Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Fab Faux: Repertory Rock and Roll

Despite the growing popularity of so called tribute bands, in some circles the mere mention of them sometimes elicits groans and shudders of revulsion.  Among fellow musicians especially, contempt prior to investigation is the rule.  This is partly because tribute bands are increasingly dominant in the marketplace, sometimes edging out acts that play original music.  I have experienced more Beatles tribute bands than most, partly because of a love of the music, but also because of a musician grandson who also really digs the Beatles and Ringo Starr in particular.  From what I have experienced, Beatles tributes typically strive for the look of the real Beatles, which sometimes involves ill-fitting Pepper costumes, wigs, and vain attempts at cheeky Liverpudlian accents, and perhaps a modicum of workmanlike bar band competence with the repertoire.  As an exercise in nostalgia, it might be fun the first time, but after a while acts of this ilk often strike me as "phoned in" and maybe even cynical.  Not so with New York City's Fab Faux, whom I would call the world's only Beatles repertory group, with a mission akin to Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mingus Dynasty, or even sometime Jazz at Lincoln Center.  What these outfits all have in common is that they provide access to vital important music that is no longer available in a live context.  This is not so different from the many fine European Classical orchestras who would probably be horrified if they were to be referred to as a Handel or Bach tribute.  I think of the FF as a repertory group because of their ability to put across a loving, respectful performance of the greatest repertoire in all of Rock and Roll history.  what's more it's the entire repertoire of Beatles music, including works that the Beatles couldn't and didn't perform live.  To hear a Fab Faux concert is to hear high caliber versions of the Beatles book, with all the live energy and presence intact, and without the hype and costumes.  It's clear that they love the music and that they have researched it with an archaeological intensity.  It is beyond note for note, and with a quintet of multi-instrumentalists, and access to the now digital electronic innovations of Abbey Road in place, the Beatles canon is in capable hands.  I have experienced the Fabs in concert many times now, and I believe they are providing an essential service in making available the best live Beatles experience anywhere.

Richard Mayer


Friday, September 15, 2017

Theater Review: Heartbreak Hotel

While on vacation in Maine this Fall, I was privileged to see the world premiere of Heartbreak Hotel at the Ogunquit Playhouse.  This latest offering is from the pen of the prolific Floyd Mutrux whose previous works, Million Dollar Quartet and Baby It's You have enjoyed much success in recent years.  I saw Million Dollar Quartet last year, and while it was a worthwhile experience overall, HH is the stronger and more compelling story, with a superior cast, at least in the Ogunquit production I attended.  HH is the story of the young Elvis Presley, from his discovery at Sun Records in Memphis by Sam Phillips to the sale of his contract to RCA a few short years later.  Portrayed by the captivating Eddie Clendening supported by a cast of solid musicians deftly paying respect to the music of Rock and Roll's dawning days, the Elvis character was lovingly played both as a believable character and a musician with a gift for the world.  Clendening nailed the subtleties of the shy, awkward kid that first walked into Sun to make a record for his mother.  In a world of hyped, cliched,  and overstated impersonation, and the callous treatment of the tragedy that his life ultimately became, Clendening's respectful rendering of Rock and Roll's number one icon was refreshingly poignant.  This, in short, is the Elvis I wish to remember.  Musically, you couldn't do any better than this extraordinary cast serving up not only Presley's music, but the African American canon of  music that influenced and shaped him.  As is the case with many musicals in the Rock and Roll genre, the music itself is the real story, with trite dialogue serving as filler between the great and memorable repertoire we all came to hear one more time.  HH is a story that deserves to be told with reverence and relevance, which is what happened here.  Along with Million Dollar Quartet, Baby It's You, and Heartbreak Hotel, director Mutrux is also the author of the American Pop Anthology whose history informs his writing of Rock and Roll plays.  His success and competence with these musical vehicles has earned him a Broadway run of MDQ with Clendening in the lead role, so it seems likely that HH is Broadway bound as well.

Richard Mayer

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Friday, December 9, 2016

Performance Schedule

12-31-16  Brattlyn Brothers @ The Marina, Brattleboro, Vt (music and fireworks)

1-11-17    Classic Country @ Howe Village, Spencer, Ma

1-21-17    Classic Country @ Townshend Vt Town Hall  7-9 pm following potluck at 6

2-15-17    Classic Country @ Holy Family, North Adams, Ma

3-16-17    American Pop @ Franklin Park Villa, Jamaica Plain, Ma

3-17-17    American Pop @ Williamstown Elderly, Williamstown, Ma

4-19-17    American Pop @ Cheriton Grove Apts, West Roxbury, Ma

4-21-17 Nitecaps @ Shutesbury Athletic Club

4-25-17    Classic Country @Kateri Tekawitha Housing, Worcester, Ma

5-3-17      American Pop @ Longfellow Apts, Roslindale, Ma

5-25-17    American Pop @ Rock Harbor Village,  Orleans, Ma

5-25-17    Classic Country @ Rock Harbor Village, Orleans, Ma

5-28-17 Gypsy Wranglers @ Black Sheep Deli, Amherst 11am to 1 pm

6-2-17 Jazz Jam, Noho Unitarian Church

6-4-17  Resurrection Airmen @ Soldiers Home, Holyoke, Ma

6-10-17  Brattlyn Brothers @ Relay for Life, Greenfield, Ma 11am

6-17-17    Classic Country @ Christopher Hts. Webster, Ma

6-18-17   Gypsy Wranglers @ Hadley Farms, Hadley, Ma
6-21-17    American Pop @ Peters Grove, Hudson, Ma

