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CD REVIEWS
JOE BARNA & SKETCHES OF INFLUENCE Suite Lee

by Tom Pierce

Sunday night Jan 11, 2016 at the Sanctuary For Independent Media in Troy provided the time and place for an exciting and significant recording, honoring the special career of and lasting inspiration in the Capital District of Lee Shaw, who passed on Oct 25, 2015 at 89. Bandleader, composer, drummer Joe Barna made a number of wisely appropriate musical decisions in setting up this tribute to Ms Shaw who was a much-appreciated, long-time effective mentor to him and many other serious musicians ... continue.
MARK KLEINHAUT & JOHN STOWELL Cross Country Lines (Invisible Music)

by Tom Pierce

I’ve been consistently impressed with Mark Kleinhaut’s guitar work since initially hearing him in August 2012, in the Sketches of Influence band of drummer Joe Barna, who’s introduced me to so many outstanding musicians. In all of the varied music situations since then, I’ve found his propulsive guitar attack very engaging, but not overstated. The most striking aspect for me is his warmly bright, crisp tone, which is so clear and resonant, as well as his tastefully, well-controlled approach in not over emphasizing his impressive technique, with regard to speed and range. These qualities are especially enjoyable on ballads & bossas, that he clearly has a wonderful affinity for ... continue.
CLIFF BRUCKER - Full Circle (BMP)

by Tom Pierce

Bill McCann introduced this excitingly propulsive and accessibly melodic Post-Bop sextet recording in April on his award-winning 31 year WCDB “Saturday Morning Edition of Jazz” show with several choice tracks. My initial fascination with it centered on the delightful tone, uplifting swing and phrasing of the timeless saxophone of Leo Russo. My appreciation increased after ordering & listening to all 11 tunes (ten memorable Jazz classics and one original), after catching two swinging sets by the same exceptional band live on May 1 at their CD Release Party at Stoney’s Grill in Schenectady ... continue.
CHRIS PASIN Random Acts of Kindness
(Planet Arts Records)


by Tom Pierce

Recordings like trumpeter Chris Pasin’s “Random Acts of Kindness”, are definitely not simplistic or overly conventional; and require focused listening to fully appreciate. But its positive qualities made this reviewer’s job a lot easier than many CD’s. This starts with my having already enjoyed Pasin’s warm, clear and tasteful playing very often the past 4-5 years. He’s been featured in a wide range of settings, including the stirring Bopitude quintet, his own bands, Mark Kleinhaut’s quartet and Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble ... continue.

GARY McFARLAND LEGACY ENSEMBLE
Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarland(Planet Arts Records)


by Tom Pierce

Director/Bandleader/Drummer Michael Benedict has truly done lovers of expressive and beautiful music a meaningful  “solid” with this recording showcasing the exquisite creations and spirit of the uniquely gifted composer/vibist Gary McFarland. He was very popular and respected in the 1960’s, as depicted in the dedicated filmmaker Kristian St Clair’s 2006 documentary, “This is Gary McFarland” ... continue.
TIM OLSEN BAND
Creature of Habit (Planet Arts Records)


by Tom Pierce

Despite Tim Olsen’s extensive career as pianist, composer-arranger, trumpeter and educator, this invigorating and diverse CD of 9 striking originals represents his debut recording, under his own name. “Mainstream with an Edge” is how he accurately describes his music in his own concise, witty and informative liner notes of his quintet/sextet’s just released CD, the exceptional Creature of Habit. ... continue.
ARCH STANTON QUARTET
Blues For Soli (WEPA Records)

by Tom Pierce

I’ve been intrigued about the Arch Stanton Quartet for a number of reasons. These included initially a fascination with a band being named, not for one or more musicians or some other musical reference, but rather an obscure, dead fictional character whose gravesite figures in the plot of the Clint Eastwood western, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” ... continue.

MICHAEL-LOUIS SMITH
First Black Nation

by Albert Brooks

First Black Nation is guitarist Michael-Louis Smith’s second cd and, like his first (Portrait of MLS), showcases this talented musician’s prodigious writing skills.  First Black Nation, however, illuminates a different side of the artist – one that in my estimation will add significantly to his profile.
 The unifying theme of Smith’s sophomore product is the Haitian earthquake of 2010; and with it Smith, exhibiting a profound sensitivity, presents a very affecting musical-historical paean to this epic tragedy.  You cannot listen to this musical homage and not be touched by its beauty, pathos and heart-felt emotionality ... continue.

RANDY SIMON JAZZ PROJECT
Nyhavn Live


by Randy Treece

Randy Simon has earned the distinction of being a prodigious composer and producer. Nyhavn Live is his fourth release within a decade. Nyhavn Live is a double CD production with eleven original songs recorded live at the Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, New York. Harkening back to my review of his 2009 release, Awakening, I continue to marvel as to how this physicist has applied the tools of his vocation to his avocation as a jazz composer. It should not come as a surprise since music and math are playmates in the cauldron of sound creation. Obviously, time, rhythm and meter sway handsomely to math, but the concept of pitch, harmonics and chords have long been considered fundamental offshoots of physics. All that needs to be added is ample portion of creativity. Once again, this physicists has woven the membranes of scientific analysis and empiricism into synthesized creative music worthy of our attention ... continue.

MARK KLEINHAUT & NEIL LAMB
Jones Street (Invisible Music)


by Albert Brooks

Savannah, Georgia is a great city of cultural richness and dualities that are often, but not always, in stark contrast to one another, e.g., Southern gentility interlaced with a down home friendliness, diverse traditional cuisines embellished with modernist presentments, a historical legacy that makes accommodation for the new, Flannery O’Connor and Clarence Thomas, Johnny Mercer and Ben Tucker.   With respect to these latter two, we see clear examples of where the aforementioned dualities may exist within a musical context.  Mercer was both a great lyricist and composer, who very early in his life was exposed to the black “geechee” culture of Savannah and its music.  Tucker, a long-term Savannah resident, is both a prolific composer who has won innumerable plaudits for his compositions and also a virtuoso of the acoustic bass ... continue.
EMPIRE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Accentuate the Positive


by Tom Pierce

The Empire Jazz Orchestra’s 5th CD could easily have been entitled: “The Best of the EJO Live!”  Music Director Bill Meckley has acknowledged that the aim of this release was to “represent some of the best live recordings of the band…as part of their 20th anniversary celebration”. This extraordinary big band was launched as an octet at Butch Conn’s 1992 A Place For Jazz Fall concert series ... continue.

MICHAEL BENEDICT & BOPITUDE
feat. GARY SMULYAN
Five and One (Planet Arts)


by Randy Treece

Bebop, hard bop, and post bop are derivatives of the same creative forces, musical idioms that I adore. And yet it is hard bop that grabs my immediate attention more than the others, primarily because of the underlying elements of blues, rhythm and blues, and nascent funk. It seems that the hard bop tradition is more transformative and less extravagant than bebop and post bop, but I could be challenged on that proposition. And because of that notion, I submit, the hard bop tradition has had a longer shelf life, and thank goodness for that. And thank goodness there are modern purveyors of this marvelous music such as Michael Benedict and Bopitude to carry on the tradition ... continue.

KEITH PRAY
Confluence (ARC)

by Tom Pierce

Keith Pray’s 5h CD as a leader is remarkable and has much to capture & hold one’s attention. It includes a few surprises, even for those familiar with his previous outstanding live & recorded work. He clearly solves the serious player’s most fundamental recording challenge: effectively utilizing the time-honored strengths & positive language of various jazz legends, while still projecting a vigorously personal enough vision & variety to keep the music distinctive and fresh ... continue.
BRIAN PATNEAUDE
All Around Us (WEPA Records)

by Tom Pierce

With 5 CD’s as a leader, 25 others as sideman, live performances with over 50 different bands in the last 15 years and many awards & citations, there’s no need for a detail introduction of 37 year old Schenectady-born saxophonist Brian Patneaude to Capital District Jazz fans. Similar to his previous releases, All Around Us focuses primarily on Patneaude’s compositions. But the celebrated Wayne Shorter’s 1964 classic “Juju” and “Invitation”, a standard composed by Bronislaw Kaper for two Hollywood films in 1950 & 1952, are the two exceptions ... continue.

JACK FRAGOMENI
I'm Having A Good Time (Kyran Music)


by Jeff Waggoner

Before reviewing  Jack Fragomeni’s CD, I’m Having a Good Time, (Kyran Music), full disclosure: I was his worst student. But the great thing about being merely being Jack’s bad student, he made it possible to see what it took to make  good music. It’s not a code I’ve completely cracked.  I still don’t know how Jack managed to get a fat, full sound out of a box and strings.  To me, the guitar is a source of frustration, but in the right hands, it can have the orchestral capabilities of a piano and the expressive possibility of a horn.  That’s what you’ll get when you listen to Jack ... continue.

SENSEMAYA - Havana Before Dawn

by Jeff Waggoner

As someone who drove for years a ripe Taurus in line with hundreds of other white, middle-class, middle-aged  guys to a dull office job in Albany, it’s not always obvious to me that the Capital District isn’t all Lawrence Welk and Wonder Bread. It’s a wonder, though, that the Capital Region has so many exceptional and diverse folk, such as those multi-talented musicians who make up the Latin+jazz+salsa music group, “Sensemaya.” If Louisiana born jazz is gumbo, then Sensemaya is  sancocho ... continue.



