Tag Archives: Crispin Cioe

Westport Rocks! The Greatest Stories Ever Told

If you don’t know Westport’s musical history — concerts at Staples High School by the Doors, Cream, Yardbirds, Rascals, Animals and many more; the Remains, perhaps the greatest band in history never to hit the big time; REO Speedwagon’s 157 Riverside Avenue — you must be living under a rock (ho ho).*

But hey hey, my my. Rock and roll can never die.

So mark next Wednesday, March 21 (7 p.m.) on your calendar. Michael Friedman’s Gallery in Bedford Square is the site for one of Westport’s liveliest musical events ever.  

The owner’s stunning photographs of everyone from Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger to the Band and Johnny Winter (another former Westporter) serves as a backdrop for a Moth-style session about rock ‘n’ roll.

Among the storytellers:

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Mark Naftalin.

Mark Naftalin: A keyboardist, recording artist, composer and record producer, he and his fellow Paul Butterfield Blues Band members are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Crispin Cioe:  A sax player and songwriter, he’s played and recorded with James Brown, the Stones, Solomon Burke, Tom Waits, Ray Charles and the Ohio Players.

Roger Kaufman: A noted local performer with the Old School Revue, Roger worked last year with the Smithsonian Museum to archive, preserve and pay tribute to Steve Cropper, the legendary Stax guitarist who played on classic songs like “Knock on Wood,” “Midnight Hour” and “Dock of the Bay.” Soon, he’ll archive materials with Weston’s own Jose Feliciano.

Rob Fraboni: A producer and audio who worked with Bob Dylan, the Band, Eric Clapton and the Stones — and who as vice president of Island Records oversaw the remastering of the entire Bob Marley catalog. Keith Richards called him “a genius.”

David Bennett Cohen, with Country Joe and the Fish.

David Bennett Cohen: The original keyboardist, and also a guitar player, for Country Joe and the Fish.

Wendy May: She’s spent the last 20 years performing with Charlie Daniels, Kenny Chesney, Mark Chestnut, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Marty Haggard and many others.

Dick Wingate: In a long career with labels like Arista, PolyGram, Epic and Columbia Records, he worked closely with Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Peter Tosh and Pink Floy, among others.

Michael Friedman: In addition to photography, he worked as a publicist with the Mamas and the Papas, Bee Gees, Herman’s Hermits and Glen Campbell, and was an artist manager for Dylan, the Band, Janis Joplin, Gordon Lightfoot, Todd Rundgren, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.

Rusty Ford: He co-founded Lothar & the Hand People, the psychedelic band that was the first to use a theremin and Moog synthesizer in live performances. He also played bass with the Beach Boys.

Lothar and the Hand People

Also on the bill: Bari Rudin and Caissie St. Onge, comedy writers who have worked with David Letterman, Phil Donohue, “Saturday Night Live,” Rosie O’Donnell and Joan Rivers.

Incredibly, every storyteller is a local resident. This area remains rich in rock history. We don’t have to ship in stars. They’re right here, living as our neighbors and friends.

They’ll each speak for about 8 minutes. Every one though has a lifetime of stories to tell.

* Let’s not forget the Hall & Oates “concert” too.

(Tickets for “Rock & Roll Stories” include food, beer, wine and an auction. It’s part of the Westport Library’s week-long “Flex” series, which features a celebrity lunch with Sam Kass and Jane Green, a conversation with Ruth Reichl, movies, a dance-a-thon, a family day, gala party and much more. Click here for information and tickets.)

Tonight’s Playhouse Bowie Tribute To Be Livestreamed

When Westport’s own Jane Green started planning a David Bowie tribute concert, she envisioned an intimate gathering at the Westport Country Playhouse barn. She hoped to snag a couple of acoustic guitarists who’d play as his dedicated fans stood around singing, lost in a sea of nostalgia and love.

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

Crispin Cioe wails tonight.

Crispin Cioe wails tonight.