6-23-17    Classic Country @ Jacksonville Farmers Mkt 4-7 pm

6-24-17    Brattlyn Brothers (Private party in Brownsville, Vt)

6-27-17    American Pop @ Msgr Neagle Apts, Malden , Ma

6-27-17   Classic Country @ Colonial Village, Weymouth, Ma

6-29-17    American Pop @ Greenhill Towers, Worcester, Ma

7-7-17     American Pop @ Michaels House, Northampton, Ma

7-8-17   Dixie Dinos @ Orford, NH on the Common

7-10-17   Classic Country @ Lincoln Village, Worcester

7-11-17    Brattlyn Brothers- Concert on the Common, Brattleboro Vt

  7-20-17   American Pop @ Barnes School Apartments, E. Boston, Ma

7-26-17   American Pop @ Merrimack Valley Apts, Methuen. Ma

7-29-17  Gypsy Wranglers@ Black Sheep Deli>

7-31-17  Bolton Country Manor, Bolton, Ma

8-3-17    Rockbridge Apts, Northbridge, Ma

8-5-17    Eddie B, Rich S @ Grace Cottage Fair, Townshend, Vt

8-6-17      Brattlyn Brothers in concert Dover, Vt gazebo 1-3

8-8-17 American Pop @ Millpond Village, Littleton, Ma

8-9-17   American Pop @ Cushing Residence, Hanover

8-10-17    American Pop @ Mazur Park Apts,  Lowell,

8-18-17  Classic Country @Williamstown Elderly, Williamstown, Ma

8-18-17  UU Jazz Jam, Amherst, Ma

8-19-17  UU Jazz Ensemble picnic in Williamsburg, Ma

8-23-17   American Pop @ Holy Family, No.  Adams, Ma

8-25-17   American Pop@ St. Helena's House, Boston

8-28-17  Jumpin' Jersey Trio in Housatonic, Ma.

8-30-17   American Pop @ Nebel Apts, Fall River, Ma

9-4-17     Brattlyn Brothers@Guilford, Vt Fair  (10-12 noon)

9-12-17  Classic Country @ Groton Commons, Groton, Ma

9-13-17   Classic Country @ General Shepard Apartments, Westfield, Ma

9-20-17   American Pop @ Mt. Carmel Apartments, Worcester, Ma

9-22-17   American Pop @ Rose Hill Manor in Billerica, Ma

9-27-17   American Pop @ Coolidge School Apts, Watertown, Ma

10-9-17. Classic Country @ Mill House, Greenfield, Ma

10-17-17 Classic Country Roslindale House, Roslindale, Ma

10-31-17 American Pop @ Cefalo House, Melrose, Ma

11-14-17  American Pop @ Edmonds Apts, Framingham, Ma

11-29-17 American Pop@ Maguire Apts. Norwood, Ma

12-1-17  Unitarian Jazz Jam, Northampton, Ma

12-6-17 Holiday Party, Webster, Ma

12-6-17 Holiday party, Colonial Village,
Weymouth, Ma

12-7-17 Holiday Party, Northbridge, Ma

12-8-17 Holiday Party, Cefalo House, Melrose, Ma

12-18-17  Holiday Party, Rose Hill, Billerica, Ma

12-20-17 Holiday Party, Easthampton Ma

2-14-18 ClasCo @ Cefalo, Melrose,Ma

2-23-18 American Pop Duo @ Genesis-Keene, NH

3-7-18 American Pop Duo @ Springfield Adult Daycare, Spfld, Vt.

3-14-18 The Irish Roofers @ Cefalo, Melrose, Ma

3-17-18 The Irish Roofers @ Maplewood, Westmoreland, NHg

6-28-18 American Pop @ Green Hill Towers, Worcester, Ma

6-29-18 American Pop@Harper Ctr, Wmstn, Ma

7-3-18  American Pop @ Victory Gardens, E.Boston, Ma

7-11-18   American Pop@ Mt Pleasant Apts, Somerville, Ma.

