By Tom Baldino
Every Wednesday evening, Sandy Mack, JSJBF member and local music legend, assembles a rotating cast of the best musicians on the Jersey Shore to play in his “Roots, Rock, Revival” show at the Asbury Hotel. Recently he featured fourteen -year-old Carlotta Schmidt, who has been a regular performer in board member Joseph Vincent Riggio’s, Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic at the Red Bank Women’s Club. This monthly event brings together some very talented teens to play their music of choice to a supportive gathering of family and friends.
Sandy reached out to the Foundation recently to see if any of the regulars would like to have an opening spot at the Asbury Hotel gig. Joseph asked Carlotta and her family who were happy to oblige. She played one Wednesday and Sandy said “we have to have her back” so one week turned into a several-week run. Joanne and I went to see her at her third appearance and we, along with everyone there, were amazed at her performance. Her ten song set lasted just over half an hour and ranged from to “Moonlight In Vermont”, first recorded in 1944, to “ Way Out”, a song by Jack Harlow, released last year, and everything in between. “Chain of Fools” and songs like the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” benefitted from her strong vocals, while the Black Keys’ version of “Lonely Boy” showcased her constantly improving guitar skills. The audience responded with heartfelt applause as they knew they were witnessing something special.
After a short break, Sandy’s “Band Du Jour” hit the ground running. With Kevin Hill of Secret Sound on acoustic guitar, Billy Siegel of Dramarama and Cosmic Jerry on keyboards, Paul Avrutin of Live Dead and our own Lasher’s Flashers on bass and April Centrone of Arabic Orchestra on drums, Sandy’s harping led them through a rousing version of the Dead’s “Deep Ellum Blues”. Their set was highlighted by terrific version of Joe Cocker’s “Unchain my Heart” with Billy Siegel on vocals. Kevin Hill’s leads really made that acoustic guitar come alive while the solid bass of veteran Paul Avrutin and understated drumming of April Centrone were perfect for the room.
The plan was to bring Carlotta back up for the last three numbers which she had chosen with the band. They kicked off with a spirited version of the classic “Kansas City”, made famous by Wilbert Harrison. They then transitioned into every teenage musician’s rite of passage, “Johnny B. Goode.” Carlotta nailed the lyrics with her powerful vocals and the licks to keep up with a group of musicians who collectively have more than a hundred years’ experience. Then it got interesting. Instead of the third song she had chosen, the Blues classic “Further On Up the Road”, Sandy broke out into Jerry Garcia’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do”. Without missing a beat, Carlotta joined in and ripped through an excellent solo. The crowd erupted in cheers and I was thinking that our late board member Mark LaRochelle would have been proud of Carlotta’s effort, knowing that he helped nurture her at the start of her musical journey.