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CONCERT REVIEWS

TERELL STAFFORD QUINTET
Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY
June 27, 2017

by Joe Major

Usual pre-concert effervescence was momentarily quelled at the outset of Skidmore’s Jazz Institute Concert Series Tuesday night. Director Todd Coolman left the audience jarred by the announcement of legendary pianist and educator Geri Allen’s hours-before death. After a reverent moment of silence the Terell Stafford Quintet proceeded to engrave a consummately polished, road-tested set in the glass-walled jewel box that is the Zankel Music Center. Trumpeter Stafford colluded with tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield, Bruce Barth on piano, David Wong on bass and drummer Billy Williams to deliver an engaging suite ... continue.

SFJAZZ COLLECTIVE
"The Music of Miles Davis and Original Compositions”
The Egg, Albany, NY
March 31, 2017

by Joe Major

The most vibrant facet of Sir Isaac Newton’s law of motion states that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, unless acted upon by some unbalanced force. The SFJAZZ Collective blew into The Egg on Friday night, staunch enforcers of that law, ready to dissuade any bodies from even thinking about remaining at rest. They exuded a swaggering, benign confidence born of the surety that this season’s touring program tapped into creative pay dirt ... continue.


THE BAD PLUS
The Egg, Albany, NY
February 19, 2017

by Joe Major

The three-card Monte, genre-sliding, eclectic ruckus that is the Bad Plus, unfurled their wizardly reveal Sunday night at The Egg. Before a devout, willingly beguiled audience, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King, shuffled potent idiomatic parts of straight ahead jazz, range-fed free jazz, and the thrum of anvil steady rockish pop ... continue.

REGINA CARTER QUINTET
The Egg, Albany, NY
February 11, 2017

by Joe Major

Given the Valentine season, Regina Carter could not have chosen a more fitting time to deliver a rapturous love letter to Ella Fitzgerald. Saturday at The Egg, her life-long, unabashed affection for the “First Lady of Song” fueled the launch of this “Simply Ella” tour, as well as a soon to be released CD, “Ella: Accentuate the Positive” ... continue.
JACK DEJOHNETTE TRIO,
INDO-PAK COALITION
The Egg, Albany, NY
December 9, 2016

by Joe Major

There were justifiably high expectations surrounding The Egg’s nearly too rich Saturday night double bill headlining the Jack DeJohnette Trio, and featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition. Maybe you’re of an age where you remember educational toys like The Visible Man, and The Visible V-8 Engine, transparent views into the systemic workings of complex mechanisms. Then the similarly unfettered, rarified peek into The Visible Jazz Drummer afforded you no less a revelation ... continue.
VIJAY IYER & CRAIG TABORN
EMPAC, Troy, NY
Occtober 29, 2016

by Joe Major

We won’t be receiving any picture postcards from the far reaching regions where pianists Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn were headed Saturday night at EMPAC. Not because they weren’t unfailingly forthcoming, or their many backchannel arteries and tributaries didn’t promise interest, intrigue and adventure, but solely because, in the now familiar Steinian sense, “There was no there, there.” Their concept of a solid ground destination seemed invitingly negotiable ... continue.

THE BUMPER JACKSONS w/s/g BRYAN BRUNDIGE & THE PIGGLY WIGGLIES
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
September 23, 2016

by Joe Major

There can be precious little ailing you that a heaping dose of Bumper Jacksons elixir won’t cure. Their hearty mélange of jug band, Basin Street, Appalachia, Texas swing, nascent 1940s popular jazz, as well as timely and engagingly oblique originals, is a prescription for exuberance!
Friday night, this rollicking Washington, D.C. band initiated the Premier Performance Season at the College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts ... continue.
BILL CHARLAP QUINTET
Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College , Saratoga, NY
July 5, 2016

by Joe Major
 
Skidmore Jazz Institute Concert Series director Todd Coolman strode out to introduce Bill Charlap. He iterated the estimable facets of Charlap’s curriculum vitae: masterful pianist, acknowledged gatekeeper of the Americana genre, Grammy Award winner, distinguished professor. ... continue.

RON CARTER GOLDEN STRIKER TRIO
Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College, Saratoga, NY
June 28, 2016

by Joe Major

When the Ron Carter Golden Striker Trio emerged from the wings Tuesday night at Zankel Music Center of Skidmore College, resplendent to a degree that would have made the Modern Jazz Quartet feel underdressed, they were more than sartorially top-tier. They were draped in an aura of ambassadorial grace, special attachés ready to dispatch, especially from this glassy summit, their distinguished jazz prowess ... continue.  

AFRO CUBAN JAZZ SAXTET
The Madison Theater, Albany, NY
May 14, 2016

by Joe Major

A brigade of brass and a battalion of batá convened Saturday night to close out the inaugural season of the Madison Jazz Series. As the final installment of a festival curated to exhibit jazz’s global reach, the Afro Cuban Jazz Saxtet deftly traced this strain’s storied trek from Nigeria’s Yoruba country through Cuba, to the greater Caribbean, Latin America, and not incidentally, the United States ... continue.


BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO
The Egg, Albany, NY
April 16, 2016

by Joe Major

The Brad Mehldau Trio’s foray into The Egg Saturday night in Albany, New York, could stand as the epitome of chamber jazz art. That is, these potent practitioners were locked and loaded, with one in the chamber ... continue.

COLETTE MICHAAN QUARTET
The Madison Theater, Albany, NY
April 9, 2016

by Joe Major

The Colette Michaan Quartet graced the second leg of the Madison Jazz Series with a swirling, revelatory performance culled from the realms of folklore, festival, street, and deep wells of universal spirituality. The generosity of spirit and joyful camaraderie within this band was lavishly contagious. Michaan repeatedly alluded to her mission to mine wisdom and peace from music, and that was manifested in prayerful meditations as well as volcanic torso-shakers ... continue.

BEARTHOVEN & BATTLE TRANCE
EMPAC, Troy, NY
April 7, 2016

by Joe Major

From the outset, EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performance Arts Center) curator Argeo Ascani espoused his interest “in things that don’t fit at first.” Instead of museum style gallery by gallery exploration, he always opts for hybridization.  In musical crit circles the nominal border wars that occur between “jazz” and “performance” acts are common kerfuffles.  The evening’s program, Bearthoven, and Battle Trance, would soon prove that the only truly “ill-fitting things” were the needless attempts to pigeonhole performers by genre ... continue.

TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON "MONEY JUNGLE" QUARTET & JACK DEJOHNETTE
Jazzstock, Woodstock, NY
March 19, 2016

by Joe Major

Terri Lyne Carrington’s Money Jungle Quartet leveraged a brooding historical currency into a tense set infused with deep deposits of sparkle and futurism. Their Jazzstock performance Saturday night in Woodstock, NY, fulfilled a thematic contract with the legacy of a fifty–year old Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Charles Mingus trio session of the same name that became a famous embodiment of the fault line between commerce and art ... continue.
ANTOINE RONEY QUARTET
The Madison Theater, Albany, NY
March 12, 2016

by Joe Major

The Antoine Roney Quartet launched the Madison Jazz Series Saturday night with a concert at once contemplative and surging. Dedicated jazz followers were witness to a program of originals in which Mr. Roney’s tenor moaned plaintively in search of the jaunty, emphatic punctuation that would eventually resolve most of the numbers ... continue.
LEE SHAW QUINTET
Taste, Albany, NY
August 9, 2014 

by Tom Pierce

Change can sometimes be beneficial and exciting, even for a stellar organization like the Lee Shaw Trio, that has been for many years, the Capital District’s “Gold Standard” for small group jazz. Two significant elements have been altered in the past few months for this band of legendary Lee Shaw on piano and stalwart partners, Rich Syracuse on bass and Jeff Siegel on drums ... conitnue.
JAZZ BROTHERS UNITED
The Lark Tavern, Albany, NY
August 3, 2014 

by Tom Pierce

There was no shortage of reasons I’ve found the 3 Jazz Brothers United 7 PM Sunday Sessions on July 20, July 27 and August 4 all very worthwhile. Drummer/leader Joe Barna has continued to use his musical skill, initiative and enthusiasm to pull together yet another fine group of talented veteran and younger musicians: Lee Russo on tenor saxophone, Adam Siegel on alto saxophone, Mark Kleinhaut on guitar, John Menegon on bass and himself ... continue.
BOPITUDE WITH SHAREL CASSITY
The Daily Grind, Troy, NY
July 25, 2012

by Tom Pierce

The superlative performance of Michael Benedict’s invigoratingly hard-driving band Bopitude, with guest artist, rising star alto saxophonist Sharel Cassity, at the Daily Grind came as no surprise to the many in attendance familiar over the past 4 years with their exciting live performances and two highly lauded CD’s.  But last night’s intensely delivered 90 minute set of seven passionately riveting songs more than exceeded even these expectations. As one audience member (veteran trumpeter Rob Fisch) posted on Facebook during the show, “Sharel is Smokin’ on fire, and so is the rest of the band" ... continue.
DAVE HOLLAND
& THE EMPIRE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Schenectady County Community College, Schenecatdy, NY
April 8, 2014

By Eric Ciarmello

He walked like them, he dressed like them, he spoke like them. He stood in the lobby of the SCCC School of Music, chatting in a group of four or five, as if he had just come to see what this Empire Jazz Orchestra was all about. It wasn’t Dave Holland’s lack of presence that rendered him unnoticed, but his lack of ego ... continue.


HOWARD ALDEN TRIO
The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
March 22, 2014

by Andrzej "Andre" Pilarczyk

Those that came for the 7 p.m. full-house show of The Howard Alden All-Star Trio performing at the Van Dyck that Saturday night in March probably had a great time, but those 14 who were there for the 9:30 show had the show of their life. It was more intimate: it was grand and it made you feel like these three legends were playing just for you in the middle of your living room ... continue.

KEITH PRAY'S BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH
The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
March 4, 2014

by Rudy Lu

Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble commemorated Women’s History Month by dedicating their March performance to women composers with connections to the Capital District. The band featured pieces by Yuko Kishimoto, Erica Seguine and Peg Delaney ... continue.

JOHN MEDESKI
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY,
December 7, 2013

by Jeff Waggoner

By the time John Medeski landed his bald head and broad shoulders in front of a 9’ Steinway at the College of St. Rose, the audience knew he meant business. Maybe it was the big jug of water, the boxes, or the handkerchief for head-mopping -- a la Oscar Peterson -- that he arranged around the instrument.  Or maybe it was  his denim and turf boots ... continue.




KEITH PRAY'S BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
August 6, 2013

by Dylan Canterbury

Sometimes, it’s all a matter of perspective. When it comes to the monthly gathering that is the Big Soul Ensemble’s residence at the Van Dyck, my usual perspective comes from the back left corner of the bandstand. Wedged snugly but comfortably between drummer Bob Halek and fellow trumpeter Terry Gordon, I get a first-hand glimpse into the mind of saxophonist/composer/bandleader Keith Pray ... continue.
THE CHRONICLES,
THE DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
February 9, 2012

by Jeff Waggoner

Once again, The College of St. Rose skillfully paired a local act with an out-of-town headliner. On February 9 – just a few days before Fat Tuesday --  it was the local Chronicles that warmed up the crowd at the Massry Center for the Arts for the New Orleans-based Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  The headliners had a hard act to follow ... continue.
LEE SHAW TRIO, BEN ALLISON BAND
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
November 15, 2012

by Jeff Waggoner

Front page, above the fold in the Nov. 15 Albany Times Union there appeared an homage to the Capital District’s dean of jazz musicians.  It said our beloved pianist Lee Shaw is ailing. So, anyone who showed up at a College of St. Rose concert that night expecting a swan song got fooled.  Even at 86, it’s still too soon to give Shaw the title “dean emeriti.” ... continue.

PEDRITO MARTINEZ QUARTET
A Place for Jazz, Schenectady, NY
November 9, 2012

by Jeff Nania

Pedrito Martinez is no stranger to the capital region.  He brought his group with pianist Ariacne Trujillo, percussionist Jhair Sala, and bassist Alvaro Benevides to Mountain Jam,   SPAC Jazz Fest, and Albany Riverfront Jazz Fest all within the past year.  Each performance was spectacular, but the performance at A Place For Jazz on Friday was a surprising treat.  Trujillo complemented Martinez again on this date, but John Benitez played electric and upright basses.  Rather than a second percussionist, Martinez opted instead for a trumpeter, Mike Rodriguez ... continue.

JOE BARNA & SKETCHES OF INFLUENCE
The Lark Tavern, Albany, NY
August 7, 2012

by Tom Pierce

Thanks to some enthusiastic recommendations last week from fellow APFJ Board members & passionate music lovers, Leslie Hyland & Al Brooks, I’m very glad last night I caught leader-drummer-composer Joe Barna’s latest Sketches of Influence band at the nicely renovated Lark Tavern ... continue.
MICHAEL BENEDICT & BOPITUDE
Five and One CD Release Performance
Greenville High School, Greenville, NY
April 6, 2012

by Rudy Lu

A post bop jazz CD release concert at Greenville Jr./Sr. High School in Greenville, NY? Certainly not an expected venue to celebrate the release of a new recording by a post bop style quintet par excellence with special guest, world renowned baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan ... continue.

CHICK COREA
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
April 4, 2012

by Jeff Waggoner

Chick Corea shot on stage like a gray-haired teenager. A pretty smart trick for a man who is 70, and just a year or so ago was a Buddha- like figure at the piano. Now, he’s as thin as a whippet. His healthier figure is good news for jazz, as the always accessible 18-time Grammy winner has provided a portal into jazz for generations of music lovers ... continue.
RAVI COLTRANE
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
March 15, 2012

by Jeff Waggoner

It is a conceit to place musicians into arbitrary categories.  The innovators: Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.  The technicians: Oscar Peterson and Buddy Rich.  Then, the painters:  The Joe Hendersons. The
Charles Lloyds. Tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane place as an impressionist is secure:   His is a unique voice that doesn’t surprise or command.  It invites and evokes ... continue.  
BRANFORD MARSALIS
& JOEY CALDERAZZO

Proctors, Schenectady, NY
February 3, 2012

by Rudy Lu

Jazz is by definition a rhythmic music.  Bass and drums traditionally carry the rhythm. It is challenging to present jazz in a percussionless duo.   This was done successfully by Branford Marsalis and his long time pianist Joey Calderazzo during the first set of a two set concert at Schenectady’s Proctors Theater ... continue.

BURNT SUGAR
THE ARKESTRA CHAMBER

Proctors, Schenectady, NY
January 28, 2012

by Rudy Lu

Burnt Sugar Arkestra the Chamber. The whole name is a mouthful but explains the complex nature of their music. The band treated a small audience in Schenectady ‘s GE Theatre to a rich amalgam of music. Stream of consciousness repeating rhythm patterns mixed with funk dominated the sound. The band opened with “Cold Sweat Variations” in an obvious yet spacey tribute to James Brown. They were taking funk to places that James Brown and even Parliament/Funkadelic could not imagine ... conitune.

ED PALMERO BIG BAND
The Falcon, Marlboro, NY
January 20, 2012

by Rudy Lu

When “Big Band” is mentioned. One will instantly think of Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Duke Ellington and the sounds of the 30s and 40s. This is not exactly the music that the Ed Palermo Big Band plays. They play the music of the late composer and rock musician Frank Zappa. The band has been playing a repertoire of Frank Zappa’s music mixed with Ed Palermo’s originals, mashed up with the progressive/classic rock that baby boomers have grown up with for over 15 years ... continue.
KEITH PRAY'S BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
2011

by Rudy Lu

In 2011, Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble's monthly residence at the Van Dyck in Schenectady entered its second year. In addition to performing arrangements of Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Thad Jones and Oliver Nelson compositions, the band has continued to serve as a workshop for local composers to try out their compositions in a big band setting.  The informal setting has allowed the lucky audience to see this music in its raw form as it is actually being created ... continue.

LES McCANN & JAVON JACKSON, BETTYE LaVETTE
The Egg, Albany, NY
November 19, 2011

by Rudy Lu

It was an evening of contemporary nostalgia at the Egg.  The legendary Les McCann appeared with the more contemporary Javon Jackson Quartet.  They shared the bill with   newly discovered veteran soul singer Bettye LaVette. Les McCann’s set featured tunes from his legendary 1969 album “Swiss Movement” with tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris. Javon Jackson and company did not try to imitate the late Harris’ sound but laid down a solid groove reminiscent of the down home mixture of R&B/soul jazz sounds of Ronnie Laws and the Crusaders from the early/mid seventies ... continue.

SENSEMAYA
A Place for Jazz, Schenectady , NY
October 28, 2011

by Jeff Nania

“The next tune we're going to play is from the album we're releasing tonight, and it's by Walter Ramos...A lot of the music on the album is by Walter Ramos,” said Dave Gleason, Sensemaya's Pianist, and bandleader. While the album features tunes by Ramos, Gleason, and Ryan Lukas, the show also featured two classic Duke Ellington tunes that were given facelifts. “Caravan” was one of the most exciting pieces of the night, and featured the impressive bongo work of Tony Garcia Sr. He was not flashy, but rather placed his groove and counter-rhythms prominently at the top of the texture ... continue.
MARCO BENEVENTO TRIO
Red Square, Albany, NY
October 22, 2011

by Jeff Nania

“Greenpoint” was in fact the point of departure for The Marco Benevento Trio's night of music at Red Square.  This is also the opening track off their newest record Between The Needles And Nightfall.  The song is essentially a single riff repeated from beginning to end with various ambient layers of sound surrounding it while a melodic piano resonates on a cloud above it all ... continue.
KENNY BARRON TRIO
A Place for Jazz, Schenectady , NY
October 14, 2011

by Jeff Waggoner

The incomparable pianist, Kenny Barron, who has taken the history of a music and compressed it into a gem, put that gem on display October 14 at A Place for Jazz in Schenectady’s Whisperdome. Think of it. Ray Bryant’s sister (and Kevin and Robin Eubank’s mother) helped him learn piano as a kid.  He started recording in 1961, 50 years ago, and over those 50 years has played with the Who’s Who of jazz, everyone from Philly Joe Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, and our hometown hero, Nick Brignola ... continue.

