Tag Archives: Mark Naftalin

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.)

Alex Siegenfeld: A Name You Should Know

On Monday evening, I posted a brief story about actress Linda Fiorentino’s Westport house being on the market. Longtime “06880” reader and frequent commenter Nancy W. Hunter weighed in from her home in British Columbia: “06880’s name-dropping has become so, so tiresome.”

I haven’t heard her reaction to a couple of stories I’ve done since, on Mark Naftalin‘s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Kyle Martino joining “Top Chef” star Kristen Kish on a New York Times “36 Hours” TV venture.

Maybe Nancy has sworn off my gossip site forever. If so, too bad.

Nancy: This one’s for you.

Alex Siegenfeld

Alex Siegenfeld

You’ve probably never heard the name Alex Siegenfeld before. He’s not a TMZ/Page Six boldface name, despite winning (at 17 years old) a gold medal in the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Now Alex has done something even more impressive. The Westport resident and Hopkins School graduate — today a student at MIT, heading toward a Ph.D. in physics (experimental condensed matter) — has won a $250,000 grant from the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation.

It’s good for up to 5 years of graduate study (with the encouragement to pursue science “for the public good”).

Alex was 1 of 12 honorees. The original pool of over 800 applicants was whittled down to 150, for a 1st round of interviews with national leaders in science and technology. Each candidate was tested on knowledge of broad scientific principles.

50 finalists were then selected, for a 2nd in-depth interview.

Hertz_logo_115h_02Hertz Fellows are free to innovate in their doctoral studies. They are not bound by traditional research funding restrictions. They have complete financial independence, under the guidance of top professors and mentors.

Hertz Fellows have gone on to win Nobel Prizes, found over 200 companies, register more than 3,000 patents, head major universities, and hold senior positions in the U.S. military.

Take that, Linda Fiorentino, Mark Naftalin and Kyle Martino!

(Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Now Playing: Westport’s Latest Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee

As reported last December, Mark Naftalin was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The longtime Westporter played keyboard for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The legendary seminal blues-rock group joined Ringo Starr, Green Day, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers as members of the “Class of 2015.”

The induction ceremony took place Saturday night, in Cleveland.

If you weren’t there — and no jokes about Cleveland, please, they’re very sensitive folks — here is the band’s “Born in Chicago” jam:

The clip below is a lot longer. It’s the induction speech itself, beginning with words from Mark:

Want even more? HBO airs a special on the entire evening. But you’ll have to wait — it’s on May 30.

 

First Night Forges Forward

Barbara Pearson-Rac’s life is intertwined with First Night.

She lived in Boston when that city inaugurated the original First Night — an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration at a variety of venues, with performances, entertainment and fun for all ages.

She moved to Westport 21 years ago — the same year our town started its own First Night celebration.

She joined the board 2 years later. Now she’s president.

First Night 2015 logoAnd though other First Nights have come and gone, Westport’s remains vibrant and strong. It’s one of only 3 left in Connecticut — and, judging from their websites, ours blows Danbury’s and Hartford’s out of the water.

Barbara is a strong believer in community service. She chairs Westport’s Make a Difference Day and is involved in breast cancer awareness, among other activities.

First Night — a happy, upbeat event, on a day when everyone looks forward and feels fresh — holds a special place in her heart.

“It’s live entertainment,” she says. “It’s a way of introducing children to talent, and for adults to have plenty of fun too.”

But keeping First Night alive is hard. There’s a perception that it’s only for kids (it’s not). More families now travel over the holidays. Non-residents don’t think they’re invited (they are). And the threat of bad weather always hovers overhead.

Fireworks in winter -- a tradition that moves this year to Jesup Green.

Fireworks in winter — a tradition that moves this year to Jesup Green.

First Night is an all-volunteer effort. Attendance — by button-buying people — is crucial. Costs include performers, sound engineers, insurance, police and fire support, and pyrotechnics. (A barge is being rented this year, because the new Levitt Pavilion is no longer a viable spot for shooting fireworks.)

Westport’s First Night lives on thanks to the ongoing support of sponsors and the town of Westport, along with a very fiscally responsible board. While many First Nights have folded, Westport’s is now 21 years years old. “We’re legal!” Pearson-Roc jokes.