The list of performers now include stars who have performed with — among others — the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, James Brown, Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Nicks, Coldplay, Wyclef Jean, Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker, Lou Reed, J. Geils, Orleans, Hall & Oates, the Indigo Girls and Carole King.

Headliners include Westporter Crispin Cioe and noted drummer Jerry Marotta.

The wait list has swelled to 150 people. To share all that donated time and talent with everyone, Jane has arranged for the concert to be live-streamed. Wherever in the world you are at 8 p.m. (EST) tonight, click on www.twitter.com/janegreen. The link will go up when the music begins.

“Tonight we celebrate David Bowie — the man, his music, and what he meant to us,” Green says.

“We hope a little bit of his magic may sweep you back to your teenage bedrooms, to a time when we all thought we could be heroes too.”

David Bowie at Westport Playhouse

NOTE: The poster says 7 pm. That’s for drinks. The music (and livestream) begin at 8.

Blues, Views & BBQ Rocks Downtown

The 7th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival rocks Westport this weekend. Get ready for a kick-ass lineup of blues, rock, brass and funk music — plus fantastic food, and tons o’ stuff for the kids.

The Spin Doctors and Rick Derringer headline the stage acts. How did they — and many other Big Names — come to town? Westporter Crispin Cioe played a huge role.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

Soon after he and his family moved here 13 years ago, Crispin met Bob Le Rose, The owner of Bobby Q’s and leader in the Downtown Merchants Association, Bob wanted to start a blues festival. Crispin — a longtime musician/ bandleader/ producer/songwriter — knew plenty of bands and agents.

Each year, the pair spends months discussing possible musical acts. They probably eat very well too.

When they hit on the idea of having the Spin Doctors star in Saturday’s show, Bob worried that the festival might stray too far from its blues-based foundation.

Crispin performed and hung out with the band in the 1990s. He knew they were “rootsy/funky/bluesy” — especially live — and that they’d gotten their start at the Wetlands club in Manhattan (a spawning ground for the jam band scene).

Listening to the band’s recent recorded work, they saw movement toward exactly the kind of music featured at Blues, Views & BBQ.

Spin Doctors will headline this year's Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Spin Doctors will headline this year’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Likewise, several years ago Crispin and Bob were searching for a way to feature well-known musicians who grew up here, and still live in the area. “Guitar god” Charlie Karp — a Westport native who played with Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles — helped assemble the Westport Heritage Blues Band, a special treat.

This year’s treats include Raw Oyster Cult, a New Orleans supergroup; the high-voltage, horn-drenched street band Big Sam’s Funky Nation; perennial favorite and guitar star Anders Osborne; blues slide guitarist Ms. Rory Block, and the formidable Popa Chubby.

Big Sam's Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)

Big Sam’s Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)

Crispin will play tenor sax with his old pal Bill Kirchen, guitarist and principal songwriter for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. The friends go back to the University of Michigan, where Commander Cody was formed.

Lately, Crispin has been working with legendary local band Cracked Ice, vocal great Darlene Love and producer Steven Van Zandt. But on Sunday (August 31) he’ll be at Blues, Views & BBQ, playing alto sax with Rick Derringer on the classic instrumental “Frankenstein.”

If you like great music, excellent barbecue and plenty of fun in your own hometown, you’ll be there too.

(For advance tickets and more information on the festival — which takes place at the Levitt Pavilion and the grounds of the Westport Library — click on http://www.bluesviewsbbq.com or call 203-505-8716. Gates open at 11 a.m. Music starts at noon, and goes straight through to 9:30 p.m.)

Crispin Cioe: Jammin’ With J. Geils

Bruce Springsteen’s current tour has gotten plenty of press. Playing MetLife stadium until 2 a.m. — after a long lightning delay — added one more chapter to The Boss’ legacy.

But Bruce isn’t the only longtime rocker still rockin’ stages. The J. Geils Band recently completed a fantastic East Coast tour.

And there — wailin’ on sax, as part of the 3-piece Uptown Horns section — was Westporter Crispin Cioe.

