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Tag Archives: Levitt Pavilion
As chair of TEAM Westport — our multicultural commission — Harold Bailey thinks a lot about how our town addresses race.
The topic is everywhere nationally, from politics and policing to religion and sports. Some discussions are superficial; others, quite nuanced.
Westport is not the most racially diverse place on the planet. But we are tied inextricably to the national conversation.
The recent “Remembered…” exhibition at the Westport Historical Society revealed — with stark photos, words and artificats — that kidnapped, enslaved Africans were critical to the founding and growth of this place.
Bailey says that Our Native Daughters do something similar on a national scale, for American music. Conceived by 4 gifted women, and spurred by a MacArthur “genius grant,” the group reclaims minstrel music of the 1800s from the tropes generated by whites wearing blackface. The quartet redefines that music, through its African-American roots.
In the process, Bailey says, “they vividly portray the ways in which the enduring storytelling and bonds from black women have been the bedrock of the African-American family, from antebellum America to the present.”
That’s powerful stuff. This Tuesday (July 23, 7:30 p.m.), Westport gets a chance to see and hear it in an intimate setting.
Our Native Daughters perform a special, ticketed concert at the Levitt Pavilion. TEAM Westport and the WHS co-sponsor the event.
We’re in great company. The next day, the group performs at The Smithsonian Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC. On Sunday they’ll be at the Newport Folk Festival.
The Levitt date actually launches Our Native Daughters’ tour. A crew from the Smithsonian Channel will be on hand to film this show.
NPR says Leyla McCalla’s delivery is “characterized by willowy sereneness and subtly jazzy phrasing,” Allison Russell’s by “feathery, softhearted trills and curlicues,” Amythyst Kiah’s by “flintily soulful resonance,” and Rhiannon Giddens’ by “lithe expressiveness and regal bearing.”
Banjos are key. But all 4 women play several instruments.
The Levitt is well known for the variety and quality of its programming. Rock, blues, military bands, kids’ music, comedians — in over 40 years, audiences have seen it all.
Seldom however has there been a concert with historical significance, one that can promote reflection and dialogue at such a fraught time in our nation’s history.
The Levitt is a relaxing, wonderful place of summer entertainment. On Tuesday, Our Native Daughters’ artful, eye- and ear-opening music takes us to a new place.
(Click here for tickets and more information.)
The Levitt Pavilion has been the site of countless great concerts.
But in its over-40-year history, it’s never hosted — on one night — artists who have played with the Beatles, Doors, Michael Jackson, Sting, Elton John, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, Pete Seeger, Smokey Robinson, Rascals, Aerosmith, Buddy Miles, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Jon Bon Jovi, Cheech & Chong, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, Herbie Hancock, Liza Minelli, Cher, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Mamas and the Papas, Paul Simon, Foreigner, Grand Funk Railroad, Eartha Kitt, Dave Brubeck, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack, Lenny Kravitz, Chuck Mangione, Harry Chapin, Arlo Guthrie, Bee Gees, Edgar Winter, Grace Slick, Jefferson Starship, John Sebastian, Joe Cocker, Ted Nugent, Mötley Crue, Boz Scaggs, Amy Grant, Sinéad O’Connor, Vince Gill, Carole King, Orleans, Johnny Winter, Emmylou Harris, Chieftains, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Larry Coryell, Rosanne Cash, Buckwheat Zydeco, Shawn Colvin, Julio Iglesias, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross, Usher, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jose Féliciano, Herb Alpert, Bad Company, Paul Winter, Taj Mahal, Badfinger, Rick Derringer, Blue Oyster Cult, James Cotton, Bruce Hornsby, Spyro Gyra, Muddy Waters, Eric Weissberg, Wynton Marsalis, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, Vicki Sue Robinson, Aztec Two-Step and James Montgomery.
Just to name a few.
The key is: Nearly all of the musicians who played with those greats also played with Charlie Karp.
And on Saturday, July 6 (7 p.m., Levitt Pavilion) they’ll honor Charlie’s memory, rocking a sure-to-be memorable concert for the ages.
