Brooklyn Roads Newsletter

Celebrating "Celebrate Brooklyn!"
Celebrating "Celebrate Brooklyn!": Behind the Scenes with Producer Jack Walsh
Artists on the Horizon
ARTISTS ON THE HORIZON Bass Instinct: Johnny Pisano Works And Plays Well With Others
BACK IN THE DAY: This Month in Brooklyn Music History
Brooklyn Voices
Volume 1, Issue 2
Editor- David K. Moseder
Publisher- Howard B. Leibowitz

All music…. All Brooklyn !!

Celebrity Interviews! New Artist Profiles! Contests! Brooklyn Music Venue Picks!

What is it about Brooklyn that intrigues the rest of the planet? Is it something in the water? The view from its namesake bridge? The parks, beaches and boardwalks? More likely it’s the steady stream and mix of a diverse citizenry who have added their talents, voices and dreams to everything else that Brooklyn was, is and will become. No one can really explain how the borough has inspired artists of all kinds over the years, but Brooklynites, whether native born or those who have adapted it as their home, have made and continue to make indelible marks on the world of music.

Once associated almost exclusively with the ‘70s disco scene, Brooklyn has gained respectability over the last few decades, attracting and nurturing musicians of all genres and drawing hordes of fans to an ever-increasing number of music venues. From the burgeoning music hub of Williamsburg to the concert halls, clubs and bars throughout the borough, Brooklyn is alive with the sounds of rock, pop, soul, hip-hop, folk and jazz, as well as a variety of ethnic music and more. Indeed, this sonic boom is “how New York became America’s music capital again,” according to a 13-page New York magazine cover story.

This newsletter is designed to be a one-stop resource for Brooklyn music, presenting interviews with those who have helped shape the borough’s music culture and profiles on talented local performers awaiting discovery. We also dig into Brooklyn’s past contributions to the music world and look ahead to upcoming releases, events, artist news – and more.

We just introduced the “BK Play”, our very own music player, which features songs from Brooklyn artists that you might otherwise not come across. The BK Play is spinning “Sam’s Song” penned by Johnny Pisano, “We Both Live in Brooklyn, Babe” from Frank Hoier , “This Little Song “ a  Sweet Soubrette composition and “Available” , what looks to be a home grown funk classic from Brother HiJinX.      

We were privileged to be able to spend some time with Jack Walsh, who hired Richie “LaBamba” Rosenberg (Conan O’Brien, Southside Johnny, and Bruce Springsteen) as his wedding band and whose hard work and dedication helped put Brooklyn on the musical map. Bath Beach resident Johnny Pisano is one of those “musicians’ musician” who has quietly made great music. We were thrilled to have him share his some his musical insights and experiences in this installment of “Artists on the Horizon”.

We invite you to tell us what you think of Brooklyn Roads and to join us in supporting the musicians, venues and music who call Brooklyn home.
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Past Issues
 Volume 3, Issue 6
 Volume 3, Issue 5
 Volume 3, Issue 4
 Volume 3, Issue 3
 Volume 3, Issue 2
 Volume 3, Issue 1
 Volume 2, Issue 3
 Volume 2, Issue 2
 Volume 2, Issue 1
 Volume 1, Issue 3
 Volume 1, Issue 2
 Volume 1, Issue 1

Celebrating “Celebrate Brooklyn!”
Behind the Scenes with Producer Jack Walsh

Jack Walsh & David ByrneThe 2010 “Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival” is off to a rousing start, thanks to opening night gala headliner and Brooklyn resident Norah Jones. With upcoming acts ranging from alternative rockers Sonic Youth to New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint to soul sensations Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings -- plus an amazing variety of up-and-coming singers, musicians and dance troupes – it’s sure to be another stellar music season in Prospect Park. Brooklyn Roads sat down for a chat with Jack Walsh, the Park Slope native who has been working behind the scenes to produce the iconic annual event for nearly 30 years.

Midwood Field Concert Series

Tell us a little about the origins and evolution of “Celebrate Brooklyn!”

“Celebrate Brooklyn!” was the brainchild of its original producer, Burl Hash, who in 1979 wanted to revive what he felt had become a barren cultural landscape and at same time help revitalize Prospect Park. I was privileged to be hired as his assistant in 1981 and began working for Brooklyn Information and Culture, which evolved into the BRIC Arts Media organization that we have today. 1994 was my first full season as Producer and I was fortunate to have great people to work with, such as Rachel Chanoff, our Artistic Director. Our series is a part of a borough wide arts programs that BRIC runs throughout each year.

