Tag Archives: Dave Brubeck

Sally’s Place To Close; A Westport Era To End

Sally White has been selling music on Main Street since 1956.

Sometime this summer, her song will finally end.

The beloved owner of Sally’s Place — the record/CD store where Keith Richards and Mary Travers shopped (and schmoozed) with Sally, and any other music lovers who wandered up the steps at 190 Main Street — is closing down.

She’s not sure when (probably later this summer). And she has no idea what she’ll do with the hundreds of posters, autographed photos and musical tchotchkes that line the way (maybe sell them?).

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

Sally White, standing underneath a photo of one of her all-time favorites: Frank Sinatra.

She does know, though, that she’ll leave a business she’s loved from her 1st day at Melody House, a few doors away, 57 years ago.

She also knows why she’s closing. The internet dragged too many customers away. The stagnant economy dragged business down further.

Sally’s Place has a niche in Westport that will never be replaced. I walked in this afternoon at the same time as another customer. She wanted a vinyl copy of “Rubber Soul.” Sally promised it would be in by Saturday.

When Melody House closed in the late ’50s, Stanley Klein offered her a job in his department store’s record section. Raising 2 sons alone, she said she could work only 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. She also told him how much she needed to be paid. He hired her on the spot.

She worked there for more than 20 years. Her gentle nature, loving presence and encyclopedic knowledge of music influenced generations of Westporters — myself included.

Sally's Place is at 190 Main Street -- on the right, just past Avery Place.

Sally’s Place is at 190 Main Street — on the right, just past Avery Place.

When Klein’s record department closed in 1985, she decided to open her own store. Her brother-in-law wrote a business plan. She showed it to the president of Westport Bank & Trust.

He gave it right back. “We don’t need it,” he said. He trusted her word.

She offered her house as collateral. He refused. He was happy to back Sally’s Place without it.

It’s been an “amazing” 27 years, Sally says. “The bank, the record companies, my landlord — everyone has been fantastic.”

Especially her customers. “They make me feel special,” says Sally. “But I’m just doing what I love.”

Another customer this afternoon asked Sally for a turntable needle. She handed him a phone number. “This is the Needle Doctor,” she said. “He has everything.”

Sally’s musical roots run deep. She’s seen Frank Sinatra on stage. Also Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw.

Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan were close friends. So are many customers who never played a note. All are bound by a love of music — and the treasure that is Sally.

Sally doing what she loves most: interacting with one customer. Another one browses in back.

Sally doing what she loves: interacting with a customer. Another browses in back.

“I’ve been working since I was 14,” Sally says. “I’ve been a part of this town for a long time. This is my heart and soul. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.”

She’s survived as long as she has on special orders. Bluegrass compilations, rap, the “Roar of the Greasepaint” soundtrack — all are hand-written, in old-school logbooks. People find her from around the country.

She does not charge for mailing. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” she says.

As if on cue, a customer requested “old Polish-American polka music” for a wedding. She mentioned a composer. “S-t-u-r-r,” Sally spelled. “Right!” the woman said.

There is plenty of new vinyl -- and CDs, and random stuff, and musical knowledge -- at Sally's Place.

There is plenty of new vinyl — and CDs, random stuff, and musical knowledge — at Sally’s Place.

She does not stock Lady Gaga. “You can get that at Walmart for 10 bucks,” she says.

You can get it online, too — along with virtually everything Sally sells. Which is why she has written this message (by hand):

After 27 years of business I have decided to retire. The economy and internet sales have made it impossible for me to continue.

I thank you for your support, and hope you wish me well in retirement. I’ll miss you.

“Quick and easy,” she says. “I don’t need the schmaltz.”

But we need to say “thank you” to Sally White. Please hit “Comments” to share  your memories, or offer praise.

And then — whether you’re a longtime admirer, a former customer who faded away, or someone who always meant to stop by but never did — go see Sally.

She’ll be glad to see you.

And her broad, loving smile will make your day.

(Click here to read a previous post about Sally’s Westport Arts Center award.)

Back to the Basics: A Portrait of Sally White from Claire Bangser.


Danny, Dave And Diana

Danny Pravder’s parents bought a baby grand piano as “a piece of furniture.”  But when the 9-year-old plunked the keys, he loved the sound.

Danny Pravder, enjoying his passion. (Photo/Leah Grushkin)

Danny badgered his parents for lessons.  Teacher Margie Katz gave him a couple of pieces to work on.  He practiced — and did even more than she assigned.  He was hooked.

As a Staples freshman, Danny discovered jazz.  He loved the music’s complexity, and its spur-of-the-moment mindset.

“You’re not just reading notes.  You’re really involved,” Danny explains.  “Especially when you’re playing and improvising with other people.”

Last year he began studying with Chris Coogan.  Danny is a member of Staples’ jazz band, and and plays in a trio with Austin Alianiello and Mike Ljungberg.  (On April 13 they’ll be at Town Hall, raising funds for Japan relief.)

When Staples jazz teacher Nick Mariconda told Danny about a Stamford  Center for the Arts Emerging Artists competition, he applied.  The arduous process included CD demos.  Danny chose 3 different styles:  samba, swing and ballad.

Judges sifted through over 100 entries — and chose Danny.  He’ll use the $2,000 scholarship for piano and voice lessons,  in preparation for college auditions next fall.

Even better than the money (and a handsome glass trophy), though, was the chance to be honored by one of his jazz heroes, Dave Brubeck, at SCA’s gala last month.  He also earned a shout-out from the event’s star, Diana Ross, during her performance there.

In handing Danny his award — before a sellout crowd of 1,700 — SCA executive director Elissa Getto quoted Brubeck himself:

At an early age Danny has “done it all” — studied classical piano and jazz, composed and recorded original music, played various styles from jazz to show tunes to alternative rock.

What I admire most of all, he has shared that talent with others by performing for the elderly, teaching younger children, and participating in all kinds of musical activities in his school.  I can’t imagine a more deserving recipient of the Brubeck scholarship.

Danny called the event “overwhelming.  It’s like having Fitzgerald or Salinger read your writing, and compliment you on it. ”

The media descends on Danny Pravder at the Stamford Arts Center. (Photo/Tim Coffey)

There was a lot for Brubeck to compliment.  Danny has attended Berklee College of Music’s summer program.  He composed a score for Staples’ radio production of “Dracula,” as well as solo piano compositions and music for his alternative rock band, Daywalker.  He recorded, mixed and released an album of original compositions in 2009, and is working on another.

Danny — who in a non-music endeavor took part in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth as an engineering student — understands the power of education.  And of music, to change lives.

At Staples he’s taken 2 music theory courses, and audio production.  He sings in the choir and Orphenians.  This summer he’ll play in Chris Coogan’s pit for the Staples Players Summer Theater production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“The music program is incredible,” he says.  “There are so many talented kids.  I always learn something new.”

He also praises Coogan, Margie Katz and another instructor, Dr. Joe Utterback, for teaching and inspiring him.

After college he may try for a career in film scoring or music education.  He is also interested in cognitive psychology.  And environmental science is not out of the question.

For now though, he’s still on a high after receiving the Dave Brubeck award.

The only downside:  He didn’t get to play with the 90-year-old legend.

“I’m writing him a thank-you note,” Danny says.  “My dad asked, ‘What will you do if he invites you over?’

“I just thought, that would be so cool!”

(Click here for Danny Pravder’s website, including videos.  A sample video is below.  His email is:  dannypravder@gmail.com)