Underneath the painted fixtures and the mid-century lighting, three Jazz groups performed for the Levitt AMP Trenton Concert Series at One West State Street.
The first was Big Mike Blues Band, performing old blues with quick rhythm and a raspy sound. “It’s got guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, it’s blues. You gotta look it up. I can’t describe it. Other than it’s blues,” said Richard McPherson, the guitarist in the band.
The Big Mike Blues Band rocked out as the crowd enjoyed the air conditioning in the old bank building on W. State Street. Douglas Dowell-Jefferies, is the manager of booking services DLJ Communications Group, who helped book the musicians for a concert on Saturday and the funk concerts the previous week.
“We played last week over here outdoors in the heat,” Dowell-Jefferies said. “We’re all about promoting the arts. We primarily focus on straight ahead classic jazz as opposed to the contemporary smooth jazz.”
“The Andy Lackow Band is an outstanding blues band; they are locally based, and they do a lot of festivals in the area,” Dowell-Jefferies added.
Based out of Northern New Jersey, The Andy Lackow Band is mainly blues. However, they also play an eclectic mix that includes blues-rock, roots-rock, soul, funk, New Orleans R&B, and a little country.
“Pretty much what we perform tonight besides blues, was soul, funk, and roots rock and roll, like Chuck Berry or Little Richard. So we put our best foot forward when it comes to a diverse kind of African American music, which I thought was appropriate for this event.”
The band is comprised of bassist Curtis Fowlkes, keyboardist Steve Skinner, and drummer Paul Levinsky.
Andy Lackow said that he feels different emotions as he performs. “The emotion is a combination of joy, excitement, and some angst that comes out in the blues and also trepidations that I’m going to screw up and forget lyrics and what key I am playing in,” Lackow said.
The main act was Newarks’ Pride and Joy Madame Pat Tandy. She was introduced to the crowd after her band warmed up: “Sweeter then candy and more intoxicating than any top shelf Brandy.” Widely known as the “First Lady of New Jersey Jazz,” Madame Pat Tandy has been singing professionally since the 1970s. She has performed in Trenton clubs for more than 50 years.
“I used to perform over here all the time, and a lot of the clubs that we did perform are close down now,” Tandy said. However, she noted concerts and venues like the Candlelight Lounge keep jazz in Trenton. “It’s the roots. It’s been here all along because we really jam over here with the jazz and blues. So to keep it going, that’s what we got to try to do.”
Overall, Trenton residents had a fun time at Levitt AMP over the weekend. Diane Turner, Trenton Resident, has made every single concert. “I have tried to make all of them. I do this every summer when they have it… This is a good lineup. The bands are excellent. The music is nice; it’s upbeat; I like the blues,” Turner said.
Next on the list is Malidelphia, a folkloric performance-art ensemble of African and African American artists, singers, dancers, and folklorists. To learn more, head over to https://www.trenton-downtown.com/levitt/malidelphia.
The Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series is supported in part by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, which partners with towns and cities across America to activate underused public spaces through the power of free live music, creating welcoming, inclusive destinations. Local presenting sponsors include NJM Insurance Company, along with the support of the City of Trenton, the Mercer County Park Commission. Greater Trenton and TrentonDaily.