When Charlie Karp died in March, his many friends were devastated.
The Westport native left Staples High School early in his junior year, to play with Buddy Miles. Though he had an extraordinary musical career — playing at Jimi Hendrix’s funeral; writing, recording, teaching and, especially, performing with the world’s greats — he always came back to Fairfield County.
So it was appropriate that last night’s tribute concert took place at the Levitt Pavilion. Charlie’s longtime friend and collaborator Brian Keane — himself a Grammy-winning artist, songwriter and producer — put together a remarkable event.
From Germany, Nashville and plenty of other places, Charlie’s friends and admirers canceled gigs and rearranged schedules. More than 70 vocalists, gospel singers, keyboardists, percussionists, horn players and (especially) guitarists flew and drove to Westport.
Their list of credits is eye-popping. They’ve played and recorded with, or opened for, everyone from the Beatles, Doors, James Brown, Smokey Robinson and Roberta Flack to Wynton Marsalis, the New York Philharmonic, Boston Pops and London Symphony Orchestra.
With just one rehearsal, the musicians — many of whom knew each other, but had never played together — delivered one of the Levitt’s most powerful, pulsating shows ever.
It even included a tribute from Charlie’s friend Keith Richards. He was otherwise engaged, on tour with his band the Rolling Stones.
The benefit raised funds for a scholarship in Charlie’s name. Every year it will help talented student musicians, by providing studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven.
Midway through the concert, storm clouds rolled in. Thunderstorms — predicted, and ominous — never materialized. The clouds moved on, and the sky brightened.
“Charlie’s angels,” someone said.
(Tax-deductible checks made payable to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation [put “Charlie Karp Memorial Fund” in the memo] can be sent to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, 40 Richards Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854. Donations may also be made online at www.CharlieKarp.com. Follow instructions under the donation tab.)