Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks
Late Saturday afternoon, I was going through my archives – a fancy name for a box under my desk – when I found the notebook I used for the Joe Barna/Sketches of Influence drop party at Massry Center last year. The Brian Patneaude Quartet opened that show with what was billed as “all-new material,” and as it turns out, all the music from that set would appear at Patneaude’s own drop party at Massry. So how much difference does a year make?
Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. All that music, and more, is now on “All Around Us,” Patneaude’s fifth disc as a leader and one of the first discs in the Capital Region to be funded by Kickstarter. It’s also the first recorded sighting of the Patneaude Quartet since 2007’s “As We Know It,” and returning for the new release is longtime bassist Mike DelPrete, which is great for two reasons: First, DelPrete’s one of the most talented bassists in the area; and second, having DelPrete in the group meant everyone onstage would be wearing shoes.
Compared to the Sketches drop party, this evening was pretty casual, as you could tell from Massry major domo/emcee Sal Prizio’s Bread & Jam-era wardrobe. But that went along with the semi-casual, earth tone-centric attire Brian Patneaude and his partners sported as they slid into “Lake Timeless,” the opening track on “All Around Us” – and when I say “slid”, I mean that in the sense of sliding into a nice hot bath after a long, hard day at work. Longtime Patneaude fans will easily pick up familiar flavors from “Timeless,” and from other new tracks. But just because things feel the same, that doesn’t mean they are the same.
Although David Caldwell-Mason’s been commuting from Brooklyn to play with Patneaude for some time now, the substitution of Caldwell-Mason’s piano for George Muscatello’s guitar brings a softer tone to the music… well, a softer initial tone, anyway. Then Caldwell-Mason sets sail on a solo, and you realize that “softer” doesn’t mean “boring.” The construction on Caldwell-Mason’s solos is unquestionably traditional, but he has an intensity and approach that is decidedly this century: The notes roll in and fill the room, and not all of them are expected. His rideout solo on “Too Vast for Malice” was Carmelo Anthony-strong, and his work on Wayne Shorter’s “Juju” reminded you that Shorter completed his pictures with kickass piano players like Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul and Danilo Perez. Caldwell-Mason also brings the Fender Rhodes sound back to Patneaude’s music, and which gave Patneaude’s “Blucocele” and Bronislaw Kaper’s “Invitation” a nice fizzy quality. (As on the disc, Patneaude dedicated “Invitation” to the late Jack Fragomeni, who Patneaude met during his undergrad days at CSR.)
When you actually wait for a bass solo, you know the player’s going to have something to say, and DelPrete was about as verbose as he’s ever been. That fat tone that first appeared on Patneaude’s second disc “Distance” was back in spades, laying a foundation you could land aircraft on, and DelPrete’s solos on “Malice” and the incendiary set-closer “Double Trio” had the crowd howling for more.
Danny Whelchel’s been the Steady-Eddie of the Patneaude Quartet from the start, contributing drum lines that helped make the music different from anything else on offer. As usual, Whelchel brought his “A” game to Massry, trading brilliantly with Patneaude at the close of “Juju” and prefacing “Orb” with a session in the clear that proved it doesn’t take a lot to inspire brilliance.
And then there was Patneaude, who is already a fact of life, and that fact was undeniable at Massry. The big clue was the little kick Patneaude launched at the end of a run on “Malice.” That’s a Joe Lovano move – or, at least, the beginning of one (With enough inspiration from a solo, Lovano will fly across the stage like a ballet-dancing rhino) – and it shows Patneaude’s willingness to let himself go.
Not content to play the solos on the recording, Patneaude dared to expand and explore, adding blistering heat when necessary and soothing cool when it wasn’t. “Double Trio” was inspired by Joshua Redman’s band of the same configuration, and Patneaude easily adopted Redman’s rapid-fire attack while bringing a fullness to the solos that sometimes eludes Redman. Patneaude may have started the joyful “Aimless Antithesis” with a beautiful in-the-clear soliloquy that broke melody into sparkling fragments, but he channeled Junior Walker at the close as he seriously got his honk on!
Patneaude preceded the encore “Blucocele” by thanking his students, and saying how good it was to see “young faces” in the crowd – never mind that it wasn’t too long ago that Patneaude himself was a “young face” all his own. He’s certainly not ancient, even though he’s now a homeowner and will marry the inspiration for “Antithesis” later this summer. But more than a few people in the audience have watched Patneaude “grow up,” and as someone who’s only observed the process for six years, the distance from there to here is pretty appreciable. A musician friend of mine once told me that all he wanted to do was “watch Brian Patneaude levitate.” Patneaude was way off the ground last Saturday night, and it was a glorious sight to see.