For his backscratch, Chris Ayer played a Sierra Noble song solo. Wow! Not just Chris’ performance, but Sierra’s song. Chris didn’t even look over at his sheet music. Sierra was standing a few people behind us and she sang some soft harmony with Chris (that most probably couldn’t hear, but I could). It was amazing!

Bess Rogers performed two new songs (acoustic guitar and vocals) accompanied by her husband, Chris Kuffner, on acoustic guitar (Chris also sang harmony). Both songs were hits with the crowd and I assume (but don’t know) that they will both be on Bess’ new CD. Bess drew Rebecca Haviland for her backscratch.

BessRogersChrisKuffner

Rebecca Haviland on electric guitar, keyboards and vocals. Rebecca honored the original spirit of Backscratch by performing an original, a well-known cover and a backscratch. Let’s get out the most important thing first, Rebecca has a phenomenal voice. She plays the guitar well. She really shines on the keyboards. For her cover, she chose Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. If you didn’t know the title, or recognize the words, you would never have known it was a Led Zeppelin song. She (and her band) made it completely their own, a slow, soul/funk version.

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On those songs Rebecca was accompanied by Greg Mayo on keyboards (yes, he eventually showed up), Chris Anderson on electric bass and Kenny Shaw on drums. All were great, as we’ve come to expect.

RebeccaHavilandGregMayoKennyShaw

For her backscratch, Rebecca switched to the piano and Greg to the electric guitar. She played a Martin Rivas tune with such heart and soul (joking in advance that she had to change it up a bit, since Martin is the king of soul!). Greg played a couple of long guitar solos. If you’re read this space before, you know that this excites and soothes me at the same time. I will never get enough of Greg Mayo’s guitar play. Thank goodness he showed up! Smile

RebeccaHavilandPianoGregMayo

Alexa Wilkinson on acoustic guitar and vocals. I’ve been following Alexa on Twitter for quite a while but have never seen her perform. We had planned to catch Mercy Bell, Julie Peel and Alexa at the Living Room a long time ago, but I got very sick and we never made it. Alexa has a wonderful voice and accompanies herself on the guitar very well. I enjoyed both of her songs. For her backscratch, she drew Shwa. Alexa has a relaxed and funny stage presence in addition to her musical talents.

AlexaWilkinson

Matt Simons closed the show on keyboards and vocals. He too reverted to the original spirit. After his original song, he played one by Death Cab for Cutie. He was accompanied by Greg Mayo on electric guitar and Chris Anderson on bass and Kenny Shaw for his original number. For his backscratch, he drew Scott Chasolen (who had drawn him, as did Sierra/Chris). He did a fantastic job (making me want to hear more Scott originals).

MattSimons1MattSimons2

Even though we didn’t get home until 12:20am, it was well worth it.

Martin Rivas and Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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There was an all-star triple-header lineup at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. Robbie Gil at 9pm, Martin Rivas at 10pm and the Greg Mayo Band at 11pm. I was committed to seeing Martin and Greg, but I was really looking forward to catching Robbie’s set as well. The best laid plans… I’ll end the post with why/how I missed Robbie’s set (again).

Lois didn’t make the show (see why at the bottom). All complaints about photo quality go to me, but I was also further away, so there was little I could do. As you’ll see below, tons of people on stage, some were basically out of view for much of the show.

As is typical for a big lineup Saturday at Rockwood, three things could be counted on:

  • Capacity crowd (great on most levels, crappy on a few)
  • Sets starting late (due to setup time and fans insisting on longer sets than scheduled)
  • Awesome music

Martin Rivas had a full(er) band. He opened the show with seven people on stage, but after three (or four?) numbers, he brought out a horn section as well, bringing the number of people on stage to 10. That was a new record for the number of people on stage at the same time at Rockwood for a show that I was at. Later on, Martin had two separate guests join, setting the new record at 11.