MACEO PARKER
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
September 23, 2011

by Jeff Waggoner

The paragon of funk, altoist Maceo Parker, was in Albany September 23, looking lean and hungry.  Lean enough to make you think someone’s been taking the fatback out of his peas, but hungry enough to put on a great show at the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of St. Rose ... continue
FREIHOFER’S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 2)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 26, 2011

by J Hunter

NO GUTS, NO GLORY: The headline act was called “Sing theTruth”, but New Paltz trumpeter Rebecca Coupe Franks did some truth-telling ofher own at the Gazebo. Not content to keep it instrumental on her set of consistently strong originals (backed by pianist Luis Perdomo, who just keeps getting better), she also favored us with lyrics that came from the heart, even thoughthose vocals were delivered by a singing voice that was far less than perfect. My initial two-word argument to her detractors (“Doc Cheatham”) was knocked down by the fact that Cheatham has phrasing, but Cheatham had 90 years to develop his style; Franks is just starting out, and I, for one, want to see where she goes with this direction ... continue.
CHRIS BRUBECK’S TRIPLE PLAY
(feat. FRANK BROWN and DAVE BRUBECK)
Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College, Saratoga, NY
June 10, 2011

by J Hunter

“But… But… They don’t play jazz!” Well, that’s not strictly true. Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play’s sound is a lot closer to the Wood Brothersthan Medeski Martin & Wood. But that’s not even close to a good reason formissing one of the most joyous concert experiences I’ve had all year. And anyway, if jazz was what you wanted, you got that right out of the gate ... continue.
RAMSEY LEWIS
Massry Center for the Arts, College of St. Rose, Albany, NY
April 29, 2011

by J Hunter

I went to a concert the other night, and instead I got an education. Mind you, that’s the way the evening’s honoree would have wanted it. The show was originally going to feature the Billy Taylor Trio, and we were going to celebrate Dr. Taylor’s 90th birthday year. Unfortunately, Billy Taylor passed away December, which means jazz lost one of its greatest boosters and influences. But in another example of how good can come out of bad, Laura Hartmann – a CSR alum – was able to convince Taylor’s longtime friend (and sometime duet partner) Ramsey Lewis in to pinch-hit ... continue.

THE ELECTRIC CITY JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH CONCERT:
TRIBUTE TO SAM FARKAS

Proctors Robb Alley, Schenectady, NY
April 17, 2011

by J Hunter

I never had the pleasure of meeting Sam Farkas, or seeing him play guitar, but he was one of the names you had to know about the Capital Region jazz community. His footprint on the scene was as big as that of Jack Fragomeni, another friend we lost too soon. In announcing a fundraising effort for a scholarship fund in Farkas and Fragomeni’s memory, Joe Barna described them both the same way: “A teacher, a father, and an educator.” Emotions ran high all afternoon long, especially when union president Mark Anthony presented a memorial plaque to longtime Farkas friends. Forget “He will be missed.” Sam Farkas is missed ... continue.

HENDRIK MEURKENS & BOB DEVOS
Flights of Fantasy Bookstore, Colonie, NY
April 2, 2011

by Rudy Lu

The chromatic harmonica is a difficult instrument to play: One can play notes on it just like any other instrument, but to make it sound good in the jazz idiom is an issue onto itself. With the exception of the great Belgian jazz musician Toots Thielemans, there have been very few players who’ve been able to make the grade. One of those players Thielemans inspired is Hendrik Muerkens, a native of Hamburg, Germany who is as good on vibes as he is on harmonica ... continue.

LEE SHAW TRIO w/JOHN MEDESKI
Zankel Music Center, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
April 1, 2011

by J Hunter

The lights went down, and out walked former Fort Lauderdale student/current worldwide monster John Medeski – alone. He smiled and waved at the mix of Skidmore students and longtime Lee Shaw fans, climbed onto the platform holding his Hammond B3 organ, and started playing an ex tempore mash-up of gospel choir music and horror-film soundtrack. It was definitely cool, but a question hung around my head as Jeff “Siege” Siegel slid behind his drum kit and started working the cymbals: Where was Lee? I’d heard she’d taken a fall a few weeks before, and when you’re in your 80’s, that’s not something you just bounce back from. Was Medeski stalling? Did this just become a Medeski Siegel and Syracuse show ... continue.
PETE LEVIN TRIO
The Rosendale Cafe, Rosendale, NY
March 26, 2011

by Rudy Lu

I have asked many times in the last few weeks, “Where can I go to hear jazz in upstate NY?” The readers of albanyjazz.com know that there are quite a few venues locally. We have had jazz here in everything from concert halls, nightclubs, churches, coffeehouses and even bookstores. The adjacent Hudson Valley also has establishments that host jazz on occasion as well as the Falcon, a club further southeast in Marlboro that features jazz on a regular basis ... continue.

JEFF COFFIN MU'TET
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
March 20, 2011

by Rudy Lu

Per Wikipedia, jazz rock fusion is defined as a “musical genre that developed in the late 1960s from a mixture of elements of jazz such as its focus on improvisation with the rhythms and grooves of funk and R&B and the beats and heavily amplified electric instruments and electronic effects of rock”. Jeff Coffin – of Dave Matthews Band and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones fame – led his own band at the Massry Center Sunday evening for a new look at this old genre ... continue.

"AN EVENING OF JAZZ"
featuring Brian Patneaude Quartet
Joe Barna & Sketches of Influence CD Release
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
March 17, 2011

by J Hunter

Holding a “drop party” for your new CD is not complicated: You get all the players from your disc, play all the tunes on the disc, point the audience to the table where the disc is being sold, and you’re done. What the audience got at the drop party for Joe Barna’s new release Blowin’ it Out was a celebration – not just of the disc, but of the entire Capital Region jazz scene, and both Barna and Massry Center impresario Salvatore Prizio deserve big love for building a truly outstanding show ... continue.
ERIC HARLAND GROUP
Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall, Arthur Zankel Music Center
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
February 18, 2011

by J Hunter

Picture a drum circle… and I don’t mean one of those ridiculous Iron John situations where men attempt to “release their Inner Warrior”, or some such psychobabble. I’m talking about the drum circles you’ll see on the lawn at Freihofer’s Jazz Festival, where it’s nothing but an expression of joy and where the beat starts is probably miles away from where it ends. That’s the only way I can describe what the Eric Harland Group did at the Zankel Center, and that’s after living with Brain Cramp for two days after the show. It was just that deep, and just that intense ... continue.

JIMMY COBB'S SO WHAT BAND
Swyer Theatre @ the Egg, Albany, NY
February 10, 2011

by J Hunter

“Many of us have waited 52 years to hear this album played live,” Peter Lesser said in his introduction to the band of killers gathered by drummer Jimmy Cobb – the last living participant in the sessions that produced one of the greatest albums (let alone greatest jazz albums) of all time. And Lesser wasn’t kidding, because in concert back in the day, Davis used to fly through “So What” like he was afraid of catching something. Basically, Miles regarded Kind of Blue with the same attitude he had about his entire discography, and that view is summed up in Miles’ own words: “Once I’ve done something… Well, it’s over.” For the rest of us, though, Blue marches on, and Cobb’s amazing sextet made it live again – with a little something extra ... continue.
JOE LOVANO/JOHN SCOFIELD QUARTET
Swyer Theatre @ the Egg, Albany, NY
January 30, 2011

by J Hunter

Here’s how I knew I was in for a treat last Sunday night: Rather than introduce the show, as he usually does, Egg impresario Peter Lesser stepped into the Swyer through the farthest exit door on the left side of the audience. As the lights went down, Lesser leaned against the wall and folded his arms, a big smile on his face. Oh yeah, I thought, this is going to be big ... continue.
TIERNEY SUTTON BAND
Swyer Theatre @ the Egg, Albany, NY
January 21, 2011

by J Hunter

Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great that the Great American Songbook is still a concert staple for many jazzers, both vocal and instrumental. But for me, doing the songs “the way they’ve always been done” just doesn’t go far enough. Jazz is all about freedom of expression, but it’s also about freedom of interpretation. Tierney Sutton celebrates both freedoms, and she’s got just the band to make it beautiful ... continue.
GARY SMULYAN & RALPH LALAMA
Professor Java’s Coffee Sanctuary, Colonie, NY
January 7, 2011

by J Hunter

As he introduced his own composition “Dalama’s Dilemma”, Ralph Lalama smiled at the people that had braved the growing snow to pack Professor Java’s intimate concert space. The tenorman (who resembles Mark Twain on the South Beach Diet) gestured towards baritone-sax player Gary Smulyan, who was studying a chart handed to him by bassist Lou Smaldone ... continue.

THE YEAR (sort of) IN LIVE JAZZ
featuring the Top 5 Capital Region Jazz Shows of 2010

by J Hunter

Virtual Statues time again, people! And I want to stress to any new readers that these awards are completely serious! After all, would I be wearing this gold tux jacket if I wasn’t serious? Anyway, would all the nominees please step away from the buffet table and line up against the far wall – tallest to shortest, if you would? When you hear your name, step forward ... continue.

YUKO KISHIMOTO TRIO
one2one Concert Series
Athens Cultural Center, Athens, NY
December 4, 2010

by J Hunter

I’ve joked that Thom Bellino moved the one2one concert series down to Greene County because its former home in Kinderhook wasn’t remote enough. The fact is, though, the PlanetArts impresario has got a good thing going on at Athens Cultural Center – a storefront art gallery just off the main drag – and the intimate atmosphere was totally perfect for the Yuko Kishimoto Trio ... continue.

JERRY WELDON TRIO
Flight of Fantasy Bookstore, Colonie, NY
November 6, 2010

by J Hunter

“This guy never calls me!” Jerry Weldon exclaimed, holding up a black flip phone for his laughing audience. Usually it’s the crowd’s cell phones that interrupt performances; this time, it was the performer’s cell that buzzed just as the ebullient tenor player was about to count in his rocking organ trio at one of the most unique venues I’ve ever experienced ... continue.

PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND
Massry Center for the Arts, Albany, NY
October 26 , 2010

by J Hunter

Here’s an important tip that will improve your viewing and listening pleasure: Never, EVER see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at a jazz festival! That’s where I first saw them, at Freihofer’s a few years ago, and while I wasn’t bored out of my mind, I simply did not get it. That’s because at a jazz festival, they’re just a group that plays standards – of a specific type and time, sure, but at the end of the day, they’re fighting for your attention just like the rest of the bill. To fully appreciate what Preservation Hall does (both on a musical and an educational level), you need to be totally immersed, just like the full house at the Massry Center ... continue.

BRUCE BARTH TRIO & JD ALLEN TRIO
A Place For Jazz, Schenectady, NY
October 22 , 2010

by J Hunter

A Place for Jazz always gives you value for money. They’ve been bringing us top-flight players at cut-rate prices for so long, it’s almost impossible to remember a time when they weren’t doing that. But APFJ took it up a notch the other night, giving us three bands on two stages, and all three were amazing in their own right. (Okay, a little clarification: Two of the bands featured the same rhythm section… but that doesn’t mean pianist Bruce Barth and saxman J.D. Allen didn’t blow the doors off the Whisperdome, because they blew it up real good!) ... continue.
GARY SMULYAN TRIO
Professor Java's, Colonie, NY
September 25, 2010

by J Hunter

Professor Java’s is no stranger to live music. The Wolf Road coffeehouse has held open-mic nights for some time. But when Bread & Jam Café went the way of the buffalo (and the Lark, for that matter), drummer/erstwhile impresario Joe Barna went searching for another place to play, and I think he’s struck salon. Java’s performance area is an earth-toned, track-lit, art-intensive room that can be closed off from the rest of the facility ... continue.


MIKE MORENO QUINTET
A Place For Jazz, The Whisperdome
First Unitarian Society, Schenectady, NY
September 24, 2010

by J Hunter

Okay, here’s 30 seconds of cooking class: Adding an extra ingredient to a dish that’s already perfect will not automatically screw it up; the overall flavor can still be very, very good. However, unless that ingredient adds significantly to the experience, all it’s going to do is stand out, and not in a good way. The repast guitarist Mike Moreno’s quintet served up at A Place For Jazz was unquestionably tasty – it’s just that one component needed to be either accented or deleted ... continue.

LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 2)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 19, 2010

by J Hunter

Notes from “Jazz at the Lake” Day 2 – a lot cloudier, a little cooler, and (occasionally) a wee bit damper ... Once upon a time, the only way a woman could get into jazz was as a singer, a pianist, or (in the case of Shirley Horn and Tania Maria) both. No more! Anyone who attended Freihofer’s Gazebo stage this year saw alto player (and current Berklee student) Hailey Niswanger and bassist Linda Oh kick serious butt – not only as gifted musicians, but as accomplished leaders. Almost three months later, in one of those great moments when an audience’s attitude about an artist goes from “Who’s that” to “WHO is THAT”, Sharel Cassity made the ground shake at Shepard Park ... continue.

LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 1)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 18, 2010

by J Hunter

Notes from the first day of “Jazz at the Lake”, where the only thing that sounded better than the music was Mayor Bob Blaze’s announcement that Lake George would not be enforcing the parking meters that weekend ... continue.


ALBANY RIVERFRONT JAZZ FESTIVAL
Corning Preserve, Albany, NY
September 11, 2010

by J Hunter

Notes from (for the first time in anyone’s memory) an entirely rain-free Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival ... continue.


RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET
ALBANY RIVERFRONT JAZZ FESTIVAL
Corning Preserve. Albany, NY
September 11, 2010

by Jeff Nania

I could hear the sound of Ravi Coltrane's tenor saxophone as I made the walk from my car to the amphitheater where the jazz fest was being held. I hurried up and got there, and almost immediately recognized the first tune – something called “Nothing Like You,” which I had first heard years ago on an album called “Sorcerer” by the second great Miles Davis Quintet with drummer Tony Williams, bassist Ron Carter, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Herbie Hancock ... continue.


KELLEY JOHNSON QUARTET

Jazz Café @ Tanglewood
Lenox, MA
September 4, 2010

by J Hunter

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t know everyone and everything in this genre; then again, nobody does (except maybe Nat Henthoff, and he doesn’t have an email addy I can use to ask him). So when I saw Tanglewood Jazz Festival’s Jazz Café was featuring the Kelley Johnson Quartet before Kurt Elling’s appearance at Ozawa Hall, no bells rang. Leaving home early to check out Johnson’s show was one of those “Why not?” decisions, and the results are proof that life gives you good stuff if you leave the door open to happenstance ... continue.


LAST CHORUS: BREAD & JAM CAFÉ
Cohoes, NY
September 1, 2010

by J Hunter

I went to a wake last Wednesday night. We didn’t call it a funeral because the loved one hadn’t gone yet, but we couldn’t call it a “death watch”, either, because the time of passing was already set: By Friday morning, Bread & Jam Café would be part of a Capital Region club history that had already claimed the Lark Tavern and Revolution Hall earlier in the year. Unlike those places, though, Bread & Jam’s demise came with enough notice that the jazz community could give the area’s coolest caffeine dispenser a decent send-off ... continue.


RALPH LALAMA TRIO

Bread & Jam Café, Cohoes, NY
July 23, 2010

by J Hunter

“Why go see Ralph Lalama at Bread & Jam?” I’m sure the logic went. “He played SPAC just a few weeks ago! There was an article in the TU and everything!” Okay, that kinda-sorta has merit: The renowned tenorman did close the Sunday Gazebo stage at Freihofer’s Jazz Festival. But while he and the quartet he fronted at SPAC did an admirable job, it was nothing compared to the flame-throwing performance Lalama put on with ample assistance from bassist Lou Smaldone and drummer Joe Barna. And this show had to be something special, for two reasons: We’re talking two sets of material from the songbooks of Wayne Shorter and Thad Jones, neither of whom were shrinking violets; and the music would be processed through a sax-trio matrix, which comes with its own set of skyscraper-tall issues ... continue.


FREIHOFER’S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 2)

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 27, 2010

by J Hunter

It wasn’t Hailey Niswanger’s playing that had me stunned, though she is pretty darn stunning on both alto and soprano sax; I was dumbstruck because the Portland, OR native is only 20 years old, is still attending Berklee, and has chops a lot of veteran players would maim to have. Niswanger wailed on Coltrane’s “Like Sonny”, milked every shade of blues out of Monk’s “Reflections”, and had the crowd begging for more after her titanic closing take on Ornette Coleman’s “When Will the Blues Leave.” She also played two originals that showed a solid compositional sense, and she got the most out of a crackerjack band of peers that featured Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. Hailey Niswanger: Remember that name, and keep your fingers crossed that she comes this way again ... continue.


