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Category: Out and About

Next up for W.H.A.T. is ‘Nunsense’

Photo courtesy Linda D’Isa/ The cast of “Nunsense”: Bottom row: Paula Ribeiro, Joan Hemphill, Melissa Miranda. Middle row: Danielle Pennisi and Danielle Romano. Top row: Elizabeth Camarza and Paula Reyes. Not pictured: Francesca Stokes and Don Flynn.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will conclude its first season on June 15 when area residents will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense.”

‘Nunsense’ revolves around Sister Julia, Child of God, cook for the Little Sisters of Hoboken who accidentally poisons 52 of her fellow sisters. In order to acquire the funds needed for the burials, the remaining sisters decide to perform a variety show.

Directing his second show for W.H.A.T. Joseph Ferriero has high expectations for the company’s rendition.

“I’m really excited for the first performance,” Ferriero said. “I want to see how the audience reacts. I don’t watch the show as it goes on; I want to see the audience. It lets me know what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong and what I need to change.”

Ferriero last directed “Frog Princess” for W.H.A.T., a family-oriented performance in April. As Ferriero started working on “Nunsense,” he quickly realized the two plays would be very different.

“It’s just really a different situation,” Ferriero explained. “Adults get it much faster than kids do in terms of understanding the characters.”

Performing in her debut for W.H.A.T. is Joan Hemphill, who will play Reverend Mother in the musical. While Hemphill is excited about the opportunity, she didn’t expect to be thrust into the spotlight so early.

“I was actually shocked to be honest,” Hemphill explained. “I just wanted a role to get me involved and get my feet wet. I’m taking (the role) on as a challenge to deliver a good performance.”

Explaining what those challenges are, Hemphill said, “It will take me more time to get used to. I have to balance my work and my career, but I’m really dedicated to it. I’m not a natural, but I’m up to the challenge.”

Joining Hemphill on the stage at the Grace United Methodist Church on June 15 will be Paula Reyes, who will play Sister Julia, Child of God. “Nunsense” will be Reyes’ second performance with W.H.A.T. after playing Ursula in the “Frog Princess” performance.

“I’m privileged to be in (‘Nunsense’) with (Ferriero) and the rest of the cast,” Reyes said.

One major difference between “Frog Princess” and “Nunsense” has been the ability of the cast to adapt and learn the play, despite the more complex nature of “Nunsense.”

“This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with,” Reyes remarked. “It’s nice because people put on productions in a threeto- four month time frame. We’re doing this in five weeks. (Acting) isn’t their main job. It’s an amazing production.”

Ferriero agreed, saying, “(The cast) is really dedicated. Whether it’s music one night, acting another, choreography another. There are things we’ve done seven times and then we say we’re going to change something with two weeks left because it wasn’t working. The cast has dealt with different curveballs very well.”

For this group, acting simply isn’t something they do just to cure summer bordom, it’s a fierce passion that’s been present in their lives for many years.

“I truly enjoy the arts,” Reyes explained. “It’s important to bring it back to the community in an affordable way.”

Hemphill echoed that idea, saying, “Kearny is a town that has a lot of interest in the arts. The people organizing it are talented and have the experience and know-how. It’s good to have that collaboration.”

Aside from the hard work and dedication that takes place to put the performance together, Hemphill points to another factor that has yielded much satisfaction for her involvement in the production.

“(The best part of the whole experience is) getting to know the music and working with people under good direction and meeting new people,” Hemphill explained.

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense” on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and June 16 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church at 380 Kearny Ave. in Kearny. Tickets are available by visiting the company website at whatco.org, by calling the box office at 201-467-8624, or by purchasing them in person a half hour before the show or at 570 Kearny Ave. in Kearny.

‘Aim’ing for success

Photos Courtesy of Steve Egoavil

 

Anthony J. Machcinski

Artists from all over the area will converge on the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club on June 2 for “Together”. “Together” is a fundraiser for the “AIM Foundation” put together by North Arlington resident Steve Egoavil.

“The Art in Motion Foundation originated two years ago with a premise that anyone can make a difference,” Egoavil explained. “It was this idea and seeing what was going on in our world from a local to global point of view that I decided to get started in my quest to make a positive difference in the world.”

