Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Jazzin' with the Stars Inspires, Excites

Heartbeat Dixieland Jazz Band performs at Jazzin' with the Stars Concert.
Jazzin’ with the Stars 
at First Church on Court Street

Saturday was a wonderful afternoon for a concert—sunny and warm. First Church doors were open wide, welcoming all who came for Jazzin’ with the Stars, a full house. Organized by musician and philanthropist, Mr. Bill Logozzo, the Concert's proceeds will go to two Connecticut charitable organizations
the Hole in the Wall Camp and the Channel 3 Kids Camp, through Mr. Logozzo's charitable foundation, Musical Dreams for Human Harmony

Saturday's stars were there: Jimmie Rogers, Ronnie Spector, Mr. Marshall Lytle of the Comets, and Canadian chanteuse, Michelle Berting. But the main attraction for me was Mr. Logozzo and his Heartbeat Dixieland Jazz Band and friends, with their rich and exhilarating sound. Even if Dixieland is not your favorite jazz language, with Heartbeat, this music has great appeal. As Dee-jay Jimmy Jay (so-called DJ to the stars) opened the show, Heartbeat lead with a selection of New Orleans classics: “Bourbon Street,” “Basin Street Blues,” Louis Armstrong’s “Swing that Music,” sung by Dr. John Clark, and “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me,” sung by the incomparable Skip Hughes. Then Ms. Berting sang with style, and with Heartbeat backup, “Georgia” and “Sentimental Journey.” 

Several HB regulars stood out, including the versatile Sherman Kahn on clarinet and sax, sounding not unlike one of our legendary jazzmen—Benny Goodman and Stan Getz come to mind. (Yes readers, he’s that good!) With trumpeter Jeff Hughes, Gim Burton on banjo, Al Bernard on tuba, and moonlighting, our First Church Minister of Music, Shari Lucas, all top notch musicians.* Their sound filled the Sanctuary, as half the audience was on its feet, dancing in the aisles. One dancer exclaimed, "This is the first time I’ve ever danced in a church!" Oh my, what would our prudent Puritan ancestors say?

Next up, Jimmie Rodgers and Ronnie Spector were inspiring, both coming back from nearly crushing setbacks. He is in ongoing recovery from a nasty episode that left him severely beaten; and she is a survivor of marriage to the once-great rock impresario Phil Spector. Both singers performed with recorded backup that was satisfactory but less so than live.

The singular star of the show (in my view) was Marshall Lytle, a name I didn’t recognize but won’t soon forget. Recently inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Mr. Lytle, a double amputee, put on a stirring. show. Alternating between his personal rock-n-roll history and wildly rousing tunes, his voice rang out with conviction and authenticity, "Rock This Joint!" yes, it rocked! (See youtube Rock This Joint. Marshall is the one swinging the bass.) Mr. Lytle flaunted his Hall of Fame trophy and mentioned the recent amputation of one of his legs as if it were a trifle, like being bald or having green eyes. With Triple Play Band backup (Bill Logozzo, Dave Spitzer, and Sal Basile, as a trio) 
and a formidable set of lungs, Mr. Lytle came across with great pizazz—sounding for all the world like Bill Haley and the Comets!
Musical Dreams for Human
Harmony board members,
inc. Bill Logozzo (u. right)
 and Shari Lucas (l. left).  
Toward the end of the afternoon, several performers mentioned the generosity of Mr. Logozzo and his charitable foundation, Musical Dreams for Human Harmony. Proceeds from the concert make possible their gift of support to The Hole in the Wall Camp—represented at Saturday’s concert by Matthew Cook, and the Channel 3 Kids Camp—represented by Denise Hornbeck. Mr. Logozzo’s gift to Middletown was a first-rate show! As performers and audiences alike seem to feel that First Church is a superior concert venue, I wonder who we’ll see performing at First Church next?
*Google any of these names or bands and you’ll find a long list of associations & credits for performances at some of New England’s best venues & festivals, & numerous youtube clips

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