SACHAL VASANDANI
Spa Little Theatre, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 3, 2010

By J Hunter

There’s something very cool about being part of a small crowd watching an up-and-coming artist perform; it’s like you’ve been let in on this important secret that’s going to impact a lot more people, and you’ve got the jump on them. Take vocalist Sachal Vasandani, for instance: The first time I saw him, he was knocking (maybe) 100 people’s socks off at Freihofer’s gazebo Stage while the rest of the festival was over at the amphitheatre watching Chris (“I PLAYED WITH STING!”) Botti – and if you were part of the latter group, that’s 90 minutes of your life you’ll never get back. Last Thursday, Vasandani closed SPAC’s extended season at the Spa Little Theatre with a tight 80-minute set of brilliant vocalese, and while the crowd was a little larger than 100, there were a lot of empty seats that should have been filled ... continue.


STEVE LEHMAN OCTET
EMPAC, Troy, NY
May 28, 2010

by Jeff Waggoner

The first time I heard Steve Lehman’s music, I was in a reverie at my computer. Pandora Radio was on. It was aural wallpaper. That is, until a piece by Lehman came on, and I knew I was hearing something different.
His music is intellectual without being cold. Abstract without being soulless. Calculated, yet with an organic, vibrant feel. I thought he couldn’t be missed in person. And I didn’t miss ... continue.


BILL McCANN’S “SATURDAY MORNING EDITION OF JAZZ” 25TH ANNIVERSARY

University at Albany, Albany, NY
April 17th, 2010

by J Hunter
Given the size of the bill that was scheduled to play at the gala, I thought UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center would have been a better venue. But when I walked into Assembly Hall, I realized what a good choice it was. The Campus Center space was split into two sections, with bands playing in one room while a buffet table was set up in the middle of an open area. People could come and go as they pleased, grab a nosh or a break, and then return to their seats in the “club” area, where the UAlbany Jazz Ensemble warmed up early arrivals with some nice big-band fare. This arrangement maximized socializing, allowed McCann to greet all comers, and gave everyone else the chance to meet up or catch up. Instead of a just concert, this was a community gathering in the best sense of the word. Besides, where else would you see Lee Shaw being taught a dap-heavy handshake by Keith Pray’s son Maceo ... continue.


JOSHUA REDMAN & BRAD MEHLDAU

Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall, Arthur Zankel Music Center
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
April 16, 2010

by J Hunter

In 1994, I emceed a concert by an up-and-coming sax player named Joshua Redman. He was accompanied by a group of young players that can now be chalked up as potential Jazz hall of Fame inductees: bassist Christian McBride, drummer Brian Blade, and pianist Brad Mehldau. The performances were of the charts (particularly from Mehldau, who was an unknown quantity at the time), and that night lives near the top of my “Best Shows Ever” list. 16 years later, I sat in the front row of the Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall and reveled in the chemistry Redman and Mehldau still share, and the artistry they’re able to create ... continue.


THE JAZZ/LATINO ALL STARS

The Whisperdome, Schenectady, NY
April 16, 2010

by Tom Pierce

The All-Star band that Latin/Jazz impresario Dr Jose Cruz presented Friday April 16 at the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady more than lived up to its billing, in a variety of very positive ways. Actually, any true fans of Latin Jazz, especially those who’ve been frequent attendees the past 3 years to the marvelously authentic and exciting events in this series, were not surprised by this. All seven members of this special band have been heavily-applauded participants at one or more previous presentations of Jazz/Latino Inc. which Dr Cruz is Founder and Director. This included: Ray Vega (trumpet), Nicki Denner (piano), Jennifer Vincent (bass), Wilson “Chembo” Corniel (percussion), Willie Martinez (drums), Chris Washburne (trombone), and Hilary Noble (sax) ... continue.


TRIBUTE TO JACK FRAGOMENI
Proctor’s Robb Alley, Schenectady, NY
April 11, 2010

by Tom Pierce

The Schenectady Musical Union treated Capitol Region jazz lovers to an exceptionally memorable concert at the Muddy Cup in the Proctor’s Arcade. It was an altogether fitting tribute to Schenectady’s own Jack Fragomeni, as well as serving as the 4th annual Electric City Jazz Appreciation month gala event staged by Local 85-133 ... continue ...


JOE BARNA’S SKETCHES OF INFLUENCE
Bread & Jam Café, Cohoes, NY
April 3, 2010

by J Hunter

Recording in a bar or a restaurant multiplies the usual technical land mines by a factor of 300: Plates and glasses shatter; machines hiss and spit; and the one group of customers who absolutely has to talk while the band’s playing the softest number in the set almost invariably sits under the main microphones. All that’s needed to make the night perfect is someone pulling the fire alarm, or an ambulance rear-ending a dynamite truck right outside the club. That being said, there was really no way Joe Barna could record his first Sketches of Influence disc any way but live, or record it anywhere but the Bread & Jam Café ... continue ...



FREEDOM THROUGH COLLECTIVE IMPROVISATION: iEAR PRESENTS FREE JAZZ FROM THE SANCTUARY
(featuring the Matthew Shipp Trio)

Arts Center of the Capital Region, Troy, NY
April 1, 2010

by J Hunter

In the last few years, the Sanctuary for Independent Media has become a consistent outlet for all forms of alternative music: Just last month, they presented a show by Malian ngonu player Bassekou Kouyate – one of many African musicians to appear on Bela Fleck’s Grammy-winning disc Throw Down Your Heart. In any case, the Arts Center of the Capital Region has collaborated with Sanctuary to provide what amounts to a “Greatest Hits” album. Attendees at the opening night of “Freedom through Collective Improvisation” got a taste of the past & present of Sanctuary’s ongoing musical series – the past from the riveting multi-media presentation in the Arts Center’s gallery, and the present from two stunning sets by the Matthew Shipp Trio ... continue ...



JOHN ELLIS & DOUBLE WIDE

Red Square, Albany, NY
March 4, 2010

by J Hunter

Here’s a tip: If you see me going into any concert space on a weeknight, drop whatever you’re doing and follow me inside. At my advancing age, covering a show on a school night is not on the agenda any more… unless, of course, something potentially monstrous is going to happen. In that light, the opportunity to see John Ellis & Double Wide in a club like Red Square was something that could not be passed up – and if it weren’t for some miraculous electrical work, the show might not have happened ... continue ...


STEVE SMITH’S VITAL LEGACY
The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
February 21, 2010

by J Hunter

Deep in the fog that surrounds my college days, I remember seeing a hand-made band poster outside a bar in Cambridge: The poster was for a band called Vital Information, featuring Steve Smith and Mike Stern. And I remember thinking, “Why is Miles Davis’ guitarist playing with the drummer for Journey?” That was before I knew Smith was an accomplished fusion drummer who’d been classmates with Randy Brecker at Berklee, and long before I watched Vital Information (then featuring Smith, Tom Coster, Frank Gambale and Jeff Andrews) use devastating fusion technology to lay waste to the 1992 San Jose Jazz Festival ... continue ...


RANDY BRECKER

The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
February 6, 2010

by J Hunter

I had just stepped into the Van Dyck Lounge’s club area, and was getting directions to my table when Rosemary Latagano walked up and told the manager, “He has a seat down front.” Hey, who was I to argue? All together now: “It’s not what you know – it’s who you know.” Now, the table Van Dyck management had reserved for me was perfectly cool; it had a clear shot at the stage, and the waitresses didn’t have to worry about blocking the view of the entire audience. That being said, a choice between “a clear shot at the stage” and “three feet from the bell on Randy Brecker’s flugelhorn” is no choice at all ... continue ...


KEITH PRAY’S BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
Live at the Lark Tavern CD Release Party
Tess’ Lark Tavern, Albany, NY
January 31, 2010

by J Hunter

Webster’s defines “legend” as “a non-historical or unverifiable story.” So while this sounds like a legend, it’s definitely a fact: In order to form a truly righteous big band, a group of like-minded souls stuffed themselves onto a minuscule stage in downtown Albany once a month – every month. The result was Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble, and thanks to the release of Big Soul’s first disc Live at the Lark Tavern, the rest of the world can hear the results of all that bunching up. The disc dropped on the last day in January, and I was lucky enough to get into the two-set CD-release party at the Lark ... continue ...



JOE BARNA & SKETCHES OF INFLUENCE
feat. JON GORDON & JOE MAGNARELLI
Justin's, Albany, NY
January 16, 2010

by J Hunter

The last time I filled my notebook with unintelligible scribbling, I was sipping on a glass of wine and watching Dylan Canterbury play big-time trumpet with Joe Barna’s Sketches of Influence. Pianist Dave Solazzo was flexing the muscular streak he’d shown with Steve Lambert’s sextet at A Place For Jazz; Lou Smalldone was serving up Thanksgiving-fat bass lines, and Barna’s eyes were bright as stars as he sat behind his kit and brought the thunder whenever the situation required it. It was a good end to a bad decade… although spending half that decade writing for this site took the edge off a lot of bad juju ... continue ...


THE TOP 5 JAZZ CONCERTS OF 2009 (plus a few random statuettes)

by J Hunter

Okay, people, if you’ll all get out your official “albanyjazz.com Awards” handicapping sheets, we can get underway (If you do not have an “albanyjazz.com Awards” handicapping sheet, please check last Sunday’s newspaper. It’s bound to be in there somewhere… continue ...


JOE BARNA’S SKETCHES OF INFLUENCE
Bread & Jam Café, Cohoes, NY
November 13, 2009

by J Hunter

This was Sketches of Influence’s third appearance since Joe Barna debuted his rotating-cast concept back in April, and the only survivor from that spring show (besides Barna, of course) was reedman Lee Russo; Russo only brought his tenor sax this time, but that was more than enough. Lou Smalldone was handling the bass chores on this evening, and the musical dynamic got a further reboot with pianist Dave Solazzo and horn player Dylan Canterbury stepping into George Muscatello’s spot ... continue ...


STEVE LAMBERT SEXTET
May CD Release, A Place for Jazz
The Whisperdome, First Unitarian Society, Schenectady, NY
November 6, 2009

by J Hunter

It’s been a long time coming. Although Steve Lambert has been part of the scene for quite some time, the horn player had yet to get his own music on his own disc. What’s more, the sextet-based sounds he’d be playing at this CD-release show had been making infrequent appearances at area shows over the last few years, and had wowed the crowd every time. The waiting ended with this month’s release of May (PlanetArts, 2009), and – judging from the parked cars lining either side of the sidewalk outside the Whisperdome – a lot of folks wanted to be part of the official launch ... continue ...


JULIAN LAGE GROUP

The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
October 23, 2009

by J Hunter

I knew things were going to be interesting when I saw some of the backing instruments on the stage at the Van Dyck (The stage, by the way, is probably the only thing that hasn’t been changed in the new-and-greatly-improved performance space, back in business after a prolonged absence): There was a bass and a cello, and a “drum kit” that seemed to consist of two cymbals – one of them nearly bent into a right angle – hand drums of various shapes and sizes, and a wooden crate with “Booster Boxx” stenciled on the front. Whatever the Julian Lage Group was going to do, it was not going to be run-of-the-mill. Needless to say, I changed my seat so I could get a better look ... continue ...

STRING OF PEARLS

Stockade Inn, Schenectady, NY
October 18, 2009

by Tom Pierce

An observer of the Swingtime Jazz Society’s Sunday afternoon concert by the smoothly talented Jazz vocal group String of Pearls might initially be tempted to term it a pleasing stroll down memory lane, given the wealth of vintage material popularized initially by legendary Swing era artists. But in reflecting on the high percentage of effervescent medium and uptempo tunes in the joyful 24-song, two set outing, a better description would be a “jaunt” or “spin” down memory lane ... continue ...


DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET

Picotte Recital Hall, Massry Center for the Arts
College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY
October 14, 2009

by J Hunter

Shows at Picotte Recital Hall are becoming a lot like summer jazz shows at Skidmore: If you’re not lined up at least one hour before show time, be prepared to standthe rest of the evening. Then again, the SRO crowd could be explained by the fact that a true jazz icon was playing a small hall that was an acoustic marvel. Whatever the reason, the audience gave the Dave Brubeck Quartet – all of them rocking the Old School in tuxedos, black ties, and shiny black shoes – a long, enthusiastic standing ovation before the band struck a single note. As is often the case, Brubeck’s grin evoked a jack-o’-lantern with long gray hair as he let the applause wash over him. Finally Brubeck said, “I hope you do that after we play.” (We did. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.) ... continue ...

TRIO THIS

Justin's, Albany, NY
October 16, 2009

by Jeff Waggoner

George Schuller is a stealth drummer. He doesn’t demand to be heard. He never pounds and never plays a note that isn’t needed. He is a musician first and foremost and the fellow members of his “Trio This,” – pianist Barney McAll and bassist Matt Pavolka -- share that same musical sensibility with Schuller ... continue ...



MOSE ALLISON (w/ Rich Syracuse)
Caffe Lena, Saratoga, NY
October 4, 2009

by J Hunter

The moment you step into the entryway at Caffe Lena, history smacks you right in the mouth. A collage of newspaper clippings and advertisements lines the wall to your right, dotted with some of the greatest names in folk music history. If that isn’t enough for you, maybe the photos of Bob Dylan above the stairway (or the abstract take on the cover of Dylan’s seminal release Blonde on Blonde) will do the trick. Put simply, legends have walked through these doors, and Mose Allison fits right in ... continue ...


BEN WENDEL GROUP

Picotte Recital Hall, Massry Center for the Arts
College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY
October 2, 2009

by J Hunter

The crowd was light by the time Ben Wendel had convened his sextet onstage at the Picotte Recital Hall, giving this the feel of a private viewing. Indeed, the LA- based reedman said they were giving a “preview” of what they were going to play at Justins later that evening; that show would be two sets, while this would be only 45 minutes or so. Hey, grab your gifts when they fall out of the sky – particularly when Wendel was playing with bassist Ben Street and keyboardist Adam Benjamin, two of the best at their respective instruments. I couldn’t make the Justins show, but there was no way I was going to pass up seeing Wendel play for the third time in three weeks ... continue ...


An Evening with Johnny Mandel featuring the DIVA Jazz Orchestra with Ann Hampton Callaway

Massry Center, College of St Rose, Albany, NY
September 26, 2009

by Tom Pierce

How does a tribute to a truly legendary composer/arranger/conductor like Johnny Mandel meaningfully utilize him, while comfortably integrating him with the dynamic, experienced Sherrie Maricle and DIVA Jazz orchestra, who don’t typically utilize or require a conductor? ... continue ...


OTMARO RUIZ QUARTET

A Place For Jazz, The Whisperdome
First Unitarian Society, Schenectady, NY
September 25, 2009

by J Hunter

“I live near Hollywood,” Otmaro Ruiz chuckled, “and I got discovered in Schenectady!” The concept obviously tickled the Venezuelan-born pianist as he spoke to a near-full house at A Place For Jazz. By the end of the night, a lot more people had discovered the live-wire energy and artistic accomplishment that surges through Ruiz’ music, and they would be a lot better for it ... continue ...


MANHATTAN TRANSFER
The Egg, Albany, NY
September 25, 2009

by Tom Pierce

For some reason, vocal GROUPS (in all genres), with notable exceptions like the Mills Brothers & Beatles, rarely receive the type of long lasting respect and fame that individual singers do. Another exception would be Manhattan Transfer, who have been together in their current edition since 1972, with the only change being Cheryl Bentyne replacing the injured Laurel Masse in 1978. They’ve carved out a very successful career, with numerous critical awards, several dozen best-selling recordings and thousands of well attended performances in large venues world-wide ... continue ...


LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND 2009
feat. Giacomo Gates, Ignacio Berroa Quartet, Bill May’s Inventions Trio
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 19, 2009

by J Hunter


OPENING (THE THEME) – To paraphrase Steven Colbert, this brings us to Jazz Weekend 2009’s word: Invention – not just the theme for the festival, but also an integral part of the opening act’s name. Bill Mays’ Inventions Trio features Mays on piano, Marvin Stamm on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Alisa Horn on cello, and the knee-jerk reaction would be to call their singular music Third Stream. One teensy problem with that shoe-horn maneuver: Third Stream attempts to mix jazz with classical music, usually failing to capture either genre. That was decidedly not the case here ... continue ...


ALBANY RIVERFRONT’S “ALL-AMERICA CITY” JAZZ FESTIVAL

(feat. Joe Lovano – Us Five, Lizz Wright, Dirty Dozen Brass band, Dan Loomis Quartet, and Lee Shaw Trio)
Corning Preserve, Albany, NY
September 12, 2009

by J Hunter

GOING “ALL IN” – Halfway through the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s jumping mash-up of Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief” and Troy Andrews’ “Ooo Poo Pah Doo”, drops of rain started to hit my notepad. Here we go, I thought. The skies had been threatening all day, and it looked like the gamble to not move into the Palace Theatre rain site was headed for Epic Fail territory. But like many World Series of Poker winners, we caught a winning card on the River: The rain backed off, staying away until the closing minutes of the Joe Lovano – Us Five set, and then it only came as a light drizzle that gave the best Riverfront ever a refreshing end ... continue ...



NANCY DONNELLY
Justin's, Albany, NY
August 14, 2009

by Tom Pierce

I enjoyed a very professionally executed set Friday night at Justins, by singer Nancy Donnelly, from Kingston, NY, who I met a number of years ago through the Songbirds web site. She was supported in buoyantly uplifting fashion by the swinging trio of pianist Peter Tomlinson from the mid-Hudson region, and two veteran, well-respected Albany area rhythm section stalwarts, Otto Gardner on bass and Hal Miller on drums ... continue ... continue ...


