Catherine Rusell, Mark McLean and Matt Munisteri (photo: Rudy Lu)
Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk
After the rainout of 2012, the people behind the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival weren’t going to roll the dice again when a big green blob of weather was set to head Greater Nippertown’s way come festival day. And since Joshua Bell and the Albany Symphony Orchestra were playing at the Palace Theatre that night, the jazz fest moved to Alive at Five’s rain site – the parking lot of the Corning Preserve Boat Launch under the I-787 overpass. No way could you argue with the practicality of the move, but would people be willing to hang out under a highway for eight hours, even if the music was free?
The answer was a resounding “HELL, YES!” The Riverfront Jazz Fest is an established tradition now, and a little bit of rain (or, in this case, a little rain and a LOT of wind) wasn’t
going to keep people away. While the overall crowd was a little less than if the show had been at Jennings Landing, we saw the same flow-through of festival-goers that the Riverfront fest has seen in the past, and the usual group of hardcore supporters were sitting in their folding chairs when flamenco guitarist Maria Zemantauski took the stage and ran into the day’s only major issue: Acoustics. There’s no way to minimize the massive echo you get in that kind of space with normal sounds. Put those sounds through two stacks of amplifiers? Fuhgeddaboudit!
Each year, hundreds of jazz groups scrabble round the world trying to get the first bit of attention that could lead to wider levels of discovery. I know, because all their CDs are scattered around my home office. What’s both sad and annoying is that only a few artists are brave enough to take the extra creative step that will separate them from the rest of the pack. That step could be as big as re-envisioning Ornette Coleman as a soul-jazz artist, or as little as trying to cover “On Green Dolphin Street” in some way not thought of by the last 50 bands who covered “On Green Dolphin Street.” In either case, a little thought can go a long way.
Happily, the Greater Nippertown jazz scene has more than a few players who have no problem thinking outside of the box, and the Arch Stanton Quartet is the latest example of that trend. While there’s plenty of hard bop and bebop in their ever-expanding catalog, the ASQ’s overall sound has a carbon-fiber core that lets them maintain the agility and flexibility of the 21st-century groups that have become darlings of the jam-band circuit. Using shorter words, they’re as nasty as they want to be without sacrificing the intelligence that makes their original compositions such a pleasure to listen to. And if we’re going to talk about separating yourself from the pack, how many groups are named after a minor (but important) character in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – the best Spaghetti Western ever made?
Area jazz fans were well aware of the vitality and creativity Terry Gordon could pump out long before he became part of the Stanton Quartet. But those same fans might not have been aware of Roger Noyes, whose fuzzed-up guitar shares space on the ASQ front line with Gordon’s arsenal of horns. That guitar brings a whip-snap sound to all the group’s tunes, even as it provides a real contrast to Gordon’s shining tone. As tough and ragged as the band can be, Gordon and Noyes have no problem taking it to the other extreme when the moment calls for it – which it does on “Estate,” the tender coda to the Stanton Quartet’s 2012 debut Along for the Ride. All these ingredients influenced Metroland readers to name the ASQ the Best Local Jazz Group for 2013.
As the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ founder Kim Wilson ages, he changes his perspective on where he takes chances and where he plays it safe. On one hand, he gave up drinking 25 years ago and is on a healthy diet that’s caused him to lose 35 pounds in the last several months. On the other hand, he says he will undoubtedly call out some songs at Thursday’s Alive at Five concert (June 6) that his band has never played before.
“It’s not like you’re pushed down the expert slope, you’re just starting and you’re gonna kill yourself,” he says, paying respects to himself and his band for their decades of experience. “It’s all about being
comfortable in your own skin, (but) it’s also all about just making it exciting.”
For Kim, it basically boils down to a realization at age 62 that life is precious, and that the value of what he’s learned in 39 years as the founding bandleader of the T-Birds is that it’s worth taking extra care of yourself to be able to experience the thrill of creativity hammered out in a job – he refuses to call it a career – that is more fun than living life as if it were a bungee jump, as so many artists do. “In ’88 I stopped drinking. That really helped me get on this thing where I really started learning stuff,” he says.
NAME: Tom Healey
BAND AFFILIATION: The Tom Healey Band
INSTRUMENT: guitar, harmonica
1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … After a long addiction to 45s, my first album was “Time Peace” by the Rascals.
2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … The Who in Saratoga in 1970. It was $2.50 for the lawn.
3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … My mother purchased a Whirlpool washer during the ’60s when the whole folk music scene was in full bloom, and they were giving acoustic guitars away with the purchase of the washing machine.
4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … An Irish song called , “Rising of the Moon ” when I was 14 years old in a bar called the Schuyler Pub in Watervliet. That was some gin mill, and I still miss it today.
5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Purple Heart. I was in seventh or eighth grade. I sang and played percussion on an electric shaver case.
It was Irish Music Night at the Alive at Five concert series in the Corning Preserve’s Riverfront Park, and despite the sweltering summer heat, a couple of dancers leapt to the dance floor to cut a jig or two.
It began with the Ruffians, straight outta NYC. They were a rough ‘n’ tumble bunch led by guitarist-vocalist Sean Griffin and his bassist-brother Dan Griffin. Fueled by uileann pipes and fiddle, they were a perfect warm-up act – rough around the edges and without much need for subtlety, but full of spirit and enough attitude to keep things chugging along at a brisk, slightly bruised, never-slow-down Celtic-rock pace.
Whatever you call it, it’s a great day for Nippertown jazz fans – a full day of jazz performances at Albany’s Riverfront Park in the Corning Preserve beginning at 12:30pm on Saturday, September 12.
Here’s the line-up:
12:30pm: The Lee Shaw Trio featuring Rich Syracuse (bass) and Jeff Siegel (drums)
1:45pm: The Dan Loomis Quartet
3:15pm: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
4:45pm: Lizz Wright
6:15pm: The Joe Lovano Us Five featuring James Weidman (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), Matt Wilson (drums) and Francisco Mela (drums)
In case of rain, the festival will move indoors to the Palace Theatre.
And immediately following the festival, the Lee Shaw Trio will host a jam session at 74 State in Albany from 8:30-11:30pm. Don’t be surprised if several of the festival performers show up to sit in…
The 14th annual Albany Latin Festival kicked off with the Latin jazz sounds of master conguero Chembo Corniel and Grupo Chaworo. Corniel – who also helped launch Jazzlatino’s Ahora, Latin/Jazz concert series at Schenectady’s Unitarian Society Whisperdome two years ago – wove his percussive beats in tandem with Vince Cherico’s traps drumming and Andy Eulau’s basslines, building a solid foundation for the soaring solos of keyboardist Elio Villafranca and fiery saxophonist Justin Flynn.
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