(1-r): Deputy Mayor Peter Ryan, Joe Mele, Laura Marks, Patti Quade
The inaugural Dustin Mele Memorial Concert was held at Brown’s Revolution Hall in Troy on Sunday, March 30 as a benefit for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. A plethora of Nippertown musicians – including Dustin’s dad, veteran Troy guitarslinger Joe Mele – pitched in, donating their time and talent to the cause.
Last week, Dustin’s parents presented a check to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Capital Region NY Area Director Laura Marks at Troy’s City Hall with Deputy Mayor Peter Ryan in attendance. The check represents all cash and check donations raised at the concert (with additional money collected online and through credit card donations to be presented at a later date).
And save the date: The second annual Dustin Mele Memorial Concert is slated for Sunday, March 29, 2015…
“Even back in my lounge lizard days when I was wearing the one-piece velvet jump suit, I’d always remember something Joe Mele said to me,” says Vito Ciccarelli, the City of Troy’s event coordinator for the last decade. “I was complaining to him that I was playing KC & the Sunshine Band and disco. We were at a Tuesday night jam session down at the Tele Tavern, and we would actually go from bar to bar on the strip and walk in with our equipment. Everyone knew us, and we’d set up if they had no entertainment going. We’d play and get some free beer or whatever, and we’d just have a good time. I commented to Joe at the end of one of these jams: ‘You guys are lucky. You’re going out, and you’re really playing music you love, and I am doing all this crap.’ And Joe says, ‘How much money did you make last weekend?’ I said, ‘$1200.’ He said, ‘I made a hundred bucks last weekend. Shut up!’ That had to be 1977, ’78. ‘I made a hundred bucks, Shut up!’”
I think it’s hard for all of us in the local music scene to get it through our heads how long some of us have been doing this. I’ve been writing about amazing Capital District music for 45 years. Joe Mele has been performing for just about as long. Mele: “People go, ‘You’re pretty good.’ I go, ‘Yeah, well I’ve been practicing for 45 fucking years, really. Thanks. My clock stopped when it went to 2000. I still have a real hard time saying 2010, 2011, 2014. After ’99, that was the end of it for me. Now I’m in this real world working with regular people which I’ve never been around. Really, I’m in the studio smoking ganja and running bands my whole life. Now I’m hanging around with politicians in an office, but I still act and say the same shit, though. They love it.”
In an oh-so-appropriate send-off to their departed bandleader Albany’s Ambassador of the Blues, Ernie Williams – who passed away in March – the Ernie Williams Band concluded Friday night’s tribute/benefit concert, “Ernie Williams Remembered: A Night of Music and Memories,” at Brown’s Revolution Hall in Troy, with the soul-soaked blues ballad, “So Long.”
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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