This year’s Albany’s All-America City Jazz Festival kicked off in high gear with Nippertown’s own queen of the keys Lee Shaw taking the bandstand. Her long-time bandmates – bassist Rich Syracuse and drummer Jeff Seigel – turned up the heat behind Shaw’s impassioned piano stylings as she masterfully led the trio through a handfull of jazz standards and memorable originals. Wearing a bright red coat and a scarf to fend off the chill in the air, Lee Shaw warmly smiled out to the audience as her fingers melodically caressed the keys.
New York City based uber-bassist Dan Loomis counted off the beat and launched into an aggressive, blistering set. Trumpeter Eli Asher and reed-man Robin Verheyen wove a tapestry of experimental and modern jazz, creating an original and thoroughly unique sound.
Led by trumpeter and founding member Gregory Davis, the wailing front-line horn section of New Orleans’ legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band had everyone at the Riverfront Park dancing in their seats and waving white handkerchiefs, as the seven-piece band wailed through such funky nuggets as Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
The elegant vocalist Lizz Wright took the microphone in her hands and soulfully charmed the audience with her opening rendition of Neil Young’s “Old Man.” With effortless vocal lines, she hitched her mesmerizing voice to David Cooks’ tasteful piano tones and Robin Macatangay’s guitar accompaniment, riding into the afternoon on top of the rhythmic bass and drum beats and serving up an eclectic repertoire that stretched from standards like “Coming Home” to Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You.”
Joe Lovano’s sax lit a frenzied fire of notes with a blowtorch’s force as he paced between monster drummers Matt Wilson and Francisco Mela facing off against each other from opposite ends of the stage. In accompaniment, Cameron Brown’s hands flew up and down the neck of his upright-bass and James Weidman’s fingers frantically danced around the piano’s keys as the twilight faded into darkness.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk