Stephen Chopek

Leave a Lasting Mark Soul Benefit The Bitter End

Send to Kindle

Leave a Lasting Mark is a benefit concert series conceived and produced by Sam Teichman. We’ve been to a number of them, but have sadly missed some of the more spectacular ones (or so a number of people have told us). Our very first one was a Soul Revue (just like last night) 14 months ago. You can read about it, though it’s super long, as this one is likely to be as well. This one was also held at The Bitter End.

SamTeichmanMC

Instead of expecting you to read that long post, let me just pull out a single paragraph that I wrote about Sam right up front:

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.

I highly encourage you to read the next two paragraph from that post, but I’ll leave it to you to click through if you’re interested.

SamTeichman

These benefit shows are really important to attend (in particular if you’re a music lover) for a number of reasons. First, you’re contributing to charity (100% of the entrance price goes to whatever charity is being supported at that show). Last night’s charity was Foundation Fighting Blindness, specifically targeted for their Vision Walk 2012 initiative later this month. Seems like a good enough reason to attend the show.

Second, you have an opportunity to discover local musicians that you otherwise might never hear about. Every one of them donates their time to perform in these shows. Sam does a great job of paying them by constantly reminding the audience that they create their own music (often inspired by the people they’re covering at these shows!) and that we should all make it our business to follow up and check out their own sites and music.

That’s been true for me, starting back at my first Leave a Lasting Mark (LALM) show and solidly continuing last night. I’m going to follow the format I used for that first Soul Revue. I’ll group all of the sidemen (yes, there was a sidewoman as well) by instrument, first. I’ll skip mentioning the backup singers, because each of them took a turn singing a song on lead. Then I’ll cover each of the lead singers, in the order they appeared.

The real point will be for me to call out a few people I’ve never seen before, some of whom completely blew me away (repeating a trend that’s happened at each of the LALM shows).

Apologies for the varying qualities of the photos. Tons of people on stage, often obscured or very far away. So many of the lead performers were constantly moving, so it was tough to catch them in focus, or with un-passionate expressions. This is the best our little compact camera could do.

The brass section was up for nearly every song (not every person was up on every number that included brass). They performed yeoman duty and I imagine most are resting their lips and lungs today.

Ian Schaefer on trumpet, Mitch Marcus on sax and clarinet, Chris Hiatt on sax (@chrishiatt1, no good individual link), John Liotta on sax (also no good link), Steven Salcedo on sax.

IanCarletonSchaeferMitchMarcusChrisHiatt

JohnLiottaStevenSalcedo

Ian took a number of trumpet leads (in particular on I Just Want to Make Love to You and This Little Light) that were awesome. We typically see John Liotta light up a baritone sax with the Greg Mayo band. Last night he lit up a tenor sax equally well. Mitch, Chris and Steven were amazing too, in any combination that happened to be on stage for a given song.

IanSchaeferTrumpetIanSchaeferChrisHiattJohnLiottaMitchMarcusClarinet

Sarah Stern joined for one number, late in the show, on the flute (I couldn’t find a good link). Delightful! She’s (possibly) the only person who didn’t make it on to the program. She stood with the brass section. This was our first time seeing Sarah.

SarahSternFlute

Bass players: Chris Kelly, Justin Goldner, James Preston (how can you not fall in love with someone whose middle name is Peanutbutter?), Jeff Litman and Sean Murphy. We’ve seen Chris, Justin and Jeff many times (they’re always great). In fact, we discovered Jeff at that first Soul Revue, and Chris and Justin at a LALM benefit featuring the songs of James Taylor and Carole King. This was our first time seeing James and Sean, probably not our last.

ChrisKellyJustinGoldnerJamesPreston

JeffLitmanSeanMurphy

One more of James Peanutbutter Preston:

JamesPrestonBass

The first time I saw Jeff I really liked his bass play. But, it was after reading one of his blogs that I really started paying attention to him as a person, then discovered that he’s an excellent singer/songwriter and musician (guitar is his primary instrument for his own brand of rock). He just released a new CD, Outside, get it, and get his previous one, Postscript.

I note how I discovered Jeff because he just put up a new blog post this morning (or at least tweeted about it today) and it’s another amazing piece. So well considered and written. I learn from Jeff, both in his writing and in his music. Both Lois and I agree 100% with Jeff’s thesis in this post (at least with regards to the part about the MET, the music can be a little more nuanced IMHO).

Drummers: Justin Hofmann, Stephen Chopek, Alex Cohen, Mason Ingram and Matt Arbeiter (still no good link). Justin and Alex were new to us (both excellent). Stephen always delivers, as do Mason and Matt. Matt is another that we first discovered at a LALM show (the James Taylor / Carole King one).

JustinHofmannStephenChopekDrumsAlexCohen

MasonIngramMattArbeiter

Guitarists: Mark Marshall, Mike Bell (no good individual link, but here’s a link to a band he’s in, BELT Band), Jeremiah Birnbaum (also sang lead), Joe Brent, Hudson Mueller (also sang co-lead). Mike and Hudson were new to us. We’ve seen Joe once before, but not on guitar. Late in the show, Joe also joined on two numbers playing the fiddle. He’s a major talent, whatever instrument he touches.

MarkMarshallMikeBellJeremiahBirnbaumGuitar

JoeBrentGuitarHudsonMueller

JoeBrentFiddle

Keyboards (grand piano and electronic): Megan Cox, Scott Chasolen, Nick Semrad (also sang lead), Kenneth Harris (also sang lead), Scott Stein (also sang lead). A first for us seeing Nick and Kenneth. In addition to playing the keyboards wonderfully on every number, each sang lead from the piano, so more on them later.

MeganCoxKeyboardsScottChasolenNickSemradKeyboards

KennethHarrisSingingScottSteinKeyboards

Scott Chasolen is a great pianist and proved it again last night. He has an excellent voice, but wasn’t one of last night’s leads.

Scott Stein is also great on the keyboards. More on his lead performance below.

We’ve seen Megan play fiddle, when we first discovered her at the first Soul Revue. This was our first time seeing her on the keyboards (very nice!). I lied above when I said all of the background singers sang lead. Megan sang background but didn’t sing lead. Sam told me this morning that Megan was scheduled to sing lead, but came down with a bad cold and couldn’t do it. What a trooper for playing the keyboards and singing background even though she wasn’t feeling well!

CrystalDurantMeganCoxSingingBackground

One last piece of reporting before moving on to the lead singers. The show was broken up into smaller sets to keep the transitions among musicians to a minimum. Each set had a Musical Director (M.D., as you’ll see below). Here’s is the order that they appeared on stage:

Mark Marshall, Justin Goldner, James Preston, Joe Brent and Scott Stein. Considering that there was only a single, five-hour rehearsal for everyone to come together, each of the M.D.’s deserves a huge round of applause (as do each of the musicians!).

Finally, the divas, both male and female. Winking smile

Chrissi Poland opened the show. Such a powerful voice. She’s currently raising money to record a new EP. Check out Chrissi’s music and help if you like it (and can afford to, obviously).

ChrissiPoland

Terry Brennan (no good individual link, but he’s in BELT Band with a couple of the other performers from last night!). I’ve seen Terry in the audience at a number of shows, but never knew his name, or that he was a performer himself. His voice was great last night, so now I know and can again count on LALM for introducing me to new talented people.

TerryBrennan

Abby Ahmad put on yet another passionate performance.

AbbyAhmad

Martin Rivas was the only singer to sing two songs. In addition to killing it with a full band, he returned later to do the only solo, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

MartinRivasJustinHofmannMartinRivasAcoustic

Stephanie White’s vocals soared above the music. Incredible power with a laser-like precision. Stephanie was supposed to sing another song late in the set. The entire program ran over by 20 minutes, and Stephanie’s second number was an unfortunate casualty, getting cut at the last minute. You can catch Stephanie as part of Philth Harmonic (a band she’s in with Robbie LaFalce).

StephanieWhite

Crystal Durant is another person we discovered at a LALM show (The Blues Bothers tribute). What a wonderful voice, both lead and background vocals.

CrystalDurant

Jared Saltiel was another first for us. He was impressive, but I’m actually liking the music on his site even more, so click the link and check him out. Smile

JaredSaltiel

Eva Alexander was also new for us. We were both extremely impressed with her voice.

EvaAlexander

Abby Payne is someone we’re very familiar with. In fact, I’ve written (glowingly) about her a number of times in the past few weeks. So, you’d think she couldn’t really surprise me, especially in an extremely positive way. Wrong. Backtracking for a bit. Abby is yet another performer that we discovered at the first Soul Revue. Here’s what I wrote about her lead singing that night:

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.

Note that my only complaint was that her voice didn’t soar above the music. Holy moly, last night Abby delivered all of the power, passion and clarity you could want in a voice that was clearly soaring above a stage full of awesome musicians. I was already a big Abby fan, but it seems that my fandom can grow.

AbbyPayne

Speaking of being a fan of Abby, please help her make a new CD (pretty please?). Nine days left as I write this. I have faith in all of you. Smile

Jeremiah Birnbaum did a wonderful job on his lead song, in addition to all of his guitar play and background singing throughout the set.

JeremiahBirnbaumJeremiahBirnbaumSinging

Nick Semrad was new to us. During the set that he played keyboards, he also sang lead on one song, very impressively.

NickSemradSinging

Ashley Lehmann sang (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, perhaps the best known song of the night (though there were a ton of real soul fans, who likely knew every song just as well as this one).

AshleyLehmann

Dani Tersini was awesome, hard to describe it any other way. Also new to us, but won’t be a stranger going forward. Her red dress seemed perfectly appropriate for her song, I Just Want to Make Love to You. Winking smile

DaniTersini

Scott Wolfson yet another first for us. I liked his voice a lot, and he did a fine job on his number, but I’m guessing that I’ll like his own shows even more.

ScottWolfson

Maddy Wyatt was an extremely nice surprise for me. I was very impressed by her the only other time I’ve seen her, supporting Jeff Litman. That night she sang a ton of harmony (beautifully, but quite mellow) and played the flute (also beautifully). To see her come out and belt out a soul number with the full band was not what I expected. Oh yeah, she also accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar. Very nicely done, both vocals and guitar!

MaddyWyatt

Akie Bermiss continued the hit parade of firsters who did a marvelous job, with Crystal Durant doing heavy duty harmony with him. Akie is part of a band called Aabaraki (who we haven’t seen). You can stream and buy their album.

AkieBermiss

Alec Gross has to be put in the same camp as I put Abby Payne earlier. I’m a fan, and I’ve enjoyed his sets before. But, I think of him as a fairly mellow folk singer. Not last night. He lit it up, completely. Very impressed.

AlecGrossAlecGrossLaughing

Andy Mac is someone we’ve seen do one full set before, plus one song at the James Taylor / Carole King benefit. He cranked it up a couple of notches last night and really delivered. He also played acoustic guitar, both while singing lead, and supporting Ashley Lehmann.

AndyMac

Bri Arden sang This Little Light. Ha, I fooled you, because I said sang, like that’s what Bri did. If you read this space regularly, you know Bri is the subject of a lot of posts. That’s because she’s always awesome. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she took this song and created a soaring vocal masterpiece. Seriously, it is not possible to describe it in words. You’ll have to wait until Sam uploads the individual videos (which he will do) to see a poor reproduction of what we were all treated to live!

BriArdenBriArdenSinging

JoeBrentBriArden

Above, I showed a picture of Crystal Durant and Megan Cox singing background. That was on Bri’s song. Dani Tersini and Ahsley Lehmann also sang background during this song:

DaniTersiniAshleyLehmannSingingBackground

Brian Collazo is another one of our favorites, any time, any place. While there’s no good individual link to him, he’s best known for fronting the incredible band, Live Society. Brian was extraordinary when he sang lead, as he was on the numbers he sang background. That we couldn’t keep our eyes open to see him sing with Martin Rivas at Slane right after this show is something we’ll regret until we get to see him again (soon, I hope!).

BrianCollazoBrianCollazoSinging

Brian also sang background on a number of songs. On this one, he was part of an all male contingent:

BrianCollazoAkieBermissChrisKellySingingBackground

Here’s he was standing in front of the brass section:

IanSchaeferBrianCollazoJohnLiotta

Kenneth Harris sang lead on one song, in addition to playing keyboards on one of the mini-sets. He was awesome. This was a first time for us seeing him, definitely not the last. By the time he sang lead, he didn’t surprise me. When Brian Collazo sang lead (the song before), Kenneth sang primary harmony with him and he was absolutely amazing on that number. Keeping up with Brian is no small feat, and Kenneth was definitely up to the task.

KennethHarris

Scott Stein came to center stage to sing his lead, after playing keyboards for the remainder of the mini-set. Excellent, on both the keys and on lead vocals!

ScottSteinSinging

Evan Felts and Hudson Mueller (of The Gold Magnolias) shared lead vocals, with Evan doing most of the singing. Both new to us, both impressive. Evan did a classic soul dance throughout (a la James Brown himself). He had the crowd completely worked up in a lather. Tons of energy, great vocals.