Since its inception, the AIM Foundation has been able to raise funds for the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge, Wounded Warrior Project, and several other groups and foundations.

A few months ago, Egoavil started thinking of doing another fundraiser after the outpouring of support after the last event.

“I had so many people offer to help me feed and cloth the homeless on one of our annual street cookouts,” Egoavil explained.

Egoavil saw this response as a sign to take the foundation to the next level, saying, “I knew it was time to prepare and make a move towards taking it all to the next level to a real non-profit organization.”

For this fundraiser, Egoavil has been able to collect a menagerie of artistic talent, from DJs, Musicians, Artists, and everything in between.

When asked what he was most excited to see, Egoavil said, “ To be honest, there are so many artists and musicians that will be there, so I’m actually just excited for it all. I’m curious to see how we interact with each other as well as how the guests soak in all the art and entertainment provided.”

One of those artists who will showcase his material is Justin Carty. Carty, an animator and graphic artist from New York City, will cross the Hudson with two large 36’’ by 84’’ oil on canvas paintings.

“Steve asked me if I wanted to be a part of it about three weeks ago,” Carty said on how he got involved. “Steve is a great guy and he said it was for a good cause so I said yes right away.”

Despite taking time out of his busy schedule to set up the event, Egoavil will also take part in the showcase, showing off some of his own work.

“I will be showing off some of the artwork I’ve been working on, (including) a painting, a few photographs, and a drawing, as well as a portfolio of Tattoo Art that I’ve done,” Egoavil explained.

Local band I Am Fighting will also be a part of the fundraiser.

While many of the artists are just happy to showcase their work in such a forum, one simple idea rings true throughout the participants.

“I think it’s for a very good cause and I enjoy contributing to causes that I know will directly help people,” Carty explained.

“The more people that get involved, the bigger the positive impact we make on what we decide to get involved in,” Egoavil added.

The fundraiser will take place on June 2 at the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club at 6 Davis Ave. in Kearny. A suggested donation of $20 will be collected at the door. The fundraiser will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Art comes in many forms in E. Newark

Photos courtesy of Wendy Born Hollander/ First Grade 3-D artwork based on the book “Bugs in a Blanket”

 

Photos courtesy of Wendy Born Hollander/ Fourth-grade projects from “Rainbow Star Books” suspended in the East Newark School stairwell.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

A variety of student projects will be featured on May 30 when the East Newark Public School hosts its annual Spring Art Show. The artwork, created by students from the school, will be featured from 5 to 7 p.m. at the school on 501 N. Third St.

“It’s a good way for parents and people in the community to come see what’s happening,” explained East Newark art teacher Wendy Born Hollander.

The art show features a variety of pieces from students from kindergarten through eighth. Some of these projects include Tropical Bird paintings by third-graders, Rainbow Star Books by fourth and fifthgraders, and 3-D landscapes by sixth graders.

The variety of work incorporates what the students are learning in school.

“A lot of times with elementary students, we tie our pieces into books,” Hollander explained. “I can capture their attention.”

For Hollander, who started her art career as an illustrator of children’s books, teaching slowly became part of her life.

“I started working parttime and then found that I liked it,” Hollander said. “I decided to transition from illustration to teaching full time. Being an illustrator, there is never an off-button in trying to find work.”

Now organizing the School’s Art Show, Hollander is looking forward to one thing from the event — “meeting the parents.” “I’ve only met a few parents here and there. The art show is very well attended.”

One special feature about this year’s art show will be the availability of the work online.

“I think it’s great that even relatives in far away locations can see the beautiful work students are doing by just logging onto the website,” Hollander explained.

With the Art Show slowly approaching, Hollander has one main goal for the event.

“I hope that student’s families and friends are able to attend this special event,” Hollander said. “Everyone in the community is invited to come see the creative and exciting art projects students have completed. I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

The East Newark School Spring Art Show will take place on May 30, 5-7 p.m. at the East Newark School at 501 N. Third St. To view the students work visit http:// www.artsonia.com/schools/ school.asp?id=110876.