YUKO KISHIMOTO - Songbook

by Tom Pierce

Yuko Kishimoto made a number of key decisions prior to this actual recording that contributed nearly as much to its success as the studio work.  Chief among these was establishing a well-defined purpose and direction of the CD as an opportunity to feature nine of her intriguing compositions that other musicians & fans in the Capital District have enjoyed the past several years ... continue.
MICHAEL BENEDICT & BOPITUDE

by Tom Pierce

Michael Benedict & Bopitude’s very accomplished album evoked very enjoyable memories of live performances in New York & albums in the 1960’s by the “Big 3” stellar Hard Bop bands of Art Blakey, Horace Silver & Cannonball Adderley and many others. Hard Bop’s incorporation of the elements & spirit of Gospel, Rhythm & Blues and Funk, on top of the advanced, technically challenging bedrock of the initial 1940’s Be-Bop created by Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie made for a very exciting, emotionally engaging and highly musical form. It has endured in popularity and acclaim by musicians, critics and fans for over 50 years, and has not only avoided sounding dated, but has remained a very fresh sounding, key component of the broad modern Jazz mainstream ... continue.


JONATHAN LORENTZ - Borderlands

by Randy Treece

The recent jazz transplant Jonathan Lorentz, who originally hails from rustic Vermont and now makes his residence a “stone’s throw away” in Round Lake by way of New York City, is a musician, composer, arranger, and teacher, and who released in late 2010, Borderlands. Joining Lorentz on this creative quest are local and well-known jazz mainstays bassist John Menegon, Menegon’s wife, the ever popular vocalist Terri Roiger, drummer Dave Calarco, and vocalist Suzanne Kantorski ... continue.


JOE BARNA & SKETCHES of INFLUENCE
Blowin’ It Out – Live @ Bread & Jam Café

by Tom Pierce

Joe Barna has clearly established a unique track record the past few years journeying to New York City and arranging for many exciting, well-respected Jazz veterans (eg Ralph Lalama, Jerry Weldon, Joe Magnarelli, Jon Gordon, Gary Smulyan, etc) to perform with him at a number of “below the radar” Capitol District venues, uncovered by his dogged determination ... continue.

ELIZABETH WOODBURY KASIUS & HEARD
Karibu


by Jeff Waggoner

When the call came for someone to review Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius & Heard’s new CD Karibu, what immediately snagged me is that Kasius studied with one of my favorite musicians – the brilliant trombonist, Julian Priester. I had to listen. The CD not what I expected from a disciple of Priester, but listening to Karibu, (which means “Welcome,” in Swahili) is a satisfying experience. And attentive listening is required. The music is so smooth and goes down so easily, the sounds can, if not attentive, fade into the background. But there’s just too much going on in Karibu to ignore ... continue.


TODD NELSON - Here


by J Hunter

Who’d have thought 30 years ago that Rod Stewart would be making his living crooning the Great American Songbook? My guess would be nobody. Nevertheless, for any number of reasons – unemployment, the economy, or just out of plain old boredom – many people nowadays are feeling the need to re-invent themselves professionally, and musicians are no exception. The best local example is guitarist Todd Nelson, known primarily for his time in one of the region’s more legendary bands, the Units (later known as Fear of Strangers). Nelson’s still rocking out with the Rumdummies, but he just dropped a Smart Bomb called Here, and it’s one of my favorite things in the world – a jazz disc you can drive to ... continue.




SENSEMAYA - Shake It

by Randy Treece

Sensemayá has reigned over the Capital District Region for nearly a decade, becoming a virtual household name. Few would know that the name was derived from a poem written by Cuban poet Nicholás Guillén, which is based upon a Cuban-African religious cult, Santeria, and was later made into an orchestral piece. But I digress ... continue.

SUMI TONOOKA & ERICA LINDSAY
Initiation (ARC, 2010)

by J Hunter

In 2005, pianist Sumi Tonooka was given the run of fellow pianist John Hodian’s Woodstock recording studio. Wasting no time, Tonooka gathered up friends and associates, and recorded enough material for two discs – Tonooka’s trio date Long Ago Today (ARC, 2008) and the material that makes up Initiation. “Historical recordings” are usually releases containing long-lost music from decades past; Initiation technically qualifies for this category, since it does come from a past decade – that is to say, the last decade, or “the oughts.” ... continue.



MICHAEL-LOUIS SMITH Portrait of MLS

by Albert Brooks

Guitarist Michael-Louis Smith’s cd, Portrait of Michael-Louis Smith, is no freshman “paint by the numbers, hope you like something about it” effort but a propitious debut that announces the arrival of a seriously talented new kid on the block – one who can play, write and swing ... continue ...


KEITH PRAY’S BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
Live at the Lark Tavern


by J Hunter

Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble has not only survived in an economic morass that eats most bands – let alone 17-piece big bands – like chicken wings at a Super Bowl buffet; it has thrived, staging outstanding performances at A Place For Jazz and the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival in addition to BSE’s monthly residency at Tess’ Lark Tavern in Albany. Now we get to hear the fruits of Pray’s labor on Live at the Lark Tavern, and at the end of the day, the fruit tastes pretty darn good ... continue ...


