Mark Naftalin
@ The Cedar Cultural Centre, December 19, 1997

Mark Naftalin
The Cedar 12/19/97
Photo © 1997 by Steve Felling
All rights reserved
Mark Naftalin returned to his hometown of Minneapolis for one of his annual shows. His dad was mayor of Minneapolis during most of the 1960's when Mark went off to college in Chicago. It was during his college days that he was exposed the rich sound of the blues on Chicago's south and west side. He ultimately met Elvin Bishop and hooked up with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, playing keyboards on their memorable first recordings. Naftalin has been living in California since the late 1960's and has started his own record company, Winner Records. One of his releases is the acclaimed "Strawberry Jam" which features some historic live recordings from his Paul Butterfield days.

Naftalin takes a low key approach to his playing and has a delicate touch on the keyboards. He plays piano with a precision that is not real flashy but very expressive and articulate. His show was also well suited to the Cedar Cultural Centre which has an intimate smoke free atmosphere. The audience is real close to the performer, there is a very good sound system, and his performance was more like a concert than a bar room show. Although Mark's performance was not strictly blues he did draw upon a wealth of blues background and delivered two long sets that just flew by. In fact the entire evening went by very fast as we sat enthralled at many of his extended solos. As he introduced one of his songs he commented, with good nature, on a local article that said his playing tended to get a little "spacey" at times. He said "this next songs has parts that do get out there on the fringes a little." But that was all right. The audience didn't mind. It fit in well with the laid back spirit of his entire performance.

He played a variety of songs ranging from the blues, to country, to a little classical, to Cole Porter, to some faster paced boogie woogie. He talked about Jim Yancy, the father of Chicago boogie woogie piano during the 1930's and 40's, and how Yancy was the grounds keeper at the old Cominsky baseball park by day and the master of boogie woogie piano by night.

Dave Ray - The Cedar
Photo © 1997 by Steve Felling
All rights reserved
Naftalin also demonstrated a fun sense of humor throughout the show. At one point he simulated a vibrato by shaking the piano at the end of one of his songs. He introduced one of his songs as "Mondo Nafto" which had a steady, almost hypnotic bass rhythm and intense melody. Part of his appeal, besides the excellent piano playing, was his attitude of not taking himself too seriously. He was, however, very interested in delivering a good performance and making sure his audience liked him.

During the second set Mark brought out local folk-blues legend Dave "Snaker" Ray . They have been friends since the 1960's and exchanged some good natured banter while on stage. One song they did together that was an especially appealing Solomon Burke R&B classic "Cry To Me." Their playing together was pretty much unrehearsed but was like two old friends who knew what the other was up to, and when the song called for it, were in good harmony. Mark closed out this enjoyable evening with the Floyd Cramer instrumental "Last Date" which is always a pleasure to listen to.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at:

Table of Contents:
Return To Home Page | Calendar | Spotlight | Live Reviews | New Reviews | Photo Gallery
CD Reviews | New CD Releases | Blues Links | Blues Bios | Blues Artists | Blues Clubs | Blues Jams

Free web pages from GeoCities

Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.