MartinRivasChrisKuffnerMartinRivasBrassSection

This was a typical Martin Rivas show:

  • Incredible energy from every band member
  • Incredible energy from every audience member
  • Lots of Soul, Funk and Rock, sprinkled with other stuff
  • Generosity from Martin, giving solos to (nearly) every band member (no bass solo)
  • Freshly baked cookies passed around the audience (Lois, no worries, amazingly, the cookies never passed me, so I didn’t have to show any restraint!) Winking smile
  • Pins passed around the audience (Sam Teichman made sure I got one, but he did not make sure I got a cookie, or Lois secretly got to him and he made sure I didn’t!)
  • Spirits lifted

Given how many people played across these two sets, I’ll get right to it, left-to-right, front-to-back on the stage, supporting Martin:

Patrick Firth on electronic keyboards and vocals. They lifted the grand piano off the stage (one of the cool sights at Rockwood 2). Patrick was his usual excellent self, including a few great solos.

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Chris Kuffner on electric guitar and vocals. Another fantastic performance from an all-around star. I’ll have a couple more things to say about Chris when I get to the other guitarist, Greg Mayo.

ChrisKuffner

Ryan Vaughn on percussion. If you can bang it or shake it, Ryan was doing it.

RyanVaughn

Craig Meyer on drums. Craig is always wonderful. We saw him a week ago supporting Rachel Platten. The difference in styles (including the drum kit itself) between that type of performance and last night is dramatic. Craig handles it all. He was such an integral part of the upbeat sound keeping everything hopping. (No photo, sorry!)

John Liotta on the baritone sax. Excellent. He was more prominent in the next set, but held his own in this one.

JohnLiotta

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Wayne was terrific. He took a couple of solos, including one where he played a few notes staccato at very high speed for a few bars, very tasty, adding to the funk sounds beautifully.

WayneTucker

From my vantage point, it appeared to me that Wayne’s right cheek was bruised with a shiner the likes of which I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Every time he puffed his cheek to play, I winced on his behalf. You’ll have to stick around (or skip ahead) to the next set to find out how wrong I was. Smile

WayneTuckerShiner

Dan Voss on tenor sax. This was our first time seeing Dan play. He was excellent. One of the people I was standing with told me that he’s a real pro. I have no reason to doubt that from last night’s performance!

DanVoss

Brian Killeen on electric bass. Another extremely solid performance from Brian. Martin’s full band sound requires a very solid bottom to keep things going and Brian and Craig are well matched to deliver.

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Greg Mayo on electric guitar and vocals. I can’t get enough of Greg’s guitar play and last night was no exception. Every time he stops his leads, I wait impatiently for the next one. He and Chris Kuffner trade off the leads, each with their own excellent style. On a few numbers (most notably the closer), they took independent simultaneous leads (very different from each other). It was mind-blowingly satisfying.

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Chrissi Poland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Chrissi has such a wonderful and powerful voice and is so well-suited to soul music. Their duets are a real crowd favorite. When she was on stage, there were 11 performers. Since the record is for shows I attend, I am the sole arbiter (and counter) of who holds the record. Martin actually looked at me and asked if this was the record. Indeed it was. Smile

ChrissiPolandBrassSection

Rebecca Haviland joined Martin to sing lead and harmony vocals. Like Chrissi, Rebecca has a very big voice, also suited to soul (among many other genres). She was great (as she always is). The record stood at 11, since Chrissi and Rebecca were not on stage at the same time.

MartinRivasRebeccaHavilandMartinRivasChrisKuffnerRebeccaHaviland

Martin had a number of family members in the audience, including his sister and aunt. His aunt might be his biggest fan. She kept flying out of her seat, singing, clapping over her head, screaming and dancing. You’d think she was a teen with the energy she displayed.

When the set was over it was difficult to stand in place. People were coming and going, pushing and shoving (not in a mean way, it was necessary simply to get through the crowd). The person I was standing with spotted two people leaving their seats 1/2 way across the club. She headed there to see if it was just temporary. Amazingly, when she got there, the seats were still available. It took me a while to work my way through (rather around) the crowd, but she held the seat for me. To quote her: “It’s nice to sit!”. Amen! Smile

The Greg Mayo Band is a relatively recent discovery for us, but they made our favorites list instantly, so we were really looking forward to this set. To remove any mystery, they remain high on our favorites list.

The core band consists of eight members. Last night, Greg had a few special guests, one of whom played on every song making the minimum number of people on stage nine.