Kearny markets new cookbook

Councilwoman Susan McCurrie displays The Kearny Farmer’s Market Cookbook.

 

KEARNY –

Soon there’ll be a new book on the market that’s completely home grown.

The Kearny Farmer’s Market Cookbook boasts 81 pages chock-full of Kearny residents’ recipes which incorporate the use of fresh produce available at the open air market held in town during the summer months.

Proceeds from sale of the book go to Friends of the Kearny Public Library and the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone.

Library Board President Jennifer Cullen, who also heads up the Friends group, the library’s fundraising arm, said the cookbook was the brainchild of Fourth Ward Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, who has been looking for a way to promote the Farmer’s Market and figured a cookbook was the way to go.

Cullen said the lawmaker “approached different service organizations (including the Friends and several local women’s clubs) to make it happen.” Of the 147 recipes for main dishes, sides and desserts, more than half came from members of those groups, she said. Individual contributors were limited to no more than five entries.

But it didn’t happen overnight. “It took two years to get this to fruition,” Cullen said.

McCurrie said she discovered that a lot of people resisted, jealously guarding the ingredients making up their favorite dishes.

But, eventually, sufficient numbers of folks could be persuaded to part with their favorite food formulas to share with the general public and the cookbook is the proof of the pudding, so to speak. “We were fortunate to get the participation we did,” McCurrie said.

Lynn Oelz, owner of Signs By Lynn, a local shop specializing in signs and graphics, contributed the art work for the book and Morris Press Cookbooks handled the printing. Carol Puchyr and Cullen handled the logistics of putting together the final product.

The book, which sells for $9.95, comes with a free stand you can use to support your book while you prepare your dish of choice.

The Kearny Public Library will host a cookbook launch party on June 8 at 7 p.m. and tickets are only $5 but limited to 100 attendees. Guests will sample Jane Mackesy’s recipe for “chopped veggie and corn salad.”

After the event, people can obtain copies of the book from the library or by contacting Town Hall.

The seventh annual Jersey Fresh Farmer’s Market resumes this season on June 21 and continues every Thursday, from noon to 6 p.m., in the parking lot across from Mandee Shops, Kearny and Bergen Aves., through mid- October. Union Hill Farms, of Denville, and Alsteade Farms, of Chester, supply the fresh produce, jams and jellies.

Typically, the season starts with a selection of berries, followed by peaches, lettuce, cabbage and squash; then come corn, tomatoes and melons; early fall brings apples, pears, pumpkins, fruit pies, jams and jellies.

– Ron Leir

It’s no ‘Secret’ this band kills

Photos Courtesy of Secretcountryband.com/ New vocalist Katelynn Siegle is one of two new additions to Secret Country

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

That closed-door country band is at it again. Secret Country, the Kearny-based country band under the Killing Horse Records label, celebrated the release of its latest album and first vinyl, “7 Days a Week,” at Donegal Saloon on May 18.

“We’re really excited to put it all out,” said Mike Sylvia of Killing Horse Records. “We built the label around them in 2009.”

“7 Days a Week” is a follow-up to the band’s 2009 full-length “Women, Whiskey and Nightlife.” During the years between the two releases, the band has seen some changes to its lineup, with Eric Mason (guitar/ vocals) and Yan Iziquerdo (fiddle/mandolin) replaced by Katelynn Siegle (vocals) and Ryan Gross (guitar).

“It’s a whole different thing with a girl singing,” said Secret Country bass player Tim Siegle, Katelynn’s brother. “At first it was kind of like a boys’ club. Now that we’re older, it’s not the same thing. She brings something we didn’t have.”

Siegle’s statement could not ring truer. While “Women, Whiskey, and Nightlife” was a quality album in its own right, “7 Days a Week” gives Secret Country another step in the right direction.

Photos Courtesy of Secretcountryband.com

 

In comparison to its predecessor album, “7 Days a Week” and its brilliantly produced product sounds like a real record – something that one can imagine hearing on the radio someday.

This difference can be attributed to the new work ethic of the band.