EvanFeltsHudsonMuellerSinging

Grace McLean was the final newcomer to us. Grace performed perhaps the second most famous song (to me at least), Chain of Fools. Let’s see if I can be succinct in describing her: Wow! (OK, that was succinct, but not sufficient, how about: Holy Wow, Unreal!, yes, that’s better).

GraceMcLeanGraceMcLeanSinging

Closing out the show was someone who we also discovered during that first LALM Soul Revue. He blew us away that night, and topped it last night. He had a gig of his own earlier that evening and rushed over to close out this one.

Jay Stolar stolar’ed the show (ba dum chi!). What a voice, what stage presence and delivery. In addition to singing his you-know-what off, he put on a show. He climbed on a table, got everyone to get up and shake it, dropped to the floor (as did a few of the performers) and generally got the blood rushing everywhere.

JayStolarJayStolarSinging

For that last song, Sam was up on stage, first playing the tambourine in the back (his signature) but then coming forward to sing background, sharing the mic with Dani Tersini.

SamTeichmanTambourineSamTeichmanSinging

After Martin’s second number, roughly halfway through the show, Sam introduced a representative from Foundation Fighting Blindness. I won’t get her name right, so I won’t attempt it. She described the work they do and the Vision Walk, and invited all of us to learn more about it, and join on the walk on April 21st.

FoundationFightingBlindnessRepresentative

Whew, made it to the end (that comment was for me, not you!). Winking smile

Some closing notes and a treat!

When we were waiting for the doors to open, four German tourists came up to ask if we on line for the club next door. We told them what we were there to see. The guy in front of us in line went into a hard sales pitch to get them to join us. They seemed interested, but left to grab a bite, saying they might return.

Indeed, they got there in time for the start of the show. Both of us noticed them having a blast throughout, whooping louder than most people at the more feverish parts. Glad they believed us and joined. Even gladder they enjoyed it! Smile

As I noted up front, in addition to the artists donating their time, it’s also a showcase for them to be discovered. Sam does an amazing job of not only promoting them during the show, but of ensuring that they’re easy to find online. Sam had a two-page handout which listed every performer (except for Sarah Stern). You can find out what bands they play in, what site they’re at, what their Twitter handle is, etc. Here are both pages of the program:

ProgramPage1ProgramPage2

Here’s the set list (remember, they had to cut Stephanie White’s second song):

PersonalizedSetList

Finally, the treat. Sam cut a short highlight reel. It’s great and will give you a good sense of some of the performers, but you simply have to trust me on two points: 1) Many of the ones that didn’t make this reel were awesome and 2) no video will ever sound and feel like the live version does! Sam will also be uploading a longer highlight reel, which will have at least a bit of every single song in it, so keep checking his YouTube channel:

Leave a Lasting Mark Highlights from April 3rd, 2012

As always, we were surrounded by friends, some of whom Lois captured:

IrisRachelRachelAliceAndMoms

StephenChopekHadar

Abby Payne at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Abby Payne headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. It was her first headlining set at Stage 2 and I’m willing to bet it won’t be her last!

AbbyPayne

I’ve seen Abby perform two full sets (among some other appearances). The first time, with a full band at Rockwood 1, I had a hard time overcoming the volume.

Last time, Abby was incredible in every possible respect, performing a much quieter set with a trio, also at Rockwood 1. So, I was excited to see her play last night, but I admit to a little trepidation considering that this was going to be a full band set again.

Not to worry! Partially due to Stage 2 being much more expansive (allowing volumes to go higher with fewer problems), and partially due to everyone just playing at an appropriate volume, the set was fantastic.

The first full-band show, Abby played on the electronic keyboards and someone else played the grand piano. Last night they flipped, with Abby spending the entire set at the piano. She’s excellent, and I typically prefer the sound of the piano over the keyboards, so that was a nice surprise as well.

Abby performed a number of the same songs that she did with the trio, but they really took on a dramatically different character. Most of the set (with the obvious exception of the one song Abby performed solo) was power pop. Driving rhythms, soaring vocals, excellent musicianship. The trio had a broad range of genres, but it was really mellow, get lost in the music, not the energy kind of stuff.

Great to know that Abby’s material holds up both ways.

Supporting Abby, left-to-right on stage:

JP Schlegelmilch on electronic keyboards and vocals. I already noted that last time, he was on the piano when she was on the keys. JP was excellent last night, playing a more organ like sound, complementing Abby’s piano play.

JPSchlegelmilch

Stephen Chopek on drums. Stephen was filling in for Abby’s normal drummer, Kenny Shaw. Considering that we see Kenny more than any other drummer, I think he was hiding from us (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!). Not to worry, we both love Stephen’s play. In fact, this was a real treat because most of the other sets that we’ve seen him play have been more folk oriented where he’s impressed with his subtlety.

StephenChopek

Last night’s power pop gave Stephen a chance to open it up quite a bit. I didn’t doubt for a second that he’s comfortable with that style, since I know that he toured with John Meyer for a year. Smile We haven’t seen Stephen perform in 10 months. That’s just way too long, but he’s on the road non-stop, so we’ll take what we can get!

Here’s Stephen, levitating a cymbal. Quite impressive! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist…)

StephenChopekLevitatingCymbal

Chris Anderson on electric bass and vocals. This was our third set of the night watching Chris play. All three sets were radically different from one another. No matter, Chris delights in all genres.

ChrisAnderson

Wil Farr on electric guitar and vocals. Wil is excellent on the guitar. I knew this from the first time I saw him play with Abby, though that night it was primarily his amp which caused my issues with the volume. No such problems last night, so Wil’s play came shining through. He was also a bit more primary on the backup vocals with Abby than the others.

WilFarr

OK, I’m ready for the next one, trio or full band. Let’s get it going!

JPSchlegelmilchWilFarrChrisAndersonStephenChopek

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Chris Ayer, John Schmitt and Andy Mac at The Living Room

Send to Kindle

On April 21st, 2011, I tweeted the following:

Crushing traffic on I95 yesterday. Listening to @johnschmitt and @chrisayer saved our sanity!

I received back the following back from John:

@hadarvc Thx Radar! If you’re free on May 13th, Chris and I play the Living Room, at 10 & 11pm! Would love to say hello! I’ll have my band!

Yes, iPhone autocorrect prefers my name be Radar, such is life. Winking smile

That’s all the information we needed to lock it in our calendar (the show took place at The Living Room, as noted the tweet above). Even though something else important came up, we weren’t going to miss this show (see the very bottom of this post for our compromise/workaround). Doing my usual working backwards on the sets.

Chris Ayer started his set shortly after 11pm. I’ve written about Chris many times and how amazing he is. The last time I wrote about him I noted that Sierra Noble called Chris a poet (and I agreed). Let me take a stab at defining what I (and Lois) mean when we say that.

