On Stage: Laura Cheadle rocks holiday tunes at Jamey’s

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Laura Cheadle

If you like Christmas music but would like to hear something other than the same old traditional songs done the same old traditional way, there is a show for you this weekend. If you want to enjoy the traditional songs and rock out at the same time, plan a trip to Lansdowne.

On December 16, Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) is hosting a concert billed as “A Very Cheadle Christmas.”

For Laura Cheadle, Christmas came a little early this year.

“I just won a game show on CBS,” said Cheadle, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from her home in Philadelphia. “The game show was ‘Raid the Cage’ and the final aired last week.”

“Raid the Cage” is a television game show hosted by Damon Wayans Jr. and Jeannie Mai that premiered on CBS on October 13, 2023. It is an adaptation of the Israeli television series of the same name. Two teams of two contestants compete on each episode to earn time to retrieve prizes from a giant cage, with the team having the highest total keeping the prizes and playing the bonus round.

“I won $91,000,” said Cheadle. “And having all the people see me on national TV in the finals will be a real boost to my music career. This has been my best year ever.”

Whenever Cheadle plays the area, it seems that she has a special theme for that particular show.

When the powerful blues/jazz/rock singer played Jamey’s back in December 2021, it was a concert billed as “A Very Cheadle Christmas.”

On February 11 last year, Cheadle came back to The Living Room in Ardmore and presented “Laura Cheadle Sings The Sexy Valentine Blues.”

“The Valentine show was actually a release party for my new album on Sony Orchard — a preview of all the songs on the album,” said Cheadle, during a phone interview Wednesday from her home in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been doing a lot of singles. The first was ‘Reverberate’ and the second was ‘Lust In Between.’ I released a new Christmas single – ‘On This Christmas Night.’”

Christmas shows and Christmas albums are nothing new for Cheadle.

“I signed a deal with Sony Music,” said Cheadle. “I released a Christmas album with Sony on their Orchard label.

“I’ll have a new album coming out on Sony Orchard early next year and then I’ll go out on a support tour. I recorded it at Papa Cheadle’s studio.

“I’ve been writing songs for four years. It’s my best album yet – with a lot of emotions.

“When the COVID shutdown arrived, I started writing and couldn’t stop. I just relaxed and enjoyed it.”

One of the results of her writing outburst was her 2021 holiday album, “Let’s Get Together for Christmas.”

“It was a family affair,” said Cheadle. “I recorded it at my dad’s studio with my brothers and him. My dad was the producer.

“I did a Christmas album before – in 2010. It was more of a jazz album. This one is definitely bluesier.

“It’s a Christmas album but it’s a real sexy, sultry album – very R&B. I really got a chance to showcase my voice.

“The music on my upcoming album is also very R&B-based. I just wrote another song the other day. Songs keep flying out.”

The holiday show at Jamey’s features Cheadle and her band. Cheadle has a band that features blues, soul, funk – and a lot of Cheadles.

Her four-piece group features her brother Jim Cheadle on guitar and her father James Cheadle on keyboards along with Ben Smith, the only non-Cheadle, on drums.

James “Papa Cheadle” has played and recorded with Don Cornell, DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Four Aces, Grover Washington Jr., The Soul Survivors, Jaco Pastorius and Peter Erskine.

Cheadle has played with her family ever since she was a young girl.

“My father has influenced me so much,” said Cheadle. “He’s a seasoned jazz musician who used to be a music professor at Rowan University. So, I’ve always been involved with music.

“He has his own recording studio in South Jersey called the Swedesboro Music Studio and he records a lot of different people. He and I are both devoted to music. His influence on me is blues and jazz – but I make it modern.”

Cheadle’s music career began when she was four years old. Her father created the “Appreciation Choir” for the Persian Gulf War troops in the early nineties and created a music video that was aired on VH1 and MTV. Along with her two older twin brothers and various other children, Cheadle toured around the United States singing for audiences.

When she was 11, she enlisted her father to teach her how to play drums. From her “tween” to “mid-teen” years, Cheadle was in a band with her brothers called Sibling – a pop group that played at local restaurants, churches, music venues, private parties and parades.

“I’ve been in the Philadelphia/New Jersey music scene for quite some time,” said Cheadle. “I’ve been doing acoustic stuff since I was 16 and then put my band together later. Sibling was a blend and I morphed into my music. Songwriting comes very naturally for me. Sometimes, I wake up with a melody in my head. It’s just there.

