Both the audience and the bandmembers braved a raging winter snowstorm on Friday night, but they were rewarded with a red-hot, jam-packed performance featuring a pair of Grammy Award-winning saxophonists – baritone saxman Gary Smulyan and tenor titan Ralph Lalama. Local jazz fan extraordinare Paul Villani introduced the band at the start of the evening, and from that point forward, Professor Java’s in Colonie was transformed into a roaring fireplace.
In the first evening of their two-night stand, these two sax legends heated up Professor Java’s with some extraordinary playing, trading solos and playing in unison as they tackled a well-chosen combination of originals and standards – with an occasional ballad just to slow things down a bit. Smulyan and Lalama have been bandmates in the award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra since the early ’80s, and it was clear on Friday night that these two saxmen supreme share not only uncommon skills and imagination, but also respect for each other’s talents.
With their own fiery playing, the homegrown rhythm section of bassist Lou Smaldone and drummer Joe Barna more than kept pace with the featured frontmen.
What a wonderful way to spend a cold, snowy, winter night.
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
See more of Rudy Lu’s photographs of the concert at AlbanyJazz.com
J Hunter’s review at AlbanyJazz.com