Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
Riverlink Park in Amsterdam made a triumphant rise from the mess Hurricane Irene and the resultant Mohawk River flood made of the site last year. New walkways that circumnavigated the park and its strange, prehistoric monument to the earlier, native populations of the area greeted visitors to this year’s Riverlink Concert Series. What better way to kick things off than with the Chandler Travis Philharmonic?
The band had played the park last year prior to the very serious natural disaster, so it seemed appropriate that this not very serious band begin a fun season of music on the site. Not that the Chandler Travis Philharmonic aren’t dedicated, professional musicians. But any band that plays wearing pajamas and robes, starting with a very slipperly “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” for the holiday (well, just how many 4th of July songs do you know?) and then proceeds with a poem that seemed to be about throwing meat in the river, followed by something that may have been Scottish (or maybe not), cannot, by most standards, be considered traditional.
Even so, the first real song was, Chandler explained, “a nice quiet song, so you can hear it.” This airy jazz jam was followed by a somewhat tilted, Dixieland swing number. The seven-member group – which includes a horn section and Chandler’s personal valet, Fred Boak (“I could not exist without Fred,” noted Chandler, “he’s the only guy that knows the lyrics to my songs”) – moved into a song about the old days. “Everything is faster and meaner than way back when,” they sang, following it with a song called “Tomato Hippies,” which sounded like down and dirty blues on a weird afternoon in the 1930s.
“Mid Morning In Moscow” followed in a swinging style, with trumpet, sax and trombone riffing and locked in tandem. A modern, pop sounding song about sailing ships mirrored some of the boats on the water behind the band and was followed by a low-key but percolating Latin Jazz. “Dickey, don’t do that, don’t you do that,” they sang. “You’re thinking much too hard… relax… don’t let your heart attack.”
“What I want most is what I’ve missed,” Chandler sang. Things got funky and funny as a train came by and the band played along on a demented version of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” that sped up faster and faster. An uptempo rocker, “Don’t Blame Me,” finished the first set.
The second set began with a couple of David Greenberger songs, including “You And Me Pushing Up Daisies,” and a song about Boak, which featured the valet on a dance solo. “Once he’s tuned my guitar, he brings around the car,” Chandler sang. “He’s such a star.”
“People ask me, Chandler, where is the funk? I’m so glad to bring my funky thing to you people in Amsterdam,” Chandler exclaimed. “You’ve got to make yourself happy,” he sang, following with a blusier number with the lyrics, “Let’s have some fun till the morning comes.”
Donning a red robe with Boak’s assistance and a strange, pink veil, Chandler struck a pose pointing at the sky during “Camel Passing Through the Eye of the Needle.” The band rocked out on a rollicking, piano-driven boogie.
The Philharmonic this evening included Chandler on guitar and vocals, Cliff Spener on keyboards, Rikki Bates on drums, John Clark on bass, Berke McKelvey on sax and clarinet, Dave Harris on trombone, Dinty Child on mandolin, accordion and mandocello, Jare Munez on trumpet and valet Boak on vocals and wardrobe assistance.
NOTE: Nippertown fans have another chance to catch the Chandler Travis Philharmonic in action tonight (Wednesday, July 11) at Shepard Park in Lake George. Sponsored by the Lake George Arts Project, the music kicks off at 7:30pm, and admission is free.