STEVE LAMBERT May (PlanetArts)

by J Hunter

With a lineup of horn player Steve Lambert, tenorman Brian Patneaude, altoist Keith Pray, piano man Dave Solazzo, bassist Mike DelPrete and drummer Joe Barna, it would be easy to call the group on May “the all-star team of the Capital Region jazz scene.” Two problems with that low-hanging hyperbole: First, no all-star roster in any undertaking has ever satisfied every member of its fan base, and this one would be no exception (“Where’s Lee Russo?” “What about Lee Shaw?” “There’s no guitar player!” “There’s no trombone player!” And so on…); second, it’s been my experience that the only thing all-star teams specialize in is screwing around – not to be confused with “having fun” – and technical excellence or teamwork aren’t part of the overall plan ... continue ...


RANDY SIMON JAZZ PROJECT
Awakening

by Randy Treece

We can only marvel at those who aptly reshape themselves throughout their brief journey through the cosmos of life. Those remolded souls that viscerally come to mind are heralded artists who reinvented themselves throughout their careers - Miles Davis, Cher, and Madonna to name just a few. But none could be more dynamic, more compelling, than a creative soul who later in his journey marries two apparently irreconcilable disciplines - the juxtaposing of science and art. But then there is Randy Simon ... continue ...


ROBERT LINDQUIST
Old Roads… New Paths
(Narrow Path Records)

by J Hunter

Sometime last year, I put forth my opinion that jazz’ piano-trio sub-genre may not be saturated, but the ground beneath its feet sure squishes in places. And, upon reflection, that’s not a bad thing at all. Done right, a piano-trio date is the best “Reset” button a jazz fan can have: Its spare instrumentation brings the music back to the basics, while still allowing plenty of room for exploration. (See: Ethan Iverson and Jesse Stacken) Robert Lindquist has taken the middle course on Old Roads… New Paths, with eminently satisfying results ... continue ...


EMPIRE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Symphonies In Riffs

by Tom Pierce

What's so special about big bands in jazz? Some younger music fans who became enamored with jazz long after the big band era, might ask this question, while pointing out the numerous extraordinary recordings and live performances in the post-swing years by many smaller groups. However, these lovers of the unique charm and intimacy possible in duos and trios, as well as the freedom and extended individual soloing opportunities in quartets and quintets, would do well to give a close listen to this latest (fourth) CD by the Empire Jazz Orchestra, for a fine example of the richly layered and dynamic possibilities unique to big bands ... continue ...




COLLAR CITY CREATEOLOGY

by Jeff Waggoner

If you are inclined to see free jazz as something careless and unstructured, something like aural splatter painting, then the 2009 download release by bassist Michael Bisio, “Collar City Createology,” might change your mind ... continue ...

BRIAN PATNEAUDE
Riverview (WEPA Records)

by J Hunter

Variations, Distance, and As We Know It are points in the Brian Patneaude Quartet’s increasingly beguiling creative curve, with each disc mixing Patneaude’s accessible compositions and slinky tenor sax with a group chemistry that made you say, “Damn, that’s hot!” On Riverview, Patneaude ignores a long-held Business School adage (“Never mess with a formula that keeps on working!”) tweaks both his lineup and overall sound, switching out guitarist George Muscatello and bassist Mike DelPrete for two players Patneaude worked with at his weekly gig at Justin’s. B-School graduates would see this as a decidedly risky move… only, unlike Coca Cola’s spectacularly stupid fling with “New Coke”, Patneaude’s reward was well worth the risk ... continue ...


MICHAEL BENEDICT JAZZ VIBES
The Next Phase

by J Hunter

If you have hot players and a killer sound, you can ride the same thing you did the last time around and people will eat it up with a spoon, not even realizing that you picked reward over risk, and the proven over the precarious. Michael Benedict could have chosen that road on his new release, because the vibes master’s first disc – The New Beat – was a sweet-tasting party date that touched on the best parts of the Samba Jazz era; Benedict could have cranked out more takes on Antonio Carlos Jobim and Mongo Santamaria, and nobody would have made a peep – myself included, probably. With The Next Phase, Benedict literally takes us into the next stage of his life, both professionally and personally ... continue ...
 

ADRIAN COHEN
Delphic

by J Hunter

If your only frame of reference for Adrian Cohen is his 2003 debut disc Standardized, a paraphrase from the rockumentary spoof This is Spinal Tap comes to mind: “Adrian hopes you like his new direction!” Then again, I heard Cohen was moving to fresh creative pastures when I joined albanyjazz in 2005, so this had been in the works for some time. Delphic shows that the move was well worth the effort, even if we did have to wait five years for the crop to come in ... continue ...