“I’ve always been a super fan of old soul. My biggest influences are Aretha Franklin, Tower of Power, James Brown and Stevie Wonder. I love real drums and all the organic instruments. Some of my songs are rock. Some of them are blues. It’s hard to classify me – maybe pop/rock with soul influence. I just do what I feel.”

The Cheadle Family has built a strong reputation nationally.

“We were on an NBC television show called ‘The Next Great Family Band’ in 2013,” said Cheadle. “That got us a lot of interest in being booked for tours. They actually came to our place in Swedesboro. The exposure was great.”

Fans will get plenty of Cheadle’s music – old and new, R&B and holiday – this Saturday night at Jamey’s.

Video link for Laura Cheadle — https://youtu.be/LkCzIHeLivo.

Video link for Laura Cheadle on “Raid the Cage” — https://youtu.be/nkThnKBGijQ.

The show at Jamey’s on December 16 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.

On December 14, Jamey’s will present “The Journey Home” — a documentary film about one group of veterans, their community and PTSD along with a performance by John Flynn.

“The Journey Home” is a film about one group of veterans, their community, and their transition back to civilian life. The story is a documentary film dedicated to telling the story of the challenges veterans face on returning to civilian life, focusing on their lives, the impact on their families and caring community members in small-town Pennsylvania who step up to help them.

The free event will feature complimentary Chinese buffet prepared by Chef Suyun– radish root and egg soup, chicken curry, vegetarian curry, fried rice noodles, savory shrimp with scallions, braised pork, spring rolls, white rice, dinner rolls, and coffee (regular and decaf).

This weekend, Jamey’s will also present The Porkroll Project on December 15.

Philadelphia-based band The Porkroll Project is a hard-rocking five-piece blues group that plays a high energy blend of fresh covers and originals.

The music is blues, but it’s done up “Porkroll Style.”

The band has a collective experience that runs deep and wide, having played together in various other projects for more than 10 ten years. They are veterans of events such as the Philadelphia Jam on the River, the Annual Chameleon Club Blues Festival, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, the Riverfront Blues Festival, the Billtown Blues Festival, the Paoli Blues Festival and the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
The Porkroll Project show on December 15 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius

Joe Deninzon began his career as a recording artist with a solo release, “Electric Blue,” in 1998 on Wilbert’s Blues Records. Right from the start, he was a busy musician.

Now, a quarter of a century later, Deninzon is still very busy – maybe busier than he’s ever been.

Deninzon is currently a founding member of the band Stratospheerius and, since May 2023, the violin player for rock legends Kansas.

On December 15, Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius will open for the Levin Brothers at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

Stratospheerius is an American progressive rock band based in New York City. The band is led by electric violinist Joe Deninzon, who also plays the mandolin and serves as the band’s lead vocalist.

Deninzon is the new violinist with legendary rockers Kansas, now on tour celebrating their 50th anniversary. He has played violin for the Who, Bruce Springsteen, 50Cent, Sheryl Crow, and as the concertmaster for Renaissance.

Other members of Stratospheerius are drummer Jason Gianni, guitarist Michelangelo Quirinale and bassist Paul Ranieri .

The band took a break as Deninzon and bassist Bob Bowen teamed up with guitarist Steve Benson in 2010 as the Joe Deninzon Trio to record the acoustic jazz album, “Exuberance.” In 2011, Deninzon joined the faculty of the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp.

Despite numerous personnel changes, Deninzon kept Stratospheerius alive – and stayed very busy.

“I did 38 shows with Kansas – two shows a week – since June,” said Deninzon, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from his home in Old Tappan, New Jersey.

“Kansas is on a one-month break. I have a few shows with Stratospheerius – and we’re finishing the next album.

After creating the SonicVoyageFest Tour, Stratospheerius performed in Chicago’s Progtoberfest 2017, and at ProgStock in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Stratospheerius plays a style of music that defies categorization — a blend of straight-up rock, jazz, folk, fusion, prog-rock and funk. Deninzon describes the band’s sound as “psychojazz trip funk.”

Deninzon & Stratospheerius released their most recent album, “Guilty of Innocence,” in 2017.

“Guilty of Innocence” highlights include a reimagined cover of muse’s “Hysteria,” a 12-minute prog epic titled “Soul Food” and “Dream Diary Cadenza,” a solo electric violin extravaganza by Deninzon.

“Making this album was a long process,” said Deninzon. “We had a new approach. Usually, we’d get 10 or more songs together and book a studio. This time, we did one of two songs at a time and released them as singles.

“And we revisited stuff from 2014 and tweaked it. It was cost-effective – a single here and there. Also, it allowed us to make each song the best it could be.”

“We let it evolve naturally. The only real challenge was to make the album sound cohesive – and it does. Nowadays, people expect you to come up with new stuff all the time. But, as a musician, you want your music to be good – and that takes time.”

Deninzon, who plays a special seven-string Trident electric violin known as The Viper, has a diverse music background and a long history with his band Stratospheerius.

“I’ve had the band for quite a while now — in a lot of configurations,” said Deninzon. “I recorded my first CD when I was in Cleveland. It was called ‘Electric/Blue’ and it was a jazz fusion album. Over the years, I wanted to go in a more rock direction.

“When I moved to New York, I formed the Joe Deninzon Band and it later became Stratospheerius. I’ve always loved rock and folk music. Back then, I had two things going — playing guitar and singing in coffee shops and playing jazz music with my band.”

Deninzon had diverse influences.

“I looked at artists like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Popper — bands that were instrumentally great and were fronted by a vocalist,” said Deninzon, who was born in St. Petersburg (Russia) and moved to Cleveland when he was a boy and his father landed a position as violinist for the Cleveland Orchestra.

“I was also influenced by progressive rock bands from the 1970s such as Yes, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson.

“I’m a big rock fan — always have been. I studied jazz in college, but rock is what I wanted to play. Vocals are important. We have a lot of instrumentals but 70 per cent of our songs feature vocals. With all the different genres, I was finding my way over the years.”

Straospheerius’ other album releases are “The Adventures of Stratospheerius,” “Live Wires,” “Headspace” and “The Next World.”

“Stratospheerius has grown into a progressive rock band — a progressive rock band with cool vocals,” said Deninzon. “Our stuff has gotten more structured. But I also like the element of freedom. I never play a song the same way twice.”

Video link for Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius – https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/mer2vzxdw5xsvcawh6aya/h/Behind%20the%20Curtain%20Live%20Final%20comp.mov?rlkey=95b7uaiedulnljyepmdwxt012&dl=0.

The Levin Brothers feature Tony Levin, his brother Pete Levin, Ken Giofre and Jeff Siegel.

Since graduating from the Eastman School of Music, Tony Levin has become the bass and Chapman Stick voice for Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. In addition, he has played on notable recordings for John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Dire Straits, Carly Simon, Judy Collins, and many others. Tony has major jazz credentials, having worked with Buddy Rich, Steps Ahead, L’Image, Gary Burton, Chuck Mangione, and Herbie Mann. He currently records and tours with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Stick Men, and The Crimson ProjeKCt.

As a French Horn major, Pete Levin earned a master’s degree from the Juilliard School. In the early 2000’s, he switched to keyboards, becoming a synthesizer specialist in the New York City recording studio scene.

Over the years, he has been part of hundreds of jazz and pop recordings and performances by artists such as Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Jimmy Giuffre, Dave Brubeck, David Sanborn, Joe Louis Walker, Don Elliott, Freddie Hubbard, Annie Lennox, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius and Wayne Shorter. He currently records with his organ trio with Dave Stryker and Lenny White.

After five decades of glorious careers playing with virtually who is who in all genres of music — jazz, fusion, rock, pop and world music — and after guesting on each other’s projects, the brothers finally decided to have their own jazz band.

The Levin Brothers released their self-titled first album in 2014, and the follow up live albums “Special Delivery” in 2017 and “Live at Daryl’s House” in 2020.

The show on December 15 in Sellersville will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices range from $29.50-$45.

Both The Levin Brothers and Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius have performed in Chester County with shows at Kennett Flash.

“We just played Kennett Flash in September,” said Deninzon. “We’ll come back there for sure.”

This weekend, Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) will host Better Than Bacon’s 12th Annual Non-Denominational Holiday Extravaganza on December 16.

The show will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 with a $5 BYOB fee.

The Sellersville Theater will shift into full holiday mode this weekend when it hosts shows by vocalist extraordinaire Annie Haslam and Herman’s Hermit’s Peter Noone.

On December 16, the theater will present “Annie Haslam & Friends…In the Spirit of the Holidays.”

Beginning in 1999, Haslam has performed a Christmas show each year called “In the Spirit of the Holidays” — originally at the Upper Tinicum Lutheran Church, and then at the larger Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, since 2006.

The Christmas show has been held every year except 2012, because of the death of her friend and colleague, Michael Dunford, in November of that year. Haslam stated that “there was just too much sadness at the time.”

“I started the holiday shows a long time ago,” said Haslam, during a phone interview from her home in Bucks County.

