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North Pointe Cultural Arts Center
Kinderhook, NY
March 11, 2006

by Jeff Waggoner

Attending a jazz concert these days too often seem like listening to note playing Olympians than musicians.

There has been a long-term proclivity toward as many notes per meter as possible, giving some concerts the feel of being in a tin barn during an apocalyptic hail storm.

Of course, there are musicians who put the music up front, rather than trying to dazzle the audience with technique. 

One of those musicians is the great, but unfortunately unheralded, bari saxophonist Claire Daly, who played with her long-time band mate, the pianist and songwriter Joel Forrester, on March 11 at the North Pointe Cultural Center in Kinderhook.

Aside from Forrester’s foot-stomping Thelonious Monk style and Daley’s straight up lyrical playing, what made this concert especially memorable was that every song was an original by Forrester, who has to be one of the best melody writers in jazz today.

It shouldn’t be surprising.  Forrester somehow convinced the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswater to arrange for him to study composition with the great Monk himself.

Forrester was able to keep up a constant witty patter with the audience and his band mate, Daly, who was obviously used to his hijinks, gracefully served as Forrester’s foil.

The pianist, with a straight face, explained that he tried to get a job being Al Sharpton’s (whom Forrester described as being a politician and comedian) “theme song writer.”  The result, he said, was his song “Sharp Turn.”

Like the song, Forrester’s career has had many sharp turns – including being probably one of the few living pianists who is still in demand to accompany silent films. Forrester has composted more than 1,200 songs, including the theme song for National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air,” with Terry Gross.”  He credits says his inspiration is stride, boogie-woogie, bebop, trance and what he calls “salon pieces.”

Daly has been voted – four times now -- winner of the Downbeat Critic's Poll "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition"  It’s a designation that Forrester also deserves – especially in any songwriting category.

Fitting because she is so underrated – Daly says the comparably underrated bari player – Leo Parker – as a major inspiration for her.

Daily and Forrester are committed to melody and telling a story with songs, so their music is highly evocative, sometimes even programmatic sounding.

It was a riveting concert, given the complexities of Forrester’s songs and the rich, warm lyricism of Daly’s playing.

The concert was another home run for the Hudson Valley Friends of Jazz, which sponsors the North Pointe jazz series.

Another “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition,” is Tom Bellino, who is the artistic director of the series.  Bellino unfailingly draws duos of major talents who can hold their own – and more – with artists who are often much more widely recognized.  His selections provide the proof of his depth of knowledge of the jazz world.  The community is fortunate that he is sharing that knowledge through the “Friends of Jazz.”
Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Metroland, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times. He lives in Nassau, is a student of jazz saxophone and guitar and can be frequently found at jazz, blues and folk concerts.