The Skidmore Jazz Institute is in its second decade of presenting world-class jazz concerts under the banner of the Skidmore Jazz Concert Series. Free and open to the public, the two-week series is a mix of three visiting jazz artists and two faculty sextet performances. This is the first year the Skidmore Jazz Concert Series has taken place in the magnificent – both visually and acoustically – Arthur Zankel Music Center.
Don’t think that the Skidmore Faculty Sextet presentations are a group of jazz music educators who haven’t seen the inside of a tour bus, jazz club, recording session or concert hall. You’d be dead wrong. The Skidmore group is made up of bandleaders and music makers with impeccable jazz pedigrees and considerable recording resumes.
Fist and foremost in the front line, there is trombonist Curtis Fuller, a true living jazz legend who has played and recorded with the likes of Cannonball Adderley, Bud Powell, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Then you’ve got tenor saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, a saxophonist’s saxophonist who comes out swinging from the big bands and ensembles of Woody Herman, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Elvin Jones. Wrapping up the front line is trumpet monster Bobby Shew, a veteran of bands led by Art Pepper, Benny Goodman and Horace Silver.
The rhythm section – all giants in the jazz field – features pianist Bill Cunliffe (Ray Brown, Joe Henderson, Freddy Hubbard), Grammy-Award winning bassist Todd Coolman (Gerry Mulligan, James Moody, Hank Jones) and drummer Dennis Mackrel (Slide Hampton, Carla Bley, Village Vanguard Orchestra).
Between them these six musicians have played with just about everyone in the historical jazz pantheon, and collectively they present the genre’s various musical styles with the authenticity and passion that only someone who was ‘there’ can.
On Thursday, the Zankel swung hard, and an audience of more than 500 fans were digging the sounds. Solos chased each other with passion and lyrical depth, as ballads, blues and hard-bop tunes flowed effortlessly among this mutual admiration society of greats.
At 8pm on Thursday, July 8, you have another chance to see the Skidmore Jazz Faculty Sextet perform at the Zankel Music Center on the Skidmore College campus in Saratoga Springs. Admission is free.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk