Interview and story by J Hunter
Photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
I walked into Sal Prizio’s initial Capital Region venture – the Bread & Jam Café in Cohoes – in 2009, when Michael Benedict was throwing a drop party for his second Jazz Vibes disc, The Next Phase. He was being backed by what would become (for too short a time) the Joe Barna-Lee Russo Group, with Dave Gleason covering keyboards and Julia Donnarumma contributing vocals on two songs; a young sax player named Jeff Nania joined the band for the closing number. That was the first time I met Benedict, who I would come to know and respect as a player and educator, and the first time Gleason’s salsa-spicy piano attack would make me smile like a fool.
The afternoon was great, and so was the music, but the thing that stuck with me for days afterward was Bread & Jam itself, with its high ceilings, mismatched furniture, and decidedly good beverage options. I thought to myself, “If I lived in Cohoes, you’d find me here every afternoon!” Bread & Jam became a terrific alternate venue for jazz in very short order, hosting concerts by Ralph Lalama and Jerry Weldon and acting as a recording studio for Barna’s later venture, Sketches of Influence. I was supremely bummed when the personable Prizio closed the place in 2010; but unlike a lot of restaurateurs who got eaten by the economy, Prizio landed squarely on his feet, becoming Programming Manager for the College of St. Rose’s then-almost-brand-new Massry Center for the Arts.