Ben Perowsky, drummer of RedCred and Woodstock Jazz Festival curator
Interview and story by J Hunter
“Woodstock Jazz Festival.” I look at those words and I think, “That seems right.” But they do bring one question to mind: Why have we not seen those words together before? I mean, think about it: We’re talking about an area where musicians off all stripes and genres have used as a haven for almost five decades. All the musicians that will be appearing at the festival’s maiden date – Saturday (October 4) at the Bearsville Theater – have been involved with that scene in one way or another, and Bearsville is just one of multiple possibilities for venues where next-level music can happen. So with all these resources to hand, the question beckons again: Why hasn’t this happened until now?
In cases like this, it usually takes one person to have an idea, decide it wasn’t crazy, and follow it to its logical conclusion. In this case, that one person was drummer Ben Perowsky, who’s been part of the Woodstock scene for more than 30 years. Perowsky’s got a résumé plenty of musicians would kill for: His past employers include James Moody, John Zorn, Lou Reed, Walter Becker and one member of the headliners at Saturday night’s show – the inimitable guitarist John Scofield, who’ll be teaming up with current and future legends Jack DeJohnette, John Medeski and Larry Grenadier to put a capper on what might be the first of many nights in the history of the newest jazz festival on the market. Perowsky and Medeski will also team up with reedman Chris Speed to show off the “new” jazz trio RedCred; and genre-busting pianist Uri Caine will open the show with a solo-piano set where anything just might happen… and probably will.
“The first record album I ever bought was probably ‘Carousel,’ oddly enough. The original cast album. No, actually, it was probably the movie soundtrack album.
And a Gene Krupa record.
And actually, you could probably still find both of those albums on my shelf somewhere today.”
He’s a founding member of both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. He’s a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. And he’s no stranger to Woodstock. Guitarist-vocalist Paul Kanter will step up to the microphone to lead the current incarnation of Jefferson Starship in concert at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Friday (June 29). The Johnny Monster Band opens the show at 8:30pm, followed by Dirty Blind at 9:15pm. Tix are $25, $35 & $50.
Mike Merenda, Doug Yoel, Ruthy, Mike, Simone Felice, Happy Traum, Simi Stone, Kate Taylor, Zach Gill, Donald Fagen and Larry Campbell
Review by Tara Needham
Photographs by Jason Spiro
The house band included Donald Fagan of Steely Dan on organ and long-time Bob Dylan collaborator Larry Campbell on electric guitar, as well as fiddle and lap steel. The musical bar was set high for the more than 20 artists who participated in the Woodstock Day School benefit concert and birthday tribute to Bob Dylan, and as a whole, and individually each in their own way, the artists met or surpassed that bar.
This is likely the last opportunity you’ll have to see these two legendary folk performers together.
Pete Seeger lives just down the Hudson River in Beacon. He is 92 years old. Meanwhile, 76-year-old Peggy Seeger – Pete’s half-sister – lives in England, and she has said that her upcoming U.S. tour will be her last.
“I remember the first record I ever bought. I was 11 years old. I got on a bus and went down to Wallach’s Music City, which was at the corner of Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, California, and bought a 78 of ‘Tutti Frutti’ by Little Richard. I went home and just lost my mind.
I was fortunate enough to have two older brothers, so they got me into rock ‘n’ roll real early. When I was 11, it was 1959, and that stuff was really just starting out. The first stuff that I listened to was Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis, of course. That stuff just fascinated me.
Little Richard doing ‘Tutti Frutti’ was much more interesting than Pat Boone doing ‘Tutti Frutti.’ In fact, Little Richard doing ‘Tutti Frutti’ is probably more interesting than 95 percent of what’s out there today. When I hear the snare hit at the top of the song, I just go, ‘Holy mackerel!’ It’s got one of those infectious kinds of grooves.
The first albums that I bought were along the same lines … Fats Domino and Little Richard.”
Guitarist Paul Barrere and the rest of his bandmates in Little Feat will step into the spotlight at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock at 8pm tonight. Tix are $65 for reserved balcony seating; $45 for general admission standing room.
Lo and behold, we’ve uncovered yet another episode of the lost, mid-’80s vintage, public access television show, “Sarge Blotto’s Hot Seat.”
This time around, Sarge sits down with British sax-blaster Gary Windo, who has blown his horn with folks like NRBQ, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Psychedelic Furs and, yes, even Tiny Tim, as well as various Nippertown music scene vets including Johnny Rabb. He led various bands of his own, as well, including Pam Windo & the Shades and the Gary Windo Orchestra (whose stunning 1985, Hal Willner-produced album, “Deep Water,” found him exploring the depths of Albert Ayler’s classic “Ghosts,” as well as such original tunes as “Don’t Bite Too Hard (Your Teeth Are Too Sharp).”
Sadly, Windo passed away in 1992.
We’re not sure of the exact date for this episode, but it’s likely 1984 or 1985, and it was – as always – produced and directed by the tireless Real George.
We’ll post the second half of the interview tomorrow, but here’s Part I:
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