Tags Posts tagged with "Pete Kennedy"

Pete Kennedy

Mose Allison
Evening will honor the music of longtime Smithtown resident

By Kevin Redding

Mose Allison. Photo by Michael Wilson

A reporter once asked the late jazz and blues pianist and singer Mose Allison — regarded among musicians like Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Pete Townshend and Van Morrison as “one of the finest songwriters in 20th century blues” — why he wasn’t more famous.

“Mose, you were a social critic before Bob Dylan, satirical long before Randy Newman and rude before Mick Jagger,” the reporter said. “How come you’re not a big star?” Allison, who was born in Mississippi and moved from New York City to Smithtown in the mid-1960s to raise a family and spent much of his time walking in the local woods and swimming in the Long Island Sound, responded: “Just lucky, I guess.”

On Saturday, March 24, The Long Island Museum, in partnership with WUSB-FM’s Sunday Street Concert Series and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, will give the 2006 Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductee his proper due with The Word From Mose: A Celebration of the Music of Mose Allison, a tribute concert in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room at 7 p.m.

Jack Licitra

The concert, following the tradition of other Sunday Street Series shows organized by Charlie Backfish, Stony Brook University history lecturer and host of the university’s weekly radio program “Sunday Street,” will feature local and outside musicians, who will strum and sing through decades of Allison’s breakthrough material, including his more well-known tracks “Your Mind Is on Vacation,” “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” and “I Don’t Worry About a Thing.”

Allison, who died Nov. 15, 2016, just four days before turning 89, was a four-time Grammy nominee and frequent collaborator with jazz greats Zoot Sims and Stan Getz whose songs spanned more than 30 albums — The Rolling Stones, Diana Krall, The Who, The Pixies and Elvis Costello are among those who have recorded Allison’s songs.

Pete Kennedy

The lineup includes “Sunday Street” regular and New York-based singer-songwriter Pete Kennedy; Pat Wictor, electric and slide guitarist of the group Brother Sun; Jack Licitra, a Sayville-based keyboardist and guitarist as well as the founder of the music-teaching studio South Bay Arts in Bayport; and Abbie Gardner, an acclaimed Dobro player who has toured for many years as part of the trio Red Molly. Some members of Allison’s family, including his daughter and singer-songwriter Amy Allison, will also be in attendance.

The evening will also include a screening of a short BBC documentary on Allison called “Ever Since the World Ended,” featuring interviews with Costello, Morrison, Raitt and Loudon Wainwright III and footage of Allison performing.

“Not only is he such an important artist, Mose Allison was someone who lived in this area for many decades and we thought it was time to do something like this for him,” Backfish said of the decision to honor the musician. “When he wasn’t on tour, which was quite often, he would be back in the area and playing shows at the Staller Center at Stony Brook University or jazz clubs in Port Jefferson.”

Pat Wictor. Photo by John Mazlish

Backfish said he also had the opportunity to interview Allison on his radio program many years ago. “He had such an incredibly rich catalog in so many ways and these artists are going to get together and play both well-known songs of his and the deep tracks,” he said. “I would hope that if people aren’t aware of Mose, they’ll suddenly find someone they will check out and listen to, and for those who know him, this will be a great way to celebrate his music and listen to artists reinterpret his songs.”

Wictor, a longtime Allison fan who, with his band, recorded a version of “Everybody’s Crying Mercy,” said Backfish approached him to participate in the concert for his “affinity” for the man’s work. “I love Mose partly because he cannot be categorized easily,” Wictor said. “He sort of mixed jazz and blues, and social commentary, in a way that nobody else did. And I like his sense of humor in his lyrics, which were always a little sardonic and mischievous. He comes across as a person that doesn’t suffer fools gladly and that’s always enjoyable to me. The songs themselves are very musically interesting, too — blues-based but they always have a unique musical and lyrical quality unlike anything else.”

Abbie Gardner

Kennedy said Allison was unusual among jazz musicians in his time because he wrote a lot of songs with lyrics, while others primarily stuck to instrumental compositions. “Allison actually wrote songs that he sang and that’s what we’re focusing on during the concert,” said Kennedy, who noted that he’s had a lot of fun examining Allison’s songs more closely and learning them in anticipation of the show. “His songs sound totally modern to me now, even the old ones from the 1950s and ’60s. The writing is really clever, really humorous and had a little bit of social commentary to it, but not in a negative way.”

Licitra, too, expressed his excitement over his involvement, calling Allison’s music “the thinking man’s blues.” “I’m really looking forward to giving people a taste of his style of intellectualism and humor,” he said. “And for me, this is all about the group of performers on the bill. I’m a big fan of all of them and so I’m excited about playing with them and seeing how they each interpret Mose’s [work].”

The jazz legend’s son John Allison, who grew up in Smithtown, said while his father was a true “musician’s musician” and beloved in many artist’s circles, he was as low profile as could be at home. “There he was, living in Smithtown, so unassuming that even our neighbors, for 15 years, didn’t know what he did until they saw him on TV with Bonnie Raitt for a PBS concert at Wolf Trap,” John Allison said, laughing. “He just wanted to do his thing. He read books and played music. I’d come home from high school and he’d be listening to some weird Chinese, classical music and just laughing and loving it … [and] sometimes he did tai chi in the living room.”

