"They should build a statue of Sandy Mack in Asbury Park"- Mike Falzarano (Hot Tuna, New Riders of the Purple Sage)
Sandy Mack really is a legend in Asbury Park, NJ. Sure Asbury Park saw it's fair share of musicians come through and go on to be famous, many of whom have no doubt played with Sandy, but none have done more for the music community day in and out than Sandy Mack. That's just a straight fact.
We have seen an amazing revival of music that worked hand in hand with a loving and creative community to help Asbury Park rise from the ashes, and at the center of it Sandy has been connecting souls. The true power of music is that it transcends us, it lifts us above the petty, it releases us from the chains of society, it places us front and center with our emotions, it comforts us, and most importantly it connects us. The power of a room full of people feeling the emotion of a song communally is indescribable. It is medicine for those that truly hear. Sandy understands this more than anyone I have met, and he's devoted his life to providing that medicine for not only the listeners, but for the musicians as well.
Sandy Mack's Sunday jams are church. It is the religion of music. From Blues to Grateful Dead and all genres in between Sandy's mission is to find and connect some of the best musicians in the area who otherwise may never have played with each other. Let me put this in context for you; Because of Sandy Mack I have had the honor of playing with the following musicians:
Mike Falzarano, Mike Flynn, Johnny Burke, Johnny Markowski, Dave Halpern, Mike Caruso, Big John Perry, Bob Scholz, Kevin Hill, Joey Babick, Stu Coogan, Kevin Cooper, Butchy Sochorow, Stephen Spatz, Brian Murray, Pete Tonti, Charles Chambarry, Caroline Rea, Jack Reed, Dan Donovan, Paul Avrutin, Brian Abrecht, John Pittas, John Lecesse, and Joe Bellia.
I'm going to be honest and say I probably will have embarrassingly forgotten someone and edit the list above........ Many times.......
Whether you know everyone on that list or not I can assure you they are some of the finest musicians in this state, and it's likely for most that I would never have the chance to play with them otherwise had it not been for Sandy. To be included in this arsenal of musicians is an honor beyond words. But truly the magic of what has become termed the "Jamily" really resides in the crowd.
I've had the pleasure of attending not only as a musician, but as a listener as well. Given how often I play music coupled with how much I like to spend any waking second I'm not playing music with my wife and kids, I don't get to go to too many shows. When I do it's because my soul really needs it, and so I go to Sandy's jams for the medicine. In the Jamily crowds you will find nothing but love, acceptance, spirit, and dancing. Lots and lots of dancing to some of the best music you'll find! In the midst of it friendships and sometimes even lovers are born and cemented.
Sandy is always trying to help the ones he can in any way he can. Whether bringing up young prodigies like Pete Tonti or Brian Abrecht by having them as regular weekly members of the band, helping businesses that have struggled to support music during Covid, helping bands and musicians get noticed, working with charities, to just being there for advice when you need it. What I admire most is that Sandy is not afraid to speak his mind, but he always looks for the common ground. He'll take on politics and social issues head on and encourages compassionate discussion. No matter how directly someone has taken him on with an opposing view Sandy has never been one to lose his cool or back down. He doesn't delete people or comments just because they think differently. He takes on those challenges in hopes to learn and to educate, but most importantly to remind everyone that we can have differences of opinion and still coexist. In a world that is literally programmed to be divisive Sandy fights to unite.
It's funny as I realize this is paragraph 10 of this blog and I've yet to mention one thing about Sandy's musicianship. I implore anyone who reads this understands this does not reflect anything to do with Sandy as a musician. Sandy is one of the finest harmonica players you'll ever find, but to start this blog on his musicianship first would only serve to shadow the amazing human he is. I have a confession-most of the time I do not like harmonica. When Bob Dylan starts honking away I'm usually diving for the volume knob. Blasphemy, I know. John Popper, on the other hand, I could listen to him all day. Sandy approaches the harp differently than anyone I've ever played with. He uses it as a rhythm instrument flawlessly. His timbre becomes a cross between a percussive snare and an electric guitar and fills the mix so perfectly that it feels like a heartbeat. It never overtakes the other instruments or vocals, but trust me you'd know if it wasn't there. I recall my first time playing with Sandy during Good Morning Little Schoolgirl where I was looking around wondering if there was a percussion player onstage, but it was actually Sandy adding an incredible layer I had never been accustomed to. Then of course came time for Sandy's solo. This is really where Sandy separates himself. He has one of the most melodic styles, as close to John Popper as I have ever experienced, and he can hold and bend notes until it literally rips out your heart emotionally. His harp can drive a crowd to a complete frenzy in dance and emotion across all genres. All that while being one of the kindest and most humble person around.
Sandy was so kind to provide his talents for my upcoming song, Slow Burn, as part of the Send The Flowers album. I'd also like to throw a gracious shoutout to John Pittas, who assisted in getting his track recorded for me. Sandy knocked it out of the park doing what he does best, and my heart is truly full.
I look forward to many more opportunities to play with Sandy, as well as adding to such a prestigious list of musicians I am lucky enough to share a stage with thanks to Sandy. Most of all I am just so happy to call Sandy my friend. If you've made it this far in this blog as a reader, show Sandy some love go and support local live music and venues that support local musicians.
"They should build a statue of Sandy Mack in Asbury Park"- You're damn right they should!
Follow Sandy Mack's events on his "Sandy Mack Band" page- loclllololLOL https://www.facebook.com/Sandy-Mack-Band-109887485699468