The Allman Brothers Band’s 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Special at the Beacon

As I promised I would share it with my loyal readers, below is the review of the Allman Brothers Band’s March 17th show at the Beacon, I wrote for my arts journalism class:

Every March thousands of basketball fans unite to form March Madness brackets, however, they’re not the only excited ones this time of year. The Allman Brothers Band is famous for its annual run at the Beacon Theater in New York City. At 8:00 PM on March 17, 2012, Saint Patrick’s Day, The Allman Brothers Band and its select guests wowed the crowd at the 6th of their 10 performances in the 2012 rendition.
The Allman Brothers Band melds old and new faces. The founding members Gregg Allman, organist and guitarist, Butch Trucks, drummer, and Jai Jaime Johnson, drummer, keep the shows on the road. However, with some of the band’s old talented members gone, most notably Duane Allman, Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, it relies on its newer members Warren Haynes, guitarist and vocalist, Derek Trucks guitar, March Quiñones, drummer and Oteil Burbridge, bassist. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t call any of these fellows “a newbie” as they all joined the band in the 1990s. They all contributed to the band’s 2012 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Many people no longer attend Allman Brothers Band shows, thinking the band is made up of old fogies who don’t produce new music and rest on their laurels. This year’s Grammys proved otherwise. Out of the five nominees for Best Blues Album, three of them were members of the band! Derek Trucks was nominated for the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Revelator, Allman was nominated for his own Low Country Blues, and Haynes was nominated for Man in Motion. In the bitter end, Trucks and his wife/vocalist Susan Tedeschi took the glory.
The best part of any Allman Brothers Band concert is the fact you never quite know what you’re going to get. Sir Paul McCartney pleases crowds with humor, voice, guitar, bass and piano playing. However, his line-ups rarely change. The first time I saw him at Citi Field, I was fascinated by his set list and transitions. I laughed when he introduced his cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” by arrogantly sharing how he was proud that Hendrix covered “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” two days after it was released. When he repeated the same story two years later at the first show ever at the new Yankee Stadium, I appreciated it far less. Inversely, with a wide variety of set lists and guests, you never know what type of rabbit the Allman Brothers Band will pull out of its hat.
Despite their surprises, the Allman Brothers Band has a repertoire they frequently select from. The band opened with the catchy tune “Midnight Rider. “You could hear the audience mimicking Allman and Haynes: “I’ve got one more silver dollar; but I’m not gonna let him catch me, no, Not gonna let ‘em catch the Midnight Rider.” The fact that the entire audience sung in unison was remarkable. Allman Brothers fans are more than a random group of followers; they’re a family. Coming from Boston, I thought I travelled far to see the sold out show… until I met a large group of fans from Georgia, the Allman Brothers Band birthplace.
The first rabbitthe Allman Brothers Band pulled out of its hat was the Berklee professor/keyboardist Bruce Katz. He’s no stranger to the band as he has been a frequent guest; but March 17th marked Katz’s first appearance during the 2012 run. When he first came on and shed light into Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “The Sky is Crying,” a man behind me sighed, “I feel like I’m at an Allman Bros concert at a jazz club.”
To conclude the second set, Katz helped out in the classic instrumental hit, “Jessica.” The listener’s full attention was drawn to Haynes and Truck’s exchange of solos. There was a sharp contrast. Trucks tends to be mellower with his slide guitar action. As Burbridge turned his bass to look on, Katz enthusiastically swung his long hair and played a fast-paced funky solo. While their recital of “Jessica” was entertaining, it aroused too many memories of Dickey Betts, who wrote the song. Allman should really get over his differences with Betts and re-offer him a spot in the band.
During this show, the Allman Brothers Band pushed its eye-openers a little over the tipping point. One commentator on wrote, “The Allman Bros really need to write some music. I am sure this was a hell of a show, but they turned into a cover band.” He is too extreme as the covers of songs such as “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” and “Trouble No More” that the band played are part of what made it famous. I did sympathize with his point when Grace Potter, vocalist, Randal Ramblatt, keyboardist and James van de Borget, drummer, joined the newer members in a rendition of Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” There was nothing wrong with covering one of Young’s songs; however, something major was missing: the presence of any of the band’s founding members. This song had minimal, at best, resemblance to the sound of the original 1969 Allman Brothers Band.
Despite Betts’ absence, Haynes, Trucks and Burbridge keep the energy of the Allman Brothers Band alive. On the last night of the 2012 run, March 25, disaster struck as the main man Allman could not appear for health reasons. As the saying goes though, “The show must go on!” Allman’s band mates did not disappoint. Haynes took his vocal parts and Katz came to the rescue to play organ all night.
While the band’s new talent is great, it’s important to remember the older members’ contributions. It was nice to see a change from the typical Allman Brothers Band stage layout. In the last several years, Quiñones was posted in the back of the stage’s center with his gigantic gong behind him. This year, he traded places with the time manager, Butch Trucks. No offense to Quiñones, but it seems natural for the founding member to take central stage. As the younger members show more and more of their own skills, it’ll be interesting to see if the Allman Brothers Band can continue its legacy after Allman and the rest of the old fogies retire. 