The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Advance tickets to the tribute show are $25 through Friday, March 23 at www.sundaystreet.org with tickets at the door for $30 (cash only). Beer, wine and cider will be available for purchase. For more information, please call 631-751-0066.

by -
0 1739
The cover of the Beatles’ iconic ‘Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album

By Kevin Redding

It was 50 years ago today … on June 1, 1967, that the Beatles released “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” in the United States and completely changed everything: music, culture, themselves, how people viewed and analyzed rock ’n’ roll.

The incredibly ambitious and experimental 13-track album — on which John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr abandoned their traditional mop-top image and sound in favor of a more conceptual, weird, wholly new product with a scope and style that hadn’t been attempted before by them or anybody else — helped usher in the Summer of Love and set the tone for the rest of the decade.

While many older albums, especially when they fall on younger ears, tend to lose their might over time, “Sgt. Pepper” still stands strong, and sounds just as vibrant and fresh as ever. To this day, it’s argued to be the greatest, if not most influential, album of all time.

Peter Winkler
Favorite Beatles song:
‘A Day in the Life’

“It was just absolutely groundbreaking,” Peter Winkler, a retired Stony Brook University professor of composition and theory and popular music, said, recalling the first time he listened to the record.

Winkler, who taught one of the very first rock music classes at the university in 1971, said he’ll never forget the week it came out and how stunned he was upon hearing the album’s epic finale “A Day in the Life” — “I had never heard anything like that before,” he said, “with that big orchestral roar — that had never happened on a pop record before.”

“Everybody was listening to the album, everybody was talking about; that doesn’t happen these days where one particular record is having that impact on everyone,” Winkler continued. “It was incredibly innovative and made this enormous splash around the world. It expanded the vocabulary of pop music in such a dramatic way. It was just a game changer. Everything that followed — Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd — came straight from ‘Sgt. Pepper.’”

Pete Kennedy
Favorite Beatles song:
‘A Day in the Life’

Pete Kennedy, a New York-based singer-songwriter who regularly performs at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, echoed Winkler’s excitement over the innovation of the album, comparing it to the release of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” a grandiose, cohesive novel, amid decades of mere folktales in the Middle Ages. “That’s kind of what the Beatles did with this. They put rock music together in a much more serious way than anybody had before. It marked the beginning of the rock world that still exists now … they were already so well known and could’ve coasted along doing what they’d been doing but they took this step instead,” Kennedy said.

The album’s release coincided with, and legitimized, an emergence of rock journalists and professional critics who recognized the genre as something to be taken seriously, a notion that would’ve been inconceivable beforehand. A month before, renowned classical composer Leonard Bernstein even hosted an hour-long CBS special called “Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution” referring to the Fab Four as a group whose songs were “more adventurous than anything else written in serious music today.”

Just before the album came out, Kennedy explained, he and a lot of other people thought the Beatles were a done deal. In August 1966, the group performed their final live concert, having had enough of the screaming girls and a hectic atmosphere wherein people were burning their records after Lennon referred to the band as being “bigger than Jesus,” choosing to work exclusively from the studio from then on.

Norman Prusslin
Favorite Beatles song:
‘Getting Better’

One June afternoon the following year, Kennedy walked into a record shop and saw an unrecognizable band, dressed in colorful military costumes and surrounded by a slew of famous faces and flower-power imagery.

“Just seeing that pop-art album cover, with no advanced warning and them with mustaches, it might not seem like a big deal, but it really was because their appearance was such a big part of them,” he said. “The Beatles hairstyle and matching suit … now they looked like hippies, and it was sort of shocking.”

Norman Prusslin, the first station manager of WUSB and director of the media minor at Stony Brook, said of the infamous cover, “it was almost like their alter ego, a way for them to step out of being the Beatles … it was also one of the first times pop records had lyrics printed on the back.”

“It was a very different record, musically, it wasn’t your typical Beatles record up to that point,” Prusslin, who saw the group live in 1964, said. “It felt continuous,

Charles Backfish
Favorite Beatles song:
‘Within You Without You’

like one long thing … I think the concept of the album, rather than being just a collection of songs, became a pallet for an entire creative journey that became influential to other bands that came later. It maximized studio equipment to its fullest potential at the time and contained exploratory, autobiographical lyrics that encouraged other bands to free themselves and try different things and not be set in the two minutes and 50 seconds standard pop hit duration.”

Charles Backfish, the host of WUSB’s “Sunday Street” program, highlighted the album’s coinciding impact with the rise of FM radio. While AM was the dominant form of radio in the ’60s, with FM merely broadcasting whatever AM played, an FCC regulation went into effect in January 1967 declaring each dial needed to have different programming.

“So it opened up the option for FM stations to do something different,” Backfish said. “While AM played classic top 40 songs, FM started to explore different music and some things happening in the rock scene at the time lent themselves to being played on there … and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ is a perfect example. There were no singles released from the album, each song segued into another, and so it’s an album that found a real home on FM radio and helped drive the popularity of FM radio.”