But it’s still alcohol-free.

(New events this year include a fashion show with a “Project Runway” contestant; 2 children’s performers; telescopes on Jesup Green, with Westport Astronomical Society members offering guidance, and popular college comic hypnotist Jim Spinnato. Regular keyboardist Mark Naftalin — hot off his election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — is back at the Westport Historical Society. For a full schedule, and information on buying buttons, click on www.firstnightww.com.)

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist -- and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member -- Mark Naftalin is a First Night regular.

Former Paul Butterfield Blues Band organist — and new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member — Mark Naftalin is a First Night regular.

 

Mark Naftalin Named To Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Westporter Mark Naftalin is going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And not just to see the exhibits.

The keyboardist will be inducted in April, along with fellow members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The seminal blues-rock band joins Ringo Starr, Green Day, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers in the “Class of 2015.”

Mark Naftalin (3rd from left) with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Mark Naftalin (3rd from left) with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

According to the Hall of Fame website, Naftalin — along with bandmates including Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop —

converted the country-blues purists and turned on the Fillmore generation to the pleasures of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Elmore James. With the release of their blues-drenched debut album in the fall of 1965, and its adventurous “East-West” followup in the summer of 1966, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band kicked open a door that brought a defining new edge to rock and roll.

 

And they played at Monterey:

 

After leaving the band in 1968, Naftalin — the son of former Minneapolis mayor Arthur Naftalin — produced records, concerts, festivals and radio shows.

He started his own label, recording with Duane Allman, Canned Heat, Percy Mayfield, John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Big Joe Turner and James Cotton.

He’s been a sideman on over 100 albums — including the great jangly piano riff on Brewer & Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line.”

 

Last night, Naftalin reflected on what he calls “a great honor.” He is proud of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s interracial makeup; grateful to have worked with such creative, energetic musicians, and gratified that from the 1960s through today, people tell him the group’s music meant something to them.

“We’ve gotten fervent testimonials that we helped get someone through high school, college or Vietnam,” Naftalin said.

“And a number of musicians have said they were drawn to exploring blues music because of our influence. It’s a real privilege to be a little part of that.”

Mark Naftalin today.

Mark Naftalin today.

He and his wife Ellen — a 1967 Staples High School grad — started coming to Westport in 1991, the year they got married in the house she grew up in. They moved here permanently in 2002.

Naftalin will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. You can go to Cleveland for the ceremony.

Or you can head to the Westport Historical Society on December 31. From 6-8 p.m. he’s at the electric piano, part of his 7th annual First Night gig.

You can catch “Mark Naftalin and Friends” at the Pequot Library too, the weekend of January 17-18. He’ll play the Steinway concert grand.

It’s a long way from Monterey to Westport. But that detour to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes it all worthwhile.

 

First Night?

Have you heard anything about First Night?

Neither have I.

Just 2 days before the 17th annual event, there’s been almost no publicity about the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.

They never asked me for some press — or any other media outlet, it seems.

But I appreciate all that these hard-working volunteers do to make New Year’s special (and, swimming against the tide, alcohol-free).  So here goes:

This year’s festivities begin at 4 p.m.  They end at 9:30, with fireworks on Jesup Green.  (Toquet Hall is open until midnight.  Teenagers, you know.)

There are over 30 events for “children of all ages”:  music, puppets, square dancing, face painting, caricaturists, arts and crafts, psychics and more.  The featured attraction is blues pianist Mark Naftalin, who has played with Van Morrison, Etta James, Buddy Guy and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Food, too.

All venues are downtown — the library, Y, Town Hall, TD Bank, Seabury Center and the Westport Historical Society — making it a compact, walkable event.

Admission is by First Night button ($15 each, kids under 2 free).  They’re available at the library, Y, Senior Center, Trader Joe’s, Oscar’s, TD Bank Main Street, Weston Hardware, and Fitness Edge Norwalk.  Or you can buy them online (click here).

It’s a shame First Night hasn’t sought more publicity.  It’s a fun, community-type event.

Oh, yeah.  The weather forecast for Friday night is mostly clear, with temperatures in the upper 20s.

Not a snowflake in sight.

(For more information on First Night, click here.)