There are a ton of great lyricists out there. Substantially fewer of those are also poets. Great lyrics can tell a great story, have catchy rhymes or phrases and therefore clearly are the foundation of great songs. Poets create all that, but in addition, they emblazon images in your mind. Their turns of phrases are like Van Gogh’s brushstrokes. Many great songwriters achieve poetry on occasion. Poets achieve it regularly and prolifically. Chris is one such poet.

ChrisAyerSolo

Chris played his usual fantastic set. It was a blend of solo, full band and duets, all of which were equally satisfying. He played a new song, something like Hide in Plain Sight (but I’m reasonably sure it’s not that exactly). Wow, another one that had our table mesmerized.

Chris closed the show with Roy G. Biv. Lois might have tripped him on his way out if had skipped that song last night. Fortunately, she asked him to play it before the set started and he told her it was already on his set list. Winking smile

The band unplugged for Roy G. Biv. John Schmitt joined Chris. Chris, John and Matt Simons came into the audience standing in a large triangle so they could serenade different members. Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek (the other two band members) came to the front of the stage. It was an amazing way to end a wonderful night.

In addition to bringing John up as a special guest, Chris also brought up Morgan Holland to sing with him on two songs. Perfect! John Schmitt and Morgan Holland will be playing back-to-back sets at Rockwood 1 on June 4th, at 7 and 8pm respectively. Come join us to enjoy what will undoubtedly be a great evening!

ChrisAyerMorganHolland

Speaking of upcoming shows, Chris Ayer will be at Rockwood 1 before them. May 27th at 8pm. We’ll be there too. Smile

The band, from left-to-right on stage:

Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass. Chris is one of our favorite bass players and last night was no exception. As fun as it is to listen to him play a more mellow set like Chris Ayer’s, I am distractedly looking forward to seeing Chris play with Ian Axel at the Bowery Ballroom on May 24th. Aside from the fact that it will be one of the epic nights of music in NYC, Chris Anderson will let loose in a way that tickles me to no end!

ChrisAndersonElectricBass

Stephen Chopek on drums and percussion. Stephen has quickly become a favorite drummer of ours. I was extremely pleased to see him playing with Chris Ayer last night, because he was not drumming for John Schmitt the set before. When we saw John and Chris at Jammin’ Java, Stephen drummed for both (it’s too expensive to bring two drummers I imagine). Another wonderful performance last night by Stephen.

StephenChopek

Matt Simons on keyboards (grand piano and electronic) and vocals. Matt is an excellent singer/songwriter in his own right and complements Chris Ayer perfectly when he plays sideman to him (which he does quite often). Their harmonies are wonderful and Matt’s keyboard play is excellent. While he didn’t play it last night, I love his sax playing as well.

MattSimonsMattSimonsSinging

I think we missed our tradition of showing Chris Ayer’s unique set list (from his and our vantage) the last time or two. Here is the one from last night:

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

John Schmitt mirrored Chris’ set (or the reverse, since John was on first) by playing solo, full band and duet as well. He just so happened to do it with an entirely different crew. While John is a somewhat newer discovery for us, you can see from the tweet that started this off, being late to the party hasn’t cost him any of our affection.

JohnSchmitt

His recent CD release, Ophelia, is a gorgeous album. John has a fantastic voice (very soulful) and he plays the guitar beautifully. Add a top band (which isn’t necessary, but always welcome!) and he too wows the crowd, every time.

We like a lot of John’s songs, but at the top are Ophelia and Ave Regina. If he hadn’t sung either of those we might have had to mug him in the (proverbial) parking lot. Thankfully, he performed both (more on each in a minute when I mention the guest stars). Both qualify as poet songs. Smile

Joining John on Ave Regina and Going Back was Lissa Farquhar on vocals. Lissa has a beautiful voice and did a great job on both songs. Ave Regina has stunning harmonies in it, in addition to Lissa taking a verse on the lead. What I particularly liked is the fact that Lissa belted out the harmony as well as the lead. Many backup vocalists think it’s incumbent on them to sing softly to let the lead vocalist shine. It’s a nice thought, but it makes the harmonies so much more difficult to appreciate. Let your voices ring out! Smile

LissaFarquhar

Joining John for his last two numbers was Chris Ayer on vocals. Another wonderful piece of harmony.

JohnSchmittChrisAyer

John’s band, from left-to-right on stage:

Greg Barbone on keyboards (organ and grand piano). The Living Room has both a grand piano on stage and a double-decker organ (the size of an upright piano). They are on opposite ends of the stage. John joked that Greg was going to be running back-and-forth, but it turned out not to be a joke. So, I could have listed Greg first or last. Since he kicked it off on the organ, first it is.

GregBarboneOrgan

Greg was great on both. We already knew he would be great on the piano, because he was also the pianist for the set before (covered shortly). The organ was covered up during that set, so I didn’t even know it was there (two feet from where I was sitting).

Brian Killeen on electric bass. We’ve seen Brian many times (mostly with Martin Rivas) and have enjoyed his play each and every time (last night included). When John mentioned that Brian had recently opened for Bon Jovi, Brian joked that it was a solo bass performance, and he did a quick and cute bass-rock-star like thing on stage.

BrianKilleen

Mike Sutton on drums (sorry, couldn’t find a good individual link to Mike). Recall what I said above, that I was expecting Stephen Chopek on drums. I was impressed with Mike’s play, but I need to hear more to form a better opinion.

MikeSutton

Here is John’s set list. Don’t believe everything you read. For example, Lissa did not join on Ophelia and there was no sax during the set (it does say “possible Sax solo” after all):

JohnSchmittSetList

Originally, we had intended to show up just for those two sets. John tweeted that Andy Mac would be on at 9pm. We’d never heard of him, but if he’s part of John and Chris’ crew, we wanted to give him a shot. It was a fun set, so I’m glad we made the effort.

AndyMac

Andy started the show off with a bang. After being ready to go, he just walked off the stage. While our attention was focused on him walking away, his band quietly slipped on Hockey Masks in honor of Friday the 13th. When Andy came back on stage, he too was wearing the mask and had a hoodie on as well. All very menacing. He sang the entire first song with the mask on.

SeanDixonAndyMacHockeyMasksFridayThe13th

That first song is an ancient classic, Build Me up Buttercup. Andy didn’t do it in the classic style. Rather, it was a very slow, Jazzy version, with a few substituted lyrics to make it dead-on for Friday the 13th. What makes me note it is that in the same week, in Philadelphia, we heard Julia Nunes play the same song (on the ukulele, in the more traditional style). The universe is telling me something, I just don’t know what, yet…

Andy has a really nice voice, plays the guitar well, and was accompanied by a tight band. While there were a number of styles performed during the set, most had a fun up-beat vibe to them.

