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Bobby Kendall

Mark Kleinhaut, Joe Barna

Jeff Nania

photos by Albert Brooks

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The Lark Tavern
Albany, NY
August 7, 2012

by Tom Pierce

Thanks to some enthusiastic recommendations last week from fellow APFJ Board members & passionate music lovers, Leslie Hyland & Al Brooks, I’m very glad last night I caught leader-drummer-composer Joe Barna’s latest Sketches of Influence band at the nicely renovated Lark Tavern.

I wasn’t totally surprised I enjoyed it so much as (like most Jazz folk in the area) I’m very familiar with the quality of Joe’s many endeavors – live and on CD. Whether appearing as a vibrant sideman in other very worthwhile bands or leading his own groups, where he’s enticed so many nationally respected artists, to join him and some of the better local players, I’ve come to always expect a strong, spirited performance.

But this engagement, which he’s had at the Lark Tavern for a number of weeks on Tuesdays, is special as it showcases some of the fine younger artists in the Capital District. These include Jeff Nania & Adam Siegel on saxophones, who both had engaging tone, plenty of passion & facile expression of their ideas, as well as Bobby Kendall on bass, solidly anchoring the groove.

The quintet also included the veteran guitarist Mark Kleinhaut ( ) whose attack I found very compelling & compatible – whether comping or soloing - with this much energized, propulsive rhythm section and irrepressible horns. A special treat had stellar Bopitude trumpeter Chris Pasin seamlessly sitting in for several tunes during the second set.

The set lists consisted of an interesting group of buoyant, straight-ahead tunes (Barna swinging originals & ballads, standards and Latin/Caribbean flavored delights) delivered in a crisply invigorating but highly melodic Hard Bop fashion. The audience, which was encouragingly diverse by age, gender & ethnicity, attentively tuned into & consistently responded to this exciting band.

For me, the best indicator of how thoroughly the music pulled me in was how quickly the evening went by & also the fact that I wound up staying through BOTH sets, an unusual occurrence for this senior who’s normally home in bed well before 10 PM. Kudos to Joe Barna & all the musicians; and also to the Lark Tavern’s owners for providing another venue to showcase quality Jazz in an affordable (no cover or minimum) way.

Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.