“I first did the show at the church here in Upper Black Eddy. What I did – I included vegetarian Christmas food in the price of the ticket. It was really different. It was wonderful.

“After a few years, the pastor moved to Kansas. Then, I started doing holiday shows at the Sellersville Theater. It was a perfect place.”

Included in the program are secular, and religious Christmas carols, as well as her own compositions, and some Renaissance songs.

Haslam, Renaissance’s lead vocalist, has become a heralded solo artist and a gifted painter. She has graced the most prestigious world stages with her five-octave voice, including London’s Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and NYC’s Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

In recent years she has been recording and touring with Renaissance which has taken her to Japan, Brazil, Argentina, UK, Belgium, Portugal and Israel.

Renaissance is a band with a rich history as progressive rock pioneers that rose from the ashes of the Yardbirds, a blues-influenced British rock band known for introducing three of rock’s greatest guitarists — Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

Acclaimed for its unique blending of progressive rock with classical and symphonic influences, Renaissance’s long and successful career has been spearheaded by the five-octave voice of Haslam and the masterful songwriting skills of Michael Dunford.

Renaissance had a Top 10 hit in the U.K. with the song “Northern Lights.” In October and November 2017, the band debuted its “Symphonic Journey” tour.

“We did four shows with the 10-piece orchestra – an orchestra that featured strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion,” said Haslam. “One of those shows was at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside. We filmed the show.”

Haslam, who was born in Bolton, Lancashire, first gained worldwide recognition when she was asked to become the lead singer of Renaissance, a band formed by Keith Relf after he left the Yardbirds.

According to Haslam, “I joined the band New Year’s Day 1971. Now, more than 50 years later we are still performing and bringing our unique style of music to more and more fans all over the world.

While with Renaissance, Haslam was the lead vocalist on seven studio albums during their classic period (1972–1979), four studio albums from 1981–present, and a number of live albums.

In 1977, Haslam began her solo career with her album “Annie in Wonderland,” produced by Roy Wood (who was a key member of The Move, one of England’s best rock bands in the late 1960s). Wood played most of the musical instruments.

Haslam has since released eight studio albums, three of which were released through her own record label, White Dove. She has also collaborated with Steve Howe of the prog rock band Yes, on a number of projects.

From the year 2002, Haslam has developed a parallel career as a visual artist, producing paintings on canvas, painted musical instruments, and giclées.

“The show at Sellersville will open with some Renaissance songs. I don’t want it to be a Renaissance show, so I just touch on it.

“I’ll be singing a lot of Christmas standards – ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Silver Bells,’ ‘Joy to the World,’ ‘Oh Holy Night,’ ‘It Snows in Heaven,’ ‘White Christmas,’ and ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’”

Video link for Annie Haslam – https://youtu.be/MeB82QmGa1Q.

The show on December 16, which has Jason Decker as the opening act will start at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $35.

“An Olde English Christmas with Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone” is scheduled for December 17.

Noone was a popular British pop star in the 1960s with his band Herman’s Hermits. Some of their international hits were “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” and “Listen People.”

Noone and his band will perform two shows on Sunday – a matinee at 3 p.m. and an evening show at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $65.

Another upcoming show at the Sellersville Theater is The Mahavishnu Project on December 14 at 8 p.m.

When a band can last long enough to celebrate its 10th anniversary, it has earned the right to bask in its glory.

When a band from North Carolina heads out on a 10th-anniversary tour, it has earned the right to “Bask” in its glory.

North Carolina’s Bask have spent the last decade exhibiting their progressive blend of heavy psychedelia and soulful Americana across North America and Europe.

On December 14, Bask — Jesse Van Note, bass; Scott Middleton, drums; Ray Worth, guitar; Zeb Camp, guitar/vocals – will return to Philadelphia for a show at Kung Fu Necktie.

“We all found our way to Asheville 10 years ago,” said Middleton, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from a tour stop in Boston.

“Jesse and I are from Carolina, Ray is from Lexington and Jesse is from somewhere in upstate New York. “I was done with college and Zeb was in his last year.

Camp said, “I was studying literature at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. I met these guys through musical friends. Our first show was in 2013 at the Odditorium in Asheville.”

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Bask was fully conceived in the fall of 2013 when the four musicians came together to produce sounds that were properly reflective of the lush yet rugged Appalachian habitat. The band’s newest record, ‘III,’ showcases a soulful juxtaposition of Americana rock ‘n’ roll with progressive and psychedelic elements, separating Bask from your average rock band from the South.

Over the past decade, Bask’s music has been described as everything from country to Americana to metal.