LEE SHAW TRIO
Live in Graz (ARC, 2008)


by Tom Pierce

Jazz recordings sometimes take on a special significance, over and above their musical value, when they inform us about the artists involved. One of the striking characteristics of the Lee Shaw trio, which has three previous recordings with these particular musicians, is the way they find so many ways in performance to demonstrate the compelling art of their individual improvisation, within their supporting each other within the framework of the trio ... continue ...


JEFF "SIEGE" SIEGEL QUARTET
Live in Europe (ARC, 2008)

by J Hunter

In the liner notes to Live in Europe, Jeff "Siege" Siegel basically says that Europe has been very, very good to him. Not surprising, since the region has always given Capital Region jazzers big love – from the prime of Nick Brignola, right up to the extensive airplay given to Colleen Pratt's big-band homage I Thought About You (Nova, 2007). On Live in Europe, the Siegel Quartet returns Europe's love in spades ... continue ...


BOB GLUCK TRIO
Sideways (FMR)

by Jeff Waggoner

Anyone who knows anything about Bob Gluck knows he’s in for a delight when he plops the CD “Sideways” into the player. It surprises and engages throughout. Gluck, a professor at SUNY Albany, is a polymath, and it shows.  Not only does he, as the CD cover modestly states, perform on piano and “electronics,” but he and his trio move the music’s rhythms, melodies and timbres through history. It’s a contemporary sound that provides timeless beauty ... continue ...


GLOBETROTTING
You Are Here (Lil' Pumpkin Records)

by J Hunter

It's a dead heat what is bigger: Jazz' effect on the world, or the world's effect on jazz. The dividends from innumerable overseas tours by jazz giants are still coming in; for instance, four of the artists that knocked my socks off in 2007 - Anat Fort, Roni Ben-Hur, Anat Cohen and Ehud Asherie - are all natives of Israel, bitten by the jazz bug in their home country. But there's more than enough recorded evidence of jazz being influenced by music from around the world. The latest local entry is You Are Here, the debut disc from multi-instrumentalist Steve Gorn, bassist John Davey and percussionist Brian Melick - collectively known as Globetrotting ... continue ...


JOE BARNA/LEE RUSSO
The Abenaki (LRS)

by J Hunter

Did you ever spend weeks or months on tenterhooks, hoping against hope that you'd get this REALLY way cool toy, game, or book for your birthday, only to have it turn out to be a total dud when you finally get it? I've been experiencing the tenterhooks portion of the equation for about six months, waiting for Lee Russo's follow-up to his outstanding debut disc Trading Off (LRS, 2006). Well, I finally got it, and there was good news and a surprise. The good news is The Abenaki simply rocks (in a jazz sense of the word); the surprise is that Russo's name is not alone on the masthead ... continue ...


JEFF MARX & JEFF SIEGEL
Dreamstuff (Ayler Records)

by Jeff Waggoner

From the first note of the CD “Dreamstuff,” the listener can tell you are being engaged by a serious tenor saxophonist.  Anyone who takes such care to deliver great, throaty blasts out of the sax like Chicago-based Jeff Marx does, you know he is a meticulous craftsman. Listen further, to “Dreamstuff,” the newly released duo CD on the Swedish Ayler Records label with drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel, you know you are listening to art, not just craft. Hudson Valley resident Siegel is much more a collaborator in this duo session than he is an accompanist or rhythm keeper. While Marx takes center stage on most of the 10 songs on this CD, Siegel’s presence and counterpoint to Marx is what makes this CD a keeper ... continue ...


THE STATIC PORT
The Static Port

by J Hunter

There's always been a controversy about bringing other elements into jazz. On one side, you've got those who want to “keep it real” - i.e. keep it pure, or (more likely) keep it safe; on the other side, there are those who say, “Why stop here, when we can go over there?” Today, the new element is the Jam Band phenomenon, embodied by bands like Phish, moe., Gov't Mule and Deep Banana Blackout. This movement - which combines today's rock sensibilities with improvisational guidelines laid down by 60's stalwarts like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band - has embraced contemporary jazzers like John Scofield, Charlie Hunter, Bela Fleck and others, adding to an already-enticing synergy that may not be traditionalists' cup of tea, but is inspiring to those of us who want to keep seeing new things happen ... continue ...


JEANNE O'CONNOR
Something's Coming (Perldisc)

by Tom Pierce

Virtually all serious artists, understandably, desire to record their first solo album, as soon as possible. Vocalist Jeanne O'Connor's initial solo recording, Something's Coming, however, aptly demonstrates the value of it occurring after the strong development of a rich career of many years, as well as meaningful life experience and perspective to draw on and develop one's craft. In Ms O'Connor's case, this career includes, for two decades, the discipline, flexibility and professionalism required to sing in the Jazz vocal group, String of Pearls, in numerous top Jazz venues around the world, as well as in a duo setting with Richard Lanham for a different set of audiences ... continue ...


