Recommendations of where to go and what to hear in Westchester in October 2019:
Robert Cray: Sat, October 5 (8pm)
Tarrytown Music Hall (13 Main Street, Tarrytown)
The guitar intensive rock-blues can be repetitive and boring. Blues guitar players are a dime a dozen, and sometimes it seems like they cloned each other, showing off long and fast noodling solos and cramming as many notes as possible into each song. That’s all well and good, and lots of folks like that, but it’s a bit generic and predictable. Not Robert Cray. He is uniquely different; essentially a soul singer who is also a superb, tasteful guitarist. Let’s just mark it: if you are into amazing electric guitar, he can hold his own against the best. But, he has his own style, does not get carried away with endless solos, and he understands that the blues feeling should supersede technique. His performances are clean, elegant and eloquent, refined and yet deeply soulful. You don’t come to a Robert Cray show to be dazzled, you come to lift your spirits, to soothe your soul and to become one with the mesmerizing power of blues, soul and R&B. He knows how, and has been performing for four decades, with five Grammy wins, a Blues Hall of Fame inductee, recipient of the Americana Lifetime achievement award, countless tours and over 20 acclaimed albums.
The Emelin Theatre (153 Library Lane, Mamaroneck)
The is the golden-voiced daughter of the famed Levon Helm (of The Band) and the singer Libby Titus. She was a member of Levon’s mighty Midnight Ramble Band and a founding member of the soulful alt-country/gospel ensemble Ollabelle. As a singer/songwriter on her own she has emerged to international fame, and she is certainly one of the finest and most beautiful voices in New York. You can often catch her at the Midnight Ramble venue that she built with her father in Woodstock, but that makes for a hard drive home at night. The Emelin Theatre is the perfect venue to see this delightful performer who is sure to touch your heart with her wonderful arrangements and exceptionally emotive singing. She blends an amalgam of folk, alt-country, a slight touch of blues and gospel, and that distinctly America music they aptly call Americana. A writer would need to let the accolades flow with many flattering adjectives, but to distill Amy Helm only one little word is needed: sweet.
Roots & Blues
Jerron Paxton: Thurs, October 19 (7:30pm)
Tompkins Corners Cultural Center (Tompkins Corners Methodist Church, 729 Peekskill Hollow Road, Putnam Valley)
Just a hop across the border into neighboring Putnam County, good things are going on at the Tompkins Corner Methodist Church. Serious folkies and blues fans will experience an intimate concert in a small community venue with one of the few remaining true bluesmen. Queens-based acoustic roots and blues musician Jerron Paxton, often called “Blind Boy” Paxton, has emerged as one of the foremost practitioners in the land of old time folk blues and African American banjo tradition. The young bard has reached international fame and is widely considered as one of the few remaining authentic traditionalists of the pre-WWII genre. Paxton is a superlative musical genius on guitar, banjo, piano and harmonica, with a vast repertoire of songs and tunes. On the piano, he evokes Fats Waller. He’s a swift guitar and banjo fingerpicker and he sings as if he was an incarnate of the old bluesmen of the 1930s. Paxton plays in the true songster tradition: ragtime, hokum, old-time, French reels, Appalachian mountain music and blues, and more – and whatever he plays sounds great. The young bard was born in 1989, but his vast talent rivals the greatest in the genre. He is the whole package: witty, fast-rhyming, poetic, fun, exciting, wonderfully skilled – the continuation of a proud tradition, literally and figuratively.
Westchester Philharmonic: Sun, October 27 (3pm)
The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College (735 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase)
Eric Jacobsen, conducting with Simone Porter, violin
Caroline Shaw: Entr’acte
Barber: Violin Concerto
Brahms: Symphony No. 2
Pre-concert discussion with the artists at 2pm.
This writer could gush about the merits of accessible afternoon concerts that allows the whole family to enjoy cultural events. Especially if you have not experienced many classical performances, do yourself a favor and expose yourself to the sheer aesthetic beauty and power this genre offers, and your life will be greatly enriched. This again promises to be a special Sunday afternoon Westchester Philharmonic concert, with the amazing young violinist Simone Porter, one of the rising stars in classical music. Especially inviting is the pre-show discussion with the performers. The show billing says it best: “…Ground-breaking musical moments arrive with conductor Eric Jacobsen (co-founder of The Knights; Music Director of Orlando Philharmonic and Bridgeport Symphony) and the astonishing young violinist Simone Porter in a program that seamlessly connects music from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.” This concert is art of the Emily and Eugene Grant Series.
Frank Matheis is an award-winning music journalist, author and radio producer with an eclectic musical taste that covers the gamut of music from Americana to Zydeco, from Jazz to World Music. He is a regular contributor to Living Blues magazine and other music publications, and the publisher of www.thecountryblues.com. His radio documentaries have been heard on three continents in three languages.