The similarities with the prior set are the basic style of music (Greg’s band concentrates on Funk and Soul, with some good old fashioned Rock as well). The differences aren’t huge, but they’re noticeable and material. Martin’s sets are very guitar heavy (three of them on the stage at all times) and Greg’s set is very piano centric (they brought the grand piano back down for Greg to play and he played electronic keyboards as well).

The other difference is that Martin rarely has a horn section and Greg always does. The horns were a wonderful addition to Martin’s set, but they are extremely integral to Greg’s sound, much more highlighted with more and longer solos. Finally, Greg has a full-time female voice to sing harmony with, while Martin’s regular vocalists are male.

This show was billed as a Valentine’s Day extravaganza, which will become important in a minute.

Let’s cover the band, again left-to-right, front-to-back.

Rebecca Haviland on vocals. I have a single complaint about Rebecca’s role in the Greg May Band: give us more Rebecca! She does sing some lead, but not enough. She and Greg sing so beautifully together, but there too she takes a back seat and doesn’t sing as much harmony with Greg as I’d like.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

The above is meant to compliment Rebecca. Greg has a wonderful voice and I can listen to him sing alone all night. Together is better, it’s that simple. Smile

Erik White on tambourine (and mic-less vocals!). Erik was a special guest. He was the original guitarist in the Greg May Band. He projected energy on stage throughout the show, singing with Greg even though he didn’t have a mic (except for one song when the brass section walked off the stage and Rebecca shared her mic with Erik). He played some seriously good tambourine. He wasn’t just a prop.

ErikWhite

John Liotta on baritone sax. Highlighted a bit more in Greg’s set, John did a wonderful job.

Wayne Tucker on trumpet. Another excellent job. Since we moved to seats that were behind the piano, I had a very different vantage point on what I had thought was a terrible shiner on Wayne’s right cheek. It turns out it was a large red heart (looked like it was drawn in red lipstick). Made sense with the Valentine’s Day theme, but I missed it during Martin’s set. I was glad Wayne wasn’t injured after all. Winking smile

WayneTuckerHeart

Matt Simons on tenor sax. Matt is another incredible musician. We just saw him perform a few days earlier in VA, playing electronic keyboards and singing. Last night, he was master of the sax (I love his play!). Come to Rockwood 2 this Saturday night (2/19/2011) at 11pm for a 90-minute set which Matt is headlining (with guest, Chris Ayer). It’s a longer set than usual, so that we can all celebrate Matt’s birthday at midnight. Smile

MattSimons

Kenny Shaw on drums. Kenny keeps up perfectly with the upbeat tempos of the Greg Mayo Band. Well suited to this style of music.

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass (and probably some vocals, but I only caught a few glimpses of Chris). Chris is one of our favorite bassists. He too played in the same VA show that Matt did a few days ago, but that night he played upright bass. We’ll see him again this Wednesday when he plays with Ian Axel for his CD Release Show. Another performance that is perfectly suited to this band and coupled tightly with Kenny Shaw’s drumming. (Horrible photo, sorry!)

ChrisAnderson

Paul Maddison on electric guitar and vocals. Paul did a very nice job, taking a well-known lead on one of the covers. He also sang well. The Greg Mayo band doesn’t highlight the guitar that much so I look forward to catching Paul in one of his other projects (most notably Julius C).

PaulMaddison

The above was the core band last night. Greg brought up another special guest very early in the show.

Matt Abatelli on tenor sax. Matt was a founding member of the band but doesn’t appear to play with them regularly any longer. Matt Simons stepped off the stage to make way for Matt Abatelli (apparently, you have to be named Matt in order to qualify to play the tenor sax in this band!). Winking smile (No photo, sorry!)

Given his stature with the band, Greg chose a song to highlight Matt right from the get-go. Matt (Abitelli) didn’t disappoint. He wailed on the sax and I look forward to catching him again in a longer set.

