May 13, 2011 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Freestyle funk and fusion plus buckets of rhythm & blues will transform the free-admission 29th annual M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest into one of the biggest parties of the summer.
Jazz impresario Frank Malfitano announced the lineup at a May 2 press conference at downtown’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, where festival performers are often housed. Headliners for the June 24-25 jazz bash at Onondaga Community College include Felix Cavaliere & The New Rascals, the Average White Band and the Robert Cray Band on Friday and the Brothers of Funk with Al Chez and Return to Forever IV with Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty on Saturday.
Chez, a trumpeter and bandleader from New Jersey turned in the most exciting set of the 2009 festival when Al’s stratospheric brass work was backed by 17 enthusiastic musicians from Rochester who turned in a passionate, pulsating set.
Upstate’s aspiring jazzers
Opening the 2011 festival on Friday will be City of Syracuse Department of Parks and Recreation Stan Colella All-Star Band and the All-County High School All-Star Jazz Band, led respectively by Joe Carello and Steve Frank.
Saturday’s support acts include the OCC Jazz Band Meets the Steelheads, a collaboration between two college groups one from Upstate NY and a Trinidad-style steel band from Michigan. A fascinating cross-genre concept act called Jazz Guitars Meet Hendrix will spotlight hip six-stringers Sheryl Bailey and Vic Juris as they both play tribute to Jimi.
The Syracuse Peace Council’s Summercrafts Fair returns for its second year at Jazz Fest to complete the festive atmosphere forged by Grazi Zazzara Jr.’s Paradise Market Food Court and Norm Schneider’s Constellation Brands Wine Court. The Price Chopper Fireworks display fired up by Telstar Display Fireworks of nearby Auburn, climaxes Jazz Fest at 11 p.m. June 25. Over the festival’s two days, convenient parking on the OCC campus is available for $5 per vehicle; syracusejazzfest.com.
Remember dinners for $3.95?
In the 1950s George Tortortelli played his first professional music gig at Angelo’s Restaurant on North Salina Street. Angelo’s did business where Aunt Josie’s now stands.
A talented bassist and singer, Tortortelli spent his days in the gym, training to be a professional boxer. When darkness fell, however, he was inexorably drawn to Syracuse’s nightclubs where patrons danced to live music.
As a prizefighter, Tortorelli compiled a record of 48 wins and four losses to become 1958’s Central and Western N.Y. Golden Gloves Middleweight Champ.
And as a bandleader – using the stage name George Orelli – he worked all of Central New York’s top nightclubs, from the 800 Club to Lorenzo Supper Club to Three Rivers Inn.
The 79-year-old, who now lives in Miami, Fla., returns to the Salt City from 8 p.m. to midnight this Saturday, May 14, for a dinner-dance and show at Pensabene’s, 135 State Fair Blvd., on the West End near Sacred Heart Basilica; $30 includes 7 p.m. dinner; 461-8279. The reunion will feature the State Street Band, vocalists Danielle Rausa, Nick Mulpagano and Tom Tortorelli and a dance contest hosted by Bob Barker. Orelli will act as master of ceremonies. At the gig, he’ll reminisce about the good old days when cover charges were just three bucks and dinners started at $3.95.
Andre’s Tic Toc Club
Having shed his gloves in favor of an upright bass, Tortorelli worked for years with rhythm & blues combos at venues such as the legendary 800 Club, the Embassy Restaurant and the Penguin Grill. “I consider my experience in Syracuse’s black clubs invaluable in developing my musical talent,” he says.
Along the way, George began leading his own bands at downtown clubs like Lorenzo’s.
Another Salina Street spot Orelli worked was Andre’s Tic Toc Club. “In spite of the fact that it became an adult club, the shows there were always in good taste,” George says. Tic Toc Club owners Bushy Smith, Vic Hite and Nate Bronstein often booked acts like Frankie Laine, Patti Page and Tony Bennett.
For several years Orelli and his wife Rosalinda entertained at Three Saints in Liverpool. They also played downtown at the Hackney House on South Warren Street and at Le Moyne Manor, built by owner Frank Montanaro.
One of Orelli’s favorite club-owners was Dom Bruno at Three Rivers Inn on Route 57. “He was called ‘The Silver Fox’ because of his gray hair and the brilliant way he conducted his business,” George recalls. “He was always a man of his word.”
Blues Fest rising from ashes
After canceling last year’s summer blues bash, the NYS Blues Festival has regrouped, raised some money and announced plans for a festival to run in downtown’s Clinton Square July 8-10.
Among the performers will be Magic Slim, Sue Foley, Hadden Sayers and Ronnie Earl, who will jam with former Syracuse guitarist Jose Alvarez. Blues Fest President Todd Fitzsimmons also booked Big Apple-based guitar prodigy Mojo Myles Mancuso.
“The blues festival’s mission is to preserve, perpetuate and cultivate the blues art form,” Fitzsimmons recently wrote. “Hiring an extremely talented teenage kid that few have heard of meets our goals. I remember inviting an 8-year-old Joe Bonamassa to play a festival in the 1980s at Nardi’s in Hamilton, the first time he got to play for a live audience I believe. I think Mojo has the potential to be one of those kind of game-changing artists, and I’d like to help make that happen.”
The free-admission festival also features plenty of homegrown talent including Corn-Bred, Mark Doyle, The Delinquents, Los Blancos and an all-star act dubbed the Soul of Syracuse.
But rub your high john the conqueror root, Fitzsimmons still has to raise tens of thousands of dollars to make the Blues Fest a reality in July; nysbluesfest.com/.
Trumpeter Al Chez will return to the Syracuse Jazz Festival on June 25, at Onondaga Community College, to lead The Brothers of Funk big band.