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Skip Parsons Riverboat Jazz Band

Steve Lambert Sextet

Steve Lambert Sextet

Joe Sorrentino Trio feat. Nat Phipps

Pete Toigo

Joe Sorrentino Trio feat. Nat Phipps

photos by Bill Delaney

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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!

This is the third year Local 14 has been involved in Jazz Appreciation Month, created by the Smithsonian Institution to increase awareness of “America's Classical Music.” A variety of education sessions have been held in area secondary students again this year, in addition to lunchtime concerts in venues where jazz is not a daily staple. The Rev Hall show served as a mid-month status report, a call to continued action, and a much-needed respite from a climate that was decidedly un-Spring-like.

Skip Parsons' Riverboat Jazz band's smoky rendition of “C.C. Rider” was just what the doctor ordered as I came in out of the cold. Parsons' veteran septet (featuring drummer/radio personality Tim Coakley, who acted as Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon) played slow, sweet blues that warmed the slowly-filling space. It didn't stay slow, though, as they served up hot numbers like “Momma's Home, Goodbye” and Hoagie Carmichael's “Riverboat Shuffle” and Parsons doled snippets of jazz history about Buddy Bolden and W.C. Handy. No matter what school of jazz you belonged to, you had to get up at the end of their tumultuous finale and exclaim, “That's rag, baby!”

The Steve Lambert Sextet is known to take their sets to the next level, from bebop to the beyond. Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise that Lambert built his hour-long set around fairly faithful readings of four standards, beginning with Joe Henderson's “Step Lively” and ending with “Mack the Knife.” Then again, these guys could improvise on the Yellow Pages and would still have been outstanding. When you have a front line of Lambert's horn, Keith Pray's alto, and Brian Patneaude's tenor backed by veterans like bassist Mike Wicks, keyboardist Scott Bassinson and drummer Bob Halek, you simply can't lose. A man who was drawn into the Hall by the Lambert Sextet's alluring sound quickly ran off to find a phone so he could call all his friends.

Joe Sorrentino (who will be one of the honorees at the Local's month-ending, all-day celebration at the Polish Community Center) is one drummer who is content to leave the spotlight to his players, and he did that here as he stayed on brushes while Nat Phipps played piano that was both swinging and subtle. Phipps was scheduled to have surgery the next day - Hal Miller and albanyjazz' Tom Pierce will be covering Phipps' classes at SCCC - but Phipps acted like he didn't have a care in the world, doing terrific takes on “How Deep is the Ocean” and Erroll Garner's “Sultry Serenade.” The trio also fronted a great jam session that featured Jazz Factor/Mulligan Stew trumpeter Paul Supple and Skip Parsons' cornet player Richard Downs.

If you've never been to Revolution Hall, find any excuse you can to check it out. What a great place: High ceilings, great acoustics, and accessible sightlines make it a room like no other region, and it was an inspired choice of venue for the halfway point of Jazz Appreciation Month. With a little more promotion, this show could be a big date on the concert calendar. As it stands, it's another notch on the growth of Jazz Appreciation Month in the Capital Region, and all concerned at AMA deserve praise and applause.

J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.