Charlie left Staples High School at 16 to play guitar with Buddy Miles. He hung and played with Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, and wrote songs for Joan Jett and Joe Perry, before returning home to earn a fanatic following with bands like Dirty Angels, White Chocolate, Slo Leak and the Name Droppers.
He simultaneously earned Emmys as a producer of music for sports networks, documentaries and feature films, and became a guitar teaching mentor to generations of aspiring young stars.
Charlie died in March, at 65. He had been diagnosed a few days earlier with liver cancer.
Nearly everyone who ever played with Charlie — and a few other big names who were influenced by him — will appear together on the Levitt stage. Over 70 strong, they’ll reimagine the rock and R&B Charlie recorded, played and loved so much.
The mammoth, not-to-be-missed show includes Barry Tashian. Seven years older than Charlie, he fronted the Remains. They opened for the Beatles on their final 1966 tour, and were — in the words of legendary critic Jon Landau — “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”
The Remains were a major influence on Charlie. He and good friend Brian Keane — now a Grammy-winning composer and producer — played their songs in a Coleytown Junior High band. Later, Charlie and Barry became friends.
Barry has not played in Westport for several decades. He’s flying up from Nashville for this show.
The cast also includes Roger Ball of the Average White Band, Joe Bonadio of Sting, Michael Mugrage of Orleans, Motown recording artist Ada Dyer, Tim DeHuff and Roger Kaufman.
Of course, members of Charlie’s beloved bands from the ’60s through 2019 — guys like David Hull and Rick Castillo — will play too. The Fun Band, Slo Leak, White Chocolate, Dirty Angels and Name Droppers — it’s a trip down memory lane. And a reminder that great music never dies.
Mandrake Root — a seminal Westport band — will reunite after 50 years. Tony Prior is coming from North Carolina to join in the jam.
The Reunion Band will be there too. Comprised entirely of Charlie’s classmates from Staples’ class of 1971 — all of them noted professional musicians — they were there with Charlie 2 years ago, for one of the Levitt’s best nights ever.
Charlie’s high school sweetheart, Debbie Sims, will introduce “I Still Love You Anyway.” Charlie wrote that song for her, on Buddy Miles’ iconic “Them Changes” album. It — and “Runaway Child,” which Charlie wrote with Buddy — will be performed by the popular local band, the 5 O’Clocks.
Joey Melotti will be there. The musical director for Michael Jackson and Michael Bolton had a huge Westport following with his 1980s band Sunsight.
Chris Coogan’s Good News Gospel Choir will round out the amazing evening.
Guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar can’t be there — he’s on tour with James Taylor and Carole King’s rhythm section. He sent a note to be read from the stage.
So did Keith Richards. He too is sorry he can’t attend. His band, the Rolling Stones, is out on tour.
Every musician is donating their time. Some turned down lucrative gigs to come.
Proceeds will benefit two organizations. The Charlie Karp Memorial Fund promotes promising area musicians, by offering studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven. The other beneficiary is the Levitt Pavilion.
That’s fitting. Charlie Karp played to adoring Levitt audiences many times.
On July 6, he’ll pack the place one more time.
(The Charlie Karp Tribute Concert is a ticketed event. Click here to purchase, and for more information.)
In just 4 years, the Westport Schools’ Music Department Pops Concert has become one of the true highlights — and must-have tickets — of the spring.
The choruses, bands and orchestras are phenomenal. The Levitt Pavilion locale is stupendous. The evening is warm — in both the weather and community senses of the word.
It’s a sure sign that summer is almost here.
And that this is a town that loves and supports music, in all its forms.
In just 4 years, the Staples High School Pops Concert has become the town’s newest tradition.
And its hottest ticket.
This year’s event is set for Friday, June 7, at the Levitt Pavilion.
The Levitt Pavilion lawn opens at 5:30 p.m. There’s pre-concert music, mingling, and food from 3 trucks. (Bodega, JR’s and Jim’s Ice Cream all donate part of their proceeds to the Staples music department.)
