On Stage: For Segal, music led to recovery and soothing others with jazz

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Alan Segal

Alan Segal had a life-changing event several years ago.

Prior to the event, he had a positive effect on people financially – helping them navigate the world of personal finances.

When Segal resumed activity after the event, he had a positive effect on people spiritually – not with religious topics but rather with soul-soothing music.

Segal is the founder of The Jazz Sanctuary, a jazz band based in the Delaware Valley since its inception in 2011.

The Jazz Sanctuary (thejazzsanctuary.com), Philadelphia’s most innovative music organization bringing live jazz music to performing arts and events spaces throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, has begun its second decade in style with more than 30 events already on the slate for its 11th anniversary year.

Since its founding in 2011, The Jazz Sanctuary has brought over 625 live performances to people throughout Philadelphia and the neighboring Pennsylvania and New Jersey suburbs. In addition, the organization brings their music to healthcare facilities, including regular performances for the Council on Brain Injury and others in the region.

Upcoming TJS shows featuring the Alan Segal Quintet are scheduled for April 28 at Gloria Dei Old Swede’s Episcopal Church (916 South Swanson Street, Philadelphia) and May 5 at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation (1505 Makefield Road, Morrisville).

April 28 brings another evening of “Jazz & Joe” at Gloria Dei at 7:30 p.m. The Jazz Sanctuary quintet of James Dell’Orefice (piano), Leon Jordan Sr. (drums), Randy Sutin (vibes/percussion), Eddie Etkins (saxophone) and Alan Segal (bass) will perform. The concert performance is free of charge.

“For me, music was a matter of survival because I had a brain operation in 2006,” said Segal, during a phone interview Monday afternoon from his home in Philadelphia.

Prior to that, Segal worked as a Certified Public Accountant and a Financial Consultant: Series 7 and Series 63 (Brokerage) and was involved in CSMC: Certified Specialist Management Consulting.

“My brain sprang a leak,” said Segal. “I had a headache which sent me to the hospital for three days in May 2006.

“The doctors found a leak. It wasn’t until December 2011 that they brought me in for an operation. I had 13 hours of surgery and a 40 per cent chance of dying.”

His recovery after the surgery that corrected the arteriovenous malformation in his brain did not come easily.

“I couldn’t walk or talk,” said Segal. “I had no hand-eye coordination. I was a slab of meat.”

As so often happens, music was the savior.

“In order to get hand-eye coordination and moving my eyes left-to-right and back, I started playing bass five to seven hours a day.

“I started in 2007 around March. It took me two years to become fully functional again. I had huge trouble with speech. I got lucky and got about 90 per cent back.”

Segal started playing jazz music but, at first, he wasn’t really “playing jazz music.”

“When we started The Jazz Sanctuary in 2007, I was a technical player,” said Segal. “The guys in the band stuck with me and helped me become a real jazz player. It’s pretty amazing. You have to stay alert and pay attention.”

From its humble beginning, The Jazz Sanctuary has become a Philadelphia music institution.

“We just finished our 642nd event,” said Segal, who grew up in West Philadelphia and graduated from Philly’s highly acclaimed Central High School.

“Our group has been together longer than any other jazz group in the Philly area. This year, we’ll have played more than 60 shows. The most was in 2019 when we had 88 events.

“We have a huge repertoire. My iPad has more than 1,500 songs. We all read music and our sax player puts together the set.

“Jazz is an extension of the blues. Gospel to blues to jazz is a straight line – no deviations.”

Events by The Jazz Sanctuary are always free.

“I do everything pro bono,” said Segal. “I take no money. I’m not trying to make a profit. We generate a lot of money for charitable organizations.”

Funding for The Jazz Sanctuary comes from individual donors as well as sponsors, including CBIZ, Compass Ion Advisors, Philadelphia Federal Credit Union, The Big Event, Zled Lighting, LPL Financial, Quantum Think, C&N Bank and DMG Global.

Charitable events in the five-county area have served organizations such as Friendship Circle, Cradle of Hope, Ronald McDonald House, Interfaith Hospital Center of the Main Line and Council on Brain Injury and Re-Med golf outing and therapy sessions.

Donations to support the mission of The Jazz Sanctuary continue to be vital to the growth of the organization as they enter their second decade. The Jazz Sanctuary is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that brings jazz music free of charge to charitable organizations, community centers, and houses of worship, among others.

“The Jazz Sanctuary will not play for profit,” said Segal.

Playing high caliber jazz music and generating money for charitable causes — Segal has found two good paths to follow in his “second incarnation” and the world is a better place because of it.

Video link for the Jazz Sanctuary – https://youtu.be/zLhskbzVIQQ.

Eliza Neals

When Eliza Neals performs at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) on April 30, the audience can expect to hear an evening of blues – and a lot more.

“I get categorized as a blues artist but I’m more a rock/soul/blues artist,” said Neal, during a phone interview Tuesday from her home in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Neals is a dynamic powerful front woman, multi-talented musician, confident producer and outstanding live performer – and a native of Detroit, Michigan.