“With the lineup we have now, it’s a lot easier,” explained Siegle. “We practiced more to kind of hone the sound. We matured. We look at this as we can have something here. We’ve been trying to work this out.”

The ease is a reflection of the streamlined length of time it took to get the record produced.

“The last record almost took us a whole year,” Siegle explained. “The recording process (for “7 Days a Week”) was very painless and took us a little over a weekend.”

What made Secret Country special on “Women, Whiskey, and Nightlife” was the chemistry that members of the band had with each other. Now, despite losing two key elements of its band, Secret Country is still able to maintain the bonds that solidify its music.

With an “in the family” thread of Katelynn, Tim and Matt Siegle, and with the incorporation of Ryan Gross, a producer with Killing Horse Records, the band maintains a continuity that allows its members not to miss a step.

The title track of “7 Days a Week” is a perfect showcase of this chemistry.

A quick start and a solid guitar solo help get the song on a roll and set the pace for the whole track. Jay Monaco’s voice, accented with the voices of Katelynn and Matt Siegle and Joe Hart, provide the fun-loving feel that the lyrics look to convey. With lyrics that say, “Wake up, it’s Monday/I didn’t get to see the sun today/At this rate, I don’t know when I will,” the fun-loving nature of the band’s style certainly comes into play.

The other song on the album, “Deep-Fried Delight,” is another quick start. “Deep- Fried Delight” also is another fun-loving track, with Monaco singing about falling in love with fried chicken as if it were his lover.

Both these tracks fall in line with the band’s reputation.

“(The new album) is probably in the same range where we’ve been the past few years,” said Gross. “Drinking, eating fried foods, and having a good time. (This album is) a little more representative of our sounds and what you get at the live shows.”

The album “7 Days a Week” is only the beginning for Secret Country, as this record is a precursor to a fulllength album to be released sometime in the late summer/ early fall of 2012. While preparing for this record, the band hopes to get out on the road more and travel farther than they have in the past.

“With the lineup we have now, it’s a lot easier to travel,” Siegle explained. “Boston was the farthest we’ve ever been outside of Jersey and we want to continue to grow. We’d like to do more in South Jersey, too.”

With its fun-loving nature and quality music, Secret Country is on the right track for future success.

For more information on Secret Country, or to purchase their albums, visit www.secretcountryband.com.

Fighting in the Dark

Photo courtesy Joseph Gehrmann

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski 

What a difference a year makes. A little over a year after I Am Fighting took the stage at Bamboozle Festival at the New Meadowlands Sports Complex, the band will return to the Bamboozle Festival debuting a new EP, “Not Afraid.”

“This time, we went for the complete opposite (of last year’s upbeat CD),” said I Am Fighting lead vocalist Joe Gehrmann. Those words can never ring truer.

In their first album, “All The Ways We Can,” Gehrmann and bandmates Dan Tretola, Dom Gaglio, and Joe Hughes created an album that was very upbeat and powerful, from the first track “Ghost” all the way through the last song “Noah.” With “Not Afraid,” the band turned in a different direction for the songs on this album.

“They’re very dark,” said Gehrmann. “The songs are so different in this CD.”

I Am Fighting achieved this “darker” sound by using lower notes. In the song, “John Francis,” the band starts out with the piano playing of Gehrmann and continues the darker theme with a slow bass drum beat in the background. While the band strayed from the upbeat feeling of its first album, I Am Fighting still manages to keep its power through Gehrmann’s voice, which jumps off the track and grabs your ear.

In a 2011 interview with The Observer, Gehrmann described his music as: “emotional, powerful, beautiful and dark pop.”

Following this trend, the song “Falling in Circles” has a different feel than the other songs on the record. While still retaining its power and emotion, “Falling in Circles” is the one song on the record that is a ray of sunshine through a much darker album.

With these new songs in tow, I Am Fighting will play the Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park after winning a contest at the Stone Pony in April.

“It’s more exciting this year because we get to play at it and we don’t have to deal with all the stress of competing against other bands,” Gehrmann explained. Last year, I Am Fighting was placed in a multi-round competition for a spot in last year’s Bamboozle lineup, losing in the final round of the contest.This year, the contest was downsized to one day, giving the band more time to focus on its act for the actual show instead of the contest.

