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Cynthia Sayer's Joyride LIVE! at the Grunin Center


By Spotlight Central, Photos by Love Imagery

originally published: 11/27/2023

Cynthia Sayer

Jazz fans have arrived at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts this November 13, 2023 for a special “Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon” concert by Cynthia Sayer and her Joyride quartet. Considered one of the finest 4-string jazz banjo players in the world, Sayer is known for playing with musicians like Wynton Marsalis, Les Paul, and the New York Philharmonic, in addition to performing on movie soundtracks including Sophie’s Choice and The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Concert producer Ricky Riccardi — the Grammy-winning Director of Research Collections for the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens, NY — welcomes today’s crowd of music lovers announcing, “Let’s give a warm welcome to Cynthia Sayer’s Joyride!”

Sayer takes the stage strumming her banjo as Jim Freyer enters from the rear of the auditorium playing his trombone, Andrew Hall joins in on string bass, and Larry Eagle adds percussion on a jaunty rendition of Fats Waller’s “This Joint is Jumpin’.”

Cynthia Sayer

Concertgoers happily nod their heads in rhythm as Sayer sings, “The banjo’s strummin’/The bass is thumpin’/This here spot is more than hot/In fact, this joint is jumpin’” while she’s expertly accompanied by the Joyride band musicians.

The crowd applauds, and Sayer responds, “Thank you so much!” prior to explaining, “When most people think about the banjo, they picture a 5-string banjo which you hear in bluegrass music, but this is a 4-string banjo which is the original fretted instrument of jazz.”

Cynthia Sayer



 
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Here, Sayer launches into the WWII hit, “It’s Been a Long Long Time,” whispering, “Kiss me once/Then kiss me twice/Then kiss me once again,” before the audience joins in singing the tune’s catchy “It’s been a long long time” refrain.

On an upbeat rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” Hall solos on trombone as Sayer’s fingers energetically glide up and down the neck of her banjo.

Cynthia Sayer

Percussionist Larry Eagle takes his turn in the spotlight playing the washboard on the group’s rendition of the 1921 ditty, “Jazz Me Blues.”

Cynthia Sayer

Preparing to sing lead on the next number, trombonist Freyer jokes, “If he has a Tony Bennett switch, please ask the sound guy to turn it on!” prior to crooning “I’m Going to Skedaddle Back to Seattle.” On this appealing traveling song, Sayer makes her banjo sound like a locomotive train, Hall slaps out a bass solo, and Eagle lends support on percussion.

Following “El Choclo,” a tango which has Freyer playing baritone horn, Sayer sings lead on her humorous original composition, “You Talk Too Much.” She follows up by performing her mother’s favorite song, Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” where she demonstrates her technical virtuosity on a duet featuring banjo and string bass.

Cynthia Sayer

Moving on to a number which Sayer reveals she recorded “two-and-a-half decades ago,” she and the Joyride band sail into 1936’s “(It Will Have to Do) Until the Real Thing Comes Along” where Eagle plays with brushes, Freyer uses his cap as a trombone mute, and Sayer picks out a banjo solo.

The ensemble follows up with an up-tempo rendition of Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” where Freyer is accompanied by Sayer’s quick strumming on the banjo.

Cynthia Sayer



 
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On this selection, Hall speedily fingers his bass as he slaps his strings and Eagle traverses his drum kit, hands and feet moving in multiple directions. The crowd heartily applauds, and Sayer rhetorically asks, “Do you really like Paris?” to which Freyer jokingly responds, “I like Toms River!”

Revealing, “I learned this next song from Linda Ronstadt,” Sayer performs “When Will I Be Loved,” a number originally recorded by The Everly Brothers. Presented with an old-timey jazz feel, Sayer cries, “I’ve been cheated/Been mistreated/When will I be loved,” before skillfully sliding her way up and down the banjo on a well-received solo.

Cynthia Sayer

Informing her colleagues, “Let’s go right on it!” Sayer quickly counts off a fast-paced rendition of the 1935 tune, “You,” which she and the quartet perform with intensity. Then, the crowd joins in on a call-and-response version of “Why Don’t You Go Down to New Orleans” where Freyer sings, “You can listen to Dixieland/That’s played by the Joyride band,” on this happy-go-lucky Big Easy second line number.

Sayer introduces another call-and-response tune, “I Want You to Be My Baby.” Strumming quickly on this jump blues number, she invites the audience to engage with her as they sing together, “I (I)/I want (I want)/I want you (I want you)/I want you to (I want you to)/I want you to be (What?)/I want you to be my baby!” before each of the musicians is featured on a solo.

Cynthia Sayer

The crowd avidly applauds, and Sayer introduces her stagemates before launching into the afternoon’s final selection, “Dark Eyes.” Opening with Sayer strumming and sliding on the banjo, Freyer is featured on trombone and Hall saws on his bass with a bow, singing as he swings on this minor key gypsy jazz number.

Eagle takes his turn in the spotlight playing the bass drum and then uses his drumsticks to get concertgoers clapping a steady beat on their own. As the crowd keeps time, Eagle strikes his sticks on Hall’s bass strings prior to using them to strike Sayer’s banjo while she’s holding it. After encouraging all three of his bandmates to play his drums simultaneously, Eagle snaps a picture of the trio before turning around to capture a shot of the audience.

Returning to the drum kit, Eagle plays a solo on the set which elicits cheers from the crowd. Sayer and the rest of the band join in on their respective instruments for the engaging conclusion which has fans standing and applauding and Sayer exclaiming, “Thank you all so much!”

Cynthia Sayer

To learn more about Cynthia Sayer, please go to cynthiasayer.com. For info on upcoming events at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts — including The Glenn Miller Orchestra on December 10, Ella: The Early Years presented by Amanda King on March 15, 2024, and The Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass band on April 6, 2024 — please go to grunincenter.org.

Photos by Love Imagery

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