Posts Tagged ‘Schenectady’

LIVE: Bria Skonberg Quintet @ A Place For Jazz, 11/7/14

Monday, November 17th, 2014
Bria Skonberg (photo by Rudy Lu)

Bria Skonberg (photo by Rudy Lu)

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Andrzej Pilarczyk

Trumpeter Bria Skonberg lives “Hot Jazz,” a euphemism for jazz created and inspired by the late, great Louis Armstrong. Along with having an annual “Hot Jazz” festival right in her childhood backyard and appearing on Wycliffe Gordon’s Armstrong tribute Hello, Pops, the native of Chilliwack, British Columbia (“The jazz metropolis of Canada,” she informed us) is a volunteer at the Louis Armstrong Museum in Corona, Queens. I didn’t see her when I visited the museum last year, but if I had, I’m pretty sure I’d have gotten chapter and verse on Satch’s most colorful life. For Skonberg, making that music live and breathe his her mission. Louis invented it, and then he perfected it, so that settles it, right?

Now, for most of the near-full house at A Place For Jazz, a player like Skonberg is a breath of fresh air – as is her skin-tight backup band, all of whom are down with the “WWLD” (What Would Louis Do) program, right down to reedman Evan Arntzen’s slicked-up hairdo and skinny bowtie. What this group did over two bright, lively sets is right in this concert series’ wheelhouse, and choosing Skonberg to close the 2014 season was a stroke of genius on the part of APFJ’s brain trust. Mind you, for those of us who prefers this music’s future over its past, this was a glimpse of what it might be like if Jazz At Lincoln Center had a summer camp in the Catskills where teenagers re-created the genre’s “good old days.” Not good, right? Well… yes and no.

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LIVE: The John Menegon Quartet @ A Place for Jazz, 10/24/14

Monday, November 3rd, 2014
John Menegon

John Menegon

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

It must be my month for revisiting musical trips to the Berkshires. While introducing his quartet to the swelling crowd at A Place For Jazz, bassist John Menegon told us that he and two of his bandmates – pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Matt Wilson – had all worked for the legendary sax player Dewey Redman; it had been my extreme pleasure to watch those same three musicians back a blazing-hot Joe Lovano tribute to Redman at the 2008 Williamstown Jazz Festival. And Redman was a part of this night of divine music, too, if only because he was one of a number of icons who inspired the compositions on Menegon’s 2013 release I Remember You.

Family was inspiring this night, as well. Menegon led off the evening with a hushed, in-the-clear opening to “Devonian Light,” a piece dedicated to Menegon’s son Devon. The sound coming from Menegon’s double bass was so rich, even when played as softly as Menegon was doing. As the rest of the group slid in behind their leader, we found ourselves spinning through dreamy acoustic rubato that was perfect for the Whisperdome’s legendary acoustics. Tineke Postma’s soprano sax was right on the money, playing with the melody as Menegon laid down a deep counter while Kimbrough and Wilson swirled around the perimeter. Wilson was only on brushes, but he was still the bespectacled beast we’ve come to know and revere, while Kimbrough’s Bill Evans-level sense of touch added brilliant colors to Menegon’s towering tapestry.

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Five Firsts: Jeff Thacher of Rockapella

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Jeff Thacher

Jeff Thacher

NAME: Jeff Thacher
BAND AFFILIATION: Rockapella
INSTRUMENT: Vocal percussion, the in-band full-time version of beatboxing

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS… E.L.O.’s Time

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Depends on your perspective. With parents: The Osmonds (late ’70s). By myself: Howard Jones (ca. 1984)

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LIVE: The Alexis Cole Quintet @ A Place for Jazz, 10/10/14

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Alexis Cole

Alexis Cole

Photographs by Rudy Lu

Award-winning jazz vocalist Alexis Cole has made an impressive impact on audiences ever since she first took the stage as a teenager. She won the 2007 Jazzmobile competition and received an award in the Montreux Jazz Vocal Competition. And she handily won over another batch of new fans earlier this month when she made her debut at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady’s Great Hall as the third installment of A Place for Jazz’s fall concert series.

She had plenty of support from her ace band featuring smooth-as-silk saxman Eric Alexander and 78-year-old veteran pianist Harold Mabern, as they wove their way through a well-chosen selection of Great American Songbook standards (from “All the Things You Are” to “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”), blues (“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”) and originals (highlighted by Mabern’s “Such Is Life”), as well as a show-closing romp through Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,” featuring a call-and-response between Cole and bassist David Finck).

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THEATER: “Newsies” @ Proctors, 10/12/14

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
(photo: Deen Van Meer)

(photo: Deen Van Meer)

Review by Greg Haymes

Exuberant, full of spunky singing and dancing and utterly predictable, “Newsies” – the Disney musical which is launching its national tour with a week-long run at Proctors in Schenectady through Friday – is an excellent production of a weak show.

Based on the flop 1992 Disney film musical of the same name, the book for the stage musical “Newsies” was tweaked by Broadway vet Harvey Fierstein, but he couldn’t do enough to save the formula, paint-by-numbers plotline in which the audience is always at least two or three steps ahead of the characters onstage.

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LIVE: Stefon Harris @ Proctors’ GE Theatre, 9/25/14

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Stefon Harris

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Jazz vibraphone virtuoso and Albany native Stefon Harris returned to town recently for a homecoming concert at Proctors’ GE Theatre in Schenectady, helping to raise funds for the Ring of Hope Boxing Club’s youth program, as well as test-driving a new group of musicians for a possible new band.

Now 41 years old, Harris may no longer qualify as a wunderkind, but there’s no question that he’s certainly still wonderful. With his mallets often flying faster than the eye could see, Harris anchored a stellar group of musicians, including acclaimed bassist Linda Oh, guitarist Mike Moreno, 25-year-old drummer Jonathan Pinson and 19-year-old pianist James Francis.

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Signs o’ the City

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

Signs of the City: Proctors in Schenectady

Photograph by Richard Lovrich

Proctors’ new marquee lights up downtown Schenectady, 9/15/14

LIVE: The Ghost Train Orchestra @ the Music Haven, 8/10/14

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
(photo by Stanley Johnson)

Ghost Train Orchestra’s Brian Carpenter (photo by Stanley Johnson)

Photographs by Stanley Johnson, Andrzej Pilarczyk, Richard Brody

The motto of the Music Haven Concert Series in Schenectady’s Central Park has always been “Join us in traveling the world one concert at a time.” And the 2014 series did indeed travel from Africa to Ireland to Cuba to Chicago to Louisiana. But in wrapping up their 25th anniversary season with the Ghost Train Orchestra, the series took a slightly different tact, traveling not around the globe, but rather back in time.

The brainchild of Brian Carpenter – composer, arranger, trumpeter, vocalist – the GTO draws from the deep well of jazz by such early 20th century bandleaders as Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Tiny Parham, Fess Williams, Charlie Johnson and others.

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