Andy is quite funny. One of his bits was pulling out seven really bad horror movie DVDs that he found while cleaning his apartment. He promised the first seven people who bought one or more of his CDs (he had three available for sale) would get to pick which free horror movie DVD they’d like to take as a bonus.

AndyMacHorrorDVD

Andy’s band, left-to-right:

Mal Gibbes on saxophone (which looked like it was an antique and my apologies, I couldn’t find a good individual link). He performed in roughly 1/2 the numbers. He was excellent, but on most of the numbers he was trying to be super mellow and soft (more complementary than lead, even when they were clearly his leads!). On the last number, Sara, he blew it out, loud and proud and he nailed it!

MalGibbesJimMcNamara

Jim McNamara on upright bass. First, the Mac in Andy Mac is really McNamara. Jim and Andy are brothers! Second, we’ve seen Jim once before, supporting Bryan Dunn at Rockwood 1. We were there to see Vienna Teng followed by The Open Sea (Ari Hest and Rosi Golan). We showed up one set early to ensure good seats for Vienna. Here’s what I had to say that night about Jim:

Jim McNamara played an upright bass. He blew me away. I can’t say that I recall an upright bass being used by a mostly rock ‘n roll band, but Jim made it work perfectly. A few times he played leads in harmony with Bryan’s guitar. Some of those licks were pretty darn fast, and he nailed every one of them!

JimMcNamara

Suffice it to say, he was excellent last night as well, though nowhere near as highlighted as he was with Bryan Dunn’s group (perhaps there’s some sibling rivalry going on). Winking smile

Sean Dixon on drums (also couldn’t find a good individual link and thanks Sam for saving my old-man brain again!). He was excellent, in particular really interesting cymbal play. I’d like to hear more of him.

SeanDixon

Greg Barbone on grand piano. As mentioned above, Greg was outstanding. This was our first time seeing him, but certainly not our last.

GregBarbonePiano

For his last two songs, Andy called up Dave Pollack (a.k.a. Shaky Dave, also no good individual link) to play the harmonica. Very nicely done!

ShakyDavePollack

Not to slight Andy, here is his set list:

AndyMacSetList

To make the evening all the more enjoyable, we shared our tiny table with three lovely ladies, all of whom we consider friends, all met through this music scene.

After saying goodbye to a bunch of people (most of whom were on stage during the three sets), we headed off to the compromise mentioned above.

Earlier last night, The Borromeo String Quartet had a show at the TENRI Cultural Center. Melissa Tong’s brother (Kristopher Tong) is one of the violinists in the quartet and she has told us how awesome he and the quartet are (and she should know!). We’ve missed them once before when they played in NY and we felt badly missing them again last night (we would have had to leave at intermission and we would have missed Andy Mac’s set completely).

In addition to the show, there was a surprise Birthday Celebration for Kristopher afterward. His parents flew in, but the bigger surprise was that his other sister flew in too. Since she wasn’t landing in LaGuardia until 11:30pm, Melissa told us that we could show up as late we needed and the party would still be going. She was correct!

KristopherTongMelissaTong

We walked into the café at 12:30am and indeed, got to meet everyone and wish Kristopher a happy birthday. Even though it was brief, it was a very happy time. I particularly enjoyed meeting Melissa’s Dad and chatting with him a bit. It’s no wonder his kids are so awesome!

Another late night tonight, but you gotta do what you gotta do… Smile

Matt Simons and Chris Ayer at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

Send to Kindle

Last night, Matt Simons and his friends threw him(self) a birthday party at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. Rather than sit in the audience and have others perform for him, Matt chose to work on his birthday (midnight, this morning).

MattSimonsBirthdayBoy

Chris Ayer opened the show at 11pm on the dot (highly unusual for a Saturday night Rockwood 2 show to start on time!), but I’ll circle back to Chris after covering Matt.

Matt started at 11:28pm, so he serenaded us at two different ages. Winking smile

He played the keyboards (grand piano and electronic) extremely well and sang wonderfully. Matt opened the show with a brand new number, setting the mood immediately. Throughout his set, nearly every head in Rockwood was bobbing to the beat. It was hard to resist doing that (not that I tried!).

MattSimonsGrandPianoMattSimonsElectronicKeyboards

Matt played a few covers (one of them a solo Beatles number) and what I think was an original that morphed into Sweet Home Alabama (where the band joined to sing as well). It was an eclectic selection that showed off Matt’s and the band’s talents well.

ChrisAndersonGregMayoSinging

Aside from his solo, Matt was supported by three band members (covered shortly). For a few numbers, he invited Chris Ayer up as well.

Morgan Holland joined for at least two numbers, one of which was her own Subway Love (a wonderful fantasy song, at least I hope it’s a fantasy Winking smile ) that she sang lead on and played ukulele, with everyone supporting her (Chris Ayer was on stage for that too).

MorganHollandTuningMorganHollandSinging

A few minutes before midnight, a fan passed a cake onto the stage, with Happy Birthday Matt written on it. It would have been impossible to pass that around (like the cookies sometimes make the rounds) so the poor band probably had to enjoy it after the show. Smile

BirthdayCake

Of course, we all sang Happy Birthday to Matt!

HandingOverTheCakeBlowingOutTheCandle

The band (which played with Chris Ayer and Matt Simons), left-to-right:

Stephen Chopek on drums. I just wrote about Stephen 12 days ago, when many of the same people from last night performed at Jammin’ Java in VA at a show we attended. Stephen impressed me then as he did again last night.

StephenChopek

Chris Anderson on electric bass and light vocals. 12 days ago, Chris played the upright bass. Four days ago, he played the electric bass in support of Ian Axel at an amazing show at the Studio at Webster Hall. Chris is masterful with the bass. On Wednesday night, he had Webster Hall shaking (literally). Last night, much of his electric bass play was as subtle (and beautiful) as his upright play the week before.

ChrisAnderson

In other words, Chris is not a one-trick pony, simply blasting the bass. He has a feel for the music and complements it perfectly. Even last night his bass play varied, as some of the numbers were very upbeat and others were extremely mellow (and still enhanced by the bass). I wondered why he selected the electric over the upright for last night and I suspect it may have to do with the addition of the next band member.

Greg Mayo played the electric guitar and light vocals. Greg was a surprise for us. When we committed to attending this show, we didn’t know who else would show up other than Matt and Chris Ayer, who were the only ones listed. I never get tired of documenting how great Greg is on the guitar, so this was more than just the proverbial icing on the cake (especially since there was actual icing on a cake last night, no proverbs need apply!).