7-17-18 Brattlyn Brothers @ Brattleboro common

7-26-18  American Pop@ Rockbridge Apts, Northbridge, Ma

7-30-18 American Pop@ Bolton Country Manor, Bolton, Ma

8-1-18  American Pop@ Hyde Pl, Lee, Ma

8-15-18  Classic Country@Holy Family, No.Adams, Ma

8-31-18 Classic Country @Norwood Ma Housing    Authority

Thursday, April 24, 2014

CD Review: Joinery (802 Records 2014)

Joinery Personnel:  
Chuck Davison-lead acoustic guitar and mandolin and backing vocals
John Pozzi-lead vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar
Andy Foster-lap steel guitar and backing vocals
Colin Blazej-upright bass and backing vocals

Guest Musicians:
Vocals-Laura Molinelli, Lizzie Ross, Ruby DeFelice, Rebecca Way, Nora, Will, and Liz Mc Teigue, Donnie Davison, Jennings Berger, Mary Merill, Erin Carroll, Suzanne Jackson, Terry Davison.
Hammond B3 Organ-Felix McTeigue, Drums and Percussion-Tony Leone, Drew Guido, Bones-Tommy "Bones" Logan, Djembe-Perry Ryan, Cello-Eugene Friesen.

Producer-Felix McTeigue
Sound Engineer/Mixer-DrewGuido
Photos-Karen Knight, Gene Peroni
Recorded and mixed at- Vel Studios, Brooklyn, NY and Chuck's cabin, Londonderry, Vt
Mastered by Tom Hutton-Chester, Vt

 This review evolved out of a chance meeting with Colin Blazej one recent evening at The Works in Downtown Brattleboro.  I'd known the Joinery bassist since the early 80's, but we would only run into each other about every decade or so.  At one of our earlier encounters, Colin told me he had been learning to play the bass.  At this recent meeting, he'd been at it for 14 years and was pleased to report that this band he's a part of had just finished their first CD.  Caught up in his enthusiasm about the project, I offered to give it a listen and review it.  One of the nice thing about Vermont musicians in general is that they tend not to be aggressively competitive, and big egos are the exception rather than the rule.  By and large, we support each other's efforts and celebrate each other's successes.

Joinery's debut is a collection six originals; four vocal tunes by John Pozzi, and a pair of instrumentals by Chuck Davison.  Pozzi writes and sings with his heart on his sleeve, with a pop inflected presence that draws the listener into his world.  Davison's instrumentals are varied and deliciously exploratory.  The repertoire is rounded out with an eclectic batch of tunes by other artists which I would hesitate to call "covers" by any stretch.  One of the obvious strengths of this collective of craftsmen is their ability to recognize a strongly lyrical piece of music and to boldly take it to where it's never been.  Sam Cooke's Good News is rendered in a style that is reminiscent of certain Southern White Gospel at it's joyous and rural best.  Pink Floyd's Time is stripped down and re-purposed in a Bluegrass bag that lets the vocal have the prominence it deserves without the Floyd's signature plodding denseness.  A high point for me, Billy Bragg's You Woke up My Neighborhood features a "cast of thousands" approach to the backing vocal chorus; I wish I'd been there, it sounds like a splendid time was had by all as Joinery brought a little bit of Vermont to Brooklyn. 

Richard Mayer

April 25, 2014


Sunday, March 23, 2014

CD Review: Doug Hewitt: Roots in the Sky

Produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by: Doug Hewitt at Motif Recording Studio, Amherst, Ma 2014.
Personnel: Doug Hewitt-guitars, bass, keys, percussion, vocals.  Mitch Pine-piano, organ.
Rudi Weeks-bass.  Joe Fitzpatrick-drums.  Bill Shontz-alto/tenor sax, clarinet, flute.  Frank Newton-alto sax.  Michael Akrep-baritone horn.  Dave Bilodeau-trumpets, flugelhorn.  Stephen Katz-cello.  David Tasgal-violin, cello.  Arielle Parkington-viola.  Megan Rollins-harmony vocals.  Danielle Lorenzo-harmony vocals.

Western Massachusetts guitarist/singer Doug Hewitt has put his romantic heart and soul into this most recent offering.  Roots in the Sky comprises ten solid jazz/rock originals by Hewitt as well as a lovely rendition of the jazz staple I'll Remember April which is a seamless fit with the rest of the program.  For this outing, Hewitt called in a sizable cast of other local professionals to ensure that his compositions would be fully realized.  The love and workmanship invested in each tune is evident, the end result being a musically complex yet totally accessible experience for the listener.  Different combinations of ensemble players were used throughout, the effect being sustained diversity, color and interest from start to finish.

 I spoke to Doug Hewitt during the writing of this piece to get a sense of his creative process.  He told me that conceptually this collection has been in the works ever since Picasso Tomato and that he essentially composed the work in its entirety, then negotiated solo space with the players in the studio.  He was enthusiastic about the contributions of his players, who both honored his vision for the project while bringing there own creativity to the process.  

This was not Mr. Hewitt's first rodeo by any means; he has been writing songs since he first picked up a guitar back in 1970.  He produced an earlier collection of his music ( Picasso Tomato, also available at CD Baby) in 2006, as well as earlier ventures with the Zen Cats.  And Zen cat he is, with subject matter that runs the gamut from existential concerns to a love affair with the Cosmos and the love of a woman right down here on Earth.  All that love has made for a beautiful listening experience.  I look forward to the next one.

Richard Mayer