Posts Tagged ‘Albert Brooks’

LIVE: Van Dyck All-Stars’ Saxophone Summit @ the Van Dyck, 4/19/13

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Van Dyck All-Stars’ Saxophone Summit @ the Van Dyck, 4/19/13

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks
A JazzApril story

“It’s great to see a room packed for jazz in Schenectady,” tenorman Brian Patneaude told the folks at the Van Dyck’s full-to-bursting concert space. I have to agree, but I’d like to amend that statement: It was great to see a room packed for LOCAL jazz in Schenectady! After all, most of these guys do get around the area, and three-quarters of the All-Stars’ front line play this same space every month when Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble does its first-Tuesday residency thing. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the respective fan bases the players have generated over the years. The thing is, though, the fan base for one band member included everybody else on the bandstand.

That man would be Leo Russo, who’s been playing sax in Greater Nippertown longer than I’ve lived here, and I’m working on my third decade. Not only is Russo living proof of the deep roots jazz has in these parts, but he’s also gifted us with a sapling that’s growing into a mighty oak himself – multi-instrumentalist Lee Russo, who (like Patneaude and altoist Keith Pray, the fourth member of the All-Stars’ kickass front line) I would be happy to watch play the phone book. Lee played baritone sax as well as tenor on this evening, adding another axe to his already sizeable arsenal; I’m convinced he’s going to be our Joe Lovano, mastering a myriad number of reed instruments most people never heard of. I’d only seen the elder Russo play twice before: Once with a pickup band at an Albany Musicians Union JAM celebration, and once with pianist Yuko Kishimoto at Athens Cultural Center. To see him with this group was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I was on it like a duck on a June bug.

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LIVE: 90 Miles @ College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, 4/18/13

Monday, April 22nd, 2013
90 Miles @ The Massry Center (photo by Albert Brooks)

90 Miles

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks
A JazzApril story

“It’s always a good sign when a jazz band tunes up,” vibes master Stefon Harris playfully told us as Ricardo Rodriguez tried to get his bass to behave. It’s also a good sign because the musicians involved have bought into the concept they’re about to hit you with. And while tenorman David Sanchez was the catalyst that created both 90 Miles and the documentary that chronicled the band’s first iteration’s visit to Cuba, all three “co-leaders” that currently front this immensely powerful septet have complete and total buy-in.

Harold Lopez-Nussa’s torrid opener “E’cha” is Afro-Cuban goodness that comes right down the middle, and the band tore into it like a lion tucks into his evening gazelle. Harris’ vibes faced the full house at Massry, but he played marimba on the opening chorus before pianist Edward Simon dropped the first solo of the night. Simon – a band leader in his own right, whose new Sunnyside disc Live at the Jazz Standard will be required listening – wasn’t on his game when he and Harris helped SFJAZZ Collective salute Stevie Wonder at The Egg last year. On this night, though, Simon’s rising and falling solo was marvelously elaborate while maintaining the percussive element this music needs.

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LIVE: Al Di Meola & Gonzalo Rubalcaba @ The Egg, 4/7/13

Monday, April 15th, 2013
Al Di Meola

Al Di Meola

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks
A JazzApril story

There was only one real revelation to come from Al Di Meola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s duet show at The Egg: Until that night, Di Meola had never known why Greater Nippertown’s most recognizable concert venue was called “The Egg”! It’s not like Di Meola hadn’t played here before, but apparently the iconic guitarist had been asleep when the tour bus for World Sinfonia or Rite of Strings rolled up the North Arterial. Now that mystery had been cleared up, Di Meola and Rubalcaba got down to giving us exactly what we expected – sheer, unadulterated genius.

While this pair has never recorded as a unit, Rubalcaba guested on two Di Meola discs (2002’s Flesh on Flesh and 2011’s Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody), and Di Meola has been a fan of the Cuban keyboard wizard since he first heard Rubalcaba on a fusion date over 25 years ago. Maybe they haven’t logged a ton of playing time together, but you’d never know it by listening to their intricate interplay on the opener “Siberiana.” Rubalcaba worked a vamp as Di Meola’s fingers flew up the fret board at warp speed, finding a figure of their own to work as Rubalcaba seamlessly took the solo spot. If there were transitional points worked into the sheet music both players feverishly studied, those points were not discernable as the duo displayed an adamantine chemistry.

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LIVE: Dirty Dozen Brass Band @ College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, 2/9/13

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Dirty Dozen Brass Band @ College of St. Rose's Massry Center, 2/9/13 (photo by Albert Brooks)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks

When you see a New Orleans institution like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, you expect to get a real sense of the Big Easy – no more so than on Mardi Gras Weekend, and regardless of whether there are cars outside the theater that are buried in snow. “You know we’re not used to this,” leader Gregory Davis laughed as the band settled themselves onstage. Tenorman Kevin Harris stood next to him, wearing a large grey-and-black sweater and a scarf that was definitely not for show, while bari-sax player Roger Lewis sported a black Jerry Garcia Band t-shirt over another black, long-sleeved t-shirt. In short, Dirty Dozen was definitely out of its climatic element.

Nonetheless, with a little help from the audience (who would be called on to participate multiple times over the next 60 minutes), the band snuck into a delicious take on the Meters’ “Fiyo on the Bayou.” While Harris did blow up real good towards the end of the tune, solo licks were actually secondary. The same can be said for Davis’ vocals: As a singer, Davis is a terrific pocket trumpet player, and that didn’t matter one whit. As with most music straight outta NOLA, it’s the groove that’s the thing, and the groove was utterly bodacious as the rest of Dirty Dozen’s front line buoyed Harris’ rising attack.