GregMayoGuitar

Greg took a number of traditional leads (I’d guess roughly seven between Chris and Matt’s sets). They were all awesome, as they always are. But, I got to experience a new level of enjoyment of Greg’s play last night. Previous shows where Greg played the guitar tend to be heavily weighted toward Rock. That means that between leads, much of the guitar play is straight-forward rhythm.

The mellower sounds of last night’s sets meant substantially fancier play, even when the guitar wasn’t the highlight. Over and over, I kept noticing that there was a subtle beauty dancing around the vocals and other instruments. Inevitably, looking over toward Greg revealed the source.

GregMayoShadows

I suspect that Chris Anderson chose the electric over the upright because this time there was an electric guitar to play against. Greg’s play was so appropriate to the mood that I think Chris could have easily pulled off the upright had he chosen that instead.

Chris Ayer opened the show. Chris has made our list of must see musicians after just two shows. Deeply interesting lyrics (we discover something new on each listen) sung by a fantastic voice, accompanied by wonderful finger picking guitar (he can most definitely perform solo and completely hold our attention).

ChrisAyerSingingChrisAyerFingerPicking

I pointed out to Lois afterward that for the first time, she did not take a photo of the set list that Chris writes on his arm. She was not happy with me. I guess I should have remained silent…

Chris opened with Graduate and Awake, both great songs. The band took a break when he sang Relativity (a new song, available on iTunes) with Matt Simons and Morgan Holland supplying the amazing three-part harmony. The iTunes version has much more instrumentation (last night Chris’ guitar was the only instrument). Both versions are fantastic. Morgan sang harmony on a couple of other numbers.

Lois loves her Chris Ayer T-Shirt (which she wore to the show):

ChrisAyerTShirt

We don’t seek out late-starting shows. Having been out later than expected for Ian’s show on Wednesday, we ended up bailing on both Thursday and Friday, even though we were really looking forward to both nights out. Thankfully, we regained enough energy to make it last night.

Happy Birthday Matt (all day today!).

In order to raise our chances for good seats for Matt and Chris’ sets, we decided to come for the 10pm set as well. Our plan worked out fine in terms of grabbing the exact two seats we wanted.

Kendra Morris sang, supported by a full band. Kendra has a very good voice and all of the songs (originals plus a few covers) were good. Even though we listened like we would for anyone else, I couldn’t say that the songs left any lasting impressions.

Kendra projects an image as you can see in photos of her outfit and tattoos. She also adds quite a bit of drama in her on-stage movements. Not exactly our thing, but the younger men behind us made sure Kendra knew how much they appreciated it. Smile

KendraMorrisOutfitKendraMorrisSinging

The band was extremely professional. Left-to-right on stage:

Tyler Cash on keyboards (grand piano and electronic). Very nice job. A bit more noticeable on the electronic keyboards than on the grand, but well done all around.

TylerCash

Jeremy Siegel on electric bass (sorry, couldn’t find a good individual link). I’m sorry I couldn’t find a good link, because I was extremely impressed with Jeremy’s play. Very understated in terms of affect, but very precise and tasty bass play on every number. He was playing harmonic lines to the melody.

JeremySiegel

Sam Merrick on drums. Sam grabbed my attention on the very first number. While his drumming remained good throughout, for me, the highlight was that first song.

SamMerrick

Jeremy Page on electric guitar (also no good individual link that I could find). Kendra credited Jeremy for being the creative force behind this project. He played the guitar really well, also very understated, like the other Jeremy in the band.

JeremyPage

On one number, Kendra brought up someone who’s name I thought was Godfrey. A quick search this morning looking for Jeremy Page gave me the real name: Godforbid. Nice. Smile

Godforbid

Godforbid held a mic in one hand a beer in the other. They sang 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. Their version was played at about 1/3 the speed of the original, with a melodramatic flair by each singer (they alternated leads and sang harmony with each other throughout). While it was nothing like the original, it was really good. If I closed my eyes to avoid the show, it would have been even better.

KendraMorrisGodforbid

Here’s how I found Godforbid. He, both Jeremys and Sam were/are in a band called That Handsome Devil. Considering that I really like every band member and that Godforbid has quite a good voice as well, if the band still plays I’d be interesting in checking them out sometime.

Chris Ayer, Barnaby Bright, John Schmitt and Morgan Holland at Jammin Java

Send to Kindle

It’s great to see a show you know you’re going to like because you like a number of the artists. It’s even better for that to come true and have very pleasant discoveries/surprises thrown in for good measure.

Jammin’ Java had the show listed as Chris Ayer headlining, supported by Barnaby Bright and John Schmitt. This would be our third time seeing Chris, so there was little risk there. We just recently saw John perform one song at the Soul Revue Benefit in NYC and were very interested in hearing more of him. We didn’t know who Barnaby Bright was and I admit to thinking it was a person born in 18th century England, who somehow was still touring around. Winking smile

Since I follow a lot of musicians on Twitter, I found out earlier that day that Morgan Holland and Matt Simons would be there as well. When we got there, we saw two more surprise guests, Chris Anderson, who we will see at least three times in the next week in NYC (with three different bands!) and Stephen Chopek. So, even before the show began, our anticipation was elevated.

I normally describe the evening backwards, headliner to opener. I will do that in this post as well, but since I mostly write for my own memory, I will need to disturb that flow a drop, to note my reaction to certain things, which obviously occurred in forward order. Hopefully, I won’t confuse you too much (or myself when I revisit this years from now).

Chris opened his set solo. Considering how good his voice is and how well he plays the guitar, he could easily perform entire sets solo and deliver satisfaction to the audience. But, given the three-car caravan that came down from NYC yesterday, it was no surprise to any of us when he invited the full band on the stage. I’ll cover the band at the end, because they played with three of the four acts.

ChrisAyerGuitar

Chris performed a fantastic set (as with the last show we saw, here’s his set list, our perspective, then his):

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

On many songs, if I close my eyes, I could swear that James Taylor is performing a Chris Ayer song on stage, that’s how uncannily close Chris sounds to James (at times). But, Chris has quite a large repertoire of songs in various styles, including a number of ballad-style Rock numbers.

ChrisAyerSinging

Lois and I often agree/overlap in our opinion of the artists, but we don’t always get there at the same speed. Lois loved Chris from the first song he performed at Parkside Lounge. I was very impressed, but it took a second look (linked above) for me to catch up to Lois. Before the show started, Lois bought two CD’s and a T-Shirt from Chris. We own both the CD’s but neither of us could remember whether our copies are signed (one of our things) so now we have two CD’s to give as gifts and two that are definitely signed! Smile

Chris played two songs that he just released this week on iTunes, Relativity and Stranded. Both were wonderful, so I bought those this morning as well. Excellent. Except, last night, Morgan Holland joined Chris to sing harmony on Stranded. It was gorgeous. The download is also gorgeous, but no female harmony to make it even better (score another one for a live experience!).