JAZZMOBILE, feat. JIMMY OWENS
w/ Erica Lindsey/Francesca Tanksley Quartet
Agnes MacDonald Music Haven, Schenectady, NY
August 2, 2009
 
by J Hunter

The concept of legends like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie played for free on mobile stages in New York City neighborhoods is mind-boggling in the extreme, but Billy Taylor and Jazzmobile made it happen beginning in 1964. Since then, the non-profit organization has formed its own record label and makes appearances up and down the East Coast, including at Albany’s African-American Family Day 24 hours before this show. Taylor has moved on, but Jimmy Owens has picked up the ball, quarterbacking his quartet through a solid set of trad jazz in Schenectady’s Central Park ... continue ...
 
JONATHAN BATISTE SEXTET
Bernhard Theatre @ Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
July 6, 2009

by J Hunter

It seems like “Jazz: The Next Generation” has been the theme for this year’s Skidmore Jazz Institute concert series. That’s apt, considering part of the annual two-week workshop’s mission statement is to help shape future generations of jazz players. However, this year’s guest artists are literally the next generation: Series opener Gerald Clayton – the son of noted bassist/arranger John Clayton – recently played piano on the Clayton Brothers’ Brother to Brother (ArtistShare, 2009) with his father and saxman-uncle Jeff Clayton; and last Monday, SJI alum Jonathan Batiste showed he’s ready to advance the trail already cut by the Batiste Brothers Band and, not to mention the late avant-garde clarinetist Alvin Batiste ... continue ...

BOZ SCAGGS
The Egg, Albany, NY
June 22, 2009

by Tom Pierce

Given that his career started in the 60's with rocker Steve Miller, and progressed to even greater fame in the 70's and 80's as a “Blue-eyed Soul” singer with his own bands on memorable R&B hits, some might ask: “Why review a Boz Scaggs concert on a Jazz web site”? ... continue ...


CHRIS WASHBURNE & SYOTOS
Ahora, Latin Jazz!, The Whisperdome
First Unitarian Society, Schenectady, NY
May 8, 2009

by J Hunter
 
In 2005, Chris Washburne & the SYOTOS Band were on the Sunday bill at Lake George Jazz Weekend, sandwiched between sets by Greg Osby and Giacomo Gates. There was just one teensy-weensy problem: Osby, the afternoon’s headliner, never showed up. Both Washburne and Gates graciously agreed to play longer – originally to give Osby more time to make the gig, but eventually it became an effort to give Lake George’s loyal following as close to a full afternoon of music as possible. The extra time gave us the chance to appreciate what great talent and insight Gates and Washburne respectively brought to that day, and to jazz in general. So when I heard Washburne and SYOTOS was going to close the third year of Dr. Jose Cruz’ excellent musical mini-series Ahora, Latin Jazz, I was all over it ... continue ...


LAST CHORUS:
THE WILLIAMSTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL
(feat. Miguel Zenon Quartet, and a stroll around my memory)
’62 Center for the Performing Arts – Williams College
Williamstown, MA
May 2, 2009

by J Hunter

Driving to the Berkshires on Route 2 is a blast if you have a nimble car and a good stereo, but you have to stay alert. On my way to see Miguel Zenon play the anchor concert of the 2009 Williamstown Jazz Festival, I checked the volume on Joel Harrison’s Urban Myths a little longer than I should have. When I looked up, I saw three cows had escaped from a nearby farm, and were now conversing in the middle of a two-lane road with a guardrail on one side and a mountain on the other. I hit the brakes so hard, I’m surprised I didn’t look like Fred Flintstone with shoes ... continue ...


STEFON HARRIS & BLACKOUT
Picotte Recital Hall – Massry Center for the Arts
College of St. Rose, Albany, NY
April 26, 2009
 
by J Hunter
 
Whoever said “Home is where they have to take you in when you show up” assumed that arrival was an unwelcome thing. Stefon Harris got a heroes’ reception from the SRO crowd at the Massry Center, and their fervor only got bigger as the night went on. Most of the crowd may not have known the Albany native personally, but odds are they were all in the same space: Proud of this native son’s musical accomplishments since his professional debut almost 15 years ago, and anxious to see what shape the next chapter in Harris’ career was going to take ... continue ...

JOE BARNA’S
“SKETCHES OF INFLUENCE”
Bread & Jam Café, Cohoes, NY
April 25, 2009

by J Hunter

There is a view that Barna’s preferred style of drumming falls somewhere between Carmine Appice and Animal from The Muppet Show. So when it was announced that “Joe Barna’s ‘Sketches of Influence’” would be playing Bread & Jam, two thoughts occurred: The music would be akin to Tony Williams’ Lifetime on steroids, and café owner Sal Prizio would be replacing a lot of broken windows the next day. To the surprise of some, what Barna brought to the party was very cool, mostly straight ahead, and left all the windows completely intact ... continue ...

WILLIE MARTINEZ - LA FAMILIA SEXTET
The Whisperdome
Schenectady, NY
April 24, 2009

by Tom Pierce

Dr Jose Cruz, visionary founder and tireless President of Jazz/Latino, Inc proudly opened the concert by announcing this as the third anniversary of this culturally enriching organization, dedicated to the promotion of jazz and Latin Jazz in the Capitol District ... continue ...


EMPIRE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
(feat. CURTIS FULLER)
Carl B. Taylor Community Auditorium
Schenectady County Community College, Schenectady, NY
April 21, 2009

by J Hunter

The message in the box above the program’s set list dedicated the evening to “the memory and spirit of our friends Jack Fragomeni and David Newman.” There’ve been some good words written about Fragomeni, from Greg Haymes’ expression of loss in the TU to our own Jeff Waggoner’s tales of having the late guitarist as a teacher. For those who missed Empire Jazz Orchestra’s spring show last year, David “Fathead” Newman was the guest artist, and the set he played had all the snarl and buzz that comes from a tenor player as talented as he was ... continue ...


LEE SHAW TRIO & JOHN MEDESKI
The Egg, Albany, NY
April 5, 2009

by Randy Treece

The Capital District Jazz Community was treated to a rare concert when pianists Lee Shaw and John Medeski, the old and new guard of the jazz lexicon, performed together at the Egg on this chilly Sunday evening. The audience was fully aware of Lee Shaw, the grand madam of jazz piano, who has an encyclopedic repository of thousands of songs and a matching repertoire of musical statements.  We are well versed about her musical career that spans six decades and how she is mentioned in the same breath with other well known jazz pianists, the likes of which include such luminaries as Oscar Peterson, whom she studied with.  Medeski, of the Medeski, Martin & Woods (MMW) fame, has gained international renown for his wide range of musical styles that include his Hammond B3 organ work with MMW and his adventures into the avant garde jazz scene ... continue ...

“AN ELECTRIC CITY JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH CONCERT”
(feat. Steve Lambert Sextet, Brian Patneaude Quartet, Al Haugen Quintet, and George Muscatello Quartet)
Muddy Cup Coffee House @ Proctors, Schenectady, NY
April 5, 2009

by J Hunter

Notes from the Schenectady Musical Union’s contribution to Jazz Appreciation Month – the best thing the Smithsonian’s ever produced (after the Air & Space Museum, of course…) ... continue ...
 

TERENCE BLANCHARD QUINTET
Filene Recital Hall, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
April 3, 2009

by J Hunter

Last year, Skidmore College awarded Terence Blanchard the 2008-2009 McCormack Endowed Visiting Artist-Scholar Residency – an honor that’s been held by Joshua Redman and Nnenna Freelon, as well as by authors Michael Ondaatje & Sir Jonathan Miller and former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Students involved in Blanchard’s seminars studied Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, both through visits to the Crescent City and concentrated examination of Blanchard’s musical opus A Tale of God’s Will: Requiem for Katrina. Blanchard must have developed some pretty hungry students, because they were practically hanging from the rafters in the jam-packed hall when Blanchard and sax player Walter Smith III walked into Filene Recital Hall to the delicious groove of Smith’s composition “Los." ... continue ...


“A TRIBUTE TO LEE SHAW”
(feat. Lee Shaw Trio, Brian Patneaude Trio, Michael Benedict Jazz Vibes, and Dave Solazzo Duo)
Cohoes Music Hall, Cohoes, NY
March 18, 2009

by J Hunter

Notes from “A Tribute to Lee Shaw” – which (if I had my way) should have been held at the Kennedy Center, even though Cohoes Music Hall was more than excellent ... continue ...


SFJAZZ COLLECTIVE
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
March 8, 2009

by J Hunter

After SFJazz Collective came out for a well-deserved encore, bassist Matt Penman declared “This is a different kind of New York crowd!” Sounds like someone got some Big Apple attitude during their previous gig at Jazz @ Lincoln Center’s Allen Room. (“This is Manhattan, Golden Gate Boy! We’ve seen it all before, and invented most of it!” ... continue ...
 

MICHAEL BENEDICT JAZZ VIBES
The Next Phase CD Release Party
Bread & Jam Café, Cohoes, NY
March 1, 2009
 
by J Hunter
 
Notes from Michael Benedict Jazz Vibes’ CD release party at the Bread & Jam Café – where, if I were a Cohoes resident, you would find me every afternoon at 5 o’clock. (Kudos to owner Sal Prizio – not just for giving jazz another place to hang in the Capital Region, but also for creating a space that is everything Starbucks isn’t!) ... continue ...


SPLATTO FESTIVAL CHORUS
The Sanctuary fo Independent Media, Troy, NY
February 28, 2009

by Jeff Waggoner
 
Not to be too extravagant, but some of the people in the audience last night at The Sanctuary for Independent Media knew they were witnessing the birth of something special with the “Spatto Festival Chorus.” The Chorus is the brain child of radio host Paul Rapp, of the Berkshire’s WBCR-LP 97.7 FM.  It was Rapp’s idea to bring together four of the most different kinds of musicians possible ... continue ...


BRIAN PATNEAUDE
"Riverview" CD Release Performance, Picotte Recital Hall
Massry Center for the Arts, College of St. Rose, Albany, NY
February 7, 2009

by J Hunter

Nestled among the many buildings lining College of Saint Rose’s Madison Avenue side, Massry Center for the Arts doesn’t have the visual pizzazz of EMPAC, the wood-and-glass complex that debuted with multiple big bangs on Rensselaer’s hillside late last year. Still, good things come in unassuming packages; at the back of this particular package is the Picotte Recital Hall, a 400-seat piece of acoustic perfection where Brian Patneaude debuted his latest disc Riverview. Along with being a terrific show in a wonderfully intimate space, this was essentially a homecoming for Patneaude: He got his undergraduate degree at CSR before moving on to the conservatory at Cincinnati College ... continue ...


YELLOWJACKETS (feat. MIKE STERN)
Proctors Theatre, Schenectady, NY
January 31, 2009
 
by J Hunter
 
Much to their credit, Proctors has been booking jazz acts that aren’t necessarily for everybody: Chick Corea & Bela Fleck’s acoustic show was an absolute wonder, but if you weren’t a hardcore fan of these guys, you definitely had to be in the mood for what they were laying down; and while the Monterey Jazz All-Stars kept it pretty trad, the excerpts from Terence Blanchard’s wrenching epic Requiem for Katrina drove that audience over some pretty rough road. Some of Saturday night’s audience might have thought the Yellowjackets/Mike Stern show would be less eventful because of the group’s reported “Smooth Jazz background.” Look, the Yellowjackets and Spyro Gyra made it big about the same time, but saying they’re on the same creative path is like saying U2 and The Knack are the same band ... continue ...


JOSHUA REDMAN DOUBLE TRIO
The Egg, Albany, NY
January 23, 2009

by Randy Treece

Joshua Redman is no stranger to the Capital District.  He has appeared nearly a half-dozen times within this decade and each time he has delivered a mixture of musicality.  On January 23rd, he did no less ... continue ...


THE (CONCERT) YEAR IN REVIEW:
TOP 5 JAZZ SHOWS – AND MORE – OF 2008

by J Hunter

Okay, in the spirit of energy conservation, I’m skipping my usual disorganized ramblings in favor of… well, relatively organized ramblings! Work for you? Then let’s light this candle ... continue ...
 

Bela Fleck

BELA FLECK & THE FLECKTONES
(feat. Andy Statman)
Hart Theatre @ The Egg
Albany, NY
December 9, 2008

by J Hunter

Before I got to make snarky comments on web sites, I made my living as a radio announcer. Among the many downsides of that career choice was having to listen to Kenny G, Dan Fogelberg, Elmo & Patsy, and every other kind of seasonal schmaltz for at least four hours a day, six days a week, over 13 straight holiday seasons. It’s no surprise then that, by the time Christmas Day rolled around, I could seriously get behind Scrooge ... continue ...


DON BYRON QUARTET
University at Albany Performing Arts Center, Albany, NY
November 21, 2008

by J Hunter

Okay, I’ll admit it – I’ve become a “typical alum” of the University at Albany: I live and die with the Danes in basketball and football, and rant loud and long when budgets are cut and tuitions are raised. But only the b-ball team’s first America East title made me prouder than when I heard Don Byron had become an adjunct professor at my alma mater. The renowned reedman is now a member of the faculty, and his show last Friday night at UAlbany’s Performing Arts Center was definitely an education ... continue ...


KARRIN ALLYSON
A Place For Jazz, Schenectady, NY
November 7, 2008

by Tom Pierce

Since I'm preparing to leave soon for Ft Lauderdale to sail tomorrow on the Jazz Cruise, which also has some strong vocalists, I unfortunately don't have time to do the type of in depth review her excellent concert deserves, I wanted to say a few things about a super performance by Karrin Allyson (on vocals and piano), and an exciting and sensitive band of Dave Stryker on guitar, John Lockwood on bass and Todd Strait (who's played with her for 18 years) on drums on Friday November 7, 2008 ... continue ...


ADRIAN COHEN CD RELEASE PARTY
The Linda, WAMC Performing Arts Studio, Albany, NY
October 24, 2008

by J Hunter

The Linda has always given big love to the local jazz scene: They’ve hosted CD-release parties and/or live recordings for the Lee Shaw Trio, the Brian Patneaude Quartet, and Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble; and earlier this year they presented some of the area’s best youth players in a showcase concert for Erica Seguine. Given that résumé, WAMC’s recording/performance space was the perfect place for Adrian Cohen to give his new disc Delphic a coming-out party ... continue ...


Joe Locke Quartet

JOE LOCKE & FORCE OF FOUR
A Place for Jazz, The Whisperdome, First Unitarian Society
Schenectady, NY
October 24, 2008

by Randy Treece

Within a matter of three or four months, Joe Locke has catapulted his towering musical abilities upon the Capital District Region's jazz firmament.  With his visits to Saratoga and Tanglewood as a featured member of the Edmar Castaneda ensemble this summer and his autumn sojourn to A Place for Jazz with his extraordinary band, Force of Four, Joe Locke has ensconced himself into the hearts, minds, and ears of this beloved jazz community. You want evidence, you say?  Well, for one, he had the audience in the palm of his hand when he shared with them that the venue and audience "come well recommended."  Other demonstrations of a reciprocal respect and admiration for this artist are simply the near-capacity audience, one of the largest ever for a show at the Whisper Dome, and after his performance, all of his CDs were sold and a long procession wrapped around the Dome awaiting his autograph, which he readily obliged every seeking soul ... continue ...


ROY HAYNES
& THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH BAND
w/ THE RPI JAZZ ENSEMBLE
Experimental Music & Performing Arts Center – RPI, Troy, NY
October 18th, 2008

by J Hunter

Driving up 8th Street past Winslow Hall, you get the full effect of EMPAC, and that effect is gargantuan. Think of a spacecraft made of beautifully polished wood, encased in a glass box over five stories tall. If Williams College’s ’62 Center for the Arts was a Borg shuttle craft, EMPAC is its Mothership. And the parallels don’t stop there. EMPAC shares the ’62 Center’s exemplary sightlines and quirky side-of-the-hall seating, and both venues contain enough blond wood to start a chain of IKEA stores ... continue ...

HARLAND...
Filene Concert Series, Filene Recital Hall – Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY
October 16, 2008

by J Hunter

The band “Harland…” is named for drummer Eric Harland, who we’ve seen providing phenomenal foundations for Charles Lloyd and Joshua Redman, respectively. Although the Houston native writes as well as he plays, Eric is known primarily as a sideman: He’s backed up Terence Blanchard and Stefon Harris, among many others. (Blanchard opened his latest Skidmore Jazz Institute appearance with “Transform”, one of Eric’s contributions to Blanchard’s 2003 Blue Note release Bounce.) ... continue ...
BEN ALLISON & MAN SIZE SAFE
A Place for Jazz, The Whisperdome, First Unitarian Society
Schenectady, NY
October 10th, 2008

by J Hunter

I flew the flag pretty hard for Ben Allison a couple of years ago: I named Cowboy Justice (Palmetto, 2006) the best CD of 2006, and his rocking show-and-tell at The Linda got the #2 slot on that year’s Best Concerts list. So even if he’d brought the same tight, focused, boundary-shaking sound he’d bewitched me with two years ago, the possibilities for disappointment were there. Happily, Allison brought more than that to the Whisperdome – a lot more ... continue ...

JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA
w/WYNTON MARSALIS
EMPAC, Troy, NY
October 11, 2008

by Tom Pierce

One would be hard pressed to decide which was more striking - the extraordinary design of RPI's new Empac Center or the outstanding performance of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis ... continue ...