Greg’s birthday was 6 weeks ago. You can only imagine his surprise when Rebecca announced that the band bought him a special gift, albeit a little late. She asked us all to sing Happy Birthday to Greg (which we did) and asked Greg to open the gift and show it to us. It was a bag of custom guitar picks. On one side, it said “Greg Mayo”. On the other, “How you doin’ y’all?”. Perfect! Smile

GregMayoBeerGregMayoBirthdayGift

After a very satisfying set, Greg announced that if we made enough noise after his next (and last) number, they would do an encore to give a proper sendoff to two of the musicians who played the earlier set. You shouldn’t have to ask whether there was enough cheering to keep them on stage.

Both Patrick Firth and Ryan Vaughn are leaving shortly for an extended tour to Russia, supporting John Forte. Greg wanted to give them a proper sendoff.

He called both of them on the stage. Ryan took control of the full drum set. Kenny Shaw moved over to play percussion (exactly what Ryan did the set before). Patrick just took to a microphone to sing (lead and harmony). If that was it, that would have just tied the record for 11 people on stage at the same time.

PatrickFirthVocals

Records are meant to be broken, even if they were set just an hour earlier. Greg also called up Martin Rivas to sing and Matt Abatelli on the sax (this time, Matt Simons stayed on stage!). Uh oh, that smashed Martin’s record with 13 people on stage! Well, technically, there were only 12 people on stage, because Paul Maddison played the entire song standing on his amp! Yes, it was that jam packed on the stage and he’s that much of a rock star. Winking smile

Martin looked over to me and said “Oh well, at least I held the record for a bit…”. Indeed, he ousted Alex Berger before being ousted himself.

Earlier, Sam Teichman told me that during the second Soul Revue Benefit (which we missed because we were out of town), they had either 13 or 14 people on stage at the same time (he’s going to send me a video to prove it). I don’t doubt him, but this record doesn’t count if I’m not there, so, nice try Sam! Smile

Here is Greg’s set list:

GregMayoSetList

Circling back to why I missed Robbie Gil, again…

Four of us had an absolutely incredible meal at The Green Table in the Chelsea Market. Organic food that was delectable, served by people who we enjoyed interacting with.

OrganicBeefOrganicRoastChickenCrabCakes

Lois wasn’t feeling too well even before dinner, but it was early enough for her to push herself. After the meal, she grabbed a cab home. Two of us got into a car and headed east to Rockwood. Cross-town traffic was slow so it took a bit longer to get there than expected. Then we circled a few times looking for a non-existent spot. Eventually, the driver forced me out of the car so I could get in line for Martin’s show (Robbie’s was a distant memory).

I waited outside for over 30 minutes (yes, it was very cold). Robbie’s set was packed to the gills (no pun intended) and it appeared from the outside that they were tearing the house down. I am determined to catch his set one of these days, sooner rather than later.

When the show was over, a little after 1am, there were a dozen people looking for a cab, with none available. I eventually walked over a mile and while waiting for the bus (for quite a while) finally caught a cab the rest of the way home. I walked in the apartment at 2:10am. Yippee. I loved the entire evening/night (with the exception of the 30 minutes waiting in the cold), but I’m too old to be acting like a kid.

Soul Revue Benefit at The Bitter End

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I’m rarely at a loss for words. Unluckily for those who intend to make it to the bottom of this post, this won’t be one of those rare times either. But, it’s still unusual, because simply following my normal structure of mentioning every single performer won’t do justice to what happened last night. So, I’ll take a slightly different tack today.

First and foremost, I need to bow to Sam Teichman (@samteichman on Twitter) as deeply and humbly as I can. Sam is a perfect example of one person, single-mindedly focused on getting something done and achieving that goal (actually, exceeding it). On November 4th, 2010, Sam sat next to me at Rockwood Music Hall as we enjoyed sets by Jesse Ruben and Alex Wong. Even on that night, Sam was doing for others, as I noted across three paragraphs toward the end of my post about that show.

SamTeichman

More importantly, that night, a mere 2.5 months ago, Sam told me to stay tuned for a benefit concert he was starting to put together. Sam is not a rich guy. Sam is not a powerful guy. Sam is not Oprah Winfrey, who merely has to mention the word benefit and superstars around the globe will claw to be a part of it.

