This is Nancy Atlas’s seventh season of Fireside Sessions: Nancy Atlas and Friends at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. In a free ranging discussion about the evolution of the Fireside Sessions, Atlas explained the magic behind the success. Many years ago, perhaps in 2004/2005, I called The Nancy Atlas Project “The house band of the East End.” Now fifteen years later, Nancy Atlas has become so much more. She is the cornerstone to the future of live music on the East End. Her loyal following is a collection of East End live music followers who over the years have built walls of support. They know her tunes, her swoons, her moods and the specialties of each member of her band, a band now together for 25 years.
But as Atlas explained, “Over the years the Fireside Sessions have evolved into shows that goes beyond my music. We fly in great unique musicians I have had the fortune to meet, play with and admire over the years. Some names are unknown to the audiences, but known by those who know live music.”
Atlas is now more than just the leader of a band. She has become an astute business person. She is an event producer, a booking agent, one who arranges plane flights for the guests of the Fireside Sessions, along with being a mother of three Montauk children. I interviewed Atlas’ mom back in 2007 and quite frankly she knew and predicted her daughter’s path because her daughter was “a hard worker, had vision, and tremendous people skills.”
Each Fireside Session this year will be different. On Saturday, January 4, 2020 on the Bay Street stage, Atlas will present “Rock legend Simon Kirke of Bad Company and Free.” No doubt Atlas’ lead guitar player and collaborator for the last 25 years, Johnny Blood, will be showing off his chops in this show too.
The Saturday, January 11, 2020 show goes in the direction of New Orleans Piano Funk as Atlas will introduce the East End to Brian Mitchell and the trombone playing Clark Gayton. If you are a fan of Atlas’ band, you know this is the music her keyboard player, Neil Surreal, loves to play!
Then, with a subtle move in yet another musical direction, Atlas will feature an East End favorite, violin playing Randi Fishenfeld, on Saturday, January 18, 2020. You may remember this former Juilliard student from her live shows with Bruce Springsteen. Who doesn’t love the sounds of an amplified violin doing a wild run in a song?
At the end of January, there will be two shows. The first being Friday, January 24th, 2020 when Atlas presents the wizardry of Blues Monster Jonny Rosch. If you remember the original Blues Brothers Band, that was Jonny’s band with him on keyboard. No doubt, the song, Soul Man will rock the roof right off the house.
On the very next night, Saturday, January 25th, the Fireside Sessions of 2020 at the Bay Street Theater comes to a conclusion with what Atlas calls “The Choir Show, with Danny Dean.” Atlas said to trust her “on this one, this night is going to be very special.”
Atlas talked about her two families, one with her husband Jettykoon band founder Thomas Muse and their three children, and her older musical family known to the East End for the last 25 years as the Nancy Atlas Project. Brett King has been laying down great bass lines, along with the energetic drumming of Richard Rosch. One has to shout out Richard because he had been so kind to routinely let Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers guest on his drum kit so many times over the years when Chad wanted to join in with the band for some tunes.
Neal Surreal is an East End favorite member of the Nancy Atlas Project. His keyboard magic and genius augments his cozy accordion skills that I personally adore. Then there is the backbone of the Nancy Atlas Project, that being Johnny Blood. He is as fine and versatile a lead guitar player as there is. I never recall not being amazed watching his fingers do what they do when he plays guitar.
Finally, there is Atlas. I have watched her over the last two decades evolve into a leading Long Island personality. She has chosen Montauk and Montauk has chosen her. Her family is woven into the community. Yet beyond that special bond is her legacy of being the soundtrack of decades of East End live music; live music for benefits for sick neighbors, raising money for disaster victims, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, along with so many other charities. Her band also has been the high-water mark for live entertainment, for dancing, for celebrating life during in the afternoons and evenings of the expensive summers of the East End. I know her tunes, I have my favorites, as does my wife, and all my sailing buddies.
Atlas is always on the “right side” of every or any issue, she has a phenomenally accurate moral compass. She is a sweet woman, but Long Island tough, Long Island smart and Long Island proud. Book a Fireside Session at baystreet.org before they all sell out.
Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.