A Review of the Washington Square Park Chess Site Renovations by Adia Onyango

There’s good news for NYC Chess players! After being closed for several years of renovations, the  world-famous chess area of Washington Square Park is back open. Below, see a mixed review Adia Onyango wrote about the renovations and a few photos she took:

Review of Renovations at the Historic Washington Square Park Chess Site

April 22, 2012

     This evening I decided to stroll over to the new chess area at Washington Square Park (located at the corner of West 4th and McDougal).  Over the last few years the city has been giving the park a new look.  To accommodate the high level of traffic at this park they undertook this project in sections and last summer (or two summers ago) they started on the south west corner of the park, where the chess area is located.  The first thing to be removed from the chess area was the tables.  If you are someone who is somewhat sentimental over artifacts you will be happy to know that a few of the tables were taken by the Chess Shop on Thompson Street and preserved.  Thus if you feel for some reason that you just cannot win on the shiny new tables at Washington Square Park you can always go over to the Chess Shop and sit down for a comfortable game on the old style stone tables and try your luck.  

     The first two things you notice when you enter the park are the beautiful shiny new tables and visually appealing flowers in the center.  In general it does not look like they changed too much in the chess area however what they changed really stands out.  I do not know what material the tables are made from but my non-expert opinion is that it has the look of granite.  However, given the cost of granite this is highly unlikely.  The old green benches were replaced by nice new brown benches that could sit two people on each side of the table.  I do not remember how many tables were present in the park before but I was told by one of the regulars that the number of tables has not changed, 18. 
The vibe in the park has not changed nor have the players.  People were still there playing for money, with the range of people playing for donations (you pay win or lose) vs. a wager for the winner.  Additionally there were actually a number of empty tables available where any player who brought their own set could play.  There was even a table being used by someone who was working on his laptop. 
     One thing I will add is that you can change the park on the outside (visual) but more needs to be done to change the park on the inside.  Despite the fact that it is known that there is a big eye in the sky watching over the park and right above the chess area, I still witnessed a small drug deal go down right in front of me.  I guess the sellers knew their customer because the gentleman immediately asked the drifter if she wanted weed as soon as she got close.  Within a matter of seconds, money and product exchanged hands so fast that even though I was sitting there looking right at them I did not actually see the product or money, just some quick handshakes. 
     Overall I would give the new park makeover only 6 out of 10 due to the fact that the upgrade of the tables and the new flower area were the only real changes made.  The park does not get a perfect score because it is obvious that drugs still plague this area of the park and in general it is still a difficult place to get a game if you are not interested in playing for a wager.  Lastly, and most importantly, I think for the park makeover to have gotten a higher score they would have had to put something more unique in the area.  There are so many things that they could have done to highlight, celebrate, or recognize chess and the fact that this park is a tourist attraction.  In my opinion it did not seem to me that too much time was spent on thinking about what new things could be done.  For example, given the historic nature of the park and the recent passing of the number one US chess player Bobby Fischer, it might have been nice to see a tribute to him in the park.  Another creative idea would have been to have something inscribed with a little history on this area of the park and maybe naming some of the great players who have played here.  Yet another idea would have been to bring technology to the chess area.  For example we could have a computer in one of the tables where people can play chess, watch videos, solve puzzles, etc….  You can even make it interactive and put one in all of the parks with security and allow people to play each other from different parks and tourist areas (e.g., Time Square, Bryant Park, Columbus Park, and Washington Square Park).  We are in the age of technology so I am sure there is some way that the area could have reflected this.  I have already seen technological updates in other parks (e.g., outdoor TVs at Columbus Park).  Basically nothing really creative was done, so in this regard the city missed a premium opportunity to present us with something cutting edge and new for one of America’s biggest known chess areas.