Crispin Cioe

Crispin’s credentials are impeccable. He’s played and recorded with nearly every big name: from Coldplay, Wyclef Jean, James Brown, Aretha and Joe Cocker to Debbie Harry, Solomon Burke, Lou Reed, the B-52s and Ru Paul — plus Tom Waits, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Joan Jett.

He spent more than a year on the road with the Rolling Stones, during their famed Steel Wheels tour.

Crispin’s J. Geils connection goes back decades. In 1983 — during the band’s “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame” era — he toured and recorded with them.

In an industry famous for break-ups and lawsuits, the J. Geils Band has had more than its share. The latest tour, in fact, was almost derailed by fights over who owned the Geils name. The actual J. Geils was not around this time — but singer Peter Wolf carried the show.

He and his bandmates — along with 2 backups singers and the Uptown Horns — were in “great shape,” Crispin says.

Sets lasted well over 2 hours. They featured early, rootsy, blues-based music,  segueing into later stuff. From “Give it to Me” — which Crispin calls “one of the first reggae/ska tunes done in rock and roll” — to “Love Stinks,” audiences responded avidly.

The J. Geils Band (without J. Geils). Crispin Cioe is 3rd from left.

Venues included state fairs, and smaller, intimate places like the House of Blues in Boston and Westbury Music Fair. Audiences included plenty of baby boomers, but quite a few Gen Xers — even younger, Crispin says.

Older fans remember J. Geils from their youth. Newer fans see the group as a bit “underground.” Crispin calls J. Geils “one of the greatest rock bands of all time.”

Touring can be grueling. “You play a show, get on the bus, drive 6 hours, check into a hotel at 6 a.m., sleep, then get up at 3 p.m. for a sound check,” Crispin says.

But he and the band were buoyed by audiences’ enthusiasm. “There was not one bad show,” Crispin notes. “And when everyone is so invested in it, that makes it all worthwhile.”

J. Geils will tour again this winter, primarily in the Midwest.

Crispin, meanwhile, prepares for his next project. He’s the musical director of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. It will be presented to Ellen DeGeneres October 22, at the Kennedy Center.

Crispin is writing original music for the show. “It’s totally different — and keeps me on my toes,” he says.

The same toes that tap while playing sax with one of America’s most legendary rock ‘n’ roll bands.

Westport Sings The Blues

Westport is home to the biggest hedge fund in the world.

We’ve got McMansions up the wazoo, and a town-owned country club with a wonderful inn overlooking Long Island Sound.

Quite a place to sing the blues.

But the blues will be wailin’ this weekend — and down-home barbecue will be served — at (hey, this is still Westport) the Levitt Pavilion and library.

It’s the 4th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.  And — believe it or not — we don’t have to import our bluesmen (and women) from the Delta.  They’re right here in Fairfield County.

Many of them even have Westport ties.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

There’s music all weekend long.  But the highlight is Crispin Cioe’s Westport Heritage Blues Band (Saturday, 2:20 to 3:35 p.m.).  A musician who has toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones, J. Geils and Albert Collins — and a 10-year Westport resident — Crispin has mined the local music scene for the best bluesmen, r-and-b artists and rockers.

And he’s put them all together in one band.

Charlie Karp dropped out of Staples to play with Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix and Love.  It was a great career move:  40 years later, he’s still playing and recording, fronting great bands like White Chocolate and Dirty Angels.

David Hull is from Stratford, but  lived for a while in Westport.  He too played with Jimi and Buddy; he now plays regularly with James Montgomery.

Drummer Kevin Hupp has played here often, including the legendary band Slo Leak with Charlie Karp and studio legend/former Westporter Danny Kortchmar.

John “Ratso” Girardi owns a recording studio in Stamford, and is a Levitt Pavilion favorite.

Special guest Rocky Lawrence is a Bridgeporter.  But listen to this:  He spent the last 10 years with Honeyboy Edwards, a Delta blues guitarist who died last month at 95 — and who played with Robert Johnson.  Rocky will be featured in the Westport Heritage Blues Band’s tribute to that legendary bluesman.

