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George Muscatello Quartet

George Muscatello

Al Haugen & Friends

Fred Randall

Brian Patneaude Quartet

Mike DelPrete

Steve Lambert Sextet

Joe barna, Mike DelPrete,
Dave Gleason

photos by
Rudy Lu

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(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…):
STEPPING OUT FRONT – I hadn’t seen George Muscatello lead a group since 1995, when his trio opened for Tribal Tech at Charity’s Pub in Clifton Park – another vanished venue. I got a blast from that night when Muscatello and drummer Gene Garone launched the festivities with a riotous free duet straight from the John Mclaughlin playbook. I loved it, though I was concerned the Muddy Cup was going to be littered with exploded heads before too long. Fortunately for Proctors’ janitorial staff, George dialed it down as Mike DelPrete and Steve Lambert joined them, with George steering the quartet into Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance.”
The potential of this outfit intrigued me as they went through a crackling, built-on-the-spot set of standards ranging from Alan Jay Lerner’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” to Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy.” Thanks to their work with Brian Patneaude and Adrian Cohen, Muscatello and delPrete’s respective qualities are well-known. However, Garone’s Blakey-like attack is very different from Danny Whelchel’s accent-centered approach, and Lambert’s trumpet is as laser-focused as Patneaude’s tenor sax is broad and lush. This unit may have been making it up on the fly, but there’s some serious sizzle here, and I hope it gets developed down the road.
KEEPING IT GOING – At last year’s show, a strolling Dixieland combo (with a straw Boater-wearing Lambert doing his best Satchmo) filled the space between sets. This year, AFM Local 85-133 president Mark Anthony added a second stage near the entrance to Robb Alley, allowing the bill to keep on trucking. At first, the audience moved from one set of seats to the other, but by the time Lambert’s bodacious sextet closed out the afternoon, people either carried their seats from stage to stage or simply turned their seat around and watched the action from where they were.
This added to the friendly, relaxed feeling the Schenectady Musical Union works to give this annual event, and the Al Haugen Quintet increased the intimacy with a cool set straight out of Le Hot Club. Tim Coakley and Bill Delaney was the rhythm section as Haugen ran his band through warm chestnuts like Jobim’s “Corcovado” and Miles Davis’ “All Blues.” Coakley ceded the drum kit to 93-year old Fred Randall – this year’s award recipient – for a great closing reading of “All of Me.”
BACK TO BUSINESS – There was no question the Brian Patneaude Quartet would do well here, even if they had adopted the afternoon’s “Instant Set List” trend. The key for me was how material from Riverview would sound in the hands of Patneaude’s regular group. And as much as I love the singular sound of his new disc, tracks like “Drop” and “Riverview” took on more muscular forms here: DelPrete’s bass added a foundation Jesse Chandler’s organ just couldn’t match, and Muscatello’s solos matched Moreno for dexterity and exceeded him in sound, as George worked the whammy bar as only he can.
As for Patneaude, he’d better quit this nonstop-creative-growth thing, because my Thesaurus is running out of adjectives. He cranked up the warmth in the room with a marvelously lyrical version of Bronislaw Kaper’s “Invitation”, and he & the band showed us the full potential of the Joshua Redman-inspired “Double Trio.” Moreno’s inclusion on Riverview may attract listeners unfamiliar with Patneaude, but those listeners have to experience him with the BPQ. Of all his musical outlets, this one is his best.
GOING OUT BIG – Steve Lambert’s set was completely charted out, which was no surprise, given the intricacy of dynamic Lambert originals like the Latin-tinged “Steve’s Tune” and the two pieces influenced by Tom Harrell (“May” and “The Wasp, the Fly, and Honey”). In any case, taking a sextet onstage without an itinerary is sort of like M.C. Escher starting a painting by saying, “I dunno, let’s see what happens.” You should be able to see what I mean this fall, when Lambert releases his first disc as a leader.
Lambert is like Ron Horton in that he should never ever play with a mute: His unfiltered sound is ice-cold, pure and electrifying, like diving in a mountain stream. Teamed on the front line with Keith Pray and Brian Patneaude the harmonies were absolutely mind-blowing. Dave Gleason, Mike DelPrete and Joe Barna anchored the ship and hammered home any points that the front line didn’t nail down; in a show of respect, Lambert subbed out delPrete for Mike Wicks, who helped Steve when he was just starting out in the area. It all ended with a towering take on “Mack the Knife”, featuring a little of last year’s Dixieland vibe and a closing three-way counter-solo that shot the crowd to its feet.
FEELINGS OF LOSS – Jack Fragomeni was a fact of life in this community – not only as an accomplished player, but as a longtime educator with College of Saint Rose and SCCC. It was entirely fitting for Anthony to dedicate this concert to him.
My strongest memory of Fragomeni happened in 2005 at the long-gone North Pointe Cultural Center, where he and Brian Patneaude opened a tribute to Nick Brignola with some outstanding duo jazz. At the end of the night, Jack jammed on Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” with Gary Smulyan, Pete Malinverni, and three high-school students who’d attended an education session Smulyan and Fragomeni had held earlier in the day; one of those students was Tom Finn, Joe’s alto-playing son.
Rest well, Jack. You did good.

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) and Q104 WQBK/Albany. He is a frequent contributor to the web site All About Jazz and to the monthly music magazine State of Mind. He currently resides in Clifton Park.