Rob Paparozzi says that when it was suggested that he perform a 50th anniversary tribute to the Woodstock Festival at the free, all-day Morristown Jazz and Blues Festival, Aug. 17, he responded: “Woodstock wasn’t really blues or jazz, per se. But I can make it work.”
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band performed at the Aug. 15-17, 1969 Woodstock Festival, for instance, and in 2014, Paparozzi and Ed Palermo collaborated on Electric Butter, an album paying tribute to both Butterfield and Electric Flag. Paparozzi, a harmonica player and singer who grew up in Linden and now lives in Mendham, still plays some Butterfield songs regularly.
He also fronted Blood, Sweat & Tears from 2005 to 2011; the jazz-rock band had its biggest hits in 1969 and 1970, and performed at Woodstock. Coincidentally, guitarist Steve Katz — a co-founder of Blood, Sweat & Tears who was still in the band at the time of Woodstock, and now lives in Connecticut — will be performing and telling stories about his life at the Stanhope House, Aug. 16.
“I said, ‘Steve, why don’t you come here, you can sleep over after the Stanhope House with me, if you want to come do our show,’ ” said Paparozzi. “So he’s going to do an opening … like, maybe I’ll play an old blues song with him, and then he’ll do (the Blood, Sweat & Tears song) ‘Sometimes in Winter,’ just solo, on his guitar. And it’s funny: They did ‘Sometimes in Winter’ on Aug. 17, 1969, up at Woodstock. So this will be 50 years to the day that we’ll have a real Woodstock veteran up on that stage with us.”
Paparozzi will perform at the festival — which takes place from noon to 10 p.m. on the Morristown Green — with his Rob Paparozzi’s Juke Joint band, featuring Tom “Bones” Malone on trombone; John Korba on piano and vocals; George Naha on guitar; Sue Williams on bass and vocals; Warren Odze on drums; Tom Timko on sax; and Vinnie Cutro and Max Morden on trumpets. All have stellar credits in the worlds of pop, rock and jazz; Malone and Timko are Blood, Sweat & Tears alumni as well.
“We’re even going to bring Max’s daughter, Amanda, to play flute on (Canned Heat’s) ‘Going Up the Country,’ because that became the theme song of Woodstock,” said Paparozzi.
Paparozzi said he’ll also perform some of his original songs, but about 75 percent of the set will be Woodstock-related.
“We got some Band songs. I’m going to open the show with just solo guitar: ‘How Have You Been,’ the John Sebastian song. So there are a lot of Woodstock references in this set.”
Rob Paparozzi’s Juke Joint will play in the festival’s 4 p.m. slot. Other performers will include The Antoinette Montague Experience at noon; guitarist Frank Vignola’s trio, featuring guitarist Vinny Raniolo and bassist Gary Mazzaroppi, at 2 p.m.; the Bernard Allison Group at 6 p.m.; and Davy Knowles at 8 p.m.
So, in other words, you’ve got jazz in the early afternoon, blues-rock in the evening, and Paparozzi’s group to make the transition from one genre to the other, in between.
That’s the way this festival is usually structured. “That’s a good idea,” said Paparozzi. “You don’t want to have all these jazz bands on during the day, and at night have a real ruckus. So we’re the ones who kind of tie it together. There are a couple of jazzier acts, and then we can kind of open it up and shift gears and get it ready for this evening of raucous blues.”
In addition to performing Juke Joint shows, Paparozzi is a current member of the Blues Brothers; the group still includes original members Steve Cropper (of Booker T. & the M.G.’s) on guitar, “Blue Lou” Marini on saxophone, and Tom Malone on trombone.
“I do it for the stories,” Paparozzi says. “The gig is the gig. It’s fun. You put on the hat and stuff. But the stories …
“When you sit down, and Cropper is talking about when Otis Redding died, and I’m saying, ‘Wow, how did you guys deal with it?’ And he goes, ‘Well, I took those tapes that we weren’t done with and I went in the studio and locked myself in the studio, and I didn’t come out till the next morning. And I put on the seagull sounds and played some more guitar (on “The Dock of the Bay”).’
“You know, they wrote ‘Knock on Wood’ … he went to meet Eddie Floyd over at the Lorraine Motel (in Memphis), where Martin Luther King was later shot. And he goes over to meet Eddie Floyd, and it’s raining and thundering, and they wrote ‘Knock on Wood’ together in the hotel room. These are priceless stories.”
Paparozzi was “a too little young, 16 going on 17” — to attend Woodstock, he said. But his older brother Lou not only went, but had a backstage pass, because he worked for the Ampeg amplifier company.
“He said the love and peace and sharing was great and everything, but backstage, those characters had everything they wanted, from booze to wine and food, and helicopters to take them out of there when they were done,” said Paparozzi. “He said it was a different scene, seeing the backstage politics go on.”
For more on Paparozzi, visit robpaparozzi.com.
For information on the festival, visit morristownjazzandblues.org.
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