Richie Havens at The Berrie Center

Richie Havens


Ramapo College of New Jersey, February 11, 2005:


       Kathy and I go to the Berrie Center at Ramapo College about 7:00 P.M. This is one hour before show time. I see Walter Parks before the show. He and I have exchanged e-mails. He has asked and been permitted to use my photos of the Richie Havens concert at The B.B. King Blues club on November 19, 2004, on his Web site. I captured some great photos of Richie Havens, Walter Parks and Stephanie Winters at that gig. Our brief conversation is cordial, but he has not had time to update his Web site with the photos yet. There has not been enough time and I know how that goes. It is so nice to see him before the show. I appreciate Walter’s support in using my photos.


Walter Parks


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       There is an overflow crowd for the Richie Havens performance tonight. They are selling standing room only tickets at the box office, right now. Richie will be out front after the show to sign CDs. Maybe I will get a few moments to chat with him. We get our front row seats and soon are in conversation with our neighbors: James, Mary and Arye. Our conversation is animated and warm. James is a lawyer from Glen Rock, who is here with his sister Mary. Arye, their close friend, is here from Paterson. They are all devoted Richie Havens fans and are eagerly anticipating the show.


Arye, Mary, James and Kathy


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       At 8:15 P.M. the lights dim and the announcer introduces Richie Havens. There is no photography allowed for tonight’s show. Richie Havens is greeted with an engaging and enthusiastically long round of applause. Richie’s intro is joyful and humorous. Richie says, “Everyday I get up and say, YES!” His tuning leads into a conversation about his early Village days, where he played fourteen sets a night. His first song is, “All Along The Watchtower.” Richie’s left foot keeps time furiously as he taps front to back in exact time and kicks up quite a bit of dust. There are excellent guitar fills from Walter Parks. This song is lively, spirited, deep and impassioned. Richie’s double-strum is steady and strong. This excellent opening number sets the mood for an exciting night of music. The second song is, “Tupelo Honey,” from Van Morrison. This musical presentation is slow, spacious, celestial, delicate and sincere. Walter executes super light-touch leads and fills. This is continued seamlessly into Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman.” This is sung with conviction and is very touching and personal. Richie’s ‘live’ rendition is exquisite, with perfectly creative lead guitar accompaniment by Walter. Richie throws in his trademark double time strumming to showcase his unique and unparalleled musicianship. “Way Down Deep” is next, in a lively 4/4-tempo arrangement. Walter is funky and chunky on the leads. The song is bright, lively and moves the audience to sway with the beat, in their seats.

       The next song is carefully and thoughtfully introduced in a minor key. It is slow and easy, delicate and caressing, emotional and moving. Richie sings, “If I could tell a story…” I sense a musical connection to my past and yes it is. The song is, “The Makings Of You,” from Curtis Mayfield. The musical presentation is excellent. Walter’s leads and well-phrased and sustained stretch notes, really hit a soft spot in my musical soul. The emphatic vocal is magical and the clear, rhythmic, melodic execution only serves to complete a convincingly power performance. “The Road To Calvary” is heartfelt and emotional. The delivery is slow, genuine and passionate. Walter executes tasteful leads with vibrato added to contribute to the precise nature of his playing. This fully complements the gorgeous melody and arrangement. Richie sings the vocal refrain, “tell St. Christopher, we’re on our way.” “Grace Of The Sun” is next, which is the feature song if the latest CD. A strong 4/4 tempo carries this persuasive composition along. A creative double time scale run, that is jazzy and then moves through with blues and minor attributes, is cleverly woven together in a sensuous, well-crafted, lead guitar accompaniment. An intermission follows.

       The second set opens with “What About Me,” from Quicksilver Messenger Service. Richie Havens’ interpretation is strong, with a pronounced staccato rhythm from Walter. Stephanie Winters is introduced and they perform a slowly seductive version of  “Woodstock.” The deliberate and melancholy delivery is serene and deeply moving. Stephanie’s cello sets the stoic and somewhat sad lament coloring, with the slow and sustained tonality of her instrument. This rendition has a religious reverence and solemn   musical imagery in its delivery. “Here Comes The Sun” is bright and uplifting. The trio is humming along. Walter is featuring succinct notes and well placed triads. This is an audience favorite and showcased Richie Havens’ uncanny and superior interpretation of other composers’ songs, especially the Beatles.

       An e-mail request song is played for Kathy, “Wandering Angus.” The arrangement is slow and sincere and features rhythmically uneven emphasis that is slow and plodding. Walter utilizes his volume control for that ethereal and celestial effect. “The Well” is slow, deliberate and dream-like. Walter and Stephanie join in a brief but touching unison solo passage, which embellishes the melody, but is fleeting and leaves you wanting for more. The music is moving, serene, quiet and delicate. “Back To My Roots” is lively and strong, brazen and bold. The fervent delivery cooks! This leads into Richie Havens’ most well known song, “Freedom.” The crowd is clapping and the audience is fully involved. The vocal delivery is powerful and intense.

       A standing ovation brings Richie Havens back for a very different encore. He sings a melodic prayer of a cappella vocal delivery that is unique, extremely heartfelt and truly genuine. Richie Havens puts on another memorable performance here tonight. He creatively brings together the old and the new. He delivers them all with his uniquely creative genius, which he has displayed all through his illustrious career. A special thanks goes out to Richie Havens for coming to Ramapo College. Thanks to Walter Parks, who contributes so much to the musical presentation. Thanks also to Stephanie Winters who’s cello tops off the trio like whipped cream on chocolate musical cake.


Richie Havens


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       Richie Havens graciously comes out to the front, after the show, and spends an hour talking to everyone. I do get my chance to chat with Richie Havens and discuss my many decades of playing music. I tell Richie what a significantly important influence he has had on my own musical development. I also get a chance to discuss my reviews for Newport Jazz in New York. He shows genuine interest and appreciation, which endears us all.


A.J. Alfaro and Richie Havens


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       THANK YOU, Richie Havens!

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