LEE RUSSO QUARTET
“A Place For Jazz”, First Unitarian Society, Schenectady, NY
September 26, 2008

by J Hunter

“We are definitely the most sensitive band,” Joe Barna informed the appreciative crowd at the Whisperdome. “We don’t do autograph sessions – we hug.” In all seriousness, the Lee Russo Quartet is all about the personal side, and all about the intimacy of music and performance. That doesn’t mean they don’t swing, and it sure doesn’t mean they can’t kick serious butt when the occasion calls for it. But it’s the players’ relationship with their music – and with the subject matter that drives most of the material – that keeps things intimate even when this excellent batch of local talent gets to rocking out ... continue ...


KEITH PRAY'S BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
The Linda, WAMC Performing Arts Studio, Albany, NY
September 18, 2008

by J Hunter

I know what you were thinking (and when I say "You", I mean the people who thought about coming out to The Linda to see Keith Pray's Big Soul Ensemble, but ultimately didn't): "Hey, they played the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival two weeks ago! And that was free! Why would I want to pay when I just saw them for free? And besides, the Linda show is being recorded for a later broadcast! I'll hear the show then… for free!" ... continue ...


LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 2)
(feat. Either/Orchestra, Cindy Blackman Quartet, and Lee Shaw Trio)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 14, 2008

by J Hunter

RAIN, RAIN, STAY AWAY: This outdoor concert season, Mother Nature got Medieval on us; thundershowers completely drenched the lawn-dwellers at Freihofer's, while Hannah drove Albany Riverfront inside the Palace. This weekend, though, Jazz At The Lake's inimitable magic kept the storms away from the festival's 25th anniversary. Yes, the humidity sat on Shepard Park like a tired elephant, making me wonder if the piano would need to be tuned after every third song. But Jazz Weekend regulars are a hardy lot, so the amphitheatre was packed for the entire weekend ... continue ...


LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 1)
(feat. Marilyn Maye & the Tedd Firth Trio, Roswell Rudd & Shout, Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers, and Andy Narell)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 13, 2008

by Tom Pierce

Knowledgeable Jazz festival program coordinators are always eager to present musical diversity and also an exciting opening act to energize the audience. Paul Pines, who has been bringing in artistically stimulating groups to the Lake George Jazz Festival for its 25 year existence, surely scored “big time” on both counts in its Saturday afternoon segment ... continue ...


ALBANY RIVERFRONT JAZZ FESTIVAL
(feat. David Sanborn Group, Doc Gibbs & Picante, Ernestine Anderson, the Brubeck brothers Quartet, and Keith Pray's Big Soul Ensemble)
Palace Theatre, Albany, NY 
September 6, 2008

by J Hunter

HOORAY FOR HANNAH: "Rain Site: Palace Theatre." That's been the contingency plan ever since Albany Riverfront was conceived. Unfortunately, the last two festivals have seen hit-and-run thunderstorms descend after organizers were committed to staying on the Corning Preserve. Thanks to Tropical Storm Hannah, rain was a dead certainty this year, making the choice to take it inside an easy one. Although the move wasn't easy, you couldn't have told from the onstage product. Only David Sanborn started late; everybody else went off on time, and were even lit properly ... continue ...


ESPERANZA SPALDING QUARTET
Music Haven Concert Series
Central Park, Schenectady, NY
August 3, 2008

by Tom Pierce

Mona Golub, with her Music Haven series, gave hundreds of music lovers that special feeling the first time one witnesses a uniquely gifted artist. Live performances by truly accomplished musicians obviously provide additional dimensions beyond listening to recordings. Bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding demonstrated this pleasurable difference in a variety of ways on Sunday August 3. One of these was the interesting ways she artfully and naturally embodied some of the “old” (the time-honored traditions of instrumental Jazz and the Great American Songbook) as well as some of the “new” (her own unique talent and affinity for both free & contemporary jazz, Brazilian & other Latin music, and superior Pop). Her fluidly natural ease in singing in English, Spanish and Portuguese was clearly a huge asset ... continue ...


AARON PARKS QUARTET
Skidmore Jazz Concert Series, Bernhard Theatre,
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
July 8, 2008

by J Hunter

Aaron Parks was a semi-disheveled teenager when he came to Skidmore with Terence Blanchard in 2003, but that doesn't even tell a third of the story: By the time Parks was 14, he had skipped high school and was carrying a triple major at the University of Washington, and he was studying piano with Kenny Barron at the Manhattan School of Music by age 16. Parks is now 23, and he is exactly where he should be – leading his own band and playing his own music, as he did last Tuesday at the Bernhard ... continue ...

TERENCE BLANCHARD QUINTET
Skidmore Jazz Concert Series, Bernhard Theatre,
Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
July 1, 2008

by J Hunter

Maybe it was Terence Blanchard's critically-acclaimed set at Freihofer's that had the queue snaking around the Bernhard Theatre almost an hour before showtime. Maybe the crowd had watched Blanchard tear up the Egg in 2005 – three weeks after Hurricane Katrina had destroyed Blanchard's New Orleans home – or they had attended Blanchard's 2002 performance at Skidmore Jazz Institute, accompanied by a band that would eventually become the weapons-grade sextet Flow ... continue ...


FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 1)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 28, 2008

by J Hunter

THE WEATHER IS HERE, I WISH IT WERE BEAUTIFUL: "This weather and this violin hate each other," Jenny Scheinmann informed us partway through her Gazebo set. It had to happen, given how lucky Freihofer's had been with weather the last few years; we were due for rain, but we also got thunder, lightning, and humidity you could cut with a chainsaw ... continue ...


ERICA SEGUINE ORCHESTRA
Young Composers Exposition
WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium - Albany, NY
June 12, 2008

By J Hunter

When you're my age (Not "YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN" Old, but definitely within sensor range of 50), just about everyone seems young. But Erica Seguine is young! The charming, bubbly local product is "almost 21" – her words – but she looks even younger, even with the black evening dress and silver low-heeled shoes she wore as she stepped in front of the 18 musicians that made up the Erica Seguine Orchestra – presented in a Young Composers Exposition last Thursday night at The Linda ... continue ...


EDMAR CASTANEDA TRIO
WITH SPECIAL GUEST JOE LOCKE
SPAC Little Theatre
Saratoga Performing Arts Center - Saratoga Springs, NY
May 29th, 2008

by Randy Treece

"Jazz cannot be limited by definitions or by rules.  Jazz is, above all, a
total freedom to express oneself." -- Duke Ellington

Few modern jazz groups epitome more of Ellington's eloquence than the extraordinary, incomparable, and adventurous Edmar Castaneda Trio, with special guest Joe Locke.  At first blush, it is difficult to conceptualize the probable voicing about to flow from such an eclectic and exotic ensemble, comprising of a Colombian Harp (Edmar Castaneda), flute (Itai Kriss), vibraphone (Joe Locke), and drummer/percussionist (Dave Silliman).  But let me assure you that  the music and presentation were rapturous and riveting, and the evening nothing short of enchantment ... continue ...


JEFF "SIEGE" SIEGEL QUARTET
CD-Release Party @ Justin's
Albany, NY
May 30, 2008

By J Hunter

One of the keys to achieving serenity is accepting that some things will always be out of your control. For instance, a lost set of car keys delayed half of the Jeff Siegel Quartet to just before the show's scheduled start time. As a result, the music got underway about a half-hour late, which Siegel took it in stride, although the new development had me looking at my watch ... continue ...


ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY
SPAC Little Theatre
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
May 24, 2008

by Tom Pierce

The Saturday May 24, 2008 concert at the Little Theatre of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center by gifted singer-songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway of Chicago (long since relocated to Manhattan) wasn't her initial appearance in the Capitol District. She had previously delighted the audience at the 2004 Albany Riverfront Jazz festival. However, it was as she noted her debut in Saratoga Springs - and an artistically successful, enthusiastically-applauded one at that ... continue ...


SCHENECTADY MUSICIANS UNION'S 2ND ANNUAL "JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH" CELEBRATION
Keith Pray Quintet, Mulligan Stew, The Mellowtones w/Colleen Pratt
Muddy Cup Cafe @ Proctors Theatre, Schenectady, NY
April 20, 2008

By J Hunter

Jazz Appreciation Month makes so much sense, there's probably a politician out there somewhere denouncing it. After all, to reach beyond the already-converted, the music needs to go into "non-traditional" venues like museums, libraries, schools (Especially schools!), and spaces like the Muddy Cup, and the Smithsonian's yearly outreach program makes that happen ... continue ....


JOE LOVANO QUARTET
w/ ROBERT GLASPER TRIO
Williamstown Jazz Festival
'62 Center For The Performing Arts - Williams College, Williamstwon, MA
April 12, 2008

By J Hunter

The day had started well for the Robert Glasper Trio: They'd left Brooklyn that afternoon with new drummer Chris Dave at the wheel, headed for the Williamstown Jazz Festival, and everything was fine. Glasper took a nap, woke up long enough to see Dave getting directions at a gas station… and the next time Glasper woke up, the car was passing a sign that said "WELCOME TO BOSTON." If you don't have a map available (and, apparently, Dave didn't have one, either), let me assure you that Boston and Williamstown are not close to each other ... continue ...


EMPIRE JAZZ ORCHESTRA
(feat. DAVID "FATHEAD" NEWMAN)
Carl B. Taylor Community Auditorium
Schenectady County Community College, Schenectady, NY
April 8, 2008

By J Hunter

Where David "Fathead" Newman ranks among past guests of the Empire Jazz Orchestra is up for grabs, given who's appeared with the EJO in the past – Randy Brecker, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, and other Hall-of-Famers too numerous to mention. I guess it all depends on what part of jazz history you revere the most. The thing is, Newman's resumé touches on almost all of jazz' modern era: I first heard Fathead with Herbie Mann's wild post-Memphis Underground group Family of Mann, and that was many years after Ray Charles gave Newman his first big break. Almost thirty years after Newman played dueling flutes with Mann, Fathead is still cranking out top-notch recordings like I Remember Brother Ray (High Note, 2005) ... continue ...


BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO
Filene Recital Hall - Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
April 6, 2008

By J Hunter

Skidmore's Filene Concert Series continued its run of spring shows with a visit from Mehldau, one of the best pianists in jazz today. The unfortunate part was the necessity of holding the concert in the Filene Recital Hall, as opposed to the larger Bernhard Theater. A certificate on the wall of the Filene says the hall's capacity is 250. It's safe to say that number was decidedly eclipsed, as every seat in the soon-to-be-steamy house was taken. Those who didn't get there in time to grab one of the steel folding chairs set up on the entrance ways had to press against the back wall; attempts to sit in the aisles were immediately cut short – something I'd love to see happen at Skidmore Jazz Institute's summer shows at the Bernhard ... continue ...


CHRIS POTTER'S UNDERGROUND
Filene Recital Hall - Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
March 20, 2008

By J Hunter

It's kind of fun to watch kids grow up – and when I say "kids", I mean young musicians you're lucky enough to catch early in their careers. In my case, Chris Potter qualifies for this category: I discovered the Chicago native when I heard Concentric Circles (Concord Records, 1994), Potter's first disc as a leader after a four-year apprenticeship with Red Rodney. Although I've seen Potter play with everyone from Eliane Elias to Steely Dan, the high water mark was the truly profound night he and the Dave Holland Quintet gave the Van Dyck a few years ago. The operative word in that last sentence is "was", because Chris Potter's Underground just might have wiped that mark out ... continue ...


THE BAD PLUS
The Linda - WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, Albany, NY
May 13, 2008

by Randy Treece

It has been a couple of months since their maiden voyage appearance in the Capital District area, but a surprisingly sizeable crowd came to the Linda to see the purveyors of the nouveau jazz, Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass, and David King on drums, best known as The Bad Plus.  Ostensibly this is a testament to their draw and rare distinction in the jazz world and may be an indication of shifting audience demographics, young and grunge, and taste in jazz within the region ... continue ...

MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL 50TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR
Proctor's Theatre, Schenectady, NY
February 23, 2008

By J Hunter

One of the things I really regret is never attending the Monterey Jazz Festival. At one time, I lived only 90 minutes from the State Fairgrounds, where Jimmy Lyons inaugurated the annual event in 1959. That makes this year the festival's golden anniversary, and Nnenna Freelon summed it up the best: "50 years deserves a party, don't you think?" With that in mind, a collective of Monterey alumni rolled into Schenectady to give those who've never been to Monterey Jazz a taste of (in the words of Kendrick Scott) "one of the last festivals that calls itself a jazz festival, and is one!" ... continue ...

DIANNE REEVES
The Egg, Albany, NY
February 13, 2008

by Tom Pierce

The term “Diva” has been applied to many well known female vocalists of diverse genres, with various interesting connotations - some positive and some not so positive. The Egg's presentation of the remarkable Dianne Reeves, with an exceptional quartet, provided Capitol District music lovers with one Diva whom the near capacity audience clearly regarded as enormously positive ... continue ...


JOEY DEFRANCESCO TRIO
The Egg, Albany, NY
February 8, 2008

by Randy Treece

The ranks of the Hammond B-3 Organ have thinned significantly with the loss of the "mighty burner" Charles Earland, "Brother" Jack McDuff, and the master-himself Jimmy Smith. Still stalwarts of the B-3 are grooving audiences, such as organ guru Dr. Lonnie Smith, legendary Jimmy McGriff, and the undisputed torch bearer Joey DeFrancesco ... continue ...


BILLY CHILDS'
JAZZ-CHAMBER ENSEMBLE
Troy Savings Band Music Hall Troy, NY
January 25, 2008

By J Hunter

Words mean different things to different people, and that can result in unintended consequences. The blocks of empty seats at Billy Childs' Troy Savings bank appearance could have been chalked up to the weather (Freezing temps, lots of wind chill) or to possible walk-ups being distracted by the many facets of Troy's Night Out. I'm afraid the low turnout might have been due to one word -- "Chamber", as in "chamber music." If that's true, not only is it too bad, but it means a lot of people missed out on some truly challenging music ... continue ...


MARCUS ROBERTS TRIO AND THE ALBANY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
The Egg, Albany, NY
January 19, 2008

by Randy Treece

This month the Egg is presenting the George Gershwin Living Legacy Project and  there is no one better to contribute to such a recognition project than Marcus Roberts, who has established himself as a Gershwin torch bearer with two recordings, Rhapsody in Blue (Portraits in Blue), which garnered a Grammy nomination, and Gershwin for Lovers. Roberts, above all modern-day jazz pianists, has been associated with the Gershwin song book, and has often performed this magnificent body of work with a full orchestra ... continue ...


THE TOP 5 CONCERTS
(AND A LOT MORE OF 2007)

by J Hunter

First things first: Grab your bow tie and cummerbund, as we present… THE 2007 'LIVING IN THE MOMENT' AWARDS! ... continue ...


BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE
A Place For Jazz, Schenectady, NY
November 9, 2007

By J Hunter

A Place For Jazz emcee Tim Coakley wasn't kidding in his introduction when he said, “We like to showcase local talent… and tonight, we have all of it!” Of the 17 players that make up Keith Pray's Big Soul Ensemble - and there isn't a time-waster in the bunch - 6 of them are leaders in their own right, well established in the community with CDs that have received national or international airplay. These guys didn't need to show up once a month at Tess' Lark Tavern, where Pray had gotten the BSE a “regular” gig; these guys had plenty of other fish to fry ... continue ...


CHARLES LLOYD TRIO
The Egg, Albany, NY
October 28, 2007

by Randy Treece

Those fans who have been attuned to Charles Lloyd's spiritual and creative journey for nearly a half century, a musical journey akin to John Coltrane's, and attended Sunday's show, were fabulously treated to a spiritual communion with this music icon and his very accomplished musical mates, Reuben Rogers, on bass, and Eric Harland, on drums. And we were sworn not to tell those who are "sleeping walking through the night." "This is between us," Lloyd mused. The only disappointment of the evening was the half-filled auditorium, but that disappointment did not mute the soulful, divine, and inspirational music that cascaded throughout the nearly two-hour concert. And, as you could imagine, there were some grand artistic surprises ... continue ...


THE BAD PLUS
St. Joseph's Hall, The College Of St. Rose, Albany, NY
October 27, 2007

By J Hunter

“What the hell happened?” Someone sitting behind me said that. I could understand where he was coming from. The Bad Plus had just finished “Let Our Garden Grow”, a blindingly complex piece from the Minnesota trio's 2005 disc Suspicious Activity? (Sony Records) Like most of TBP's catalog, this composition pulls the listener through a labyrinth of tempo and direction changes most musicians wouldn't even conceive of, let alone attempt. The problem here was that the band had used the piece as their opening number ... continue ...

ANTHONY BRAXTON 12(+1)tet
Chapel + Cultural Center, Troy, NY
October 19, 2007

by Jeff Waggoner

The iconic Anthony Braxton, saxophonist, composer and certified genius, showed up in Troy October 19  with his 12+1tet to give, certainly for many of those in the audience, a memorable concert that provided a vivid example of what can happen when the potentially collapsible recipe of  composition and improvisation is executed well ... continue ...
PAT METHENY TRIO
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
October 18, 2007

By J Hunter

For the last few years, there's been something good brewing onstage between Pat Metheny, Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez; we got a taste of it in 2003 when the all-star trio played the Egg, and the world will be getting a taste when Day Trip - Metheny's first recording with this unit - is released this coming January. The new material made up the lion's share of their amazing date at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, which was inspiring for both the audience and the players ... continue ...

