The Isley Brothers
Review by Steve Nover
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Rudy Lu
Our planet has circled the sun once again, and one of my fave weekends has come and gone, the 39th annual Saratoga Jazz Festival (now sponsored by Freihofer’s) coinciding with the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s 50th anniversary. Traditionally, as with European jazz fests, other genres of music were also included, and I applaud the diversity.
Shemekiah Copeland has earned her title as Queen of the Blues, and not just because of the passing of Etta James and Koko Taylor. Though only 37 years old, she was signed as a teenager, debuting on Alligator Records with Turn Up the Heat in ’98. Her stage presence was both commanding & charming, and her talent was partially inherited, as her dad was Texas bluesman/guitarist Johnny Copeland. Her between-song patter was pretty funny, too, explaining, “I just sang about Jesus, now I’m gonna sing about the devil. I’m a full service blues singer,” before singing her dad’s “Devil’s Hand.” Copeland had a talented band with both of her guitarists supplying scorching solos throughout her main stage set. Look for her return to Greater Nippertown on Friday, September 2 for a show at Albany’s The Egg opening for Robert Cray.
Joey Alexander was also a big highlight of the day celebrating his 13th birthday with many fans who had seen his “60 Minutes” profile but hadn’t yet seen him perform. I was lucky to see him last summer at the Schenectady Music Haven, and, yes, he lives up to all the hype. On stage the Indonesian-born pianist seemed totally at ease with his much older rhythm section, as you might expect from a musician Wynton Marsalis hailed as a genius at age 12. He performed Coltrane’s “Resolution” and “Giant Steps,” as well as Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.” He also served up a pair of original compositions – “Sunday Waltz” and “City of Lights,” and the arrangements on his 2015 Grammy-nominated debut album My Favorite Things were all by him. Watching a master so young is a bit scary and makes me believe even more in reincarnation. After his set, a birthday cake was rolled out onstage, while free boxes of Freihofer’s cookies were handed out to the crowd.