Soundcheck lives with Little Georgie as finale

ellen leahy 08/14/08More articles

Little Georgie and his Hungarians shuffle back to Syracuse to begin anew:

The Aug. 17 Soundcheck Live celebration, with TK-99’s Dave Frisina as the focal point, is a day-into-night wander through Syracuse Music History featuring some of the most influential, ground-breaking acts and seasoned musicians that ever boiled up in the Salt City. Syracusans will have to pace themselves as a reunion of Little Georgie and the Shuffling Hungarians will be the finale of an already fine show.

“Frisina is the dean of the local music radio scene,” Little Georgie Rossi said, “he was the only guy, a ray of sunshine in a sea of darkness.”

The concert will be the climactic end to a big weekend at the Inner Harbor where Syracuse’s Hottest Chick-N-Wing Festival takes place Friday and Saturday. Power balladeer Benny Mardones will climax the Wingfest Saturday night by reprising his bit hit “Into the Night.” On Sunday, the Soundcheck Live concert begins at 3 p.m. before travelling long into the night.

Shuffling Hungarians
Little Georgie and The Shuffling Hungarians made their mark on Syracuse as the house band at the much-missed Styleen’s Rhythm Palace, at 314 S. Franklin St., now the site of the Ohm Lounge. Stlyeen’s was then owned by Michael Heagerty (now a Syracuse city councilman and owner of Eastwood’s Palace Theater) and his sister, Eileen AKA “Styleen.” Every Saturday night in the mid-1990s you could find people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds sweating to the funky soul sounds of Little Georgie and the Shuffling Hungarians – a 12-piece New Orleans-style R&B revue that played for four hours straight without a break.

Prior to the band’s stand at Styleen’s, the group played every Wednesday night for a couple years at the world-famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

During the Nineties, the Shuffling Hungarians released two CDs, here on Queen Bee Records, a self-titled studio disc and a twofer waxed live at Styleen’s. The recordings featured Rossi originals such as “The Ballade of Little Georgie,” “Gutbucket” and “Brassy Bessie,” while the live discs also included New Orleans standards such as “Hey Pocky Way’ and “Let’s Go Get Stoned.”

In 1998, Georgie left Syracuse to take up with some of the nation’s finest musicians in New Orleans – but Central New York remains home in his heart.

“There are great musicians in Syracuse,” Georgie said, “in New Orleans there are just more of them.”

The tribe
Georgie was originally called to the Crescent City for a four-month gig as producer of a 25th anniversary recording, “Life is a Carnival,” for The Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indian Tribe for Capitol Records. The Indians are descendants of people of color who were abducted from Africa and the Caribbean and brought to this country as slaves. These are people out of central city New Orleans who never left their native traditions behind even after coming to America. The tribes are like secret societies, Georgie said, that allow themselves to be witnessed in public, especially every Mardi Gras morning.

“The Indians are one of the last examples of true cultural expression in America,” Georgie said, “so the fact that they’re coming up here to play with a white boy from Skaneateles is an incredible thing.”

Impressed by his Syracuse recordings, the Wild Magnolias picked Georgie as they felt he could update their sound while honoring their traditions characterized by rap-like chants fully fused by funk.

On that recording Georgie worked with many longtime New Orleans-based players such as Allen Toussaint, Dr. John and several top session players, musicians who wanted to be involved with that Wild Magnolias project. Georgie’s four-month gig turned into a total relocation, collaborations with Cyril Neville and brass band players, a long-running piano gig at Pat O’Brien’s French Quarter bar and, in 2005, a near-fatal dance with Katrina.

While most folks call New Orleans “The City that Care Forgot,” Georgie dubs it “The Vortex of Lost Souls.”

Now he’s on the other side, ready to hit the road fueled by the knowledge and experience he garnered from working in that music hub.

Bringing friends home
So here we are at a new beginning. Sunday’s show marks the return of the (mostly) original band along with a few special guests. Joining the Shuffling Hungarians will be NOLA saxman extraordinaire Tim Green.

Georgie met Green while playing with Cyril Neville in his Uptown All-Stars band in New Orleans around the turn of the century. Green is arguably the finest saxophone player in the country, Georgie said, and is one of the most sought-after musicians for studio sessions as well as live work.

“There are a lot of great, well-respected musicians in New Orleans,” Georgie said. “Green is right up there with the best – a stellar performer, one of my favorites.”
A quintessential sideman, Green plays with more than 20 bands and has performed on more than 50 recordings.

Soundcheck Live will serve as membership drive for the Landmark Theatre. Patrons will be asked to make a $5 donation that will give them a year membership in the Landmark, located at 362 S. Salina St.

The 80-year-old theater is in the process of raising money for a stage expansion and renovations that should attract more shows to this market. Much of the Landmark’s funding comes from the public on a grass-roots level. The downtown theater will use Sunday’s show as a platform to attract new members and educate the community about its renovation efforts.

Georgie on the big stage
Take super saxophonist Tim Green, the original Little Georgie on keyboards and lyrics, the Georg e-o-Lettes on backing vocals, add a few hundred candles, incense, some voodoo, a handful of real live Mardi Gras Indians, several Shuffling Hungarians including Sammy-winning trumpeter Jeff Stockham, nine cameras for a live DVD shoot and recording, and there you will be.

If you have never seen Little Georgie and the Shuffling Hungarians live, this is your chance. If you were a regular at Styleen’s 12 years ago, this is your chance to rekindle that one-of-a-kind rhythm & blues groove. Come celebrate Syracuse Music and get some face time on the DVD. Expect a two-hour plus groove … can we get an Amen?
The event is on -- rain or shine -- from 3 to 11:30 p.m. The Inner Harbor Amphitheater is located at the corner of West Kirkpatrick and VanRenssalaer streets, on Syracuse’s near North Side.

The musical line-up:
3 p.m. Simplelife
4 p.m. Mike Ryan
6 p.m. Doyle-Whiting Band
7:30 p.m. The Flashcubes
9 p.m. George Rossi AKA Li’l Georgie and his band the Shuffling Hungarians. It wouldn’t be a Li’l Georgie show if there weren’t some surprises

Li’l Georgie’s
Gayle Sampson
Jackie Clarke-McMullen
Angela Washington
Saul Brown
Jeff Stockham
Frank Grosso
Don “Diego” Williams
NOLA’s Tim Green

Max McGee, bass
Greg LaPoint, drums
Vinnie Ludovico,
Mick Walker, guitar
Georgie Rossi, piano, vocals

Note:Image is Little Georgie album cover designed by Marty Blake of Jamesville.

TAGS: syracuse,NOLA,Georgie,Hungarians,Frisinia,soundcheck,inner harbor,doyle,whiting,Frenay
EDITION: The Eagle

Rating: 2.5/5 (22 votes cast)

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