Free tickets will be available online at www.StaplesMusic.org next Monday (May 20), at 9 a.m. They’re first-come, first-served. For the past 3 years they’ve been snapped up almost instantly.
Like its wintertime cousin — Candlelight — the Pops Concert is a Staples music department gift to the town.
Modeled on Boston Pops’ famed Esplanade series, it features popular classical and contemporary music from the high school’s symphonic orchestra, band, jazz band and Orphenians.
Jim Naughton — emcee for the past 3 concerts — is unavailable this year. Pinch-hitting is one of Westport’s foremost arts patrons, and no stranger to Staples High School: former principal John Dodig.
The Pops Concert is a chance to enjoy great music on the Levitt lawn, greet friends, picnic, and watch the stars of the future as the stars come out.
But first you need tickets. Mark your calendar: Monday, May 20, 9 a.m.!
Alert “06880” reader and avid golfer Dee Andrian writes:
The other day, I was among the throng of people at the University Club in New York to celebrate the life of Mimi Levitt. [The longtime Westporter — an arts and historic preservation benefactor, and namesake with her husband of the pavilion that has provided free summer entertainment here for over 40 years — — died in January. She was 97.]
What a celebration it was!
The main dining room was filled with love, laughter and tears as we listened to Mimi’s family and friends recall their memories of this remarkable woman. The sound of music in the room was a special part of the scene.
We heard tributes to Mimi’s love of family, art, love music and people as well.
But one love was not mentioned: her love for the game of golf.
I met Mimi when I joined the Longshore Women’s Golf Association in 1980. When my husband dear husband Jim retired, he suggested I learn to play golf, because he didn’t want to play only with the guys.
At the age of 50, I was introduced to golf. I loved it.
The LWGA holds tournaments every Tuesday, April through October. One fateful Tuesday I was in a foursome with Mimi Levitt — a former LWGA club champion. It was a team effort, and I had fun.
When she called and asked me to join her foursome, I was surprised. I was just learning to play.
But I recall vividly that after I teed off on the 3rd hole, Mimi said in her Viennese accent, “Dee darling, we have decided: You have potential. As long as you don’t slow us up, you can play with anybody.”
And play we did. Mimi was my first of several special mentors. She taught me the art of golf, the rules, the etiquette.
She was a keen competitor as well, so our rounds were fun but seriously played. My beginner’s handicap was 44. But it quickly dropped way down.
The LWGA was founded in 1960, and Mimi was one of the pioneers. Her love of the game was contagious, and she passed it on to others. Our days on the golf course will remain with me always.
I especially remember after a round of 18 holes on a hot summer day, walking into the Inn for lunch. I kept my visor on over my sweaty hair, and my golf togs were wrinkled.
Then Mimi walked in, looking like she just arrived from the beauty salon.
She was so cool, so elegant — just like her golf swing.
Elegant is the way I will remember Mimi “fore-ever.”
Our LWGA tournaments began this month. As I teed off for my first drive, I thought of her.
Back in the day, Jimmy Page played at Staples High School. He had just replaced Eric Clapton, when the Yardbirds made their first-ever American appearance in Westport.
Clapton made it to the Staples stage a few months later, playing with Cream. It was one more in the now-legendary late-1960s series of concerts here in town.
Both musicians — now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — are still touring. And they’ll be the latest in the list of special artists (including Willie Nelson, Roberta Flack, John Fogerty and many more) who have played at the Levitt Pavilion’s annual fundraiser. This year’s concert is set for Sunday, June 30.
Dick Sandhaus and Paul Gambaccini were Staples students who managed to book fantastic acts (also including the Doors and Rascals) for the Staples stage.
Both have gone on to noted careers. Sandhaus produced much larger concerts, and now works in the fields of technology and marketing. Gambaccini became one of England’s most famous music critics and personalities.
Several months ago, they reminisced about their teenage concert-promoting days. Both regretted never seeing Clapton and Page play together at Staples. With their connections, they realized, they could make it happen — over 50 years later.
Now they have.
Tickets are not yet on sale. To be placed on an email list for notification when they do, click here.