By J Hunter
Okay, class, let’s review…
March in Greater Nippertown was a monster build-up to the second-greatest thing the Smithsonian Institution ever gave the world (The Air & Space Museum wins the Gold Medal, hands down): Terrific new releases from Brian Patneaude and Keith Pray, plus knockout shows by SFJAZZ Collective, Ravi Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Allan Holdsworth, the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet, the Joe Krown Trio and Ahmad Jamal among many others.
And Jazz Appreciation Month itself has already been pretty tasty, thanks to a powerful solo show by Chick Corea (review forthcoming) and an outstanding drop party for Michael Benedict & Bopitude’s new disc “Five and One.”
But JAM really shifts into high gear in Nippertown this weekend, both on a global and a local level. And since today – Friday, April 13 – is officially National Jazz Day (Hey, the U.S. Council of Mayors says so…), here’s some very good ideas for how to spend this weekend:
TONIGHT (FRIDAY, APRIL 13), 8pm
THE BRUBECK BROTHERS QUARTET
Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center, Saratoga Springs
Chris Brubeck returns to Zankel with the band that helped heat up Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival’s only indoor show, when heavy rain from Tropical Storm Hannah drove the show inside the Palace Theatre in 2008. As far as musicianship goes, the BBQ (featuring Chris’ drummer/brother Dan Brubeck) doesn’t fall far from the musical oak tree that is jazz icon Dave Brubeck. That said, there’s a joyful buzz that runs through the Brothers’ music that comes closer to Pat Metheny and John Abercrombie than anything Brubeck the Elder has done recently. It’s worth the drive to one of the best-sounding venues in Nippertown.
SATURDAY (APRIL 14), 9pm
THE MARCO BENEVENTO TRIO
Red Square, Albany
This is not your grandfather’s jazz, or your father’s jazz. (Shit, it may not even be your brother’s jazz, depending how wedded he is to Old School pikers like Wynton Marsalis!) Like their Royal Potato Family labelmates Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Benevento’s music has all the trappings of jazz wrapped around a storytelling aesthetic that’s on a par with any post-Y2K rock band you can name. And the POWER! This is a piano trio, and yet last October they had the nuts-to-butts crowd at Red Square yelling and dancing and stomping and howling like Wilco had parachuted in for a secret club date. My back’s still smarting from that date, but if you’re up for the challenge (or you’ve got a good chiropractor on speed-dial), then GO GO GO! With Tauk.
SUNDAY (APRIL 15), 3-7pm
A CELEBRATION OF THE SAXOPHONE IN JAZZ
Proctors’ Robb Alley, Schenectady
The Schenectady Musical Union has really taken JAM by the horns, mounting a killer annual multi-act concert that brings out every generation of Nippertown jazzer (both players and fans), and this year’s theme looks like this show may be the best one yet! The keystone set is a tribute to the late great tenorman Hank Mobley, featuring Lee Russo (as Hank), Dylan Canterbury, Joe Barna, Lou Smaldone and Rob Lindquist. If that doesn’t have your mouth watering, try these concepts on for size: Brian Patneaude (with help from Lindquist and Bopitude bassist Mike Lawrence) doing a tribute to his early muse Michael Brecker; Keith Pray debuting his new project Songs From Home (It’s got violin and cello!); and stalwart bassman Mike Wicks ramrods the Adirondack Sax Quartet Plus Two. And top it off with special guest Leo Russo leading a four-way sax duel with Patneaude, Pray and Russo? Oh yeah. Please think global but listen local, and this’ll be one of your best chances this month! And it’s FREE, too.
SUNDAY (APRIL 15), 7:30pm
THE JAMES CARTER ORGAN TRIO
The Egg, Albany
Okay, maybe Tax Day is “officially” on Monday, but April 15th is traditionally when EVERYBODY sings the blues! (Well, maybe not Mitt Romney or Warren Buffett, but you get the idea.) So if you’re going to be singing them anyway, you may as well sing along with this world-class trio led by one of the best (and most versatile) sax players in jazz. James Carter plays it all and does it all — from beautiful orchestra-laced tributes to Billie Holiday, to wild work-ups of music by gypsy-jazz legend Django Reinhart. At the end of the day, though, Carter’s at his best when he just puts the pedal to the metal and PLAYS, and the Organ Trio is where he does that the best.
WHEW! So that’s the weekend! But the month’s not done, not by a long shot:
The Empire Jazz Orchestra plays the music of Grammy-winning composer/arranger Claire Fischer at Schenectady County Community College at 8pm on Tuesday, April 17. (Fischer has done charts for everyone from Cal Tjader and Poncho Sanchez to Paul McCartney and Prince!)
Joe Barna is channeling his Inner Mad Scientist again! He’s expanded his band Sketches of Influence to a nonet, and his new creation teams with funky quartet the Chronicles (featuring occasional Nippertown contributor Jeff Nania) at Brown’s Revolution Hall in Troy at 8pm on Thursday, April 19. Not only that, but the show is a benefit concert for the Sketches of Influence Scholarship Award in the names of two late, great Nippertown jazz guitarists, Jack Fragomeni and Sam Farkas.
If you don’t get enough saxophone on Sunday (or if you want more – and who doesn’t?), Keith Pray hooks up with wildman tenor player Jerry Weldon’s blazing organ trio at Flo’s Lark Tavern in Albany at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 26… when I’ll be on an island about 1,000 miles away. ARRRRGH!
And Jazz Appreciation Month ends on a spicy note as percussionist Steve Kroon and his Ensemble appears at the latest salon/concert in the acclaimed “Ahora, Latin Jazz” series at Union College in Schenectady, at 8pm on Friday, April 27.
Once again, EVERY month should be Jazz Appreciation Month – and it is here at Nippertown.com – but if we can only have one “official” one, this one’s pretty damn good!
This has been part of the Jazz Journalists’ Association 2012 Jazz Day Blogathon.