Sam is just a guy with a huge heart, a love of people, a love of music, a talent for video production, perseverance and a tireless work ethic. Because of those loves and talents, Sam has amassed an incredible number of real friends™ many of whom happen to be amazing musicians. That allows Sam to pull off these miracles. It’s inspirational. We should all aspire to be like Sam.

Free Arts NYC was the beneficiary of last night’s fundraiser. Emilia Vincent, Director of Special Events for Free Arts NYC, came up on stage to thank Sam (and all of us). A number of other staffers were in attendance as well. Every donation taken at the door (minimum donation requested $10) and every CD and DVD sold (also name-your-price donations) went entirely to Free Arts NYC. All the performers (dozens) donated their time and talent.

FreeArtsNYC

The event was held at The Bitter End. A very nice club (very storied) who’s stage is just large enough to accommodate the often 15 people who performed simultaneously. Most of the night was an ensemble (more of an amalgamation) of people who don’t typically play together in a regular group (though subsets of them do play together). The one exception was the opening act.

Live Society opened the show (they also have a MySpace page). A couple of friends told me that I would really enjoy their performance. That turned out to be a huge understatement. What a total blast. Brian Collazo sings most of the leads and played acoustic guitar on two numbers. Jason Vargas sang lead on at least one number and incredible harmony on the rest. Kevin Collazo (Brian’s brother) sang harmony beautifully. The three of them could easily be an a capella group if they wanted to be.

LiveSociety

But, why would/should they be? Their guitarist, John Kaiteris, was awesome. In addition to being great on the electric guitar on every song, he wrote a number of them as well. Extremely talented! Erik Perez on the drums was very impressive. Superb feel for the rhythm of soul. Anthony Candullo on bass complements them. No weak link in this group.

But wait, there’s more. Making a guest appearance for Live Society’s entire set was Patrick Firth (I’ve written about him a number of times). He played the grand piano and electronic keyboards. He’s a master and both fit in with and was highlighted by Live Society.

PatrickFirth

Brian called up another special guest to sing with them on one song, the always incredible Martin Rivas.

They’re working on a CD. I look forward to the release. Check out their music on the above links, you’ll love it.

After a 10-minute break, a cast of thousands piled on to the stage (OK, it only looked and sounded like a cast of thousands). At the most, there were 15 people performing at the same time. At the least, three. For the majority of the numbers, it was 14. What a huge sound (even when there were only three people on stage!).

The musicians didn’t stress about stage placement or sound checks as they shuffled on and off the stage in rapid succession. There was a core house band that played on most numbers, but that shifted as well. The transitions were smoother than I ever could have imagined.

The amazing brass section consisted of: John Liotta (alto/baritone sax), Ian Schaefer (trumpet) and Matt Simons (sax). They were on stage for roughly half the numbers.

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Mike Tuccillo and Jeff Litman alternated on the electric bass (really well).

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Oscar Bautista and (Sergio) Serge Ortega shared the electric guitar duties (extremely well).

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Seth Falk, Robbie LaFalce, Josh Dion and Craig Meyer all shared percussion duties (drums, djembe, tambourine) often with two on stage at the same time. Each and every one of them was wonderful. More on Josh Dion momentarily.

SethFaulkRobbieLaFalceCraigMeyer

For most numbers, there were three or four backup singers on stage. All but one sang lead as well, so I’ll mention them in a second. The only backup singer who didn’t sing lead on at least one song was Valerie Mize. She did a wonderful job. I’m sure if there was more time, she too would have taken a turn at the center mic and wow’ed us.

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Megan Cox played the violin, wonderfully.

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Abby Payne and Rebecca Haviland shared the grand piano and electronic keyboards duties (for those songs where there were keyboards, I’ll guesstimate that Abby played 1/3 and Rebecca 2/3’s of them). Both ladies were incredible.

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This brings me to the one unimaginably sad note of the evening. Greg Mayo suffered the untimely passing of his brother Christopher in a car accident earlier that day. Our hearts and prayers go out to Greg and the entire Mayo family over this unspeakable loss. A number of people on stage mentioned this tragedy.

On to the people who sang at the mic at center stage, raising our blood pressure (in the good way) and making us shout “Yeah” and “Hell Yeah” (among other grunts and words), literally.

