The 2012/13 Tom Humphrey Guitar Series gets underway this weekend, with performances scattered throughout the cold, lonely winter and into the early days of spring. Humphrey, the legendary Gardiner luthier, passed away four years ago at the age of 59, though his building techniques and designs will resonate forever.
The fifth season of the series, presented by the Ritz Theater and Newburgh Veterinary Hospital in association with the Bardavon, begins this weekend with roots blues artist Rory Block. Block has become one of the world’s most important preservers of the roots of American blues music and an uncompromisingly mature artist. Her playing and singing are otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends. The primary performance takes place at the Ritz Theater in Newburgh on Saturday, September 29. One night earlier, Block performs at the Rosendale Café.
“My friend Chris Silva, who is the artistic director of the Bardavon Opera House, books this series,” said Rosendale Café owner Mark Morgenstern. “He is helping a lot of venues get great artists, and he’s been a big supporter of the Ritz Theater in Newburgh. This is just an example of his generosity and kindness.”
Morgenstern said that two straight nights of performances are a good thing, especially in a music-loving, expansive community like the Hudson Valley. “It behooves everyone that if an artist comes into the area, they can find two good venues to play in back-to-back,” he said. “It just serves everybody, especially the community.”
The Rosendale Café will also host the first night in the second chapter of the series, when Ramblin’ Jack Elliott performs there on Friday, October 19, one night before playing the Ritz. Morgenstern said that he’s honored to host all musicians who play his venue, though he acknowledged that there’s something particularly special about having the folk legend Elliott perform. With more than 40 albums under his belt, Elliott is considered a living legend. From Bob Dylan to Bonnie Raitt to Bruce Springsteen, they all pay homage to Ramblin’ Jack.
“Somebody like Ramblin’ Jack, that’s a good get,” Morgenstern said. “You’re talking about history. He knew Robert Johnson.”
The series continues intermittently through April, with performances by jazz pianist and arranger Nat Adderly, Jr.; jazz guitarists Frank Vignola, Vinny Raniolo and Bucky Pizzarelli; and guitarist Peppino D’Agostino.
It’s fitting that the series honors Humphrey, not only for his contribution to music, but also because he actually came up with the idea for the concert series just two months prior to his death. Among the performers in the first few years were Pete Seeger, Odair Assad, Mary Gauthier and Cindy Cashdollar. “It’s a beautiful thing to honor Tom Humphrey,” said Morgenstern. “It keeps the legacy going. It’s just a lovely thing.”
Tickets to the Ritz Theater shows cost $25 each, and include a reception with the artists following their performance; prices for the shows at the Rosendale Café vary, with Block’s performance $20 and Elliott’s $22. For more information, visit www.ritztheaternewburgh.org and www.rosendalecafe.com.