Asked to measure the impact of the Bamboozle Festival on the band, Gehrmann said:

“It allows you to get a taste of the dream that you’re going for. … When you play these giant festivals, it allows you to just play. When you play smaller shows, we do very well, but you’re scraping the surface to try and fill a venue. When you play the festivals, you get to play on an incredible stage with the best sound system that the state can offer and it allows us to play for the largest crowd we can possibly play for.”

Still, Gehrmann allowed that, “smaller venues (make it) easier to connect to the crowd.”

With the new EP under its belt, I Am Fighting will play at Bamboozle on May 20 in Asbury Park before coming to Maxwell’s in Hoboken on June 23.

To learn more about the band, check out its website at iamfighting.com and to buy its new EP, “Not Afraid” or its previous album, “All The Ways We Can,” search I Am Fighting on iTunes.

Running on full throttle

Turbine to bring unconventional energy to Kearny’s Donegal Saloon

 

Photo Courtesy of Turbinemusic.com/ The band Turbine

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

A turbine is commonly used to create energy. When using that name for a band, one might think the band would come out of the heavy metal, punk, or ska genres. However, the band Turbine is far from those musical formats.

“It kind of sounds like a German death metal band,” said Jeremy Hilliard, guitar player from the band Turbine. “It started out as a humorous thing we thought was kind of funny. As we sat with it, we realized it was more than just that. It had energy to it.”

Turbine origininated in Manhattan in 2004 when Hilliard and harmonica player Ryan Rightmire heard each other play in an unconventional way.

“(Rightmire) and I were next door neighbors in Manhattan and we heard each other playing through the wall,” Hilliard explained. “From there, we just ended up forming a duo and that ended up in Turbine’s first album.”

Soon after forming, the duo realized they would need a rhythm section. After what Hilliard described as an “intense audition process” formed through networking, Turbine became a full, well-oiled machine. The band would go on to debut the new lineup at several national festivals including the famous Bonaroo music festival.

“It was nice to be included in that,” Hilliard said of Bonaroo. “It was one of the greatest gigs to get recognized at.”

What makes Turbine one of the most unique bands hitting the scene is the band’s unique style. With an eclectic group of influences that would make many bands crumble from the sheer variety, Turbine continues to purr.

“(The) style is something that I’m proud of as far as the band is concerned,” Hilliard explained. “We have songs that we play, but it’s the style we play in that’s more important – that separates us. “

Besides their style of play, the style in which they write songs is unique in it’s own right.

“We look from a mix of different themes and places to inspire us,” Hilliard explained. “We also try to look at modern songwriters and lands that write songs in our style.”

The band’s style comes off very similar to that of many jam bands seen at music festivals.

“Our style is a little more improvised,” Hilliard said. “We look to more of improvising at our live shows. It’s a take on the jazz approach and the jam band style.”

This unique style of play showcases itself in many of Turbine’s songs.

“Invited”, a four-minute, bluegrass-infused song off the album Reward, is one of the many songs showcasing the band’s range. With an ever-present harmonica and simple lyrics, the song invites you for a nice relaxing time, transporting the listener to a warm summer’s day down on the river. Even for the greatest bluegrass opponent, Turbine’s great play can be easily appreciated.

Moving away from the bluegrass feel, “Eddy the Sea” brings back more of the jam band style. A soft, rhythmic drum beat accompanies Hilliard’s smooth guitar solos. “Eddy the Sea” is a song that, beyond it’s great studio version, can be expected to be taken to a different level at any live performance with several areas for improvisation.

With a steady group of fans and several albums under their belt, Turbine has slowly worked its way into being one of the best live bands in the area. Despite their success, Hilliard still knows that the band has the opportunity to continue growing.

“Bands are like running from a shark, you got to keep going otherwise you’re dead in the water,” Hilliard explained. “We’ve always managed to grow in one way or another.”

Hilliard continued to show examples of their growth, saying, “If you look at the progression of our records, they keep getting better and better. As long as we are working on our live shows and continue to work on our writing, then the opportunity for growth is there.”