Where did the “Celebrate Brooklyn!” title come from?

Since the series was created to help bring people back into Prospect Park, after New York City’s budget crisis in the 1970’s and began to gain in popularity and attendance, it was natural to come up with a name for the festival that had a flair and “Celebrate Brooklyn!” is what we came up with.


How are the acts and types of performers selected?

The festival is a curated one and by that I mean that we try to draw on both of our missions: to provide artists with a platform and to reflect the diversity of Brooklyn. We are driven by our history of presenting eclectic performers and weaving a sound quilt each year.

Why do you think Brooklyn has given birth to or nurtured so many diverse and talented musicians and singers?

For one thing, rents are cheaper, so like-minded artists tend to flock here. It’s not a new phenomenon. A lot of people don’t know that Brooklyn has a rich jazz tradition that goes far back to the likes of Eubie Blake and which enjoyed a revival in Williamsburg in the ‘80s and ‘90s.


Did any of the concerts stand out from the others? What were the most memorable ones?

One of my first and most memorable concerts featured jazz singer Betty Carter. Another was headlined by the legendary jazz drummer Max Roach, who played solo and with an all-percussion ensemble called M’Boom. Then there was Johnny Clyde Copeland, who used a 100-foot-long guitar cable so he could go play IN the audience. The 2003 Leonard Cohen tribute featuring multiple artists was also special and of course we were proud to host Bob Dylan’s Brooklyn debut in 2008. Dylan was looking to play “off the beaten path” and we were able to get him to do a benefit concert for us. That season saw a number of milestones, including Isaac Hayes and Hal Wilner’s Bill Wither’s Project performances.

Walsh says last year’s David Byrne concert was also extra special.

We had been asking David Byrne for years. Last year with the recession he agreed to open “Celebrate Brooklyn!” by doing a free show as a gift to the people of New York, his adopted home city. The concert was special because he had just begun working with Brian Eno as his producer and this was the first time since the Talking Heads broke up that he played a significant amount of Talking Heads music. We have a venue that holds about 7,000 people and nearly four times that many people showed up – but we were prepared for that, so everything went smoothly and the crowd loved it.”

While Jack’s list of Brooklyn music “hall of famers” would be too huge to print here, he says it would have to begin with the aforementioned Mr. Blake and Ms. Carter and, on the pop side, would be topped by Neil Diamond.

Neil is an icon whose roots go deep. His music is revered by multiple generations and is still going strong today.

Thank you, Jack Walsh, for bringing great talents year after year to “Celebrate Brooklyn!” We look forward to yet another spectacular summer under the stars.

Bass Instinct: Johnny Pisano Works
And Plays Well With Others

Johnny PisanoJohnny Pisano has been “on the horizon” for some 15 years and counting, and as the ultimate team player he Is comfortable just outside the limelight. This musician’s musician has played gigs with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Deborah Harry, Counting Crows and Joan Osborne, and his distinctive bass lines can be heard on the upcoming releases The Innocent Ones from Willie Nile and Life Is a Problem from indie rockers Marah. He has also recorded with Jesse Malin, Ryan Adams and Marky Ramone, among dozens of others.

Ironically for a man who doesn’t like sports, the Bensonhurst-born Pisano’s highest profile appearance to date was playing with Nile in his “Welcome to the Big Show” video as part of's Opening Day baseball coverage this season. Ironic, yes, but also fitting, considering that his first instrument of choice was a baseball bat, which he used to play “air bass” to Kiss tapes.

“Me and my friend Mike would sit in my room with a boom box. He was always Ace Frehley, playing lead guitar on a ping-pong paddle, so I was Gene Simmons.” When a neighbor, a music teacher, heard about these sessions, he offered to teach the boys the real thing and Johnny’s passion for the bass took off in earnest. “I fell in love with the sound of the bass. Every time I listened to music my ears would focus on the bass player no matter how low or loud he was in the mix. I would literally break the rewind button on my boom box to figure out exactly what he was doing, what notes he was playing, to complement the vocals or the lead guitar.”

At first Pisano listened to a lot of King Crimson, Rush, reggae and other “bass friendly music,” then kicked it up a notch when he got into Motown and old school funk. He cites legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson among his early influences, but says it was The Clash who “changed my whole life. Joe Strummer was like a history teacher to me and Paul Simenon created these amazing bass lines. Their musical creativity plunged me headlong into punk rock.”

