Towaco Art And Music Festival 2003

Photo of Deacon John by Joseph A. Rosen Saturday 10/11/03. Wow! What a beautiful day. Towaco is the little town that could. Nestled between the small railroad station and the main street running through town is a long narrow park. Vendors were lined up on both sides selling their crafts and we were quite surprised at the quality of the items being sold and at the affordable prices being charged by the artists. Homesewn T-shirts and pocketbooks well worth their price attracted a crowd of festive music fans before the music even began. I was fortunate to have found out about this festival through the New York Jazz and Blues Society through which I’m a member. The society was involved to the extent that they were providing the musical entertainment for the day.

Ed Alstrom & Acid Cabaret were the first to play. Not wasting any time they set the musical stage not only by getting into the New Orleans groove early on but also because of the quality of music being played. Ably led by Ed Alstrom, piano and vocals, and assisted by Sue Williams, bass and Don Guinta, drums; they mixed jazz, blues and popular standards into a great opening set. Half way through Ed invited Doris Mason, vocalist to the stage. Doris had recently played Mama Cass Elliot in the off Broadway production of “Dream A Little Dream”, the story of the Mama’s & The Papa’s. She and Ed were cast members and to the delight of the crowd she reprised a song from the show. Ed Alstrom and the band finished out their set with some New Orleans funk to enthusiastic response from all. Ed Alstrom & Acid Cabaret can be heard on a fine cd available through their website

They were followed by The Jerry Vivino Quartet. Jerry Vivino is the tenor sax player in the house band featured on the Conan O’Brien Show. More importantly he is a multi-talented instrumentalist, singer and arranger who has devoted his life to his music. His quartet features Brian Charette, piano; James Wormworth, drums; and Mike Merritt, bass. During the set Jerry played tenor sax, clarinet, flute and piccolo. He mixed both Jazz with New Orleans numbers and continued to delight the crowd. The Jerry Vivino Quartet will have a new cd released next month and will be appearing at Shanghai Jazz on 11/22 in Madison N.J., and can be heard most every Thursday eve at Luxia in NYC. For more about Jerry Vivino, please visit:

Gil Parris was next to play. Gil played many songs from his current cd, “Jam This” amongst others from his previous three cd’s. Gil’s crack band and top shelf guitar playing had the guitar freaks eating out of their hands, at times reminiscent of the Larry Carlton/Steely Dan era. When Gil is not on the road with Blood, Sweat and Tears you can often see Gil and his band at Isabel’s in Tarrytown, and at Lucille’s (BB King’s) in NYC. For more info on Gil, check out,

The afternoon came to a close with New Orleans Legend Deacon John. Usually unheard outside of The Big Easy, Deacon John gave the crowd the full treatment. This was Deacon’s first outing outside of the state of Louisiana, and what a treat for those who “know” him. Accompanying him was Deacon John’s Jump Blues Band featuring Larry Baeder. Opening with the Ray Charles chestnut, “Jumpin’ In The Morning”, Deacon continued with such classics as “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out” and “Losing Battle”. His voice seemed to be part Little Richard and part Johnny Adams. He oftened jumped down off of the stage to dance with several lovely ladies in the audience with youthful enthusiasm. He awed the crowd with both his outstanding vocals, and slide and straight guitar playing. For added zest in attendance was the legendary recording engineer Cosmo Matissa his longtime producer and friend. John Broven noted New Orleans historian, author, and Ace Record/ Juke Blues contributor was also hanging out close to the stage. Tenor sax player Greg Piccolo, the former member of the original “Roomful of Blues” and solo artist, told me he had to be there to see this first ever performance of Deacon John in the NY/NJ area. Deacon John left the crowd begging for more. Deacon and the NY Blues and Jazz Society’s Bob Putignano has already been asked by the good folks of the mayor’s office of the Township of Montille/Towaco to return for the 2004 Towaco Jazz and Arts Festival. If you did not catch this festival and Deacon this year, mark your calendar and PDA for Columbus Day weekend 2004, you will not be disappointed! Looking for more info about Deacon John? Go to:

by Richard Ludmerer and Bob Putignano

Photo of Deacon John by Joseph A. Rosen