The Buddy Miles Express plays Finnish TV in 1971.  Charlie Karp takes a blistering solo around the 2:52 mark.

So is Westport ready to replace Mississippi and Memphis as a true blues capital?

Not hardly.

Still, the musical spotlight shines here this weekend.  And even thought it’s at the Levitt Pavilion, not some smoky juke joint, that’s fine.

“There’s a tradition of great blues musicians who developed here.  Some still live here,” Crispin says.

“People are drawn to this music.”

Even if they drive Land Rovers, and park them in 4-car garages.

(The 4th annual Blues, Views & BBQ — presented by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — runs Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 25 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  In addition to music, there are barbecue competitions for backyard chefs and kids; a food court; a “Kids’ Corral”; rib and pie eating contests — and pig races.  Click here for more details, including ticket prices.) 

A “Playboy After Dark” show.  Charlie Karp is the very long-haired guitar player.  David Hull is the American flag-shirted bassist.  Hugh Hefner is the host.

Gene Seidman Mixes It Up

Young, old, black, white, married, divorced, gay, straight — once a month or so, they all get together at a restaurant, theater or yoga studio.

They dance to great music, sing with the band, and have a funky time long past midnight.

It’s a movable Mix party.  And it takes place not in the Meatpacking District.  Not in Williamsburg.  Not even New Haven.

It happens right here in Westport.

The Mix parties — or MIX, as the word appears on posters and the website — are the brainchild of Gene Seidman.

Gene Seidman dances with Dr. Barbara Siminovich, an Argentine living in Bridgeport who attends every MIX.

A graphic designer with an interest in eco-friendly products who’s directed projects for IBM, the New York Times, Verizon, UNICEF and the USTA — and held important posts at Priceline, MOMA and Unilever — Seidman started his after-hours events a year ago.

The Saugatuck Rowing Club wanted to attract more diners.  Seidman proposed a dance party.  Word-of-mouth advertising drew 135 people.

Seidman realized he’d found an unfilled need.

“We have a problem,” the longtime Westporter (and current RTM representative) said.

“Fairfield and South Norwalk are on the up-and-up.  They’ve got more restaurants, more nightlife.  There’s not a hell of a lot to do here after 10 p.m.  We need to light a fire.”

His MIX parties provide the heat.

They’ve been held at Splash and the Dressing Room.  When they got too big for Michel Nischan’s restaurant, they moved next door to the Westport Country Playhouse barn.

The most recent event — held earlier this month at Kaia Yoga — featured a Cuban band from New York (and belly dancing).  The after-party at Manolo lasted until 2 a.m.

The mix of people is key.  The crowd skews over-40, but attitude counts more than age.

The MIX parties take place in Westport, but the crowd is more diverse — in terms of race, sexuality, even clothing styles — than you usually see here.

And everyone has fun.

For proof, check out the YouTube video.  “The best bands and best music,” someone says.

“Dynamic people,” another offers.

“Kick-ass band.”  “Everyone is smiling.”  “I came by myself, and I’m dancing.”

Ah, dancing.

A mix of a MIX.

“I love to dance,” Seidman says.  “It’s a great way for people to interact.  These days, people are so concerned about money and everything else.  They text and email each other.  But that’s not connecting.

“People have to get out.  When you dance, you connect.  When you dance, you’re beautiful and alluring.”

Lest you get the wrong idea, Seidman is married — and has been for 24 years.

“But I still want to get out,” he says.

Seidman works closely with MIX musical director Crispin Cioe.  The Westport saxophonist/composer/producer has toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones, Tom Waits and Ray Charles.

Cioe’s classic/nouveau soul band — Cracked Ice — has also played at MIX parties.

This Friday (July 30), Cracked Ice plays at the Levitt Pavilion.

Seidman is organizing the after-party — from 10:30 p.m. on, at Manolo.

It’s not a full-fledged MIX.  But everyone’s invited.

Provided you want to have fun.

(To find out more — and get on the MIX mailing list — click on www.mixct.com)