Ratings: 1 (worst) – 10 (best)
Visual Appeal of Tables: 10
Creativity: 1
Safety: 5 (drugs still present, police are present)
Appropriateness for Children without Adults: 0
Level of Chess Competition: 9 (weak and strong players)
Players:  6 (Mainly gamblers but if you have your own pieces and there is an empty table you might find a game.)

New Tables at the Renovated Washington Square Park
The Flower Area
A meeting of the Minds
View from the entrance
Adia’s first game on the new tables….See her hand!

I’d like to publicly thank Adia for writing the review! I’ll definitely check out the park when I am in New York for Spring Break and will share my own input. 

Interesting Blog Post: Bruce Springsteen Vs. The Allman Brothers

I am the process of writing a review of the Allman Brothers concert I saw this past weekend for my Arts Journalism class and will put it up when its done.

For now, I shall lead all my readers to an awesome blog post I came across, in which Niccola Summers, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, shares her parents’ musical influences regarding Bruce Springsteen and the Allman Brothers:

As my parent’s have similar interests and I am also a fan of both artists, I am in very similar shoes to Niccola!

Also’s here’s a sample from Wednesday night’s show when the Allman Brothers had the help of ex-Yankee  player Bernie Williams. Despite the Youtube user calling the song “One Way Out”, “No Way Out”, it is a relatively high quality recording: 

Kurt Rosenwinkel Wows the Crowd at the Regatta Bar

Last night, March 14, I celebrated the end of those obnoxious take-home midterms with a nice upbeat yet relaxing evening with Kurt Rosenwinkel at the Charles Hotel’s Regatta Bar in Harvard Square. Admittedly, due to my jazz naiveness, I have not heard of Rosenwinkel before my friend mentioned he was going to the concert on his Facebook page and wanted people to go.  
Than again, jazz knowledge has never been my forte. A few years ago a chess friend FM Bartell was looking at the music on my Ipod. When I asked him what he thought of my collection, he exclaimed something on the lines of, “It’s great Evan, but there’s not nearly enough jazz on here!” Anyways, since then I have been on the search for more jazz. As some of my loyal readers shall know, I am a big fan of the Fat Cat in Manhattan, a $3 cover charged dive bar with live jazz every night. With that said, I am still in the learning curve to speak of great jazz musicians: Please feel free to give some recommendations! 
Anyways, on to Rosenwinkel!: His 11/2 hr set (his second of the night) was absolutely incredible. His set had a common thread, in which his songs mostly started soft and got substantially louder and faster. Almost all of the audience members were shaking their heads going along with the music. From time to time I would close my eyes and truly see wonders.  To be truthful though, its hard for me to truly portray his music myself: you have to go see him! 
For now though, here’s a sample of him playing John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” (Of course I was biased and had to pick one his videos from his time in Tel Aviv. He spent a few months teaching at the Rimon school of music.) 

The Allman Brothers Band is Back to Business at the Beacon!!!

It’s that time of year again when the Allman Brothers kick it in New York for their annual Beacon run! I’m thinking of going to New York next weekend to catch 1-2 of the shows. Look for a review on a loyal blog near you soon! Here’s their “My Favorite Things—> Blue Sky opener from opening night, March 9th: 

For some more details of the opener, including its setlist, see