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Keith Pray

Tim Reyes

Dave Solazzo

Joe Barna

Lee Russo

photos by Albert Brooks

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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.

Pray and his cohorts played songs from their new release One Last Stop, but also threw in some standards (e.g., “Have You Met Miss Jones”, “Equinox”, and a jazz blues, whose name I should remember but can't at the moment (“When Will the Blues Leave”?, possibly) and even a smokin' take on the Michael Jackson/Clifton Davis hit, “Never Can Say Goodbye” (which brought back some fond, seventies slow jam memories for me and, I'm sure, at least some of the other baby-boomers in the room).

Pray's aggregation is a modern update on the soul-jazz organ combos of the sixties, and his original compositions offer tasteful, catchy and harmonically rich melodies, ranging from the ballad, “When She Smiles”, to the burner, “Meetin' and Greetin'.” As noted above, Pray himself displayed great facility and creativity in his playing, but this is a band of great players! Solazzo and Reyes, each given plenty of solo opportunity displayed both intensity and restraint, virtuosity and lyricism in their playing throughout the evening. Joe Barna, offering a Charles Barkley-like countenance (i.e., powerful and artful) on the drum set, drove the band skillfully with his attentive accompaniment and showcased his chops as well in some fiery soloing.

But, Keith Pray was the star of the evening! His playing cooked, grooved, smoked - suffice it to say, the man can play: jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, ballads, up-tempo jams, you name it. Lee Russo, the other horn man on the set, was no slouch either. His tone, lighter in contrast to Pray's brawnier output, encased some tastefully complex and nuanced blowing. He (along with each member of the Pray Nation) is a musician to watch, and go out to catch, whenever the opportunity is presented.

Finally, a nod to the Muddy Cup, which offered a nice, relaxed atmosphere (and all kinds of good coffee) for the jazz fans, who came out to hear Pray and Company.

Albert Brooks is an area attorney, long time jazz fan and perpetual student of the saxophone.