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Craig Kastelnik & Friends go to town

Craig Kastelnik and his wife, Pat Flaherty, have been delighting Lehigh Valley jazz fans for more than 40 years, playing together as Kato, and with other local musicians in various configurations.

Craig Kastelnik & Friends, including Flaherty, vocals; Tom Kozic, guitar; Bernard Purdie, drums, perform at 7:30 p.m. July 19, Jazz Cabaret Series, Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown.

Kastelnik, 59, has been active in music since the age of four as a vocalist and keyboardist, specializing on the Hammond B-3 organ.

"I am one of the few organ players, other than some church organists who play gospel music, to use the foot pedals. Many organists don't use the pedal board. I just think it gives me the element of a third sound."

Kastelnik's father, Kal, a Fullerton, Whitehall Township, resident, was well-known locally as a music teacher, with studios along MacArthur Road, and as a professional musician.

Craig's first appearance was in the late 1950's when he was playing the accordion as a part of his father's group, Kal's Kids, placing first on TV's "The Ted Mack Amateur Hour" in 1960.

Craig Kastelnik switched to guitar and bass guitar in high school. He formed a new band with some of his father's students in the late 1960's, landing a record contract with CBS. Kal's Kids became The Young Ideas.

From that period in his young life he went on to perform weekly at every kind of function imaginable.

It was around this time that he met his wife.

Flaherty, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., began harmonizing with her sisters very early in her life. In college, she was part of an a cappella group, The Sterlings. She has toured the United States with her husband. She's a noted percussionist.

Kastelnik moved to Nashville in 1981 and began a stint as music director, keyboardist and vocalist for country-pop singer Eddie Rabbitt, touring the country extensively until 1984. This gave him the opportunity to perform in bands and orchestras that accompanied Bob Hope, Anne Murray and the Pointer Sisters.

Kastelnik left the road, moved to Bethlehem and reunited with associates from his younger days, including Alan Gaumer. It was during this period that he met Vic Juris, Bill Goodwin. Phil Woods, Bernard Purdie and Randy Brecker.

He recently worked several shows with trumpeter Brecker, including Foy Hall, Moravian College; the Deer Head Inn, Shawnee-on-Delaware, and for a music education program at Raub Middle School, Allentown.

"I met Purdie a while back, the first time at a concert during Allentown's Mayfair," says Kastelnik.

"Kato was alternating with Purdie's group. We hit it off pretty good, and shortly after that we got together as Craig Kastelnik and Friends. We worked at The Deer Head, some clubs in New York, and continue to work together several times a year when our schedules permit."

Purdie is said to be "the man behind the beat on 3,000 albums." His style is described as "the funkiest soul beat" in the business. He has not limited his talent to jazz and explores all genres, gigging with the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Tom Jones, and, more recently, Acid Jazz.

Purdie began playing as a six-year-old on anything he could find that made noise. At 14, he bought his first drum set. He was the 11th of 15 children and became a family breadwinner, playing in all sorts of bands carnival to country.

In 1960, after finishing high school, Purdie moved to New York City and worked his way up in the business, leading to a gig in 1970 with Aretha Franklin, which began a career playing with the greatest names in jazz.

Kozik, who teaches jazz-contemporary guitar at Muhlenberg College, studied with Harry Leahey, Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell. He was the first-place winner in the Kenny Burrell National Guitar Competition in 1978.

Kozik has performed with Phil Woods and Bill Goodwin.

"The music business has changed over the past 40 years," says Kastelnik.

"I have been through all the cycles, and my thoughts for the young musicians out there is I think that you have to be dedicated in doing whatever it is you like to do."