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Sounds Local: Giving back to the Valley’s world-class “horn man”

  • “Celebrating Charles” that will honor national treasure and our very own local hero Charles Neville. Neville, 78, a native of New Orleans who is world famous for his work with the Grammy award-winning Neville Brothers, is currently battling pancreatic cancer and this show will serve as both a tribute and a fundraiser to help Neville and his family during this difficult time. Contributed Photo


Monday, January 22, 2018

We are so lucky to have so many world-class musicians living and working here in the Valley, and saxophone player Charles Neville of Huntington is certainly at the top of the list.

On Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Laudable Productions will present a special show “Celebrating Charles” that will honor national treasure and our very own local hero Charles Neville. Neville, 78, a native of New Orleans who is world famous for his work with the Grammy award-winning Neville Brothers, is currently battling pancreatic cancer and this show will serve as both a tribute and a fundraiser to help Neville and his family during this difficult time.

This concert will feature an all-star lineup that includes Aaron Neville, the lead singer of the Neville Brothers and a renowned solo artist, as well as Charles’ children, vocalist Charmaine Neville and keyboardist Khalif Neville. Rounding out the lineup is Mitch Chakour, Youssoupha Sidibe, and Henri Smith. All of these musicians are donating their time as their careers have been shaped by their collaborations with Neville, the musician known as “the horn man.”

The Neville name may be synonymous with New Orleans, but to those of us here in the Valley, Charles Neville is very much one of our own. He has called Huntington home for over 20 years, and we are fortunate enough to have regularly enjoyed his music at many of our local festivals and venues. From sharing the stage with Roger Salloom at the Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center to inspiring crowds to dance the night away at the Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse, or the intimate shows at places like the Ashfield Community Center, Neville has been a constant presence on our local scene.

Neville’s long and varied career has seen him playing all styles of music with a long list of renowned musicians, but while living here in the Valley, he has really focused on his love of jazz, and most recently has been performing with his children, Khalif and drummer Taylin, as the New England Nevilles. In addition to being a legendary musician, Neville is a kind and gracious individual who has given us so much great music and worked to inspire and uplift us. Now it is time to give back.

Every dollar raised goes directly to a fund that will help offset medical costs and enable Charles to receive the best possible care. We are giving advance notice on this show as tickets are going fast. The price ranges from $45 to $250. To purchase tickets, or if you are just interested in making a donation, visit www.celebratingcharles.org.

Tickets to local festivals on sale now

One thing that helps me get through winter is when my Facebook page is dominated with announcements about music festivals. Even thought I have no plans to attend, say, Bonnaroo, it somehow makes me feel like there is a light at the end of winter when I read about the events that will take place in June.

Local festivals are also gearing up, and even though lineups have yet to be announced, tickets are now on sale. And remember, the earlier you buy the better deal you get. The Green River Festival will be held on July 13 to 15, and weekend passes are available starting at $109.99. Festival organizers are also offering hotel packages this year, so let your out of town friends know about this. Single day tickets will go on sale April 1 and the lineup will be announced by then.

A favorite of fans of the jam band scene, the StrangeCreek Campout is once again heading to Camp Kee-Wanee in Greenfield. The popular festival will take place May 25 to 28.

Weekend passes are on sale now for $120. This discounted price is only good through Feb. 14.

Coming up much sooner is the Back Porch Festival in Northampton. Now in its fourth year, this festival was inspired by the Back Porch Sunday radio program, which airs on 93.9 the River, and is hosted by Jim Olsen, the president of Northampton-based record label Signature Sounds. (They also present the Green River Festival and many other concerts). The radio show plays material, new and old, by American roots artists and the festival celebrates this genre of music. This year, the festival will take place from March 1 to 4.

The Back Porch Festival will kick off with a Thursday night show at the Parlor Room with Say Darling, a Patsy Cline tribute band and will then present three weekend shows at the Academy of Music.

Friday night will feature Deer Tick (local musician Gabe Bernini of LuxDeluxe plays keyboards with the band) and Saturday night the triple bill of Anais Mitchell, Birds of Chicago and Jeffrey Foucault. The festival wraps up on Sunday afternoon with David Grisman and Del McCoury (International Bluegrass Hall of Fame), Molly Tuttle and Honeysuckle.

Tickets range from $12- $49 and are available at www.signaturesoundspresents.com

While we are talking about festivals, Tommy Byrnes, who with his wife Jessica and son Ian put on the Upper Valley Music Festival each year, announced that they will be taking a break this year. The reason that this festival that celebrates local music will not happen in 2018 is simply one of time (or lack thereof in this case.) The Byrnes family recently took a beating from the flu, which took them out of commission during the time period that they should have been in the early stages of prepping for the festival.

In addition, Tommy Byrnes is finishing up work on his album “What Got Left Behind.”

The good news is that the Upper Valley Music Festival will return in 2019!

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines.
You can contact her at
soundslocal@yahoo.com