MICHAEL BENEDICT JAZZ VIBES
The New Beat

by J Hunter

Yes, I'm well aware of the post-Vernal Equinox snowstorms that have hit us over the years, including the one a couple of weeks ago that turned cars into weapons. But eventually, you just have to take a chance, pop your head out of the burrow, and yell, “IT'S SPRINGTIME! LET'S PARTY!” And if you're going to party, therefore it follows that you need “party music.” Please welcome the latest addition to the list of Great Local Party Discs: Michael Benedict Jazz Vibes' The New Beat. Benedict is better known (on the jazz side, anyway) as a big-band leader who's also played with Pete Malinverni, Loren Schoenberg, and J.R. Monterose. On The New Beat, Benedict steps behind the vibraphone after years on drums, and he leads a tight quintet in a journey through the basics of bossa nova ... continue ...


BRIAN PATNEAUDE QUARTET
As We Know It (WEPA Records)

by J Hunter

The thing I love most about the Capital Region jazz scene is that it keeps moving forward. Rather than simply resting on its laurels - the venerated accomplishments of the late Nick Brignola, the continuing success of Empire State Youth Orchestra alum Stefon Harris - the landscape continues to evolve, thanks to an array of vibrant, questing players like Lee Shaw, Adrian Cohen, Keith Pray, and Lee Russo (and that's to name just a few). For me, though, the band at the head of the pack is the Brian Patneaude Quartet, and As We Know It gives their creative growth curve a big bump upwards ... continue ...


COLLEEN PRATT
w/ THE EMPIRE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
I Thought About You (Nova)

by J Hunter

Contrary to popular belief, some people do get to live their dream; the problem is, living that dream can be a curse as much as it is a blessing. From the sound of I Thought About You, Colleen Pratt must feel exceedingly blessed. Along with giving Pratt “the gift of song” - a gift she uses both beautifully and wisely - Pratt's mother used to regale Colleen with tales of her days as a performer, on the road singing with big bands. In this age of iTunes and YouTube, that MTV-free era seems as far away as the moons of Jupiter. But when local jazz aficionado Tom Pierce came to Pratt a few years ago with the concept of cutting an Old School big-band date with the Empire Jazz Orchestra, Colleen jumped at the chance.
... continue ...


LEE SHAW TRIO - Originals
(Islandview Records)

by J Hunter

Recently, a CD crossed my desk that filtered Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart through a complex, avant-garde filter. Before that, I slogged through the work of an ambitious young pianist who couldn't decide whether he was Bill Evans or Gil Evans, and fell short on both counts. When faced with music that tries to be too smart for its own good, I'm reminded of a lyric from Waylon Jennings: “Maybe it's time we got back to the basics…” Originals is just what the doctor ordered ... continue ...



TERRY GORDON QUINTET
Homeward Bound (WEPA Records)

by J Hunter

You can wear your hair the same way you did in high school. After all, it's a free country (and that's the only explanation for why mullets still roam the land). You can listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, think the same thoughts, do the same things the same way… and the world will blithely ignore you and just keep on keeping on. Change happens. That's a fact. And that fact does not sit well with some people. Ask Bob Dylan. Ask Miles Davis. And, on a local level, ask Terry Gordon ... continue ...


JOHN DAVEY Sound Bites (Lil' Pumpkin)

by Jeff Waggoner

Just about everywhere you look in upstate New York, you’ll find great musicians in unexpected places. In addition to Oneonta being the home of the great saxophonist/clarnettist Al Gallodoro, it is also homebase for the masterful double bassist, John Davey, who teaches jazz at both SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. Davey is a breath of fresh air to those music lovers who yearn for something other high volume and a multitude of notes ... continue ...






CHUCK D'ALOIA & ART BERNSTEIN Under The Hood (ABCD)
Christmas Time Is Gears (ABCD)

by J Hunter

It's good to see Chuck D'Aloia up and around again. Earlier this year, health problems prevented him from appearing with Dave Calarco and Otto Gardner at Justin's. Aside from seeing these great musicians backing up New York saxman Jim Snidero, the night had been billed as a reunion of Nick Brignola's last band. While it would have been great to see the complete unit on stage again, it is equally great to see D'Aloia back recording with drummer Art Bernstein. They're collectively known as ABCD, and they've been busy boys, because they just released two discs simultaneously - Under the Hood, and Christmas Time is Gears ... continue ....




PEG DELANEY - Hotline

by J Hunter

Part of the attraction of Hotline, Peg Delaney's new CD, is its historical perspective. The disc includes two cuts from The Island Suite, a 1993 release recorded with a much larger ensemble than the quartet the Capital Region piano stalwart brought to Skidmore College in 2003. And while the older recordings are quite fine, I can safely say that (to paraphrase This Is Spinal Tap) I really like Delaney's new direction ... continue ...