SHEILA JORDAN TRIO
Eighth Step - GE Theater Proctors, Schenectady, NY
October 6, 2007

by Tom Pierce

Music observers have typically used adjectives such as “unconventional”, “spontaneous” and “unpredictable”, to describe legendary singer Sheila Jordan. But attendees Saturday night Oct 6, 2007 at the Eighth Step productions opening of the new 436 seat GE Proctors Theater would likely have chosen “delightful”. Her warm, open, free-wheeling persona came across as so natural and genuine, one was irresistibly drawn in; and her quick-witted sense of humor and sense of irony inevitably charmed the audience, even before she begins singing ... continue ...


RITE OF STRINGS - Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke, Jean-Luc Ponty
Hart Theatre - The Egg, Albany, NY
September 29, 2007

by J Hunter

“So let me get this straight,” the thought went. “These guys have toured together… once?!?” True, we aren't talking about strangers: Al Di Meola & Stanley Clarke were founding members of the seminal fusion group Return to Forever, while Clarke & Jean-Luc Ponty first played together in 1972; Clarke was taking a few moments during their Hart Theatre show to reminisce about Ponty's fashion choices at that time (“Big bell bottoms,” he chuckled) before sheepishly admitting, “I had an extreme Afro back then! One side of my Afro was bigger than most guys!” ... continue ....


LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 1)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 15, 2007

by J Hunter

Notes from a meteorologically-lucky Lake George Jazz Festival:

IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR: Adela Dalto negotiated Travel Hell to get to Lake George, and when she finally got here, a cold showed up with her. It was easy to believe her travails with the airlines (I've shown up a day late for my flight, too), but the cold was a non-factor as Dalto charmed the early arrivals with a shining set of accessible Brazilian and Brazilian-influenced music. The magnetic singer's best moments happened when she flushed the sorrow out of standards like Johnny Mercer's “Days of Wine and Roses” and Buffy Saint-Marie's “Until It's Time for You to Go.” Both lyrics are melancholy in the extreme, but Dalto flipped their meanings with effervescent interpretations that banished anything remotely depressing ... continue ...


MARK MURPHY
A Place For Jazz, Schenectady, NY
September 14, 2007

by Tom Pierce

Some Whisperdome attendees who were familiar with Mark Murphy's unpredictably, ultra-creative approach to a song, may have wondered if this legendary, but highly innovative artist would possibly be “too hip for the room”. However, his consistently applauded performance proved, as did that last year of one of his many talented disciples, Giacomo Gates, that any such musings underestimated not only the many reasonably accessible aspects of his style, but also the broad tastes and close-listening music appreciation of audiences at A Place For Jazz concerts ... continue ...


ALBANY RIVERFRONT JAZZ FESTIVAL
Corning Preserve, Albany, NY
September 8, 2007

by J Hunter

GIVE THE LOCALS MORE LOVE: As in the past, the opening set lasted only 45 minutes, and New Regime was stopped just as they were going to (presumably) introduce their last number. While it's great Albany Riverfront traditionally saves a space for local artists, it would be even better if those artists got at least an hour, like the national acts they precede. It's sort of a gyp to bring in rich, insightful bands to kick things off, and then pull the plug just as they're clearing their throats ... continue ...


EITHER/ORCHESTRA
Prospect Park, Troy, NY
August 21, 2007

by J Hunter

You have to keep your head up, because sometimes little gifts get thrown your way. Last year's present was Jim Snidero playing in the intimate space that is Justin's; this year's surprise is Either/Orchestra, a 10-man Bop-Meets-World phenomenon that was only contained by Prospect Park's 8pm curfew. Even so, E/O's encore “Retrograde Perversion” went well over that time. “We'll all get arrested and spend the night in jail together,” group founder Russ Gershon declared, to enthusiastic cheers ... continue ...


STEVE BERNSTEIN'S MILLENNIAL TERRITORY ORCHESTRA
Hunter Center @ Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA
August 18, 2007

by J Hunter

This makes three summers in a row where jazz and film have intersected for me. The first time was at the Egg - when Dave Douglas did the second performance ever of music from Keystone (Greenleaf Music, 2005) - and the most recent episodes happened at MASS MoCA, the indescribable modern-art museum in the heart of the Berkshires: The Bill Frisell Trio added an additional twist to Buster Keaton (among other things) last summer; this time, Steve Bernstein brought his Millennial Territory Orchestra up north to play original soundtracks for three Laurel & Hardy silent films ... continue ...


KEITH PRAY'S SOUL JAZZ REVIVAL
Hilton Center for the Performing Arts, Albany, NY
July 8, 2007

by J Hunter

There's an old saw that hangs over the head of every performance: “Bad dress rehearsal, good opening; good dress rehearsal, bad opening!” Here's hoping the Capital District Jazz Cooperative's dry run at the Hilton Center - with Keith Pray's Soul-Jazz Revival playing musical guinea pig - defies that maxim ... continue ...


FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 2)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 24, 2007

by J Hunter

DIZZY AND TONY REMEMBERED: I had worried that taking Slide Hampton's Dizzy Gillespie tribute to a big-band format would rob it of the humor that set Diz apart from the rest. No worries. Aside from the fact that the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band hits you like a freight train (How could it not, given it includes luminaries like Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, Claudio Roditi, Jimmy Heath, and James Moody?), there were more than enough fun-loving people onstage to keep the crowd laughing as often as they were cheering. Moody's hilarious scat-song “Moody's Mood” was pure Diz, and Hargrove upped the ante when he engaged Moody in a scat-singing contest. Despite all the great trumpet players in the band, Hargrove is the perfect Dizzy substitute, as he showed on a soaring rendition of “I Remember Clifford.” ... continue ...


FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 1)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 23, 2007

by J Hunter

TIME IT WAS, AND WHAT A TIME IT WAS: Since it is one of those milepost anniversaries, you do have to look back a little bit, and that's what Freihofer's did, booking players who were on the bill of the first weekend, when the show was called “Newport Jazz Festival/Saratoga.” George Benson, Jean-Luc Ponty and Roy Haynes were part of that weekend, as was Dizzy Gillespie and Tony Williams. The latter two will be remembered on Day 2 with performances by Trio Beyond and the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band. (Tune in for more on their shows in our next episode - same Bat Time, same Bat Channel!) ... continue ...


CHICK COREA & BELA FLECK
Proctor's, Schenectady, NY
June 14, 2007

By J Hunter

It was one of those stories longtime jazz fans love to tell: How this legend and that legend got together in concert and made music that left jaws hanging throughout the hall. For a range of generations, it doesn't get much more legendary than Chick Corea and Bela Fleck, and their dual-acoustic show at Proctor's is going to be the subject of a lot of future tales ... continue ....

ROBERTA GAMBARINI
Spa Little Theatre, Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Springs, NY
May 31st, 2007

by Tom Pierce

The Thursday May 31, 2007 concert at the Little Theatre of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center by acclaimed vocalist Roberta Gambarini with a truly superior trio (Mulgrew Miller on piano, George Mraz on bass & Victor Lewis, drums) turned out to be a case of high expectations being not only matched, but well exceeded ... continue ...

THE JORDAN FAMILY
Spa Little Theatre, Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saratoga Springs, NY
May 29th, 2007

by J Hunter

The Jordan Family is one of New Orleans' major dynasties, stretching from saxophone legend Kidd - composer of the ultimate Bourbon Street parade song, “Kidd Jordan's Second Line” - to the current crop of phenomenally talented musicians: Former trumpet prodigy Marlon, flute virtuoso Kent, classically-trained violinist Rachel, and riveting vocalist Stephanie. Combine that talent with a family vibe that alternates between respectful and playful, and it's a dead heat who had the better time at Spa Little Theatre - the band or the audience ... continue ...


BOBBY SANABRIA & QUARTETO ACHE
Jazz/Latino, Inc., First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, Schenectady, NY
May 25, 2007

by Tom Pierce

Master drummer Bobby Sanabria & Quarteto Aché descended on the Whisperdome of the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady like a musical force of nature, Friday May 25, 2007. This was the last in a series of three Latin Jazz concerts produced by the welcome new organization, Jazz/Latino Inc, headed by Dr Jose Cruz. It provided most Capitol District Jazz lovers their first opportunity to witness in person the sheer talent, drive, complexity and charisma that has resulted in so many awards and high level engagements with numerous Jazz & Latin luminaries over the last 25 years, for this South Bronx native of Puerto Rican parents ... continue ...


ALBANY MUSICIAN'S AASSOCIATION “JAM” SESSION
Polish Community Center, Albany, NY
April 29, 2007

by J Hunter

There was a lot to celebrate at the AMA's daylong gala at the Polish Community Center. This was the third straight year Local 14 was involved in Jazz Appreciation Month, and the current effort was the largest yet, with a raft of appearances at new venues like Troy's Revolution Hall. Deep down, though, the real success was in the awareness the Local's educators brought to area schools ... continue ...


PAT MARTINO
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
April 27, 2007

By J Hunter

“I have a terrible, terrible memory nowadays,” Pat Martino admitted, by way of explaining that he was not sure if this was his first appearance at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Hey, it's a major miracle Martino is appearing anywhere. ... continue ...

KARL BERGER & JOHN LINDBERG
Brik Gallery, Catskill, NY
April 27, 2007

by Jeff Waggoner

Talk about hidden treasures. The hills of the Capital Region are filled with them, especially musical ones. Count one as Karl Berger, resident of Woodstock, and a treasure of the Catskills.  Indeed, he’s a gold mine as pianist, vibraphonist, composer and musicologist. Berger and his erstwhile student and current collaborator, the brilliant bassist John Lindberg (of Kerhonkson), helped Tom Bellino of Planet arts kick-start the return of Bellino’s Jazz one2one series ... continue ...


MEDESKI, MARTIN & WOOD
Hart Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
April 25, 2007

by Albert Brooks

Not having seen Medeski, Martin and Wood before or for that matter having heard any of the group's music, I came to the Egg on Wednesday night with no expectations other than that I would likely experience some good jazz music given the band's long tenure playing together ... continue ...


KURT ELLING QUARTET
& BILL CHARLAP TRIO
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
April 22, 2007

By J Hunter

In order to see more than one jazz act on the same bill in the Capital Region, you normally have to wait for summer festivals like Freihofer's or Kingston. This is one of many reasons why Kurt Elling and Bill Charlap's joint appearance at the Swyer was so special. To have either of these great interpreters in the area would guarantee a great evening; to have them both on the same stage is why the theater was almost filled to capacity ... continue ...


RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET
WILLIAMSTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL
Williams College, Williamstown, MA
April 21, 2007

by Jeff Waggoner

If Coltrane brought them in, it was Ravi who kept them in the seats. Ravi Coltrane has a marquee name, and it is well deserved.  And not because of where he came from, but where he is now and who he is -- one of the finest jazz musicians on the scene today. Coltrane was the headliner for the Williamstown Jazz Festival, held through much of the week of April 15 and culminating in the Coltrane concert on April 21 ... continue ...


BRIAN PATNEAUDE QUARTET + 1
AS WE KNOW IT CD RELEASE PARTY
WAMC Performing Arts Studio's Linda Norris Auditorium, Albany, NY
April 20, 2007

by J Hunter

The Brian Patneaude Quartet could have played it safe at their CD release party and simply regurgitated their latest effort, As We Know It (WEPA Records): The music is that good, and the overall piece is a logical extension of the BPQ's creative growth curve, so simply repeating the studio performances would have been enough for some people. It wasn't good enough for Patneaude, though ... continue ...


Joe Sorrentino Trio
feat. Nat Phipps

ALBANY MUSICIANS' ASSOCIATION (AFM LOCAL 14) JAM SESSION
w/ JOE SORRENTINO TRIO feat. NAT PHIPPS, STEVE LAMBERT SEXTET, & SKIP PARSONS' RIVERBOAT JAZZ BAND
Revolution Hall, Troy, NY
April 15th, 2007

by J Hunter

Hey, no question, the weather was downright dangerous: I passed three multiple-car wrecks (Not fender-benders - wrecks) as I drove slowly home through the wet snow and slush. So if you'd planned to attend Local 14's JAM Session, but a look out the window changed your mind, you had a very good excuse. With that said, you missed a heck of a good time ... continue ....


RONI BEN-HUR & SANTI DEBRIANO
WAMC Performing Arts Studio's Linda Norris Auditorium, Albany, NY
March 31, 2007

by J Hunter

One of the first gigs I ever covered for this site was PlanetArts' One2One duet series at the late, lamented North Pointe Cultural Arts Center in Kinderhook. Aside from the fact that you were guaranteed to see (and interact with) terrific players, the One2One series highlighted a change in my preferences in jazz: Twenty years ago I was totally entranced with the big-canvas, rocked-out works of Steps Ahead and the Chick Corea Elektric Band. Now I found more intimate performances could make me just as happy. Roni Ben-Hur made me very, very happy Saturday night ... continue ...



Sarah Pedinotti

SARAH PEDINOTTI BAND
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
March 29, 2007

By J Hunter

It would be both incorrect and insulting to say Sarah Pedinotti is “all grown up now.” The 23-year old Saratoga County native has been navigating the “grown-up” arena for some time, foregoing her last two semesters at Berklee in favor of getting some real-world experience. Since that decision, Pedinotti has become a mainstay on the Capital Region music scene, earning glowing notices from her appearances at last year's Freihofer's and Albany Riverfront jazz festivals ...continue ...



Gene Bertoncini

GENE BERTONCINI
Eclipse Mills, North Adams, MA
February 23, 2007

by Jeff Waggoner

In yet another step toward the evolution of North Adams, MA, from a decaying mill town to a vibrant arts center, the master jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini performed February 23 for a small, but deeply engaged, audience at the former Eclipse Mills. Bertoncini played many of the tunes off of his most recent, 2004, CD, “Quite Now,” (Ambient Records) including Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life/Isfahan,” and Puccnini’s “Nessun Dorma," ... continue ...

Oregon

OREGON
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
February 23rd, 2007

By J Hunter

It was a study in contrast: neo-hippies milling around the Egg lobby waiting for the Keller Williams show to start, while the real thing (either former or diehard) were going up to the Swyer Theatre to go see Oregon. “The old people are on this elevator,” a woman behind me giggled. We all laughed, but it didn't make it any less true ... continue ...


Maria Schneider

MARIA SCHNEIDER JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
February 9, 2007

By J Hunter

Maybe this is the Big Band era. A select group of today's musicians is galvanizing the format with an amazingly creative aesthetic: Dave Holland and Charles Tolliver have both contributed ground-breaking large-unit discs within the last year; the Mingus Big Band continues to serve up awesome renderings of their muse's catalog; and PlanetArts had a shot at a Grammy earlier this month thanks to the efforts of Jim McNeely and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra ... continue ...


T.O.P.

T.O.P. (Terrasson, Okegwo and Parker)
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
January 28, 2007

By J Hunter

Reunions are always the same thing: Who got grey, who got fat, who got indicted, who started a cult… Occasionally, though, a reunion can bring joy and beauty to all those who attend. Recently, pianist Jacky Terrasson reunited with bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Leon Parker - the players who backed Terrasson on some of his earliest releases, including his self-titled Blue Note debut in 1994. They were known as the Jacky Terrasson Trio back then; now they are T.O.P., and if I didn't know better, I'd swear they'd never been apart ... continue ...


Bang On A Can All-Stars

BANG ON A CAN ALL-STARS
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
January 26, 2007

by Jeff Waggoner

If it isn’t too early, I would like to put in a nomination for a best concert of the year – the Bang on a Can All Stars with Don Byron, who convened at the Egg earlier this year. An artist who wasn’t a headliner at this concert, but should have been, was Iva Bittova, the avant-garde violinist/vocalist from Slovakia whose singing (which included high pitched barks and chirps) was both beautiful and engaging.  She led the first half of the concert in a performance-art effort that drove a few people to the door, but left 99 percent of the audience entranced with her ethereal like songs and playing ... continue ...


Bill Leary Quintet

BILL LEARY QUINTET
Savannah's, Albany, NY
January 5, 2007

by Guy Flavin

Jazz, more than any other musical genre, has refused to die. Not in a Steven Tyler 'that guy's still around?' kind of way. Jazz has defied death by way of evolution. It is a constant flux, forever questioning and broadening its boundaries. Jazz approaches it's past with reverence and it's future with spontaneity: the musicians are deeply aware of where they're coming from and eager to discover where they're going. It's a total fusion of nostalgia and innovation ... continue ...



MMW


THE TOP 5 CONCERTS (AND MORE)
OF 2006

by J Hunter

Since there's no way I can run down every great concert moment in a single column, I've decided to follow the Smokey Robinson model: Start with a few quick numbers, do a medley, and then finish with the BIG hits ... continue ...


Jane Monheit

JANE MONHEIT
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
December 2, 2006

by J Hunter

Jane Monheit is a cabaret singer. I'm not damning her with faint praise (not yet, anyway): The list of performers who started in the saloons is, to say the least, illustrious (Excerpt: Sinatra, Bennett, Bobby Short, Bette Midler). Monheit paid her dues in the Long Island club scene before beginning her recording career, and one of the zaftig brunette's biggest discs chronicles a live date at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan. As such, the intimate Swyer Theatre was an appropriate space for Monheit, and she served up a letter-perfect performance that was quite enjoyable for the near-capacity crowd. For me, though, it was a disappointing end to a great concert season ... continue ...



