Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project: The Jam, The Scene, The Party

For my band, Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project, 2011 ended with four funky gigs and a memorable radio show lying in the center of the North East Jam Scene, a scene and a party like no other.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving found me and the band on stage at Connecticut’s legendary rock club, Toad’s Place, playing with one of the jam scene’s top solo acts, Zach Deputy. As a fan of Zach’s music for years, the band and I were truly honored to not only play in front of him that evening, but have him grace the stage with us on lead guitar for our last two songs of the night!

The Zach Deputy show proved to be a true touring highlight for the year and got the band and me ready to roll for two shows that weekend at the first annual Rock n Roll Resort Thanksgiving Affair. As if jamming with Zach Deputy wasn’t a cool enough highlight for the month of November, Rock n Roll Resort was chock full of smokin’ acts from Deep Banana Blackout to Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk to The Ryan Montbleu Band and Kung Fu.

In addition to the killer lineup, the entire four-day festival was contained within a hotel/resort in Kerhonkson, New York, so the vibe was beyond the typical jam festival and proved to create an intimate gathering of musicians and music lovers alike.

The band and I hit the late-night stage at midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning. By the time our set was done, Ryan Snow of Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds was sitting in with us on trombone, and Ryan Montbleu and I were singing “Sittin’ On The Dock of The Bay." This would only be the start of what truly was an epic evening.

After our set was over, people began to disperse back to their hotel rooms and to other stages as music was scheduled until 6 in the morning. Or so they thought.

At about 3 in the morning, I walked through the hotel lobby to find a pair of females (Kit and Lindsay of the Nephrok Allstars) singing and a guy on the hotel’s grand piano absolutely getting funky. With ukelele in hand, I went over to introduce myself and get a closer look. The result was a four-hour jam session that would eventually include Ryan Montbleu. The Nephrok Allstars, Antar Goodwin on bass and Kareem Walkes on alto sax from my band, a flask full of Southern Comfort, and a whole mess of people I never got the chance to officially meet.

With a crowd amassing and a collective vibe of like-minded musicians introducing themselves to one another over classic funk and soul tunes, the true meaning and purpose behind the “jam scene” was on full display for all the folks in Kerhonkson to see!

With little to no sleep under our belts, my acoustic trio (Kareem, Antar and myself) graced that same lobby Sunday afternoon for an hour-long set to help close out the festival. Before heading back out on the road, Ryan Montbleu shared the mic with me one more time on a jazzy rendition of Bill Withers' “Use Me” and the weekend was complete!

With one more full band performance and an acoustic radio show left on the calendar for 2011, I could only hope the good vibes and great times that closed out my November would continue. They certainly did!

Sunday, December 11, found me on Connecticut’s WPKN Radio talking about the unbelievable musical year it had been and getting the word out about our last show of the year, December 15 at Daniel Street with the aforementioned Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds.

I had brought my acoustic guitar along to do a few songs on the air, and to my surprise, one of my all-time favorite saxophone players, Rob Summerville of Deep Banana Blackout and Kung Fu, was in the local area, was set to be on the radio show later that afternoon, heard the start of my interview on his car radio and decided to swing by early with his soprano sax. The result was a killer improv jam over two of my latest tunes ("Anticipation" and "Push & Pull") like only you can get on live radio! Luckily, the whole show was recorded and can be streamed on WPKN Radio’s archive.

Our final show of the year found my band in rare form. As this was one of the last shows being played at the soon-to-be-closed Daniel Street Club in my hometown of Milford, Connecticut, it seemed only fitting to pull out all of the stops and call in some old friends.

With three saxes on stage and two lead guitarists on top of myself, bass and drums, the last Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project set of 2011 will go down as one of the most enjoyable musical experiences of my career! Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds were as funky and killer as ever and the show was the perfect way for me to end 2011!

I’ll get much more into the 12/15 show in my next post, but for now, check out these videos of Zach Deputy sitting in with the band and me at Toad’s Place. The band lineup that night included Eddie Arjun Peters on lead guitar, Mario Capodifero on drums, Ben Golder-Novik on tenor sax, Kareem Walkes on alto sax and Antar Goodwin on bass.

I wish you all a happy and healthy new year, and I look forward to sharing all of my musical adventures with you in 2012.

Frank Viele started playing at the age of 3. His infectious style of guitar-playing and soulful rock voice are key elements to the success of his band Frank Viele & The Manhattan Project. But his solo shows bring the same raw energy and crowd-stirring excitement to audiences across the country. His sound has been compared to John Fogerty, Otis Redding, and even Dave Matthews but it’s the authenticity people hear most. A soulful stew of rock, pop, blues, and jazz are ever present. Being so well versed in so many styles means that Viele can deliver an incredible performance to any audience. “I started out doing the acoustic singer-songwriter thing, so this is really my first love. Having such great bandmates, I’m lucky to bring a few along sometimes to add another level of energy and funk to the shows,” Viele explains. Performing solo allows him to give his songs a different spin. “When you’re in a band, your songs take on a different life sometimes. It’s great to be able to revisit them. It allows the tunes to really stand and speak on their own,” he elaborates.

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