We here at Nippertown.com are thrilled that Andrzej Pilarczyk has become a very valued member of our team. He’s a superb fine-arts photographer who has specialized in shooting musicians and music events for more than two decades. His distinctive photos have been exhibited in several regional galleries; can be found in a number of private collections; and have appeared in numerous national and regional publications. In addition to being Nippertown.com’s head photographer, Andrzej’s photos are also featured regularly at Albanyjazz.com. Here’s his look back at the 2009 live music scene:
MY 10 FAVORITE CONCERTS OF 2009
1. moe. @ the Washington Avenue Armory, Albany on October 31. From the ghoulishly decorated stage to the band in skeleton costumes, it was the concert that captured the spirit of Halloween.
2. The Danny Kalb Trio @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs on December 4. There is something magical, warm and spiritually soothing about hearing a Danny Kalb performance. A few weeks ago, I gave my best friend Mike Kraft an early Christmas present of Kalb’s newest CD. Mike has listened to it everyday since and now counts it among his favorite albums. That’s high praise from a guy who has over 8 thousand recordings.
3. The Tierney Sutton Band @ A Place for Jazz at the Unitarian Society Whisperdome, Schenectady on October 9. She is without a doubt one of the best interpreters of the American Songbook I have ever heard. And that night Sutton blew away everyone in the house with her mesmerizing voice.
4. Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble @ Tess’ Lark Tavern, Albany on the first Tuesdays every month. This isn’t your grandfather’s – or even your dad’s – big band jazz. BSE are original, contemporary, vital, incredibly talented and jumping! They have their debut recording – a live one from the Lark Tavern – coming out in a week or two.
5. Kat Edmonson & John Ellis @ Tangelwood, Lenox, Mass. on September 6. Both Greg Haymes and I were blown away by this diminutive (and awfully cute) Texas singer’s voice and originality. John Ellis is an upcoming monster saxophonist and band leader who also performed this year at SPAC’s gazebo during Friehofer’s Jazz Festival.
6. Charlie Musselwhite @ the Chenango Blues Fest, Norwich on August 22. I have seen Musselwhite perform a dozen or so times in the last 25 years, and he remains a consistently great blues performer.
7. Railbird @ the Albany Tulip Fest in Washington Park, Albany on May 9. I have seen singer Sarah Pedinotti’s star ascend the local, then regional and now the national scene. A few years ago, I stood next to Susi Kerr of the Tang Teaching Museum (who puts together their Upbeat On The Roof series) watching Sarah perform. Susi and I racked our brains as to who Sarah might ‘sound like’ or who could she be ‘compared to.’ We both came to the same conclusion: she’s truly an original that sounds like no one but herself.
8. Third Eye Blind @ Albany Tulip Fest in Washington Park, Albany on May 9. I remember their hits from a few years back. After seeing them perform, I went out and bought their newest album ‘Ursa Major.’ I love it so much that it’s still in my CD changer so many months later.”
9. Ronnie Earl @ The Linda, Albany on August 8. This was a rare and wonderful opportunity to see Ronnie Earl play. Though classified as a ‘blues guitarist,’ he brilliantly transcends that label and is – in my opinion – a guitarist’s guitarist, like Chet Atkins was. Unfortunately, Earl hasn’t been well during the last decade, so he performs very infrequently of late.
10. Giacamo Gates @ the Lake George Jazz Weekend in Shepard Park, Lake George on September 9. Gates is perhaps the greatest jazz singer alive, carrying on the tradition of Eddie Jefferson. He is a born improviser whose every sung word is a song unto itself.
Eilen Jewel & Jerry Miller @ Shepard Park, Lake George on July 22. Eilen’s folk-country-roots mix of songs is taken to another dimension by the brilliant picking of her guitarist and former Nashville cat Jerry Miller.
Chuck D’Aloia @ One Caroline Bistro, Saratoga Springs on July 31. One July night on my way to shoot a performance at Caffe Lena, I had to park a great distance away due to the influx of people in town for the track. I had my camera bag over my shoulder as I hurried across Broadway and down to Caroline. I stopped and turned around when I heard a small band playing inside One Caroline. The guitarist’s sound had caught my attention. Standing outside the bistro’s window, I watched Chuck weave a beautifully melodic and tasteful solo. I could have stayed out there all night. Boy, I can’t even remember who played Lena’s that night.
Megan Weston @ the Hyde Museum, Glens Falls on February 7. A few years ago, I was asked to photograph the dress rehearsal of a commissioned play ‘Chopin and the Nightingale’ to be performed at the Sembrich Opera Museum in Bolton Landing. Megan Weston and the other opera people were being directed, but asked not to sing, as to ‘save their voices’ for the performance. At the end of the rehearsal, the director nodded to the pianist to play and for Megan to sing a song for the sound engineer’s benefit. I was floored at how incredible her voice was. Now, any chance I get to see her perform is a chance to have a moment of heaven on earth.
Rick Rourke @ TJ’s Flightline Pub, Scotia on January 20. Rick Rourke is one of my favorite musicians in the world. Not only does he have an incredible blues voice, super guitar chops and a monster R & B saxophone sound, but Rick is one of the most passionate-about-music musicians you’ll ever meet. He and his band Lost Wages had just played an Obama inauguration party. It was past 10 p.m. The band was packing away their gear, and Rick looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to a blues jam. You want to go? Grab your camera.’ Playing to a packed house, the jam went way past midnight. Rick’s saxophone transformed the room.