Kenny Garrett


KENNY GARRETT QUARTET
w/ STANLEY JORDAN
Charmes R. Wood Theater, Glens Falls, NY
November 25, 2006

by J Hunter

Those who didn't see it didn't believe it happened. Some people who did see it still didn't believe it happened. The Kenny Garrett Quartet was in the middle of their opening number, the title track from Garrett's new disc Beyond the Wall (Nonesuch). Garrett - who had already referenced “Transcendence” and “Skip to My Lou” - kept taking his alto sax higher and harder, drenching the crowd with primal, passionate fusillades that deeply rooted in the heart of Garrett's hero, John Coltrane ... continue ...


COALITION OF THE WILLING
Red Square, Albany, NY
November 15, 2006

by J Hunter

During a pre-show talk last year at North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Dave Leibman lamented the decline of jazz-fusion since the time of Miles Davis' mind-blowing album Bitches Brew. Leibman's contention was that the genre (as Miles defined it, on Brew and other releases) degraded as new iterations arrived until, as Leibman tartly put it, “You got Jeff Lorber.” While Leibman's premise was true on its face, it ignored a new generation of musicians combining lessons from the past with elements of late-20th-century musical schools. The result is a slew of exciting young groups that have been embraced and nurtured by the Jam Band movement, as well as by old-school fusion fans that were tired of the same old saxed-up Prog Rock. This new sound is spectacularly represented by Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing, who just laid waste to Red Square ... continue ...



Sonny Fortune

SONNY FORTUNE QUARTET
WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium, Albany, NY
November 3, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Sonny Fortune is an unheralded force of nature on the woodwinds.  An acolyte of Coltrane, few can blow in a non-stop, circular breathing, sheets-of-sound fashion like Fortune does ... continue ...

STEFON HARRIS
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
October 20, 2006

by J Hunter

As far as Stefon Harris was concerned, things couldn't get better. “I'm just at home,” he exulted. “I'm happy!” The Albany native was home - in a theater packed with fans, friends and family. He was also accompanied by a top-notch octet, packing a set of tunes from African Tarantella: Dances with Duke. The new Blue Note release features music either written or inspired by the man Harris calls “my greatest inspiration” - the one and only “Edward “Duke” Ellington ... continue ...
T.S. MONK SEXTET
2nd Annual Pittsfield City Jazz Festival
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
October 14, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Tight and Tasty. That just about sums up the elegant sound of the T.S. Monk Sextet that played October 14  in the newly renovated and spectacular Colonial Theater in Pittsfield as part of the 2nd Annual Pittsfield CityJazz Festival. While Thelonious Sphere Monk Jr. has the unenviable task of following in his legendary father’s giant footsteps, he is acquitting himself magnificently as a drummer, singer, band leader, educator and co-founder of The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a non-profit education organization. A better advocate of Monk’s music can’t be had ... continue ...

BILLY TAYLOR TRIO & METTA QUINTET
2nd Annual Pittsfield City Jazz Festival
Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA
October 14, 2006

by J Hunter

The Colonial Theatre is a big piece of Pittsfield's heritage. It was a major player on the circuit up until the Depression, presenting everyone from Maude Adams to Eubie Blake; in 1937, it re-opened as a movie house, showing films that are an integral part of the Turner Classic Movies catalog. Pictures and posters from both eras are on display in the lounge area that is a small part of the stunning refurbishment that began the Colonial's third life as a performance venue ... continue ...

GIACOMO GATES
A Place For Jazz, Schenectady, NY
September 29, 2006

by Tom Pierce

On Friday Sept 29, 2006 the First Unitarian Society of Schenectady's magnificent venue, the Whisperdome, reverberated with the sounds of Jazz singer par excellence, Giacomo Gates and his trio. The concert certainly extended the 21st century unbroken circle of exceptional Jazz vocalists presented annually there by A Place For Jazz (APFJ) - starting with Rebecca Parris in 2001, followed annually in succession by Rene Marie, Patti Wicks, Philip Manuel and Roseanna Vitro, in 2005 ... continue.

LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 1)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 16, 2005

by J Hunter

MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING: This year, Lake George Jazz program coordinator Paul Pines got to spread his wings, not just filling both days with national acts and finishing off the first-ever Saturday evening performance with a fireworks display. There was also enough money to bring Stanley Jordan and the Kenny Garrett Quintet to the Charles Wood Theater in Glens Falls later this year ... continue ...

LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 2)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 17, 2005

by J Hunter

SPARE CHANGE? FUHGEDDABAHDIT: I only just made the start of the Sunday bill, thanks to the parking space I had to take four blocks from Shepard Park. Last year, the village had hooded the meters around the park, giving festival attendees a freebie. No such luck this year, and co-emcee John Strong repeatedly advised the crowd to keep feeding their meter, or they would be ticketed. I realize it's almost the end of the season, and revenue will soon be scarce, but this was simply ridiculous .. continue ..


ALBANY RIVERFRONT JAZZ FESTIVAL
Corning Preserve, Albany, NY
September 9, 2006

by J Hunter

No new amphitheater - no ground broken for one, either. What happened to all that money Senator Clinton procured (and then-campaigning Mayor Jennings took credit for)? The mayor was at this year's festival, but was too busy putting things on “Pause” to address the issue ... continue ...


BEN ALLISON QUARTET
WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium, Albany, NY
September 8, 2006

by J Hunter

Ben Allison listens to the Carpenters. (“Super cheesy,” he admits.) Ron Horton puts Al Hirt on the same level as Louis Armstrong. Gerald Cleaver's first influences on drums were John Bonham and Ringo Starr. Steve Cardenas' high school big band worked out of a chart book that was three inches thick ... continue ...


CHRISTIAN SCOTT
The Van Dyck, Schenectady, NY
August 19, 2006

by Randy Treece

Billboard exclaims New Orleans bred Christian Scott's Rewind That as one of the ten best jazz albums of this year, and our own J. Hunter, albanyjazz.com cognoscenti, believes he may lead the wave of a "new coming" in jazz. After hearing this artist with his band of young jazz lions, I attest to both assessments. Even at the tender age of twenty-three, he is already a simmering light on the scene and making an indelible mark on the music ... continue ...


DEREK TRUCKS BAND
Linda Norris Auditorium - WAMC Performing Arts Center, Albany, NY
August 14, 2006

by Randy Treece

A standing room only audience, comprised of an unexpected demographics ranging from pre-teens to those near post-mortem, experienced one of Rolling Stone's 100 best guitarists and his stellar band perform on a sweet and musically splendiferous evening. Those who adore testosterone-driven guitar interplay were steadfastly bundled together with their eager faces pressed against the stage to observe, first hand, the mighty guitar licks of slide-guitar phenomena Derek Trucks, and he certainly did not disappoint a single soul ... continue ...


THE BAD PLUS
w/ SCREAMING HEADLESS TORSOS
Fox Hollow Estate, Lenox, MA
August 12, 2006

by J Hunter

Count Basie said, “It's the notes you don't hear that matter.” With The Bad Plus and Screaming Headless Torsos, it's the notes you hear, can't quite identify, but still knock you out! The Bad Plus chose the Berkshires as the place to warm up for their Sunday main stage gig at the Newport Jazz Festival. (Sorry, Mr. Wein. Corporate sponsorship aside, it'll always be “Newport” to me.) I use “warm up” in the figurative sense: Take the comfortably cool temperatures we've had these past few evenings, subtract ten degrees or so, and you have the environment TBP faced as they mounted the small portable stage that had the Stockbridge Bowl as a backdrop ... continue ...


EITHER/ORCHESTRA
Sanctuary For Independant Media, Troy, NY
August 4, 2006

by Randy Treece

The Sydney Morning Herald got it exactly right when it pronounced
that the Boston-based Either/Orchestra was "the best-kept secret in jazz." What a band! Either Orchestra's detour to Troy was not serendipitous. The Sanctuary had been negotiating with Russ Gershon, the founder and leader of Either, for nearly a year and it all came to fruition on this Friday evening ... continue ...

BILL FRISELL
Courtyard C @ Mass Moca, North Adams, MA
August 4, 2006

By J Hunter

It is completely appropriate that Bill Frisell won “Best Guitar” in Down Beat's recent critics poll. Aside from being a remarkable player and composer, his music is so unique. Regularly eschewing traditional jazz structure, Frisell uses almost every variety of American music - jazz, blues, bluegrass, country - to sculpt his pieces like a storyteller, placing the listener in a structured environment while offering imagery completely open to interpretation ... continue ...


BETHEL WOODS JAZZ FESTIVAL
Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, Bethel, NY
July 22, 2006

By J Hunter

Notes from the first day of the inaugural Bethel Woods Jazz Festival:

“BY THE TIME WE GOT TO WOODSTOCK…” This one's a drive (Three hours or better from the Capital Region. Don't be an idiot - like me - and do it in one day…), but when you get there, the site knocks your socks off! Split-rail fences, Victorian-style halogen lamps, brick walkways lined with wooden benches, and a hillside that's been landscaped within an inch of its life. A state-of-the-art pavilion sits at the bottom of the hill. Nearly every artist commented on the facility; George Benson declared, “From up here, the acoustics are perfect!” ... continue ...


RYAN COHAN SEXTET
Bernhard Theatre, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
July 5, 2006

By J Hunter

At the risk of repeating myself, I believe everyone has potential - no more so than the student body of the annual Skidmore Jazz Institute. The key is to realize that potential, and several graduates of the two-week seminar have made that grade: Christian Scott just blew the doors off the Sunday bill at Freihofer's, and drummer Kendrick Scott (no relation) developed a last-minute stand-in gig with Terence Blanchard - at Skidmore, by the way - into an integral role with Blanchard's phenomenal group Flow ... continue ...


ROBERT GLASPER TRIO
Bernhard Theatre - Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
June 28, 2006

by J Hunter

If there's one thing that defines jazz, it's the music's ability to think outside the box - that is, to take an established matrix and present it in completely different terms. That said, it's amazing how many jazz fans view new musical ideas with the same horror a Warner Brothers cartoon elephant displays when confronted by a field mouse. For example, you mention the legendary record label Blue Note to your average jazz fan, and images readily spring to his or her mind: A certain look to the albums and the musicians, a certain sound to the music they play. The Robert Glasper Trio confounds that imagery, and while I think it's a good thing, some of the standing-room-only crowd at the Bernhard Theatre didn't agree ... continue ...


FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 2)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga, NY
June 25, 2006

by J Hunter

If the Weather Channel were infallible, this fest would have been a washout. As it happened, the first drops didn't start falling until Sonya Kitchell came on to close the Gazebo bill. (I have only one thing to say about Kitchell: This is what comes from record labels insisting, “One Norah Jones just isn't enough.”) ... continue ...


FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 1)
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga, NY
June 24, 2006

by Randy Treece

Conceptually, jazz blazes a broad swath through the musical landscape and has more than meandered through multiple artistic and cultural influences. Concededly then, we can see a jazz festival undertaking the task of presenting the multitudinous phases and faces of this revered musical form and invite a cross section to the affair. However, one has to wonder how elastic is the jazz tent and how many divergent influences can it cover. Saturday's concert was no exception to Saratoga's perennial formulaic approach that everything goes. Whether the promoters succeeded on this day truly lies in the ear of the listener ... continue ...


KINGSTON INTERNATIONAL
JAZZ FESTIVAL (DAY 2)
"Down In The Rondout", Kingston, NY
June 24, 2006

by J Hunter

Your perspective gets challenged at Kingston Jazz. The stage is in a parking lot, under an overpass that takes Route 9W over the Hudson River. It's a bit like a breakdancer setting up his cardboard outside of Grand Central Station. But then you check out the surroundings - the historic buildings of the Rondout District, the park across the way that runs parallel to the river - and you say, “Yeah, I can hang here.” ... continue ...

BRIAN PATNEAUDE QUINTET
Guilderland Performing Arts Center
Tawasentha Park, Guilderland, NY
June 22, 2006

By J Hunter

It's right there in the fine print below the Guilderland Performing Arts Center's summer concert schedule: “In the case of inclement weather, the audience will be seated up on the stage.” Since I hadn't been at GPAC in over 15 years, my reaction was, “Yeah, right.” Later that night at the Brian Patneaude Quintet's pre-Kingston Jazz Festival tune-up concert, I had a different reaction: “Thank goodness for the fine print.” ... continue ...

DAVE'S TRUE STORY
Caffe Lena, Saratoga, NY
June 17, 2006

by Albert Brooks

“Ned has a big Dutch wife. She sweeps the floors and makes the beds. Ned leads a simple life; but Ned doesn't know his wife!” So begins one of the many tales, penned with original words and music by former playwright Dave Cantor, and vivified by the marvelously talented Dave's True Story at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, NY before an enthusiastic audience this past Saturday. Over the course of two sets, and a two song encore, DTS presented a rich and synchronous tapestry of seductive narrative and harmony, weaving Cantor's craftily inventive lyrics, spinning stories of beauty, woe, longing and irony, among other emotions, with spare but effective instrumentation, perfectly channeled by Kelly Flint's beautifully versatile voice ... continue ...


VERNON REID & MASQUE
w/ LIQUID SOUL
Hunter Center @ Mass Moca - North Adams, MA
May 28, 2006

By J Hunter

Ever feel like you've been someplace before? I got that feeling one more time - for good and ill - thanks to Vernon Reid & Masque and Liquid Soul, the featured actors in the opening night of Mass MoCA's summer concert season ... continue ...


KEITH PRAY CD RELEASE PARTY
The Muddy Cup - Albany, NY
May 13, 2006

by Albert Brooks

Let me put it to you like they used to say: Keith Pray plays so much saxophone it's a crime! And, in two sets Saturday night at the Muddy Cup here in Albany, he was aided and abetted in his endeavors by a very talented group of accomplices. The group included Pray on tenor and alto saxes, Dave Solazzo on Hammond B-3, Tim Reyes on guitar, Joe Barna on drums and Lee Russo, sitting in on tenor for 4 songs ... continue ...

JIM SNIDERO w/Dave Calarco
Otto Gardner & George Muscatello
Justin's - Albany, NY
May 6 2006

by J Hunter

Dave Calarco has a favorite saying: “It is what it is.” I never asked the dynamic drummer what that means on a deeper level, but if I were to guess, it'd be: “That's life. That's reality. Don't bitch about it; deal with it.” Calarco had a fair bit of reality to handle last Saturday night, and he dealt with it splendidly ... continue ...

2ND ANNUAL JAZZ APPRECIATION MONTH GALA CELEBRATION
Marriott Hotel, Colonie, NY
April 30, 2006

by J Hunter

Looking forward while looking back. That pretty much sums up both the Smithsonian's Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) and the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians' 2nd annual celebration at the Marriott. I remember the trepidation in AMA President Neil Brown's voice when he called last year's event the “first annual Jazz Appreciation Month celebration.” Local 14 hadn't been involved in JAM before 2005, so there was no track record to show whether people would be back, or would be involved in any future activities. Brown needn't have worried. Once again, people filled the Marriott ballroom to see pieces of the jazz community's history, as well as a possible glimpse of the future ... continue ...


STEFON HARRIS & BLACKOUT
'62 Center For Theatre & Dance, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
April 22, 2006

by J Hunter

Everyone has potential; I truly believe that. But potential is nothing if it isn't realized, and that takes hard work, dedication, maturity, a willingness to listen, and an undying love for what you do. This package was on display when Stefon Harris & Blackout closed this year's Williamstown Jazz Festival ... continue ...


BELA FLECK & THE FLECKTONES
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
April 18, 2006

by J Hunter

Back in the day, when Freihofer's was still known as the Newport Jazz Festival/Saratoga, the opening act one Saturday turned the crowd's attitude from “Who cares?” to “Who the (BLEEP) are those guys?” The “guys” in question were a young group called Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. All most people knew about them was the video for their song “Sinister Minister” was all over VH1. This weird-looking quartet took the normally jaded SPAC crowd from blasé inattention to boisterous applause in just under an hour ... continue ...


Hugh Masekela

HUGH MASEKELA
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
April 13, 2006

by J Hunter

Jazz musicians have to be survivors, given the economic and cultural roadblocks they face. Then again, all that is ephemeral when compared to what Hugh Masekela had to go through to reach this time and place. The 68-year old South African horn player was an exile for over two decades from a country that persecuted him and imprisoned him in the days of apartheid. That is a survivor! ... continue ...


Ralph Lalama

RALPH LALAMA & DON FRIEDMAN
North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Kinderhook, NY
April 8, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Jazz fans in Kinderhook recently heard a rare sound. It came out of the bell of Ralph Lalama’s silver-plated Selmer Mark VI on April 1 at the North Pointe Cultural Arts Center. Lalama has a huge, fat tone.  It’s the kind of sound that seems to have largely have died with Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins.  Lalama – 50 percent of a piano/sax duo at the concert – roars. His big sound was the perfect complement to the spidery, Bill Evans-style runs that pianist Don Friedman served up in a concert that consisted mostly of straight-ahead standards -- with two originals stirred into the mix ... continue ...


MEDESKI, MARTIN & WOOD
Hart Theatre @ The Egg - Albany, NY
April 5, 2006

by J Hunter

This was not your grandfather's jazz show - unless your grandfather wears Phish t-shirts and has a Gov't Mule bumper sticker on his New Beetle. Medeski, Martin & Wood has never tried to steer by any star but their own. With the 1993 release of It's A Jungle In Here (Grammavision), MMW - keyboardist John Medeski, drummer/percussionist Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood - slammed the organ-trio tradition roughly onto its ear and treated it the way David Beckham treats errant soccer balls ... continue ...


