Posts Tagged ‘Schenectady’

LIVE: The Chris Potter Trio @ A Place For Jazz, 11/13/15

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
The Drew Gress Trio

The Chris Potter Trio

Review by Jeff Nania
Photographs by Rudy Lu

A Place For Jazz finished the 2015 season with saxophonist Chris Potter’s new trio featuring drummer Adam Cruz and bassist Drew Gress, as they gave the performance which launched the rest of their U.S. tour.

They may have had some reliable devices with which they arranged tunes – the Potter out front-solo-solo-repeated riff by Potter and Gress-formula popped up a few times, but these were incredibly effective in creating a semblance of meat and structure for what could otherwise be a harmonically deficient format.

Potter was also keen to switch up his instrumentation. He played mostly tenor but picked up a bass clarinet for the ethereal “Dream Three.” He played an unaccompanied intro then an ostinato melody section which existed somewhere outside of time while Cruz made his way around the kit with mallets on the drum set and Gress plucked out a deep brooding slow bass part. Potter finished stating the melody and handed it off to Gress for a bass solo while Cruz grabbed for a small shaker to ease the space back down to nothing as Gress then also had a chance to play unaccompanied before Cruz again picked up his brushes and laid them just on the snare drum for a bit with quiet bursts from the cymbals.

“Dream Three” may have been the most different tune of the evening, but that’s not to say that everything was all so straight-ahead. Sure, the trio played the beautiful Mal Waldron ballad “Soul Eyes,” and then later showed their appreciation to the crowd with an encore performance of Charlie Parker’s “Relaxin’ at Camarillo,” but there was plenty of hard driving stuff throughout the night, including the hard hitting opening which was an obscured but recognizable tune by the Police, and the Potter original “Dr. Bentley,” which was “for all you ‘Naked Lunch’ fans out there,” Potter said referencing William S. Burroughs’ famous novel.



LIVE: Mavis Staples / Joan Osborne @ Proctors, 11/6/15

Monday, November 16th, 2015
Joan Osborne and Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples and Joan Osborne

Review by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Rudy Lu

OK, I admit it. My expectations for the Mavis Staples/Joan Osborne concert at Proctors last weekend were way over the top. I have seen transcendent performances by both artists, who, at their best, grab their audiences by the throat and take them to heaven not just in their great songs, but with their personalities that cause you to fall in love with them through their intimate connections and amazing vocal prowess.

The idea that these two beautiful souls would collaborate had me fantasizing that together one plus one would equal infinity, an explosive fusion of two great sirens, one black, one white; one a legend of the civil rights movement – the moral equivalent of Martin Luther King – the other a waif from Kentucky who spent years woodshedding with the Holmes Brothers to channel the blues giants and erase society’s imposed boundaries between gospel, blues and pop. Osborne is a vocal dynamo who turned me into a believer more than two decades ago when she blew the roof of The Metro in Saratoga with a version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Help Me” that transformed his dirty old man ballad into an erotic orgasm.

Of course, all that hope of an epic collaboration was fantasy. Four days before their major U.S. tour opened in the famed Fillmore in San Francisco, Osborne had yet to rehearse with Staples. She told me they had yet to even get together and talk about the tour. By the time the show hit Schenectady, they’d done 20 shows in a little over a month, and Mavis chided her “Skin–eck–at–diddy” audience: “I believe this is my first time here. What took you so long? You should have had us before now. You let me get older.”


FREE: A Jazz Tribute to Mike Wicks @ the Van Dyck on Thursday

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
Michael Wicks

Michael Wicks

Michael Wicks – who died last December at the age of 69 – had big ears… meaning that his love of music wasn’t confined to just one or two particular genres.

He was a principal bassist with numerous Local 518 symphony orchestras, over the years playing classical music with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Berkshire Symphony, Glens Falls Symphony, the Schenectady Symphony, the Utica Symphony and the Catskill Symphony.

He was also well versed in musical theater and could often be heard anchoring the band for musical productions at Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre and Proctors in Schenectady.

But Wicks may be best remembered by local music fans as a jazzman, having played with numerous internationally acclaimed jazz giants – including Phil Woods, Chet Baker, Doc Cheatham, Bill Watrous, Zoot Sims and Nick Brignola – as well as local favorites such as Peg Delaney, Leo Russo and Lee Shaw.

And it’s his considerable contributions to the Local 518 jazz scene that will be celebrated at the Van Dyck in Schenectady at 7pm on Thursday (October 29) at “A Jazz Tribute to Mike Wicks.” The evening will feature performances by Alone Together: The Mollin-Clay Jazz Duo and the Michael Wicks Tribute Band, led by his son Gary Wicks on bass. In addition, there will be a special listening party of never-before-heard Wicks’ music, as well as a jam session to wrap up the celebration of Wicks and his music.

Admission is free; donations to the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra are encouraged.

LIVE: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra @ Proctors, 10/6/15

Monday, October 19th, 2015
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

It’s a legitimate event when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra plays your city. In many ways, it recalls Duke Ellington or Cab Calloway coming into town on a train pulling personal Pullman cars for the musicians, their instruments and (in Calloway’s case) their modes of transportation. Thanks to the publicity machine that is trumpeter/bandleader Wynton Marsalis, JALCO is the best-known big band in the world today – and their two-set performance at Proctors proved what gets proven in popular music every single day: Just because you’re the best-known band doesn’t mean you’re the best.

