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Hamptons Life

Sag Harbor Set To Groove This Weekend

Publication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press
By Michelle Trauring   Sep 25, 2011 11:19 AM
Sep 27, 2011 10:29 AM

This weekend in Sag Harbor Village, musical performances will be waiting, literally, around every corner.

From rock and rollers to acoustic folk singers, musicians will take over local restaurants, stores and galleries on Saturday, October 1, for a day-long series of free concerts celebrating live music, according to organizer Kelly Connaughton, with an emphasis on what she says is arguably the most popular American style out there: jazz.

“We’re calling this the American Music Festival, right?” Ms. Connaughton said of the inaugural event during a telephone interview last week. “Well, the greatest American music is jazz. You can listen to music in your own home, and that’s great, but to be around other people and see how musicians interact with each other, especially in jazz where there’s lots of improvisation, it’s an energy that you actually feel.”

The festival officially begins the night before—Friday, September 30—with a main stage concert at Bay Street Theatre featuring Randy Brecker and the All-Star East End Band, and singer Monica Mancini in honor of her late father, composer Henry Mancini—who was a profound influence on Mr. Brecker’s career, he said during a telephone interview last week.

Jazz trumpeter Mr. Brecker first met Mr. Mancini during his days studying at Indiana University, he said, adding that it’s pure coincidence that his upcoming performance is a tribute to one of his earliest mentors.

“He’d use the band from the school, so I toured around the Midwest with him in my first two years of college,” Mr. Brecker recalled. “He was nice enough to feature me. He found out I could play and featured me on a lot of tunes. I remember signing my first autographs as a youngster—I couldn’t have been more than 20 years old—with him next to me.”

In 1966, Mr. Brecker settled in Manhattan as a freelance trumpet player. He immersed himself in the jazz and rock world, where he’s led a “long and varied career,” he said.

In May, he left his home of 45 years behind for East Hampton, where he now lives full-time with his 2-year-old daughter, Stella, and his wife, saxophonist Ada Rovatti, who will be performing with her husband on Friday night.

The band’s sound will travel in many directions, Mr. Brecker said, but he emphasized that it all emanates from jazz.

“It’s going to be kind of funky,” he said. “If I had one word to describe it, it would be jazz-funk, with a hyphen in between.”

Kicking off the day of village concerts on Saturday will be Escola De Samba Boom, a popular 30-piece percussion band, performing at 11 a.m. at the Sag Harbor Windmill.

“If anybody doesn’t know about this by then, they’ll figure out what’s going on,” Ms. Connaughton said. “Imagine driving over the bridge and seeing Samba Boom. It’s going to be quite a sight.”

Every half hour, there will be a different performer with a new sound taking the streets until 11 p.m. The only exception is a dark hour between 8 and 9 p.m., when concertgoers are encouraged to dine at local restaurants, Ms. Connaughton said.

Every act that can be outdoors will be outdoors, such as the Who Dat Loungers, who will play on the steps of Old Whalers’ Church. And the nine-piece New Orleans band plans to party, according to singer and bassist Joe Lauro.

“When they see us in the village, they’ll get Mardi Gras beads thrown at them and our horn section will weave through the crowd, getting people up to dance,” Mr. Lauro said during a telephone interview last week. “We’re not a cerebral experience. We’re a hip-shaking experience.”

The Sag Harbor-based musician was seduced at a young age by ragtime and vaudeville, which have played a vital role in his extroverted performances, he said.

“Some people really do like folk music and really personal music about human suffering and human love,” he said. “What I happen to like right now is getting people to move and dance and just have fun. I think they need that.”

Almost on cue, a woman who recognized Mr. Lauro from one of his recent performances interrupted the telephone interview and, unable to help herself, rattled off her praises. When she finished about 20 seconds later, Mr. Lauro modestly chuckled.

“It’s really pleasing to me to leave a show and people just want to thank you for making them have fun,” he said. “Life is tough and if you can escape through music, it can move you to another place for a while.”

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