It wasn’t just jazz fans who crowded into the Van Dyck in Schenectady on Saturday night, making for a standing-room-only evening. Memories and love filled the room to capacity, as well, for the annual Tribute to Nick Brignola concert. And the stage was packed, too, as some of Nippertown’s finest jazz musicians gathered together to form an all-star band that offered a marvelous musical homage to the great saxophonist who passed away nearly a decade ago.
Emcee Bill McCann – the long-time host of WCDB-FM’s “Saturday Morning Edition of Jazz” – gave the first of many reminiscences of the warm person and brilliant musician that Nick was. Drummer David Calarco and guitarist Chuck D’Aloia shared their personal memories of what it was like to play with Nick. Calarco noted how Brignola would continually tease and challenge his bandmates, often warning them by saying, “Not too fast!” and then counting off the very next tune at a blistering, break-neck tempo.
Serving as the sizzling front line for the all-star ensemble – dubbed, appropriately enough, the Van Dyck All Stars – saxophonist Brian Patneaude and D’Aloia played “ not too fast” for most of the evening, trading wild and soulful solos. Along with Calarco, the rhythm section of pianist Lee Shaw and bassist Otto Gardner propelled the uptempo bop numbers and slowed things down for the beautiful ballads.
The musicians broke down the quintet format, occasionally leaving the bandstand to showcase other members of the band, as well as the huge repertoire that Nick played. Everybody showcased his or her talents. Shaw took over the spotlight to lead a trio rendition of “Street of Dreams,” which led naturally enough into D’Aloia’s trio take on Brignola’s own “Green Street Groove,” a tribute to the bygone days of Albany’s Green Street neighborhood, which was once home to several now long-defunct jazz spots, including the Gaiety.
With the fine musicianship displayed by the members of the Van Dyck All Stars on Saturday, Nick’s memory was certainly honored in fine fashion. Respect was paid. And his music lives on…
Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “The players…were dubbed the Van Dyck All Stars, but nobody acted like a star. They played like a band, without any ‘me first.’ Instead it was ‘go, and I’ll go with you,’ but with no false politeness. They went for it every time. Great songs times terrific players plus the looseness of old friends equaled fine music-making.”
THE VAN DYCK ALL STARS’ TRIBUTE TO NICK BRIGNOLA SET LIST
Street of Dreams
Green Street Groove
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
In Your Own Sweet Way
The Touch of your Lips
I Should Care