LEE RUSSO - Trading Off (LRS)

by J Hunter

No keyboards. No guitars. No other horns except for a guest artist in the middle of the disc. In short, no other “lead” instruments to fall back on. For most players, this would be like juggling torches while walking the high wire. Lee Russo wanted it this way for Trading Off, his first CD. Maybe he's an insane risk-taker. Or maybe he's got the goods ... continue ...


TERI ROIGER - Still Life (MAKI)

by J Hunter

In life, there are certain immutable truths. For example, you can weld a Winged Victory hood ornament onto the front of a Hyundai and it still won't be a Rolls Royce. By the same token, you can play the chart for “In The Wee Small Hours” just the way Quincy Jones wrote it, but it doesn't make you Sinatra. Teri Roiger, on the other hand, doesn't need to put on anything others have created, or recreate what has been deemed great or prestigious, because she is the genuine article - an authentic jazz singer who can not only interpret a song (as well as the mood of the protagonist inside it), but can become an instrument herself when the situation calls for it, holding her own with established players when the scat gets out of the bag on her latest release, Still Life. ... continue ...


MATT FINLEY - Brazilian Wish

by Randy Treece

Retired professor, now full-time musician and trumpeter/flugelhornist, Matt Finley, the front man for Rio Jazz who hails from the Poughkeepsie/Kingston area, has added to his musical wares, Brazilian Wish. Finley must have serious musical credentials to attract the likes of jazz guitarist extraordinare Romero Lubambo, venturesome pianist Warren Bernhardt, bassist Mark Egan of Pat Metheny and Sting fame, Joel Rosenblatt, the rhythm master for Spyro Gyra for fourteen years, and a host of other bona fide musicians ... continue ...




JOHN MENEGON - Soul Advice (MAKI)

by J Hunter

Times ain't now like they used to be. For instance, one of my best friends recently emailed me the news that Blue Note had not only given a recording contract to singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega (Remember “Luka” - the last time child abuse made the Top 10?), but they'd also dropped challenging saxman Greg Osby from their artist roster ... continue ...



JOHN DWORKIN - Short Story

by J Hunter

Someone said, “All past is prologue.” Probably Shakespeare, but I can't find my Bartlett's Quotations, so we'll leave it as anonymous for the moment. At any rate, John Dworkin's latest disc, Short Story, is a disc of the present that presages a bright future. But it is deeply rooted in Dworkin's past, and that's not a bad thing ... continue ...


KEITH PRAY - One Last Stop

by J Hunter

With apologies to fans of classical music, jazz will always generate the most fervent intellectual debates - about phrasing, meaning, motivation, or any number of subjects related (and unrelated) to jazz. How to stop this? Introduce one Hammond B3 organ and shake well. Organ-based jazz - particularly organ mixed with saxophone - is just too damn much fun, and it's hard to be intellectual when you're busy having fun ... continue ...



JONATHAN LORENTZ - Coming Home

by J Hunter

Of all the things to come to mind when trying to sum up saxman Jonathan Lorentz' sweetly subtle disc Coming Home, I never thought it would be one of the worst concert experiences of last summer. It was the first day of the 2005 Freihofer's Jazz Festival, and the stage was inundated with Smooth Jazz… eh, excuse me, Contemporary Jazz stars like Rick Braun, Peter White, Richard Elliott and Jonathan Butler. They were billed as “Jazz Attack”, but because of their downright rabid insistence of proving they were LOUD and FUN and BOISTEROUS and THE MOST IMPORTANT THING HAPPENING, I will always remember them by the title I gave them: “When Smooth Jazz Attacks!” ... continue ...


MARC PRATT - Nick Like

by J Hunter

I wrote it before, and I'll write it again: Jazz in the Capital Region might have reached its current qualitative and quantitative level without Nick Brignola… but I kinda doubt it. The 2005 tribute to Nick at North Pointe brought that home, as former players and students of the baritone-sax legend came together to celebrate both the man and his unique instrument. Nick played many other instruments, but the bari was his baby. So the area jazz scene is solid, but what about the legacy of Nick himself? Who carries that on? The answer is Marc Pratt, a former student of Brignola's, who has picked up the torch and is running hard with it on Nick Like (Lotta Sax) ... continue ...



JEFF “SIEGE” SIEGEL - Magical Spaces

by J Hunter

Just like with my government, I want less corporate involvement with my jazz. Sure, major labels like Blue Note and Verve helped establish the genre, but it's indie outfits like Palmetto, Rope-a-Dope and MaxJazz that are doing the truly interesting releases, while the aforementioned majors are too busy playing the world's dumbest reality show, “Searching For (The NEW) Norah Jones”. A good example of indie-jazz quality is Magical Spaces (CAP), a wonderful collaboration of like-minded musicians led by drummer/percussionist Jeff “Siege” Siegal ... continue ...