Chris played a number of favorites, including Evaporate, which he sang in three-part harmony with Morgan and Matt Simons. Beautiful! He accompanied himself on the guitar, and Chris Anderson and Stephen Chopek chilled out behind them.

Chris closed the show with The Noise. He called up Morgan Holland, John Schmitt and Barnaby Bright (all of the acts before him) to sing harmony with him (and us) on this. He invited the crowd to sing the refrain (ah, ah, ah ah ah) with them. Normally, I can tell when the crowd joins in. I admit that last night I could only make out my own voice, but I’ll also admit I was awesome! Winking smile

ChrisAyerFinale

You can listen to a live version of that song (linked above) where you can make out that the audience is joining in, and then buy it right there as well!

On to the biggest surprise for me of the night. Barnaby Bright is not in fact a 300+ year old troubadour. It’s a husband and wife duo.

Nathan and Becky Bliss. This is where I have to disturb the backward flow for a minute. Each of them joined John Schmitt, the act before them, separately. Nathan played the sax with John on one number (just the two of them on the stage), and then again with the full band. Becky sang harmony with John on one number where only they were on stage.

So, I thought I had a sense of them. Nathan would come out and play the sax and Becky would sing soft (but stunning) harmonies with Nathan. Hahahaha, not even close. Back to the correct reverse order of things.

Becky took center stage with a small folding table in front of her. On the first number, she played the harmonium and sang. Wait, let me try that again, trying to impart to you what I experienced.

Becky Bliss sang. Hmmm, that doesn’t do it justice either. Let me embarrass myself by sharing with you how I fumbled for words when I spoke to Becky after the show. Instead of saying something coherent, I said: “Your voice is frighteningly beautiful!”. Huh? Come on Hadar, you weren’t frightened even for a second, you were completely enveloped and mesmerized. Yeah, that’s what I should have said…

BeckyBlissHarmonium

OK, that was no fluke. On each and every song, Becky amazed me. In addition to her voice and the harmonium, she played some rhythm acoustic guitar, ukulele and a tiny electronic keyboard that she laid on top of the harmonium for one number. She also wrote some of the songs they performed last night, though I recall her giving Nathan credit for the majority of them.

BeckyBlissHadar

Nathan didn’t play the sax even once during their set. Instead, he was fantastic on the acoustic guitar (a few of them in fact). Many styles, including the finger-tapping style of people like Kaki King (just one example).

NathanBlissGuitar

In addition he too played the ukulele on one number and the mridangam (or something very close to that).

NathanBlissMridangam

That’s not all. When they were playing, I could swear I heard a kick drum, but no one was on stage with them and all four of their hands were busy. Then I noticed that Nathan was tapping with his foot on something that looked like a closed up scissor jack for a car. I asked Becky about it after the show. It’s called a porch board. Cool! Nathan did a very nice job of keeping the beat and adding a fullness to their sound while continuing to impress on the guitar.

Nathan sang too, a bit of lead (a song he wrote about his father’s passing) and a lot of harmony. Their harmonies are beautiful, many times with a very ethereal quality (most notably on the CD, which I’ll get to in a sec). If I had one complaint, it’s that Nathan isn’t very forceful with his voice when singing with Becky. I don’t know if he’s intimidated by singing with that voice (I know I would be), but I doubt it. So, next time, Nathan, kick it up a notch, just for me. Smile

They nervously performed a song they had just finished in the car on the way down (or so they said). They nailed it, no reason to have been nervous.

Speaking of the CD. After their set, Lois ran up to buy a copy. I listened to it today and I like it a lot. But, it’s nothing like the show I saw last night (even though they performed much of it). Becky’s voice is gorgeous on the CD, but very mellow. Last night was phenomenal power (there was a bite to it). The ethereal quality I mentioned above comes across throughout the CD.

Score one for the old man (oops, I mean married couple!). We both can’t wait to see Barnaby Bright perform again.

John Schmitt is someone I’ve heard about from a number of our friends. He performed most of his set solo with a guitar. I mentioned that Nathan joined him on the sax for one number (John gave Nathan two nice sax solos in that one). The song Becky joined him on was Ave Regina. Wow, great song, beautiful harmony.

NathanBlissSaxophone

John is an excellent guitarist, so like Chris Ayer, no problem holding my attention when it’s just him and the guitar. But, it’s not really about the guitar. John writes wonderful songs (lyrics) and has a major voice. He had a horrible cold, which he said was causing him to sing more deeply than his normal range. I felt bad for him, but even a slightly gruffer, slightly deeper voice came across marvelously last night.

JohnSchmittGuitar

He has a very natural rapport with the audience and I look forward to seeing if there is a difference when he’s feeling better, though I don’t have anything but praise to heap on John for last night’s performance.

JohnSchmittSinging

He closed his set with the full band on stage with Nathan joining on the sax. They played Ophelia, the title track from his recently released CD. Lois was blown away and as with Barnaby Bright, ran up right after the set was over to buy a copy from John.

On Friday night we saw another show in VA. The headliner that night was Caleb Hawley and you can read about how great we thought Caleb was. When we found out that Caleb produced John’s CD, we knew it would be a winner even before we listened to it. Yup, it’s a winner (I say with confidence, now that we’ve enjoyed it).

Speaking of colds, I failed to mention that Chris Ayer was battling a cold as well. It didn’t seem to affect his performance either (well, it affected John’s, but not negatively).

Morgan Holland opened the show with the full band plus Chris Ayer. I really like her EP (Old New) and encourage you to check it out and buy it too (you can stream the whole thing first to make sure you agree with me).

MorganHollandSinging

Morgan played songs from the EP plus one Billy Joel cover, She’s Always a Woman. She played acoustic guitar and ukulele and also sang with no instruments, with the full band backing her. Chris Ayer or Matt Simons sang harmony on most numbers, occasionally all three together. Beautiful.

MorganHollandGuitarMorganHollandUkulele

MorganHollandHadar

Finally (but certainly not least!), the band. Sitting left-to-right on the stage:

Matt Simons on electronic keyboards and harmony. Matt is a singer/songwriter in his own right. We own his current EP and like it a lot. If you’re in NYC on Sat Feb 19th, you can join us for Matt’s own show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 11pm. It will be his birthday at midnight. Last night he was purely a side man, supporting the others, extremely well.

