Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu
More of Rudy Lu’s photographs at Albany Jazz
(Monkfish Music Group
Okay, let’s say you’ve never heard the Chronicles play. You’ve never been to one of their club shows, and you missed their opening set at this year’s Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. Their debut release The Chronicles is an outstanding taste platter of what this exciting sextet is all about, which is serving up the richest musical gumbo in Greater Nippertown. The band’s base is jazz, but from there it goes in so many different directions – the souped-up funk of saxman Jeff Nania’s “Purple Diesel”; the in-your face blues of trombonist/leader Bryan Brundige’s “Triumph”; and the so-cool soul of Jason Panucci’s “Suburban Grind” and Phillipe Chow & Kendra Jones’ “Rain Drops.” (Jones adds bright vocals and evocative piano to the date, as well.)
It’s all linked by skin-tight arrangements, sterling production values, and a dedication to be unlike anything else on the scene. You even see that in the dynamic layout of the CD booklet. The overall look evokes ’60s and ’70s Blue Note albums; a more recent example would be the last two releases by the monster all-star band the Cookers. But the band photos on The Chronicles tell a different story, putting out a vibe that comes closer to what we see from hip-hop groups or jam bands. There’s also an undeniable vibrancy that comes from the smiles on both the inside and outside of the booklet. The message is, “This is gonna be fun!” And you know what? It is!
But here’s the thing: A taste platter only gets your mouth excited about what you might experience if you ordered the full meal. Therefore it follows that once you’ve had your taste of The Chronicles, you’re going to want to see the band in their prime element – on stage, playing live. While they did themselves proud during their too-short Albany Riverfront set, that relatively small space was actually too big for the band. To really make the connection with the Chronicles, what’s required is a small club with a big dance floor and a nice long bar at the back. Happily, the Bayou Café has all these things, and the combination of band and venue worked like a charm.
It ain’t nuthin’ but a party at the Bayou on a Friday night, and since this was a celebration as well as a commercial event, it required a party band to get it all started. Nyack’s own Mr. Breakdown filled the bill there, mixing their own originals with rocked-out takes on music by a bevy of ’70s soul bands. The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” gave way to a hopping medley of tunes by Tower of Power. Over by the merch table (where The Chronicles was being sold on disc and USB stick), Brundige happily sang along as Mr. Breakdown nailed the chorus to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star.” It makes sense Brundige would dig EWF, since they (and the other bands Mr. Breakdown championed) all had the kind of laser-focused horn charts the Chronicles dish out on every chorus.