THE IVEY-DIVEY TRIO (DON BYRON, JASON MORAN & JACK DeJOHNETTE)
Swyer Theatre @ The Egg, Albany, NY
March 24, 2006

by J Hunter

Before he began, reed player/UAlbany professor Don Byron mentioned that his wife Susan, a fellow educator, was not in attendance because she was presenting a paper at Princeton. As such, Byron said he would have to mentally “call her up” in order to be able to play part of Ivey-Divey (Blue Note), Byron's most successful disc to date. “You know you met the right woman,” a smiling Byron confided to us, “when you play incredibly sentimental music and really mean it!” ... continue

CLAIRE DALY & JOEL FORRESTER
North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Kinderhook, NY
March 11, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Attending a jazz concert these days too often seem like listening to note playing Olympians than musicians. There has been a long-term proclivity toward as many notes per meter as possible, giving some concerts the feel of being in a tin barn during an apocalyptic hail storm. Of course, there are musicians who put the music up front, rather than trying to dazzle the audience with technique. One of those musicians is the great, but unfortunately unheralded, bari saxophonist Claire Daly, who played with her long-time band mate, the pianist and songwriter Joel Forrester, on March 11 at the North Pointe Cultural Center in Kinderhook ... continue ...

DIZZY GILLESPIE ALL-STAR BAND
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall - Troy, NY
March 10, 2006

by J Hunter

John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie lived a life of accomplishment: World-class trumpet player, co-inventor of the Bebop style, and champion bullfrog impersonator, to name just a few. What gets left behind in the focus on Dizzy's unsurpassed personality is Gillespie's vast work as a writer and arranger, not only for his own groups, but also for big-band legends like Woody Herman and Cab Calloway. The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Band came to Troy to change that, bringing with them two sets of Dizzy's arrangements from the 40s and 50s. And almost every song had a story to tell ... continue ...


James Carter's “Gardenias for Lady Day”
The Egg - Albany, NY
March 5, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

These days, the superb saxophonist James Carter is at the top of all the “best of” lists, owing to his massive chops. He is like the Barry Bonds of Bar Walkers and Honkers.  He can wail, squeak, slap tongue, and play altissimo so high only Bowser can hear it. The New York Times calls him the “ultimate peacock jazz musician,” a notice he is proud of and has posted prominently on his website. And he DOES put on a show – which he did March 5 at the Egg, with an all-Motown quintet, including  Gerard Gibbs on piano, Ralphe Armstrong on double bass, Dwight Adams on trumpet, and Leonard C. King Jr. on drums ... continue ...


TIN HAT TRIO
Club Helsinki, Great Barrington, MA
March 3, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Go into a record store, and you are likely to find “Tin Hat Trio” CDs filed in the jazz section, but that’s a disservice to this eclectic and brilliant San Francisco-based ensemble – which is now, at least when it played March 3 at the Club Helsinki in Great Barrington --  a quartet ... continue ...


HENRY GRIMES TRIO
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
February 25, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

While it seems many of the jazz venues in the Albany area are swinging toward the soft or smooth (i.e, Chris Botti, Michael Buble), there are still ways to find edgy jazz – if you are willing to travel a bit. In my case, I headed down to Bard College on a recent Saturday to see the great bassist Henry Grimes, the phoenix of the free jazz scene. Julliard-educated Grimes played in the late ‘50s and early 60s with jazz giants such as Sonny Rollins, Lee Konitz, Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano before dropped out of sight for 35 years ... continue ....


Kenny Rankin

KENNY RANKIN
WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium, Albany, NY
February 10, 2006

by J Hunter

If you didn't know better, you would have looked at the bespectacled guy in faded black shirt-and-jeans and thought someone from the crowd had wandered onstage. Only the acoustic guitar he carried (His first guitar, he confided to us later) separated Kenny Rankin from the full house at WAMC Linda Norris Auditorium. Like me, these people were mesmerized by Rankin in high school and have carried him with them ever since, and he appreciates them like you would a group of old friends ... continue ...


Curtis Stigers Quartet

CURTIS STIGERS
Linda Norris Auditorium - WAMC Performing Art Center
January 13, 2006

by Randy Treece

One of the wondrous aspects of jazz is its evolving and evocable nature to absorb influences from a broad spectrum of artistry. A contemporary proponent and perceptive purveyor of this precept is the irrepressible Concord Recording artist, the versatile, the unflappable, Curtis Stigers, who rolled into the Linda on a blister wintery evening to render a warm and generous dose of musical gumbo to a tightly-knit, loyal, and jealously receptive band of fans ... continue



Al Gallodoro

A Page in Jazz’s History Book Still Plays

by Jeff Waggoner
 
Imagine a sax player who was present at the creation of jazz, who lived and played in 1927 New Orleans when the sounds of Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong still echoed loudly.
 
Imagine hearing someone who played vaudeville, New Orleans speakeasies, and who played in the best of the swing bands and under the batons of the giant classical conductors Arturo Toscannini and Leopold Stokowski.
 
And imagine hearing it live, and not on a scratchy 78 rpm.

continue

Terence Blanchard

2005: THE (CONCERT) YEAR IN REVIEW

by J Hunter

I've loved jazz as far back as I can remember, but I love live jazz like nothing else I can think of. Unlike other genres - where the concert experience has become more about choreography than creativity - jazz lets you see the performer out on the wire, in the moment, creating (or re-creating, or re-inventing) from one moment to the next. Jazz today has more life in it than ever before, but on stage is where the rubber meets the road.

What I've tried to do is pull five moments out of a year's worth of music. “Impossible,” you say? Perhaps. But at the very least, this represents our contribution to the end-of-year listing fervor that grips the media during the holidays ... continue ...


DAVE HOLLAND QUINTET
Van Dyck Restaurant & Brewery, Schenectady, NY
December, 16, 2005

by J Hunter

It's rare that you see an artist or a group at the peak. If you're lucky, you catch them on the way up; usually, you reach them somewhere on the downward slide. Otherwise, you chart their course from disc to disc and hope they're on their game if they come to your area. After listening to the phenomenal 2-disc set Extended Play: Live At Birdland (ECM), I was convinced Dave Holland and his longtime cohorts - reedman Chris Potter, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibes player Steve Nelson, and drummer Billy Kilson - had reached that peak ... continue


STEVE WILSON & LEWIS NASH
North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Kinderhook, NY
December 3, 2005

by Jeff Waggoner

The tight lines of saxophonist Steve Wilson and Lewis Nash's drum orchestration melded into a striking jazz concert on December 3 at North Pointe Cultural Center in Kinderhook. The two concocted a blend of elegance and intricacy. Wilson, known primarily for being an alto saxophonist, showed that he is a master at soprano - able to produce a lean, focused sounds that cut through Nash's percussive complexities ... continue.


ROSWELL RUDD'S SOUNDSCAPE
North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Kinderhook, NY
November 5, 2005

by J Hunter

When (and if) I grow up, I want to be just like Roswell Rudd. Rudd was a founding member of Eli's Chosen Six; they were the guys in the 1959 concert film Jazz On A Summer's Day playing Dixieland as they drove around Newport in a convertible jalopy. (“I didn't do that,” Rudd informed me. “I went to Europe.”) Two years before, the trombonist was working with legendary saxman Steve Lacy on translating Thelonius Monk's music to horns; a few years before he died, Lacy & Rudd revived the concept, calling the music “Monk-zeeland” ... continue

WYNTON MARSALIS QUINTET
Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
November 2, 2005

By J Hunter

Just when you think you've seen it all, something comes along to rumple your comfort zone. Try this on for size: Wynton Marsalis - his trumpet floating high and free and beautiful through the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall - leading his quintet through the scratches and whirls of Ornette Coleman's “Sadness”. Yes, that Ornette Coleman ... continue
DAVE DOUGLAS' “KEYSTONE”
Swyer Theatre - The Egg, Albany, NY
October 2, 2005

by J Hunter

Although it might… (Okay, okay, I'll start again.) Because it will spike Stanley Crouch's blood pressure, let's chalk up another success for Dave Douglas - not to mention another parallel between Douglas and the Dark Magus, Miles Davis ... continue

FRANK KIMBROUGH & JOE LOCKE
North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Kinderhook, NY
October 1, 2005

by Jeff Waggoner

Pianist Frank Kimbrough and vibraphonist Joe Locke have been playing together so long that their two instruments sound like one. Merge the ethereal lilt of the vibes with the harmonic and percussive complexity of the piano and you find their sound ... continue.
 

TIERNEY SUTTON
w/ THE CHRISTAN JACOB TRIO
Swyer Theatre - The Egg, Albany, NY
October 1, 2005

by J Hunter

TelArc has always been one of my favorite jazz labels, mainly becausethey give both new and established artists a good, safe place to create strong product without the fear of the corporate hammer. Now I have a new reason for loving TelArc: They did not succumb to Jones/Krall Syndrome ... continue.

TERENCE BLANCHARD SEXTET
Swyer Theatre - The Egg, Albany, NY
September 24, 2005

by - J Hunter

Two years ago Terence Blanchard blew the roof off Skidmore's Bernhard Theatre with a set of exciting, innovative music from Bounce (Blue Note), Blanchard's first disc of original, non-soundtrack-related music in some time. Given the destruction that Hurricane Katrina rained down on the homes of Blanchard and saxman Brice Winston, it would be understandable if the Terence Blanchard Sextet had simply mailed it in to the Swyer Theatre last Saturday night. Instead, they showed how phenomenally far the New Orleans native's music has come, with a set that split between tunes from Bounce and the recently-released, Herbie Hancock-produced Flow (Blue Note) ... continue.

LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 1)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 17, 2005

by Jeff Waggoner

The first day of the Lake George Jazz Festival, September 17 was a mini-festival on its own, covering a wide range of jazz from third wave, to straight ahead, to blues- and Latin-tinged B-3 driven groove. While certainly not the best-known jazz festival in the nation, or even the region, the Lake George Festival – this year especially – can’t take a back seat to any festival in terms of pure jazz talent ... continue.

LAKE GEORGE JAZZ WEEKEND (Day 2)
Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 18, 2005

by J Hunter

I just love outdoor music festivals. The feel of the breeze… the warmth of the sun… the sound of the cannons… “WHAT?!” Yup, you read it right: The sound of the cannons. Revolutionary War re-enactors were re-fighting the French and Indian War over on the Battleground while the music played at the final day of the 22nd annual Lake George Jazz Weekend. (And I thought I had it bad watching Hamlet in Washington Park while a very loud version of The Wiz was going on at Park Playhouse.) Now, you'd think an artillery barrage would be somewhat distracting. Forget about it. If a disappearing (or, to be precise, non-appearing) headliner couldn't run this day off the rails, a little shell fire wasn't going to make any difference at all ... continue.



Howard Johnson


ALBANY RIVERFRONT JAZZ FESTIVAL
Corning Preserve, Albany, NY
September 10, 2005

by J Hunter

So there I was, ready with my list of complaints about Albany Riverfront's location. Yes, the Corning Preserve is a great place to be when the breeze is blowing and the trees are in leaf, but the amphitheatre leaves a lot to be desired for anything other than Alive At Five. Then came Thursday's announcement that the new federal transportation bill includes $6.8 million for a new amphitheatre with twice the seating capacity. Pork Barrel is a beautiful thing. I would have loved it even more if Mayor Jennings hadn't held up Dee Dee Bridgewater's set while he tried to take all the credit. Yes, it's an election year, but still… continue



Michael Bisio

Room For One More Bass Player?

by Jeff Waggoner

In a most unlikely space, the Sand Lake Arts Center, which has never sponsored a jazz concert, a fabulous – and equally unlikely -- trio came together on a recent Wednesday night. (Earlier in the week, the trio had played the Knitting Factory.)

Seattle-based double bassist Michael Bisio, Montana native Bob Nell on piano, and NYC drummer Jay Rosen -- avant-gardists all – showed up to play a mainstream jazz concert that got even the Beatles’ lovers in the crowd tapping their toes ... continue

Terrell Stafford

TERRELL STAFFORD QUINTET

Bernhard Theatre, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY
Tuesday, July 5, 2005

by J Hunter

There are many reasons to love the Skidmore Jazz Institute's Summer Concert series: The shows are free, the Bernhard Theatre is a wonderfully intimate venue, and the Institute gets some of the best artists playing today, most of whom give at least one Master Class to the students who attend the two-week seminar. But the Terrell Stafford Quintet's show reminded us of another reason to love this series: Sometimes, it gives you another bite at a very tasty apple ... continue


Kurt Rosenwinkel

FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 2)

Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Sunday, June 26, 2005

by J Hunter

Whereas first-day openers The Motet tried too hard and delivered too little, Sunday starters the Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet hit the ground running and never looked back. Although the young guitarist was scheduled to close the Gazebo, leaving this outstanding set early was not an option. This caused me to miss what I've been told was an outstanding performance by the Jean-Michel Pilc Trio ... continue


Lizz Wright

FREIHOFER'S JAZZ FESTIVAL (Day 1)

Saratoga Performing Arts Center
Saturday, June 25, 2005

by J Hunter

“Straight-ahead jazz today,” venerable saxophonist Lou Donaldson informed the crowd. “No fusion, no con-fusion!” If that had been the case, the first day of the Freihofer's Jazz Festival wouldn't have been nearly as interesting ... continue



Gary Smulyan

GARY SMULYAN & PETE MALINVERNI
w/ Brian Patneaude & Jack Fragomeni

North Pointe Cultural Center, Kinderhook, NY
Saturday, June 4, 2005

by J Hunter

Nick Brignola was a fact of life in the Capital Region. Then cancer ended his life three years ago. But his influence lives on, both globally and locally. “It's hard to play the saxophone in this town and not look up to Nick's legacy,” tenorman Brian Patneaude told the capacity crowd at North Pointe Cultural Center ... continue

DAVE LIEBMAN & PHIL MARKOWITZ

North Pointe Cultural Center, Kinderhook, NY
Saturday, May 7, 2005

by J Hunter

Dave Liebman cut his musical teeth during the birth of Fusion, playing reeds & flute for artists ranging from Miles Davis and Elvin Jones to the seminal jazz-rock group Ten Wheel Drive. While Phil Markowitz' resume is somewhat more traditional, the pianist grew up in East Hampton, NY, the cradle of the Abstract Expressionism movement led by Jackson Pollock and Willem deKooning. With these facts in mind, it is no wonder Liebman and Markowitz share a unique musical vision that has deconstruction at its base ... continue


WILLIAMSTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL
April 13 - 17, 2005

An Overview

by R. Meacham

Located just one hour from Albany is the Jewel of Jazz Month, the Williamstown Jazz Festival. Like a flowering annual, it breaks through that rough spring ground and surges forward, growing and blossoming before us. This multi day event takes time to nurture its garden, giving us a wide range of spring flowers to enjoy. There is music, lecture, art, an Intercollegiate Jazz Festival, dance lessons and dancing all spread out over five days for our enjoyment. Best of all, you do not have to pay excessively to enjoy it. Some events are free and others are extremely reasonable. The headliner cost a mere ten dollars. In fact, one of the points this years festival organizers were most proud of was the ability to obtain a grant that kept the ticket prices down. That is not something you see to often. Then again, this is their garden. Like any great host, they want people to enjoy it ... continue


CHARLES LLOYD QUARTET

Williamtown Jazz Festival
Chapin Hall, Williams College
Saturday, April 16, 2005

by J Hunter

Ken Kesey said it: “You’re either on the bus or off the bus.” That pretty much sums up the Charles Lloyd Quartet, who blew (and freed) many minds in Chapin Hall Saturday night. From the snake-charmer opening of “The Sufi’s Tears” – a cut from his latest disc, Jumping The Creek (ECM) – Lloyd and Co. put the audience on unspoken notice: “This is going to be a challenge, for you and for us. We’re up for it. How about you?” Those who took up the challenge were stunned, then mesmerized, then elated, rewarding the quartet’s sublime performance with two standing ovations ... continue.


SCHENECTADY COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE WOWS THEM AT THE WILLIAMSTOWN JAZZ FESTIVAL

Williams College
Saturday, April 15, 2005

by R. Meacham

The centerpiece of the Williamstown Jazz Festival is the Annual Intercollegiate Jazz Festival. Six years ago, the college approached the town, Mass MoCA and others to expand the intercollegiate event into a full-blown multi day festival. At the beginning of the new millennium, the Williamstown Jazz Festival got underway joining the intercollegiate event in its tenth year. It could not have picked a better foundation. This fabulous event went two days and was free to the public. This is not a competition. The students participate to better the4mselves. Bands have the privilege of presenting a half hours worth of material to the two celebrity adjudicators. Then they receive a half hour of helpful pointers. The schools receive a video tape of their performance with the Adjudicators comments. The college is determined to provide the best judges possible. The strength of their choices has seen this part of the event grow steadily ... continue


DON BRADEN & XAVIER DAVIS
The Joe Finn Trio

North Pointe Cultural Center, Kinderhook, NY
Saturday, April 2, 2005

by J Hunter

Even though small configurations are the norm in jazz, one would think playing without any rhythm section at all was akin to a trapeze artist working without a net. The only technology on stage at Northe Pointe Cultural Center was the digital camcorder Don Braden used to document the performance. Other than that, it was no drums, no bass, no amplification, and no fear for the tenor player Braden and keyboardist Xavier Davis as they worked through an outstanding set that mixed standards with original material ... continue

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