I bet you can relate. Have you been jonesing for a good earful of live music to chase away the 2020 blues? I certainly have. Want proof? I returned a day early from an autumn splendor White Mountains vacation just to catch the Blue Mask Boys’ show at Bartlett park in the City of Poughkeepsie on Sunday.
The acoustic sextet was an instrument-swapping hoot courtesy of the good graces and red-hot talent of Jon Ahmadjian (Guitar), Nate Allen (Bass), Bruno Bruzzese (Banjo and Fiddle), David Chernack (Fiddle, Mandolin and Guitar), August Eriksmoen (Mando), and Steve Margulis (Guitar and Mandolin). As a jam band, few of the tunes were tightly arranged, but nonetheless these masters of their craft sang their hearts out and traded licks with the best of them.
I was particularly jazzed to see this group because a few weeks earlier I was bowled over by Bees In The Barn, a HVBA member band featuring mandolinist Eriksmoen, bassist Allen, and two other members not on “stage” for Sunday’s concert. I wanted to see what these boys could do with multi-instrumentalist David Chernack, whom I’ve had the pleasure of playing with recently, and to reconnect with Bruno Bruzzese, who attended the HVBA’s very first gathering at the Hotel Rhinecliff in November 1994! At the time–my goodness was that really 26 years ago?–Bruzzese was a great fiddler and he has since added the five-string banjo to his arsenal.
The show, spirited and spontaneous, did not disappoint! While there were many highlights, I’ll just say I loved “Deep Elem Blues” and Chernack/Bruzzese’s twin fiddling on “Tennessee Waltz” and suggest you watch Fred Robbin’s video (when available) to pick out your favorite moment. Also not to be overlooked was the fact that this was a happy reunion offering an opportunity to connect with old HVBA friends like the Lipton family, Mike and Ruth Rosenthal, Ed Schaffer, Fred Robbins, and, of course, Bruno Bruzzese.
Special thanks must be extended to Lynn Lipton for brainstorming this idea, the City of Poughkeepsie 4th Ward Council member, Sarah Brannen, City workers who set up the chairs in a covid-protective manner and, of course, the Blue Mask Boys for sharing their many talents with us.