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photos by Michael Farrell

WAMC Performing Arts Studio's
Linda Norris Auditorium
Albany, NY
April 20, 2007

by J Hunter

The Brian Patneaude Quartet could have played it safe at their CD release party and simply regurgitated their latest effort, As We Know It (WEPA Records): The music is that good, and the overall piece is a logical extension of the BPQ's creative growth curve, so simply repeating the studio performances would have been enough for some people. It wasn't good enough for Patneaude, though.

Splitting the new material between two hour-long sets, Patneaude and his partners took the music out for a wild ride, showcasing all the sonic and improvisatory possibilities for the nearly-full house at Linda Norris Auditorium and for whoever hears the show on WAMC; like many shows at The Linda, this performance was recorded for later broadcast. You really got the sense Patneaude was swinging for the fences as he took us into the high end of his tenor's range on “Exit” and thrashed out a howling solo on “Gil Barney (Wins the Race)” that was equal parts Maceo Parker and Albert Ayler.

The original material became a launch platform for the entire band to do some space exploration, and everybody was on board and dialed in. We got our first clue things were going to be different when keyboardist Dave Payette switched from Fender Rhodes to acoustic piano for his solo on the opener “Life As We Know It.” Payette had played nothing but Fender on the new disc, but by taking the acoustic path for his solos, he brought a lyrical dynamic that flirted with Herbie Hancock's more exploratory work. Whether he played Fender or acoustic or Nord keyboard, Payette was living outside the box, and he kept Patneaude smiling all night long.

Payette's acoustic offerings also put some differentiation between his work and the efforts of guitarist George Muscatello. Aside from being too far back in the mix, there was a processed aspect to Muscatello's solos that became increasingly annoying. On the other hand, his ensemble work was exemplary: His opening riff on “Will You Be” added urgency to the tune's unspoken question; his screaming rhythm guitar on “Gil Barney” propelled the tune deep into James Brown/P-Funk territory; and the power chord he hit to punctuate Patneaude's solo on “Exit” made the tune jump that much higher.

Mike DelPrete has really made the bass chair his own since joining the Patneaude Quartet in 2005. His solo on “Will You Be” was so smooth, you could have sworn he was bowing (He did bow on occasion - just not here!), and he was flat-out swinging on the night-closer “Majority.” Danny Whelchel's drums were constantly percolating on the new disc, but in concert is where Whelchel really comes to a boil. Even on a romantic ballad like “Simple Truth”, Whelchel brings a sense of energy and mission that sharpens the material's edge to a razor point.

For a man in a spotlight, Patneaude was pretty relaxed. He led the band in a “St. Thomas”-style rendition of “Happy Birthday” for BPQ photographer Michael Farrell, and prefaced “Simple Truth” by saying it was written for “the love of my life, who I would never embarrass by mentioning her by name…” and then (of course) naming her. On the serious side, Patneaude paid heartfelt tribute to the late Michael Brecker with an impassioned take on Don Grolnick's “The Cost of Living.”

Before “Majority”, Patneaude took time to recognize his partners, some of whom he's played with for almost ten years. “The magic that is created is all them,” he insisted. Maybe not all, but the collaboration that is the Brian Patneaude Quartet (with or without the “+1”) is as wonderful and rewarding as any creative venture in the Capital Region. If you ever do hear that broadcast, do what Classic Rock stations have been telling us for years: Lock it in, and rip the knob off!

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.