While Turbine’s success cannot be measured by the particular venue that the band plays in, Hilliard just looks at one thing.

“(Its unrealistic to) feel like you’ll sell out Madison Square Garden,” Hiliard explained. “You got to be able to enjoy the little things and enjoy the process. It’s never really over. It’s about growing and playing the music.”

Turbine will come to Kearny when they play Donegal Saloon on May 11. To listen to their music or buy their albums, visit www.turbinemusic.com.

‘Sticks And Stones’ provides inspiration for the bullied

 

By Jeff Bahr 

At its least effective music acts as background sound, a sort of “pink noise” that gets lost behind the grinding din of our conscious thoughts. At its best, it touches us – often in ways that we hadn’t anticipated before listening to it.

“Sticks and Stones”, a new CD released by former Harrison resident Jo-Ann Barton is aimed squarely at the latter. Through the magic of music the singer/ songwriter hopes to inspire the children of gay parents who may be dealing with bullying issues. But in a larger sense, Barton’s songs are intended for any and all who need reassurance that things can and will get better, just so long as they put one foot before the other and keep going.

Twelve years in the making, the CD has finally come to fruition. But the journey wasn’t an easy one. “My partner and I wanted to have children and I had major anxiety over it because I didn’t want my kids to be picked on or bullied for having gay parents,” explained Barton about the uncertainty that she and her civil union wife Darlene faced before having kids. “I never did anything about it (putting together the CD) until my old drummer, James Pesler, talked me into doing the project. He said, ‘What are you doing? Get off your ass and do it!’ It was the nudge that I needed. The children were my main inspiration.”

“Sticks and Stones” signals a move back to the music scene for Barton. As the proud and doting mom of two boys, Brandon, 12, and Bryan, 9, the former singer (who now works in the investment banking industry and resides in Clifton) “came out of retirement” after more than a decade to produce the collection of eight songs.

Despite her lengthy absence from the music scene, Barton’s credentials are impressive. Her last CD, “Pop and Circumstances”, spawned a number one hit song “Weekend” at college radio stations across America. In 2001, Barton released a 9/11 tribute song entitled, “Ordinary Day”. It was played at the World Trade Center during the second anniversary observance.

Barton stressed how important her bandmates were in making the CD a reality. They include Vincent Cinardo, formerly of Harrison, who Barton describes as “a very talented musician who plays everything”; Mark Radice, Barton’s “go-to guy who also plays everything – he toured with Aerosmith and wrote music for Sesame Street and Elmo,”; and Paul Ippolito, who played bass and lead guitar on a “couple of songs,” according to Barton.

The eight tracks on “Sticks and Stones” range from the light and bouncy rocker, “There for You” to the more subdued ballad, “Watch What You Say”. The aptly named title-track, Sticks and Stones, imparts a feeling of empowerment to any who have suffered the slings and arrows of others bent on bringing them down, while “We All Cry” demonstrates how quickly even the worst situation can turn around:

Sometimes life is hard

And it can tear you apart

You hold your little head in your hands

Because you don’t understand

But I can tell you a secret about this crazy thing called life

You may not want to believe it, but it changes overnight

My personal favorite – “Long Way to Go” – maps Barton’s personal search for acceptance in an oftencruel world. Much like her other inspirational tunes, the song somehow manages to remain uplifting. Given the weightiness of the subject matter, that’s no easy trick.

“Sticks and Stones” is a well-crafted rock & roll CD that not only sends out an uplifting message of hope, but is a genuine blast to listen to. “If I can help just one kid it would make it worthwhile,” says Barton about her hopes for the CD’s overall impact. “It all came from my heart and soul.”

Groups that endorse the new CD include:

Itgetsbetter.org

Collage.org

Thesuicidepreventionlifeline.org

“Sticks and Stones” can be purchased at the following locations:

ITunes, Amazon.com, and other online outlets.

