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Keith Pray, Lee Russo

Trumpet section

Dave Geason, Yuko Kishimoto

Bob Halek

The Big Soul Ensemble

Photos by Rudy Lu

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The Van Dyck
Schenectady, NY

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.

Former Capital District resident and composer Yuko Kishimoto introduced new compositions and arrangements during the past year as well as adding melodica (sometimes with wah wah pedal) to the instrumental mix.  Her last guest appearance featured her frantically trying to conduct and cajole the band into expressing the ideas of a brand new composition.

Along with Keith Pray leading the band and playing alto and soprano saxophones, the area’s leading brass and horn players are given a chance to stretch and strut their stuff. Local area musicians Lee Russo, Brian Patneaude,  Ben O’ Shea, Steve Lambert, Dylan Canterbury, and Ken Olsen, as well as other prominent local musicians, regularly occupy the big band’s seats. They are anchored by the swinging piano of Dave Gleason, the rock solid bass of Lou Smaldone and the in the pocket drumming of Bob Halek.

There is a music scene in Schenectady after dark on the first Tuesday of every month.  It is on the 2nd floor of the Van Dyck from 8:00-11:00pm. If you have the slightest interest in jazz, you should check it out sometime.

Rudy Lu is a safety consultant by day , fine arts photographer nights and weekends and an occasional music critic. He has had a passion for jazz since his college days when he was a dj for WRUC (Radio Union College). He is a frequent contributor to as well as His work has been exhibited locally and has been featured by both nationally known and local musicians. He lives in Niskayuna, NY.

This review is part of the Jazz Journalists Association’s Jazz Day 2012 Blogathon.