PAUL COUCH - Mulligan Stew

by J Hunter

West Coast Jazz has a lot in common with Impressionist art. Think about it: Just as the works of Renoir and Monet were reviled upon arrival but are considered masterworks today, the initial (and violent) reaction to the work of Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Gerry Mulligan seems silly when compared with the reverence today's jazz fans bestow on these very same artists. It is that reverence (both for the West Coast sound and for Mulligan) that drives saxman Paul Couch's disc, Mulligan Stew ... continue ...


LEE SHAW TRIO - Little Friend

by J Hunter

I've been listening to a lot of complicated stuff lately: Dave Douglas, Wallace Roney, Bill Frisell - lots of multi-layered compositions laced with tape loops, DJ breaks, and other forms of technology. While I love music that moves the boundaries a little further from the commonplace, eventually I come back to what attracted me to jazz: People using traditional, acoustic instruments to show their love for a music that can be occasionally unforgiving but (at the end of the day) infinitely joyful. Although there's a fair bit of sorrow in Little Friend, the Lee Shaw Trio fills this disc with that joy ... continue




JOE FINN QUARTET - String Theory

by J Hunter

There's a small black pot on the mantelpiece in our family room. It is Navajo in design, a gift from a good friend in Arizona. From a distance, it does not impress; it just seems like a simple black pot. It's when you get up close that you see the craftsmanship, the care, and the love that turned clay into beauty. I get that same feeling when I listen to String Theory, the latest disc from the Joe Finn Quartet ... continue.

ANDREE PAGES - Swings Both Ways

by J Hunter

Here’s what I can’t stand about compilation discs: They’re not organic. Sure, a compilation may give you “all the hits”, but the cuts are taken out of context. A CD is a snapshot of where an artist’s head and/or heart is at any one time, and that one hit is part of a single set of sounds that artist is hearing at that moment. For instance, you could take one of the great cuts on Andree Pages’ Swings Both Ways and slap it onto a compilation to good effect. But if you didn’t hear the original disc, you’d miss the full experience Pages and her compatriots work hard to impart ... continue.


GambaDream

by J Hunter

Thinking outside the box is what sets jazz apart from all other musical genres. Examples range from the sublime (Miles’ blues-rockin’ tribute to heavyweight champion Jack Johnson) to the ridiculous (Re-inventing Coltrane’s A Love Supreme as a big-band record). Sometimes all it takes is putting a new instrument into the mix. With GambaDream, Jay Elfenbein introduces us to the viola da gamba – or “viol” for short ... continue.



ERFTONES - Dispatch

by J Hunter

The word “Dispatch” has several meanings. One is that it is a type of message, as in “a dispatch from the Front.” Another is to dismiss someone or something, like when Mandy Patinkin holds up a sword to the villain’s throat in The Princess Bride and says, “Shall I dispatch him for you?” Dispatch, the latest disc from the Erftones, is not only a welcome “dispatch” from the musical Front, it also “dispatches” the persisting notion that jazz is best left in a historical stasis that begins and ends with Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington ... continue




BRIAN PATNEAUDE QUARTET - Distance

by J Hunter

I came to gardening late in life, thinking incorrectly that all those hanging plants I killed meant that I had a black thumb. As I developed my skills with select perennials, I discovered I really loved watching things grow. That’s why Distance, the latest disc from the Brian Patneaude Quartet, gives me so much joy ... continue

OSHE - The Good Book

by J Hunter

It’s fitting that Oshe’s new disc, The Good Book, has artwork reminiscent of underground cartoonists R. Crumb and Vaughn Bode. The musical roots of Oshe go back to that same time period – specifically, to the time when Miles Davis’ switch to electric music (symbolized by Bitches Brew, but hinted at by Filles de Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way) stunned and shocked jazz listeners’ comfort zone. To this day, Miles’ decision is still a point of fervent debate. While The Good Book stuns and shocks in places, it pretty much grooves all over the place. And that’s a very good thing ... continue

TERRY GORDON QUINTET - Contemplations

by J Hunter

You know the old saying, “Little things mean a lot”? In music, even a little change, a little addition, a little subtraction can mean the difference between good music and great music. Contemplations – the latest disc from the Terry Gordon Quintet – proves this theory to be true ... continue


David Friedman

MARK CAPON - The Jazz Guitar Of ...

by J Hunter

Until Charlie Christian (and his amp) was smuggled onto Benny Goodman’s stage one opening night, the guitar was – at best – a third member of jazz’ rhythm section. Christian’s lead lines brought energy to the staid music of Goodman, and influenced later players such as Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Tal Farlow ... continue

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