Or send check or money order for $8.99 to: Magical Music Entertainment, 1360 Clifton Ave. #182 Clifton, N.J. 07012

‘Khris’ening ‘Royal’ty

Khris Royal and Dark Matter bring Gumbo of music to Donegal Saloon

 

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Khris Royal and Dark Matter entertain the crowd at Donegal Saloon on April 21

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

The reputation of the music scene in New Orleans is great enough that thousands of people will take vacations to the Big Easy in order to witness some of the greatest performances of our generations. Those unable to make that pilgrimage lucked out when Donegal Saloon in Kearny hosted Khris Royal and Dark Matter on April 21.

The ever-talented Royal, who hails from the Crescent City, is a saxophone player who has become one of the up and coming musicians in this generation. With a passion to play since he was seven years old, Royal didn’t originally want to play the saxophone.

“I wanted to play trombone “The guy at the store said, ‘Your arms are too short (to play the trombone). So my mom suggested, “Well, if you’re not going to play the trombone, you should play the sax. Girls like the sax.”

Royal developed a love eventually had one of his early breakouts when going to see famous R&B and jazz singer Erykah Badu.

Khris Royal swings his sax, much to the delight of the crowd.

 

“I wanted to see Erykah Badu when she came to New Orleans when I was in high school, but I was too young to get into the show,” Royal explained. “Through an internship with school, we got to sit down and meet with her. After the show, I stuck around to talk to her and while they were having sound checks, she saw me and said, ‘Grab your horn and come play with us.’ That was easily one of the greatest moments of my life.”

However, the road to success wasn’t always easy for Royal.

“When I first started gigging with Dark Matter, it was really slow,” Royal explained. “A lot of nights, tips were so bad that I thought I’d have to get a real job, and I started thinking maybe the music was bad. But other members of the band told me to stick with it and it started to take off.”

Despite Royal’s initial thoughts, the music is far from bad. After attending the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, Royal refined his art at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. This experience in many creative arts schools allowed the young musician to not just fall into one particular style of music.

“One of my goals was to play as many different styles of music as correctly as possible,” explained Royal who described his style of play as a big gumbo. “I don’t want to be just funk or jazz. I want to be the guy you can call to do anything.”

Royal’s description of his style is dead on. With elements of funk, blues, jazz, and R&B, Royal’s musical gumbo provides the listener’s ears with the same satisfied feeling as a real gumbo provides the stomach.

Royal’s personal favorite song, “Big Booty Express,” showcases the full package. With a silky smooth background accented by Royal’s sax, the song resonates differently to different people who listen to it. Some listeners may be soothed by the background and soft jazz play while others may find themselves moving their head and their body to the beat.

It is this menagerie of feelings that makes this song one of Royal’s favorites.

“‘Big Booty Express’ gets everybody dancing while still dealing with some music on an intellectual level,” Royal explains. “It keeps it funky and keeps everyone dancing.”

The title track from the album “Dark Matter” also shows off Royal’s skill set. With a darker and heavier background, Royal and Dark Matter provide a performance that not only showcases Royal’s play, but also the play of the band as a whole.

‘Big Booty Express’ aside, Royal and Dark Matter provide many songs for listeners of all ages and genres to appreciate. After playing Donegal Saloon on April 21, Khris Royal and Dark Matter will return to New Orleans and play several shows around the Big Easy before gearing up for several nationwide tours this summer.

To listen to Khris Royal and Dark Matter, you can search them on Spotify, or to purchase t heir album, they can be found on iTunes or on www.Khris-Royal.com.

A tasteful tour of Bloomfield’s eateries at a ‘Taste of Bloomfield’

 

Photos by Jeff Bahr/ Rickell Hawkins of ‘The Sweets Boutique’ with her creations

 

By Jeff Bahr

I must disclose something before I begin. As a longtime Bloomfield resident, I have sampled relatively few of the township’s restaurants save for Hot Bagels Abroad – a much-celebrated bagel palace known for its fine water bagels and convivial atmosphere – plus assorted pizzerias around town. So, when I learned that Bloomfield was staging its sixth annual Taste of Bloomfield (TOB) event on Sunday, April 15, I strapped on my feedbag and set out to right this wrong. “Calories be damned!” I reasoned in a self-serving way. “I’m on a culinary mission to spotlight our township.”

