LIVE: Lalama/Russo Quartet @ the Van Dyck, 6/4/16

June 21st, 2016, 4:00 pm by Greg
Mike Lawrence, Michael Benedict, Lee Russo and Ralph Lalama

Mike Lawrence, Michael Benedict, Lee Russo and Ralph Lalama

Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

The bringing together of local talent with musicians from NYC is far from a foreign tradition here in Greater Nippertown. Michael Benedict, Joe Barna, Keith Pray and others have done it in recent years, bringing some of the first-call musicians from NYC up the Hudson to the Local 518.

This recent evening at the Van Dyck in Schenectady was no different. Tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama – who has gigged several times up here in the hinterlands both in small combos and in a big band led by Michael Benedict – was paired with a local tenor titan in his own right, Lee Russo. This piano-less quartet was backed by the ace rhythm section of Michael Lawrence on bass and Michael Benedict on drums.

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Lalama served as the master of ceremonies; he introduced most of the music and amused the audience with his dry sense of humor. The evening featured a broad mixture of burners, ballads and even a calypso tune thrown in for good measure.

Standards such as “Love Walked In,” “Detour Ahead” and “I’m in the Mood for Love” were performed with with deep sensitivity, showcasing both Lee and Ralph’s ability to crawl inside a ballad and get to the emotional heart of the song.

The lack of a piano made the bass/drums rhythm section even more important than a quartet with keys, and Benedict and Lawrence provided a rock steady heartbeat to the tricky calypso rhythms of “Antigua.” Meanwhile, Lalama stepped out on a semi-autobiographical tune inspired by his early musical career.

The highlight of the evening was a cover of the Billy Strayhorn composition, “Take the Coltrane,” a tune that was part of the only album that John Coltrane and Duke Ellington collaborated on. The Lalama/Russo take featured both saxmen trading solos, playing in unison and with young trombonist Joe Giordano (a high school junior and one of Russo’s students) who joined in the fray, more than making a good account of himself.

Yes, Greater Nippertown continues to foster an active scene for aficionados of small jazz combos. This scene is secure with the presence of local maestros and guests from NYC, as well as the arrival of younger musicians who are keeping the jazz traditions alive.

ALSO SEE
More of Rudy Lu’s photographs of the concert at RudyLuPhotos.com

Lee Russo

Lee Russo

Ralph Lalama

Ralph Lalama

Michael Benedict

Michael Benedict

Mike Lawrence

Mike Lawrence

Lee Russo, Joe Giordano and Ralph Lalama

Lee Russo, Joe Giordano and Ralph Lalama

Mike Lawrence, Michael Benedict, Lee Russo and Ralph Lalama

Mike Lawrence, Michael Benedict, Lee Russo and Ralph Lalama