By Tom Baldino
Our final Reckless of the year came two days after the passing of Dennis Eschbach, past President and founder of this event with his partner in life, Doris Lazur, nearly twenty years ago. It was a bitter sweet coincidence that Goldenseal, a band he played trombone with on numerous occasions, was the band that night. We dedicated the night to him, with both former JSJBF board member and band leader, Joe Hughes, and I recounting several meaningful stories to us about Dennis during the course of the evening. I also accepted a check from Joe’s law firm for continued sponsorship of this event in 2023. It was then announced that a scholarship would be awarded next June in Dennis’s name to a graduating high school senior going on to include music in their college education.
Joe not only brought the band, consisting of Art Hoffer on guitar, Jesse Kessler on bass, and Pat Martucci on drums, but also special guests, Billy Harth on harp, Alfredas Kairitis on violin along with Dennis’s partner in the “Golden Horns,” Lee Sanderson, on sax. As always, Joe’s sets consist of an eclectic mix of rock, blues, disco, country, and heartfelt originals. Joe thanked Lee as he and Dennis had to write horn charts for his original songs or they wouldn’t have been able to play on them.
The night began with KC & The Sunshine Band’s big hit “Get Down Tonight” and the mood went into celebration mode. They then switched gears for the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle with Care,” before Joe launched into one of his signature compositions, “Streets of America.” Billy Harth then came up for a fun version of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” with those signature harp lines sounding great. Throughout the evening, Joe being the great showman and band leader he is, relayed stories of what Dennis meant to him. The most beautiful and poignant moment of the night came when Joe invited Alfredas to the stage to do an incredible version of Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind.” They nailed it, and those lyrics drove home the fragility of life and enjoying our friends and family while they are with us. After a great version of Jimi Hendrix’s take on “Hey Joe,” they finished the opening set with a rendition of “They Call Me the Breeze” that had folks dancing in the aisles.
The second set started with a rousing version of Muddy Waters’ seminal tune, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” with Lee, Billy and Art trading blistering solos. Alfredis then returned to the stage for a wonderful version of the country music staple, “Tennessee Whiskey.” A high of the set was Jesse’s bass solo at the end of the Hendrix version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” A nice inclusion was The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” a song with a great hook and a heavy blues influence which the band, especially the rhythm section of Jesse and Pat, were flawless. With the night drawing to a close, Joe invited everyone to the stage to perform a raucous version in the style of John Mellencamp’s cover of “Cherry Bomb.” It was a great ending to an evening of music that Dennis would have been a part of if he was with us, but I’m sure he was smiling down in approval.