Richie Cannata says he went through hell this year after being diagnosed with lymphoma in April and going through intense chemotherapy for seven weeks.
But now, the Long Island Music Hall of Famer and saxophonist on many of Billy Joel’s most memorable songs says he is ready to rejoin Billy Joel Band members drummer Liberty DeVitto and guitarist Russell Javors for a new project called The Lords of 52nd Street, a project many longtime Joel fans will consider a slice of rock-and-roll heaven.
“By the grace of God and the power of prayer, I’m playing again,” says Cannata, who also runs Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove and serves as Bernie Williams’ musical director. “I think my playing sounds better than it did before. Maybe my soul is different.”
Cannata, who is now cancer-free and wrapping up physical rehab since he regained feeling in his hands and feet, says the idea of playing with The Lords of 52nd Street pushed him to recover faster. “I’m approaching my whole life differently,” he says. “I know I have to really appreciate these short lives we have.”
Cannata had so much fun playing with DeVitto and Javors when they were all inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame last year that he knew he wanted the reunion to continue.
Legendary concert promoter Ron Delsener, who was also inducted last year, encouraged Cannata to book a tour as The Lords of 52nd Street, a name given to them by the late producer Phil Ramone.
The band will also include Michael DelGuidice, of Joel’s current touring band as well as Big Shot, and David Clark, from the Billy Joel Tribute Band, on vocals. And Cannata says they will only be doing Joel’s music.
“We all have songs of our own that we could do,” he says. “But we just want to give people what they want to come and see. . . . I’m just so happy to be alive. I want to share that with people.”
The Lords of 52nd Street featuring Richie Cannata, Liberty DeVitto and Russell Javors play The Space at Westbury on Jan. 23. Tickets are $30-$55 through ticketmaster.com