Keyboard player Jonny Rosch has tons of friends, and he’s always getting a few of them together for a good time. Happily, he usually invites an audience, and this time we all enjoyed a celebration of Steely Dan’s music.
Assembled at the lovely and quirky Helsinki Hudson, this time Rosch’s posse drew heavily from artists from Woodstock—no real surprise, since the artsy-and-antique-y town of Hudson is only about 25 miles from the artsy-and-hip-y Woodstock. Helsinki Hudson has made a name for itself with its excellent sound system, food and décor, and it attracts an eclectic crowd by consistently booking interesting acts. Not surprisingly, Rosch’s “Reelin in the Years” show sold out.
A working and session musician who’s played with the Original Blues Brothers, Joe Walsh, Southside Johnny and about an orchestra’s worth of other headliners, Rosch has made friends in every band he’s ever worked with, and they show up to have fun onstage with him. These gatherings aren’t cover bands trying to sound exactly like the original recordings, they are consummate musicians being faithful to the original without trying to duplicate it. This night, keyboardist Rosch played Donald Fagan. Singer/songwriter Jules Shear took lead vocals on “Bad Sneakers” and “Black Friday,” but the bulk of the vocal leads fell to Rosch or Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie, Tears for Fears, Gwen Stefani, Lenny Kravitz); Dorsey also shared guitar duties with Matt Finck. Between Rosch and Dorsey, they sang “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number, “Peg,” “Josie,” “Do It Again,” and the closer (naturally), “Reelin’ in the Years.”
Solos bounced around the crowded stage (three keyboard instruments, two drum kits, 12 musicians) like a grasshopper, from Chuck Pasin’s trumpet to Matt Finck’s guitar to Peter Primamore’s incredible and mostly one-handed keyboard solo. Drummer Jerry Marotta (Orleans, Peter Gabriel, Elvis Costello, et al.) thought up the Steely Dan idea (“I’m the Martin Luther King of rock. I had a dream,” he said), and brought along his drummer brother Rick, who’s apparently from the “the show must go on” school of ethics and played both sets despite having broken an ankle earlier in the day.
All Jonny Rosch and Friends’ shows are based on having a good time. If you want to chuck the Wellbutrin, grin, kick back and feel like you’re hanging with a bunch of world-class musicians while they jam in your living room, these are the shows for you. I don’t know if any version of JR&F has played Helsinki Hudson before, but I’m 100% positive some configuration will be back. So will I.
– Suzanne Cadgène
Photos by Arnie Goodman