Mind you, this 15-piece unit certainly looks the part, thanks to the impeccably tailored suits provided by Brooks Brothers (the official clothier of Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra – and no, that’s not a joke). And it’s not like Marsalis has surrounded himself with wannabes and posers; any big band that can boast trumpeters like Ryan Kisor and Marcus Printup, multi-instrumentalists like Ted Nash, Victor Goines and Walter Blanding, and a rhythm section as potentially badass as Ali Jackson and Carlos Henriquez packs some serious heat coming into any situation. That said, it is both deliciously ironic and sadly indicative that all the suit jackets worn by the Orchestra were beige, because almost every number played was entirely colorless and incessantly bland.


The Kids Are Alright: The Jazz Institute @ Proctors

Thursday, September 10th, 2015


Interview & story by J Hunter
Photographs by Richard Lovrich

Things change. It’s a fact of life, even for something as established as the Jazz Institute, part of the School for Performing Arts held every summer at Proctors in Schenectady. This year, the program was put in the hands of Artistic Producer Lecco Morris and Creative Director Jeff Nania. Until the Jazz Institute convened earlier this summer, neither Morris (who went to NYU to study Music Theory and Composition, primarily in classical music) nor Nania (a UAlbany grad and Metroland columnist who’s also been bewitching us with his sax skills for years) had ever taught a large group or combo before.

That said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating – or, in this case, the student concert that came at the end of the Institute’s immersive two-week session. It all came down to Friday, August 14 in the GE Theatre at Proctors, and it wasn’t hard to spot the members of this year’s 24-player class: Just look for anyone dressed in black who hadn’t graduated high school. I gave silent props to drummer Liam Fitzgerald for accessorizing his outfit with a white, black-banded Trilby. If you’re going to play the part, look the part!


LIVE: Schenectady County SummerNight @ State Street, 7/10/15

Friday, August 21st, 2015
Bernie Williams

Bernie Williams

Photographs by Timothy Reidy

Yeah, in concert in the Electric City, the longtime NY Yankee centerfielder proved that he can handle a guitar nearly as well as he handled a baseball bat back in his heyday. Bernie Williams brought his All-Star Band to Schenectady’s State Street earlier this month as the headliners for the annual free street party, Schenectady County SummerNight. And judging by the fans’ reactions, he knocked it out of the park again…

Joining Williams and his band in the free, evening-long celebration were the Refrigerators, Stockade Kids, the #2 Band, Moriah Formica, Crush and the veteran Charlie Smith Blues Band.

LIVE: Bernie Williams & His All-Star Band @ SummerNight, 7/10/15


LIVE: The Joey Alexander Trio @ the Music Haven, 8/2/15

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015
Joey Alexander

Joey Alexander

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Rudy Lu

It was a perfect summer evening, and there were plenty of young kids playing in Schenectady’s Central Park – running around, riding their bicycles, playing on the swing sets. Then there was 12-year-old Joey Alexander, who was also playing in the park. And he was swinging, too – as the headlining musician for the Music Haven’s pentultimate concert of the season. And what a concert it was…

He’s no up-and-coming “ooo-baby-baby” tween-pop star, either. The pint-sized piano prodigy’s bag is jazz, and just the day before his Electric City concert, he was playing at the most prestigious jazz fest in the land – the Newport Jazz Festival – where fans were literally climbing the walls to watch him perform selections from his sparkling debut album, My Favorite Things.

In Schenectady, the crowd filled the seats as well as the park’s natural amphitheater, and while some may have come purely out of the curiosity factor, they stayed because the Indonesian-born, NYC-based Alexander is a really good musician. Not just really good for a kid. Really good. Period.

Confidently leading his trio – featuring the skin-tight and oh-so-enthusiastic bassist Russell Hall and drummer Sammy Miller – Alexander tore through such jazz standards as Wayne Shorter’s explosive “Footprints,” Billy Strayhorn’s bittersweet “Lush Life” and Thelonious Monk’s solidly swinging “I Mean You,” which earned him a rare – and well deserved – mid-show standing ovation.


LIVE: Buffy Sainte-Marie @ the Eighth Step at Proctors, 5/23/15

Monday, June 22nd, 2015


Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Rudy Lu

“I can tell you things I’ve done,
and I can sing you songs I’ve sung,
But there’s one thing I can’t give
for I and I alone can live
the years I’ve known,
the life I’ve grown.
Got a way I’m going,
and it’s my way…”

– Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “It’s My Way”

“It’s My Way” is the title track of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s 1964 debut album, and was certainly a bold statement for a young up-and-coming folk artist. Now, more than 50 years later, she revisited the anthem as the lead-off track on her new album, Power in the Blood, and as the opening volley at her recent concert at the Eighth Step at Proctors in Schenectady.

And as a statement of purpose, it’s as apropos and as potent as ever for the Canadian Cree singer-songwriter. At age 74, she remains defiantly outspoken and staunchly independent songwriter and performer.

Her set list veered from the powerfully personal to the pointedly political. Her protest songs both old (“Universal Soldier” and a reggae-tinged rendition of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”) and newer (“Priests of the Golden Bull”) were deftly balanced with love songs (“Until It’s Time for You to Go” and the encore of her Academy Award-winning “Up Where We Belong”) and sing-along anthems (the hypnotic “We Are Circling” and the show-closing “Carry It On”).

With Sainte-Marie switching back and forth between guitar and keyboards, her music ran the stylistic gamut from loping country (“Farm in the Middle of Nowhere”) to the slinky soul of “Love Charms (Mojo Bijoux),” from the straight-up rockabilly of “Blue Sunday” to the rip-roaring pow-wow rock of “Cho Cho Fire” to the psychedelic swirl of “Little Wheel Spin and Spin.”


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