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Allan Slutsky
Allan Slutsky

“Doctor Licks” is not the typical sort of alias you’d expect to be associated with a classical mandolinist specializing in the violin compositions of Fritz Kreisler. But Allan Slutsky’s long and diverse musical career has been anything but “typical.” Originally a funk and rock guitar player, he delved into traditional folk, blues, and bluegrass music while attending Temple University in the early ‘70s. A two year stint on the road during which he had to turn down an offer from Southern Soul icon Wayne Cochrane convinced him he needed more musical training. Graduating from Berklee College of Music several years later with a degree in guitar performance and arranging, Allan soon became a pioneer in the guitar-tab publishing industry with his “Doctor Licks” transcription series.

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His foray into publishing eventually led him into his career defining work when he stumbled upon the un-mined story of legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson. The result was Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, a combination biography, bass transcription book and audio documentary that earned Allan the very first Rolling Stone/BMI/New York University Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award in 1989. A movie of the same title that he created and co-produced more than a decade later brought him a Grammy Award in 2002 and The Recording Academy’s “Heroes Award” in 2004. Tours with Motown’s heralded ‘60s studio band The Funk Brothers came in the wake of the movie’s success, during which Allan performed with some of his long-standing heroes: Chaka Kahn, Steve Windwood, Billy Preston, Bootsy Collins, Joan Osborne, Gerald Levert, Peabo Bryson and others.

But it was the orchestra pits of Atlantic City’s casino showrooms and Philadelphia’s busy theater scene that brought Allan back to the mandolin—an instrument he took up in his late teens— and helped forge his partnership in The Night Cafe with accordionist Dave Hartl. After several decades of playing behind artists as diverse as Luciano Pavoratti, Bernadette Peters, Don Rickles, Chita Rivera, Lou Rawls, and Michael Feinstein and working on dozens of touring Broadway shows like Mama Mia, The Color Purple, Dreamgirls and Chicago, the music of The Night Cafe has finally enabled Allan to bridge the gap from playing a supporting role to speaking with own singular musical voice and vision.

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Dave Hartl

Dave Hartl lives between Philadelphia and New York, working in both cities as a pianist, synthesist, and teacher. A dedicated faculty member of The University Of The Arts in Philadelphia who has been teaching electronic music applications, keyboard, and music theory since 1991, Dave nevertheless found time in his career to play on over 60 theatrical shows including Wicked, A Chorus Line, Mamma Mia, and Evita, and to play piano and synthesizer with acts such as Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Bo Diddley, Mary Wilson & the Supremes, Phil Woods, Joanne Brackeen, Bill Watrous, Anthony Newley, The Three Degrees, LaToya Jackson, Ben Vereen, and Annie Haslam's Renaissance. He has produced four CDs comprised of his original instrumental compositions and has appeared on numerous recordings, including the Concord Jazz release Midnight Blue by celebrated virtuoso jazz guitarist Jimmy Bruno.

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Dave’s musical journey began with lessons on accordion shortly after his fifth birthday, and eventually led to his becoming the Pennsylvania State Champion at the age of sixteen. As his musical pursuits expanded to taking up the guitar, cello, and clarinet, his playing time on the accordion was drastically reduced, eventually falling by the wayside when he enrolled in West Chester University to major in classical piano performance. In the ‘80s, as synthesizers and computer production developed, Dave’s innate aptitude for this new technology placed him on the cutting edge of that field, making him a highly regarded synthesist throughout the Mid-Atlantic corridor. But as his recent featured performances on piano with the Southeast Pennsylvania Symphony and The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia can attest, Dave never stays away from his classical roots for too long.

In 1982 after being inspired by Tony Levin during a King Crimson concert, Dave added a new voice to his instrumental arsenal: he learned to play the Chapman Stick, an innovative stereo tapping fretboard instrument (www.stick.com). But first loves are sometimes hard to shake. Dave returned to the instrument of his youth in 2007, and currently finds himself spending most of his time working as a founding member of The Night Café with mandolinist Allan Slutsky. Playing a Roland FR-7 virtual accordion, a modeling-synthesis electronic MIDI instrument, Dave has come full circle, bringing all of his diverse musical influences together at last.


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