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Roosevelt Dean Tribute Bash

As the years go by since Roosevelt Dean's passing, Jim Pavente says he learns more and more about his friendship with his former band leader.

"Every time I hear a Rosey song, it hits me that I lost one of the best friends I ever had," the Syracuse bass player says.

Dean lost his battle to cancer at the age of 65 in April 4, 2009, after an eight-year struggle that never robbed the singer and guitarist of his will to play the blues or his way with people.

"There's many, many things that I learned from Rosey," Pavente says, rolling their friendship over in his mind. "One is how incredibly gifted he was in human relationships and managing people and sustaining relationships and booking the band with club owners and just keeping in contact with people."

Pavente hopes many of those folks whose lives the big man who was born in Phenix City, Ala., but lived in Syracuse since 1962 touched will come to Firudo Asian Food & Bar, 3011 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse, at 8 p.m. Saturday for a bash to pay tribute to his friend's life. Admission is free.

It's a week after Dean's birthday. "Around the day he was born is a little more celebratory than the day he died, I figure," Pavente says,

Pavente took the role of directing the outfit Dean left behind, and that's the core unit that will start off on stage Saturday night: The Carolyn Kelly Blues Band. Dean's longtime friend Kelly, whom he coaxed out of singing retirement to get back on stage with him, is the front woman, with Terry Mulhauser on bass, Jerry Neely on keyboard and Don Sollars on drums joining Pavente.

After their opening set, all heck is bound to break loose.

"It's not quite an open mike night," Pavente says, but anybody who knew of him or knew him is welcome to join in the festivities."

A long and distinguished list of Central New York musicians who played with Dean's band The Spellbinders over the years are expected to jam on his songs, and blues players whom he admired and vice versa have indicated they'll be coming, too.

"A good swath of Rosie's favorites and fans have been invited to sit in, and then we'll turn the stage over to great musician who used to play with Rosey," Pavente says.

Included on that list are Bob Purdy, Bob Holz, Steve Williams, Mark Hoffman, Todd Fitzsimmons, Nick Humez, Bernie Clarke, Skip Murphy and Edgar Pagan. His longtime manager, Lee Stoudenmoire, also has been invited.

They'll pick from a list of favorite Dean songs, of course, but Pavente expects "Blues Heaven," Somewhere Around Georgia," "Blues Man," and "Whiskey and Gin" to especially make the cut.

"A lot may have to be done as instrumentals," Pavente says. "Who can sing them in that deep Rosey voice, you know?"

One that most definitely will have vocals is "I Don't Wanna Leave You." It will be performed by Dean's daughter, Tresa, who's coming from her home in Georgia to attend. His son Michael has to work that night, Pavente says.

His daughter Shuana, who lives in Syracuse, will do more than attend.

She'll help Pavente oversee an exhibit of her father's most cherished memorabilia.

"In Rosey's house, he had the Ego Room. It was a cool space. That's where we'd hang out after we recorded or played. We'd BS, talk about life. There were all sorts of pictures, Rosey with Buddy Guy. His Sammys (trophies), proclamations from (state) senators (John) DeFrancisco and (Nancy Larraine) Hoffman.

"I asked Shuana, 'Do you still have the stuff from your dad's Ego Room?' She said, 'Yes, it's still in the attic.' I went up there and got a couple of armloads. It will be tastefully displayed at the party."

Pavente is proud to have found one of his friend's trademark wide-brimmed Panama hats. He'll bring his own red band suit, and put those two together. "The guys would hate it when he told us it was a red suit day," Pavente said with a laugh.

Shuana said her dad's close friend also was welcome to bring Dean's trademark Gibson 335 guitar, the one he lovingly named Clara Mae, which had turned up missing in 2010 but was later found. "But I declined. I didn't want to be responsible for that," he said.

No, he wants to be able to enjoy what he hopes becomes an annual event to mark the life of one of the most notable bluesmen Syracuse has ever seen.

"I want people who loved Rosey to hang out in a cool club and celebrate," he says.
By Mark Bialczak
writing for

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