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Brian Patneaude Quintet - 1

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.”

Despite assurances from the emcee that rain was not in the offing, a few drops started falling just as Patneaude joined his bandmates onstage for a spirited rendition of “Jolo”. Keyboardist Dave Payette had just begun his solo when drops turned to downpour and the crowd scattered into the trees. After what seemed like an eternity (Actual time: Maybe 45 seconds), a GPAC staffer got on the PA to invite the crowd to “join us onstage.” At least 30-40 people jumped at the chance as metal folding chairs appeared on either side of the BPQ, which continued its opening number without missing a beat.

If Patneaude was unaware of this unique tradition, he didn't show it. He greeted his new stage companions with a smile, wishing one woman “Happy Birthday” before asking the group, “Everybody comfortable?” As everyone arranged themselves, Patneaude led the band into “Will You Be”, the first of three straight pieces of new material. New stuff was spread throughout the two-set performance; Patneaude informed us that these tunes would be appearing on the next BPQ disc, which he hopes to record before the end of the year.

The rain actually stopped as soon as everyone was settled, but Patneaude made no move to get the rain-soaked people off the stage. “I don't know which direction to look,” Patneaude laughed as he surveyed his up-close-and-personal viewers. He smoothly quelled some showboating young boys by saying, “We've added some dancers to the show.” Then he asked how many of the people onstage were musicians. After a show of hands, Patneaude pointed out at the trees and said, “You know it sounds a lot different in here then it does out there.”

If that was an excuse, it wasn't necessary. The BPQ served up two entertaining sets that showcased both Patneaude's compositional skill and the technical prowess of the group, individually and as a whole. The birthday girl got a Latin-tinged rendition of “Happy Birthday To You” before Patneaude led them into a letter-perfect version of “Unending”. Patneaude prefaced the funked-out “Gil Barney Wins The Race” with a great story about how his father secretly raced stock cars while attending seminary school at St. Bonaventure. The weather refugees applauded enthusiastically after every number; they gave “Majority” - a re-working of Gigi Gryce's “Minority” - an ovation before the band had even finished the number. (The refugees also left the stage without prompting at the end of the first set.)

Payette plays the Fender Rhodes like someone snuck it into his crib. The depth of his solos doesn't just belie his 21 years; it utterly ignores them, as he continues to bring a sparkling color to the BPQ's already-bright musical palate. Patneaude says he's “never heard anyone play guitar like George Muscatello”, and he's right. You can hear a ton of influences in his playing, but they're only touchstones he uses to take off and create his own singular sound. Bassist Mike delPrete continues to provide the solid foundation he's been bringing to the table for the past year, allowing drummer Danny Whelchel the freedom to be the band's fourth soloist.

It's no secret Patneaude is one of my favorite jazz composers. That hasn't changed, particularly in the face of new material like “Simple Truth”, which alternates between the wistfulness that comes from love far away, and the bawdiness that ensues when love comes back home. Patneaude's always had ample power and solid control, but there's a growing maturity to his work that makes his work even tastier. Patneaude's solos are like good hot chocolate with a shot of Jim Beam: It's rich, thick and luscious, and it'll get your attention every time. Combine that with the individual skills of his bandmates, and the stunning chemistry they share, and this group can hang with any national act.

The Brian Patneaude Quintet “represented” at Albany Riverfront last year. I've no doubt they'll represent at Kingston, too, and I'm glad I got the chance to see what they were bringing to that stage… even if my favorite hat hasn't dried out yet.

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.