Neals has performed at venues across the United States and United Kingdom including many high-profile festivals. She has been described as a “Detroit Diva” and her music has been billed as a “combination of blues-rock and psychedelic soul with a twist of jam band and southern rock.”

She is touring in support of her new album, “Badder to the Bone,” which was just released on April 23 on her own label – EH Records.

“I wrote the songs for ‘Badder to the Bone’ during the pandemic,” said Neals. “It took two years to write. I recorded a lot of it in Detroit at Tempermill Studio. I also did some recording at two studios in Nashville — Penpazaric Studio and Univox Studio.

“It was my second album to make during the pandemic.”

The title “Badder to the Bone” is a takeoff on the title of a song by Delaware’s George Thorogood – “Bad to the Bone.”

“I love George’s song,” said Neals. “George is bad to the bone. We’re badder to the bone.”

The other recent album is “Eliza Neals and the Narcotics,” which was released February 4, 2022 on 12 inch ultra-rare 180 gram black vinyl and includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

“I grew up with music,” said Neals. “My father played guitar. My sister Valerie and I started singing at a young age.

“I went to Wayne State University in Detroit to study for a music degree. I studied opera and piano. Now, I can sing six or seven nights a week and not lose my voice because I had operatic training.

“I toured Europe with the Wayne State choir. Many of my teachers told me that I should get into blues and rock.”

Another person who thought Neals should pursue a career sing rock songs and blues tunes was Barrett Strong.

Music fans might not recognize Strong’s name, but they definitely know his music.

Strong was among the first artists signed to Berry Gordy’s fledgling label, Tamla Records, and was the performer on the company’s first hit, “Money (That’s What I Want),” which reached No. 2 on the R&B charts in 1960.

In the mid-1960s, Strong became a Motown writer lyricist, teaming with producer Norman Whitfield. Together, they wrote some of the most successful and critically acclaimed soul songs ever to be released by Motown, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “War,” “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and the long line of hits by the Temptations, including “Cloud Nine,” “I Can’t Get Next to You” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”

Neals’ meeting with Strong happened by chance was shopping in a Detroit area health food store and heard Neals singing from the back of the store. Strong signed the young singer to his independent label Blarritt Records and before long, the two were collaborating.

“Barrett was one of the kings of the blues,” said Neals. “He wrote blues and then added a beat. He has been my mentor ever since. He showed me just about every trick in the book and you can hear some of them on my records. He’s in his 80s now and we still keep in touch.

“I learned so much from him. We wrote almost 50 songs together. We also made an album together called ‘Stronghold II’ in 2008.”

Neals’ discography includes “I’m Waiting” (1999), “Liquorfoot” (2005), “My Style Live” (2008), “No Frogs for Snakes” (2008), “Messin’ with a Fool” (2012), “Sugar Daddy” (2012), “Breaking and Entering” (2015) “10,000 Feet Below” (2017) and the two albums released this year.

Some of Neals’ honors include: 2016-Detroit Music Award “Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording” for Album “Breaking and Entering”; 2015- Detroit Music Award “Outstanding Blues Songwriter”; 2013- Detroit Music Award “Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording”; 2012- DMA “Outstanding Blues Songwriter”; and 2014- Music Connection Magazine “HOT 100 Live Unsigned Artists.”

“People should know that I’m more than just a singer,” said Neals. “I’m a female producer, arranger, songwriter, singer, keyboard player, band leader and record label owner.”

Video link for Eliza Neals — https://youtu.be/V0oyoRqa8Sw.

The show on April 30 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $36 at the door.

Other shows at Jamey’s this week are Mike Guldin and Rollin’ and Tumblin’ with Roger Girke on April 29, “THURSDAY NIGHT JAZZ JAM” featuring the Dave Reiter Trio on April 28, and “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings with Maci Miller on April 24.

If you’re familiar with Bob Dylan or Americana music, then you surely are familiar with The Band. Unfortunately, The Band lost two members who have gone to the other side and now no longer exists as a band.

The Weight Band

In case you’re not familiar with Bob Dylan’s first foray into electric rock music and his performances with The Band, The Weight Band will help you learn this piece of American music history – actually American/Canadian music history.

“The Weight” is a song by The Band. The Weight Band is a band named after The Band’s song “The Weight.” The Weight Band is a music group put together to keep alive the music of The Band.

On April 30, the Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, thecolonialtheatre.com) will host The Weight Band, which just released its new album, “Shines Like Gold,” which was just released on April 1.

The Band was a Canadian-American rock group featuring Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson. In 1965, Dylan hired them as his touring band when expanded for a solo folk artist to a folk-rock musician with a group behind him.

After a while, Roberston left to pursue a solo career and then later Manuel died. The remaining three members continued to tour and record albums with a succession of musicians filling the departed members’ roles. The final line-up included Richard Bell, Randy Ciarlante and Jim Weider.

Danko died of heart failure in 1999, after which the group broke up for good. Helm was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and continued to perform until cancer won the battle in 2012. A passing wish of Helm was for the music and spirit of The Band to live on. The Weight was formed to do just that. The Weight came into existence to bring a live performance to fans of The Band — but not as a tribute band.

Replicating the music of The Band is a tall order but interpreting the music of The Band is an art.