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LIVE: Joe Lovano’s Us Five @ The Egg, 1/20/13

Friday, January 25th, 2013
Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks

I have a pretty simple job description: Go to something, watch it, and then tell you about it in a way that gives you a good snapshot of what I saw. I do this about 30-40 times a year, so I’d like to think I’m pretty accomplished at it. And yet, there I was in the center aisle of the Swyer Theatre, people streaming past me after Joe Lovano/Us Five had blown the place up real good, and thinking, “What the hell am I going to say? I mean, besides ‘HOLY SHIT! THAT WAS AWESOME!’”

Us Five, Joe Lovano’s most devilish project yet, is unlike any other animal in the zoo. First, it’s got two drummers – not unheard of in the rock world, but if there are two percussionists onstage in jazz, one of them is usually playing some kind of hand drums. Also, no jazz group I can think of uses drums the way Us Five deploys them. Instead of the drummers driving the train and offering an occasional solo or counter, the relationship here is much more reciprocal: One drummer is either soloing or counter-soloing almost all the time; and Lovano and the other players spend a fair amount of time chasing the drums, not the other way around.

Most importantly, Us Five acts as a unit – more than any band on the menu, in jazz or otherwise. Oh, there were plenty of solo spots, including Lovano’s moment in the clear on tenor sax at the front of the opener “Us Five.” But the whole of Us Five is greater than the sum of its parts, regardless of how amazing those parts may be. Lovano may have played in an open area downstage from the rest of the group, but he was acting and reacting just as much as his partners. That’s more necessary than usual, because when it comes to changes in tune, tone or time, this band literally turns on a dime.

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LIVE: The Ben Allison Band / the Lee Shaw Trio @ the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, 11/15/12

Monday, November 19th, 2012
Lee Shaw

Lee Shaw

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Albert Brooks

The Ben Allison Band…
The Lee Shaw Trio…

One of these things is not like the other.

If Massry Center impresario Salvatore Prizio wanted to showcase two extremes of the same genre, this was the bill to do it. The question was, who would break first: The traditionalists who had come to see Nippertown’s living legend of trad-piano jazz, or the younger generation that was drawn to Allison’s latest efforts to push the music forward?

Watching Shaw being escorted across the stage by her long-time bassist Rich Syracuse makes you grit your teeth. Her various health issues have been well documented, so it wasn’t a surprise to see her on a portable oxygen unit as she haltingly stepped over various cables and sat gingerly down on the piano bench. (“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she told us. “It’s a little complicated, as you see.”) Nevertheless, the effect was the same as watching an old friend or a cherished relative going through pain you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

But then we witnessed what I call the Brubeck Effect – named for jazz icon Dave Brubeck, who shows every inch of his 92 years when he moves or speaks. But when you sit Brubeck down at a piano, the years and the pain zip into the nearest Black Hole, and he’s ripping through “Blue Rondo a la Turk” like he’d just written it the day before. For Shaw, her crossover piece was Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker,” the opening track of her disc Live in Graz, and Shaw was on it like white on rice as Syracuse and drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel kicked it off.

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LIVE: Gary Smulyan/Dylan Canterbury Quartet @ Flo’s Lark Tavern, 6/14/12

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
Gary Smulyan and Dylan Canterbury

Gary Smulyan and Dylan Canterbury

Photographs by Albert Brooks. See more of Albert’s photos from this show here.

Saxman Gary Smulyan plays the big horn – the baritone saxophone – and he plays it very well. Well enough, in fact, to be named Baritone Saxophonist of the Year in the 2012 Down Beat Critic’s Poll. Well enough to snag six Grammy Awards.

Trumpeter Dylan Canterbury doesn’t have a mantel full of awards. He’s just 24 years old.

But put the two together with bassist Otto Gardner and drummer Joe Barna, and they make some mighty beautiful music…

Joe Barna, Dylan Canterbury and Otto Gardner

Joe Barna, Dylan Canterbury and Otto Gardner

Gary-Smulyan and Dylan Canterbury

Gary-Smulyan and Dylan Canterbury

LIVE: Sketches of Influence Nonet +3 @ Brown’s Revolution Hall, 4/19/12

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
Joe Barna's Sketches Of Influence (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Joe Barna's Sketches Of Influence (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Additional photographs by Albert Brooks and Rudy Lu

Of the new breed of young lions that dominate the Capital Region’s jazz scene in recent years, drummer-composer Joe Barna is arguably the most charismatic.

Like his accomplished regional peers and fellow bandleaders – Keith Pray, Brian Patneaude and Lee Russo, for example – Barna lives, breaths and embraces jazz and the jazz life whole-heartedly. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs career wise, but so far he’s been a survivor. But most importantly, he is still striving for excellence and wanting something more with the live presentations of his groups and ensembles under the banner of Sketches of Influence.

Barna’s detractors point out his strong willed personality or his eccentric behavior as negatives, comparing him to a bull in a china shop. But what drummer-bandleader isn’t? Look at Art Blakey, Gene Krupa or Billy Cobham’s history, just to name a few, and you’ll see similar traits.

What’s important is that Barna’s fans come out to his concerts en mass knowing full well that what they’ll hear and witness will be unique and true to the jazz idiom. And, though delivered in a hard-bop style by Barna and his bandmates, it will be fresh, new and original.

With the exception of an open mic or a jam session, Barna doesn’t play every gig available every weekend like many others do. He waits for a showcase date and then often invites heavy hitters like nationally recognized trumpeter Joe Magnarelli or saxophonist Ralph LaLama to join his group for a regional outing.

These kind of musicians cost money, but Barna digs deep into his shallow financial pockets to make sure he’s got the best in tow for whatever Sketches of Influence situation is at hand. Never one to compromise his musical and compositional vision, Barna often walks away from the gig owing money rather than making it. As a bandleader he knows he has to pay for the talent, and his bandmates get paid before he pays himself. That is if any money is left over after expenses.

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