Jesse Ruben led off, great start.

JesseRuben

Rebecca Haviland has an extraordinary voice and stage presence. I wrote about her briefly when I covered the Greg Mayo Band, of which she is a part. Last night her voice roared above the other 13 people on stage. Totally captivating. I already mentioned how amazing she was on the keyboards as well.

RebeccaHavilandSinging

Luke Wesley has a very powerful and distinctive voice. It was our first time seeing him. Thoroughly enjoyed his number!

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Bri Arden (also on Reverb Nation). A quick aside before telling you about Bri’s performance. Bri was a member of the backup singers for much of the night. When she took the lead, she changed her dress into something substantially more eye catching. Before she got to sing, someone else on stage asked her where the other half of her dress was. Winking smile

BriArden

Bri sang Proud Mary, starting off slow and building to a heart-pounding final few verses (just like Tina Turner’s signature version). Someone in the crowd mentioned how difficult it is to emulate Tina. Bri pulled it off! When she next appeared as a backup singer, she was back in her other dress. Smile

John Schmitt was up next. A number of my friends have told me that I have to see John Schmitt perform. Having heard his voice and style last night, I understand why. He’s now on my list.

JohnSchmitt

Abby Payne did a very nice job (yes, the same Abby who nailed the piano parts!). The only issue is that it took Abby a bit to crank up the volume on her voice, which was necessary because she (and all of them) were competing with tons of instruments and other vocalists. Abby had an all-male backup singing contingent.

AbbyPayneSingingSethFaulkMartinRivasJoshDionJayStolar

Karly Jurgensen was also a regular member of the backup singers before taking center stage. Karly has been a recent discovery of ours and I’ve written (briefly) about her twice. She is high on our list to see a full set and we got on her mailing list after the show to ensure we don’t miss out!

KarlyJurgensen

Up until now, each of the aforementioned singers performed one number.

Martin Rivas took the stage in a minimalist way. He was accompanied by Chrissi Poland on vocals and Craig Meyer on drums. Martin played the acoustic guitar. Rather than sing one song, or 10, Martin played a long (and absolutely amazing) medley of 7-10 numbers over a nearly 10-minute appearance.

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He and Chrissi were both great (more on her shortly) and they really got the crowd to sing along, multiple times. It’s Martin who also got the crowd (yes, the placed was packed!) to groan, as I mentioned above.

Brian Collazo (of Live Society) joined them for two numbers. A few others came and went (Rebecca Haviland, Valerie Mize, Josh Dion, the brass section). A great mini-set.

Chrissi Poland stayed on stage for the rest of the show. She alternated singing with whomever had the center stage mic, and taking the center stage mic herself. All told, she probably sang the most leads of the night, even including Martin’s numbers. She was awesome. We’ve only seen her once before, singing a few numbers with Martin at Rockwood 2. We were impressed then, and continue to be now. We want/need more Chrissi, now!

ChrissiPoland

Josh Dion was already mentioned above as one of the drummers. It took me a second to notice that after Martin left the stage, someone was singing, but no one was standing at the mic at center stage. That’s because Josh Dion was singing his heart out, while playing the drums (which were center stage, but against the back wall). He was incredible!

JoshDion

Jay Stolar (lead singer for Julius C) was up next, and he shared the stage with Chrissi Poland. He was also incredible. What a voice and what passion and energy on stage (very theatrical, in the best sense). I shouldn’t be surprised. For the past month, every time I ask a question of a friend in an audience (like: “Who’s that guitar player”?), the answer often comes back: “Oh, he’s in Julius C, you really need to check them out!”. Indeed, I do!

JayStolar

It was inevitable that this post would get to this length, even with the abbreviated mentions of many of the amazing musicians. Even at that, I haven’t done justice to what was obviously an epic night at The Bitter End.

Thanks again to Sam Teichman and everyone mentioned above (and anyone I missed) for putting on such a great show for such a great cause.

Just to make this post even longer, I will reproduce Sam’s entire thank you stream from Twitter, for those who didn’t click on his link above, or for those reading this long after it has scrolled off of his Twitter page:

Wow! Thanks to @jesseruben, @rebeccahaviland, @lukewesleymusic, @BriArden @johnschmitt, @abbypaynemusic, @KarlyJurgensen, @martinrivas….