Performing songs of The Band, The Weight Band is keeping the spirit and the music alive that helped define an era.  Members of The Weight Band were either actual members in The Band or are directly and deeply connected to its legacy.

The group features Jim Weider from The Band; Brian Mitchell of the Levon Helm Band; Albert Rogers, who shared the stage with Levon Helm and Garth Hudson in The Jim Weider Band; Michael Bram, who played with Jason Mraz; and Matt Zeiner, who was a member of the Dickey Betts Band.

“A few years ago, after we lost Levon, Randy Ciarlante and I put The Weight together with a couple other musicians,” said Weider, during a phone interview from his home in Woodstock. “We did songs of The Band and the shows sold out.

“Then, we got Marty Grebb. We did a few shows and it really started to take off. We added Brian Mitchell and Byron Isaacs. Now, Byron has left the group and we pulled in a new bass player — Albert Rogers. He had played in my band — the Jim Weider Band — in the ’90s.”

The members all have other projects, but it is the music of The Band that binds them together.

“I started playing with Levon in the early ’80s in the Levon Helm Band,” said Weider. “Randy was in the band too. In 1985, when Richard and Garth moved to Woodstock, we toured with Crosby, Stills and Nash. We went out as The Band. That really changed my life.”

The Weight Band has stayed busy during the pandemic and has three live albums to show for it.

“We released ‘Acoustic Live,’ which was recorded at Big Pink’ in June 2021 and ‘Live is a Carnival,’ which came out in June,” said Weider.

“We also have ‘Live in Japan,’ which is a Limited-Edition CD that was recorded at Billboard Live, Tokyo in August 2019.

“The main thing we did during the shutdown was to go in the studio and record a new studio album. “It’s called ‘Shines Like Gold’ and features all originals and one cover. We started in December 2020 and finished the mixing and mastering in May and June 2021.

“After we released our last studio album ‘World Gone Mad’ in 2018, we wanted to slowly work on putting together a new album. The COVID pandemic gave me a lot of time to work on new music. All the songs were written during the pandemic. It definitely impacted the record. I wrote about positivity. I tried to look at it as glass half-full. Nobody needed negativity.”

On the group’s second studio album, The Weight Band looks at our troubled world, ponders the passage of time, and ultimately conveys a sense of hopefulness for the future.

Featuring nine original songs and a cover of a Willie Dixon gem, the band recorded the album live at Clubhouse Studio in Rhinebeck, NY, over four days – with minimal rehearsal during the height of the pandemic in 2020 while producer Colin Linden, an award-winning musician and Weider’s longtime collaborator and co-writer on several of the album tracks, was in Nashville.

According to Weider, “Colin had a big hand and footprint on this record. We go back, so there is a comfortableness working with him.”

Even with its original music, The Weight Band taps into that down-home style made popular by The Band.

“Our band has that real Americana feel,” said Weider. “The originals go right good with any Band tunes we play. People are going to get a big show – a very diverse show.”

Video link for The Weight Band — https://youtu.be/I8xvgpZhB74.

The show at the Colonial Theatre on April 30 will start at 8 p.m. Lilly Winwood, the daughter of British rock legend Steve Winwood, will be the opening act. Ticket prices start at $29.50.

Big Fish

Candlelight Theater (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is in the final stages of its second production run of 2022. The interesting Broadway musical “Big Fish” is running now through April 24.

“Big Fish,” which opened on Broadway in 2013 and received three 2014 Drama Desk Award nominations, is a musical with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by John August. It is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions,” and the 2003 film “Big Fish” written by John August and directed by Tim Burton.

“Big Fish” revolves around the relationship between Edward Bloom, a travelling salesman, and his adult son Will, who looks for what is behind his father’s tall stories.

The story shifts between two timelines.

In the present-day real world, 60-year-old Edward Bloom faces his mortality while his son, Will, prepares to become a father himself. In the storybook past, Edward ages from a teenager, encountering a Witch, a Giant, a Mermaid, and the love of his life, Sandra.

Will has grown up with the incredible, larger-than-life stories from kissing a mermaid, to encountering a witch, to befriending a giant and meeting Will’s mother in a circus.

Will, who is about to have a child of his own, is determined to find the truth behind his father’s epic tales. The stories meet as Will discovers the secret his father never revealed.

“Big Fish” is running now through April 24 at the Candlelight Theatre. Tickets, which include dinner, beverages and dessert, are $65.50 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org) will host Dueling Pianos on April 28 and Sweet Baby James on April 30.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will present Stick Men on April 29.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Yachtley Crew on April 28, Tommy Conwell on April 30 and Joeboy on May 4.

118 North (118 North Wayne Avenue, Wayne, www.118northwayne.com) will host Chris Day on April 28, DNR on April 29, Reggae Thunder on April 30, Wally Smith’s Organ Trio on May 1, and Jawn of the Dead on May 1.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) will host Neil de Grasse Tyson on April 28, Chazz Palminteri on May 1, and Ruben Studdard on May 3.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com) will present Stick Men on April 28, Shawn Colvin on April 29, Rubix Cube on April 30, Black Sabbitch on May 1.


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