“How do you describe our music,” said Middleton. “Heavy, post-rock, indie, psychedelic, Americana, prog, metal – put it all in a blender.

“We’re a hard rock band with psychedelic and folk influences and some progressive tendencies.”

Camp said, “We all have pretty diverse tastes. Two of us have North Carolina folk and traditional. Growing up, punk and hardcore were popular and we all found our ways to heavier stuff. Now, we’re back to traditional.

“The description depends. We’re often the lightest band on a metal bill and the heaviest band on an indie rock bill.”

Middleton explained how the band has been able to keep going strong for more than 10 years.

“We’ve been stubborn and dedicated,” said Middleton. “Our first album was “American Hollow” in 2014 and the second was ‘Ramble Beyond’ in 2017. Our most recent album is ‘III,’ which was released in 2019.

“Our set list is divided pretty evenly between the three albums. We’ve been writing for a new album that we’ll record in 2024. We’re playing a new song from it on this tour.”

Video link for Bask – https://youtu.be/1lONxOS6U4M.

The show at Kung Fu Necktie on December 14, which has Call of Pripyat and Savage Mystic as the opening acts, will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15.

Leo Sawikin released his debut album “Row Me Away” in 2021 during COVID.

It was definitely not the best timing for a new artist – especially considering that a support tour was out of the question.

“Row Me Away” had two tracks, “A Whole World Waiting” and “Born Too Late,” that scored indie radio spins in the U.S. and the UK. The album’s first single, the ethereal rock ballad “Golden Days,” earned a prominent spot in the influential American Songwriter.

Now, Sawikin is finally getting out on the road.

Back in November, Sawikin posted this message on  his Facebook page – “I am so so so excited to announce that I will be going on tour opening up for Jon Mclaughlin this December!! This is the longest tour I’ve ever done and will be my first time visiting a lot of these cities. Incredibly thankful to be joining Jon for these shows and for the opportunity to explore the country in this way.”

The tour is a 10-day, 10-city venture that features 12 shows. One of those shows will be on December 17 at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, www.citywinery.com).

Sawikin is the former front man of the indie band The Chordaes.

“I did a couple mini-tours with The Chordaes – two or three stops within the I-95 corridor,” said Sawikin, during a phone interview Tuesday from a tour stop in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve never played as far south or so far west as I am with this tour. I have played Philly a few times – the Grape Room and two times at The Fire.

“I’m touring with Jon McLaughlin and Bobbie Lee Stamper. Bobbie was in Jon’s band a while ago. I’ve never played with either before. My agent sent Jon my music and Jon asked me to go out on tour with him.”

Even though his debut album came out just three years ago, Sawikind has some music history.

“I did two albums and one EP with the Chordaes,” said Sawikin. “Then, I did my solo album right before the pandemic.

“I’ll release my next EP next summer. Until then, I’m going to be pretty much releasing every track as a single. One of my songs – ‘The Same Mistakes’ – has continued to get traction for the last four months.”

“The Same Mistakes,” according to Celebmix, a “gorgeous, shimmering… lusciously pensive” track. The song asks why so many of us, both collectively and personally, seem powerless to escape cycles of self-sabotage and self-destruction.

When it was time to record the album, Sawikin went west – to the Pacific Northwest.

“Back in March, I went to Seattle to work with Phil Ek,” said Sawikin, refereeing to the legendary producer who has worked with Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, The Shins, and Fleet Foxes.

“I went to Seattle three times to work on the album with Phil. I’ve been releasing singles ever since – four out and six to go.”

Sawikin’s most recent single is, “New York I’m Coming Home,” which is the fourth single recorded at Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard’s Studio Litho Ek as producer.

“I took a trip to Europe last year and that’s when I wrote this song,” said Sawikin. “I was in Europe for a month. The song was about how that changed me.

“I was riding on a train from Rome to Barcelona when I wrote it. I wrote the music in a day but the lyrics took several months.”

Sawikin is a true New Yorker.

“I live in New York,” said the rising young singer/songwriter. “I was born and raised there. I grew up on the Upper West Side. Now, I live close to Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown.”

When Sawikin plays Philly this weekend, his position as opener will mean a shorter than usual set.

“Bobbie and I each are doing 25-minute sets,” said Sawikin. “In my set, I’m doing some older songs and mostly new stuff. I also have a Christmas song that I recorded a while back – It’s Getting Close to Christmas.’”

That sounds like a fitting song for a show on December 17.

Video link for Leo Sawikin – https://youtu.be/j1xVVFMC950.

The show at City Winery on December 17 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets prices range from $35-$45.

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