Downtown after Dark March March 27 to April 2

Russ Tarby, Staff Writer 03/28/08More articles
Honky polka music to fill former church
Bill Knowlton is synonymous with bluegrass.
But the host of WCNY-FM’s “Bluegrass Ramble” enjoys a wide range of folk musics.
Polka, for instance.
Knowlton and his friend, Cultural Resources Council folklorist Daniel Franklin Ward, were instrumental in bring Stephanie & Her Honky Polka Band to the Center 4 The Arts, in Syracuse, for a post-Dyngus Day celebration at 8 p.m. Friday March 28.
Long fascinated by American polka music and its forms (Connecticut, Cleveland, Buffalo and Chicago styles), Knowlton said, “Every weekend I enjoy our Syracuse programs of the great Bob Pietrucha, Yash & Yash and Art Kott. I also log on to for Polka Stony and Polka Happiness Mary Ann.”
Last Labor Day weekend Knowlton and Ward went to Sylvan Beach to see Stephanie & Her Polka Band, a Buffalo-based band playing the Chicago-style.
“We were blown away by the showmanship, enthusiasm and musical ability of this incredible talent and felt that she must be shared with folks who are not necessarily of Polish descent. After all, area folk organizations frequently bring in Celtic, Cape Breton, Hispanic and blues groups so that ‘the rest of us’ can enjoy what they perform.”
Stephanie Pietrzak will haul her big Chemnitz concertina into the Center 4 The Arts at 728 E. Genesee St., the old Christian Science church, just west of Syracuse Stage. Admission costs $15. For info, dial 436-5541.

‘Honky’ style explained
What exactly is “honky” polka?
The Polish American Journal explains:
“The concertina and ‘honky’ polka music is a true marriage of music in polkas. The Dixieland-like character of honky polka music, with its prominent drum beat, single trumpet, mating clarinet and grindy concertina, fosters a spirit that embodies the soul of this music.
“In the Buffalo area, the mother-daughter team of Wanda and Stephanie Pietrzak played the festival circuit and recorded several albums and a recent compact disc. Stephanie, now with her own band, is unquestionably a ‘grinder’ on the concertina, playing some of the best honky style around.”

From spiritual to swing
Though I often inform, I rarely implore.
In this case, though. I implore you to log onto to see and hear the Syracuse University Brass Ensemble’s incredible performance of “Joshua Swings the Battle.”
Based on the old Negro spiritual, “Joshua Fit De Battle o’ Jericho,” the Stephen Bulla arrangement breathes new life into the familiar strains and the SU Brass rises to the occasion with verve and vigor.
The 30-piece ensemble, under the direction of Dr. James T. Spencer, gives an animated reading of Bulla’s adventurous arrangement, as lead trumpeter Jeff Stockham soars, slurs and swings.
“Bulla’s arrangement allows me to play on the page while providing enough leeway for improv,” Stockham said. “I can cut loose a bit on the trumpet and ornament the melody with the occasional rip or glissando.”
Shot at Hendricks Chapel when the SU Brass played its annual Christmas concert there last year, the SU Video Production Unit vid features fine camera work and meticulous editing, as the visual rhythm mirrors the music.
The videographers ably captured the spirit of the performance, and with the brilliant brassman Jeff Stockham on the lead, “Joshua” easily topples the walls of Jericho.

National champion
On March 16 Jeff Stockham won a first-place plaque in the National Trumpet Competition, at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va.
The Syracuse musician won his award in the 19th Century Historic Division, playing Joseph Kuffner’s “Polonaise for Keyed Bugle” in the final round, accompanied by the Federal City Brass Band.
Stockham will be on the bandstand with the Bear Cat Jass Band at 2 p.m. Sunday March 30, at the Canastota Public Library. That’s a free concert; 697-7030.
He’ll also blow with the 17-piece Salt City Jazz Collective from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday April 2, at the Syracuse Suds Factory, in Armory Square. That’s free too; 471-2253.

Slavery ain’t funny
During the first week of this month, both sides of the Landmark Theatre marquee hyped the March 8 appearance of comedian Katt Williams with the words, “It’s pimpin’ pimpin.’”
Call me square, but I don’t get what’s so funny about enslaving women.

JuJu Hounds howl
Austin-based alt-country songwriter Stevie Tombstone will have some major-league accompaniment when he plays Redhouse on Saturday night March 29. Tombstone, who has roots in nearby Marietta, will be joined onstage by Georgia Satellites’ guitarist Rick Richards and Izzy Stradlin’s JuJu Hounds. The music starts at 8 p.m. Admission costs $15, and includes a complimentary copy of Tombstone’s new disc, “Devil’s Game.” For info, call 425-0405.

