NEW YORK (AP) — At a downtown club, Tommy Ramone listened carefully to a band unlike any other. On drums: The U.S. ambassador to Russia. On lead guitar: The Hungarian ambassador to the United States.
"They're great!" declared Ramone, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The C.J.T.F. Band — an insiders' reference to NATO Combined Joint Task Force — also includes Assistant Secretary of State Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. on bass guitar and guitarist Dan Poneman, an old Washington hand and an authority on North Korea. At stage center was a defense and intelligence technology consultant, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, for years the guitarist of the Doobie Brothers.
The proceeds of the show at the Knitting Factory on Saturday are going to the victims of Asia's tsunami.
The core band started about a dozen years ago in Brussels, when the 52-year-old American ambassador to Moscow, Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow, was the U.S. representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the ambassador to Washington, Andras Simonyi, was Hungary's emissary to NATO.
They now play at least one public concert a year. Last year's was in Washington, and they're planning to take the band on an East European gig soon.
Simonyi said he remembers listening to his favorite song, Steve Winwood's "Dear Mr. Fantasy," coming from the radio late at night when he was a young man. "Winwood fit my dream about living in a free world," said Simonyi, with sweat dripping from his brow as he launched into the song.