As was the case in years past, Bloomfield’s 23-room Oakeside Mansion played host to the flavorsome event. This eye-catching holdover from the Victorian era, built in 1895, presented the perfect backdrop for the taste fest which registered more like a casual dinner party than a staged event.

Devised as an entertaining way to acquaint people with Bloomfield’s restaurants and several located in nearby communities, TOB drew hundreds of hungry patrons to its serving tables on this sunny and warm day. More than 20 restaurants and food concerns were represented for this year’s tastings, where the enticing aroma of Thai, Mexican, Jamaican, Italian and Greek cuisines (to name just a few) assailed the senses.

For $30 ($25 if tickets were purchased in advance), attendees could eat as much as they pleased, and eat they most certainly did. A casual inquiry into the number of restaurants being sampled revealed that most people tried at least 10 different outlets before folding their napkins and calling it a day. Others, even more gluttonous, told me that they wouldn’t rest until they’d sampled something from every vendor present. While I was doing too much munching to keep count, I’d guess that I hit somewhere between 10 and 12 displays myself; not too shabby for a TOB neophyte.

ShopRite caterers stand poised to feed the hungry

 

An accordion player made his way through the mansion, playing enjoyable tunes to improve the ambiance, but it was hardly necessary. The Oakeside has atmosphere in spades, so the taste-testers were sufficiently primed just walking in. Each room contained multiple vendors serving an array of dishes. This vast hodgepodge of food choices added to the fun, but it also presented a problem; people had to decide which food items were “must tries” and which fell into the “second string” category (those to be tried only if stomach space permitted). Choices, choices…

If folks couldn’t find exactly what they wanted to nibble inside the mansion, all they needed to do was walk into the rear yard where a large tent featuring an equally diverse contingent of food vendors was set up. Drinks were served here (for an additional fee), and the feeding frenzy occurring inside the big top was at least on par with that taking place in the mansion.

For the record, the dinner items that I sampled included:

jerk chicken, rice and peas at Taste it Again Jamaican Restaurant; mousaki, makarounes and spinach pie at Stamna Greek Taverna; eggplant parmesan, prosciutto and mushrooms at Calandra’s Restaurant; and indescribably delicious garlic mashed potatoes at Frungillo Caterers. Thanks, folks, you did Bloomfield proud!

Some unexpected food discoveries also occurred during the event. A notable find was the Brookdale Shop-Rite which knocked my low expectations straight out of the park with its mouth-watering meatballs in Italian sauce (“gravy” to Italian-Americans). After going back for thirds (hey, my fiancé hails from Avellino!), I asked the server if these scrumptious meatballs were available at Shop-Rite’s daily buffet. Alas, they are not. Anyone wishing to partake of these meaty masterpieces must hire Shop-Rite as their caterer; that’s something to keep in mind as the graduation season nears.

After stuffing myself to the gills, I did what any pot-bellied American male would do: I went hunting for sweets. Most of the dessert vendors were situated in perhaps the most fabulous room in the mansion – the eastern wing/sun porch. A notable exception was Anthony’s Cheesecake which, while buried deeper within the house, was well worth the trip.

I visited perennial favorite Applegate Farm ice cream for a scoop of their luscious vanilla; Cupa Cabana, for a cup of their full-bodied Columbian java; and, last but not least, The Sweets Boutique, a sinfully delicious and artfully-arranged enterprise that featured such tantalizing guilt-inducers as cupcakes, pudding/cake parfaits, brownies, cake shooters and push-up pops. Simply put, the sugary concoctions were a joy to behold and an even greater joy to eat. “I’ve always loved baking and I’m a candy connoisseur, so this (business) was a natural step,” said proud owner Rickell Hawkins of her artistic display.

She wasn’t kidding. Before the event ended, The Sweets Boutique was cleaned out of every single item on the table, including my favorite Oreo dessert cup which I had sampled earlier. It was a testament to the triumph of the sweets, and in a larger sense, to the event itself. I’ll be back next year but with a different strategy – to hit The Sweets Boutique first. As my absolute favorite taste of Bloomfield (to date), it’s only fitting.