In the 1990s he got to indulge his passion for punk when he was asked to join Marky Ramone & The Intruders, and in the three-degrees-of-separation world of pop music, this led him to Jesse Malin, which led him in turn to both Ryan Adams and Marah’s Christine Smith…well, you get the idea. “We’re like a bunch of friends looking out for each other and helping each other.” Aside from his obvious musical talent, he attributes his popularity among his peers to “Doing my homework well. My ear has gotten so good that I pick things up real quick. They have confidence in me.” He also says it’s important to “Get to the gig on time, hit your mark and be a nice person.”

Although Pisano says his is not interested in a career as a singer or songwriter, his own “Sam’s Song” has garnered more than 30,000 hits on his MySpace page. He says listening to Willie Nile has inspired him to do more writing. “Willie is out to change the world with his music and lyrics, like Mike Peters of the Alarm, Neil Young, Joe Strummer, Bono, John Lennon and Bob Dylan, if I dare to put him in that category. His songs are so simple yet they get the point across.”  

Johnny also finds inspiration in the “old school vibe” of many Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. “Walking a around Coney Island inspires me; you feel like you’re really connected to places like that.”

BACK IN THE DAY: This Month in Brooklyn Music History

Carole King1964: Barbra Streisand makes the Top 10 for the first time with People, one of her show-stopping numbers from the Broadway musical Funny Girl. The song would earn Streisand her third Grammy award, having previous earned two for her debut album the year before.

1967: Thirty years after his death, George Gershwin is still a hitmaker as The Happenings’ rendition of his and brother Ira’s I Got Rhythm reaches number three on the pop charts. The record was produced by the Gershwins’ fellow Brooklynites Mitch Margo, Phil Margo and Hank Medress, collectively known as The Tokens.

Neil Sedaka1969:
Midnight Cowboy gallops into movie theaters and soon “everybody’s talking” about Bushwick native Harry Nilsson. His version of Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin’ on the film’s soundtrack propels Nilsson from cult figure to pop star. The iconic song would eventually become a top 10 hit and director John Schlesinger would later comment that no one could imagine Midnight Cowboy now without it.

After writing dozens of hits for other artists, Carole King’s own It’s Too Late, the first single off her landmark Tapestry album, begins a five-week run at number one on the charts. The song would go on to win the Grammy Award for “Record of the Year.”

1980: After a four-year absence from the charts, Neil Sedaka cracks the top 20 with Should’ve Never Let You Go, a duet with his daughter Dara.

Busta Rhymes1996: Busta Rhymes’ debut single, Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check, is still riding high on the charts after peaking at number eight in late April. Fellow Brooklyn rapper Rampage guests on the song.  

Flatbush native Bruce Sudano, husband of Donna Summer and successful musician in his own right (Alive ‘n Kicking, Brooklyn Dreams) is enjoying a nine-week ride at the top of the adult contemporary charts with It’s Her Wedding Day, written for his and Summer’s daughter Amanda Grace.


Matt BerningerThe lineup for the upcoming 10th anniversary edition of The Village Voice's Siren Music Festival in Coney Island will include two local acts: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, based in Greenpoint, and Matt and Kim, who met while they were students at the Brooklyn campus of Pratt Institute…De La Soul headlines Brooklyn Bodega's 6th Annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park, performing on the last day of the July 5-10 event…Other concert series of note include the 101.9 RXP Summer Concert Series at The Williamsburg Waterfront beginning June 25 and the AfroPunk Festival at Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene, June 25-27…Two-time Grammy nominee MGMT is offering their newest release, Congratulations, in CD and vinyl formats with a limited edition scratch-off front cover. The Brooklyn Heights-based band recorded several of the tracks at Greenpoint’s Context Studios…. High Violet is the fifth studio album by The National.The band produced it themselves, much of it at their own studio in Brooklyn…De La SoulSharon Jones & the Dap Kings make it look easy with I Learned the Hard Way, which debuted at number 15 on the US Billboard 200. Described by various critics as “superb,” “ass-kicking” and “honest and true soul,” among other accolades, the album is also riding high on the R&B and Independent charts as we go to virtual press…The Chemo, Busta Rhymes’ ninth studio album, is scheduled to be released on July 6…Jay Z has been tapped by Oprah Winfrey to appear on the premier episode of her new cable talk show, Master Class, in January…Notable Quote: “You can’t tell people what they want to hear if you also want to tell the truth,” from Soft in the Center, a featured track on The Hold Steady’s latest release, Heaven is Whenever.

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