Tag Archives: Jeff Franzel

COVID Roundup: Restaurant News; Graduation Gowns; Live Music; More

Looking for a list of open restaurants and delis — those with outdoor dining, along with takeout and delivery?

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce has you covered.

They maintain an up-to-date list. Click here for their website. As of this morning, the list included Arezzo, Bartaco, The Boathouse, Calise’s Market, Granola Bar, GG & Joe (the new acai bowl spot in Parker Harding Plaza, near TD Bank), Joe’s Pizza, Little Barn, The Naan, Pearl at Longshore, Rive Bistro, Rizzuto’s, Romanacci Xpress, Spotted Horse, Viva Zapata and The Whelk.

The Chamber site also includes FAQs, applications, and rules and regulations for restaurant owners.

There’s also this: a great new logo. It was created by (of course!) Westport’s go-to graphic designer, Miggs Burroughs.


On the long list of things people really, really want, then never look at again after wearing them once, the only thing less than a wedding dress is a graduation gown.

Except now. That goofy, floor-length outfit could save a life.

As healthcare workers lack personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19, they grab anything they can think of. Even trash bags.

Graduation gowns are a lot more effective than that. They cover legs and arms, and offer easy zipper access.

The Gowns4Good program provides graduation gowns to the men and women who desperately need them. Whether yours from years ago is gathering dust somewhere, or yours is spanking new for that less-than-raucous, socially distant 2020 ceremony: It can help.

Just click here. Fill out a short form. Select a medical facility from the dropdown list (pro tip: the closest to Westport is Stamford Hospital). Submit.
You’ll get an email back, with instructions on how to ship your gown.

Whether you graduated first in your class or last, you know: This is a very smart idea! (Hat tip: Becky Acselrod)

Despite the cigar smoke, these gowns will be useful.

Talk about “burying the lede”!

At the bottom of an email sent yesterday announcing new outdoor hours for The Whelk (Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 8 p.m.), and the opening of a new Kawa Ni patio in “the next few days,” there was this momentous news from Bill Taibe’s group:

“With the seismic change that is happening in the world, we look at this as an opportunity to pivot and grow. Over the next few weeks Jesup Hall will evolve into Don Memo.

“While it is bittersweet to say goodbye to Jesup Hall, it is so exciting to create this new concept and be able to bring what we love about this cuisine and culture to downtown Westport. See you soon!”

“06880” will keep you posted. One thing is for sure: Don Memo won’t have to worry about creating outdoor seating. The patio in front of the old stone building next to Restoration Hardware — Westport’s original Town Hall — is already perfect.

Jesup Hall, soon to be Don Memo, aka the old Town Hall.

Westport’s Parks & Rec Department is posting clever new signs at their facilities around town.

Good thing they didn’t try to spell out “Recreation.”

If you wander by Jeff Franzel’s Saugatuck Island house any Thursday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., you may hear him playing piano.

But you don’t have to live here to hear Jeff. His listeners span the globe, via Facebook Live. They suggest themes; he improvises. Original songs, plus those by Elton John, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Ed Sheeran, Billie Eilish — he plays them all.

And very well. The Westport native has quite a resume. He’s played piano for the Hues Corporation (“Rock the Boat”), Les Brown, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Mel Torme and Bob Hope. He wrote hits like “Don’t Rush Me” for Taylor Dayne, and others for the Temptations, NSYNC, Shawn Colvin, Josh Groban, Placido Domingo and Clay Aiken. He mentors songwriters around the world, and brings some to his Songwriting Academy, at his home.

Intrigued? You’re in luck: Today is Thursday. Click here at 5 p.m., for Jeff’s 10th concert.

Jeff Franzel

Looking for a good read — and podcast? Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer interviews Westporter Emily Liebert. Her 6th novel, “Perfectly Famous,” will be published June 2.

And finally … it will be a while before we get 400,000 people together in one place.

Or even 40.

But the Youngbloods’ message is as relevant today as it was more than half a century (!) ago.

Songwriting Boot Camp Hits Saugatuck Island

Westport’s rock history includes some notable homes.

REO Speedwagon lived at 157 Riverside Avenue — and wrote a song about that now-demolished house.

Producer/musician Dan Hartman had a studio in an old sea captain’s home on Edgehill Road. He recorded Johnny and Edgar Winter there, and many others.

Now add another: Jeff Franzel’s house on Saugatuck Island.

It may soon be even more famous than the others. A couple of weekends ago, the beach house was filled with that music — plus pop, folk, country, reggae, even gospel.

None of the songs had ever been heard before. Hey — they’d only been written an hour or 2 earlier.

But some — or all — of them may one day top the charts.

Franzel’s Saugatuck Shores home (once owned by former 1st selectman Marty Hauhuth) was the site of America’s 1st-ever Songwriting Academy

Collaborating on a song at the recent “boot camp.” (Photo/Ann Becker Moore)

The brainchild of Martin Sutton — a British songwriter/producer who has worked with Backstreet Boys, LeAnn Rimes, Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John,  Lulu, Mike & The Mechanics and Idol winners worldwide — it’s a “boot camp” for musicians and lyricists looking to take their work to the next level.

In addition to songwriting, they learn about producing, publishing, marketing and contracts. It’s a collaborative but intense process — hence the nickname “songwriting boot camp.”

Sutton opened his academy in England a few years ago. Franzel — a Westport native who played piano for the Hues Corporation (“Rock the Boat”), Les Brown, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Mel Torme and Bob Hope, then wrote hits like “Don’t Rush Me” for Taylor Dayne, and others for the Temptations, NSYNC, Shawn Colvin, Josh Groban, Placido Domingo and Clay Aiken — partnered with Sutton to bring the academy to the US.

Jeff Franzel, overseeing the Songwriting Academy in his Saugatuck Shores home.

“We give them everything I wish I’d had when I started out as a busker,” Sutton says.

Which is how 15 already accomplished men and women, ages 20 through 68, came from across the country to Westport earlier this month. They spent Friday through Sunday learning about structure, form, hooks and arcs.

In the process, the group — some professional musicians, one an accountant, another a dentist; black, white and Hispanic — formed a tight, cohesive community.

Many ages and genres came together at the “songewriiters’ boot camp.” (Photo/Ann Becker Moore)

From the moment they arrived, Franzel and Sutton coached them on how to create great songs. They teased out personal stories — the better to inspire their work. They critiqued them, pushed them, prodded them.

On Friday night, they shared music they’d already composed. On Saturday — just 24 hours later — they performed songs they’d written that day.

It was remarkable. The music was catchy. The lyrics were clever (one song was titled “Twice Upon a Time” — you won’t forget that). The performers were on fire.

Some had already achieved musical success. Michael Read has played with the Turtles, Mitch Ryder and Three Dog Night. Still, he says, “I want to get better. I start songs, but I don’t always finish them.”

Michael Reed (left), with fellow Songwriting Academy students.

Ykesha Milbourne belted out a spectacular gospel tune, “Can You See the Light in Me?” Sutton told her, ” I can see 50 women in robes holding candles swaying behind you.”

Before the song was finished, the other 14 academy students joined in the chorus. They’d never heard it before — but clearly, it was a song that could endure.

Ykesha Milbourne wowed the entire talented class. (Photo/Ann Moore Becker)

“We give you tools, not rules,” Sutton told the group. “This is like giving a sculptor the best hammer, chisel and marble. Then it’s up to him to put his imagination to work.”

The Songwriting Academy is expanding. There will be other locations in the US, and Europe.

But in the months and years ahead, when you hear a hit song, it might have been born by the beach on Saugatuck Island.

Which may or may not be a catchy enough line for a hook of its own.