…. @joshdion, jay stolar of @juliusc, @chrissipoland for singing your hearts out tonight on lead vocals.

And thanks to Oscar Bautista and @Serge_Ortega for brilliant guitar work, @jefflitman and @its5knobmike on the bass…

.. Robbie LaFalce of @PhilthHarmonic, @sethfaulk and Josh Dion on the drums and percussion. Valerie Mize on the backing vocals…

@matt_simons, Ian Schaefer and John Liotta on the brilliant horn work, and Megan Cox on the violin. You all amaze me. Words are not enough.

Thanks more so to every single one of you who came to support the cause, and the artists, tonight. You all reaffirmed my faith in music.

Special thanks to @CMorelliNYC for taking pictures, and @achance42, Matt Golub, Alex Depew and Doug Cion for filming the show.

I can not imagine a more perfect opening band for a night of soul than @collazo and the Live Society crew, and you guys crushed it tonight.

And a huge thanks to @hadarvc, @tinajbowen, @ArtSceneNYC, @thejujuqueen and all the others who retweeted and publicized the show so well.

Mostly, tonight reaffirmed my belief that people can make things happen, things of consequence, big or small. Believe in the arts…..

…. believe in charity. Believe in the ability to make a difference one dollar at a time, one song at a time, one life at a time.

The only goal in life should be to create, to smile, to give, and to love. The rest is just details. Thank you all. We’ll do it again soon.

Well said Sam.

Greg Mayo Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Another day, another post that’s 24 hours late, another day of two posts (this one being the first).

Everyone knows the expression: Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

Let’s add a new one: Be careful what you wish for, you might just think you’re getting it, but get something wildly different than you expected, and be completely blown away (in the positive sense) in the process.

Perfect, just rolls off the tongue. Winking smile

Regular readers know that I’m working my way through a mental music bucket list, mostly local performers who I have a burning desire to see perform full sets. Most come from seeing them support other artists and recognizing their enormous individual talent. The rest come from trusting other people who tell me “You have to see so-and-so”.

Greg Mayo has been way up on my list since I saw him support Martin Rivas at a benefit for the Gulf on July 30th, 2010. I have seen Greg a number of times since then, always in a supporting role, always on the electric guitar.

GregMayo

We see a lot of excellent local musicians, including a lot of fine guitar players. In my opinion, Greg is the best of them. His buttery smooth leads are flawless and always interesting. I had heard that he also headlines his own band/shows as The Greg Mayo Band. I knew that I wanted to see him bust loose even more, expecting guitar explosions extraordinaire.

When I saw that Greg was playing at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 (a simply fantastic place) I knew I was going. When I saw that it was at 10pm (normally a bit later than we like to go), I was doubly excited, because I badly wanted to see the show at Rockwood 1 from 8-10pm that I wrote about yesterday.

So, bottom line, you all want to know how amazing Greg Mayo was on the guitar, right? Well, your guess is as good as mine, because Greg didn’t touch a guitar during his show. If I had done any research at all, I would have known that. Now go back and read our new rolls-off-your-tongue expression: BCWYWFYMJTYGIBGSWDTYEABCBA(ITPS)ITP!

Greg played the grand piano and electronic keyboards, fantastically. He sang, amazingly. In general, he and his big band put on a killer show that was completely unexpected (to me, not to his fans).

GregMayoKeyboards

I would describe Greg’s music as Rock-N-Soul, with a good measure of Big Band thrown in. I noted recently that the most people I’ve seen on stage at one time at Rockwood 2 is nine (Alex Berger’s show). Greg only had eight in his band, so the record still stands, but it was quite a huge sound.

I love most instruments, so I always feel silly when I say things like: “I love the guitar”, etc. But whenever an extraordinary musician plays an instrument, I am compelled to not only recognize that musician, but the fact that the instrument they are playing has its own special qualities that stir something in me that other instruments stir in different ways.

Ever since I was obsessed with music as a teenager, good brass sections (even good brass soloists) can reach somewhere inside me and get to places that other instruments don’t typically reach (though other instruments reach me in different, often more interesting ways!). As an example, for years, Chicago was my favorite rock band, partially due to their brass section.

