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Sag Harbor American Music Festival: A Weekend Of Great Music

Originally Posted: October 04, 2011

Randy Brecker (left, trumpet) and his All Star East End Band rock the house at Bay Street Theatre for the inaugural Sag Harbor American Music Festival. (Eileen Casey)

Sag Harbor - The streets rang with music this past weekend, as the Sag Harbor American Music Festival (SHAMF), coordinated by Kelly Connaughton, Kerry Farrell, Laura Grenning and John Landes, launched on Friday, September 30, with a fundraiser concert at Bay Street Theatre, featuring Randy Brecker's All Star East End Band, as well as headliner Monica Mancini, who offered a musical tribute to her father, the legendary composer, Henry Mancini.

The evening began with cocktails in the lobby of BST featuring the cool, jazz sounds from The Jam Session, including musicians Claes Brondal (leader, drums), Bryan Campbell (guitar) and Jeff Koch (bass). Mancini, along with drummer (and husband) Gregg Field, pianist Mamiko Kitaura, and well known local bassist Peter Martin Weiss, sang a program of familiar favorites honoring her father from well known films. Her first trip to the East End to perform was at the invitation of Connaughton, as the two met at the Henry Mancini Institute in Los Angeles, and also where pianist Kitaura studied. Mancini opened her act with a very clever montage of "Pink Panther" film clips, ending with the musicians listed in the credits.

Monica Mancini made her first appearance on the East End, performing songs by her father, composer, Henry Mancini. (Eileen Casey)

Mancini's voice is soft, intimate, and expressive, which encourages the audience to listen to the lyrics - many written by Johnny Mercer. The double Grammy nominee is the daughter of studio singer Ginny O'Conner, and has had an illustrious career as a studio singer, as well as appearances with notable symphonies and orchestras, including the Boston Pops, Dallas Symphony, and the London Metropolitan Orchestra, among others. She is presently on a 60 city tour, and her appearance on the East End brought out many of her fans for a most enjoyable evening of music.

Prior to Mancini's performance, East Hampton resident and world-renowned jazz trumpeter Randy Brecker, who worked with Henry Mancini many years ago, led an all-star East End band of talented musicians, including Jim Campagnola (tenor and baritone saxophone), Morris Goldberg (alto saxophone), Ada Rovatti (tenor and soprano saxophones), Jeff Golub (guitar), with Weiss on bass, as well as Bette Susman on keyboards and vocals, and drummer Anton Fig.

Randy Brecker keeps it cool, smooth and melodic at opening party on Friday. (Eileen Casey)

This gang came to play - and play they did - a fantastic performance of jazz, blues and funk with enough showmanship and seasoning that not one head in the audience remained stationary. Brecker is a generous musician and gave each their moment, and no one was disappointed, from Susman's vocals ripping through a Ruth Brown classic, to Rovatti's arrangement of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to the nifty, foot stomping composition by Goldberg and Fig (both from South Africa) the audience could have listened all night to the wee, small hours of the morning. If you have never heard this group of musicians - rectify it immediately - a magical and great treat from some great musicians.

The Festival continued on Saturday, with free outdoor performances by a legion of well known local East End musicians, including Escola De Samba BOOM (30-piece percussion), sponsored by Salon Xavier; Eclectic musicians featuring Jim Turner; Who Dot Loungers (New Orleans party band), sponsored by Historic Films & Geekhampton; Young Songwriters in-the-round: Leah Laurenti, Sara Hartman, and Alyssa Scartozzi, sponsored by Brown Harris Stevens; Richie Siegler Quartet, sponsored by LifeStyle; Dick Johansson & The Highlanders (Folk/Americana/pop), sponsored by Sag Harbor Yacht Yard; Keve Wilson Cabaret Oboe, sponsored by The American Hotel; Caroline Doctorow & The Steamrollers (Folk/singer-songwriter/Americana), sponsored by The Sag Harbor Express; Vanessa Trouble & Co. (Great American Songbook), sponsored by Sylvester & Co.; Mamalee Rose & Friends (Blues/R&B), sponsored by Mala and Jeff Sander; Alfredo Merat (Latin Jazz Fusion), sponsored by Tutto Il Giorno; Robert Bruey and Julie Kathryn (Acoustic guitar/singer-songwriters), sponsored by Phao; Bryan Downey and Mariann Megna (Acoustic guitar/singer-songwriters), sponsored by Grenning Gallery; The Montauk Project (rock), sponsored by Devlin McNiff and La Superica; Steve Watson's Matilda featuring Darcey (Eclectic Acoustic Jazz), sponsored by Romany Kramoris Gallery; The Complete Unknowns (Bob Dylan Tribute), sponsored by The GMS Group & Pomme Cafe; with an official After Party held at Dodds & Eder with Dan Bailey & Living Rhythm (Reggae/African/Ska/Latin), sponsored by Bates + Masi Architects and Dodds & Eder.

Co-Artistic Director Kerry Farrell and President and Co-Artistic Director Kelly Connaughton greet guests on Friday. (Eileen Casey)

Kudos and bravo to Connaughton and the Board of SHAMF whose mission is to "celebrate American music and the unique community of Sag Harbor by showcasing live performances, promoting Sag Harbor as a cultural center." This was certainly achieved and everyone who participated and supported this endeavor deserves a standing ovation.

Brecker mentioned that he and his fellow musicians have waited a long time to play together on the same stage on the East End - let's hope for all us that the next time is very, very soon.

For more information, click here.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.


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