‘Don’t Feed the Actors’
Appleseed Productions will host two nights of improvisational games with “Don’t Feed The Actors!” featuring some of Appleseed’s regular performers. Hosted by the Game Warden Greg Hipius, the starving actors will do improv in hopes of a few table scraps. The actors include Doug Rougeux, Gerrit Vanderwerff, Jr., Terry LaCasse, Mark Allen Holt, Maria Hickman, Heather Roach, Dustin Czarny and Dawn Sadowski.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday March 28 and 29, at the Atonement Stage, 116 W. Glen Ave. Tickets cost $10. For info, call 492-9766, or visit. Proceeds will benefit Appleseed Productions which is in its 15th season of presenting community theater.

Jazz singers front SSO Friday
Two Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame vocalists, Nancy Kelly and Ronnie Leigh, will perform with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, at 8 p.m. Friday, March 28, at the Crouse Hinds Concert Theater at the Mulroy Civic Center at OnCenter, 411 Montgomery St., downtown. They’ll be singing material by Billy May, Stan Kenton and Syracuse’s own Jimmy Van Heusen.
This concert reprises a 2005 SSO appearance by Kelly and Leigh, which sold out.
Ticket prices range between $20 and $70; 424-8200 or (800) 724-3810, or visit

Rufus Reid with CNYJO
Born in Georgia, raised in California, Rufus Reid began his career as a jazz bassist in Chicago but has worked in New York City for the past 32 years. The well-traveled bassman will play with the Central New York Jazz Orchestra at 8 p.m. Friday March 28, at the Carrier Theater, at the Mulroy Civic Center at OnCenter, 411 Montgomery St. For tickets ($19.50, $23.50, $26.50), call 435-2121. For CNY Jazz Arts info, dial 479-JAZZ.
The author of a book called “The Evolving Bassist,” Reid shines on two recent recordings, “Live at Kennedy Center,” a CD/DVD collection on Montema Music) and “The Gait Keeper” (Sunnyside Records). On Friday, he’ll perform his 2003 composition “Linear Surroundings,” written for nonet, and selections from “Live at Kennedy Center.”

Lost Boys found Saturday
The Lost Boys have been located!
They’ll perform acoustic country and bluegrass along with songwriter John Cadley at 8 p.m. Saturday March 29, at the Syracuse Center 4 the Arts, 728 E. Genesee St.
The Lost Boys have released two discs, “Black Dog” and “Middle of Nowhere,” and Saturday they’ll showcase tunes such as “New York Hills” and “Train of Trouble” from Cadley’s new solo CD, “The Closer I Get.”Admission costs $5; 436-5541.

Big Sexy’s big fall
The Syracuse Crunch’s popular in-game performer, Mark ‘Big Sexy’ Hayes, is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a dislocated right shoulder.
The injury occurred halfway through the second period of the Crunch’s 5-2 win over Grand Rapids on March 22. While performing his nightly dance routine and wearing firefighter’s gear in honor of SERVPRO Salute to Firefighter’s night, ‘Big Sexy’ was injured attempting ‘the worm,’ a dance maneuver commonly found in his routine.
The team is working with Adecco, the world leader in human resource solutions, to help find a temporary replacement for ‘Big Sexy.’ Audition information will be released at a later date.

Jazz at Metro Tonight
The Marcia Rutledge Trio holds forth from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m., TONIGHT, Thursday March 27, at the Metro Lounge and Sushi Bar, 505 Westcott St., Syracuse. Admission is free; 428-0815.
Rutledge will sing a mix of jazz, swing, blues and R&B backed by guitarist Tom Bronzetti and drummer Bob Holz.

Founded in 1993 by Ann Johnston, the Johnston School of Irish Dance is instructed by Ann Johnston-Sullivan and Patty Wilsch. Classes are conducted in Syracuse, Fayetteville, Watertown and Utica. Several of the Johnston dancers, ages 4 to 18, performed at the Motto Music Collection Musicale on March 9 at the Fayetteville Free Library.
Toward the end of this month two girls from the Syracuse class, Colleen Byrnes and Molly Francis, and one girl from Watertown, Merry Jo Devine will traveling to Belfast, Ireland to represent the school in the world championships.

Rating: 2.8/5 (18 votes cast)

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