I can keep going with background, but let’s skip all that and mention each person in the band, they all deserve their own shout-out! Standing left-to-right (stacked) on the stage:

Rebecca Haviland on vocals and tambourine. Gorgeous voice. Perhaps a bit under-mic’ed, but nonetheless a wonderful addition to Greg on the harmonies, with a reasonable number of leads for Rebecca as well. Her dancing and energy added to the color and impact of the set.

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Matt Simons on tenor sax. From Greg’s website, it seems that Matt is not Greg’s normal tenor sax player. That appears to be Matt Abatelli. I can’t speak to the other Matt’s sax skills, but let me heap some crazy praise on Matt Simons, who I didn’t even know played the sax to begin with!

MattSimons

If you clicked on the link above about yesterday’s post at Rockwood 1, then you know that I’m a big fan of Matt Simons’ own work (solo and in conjunction with Chris Ayer and Morgan Holland). I had only seen Matt play keyboards, very well. His sax solos were killer. Now I need to find out what other instruments he plays. Awesome!

(Now an apology that I will correct later. I heard the trumpet player’s name clearly on Saturday, so this isn’t Greg’s fault, but since I’m late in posting this, I’ve already forgotten it, and it wasn’t his regular trumpet player. I sort-of remember Tony as the first name, so I’ll use that as a placeholder, until I get the right name.)

Wayne Tucker played the trumpet. Kenny Warren is listed as the normal trumpet player on Greg’s site. As with the Matts above, I assume Kenny is great, but I know that Wayne is! He didn’t take as many solos as Matt Simons did, nor were they as long, but he was great in his play throughout the set.

Wayne Tucker

John Liotta on baritone sax. John was excellent as well, making for the brass section trifecta! Seriously, these three guys rocked it hard!

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Kenny Shaw on drums. As you might imagine, a sound this big requires quite a good drummer to keep everyone charging (including the audience!). Kenny didn’t disappoint. OK, that wasn’t positive enough, he did his job wonderfully!

KennyShaw

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. I wrote about Chris in yesterday’s post, as he, like Matt Simons, did the same 5-foot walk from Rockwood 1 to Rockwood 2. While Chris played the upright bass in support of Morgan Holland, he was an integral part of the big sound of Greg’s band on the electric bass and of course, singing background vocals as well. Chris always delivers on the bass (always). For the huge sound that Greg’s band produces, Chris was at the top of his game. The bass was quite loud and easy to pick out, even though I couldn’t see Chris at all from my seat.

In addition to changing instruments, Chris also changed outfits, since Greg likes the band to dress up. Smile

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Paul Maddison Erik White on electric guitar and vocals. Paul was playing the instrument that I expected Greg to be playing, so he had a tall order to fill in my mind. He did an excellent job, but the music isn’t really oriented to overly-highlighting the guitar (though there were enough cool licks to satisfy).

Paul Maddison

On one number, Paul was playing a riff that sounded exactly like a Doobie Brothers number. I turned to Lois and said exactly that. One second later, the song morphed, and Rebecca Haviland indeed sang two verses of a Doobie Bothers song before morphing back into the original number. Cool!

Like the set at Rockwood 1, Rockwood 2 was jammed for Greg’s set. Not only that, but the energy carried a number of people to dance (in very close quarters), and to jump up and down when Rebecca did it on stage. The floor was shaking like there was a train passing underground. That’s something we all experience at Joe’s Pub (where the underground train is real!), but this was a first at Rockwood for me. The joint was literally jumping!

We’ll be back for Greg’s next show at Rockwood 2 on February 12th and you should be too!

So, who was on before Greg’s set at Rockwood 2, opposite the completely mobbed show that I attended at Rockwood 1? None other than Beatle progeny Sean Lennon!

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While we were settling in for Greg’s show, Sean and his band were breaking down their equipment on the stage. Yes, he was packing up, being a regular musician. He stopped and allowed us newcomers to take some close-up photos as well. I didn’t hear his music, but I got the strong sense that he’s grounded and nice. So wonderful to see!

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