LIVE: “Bob Warren: Songs & Singers” @ Hubbard Hall, 3/12/16
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Greenwich-based singer, songwriter and producer Bob Warren wears many hats in his passionate pursuit of music from all angles. He has a keen ear for talent and has mentored and supported the careers of many singers and instrumentalists by bringing them into his circle of musicians over the course of his four-decade career. He has gained the trust, respect and friendship of many of his peers who are regional or national legends in their individual musical genres. His solo albums have been a mix of musical styles including blues, folk, rock, roots-Americana and everything in between… and some things beyond that. They have featured the likes of Trey Anastasio and Hal Ketchum, just to name a few.
So it’s mystifying to his fans and musical compatriots why Warren isn’t nationally known or at least playing on a larger public field. It’s almost as though a line was drawn through Saratoga Springs: everything north in the Adirondack region is Bob’s, and and everything below it (with a few exceptions, an occasional foray to Albany and a few other cities) is unattainable to him.
Bob Warren plans his concerts carefully and makes them showcases for the musicians he invites to collaborate with him. It’s really a group effort. He’s got no musician’s ego. I don’t even think he knows the definition of the word. You’re not going to find him or most of his musical collaborators playing week after week in the same bars or clubs around the region. They are beyond that. Way beyond that. When Warren puts a show together he chooses wisely, and it’s a real musical event. And it’s nearly always sold out within a few days of the announcement of the concert.
This time out Warren and his esteemed collaborators were setting up their gear up in the intimate, 100-plus-year-old theater at the Hubbard Hall Center for the Arts and Education in Cambridge. The sound check/rehearsal was scheduled three hours before the 7pm showtime, and the stately theatre was abuzz with anticipation, talent and vocal bliss.
The name of the show, “Bob Warren: Songs and Singers,” said it all. Everyone there would be singing Bob’s tunes in their own voice, interpretation and style with Warren singing back-up vocals and playing acoustic guitar in the company of bassist Tony Markellis (Trey Anastasio Band, Unknown Blues Band, Floodwood, etc.), keyboardist Matt Donneley, guitarist Don Warren and master drummer/percussionist Danny Whelchel (Brian Patneaude Quartet).
Every one of the singers – Jeanne O’Connor (NYC’s Tavern on the Green, The Algonquin Hotel), Joy MacKenzie, Mallory Donnelly, Paige Cormie, Mary Anne Brown, Mary Nell Morgan Brown (a rare vocal treasure), Brittany Rivers, Minna Lammie, Kim Britton with Ron Comstock, the amazing elder statesman of the folk world, Michael Jerling – performed with passion, grace and straight from the heart. The 200 or more people in attendance were overjoyed and knew they had witnessed something unique and, oh so special.