On a cold spring evening, I journeyed down to JSJBF member venue, the Long Branch Distillery, to hear long-time member Sandy Sasso and her band. Owner Mark Elia has been presenting live music on Fridays and Saturdays and serving delicious signature cocktails in a warm and inviting room since reopening last summer. If you haven’t been there, you owe it to yourself to check it out. I’m sure you will enjoy the room and the diverse musical acts that Mark offers each week.
Sandy brought her A team to the gig on this night, with her husband and long-time musical partner Charlie Ruggirello on guitar, Gary Mazzaroppi on upright bass, Audrey Lafferty on brass, and Behn Gillece on vibes. She kicked off the night with “Close Your Eyes” which featured a nice bass solo by Gary. Before “A Tisket, A-Tasket,” a song made famous as the signature tune for Ella Fitzgerald, Sandy told the story of Ella as a teenager on the Apollo Theater stage where band leader Chick Webb first heard her and began a musical relationship that lasted until his untimely death in 1939.
On “Chances Are,” Sandy’s vocal put a nice female spin on a song that Johnny Mathis has been singing since 1957! With “Opus One” Sandy encouraged dancing and a pair of Jitterbuggers responded to the delight of the audience. “Walking My Baby Back Home” was done in tribute to local keyboard player Gladstone Trott, a former bandmate who was taken from us much too early in 2017.
Sandy then left the band stand, as she said to “unleash the band,” who then individually and collectively displayed their musical prowess on “Bernie’s Tune.” Another highlight of the set was “Down St. Thomas Way,” an instrumental that Sandy’s band played during her fifteen-year residency at the 55 Bar in the West Village. One night the band was about to play and this fellow Ray Passman approaches the bandstand and hands Sandy a set of lyrics that fit the song perfectly, and she has been singing it ever since. This arrangement included wonderful tenor sax and flute solos by Audrey, who is a featured player in the Jazz Lobsters, her husband band leader James Lafferty’s terrific big band. “Angel Eyes,” a song introduced in the 1953 film “Jennifer,” starring Ida Lupino and Howard Duff, was highlighted by Sandy’s sultry vocals. Another instrumental break with the song “Back at the Chicken Shack,” made famous by Hammond B3 master Jimmy Smith, allowed the band to stretch out and again show their considerable skills with Behn’s stand-out vibraphone playing a joy to listen to. The Quintet was having a fun time, and when they launched into “Meet the Flintstones” to close the set, the audience responded.
The Sandy Sasso Quintet will be playing in April and May at the Distillery and the JSJBF will host them at Reckless Steamy Nights on June 24th. Please check our website for more information as it becomes available.
Check out her web site, www.sandysasso.com for additional information and future performance dates.
More information about the Long Branch Distillery www.LBdistillery.com