MattSimonsKeyboardsMattSimonsSinging

MattSimons

Stephen Chopek on the drums. We’ve only seen Stephen once before, during the Morgan Holland EP Release show at Rockwood. I enjoyed his play a lot, but this is all I wrote about him after that show:

This was our first time seeing Stephen play. He was very good.

Not effusive, but still accurate, he was very good. I have a much better sense after last night, given that he played throughout Morgan’s set, then for one number with John Schmitt, followed by most of Chris Ayer’s set. The songs were much more varied so Stephen displayed more styles.

StephenChopek

Morgan’s set called for sophisticated but understated drumming. Stephen excelled at that. Many of Chris’ numbers called for dramatically more drum fills. The very first number that the full band joined Chris on was Graduate (a song I really like but can’t find anywhere to purchase!). The drums are integral. I wish I knew the technical term for that style of drumming, because it’s among my favorite. If you know the movie 1941, you’ll know the drumming style I’m describing as it runs throughout the movie.

Update: A friend who read this post emailed me a link to a live version of Graduate. You can stream it free, or download and name your price. It’s gorgeous (I knew that already), but it’s solo, so you won’t hear the drum pattern I’m talking about above.

StephenChopekHadar

Chris Anderson played the upright bass, both plucking (mostly) and with a bow (on a few numbers). Chris is one of our favorite bass players and we are fortunate that he plays with quite a number of the bands that we like. We first discovered Chris when we first heard Ian Axel and we’ll see Chris next Wednesday playing with Ian Axel for his CD release show at the Studio at Webster Hall in NYC.

ChrisAndersonBassChrisAndersonBow

We can’t wait for that show, but we’ll see Chris (or at least I assume so) this coming Saturday, playing with the Greg Mayo band. Can’t wait for that either. Smile

A great night of music (nearly three hours). If you factor out the mega shows (which we too enjoy!), this kind of night out is still one of the most enjoyable and value-packed things you can do. If you see a show like this at a place like Jammin’ Java, where the food is excellent and reasonably priced, the value is increased. That’s exactly what we did, along with three of our friends, who hadn’t seen any of these artists before last night.

Morgan Holland, Chris Ayer and Matt Simons at Rockwood Music Hall

Send to Kindle

Morgan Holland had her EP Release Party last night at Rockwood Music Hall. She invited most of the people who performed on the EP to play with her last night. Two of them opened for Morgan before joining her in the extended (two hour) set.

Chris Ayer was first up. We’ve only seen Chris perform once before (covered in this post) and we were excited to see him again last night. He’s excellent, all around.

ChrisAyerGuitar

Chris has a fantastic voice, plays the guitar very well and writes interesting and entertaining songs. He has a charm on stage that is hard to resist. Oh, and the ladies can’t take their eyes off of him. They’ll show up even if they’re tone deaf. Winking smile

ChrisAyer

Chris had a strange-looking tattoo on his right forearm, or at least that’s what I thought until I saw him consult it the second time. Then I realized it was his set list, written in sharpie. Winking smile Here it is the way it looked to us, then flipped and rotated, the way it looked to Chris. Smile

ChrisAyerSetListChrisAyerSetListFlipped

After performing a number of songs solo, Chris invited Matt Simons to join him. Matt played the piano and sang harmony (beautifully).

To close out his set, Chris invited Morgan and Matt up to sing harmony with him on a gorgeous number. When the song was over, Chris and Morgan left the stage and Matt went into his solo set.

Lois and I participated in Matt Simons’ Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of his current EP. I am really pleased with the result and encourage all of you to check it out (and buy it, of course!).

Matt played on the grand piano and electric keyboards (standing!) and of course sang. As with Chris’ set, Matt invited Morgan and Chris up to join him on his last number.

MattSimonsGrandPianoMattSimonsKeyboardsStanding

As much as I like Matt (and I have more praise to heap on him in my next post), I wasn’t as enamored with his set selection last night. Still, always a treat to see him!

There was a brief break before Morgan’s set, since there were more instruments and musicians that needed to be squeezed onto the stage. I’ll cover the additional musicians in a minute.

The night that we had previously seen Chris Ayer was the same night we discovered Matt Simons, who was accompanying Chris. Morgan Holland joined them for Chris’ last song and sang harmony. At the time I didn’t realize that she was also pursuing a solo career.

A few months ago I heard that Morgan released a new EP. It was available on Bandcamp (I linked Morgan’s name at the head of this post to her Bandcamp page). I really like Bandcamp in general and have bought a number of albums/songs from them. One of the best reasons is that most (every?) songs are available for full, free streaming. You pay only if you want to download. Even then, it’s often a pay-what-you-wish model (perhaps with a minimum).

It’s hard to complain when you can check something out (many times if you like) before wanting to own it, and more importantly, supporting the artist.

It took me exactly one listen to Morgan’s EP (Old New) to know I wanted to own it and support her. I bought it right away and have enjoyed it (multiple times) ever since.

Morgan opened the show with an a cappella number with Chris and Matt. I’m a sucker for any well-delivered a cappella, and this was extremely well delivered!

ChrisAyerMorganHollandMattSimons

Morgan gave a good performance of a number of the songs last night, but she also threw in a cover. She praised her band many times, rightfully so.

MorganHollandUkulele

Joining her on stage, left-to-right were:

Chris Ayer on guitar, ukulele and background vocals. Chris was excellent. His guitar play complemented Morgan’s play (she played guitar and ukulele on a few numbers) and his voice blends beautifully with hers.

ChrisAyerUkuleleMorganHollandGuitar

Matt Simons on grand piano, electronic keyboards and vocals. Ditto what I said about Chris above. Smile

Chris Anderson on upright bass. Chris is one of our favorite bassists. Of the many times we’ve seen him, this might be the first time we’ve seen him play upright, but I wouldn’t swear to it. He was excellent, of course!

ChrisAnderson

Stephen Chopek on drums. This was our first time seeing Stephen play. He was very good.

StephenChopek

I can’t tell you how mobbed Rockwood 1 was for this set, it was crazy. That would be impressive in and of itself. But, when you couple that with the fact that the show was up against none other than Sean Lennon (yes, that Lennon, John’s son) playing immediately next door at Rockwood 2, it was even more impressive.

I’m very glad we were among those that chose to check out and support the up-and-comers, though I’m sure that Sean delivered right next door!

P.S. Wanting to grab seats for Morgan’s set, we showed up 20 minutes early. We caught the last three songs of the previous set, a Jazz Quartet named The As-Is Ensemble headed by Michael Bellar. Michael played the grand piano and electronic keyboards (very well). I didn’t catch the other names (sorry!), but the upright bass player was excellent, as were both drummers. Very impressive!

MichaelBellarPlusBassistTheAsIsEnsembleDrummers