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

August 12th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
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.

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

June 22nd, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg


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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LIVE: Tom Rush @ the Eighth Step at Proctors, 5/15/15

May 28th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
Tom Rush

Tom Rush

Review by Don Wilcock
Photographs by Mary Kozlowski

Tom Rush calls himself simply “a generalist,” a self-deprecating understatement that proved way insufficient in defining his sumptuous nearly three-hour, two-set concert at the Eighth Step at Proctors recently. His tour-de-force performance featured his own signature song “No Regrets” from early in his career as Boston’s best voice of the ’60s folk boom and his career-defining The Circle Game, which introduced Joni Mitchell’s songwriting to the world.

Criss-crossing genres, he re-invigorated Dobie Gray’s pop ode to the palliative properties of music on “Drift Away,” and encored with an energetic acoustic version of “Who Do You Love” that somehow managed to inject as much potency into that Bo Diddley rockin’ blues classic as Diddley himself did in the ’50s with his plugged-in rectangular guitar. Rush joked about songwriter Lee Clayton telling him he’d written the outlaw country number “Ladies Love Outlaws” especially for Tom and then postulated that Lee probably said the same thing to Waylon Jennings, who had a hit with it.

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Schenectady Light Opera Celebrates Five Years in Its New Home with Gala Celebration [Berkshire on Stage]

May 28th, 2015, 1:00 pm by Sara
Volunteers work on the set of the play “The Drowsy Chaperone” at SLOC. (photo courtesy of Lori Van Buren / Times Union)

Volunteers work on the set of the play “The Drowsy Chaperone” at SLOC. (photo courtesy of Lori Van Buren / Times Union)

In April 2010, the Schenectady Light Opera Company finalized the purchase of the St. John the Baptist church on the road to creating its new home in the heart of downtown Schenectady. In the five years since, the company has transformed the facility into a premier performing arts venue, presenting a wide variety of productions to popular and critical acclaim, and welcomed over 27,000 patrons through its doors.

To celebrate this milestone, this weekend SLOC is presenting a cabaret/revue featuring songs from each of the shows that have been produced in the new Franklin Street Theater. Titled “The First Five Years,” an all-star lineup of Capital Region talent has been assembled to reprise the numbers that they performed on the SLOC stage. The list of shows is impressive and includes Les Miserables, Carousel, RENT, Ragtime, Aida, Fiddler on the Roof, Hairspray, Next to Normal, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Sound of Music, Sweet Charity, Guys and Dolls and a dozen others.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “Pippin” @ Proctors, 5/26/15

May 27th, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg


Review by Greg Haymes

Montreal’s Cirque Eloize won’t be returning to Proctors this summer, so if you need a European circus fix, get thee to Proctors for “Pippin” this week, and enjoy the work of another Montreal-based circus ensemble, Les 7 Doigts de la Main.

Balancing feats, trapeze, juggling, silks, acrobatics, hoops, bouncing balls, knife throwing and a wide assortment of other circus and illusionist skills figure prominently in director Diane Paulus’ sparkling, energetic, Tony Award-winning re-boot of the 1972 Stephen Schwartz/Roger O. Hirson musical.

It’s a dazzling, big-top extravaganza, but it’s got meat on the bones. The plot revolves around the identity crisis of the title character – heir to the throne of King Charlemagne, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire – who is “searching for something important and meaningful to do” with his life. Yes, it’s a very ’60s-’70s existential theme, but Paulus and costume designer Dominque Lemieux have dressed it up magnificently for the 21st century.

The national touring company production has gone through a surprising number of cast changes since it was announced by Proctors more than a year ago (and hit the road in September), including the lead characters of Pippin (Sam Lips) and more recently the Leading Player (Lisa Karlin), as well as the role of Pippin’s grandmother Berthe (the 69-year-old Adrienne Barbeau in a single-song performance of “No Time at All,” in which she sang the final lyrics while suspended upside down, dangling from a trapeze above the stage).

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LIVE: The Van Dyck Allstars Sax Summit @ the Van Dyck, 5/15/15

May 26th, 2015, 4:00 pm by Greg
Adam Siegel, Keith Pray and Lee Russo

Adam Siegel, Keith Pray and Lee Russo

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

During the introduction to his arrangement of Mark Turner’s “Myron’s World”, Adam Siegel shared about how happy was to be playing with people that had inspired him for so many years. I know how Siegel feels: When I first started writing about jazz in Greater Nippertown, the five young “all-stars” at the front of the Van Dyck’s stage – tenormen Brian Patneaude and Lee Russo, altoists Siegel and Keith Pray and baritone saxman Jeff Nania – were either just starting to make inroads on the scene or were nowhere to be seen at all. Being able to witness their respective creative accomplishments over the last 10 years has been like watching your kids grow into adulthood – and these were “the kids” when I started out. Now they’re the heavyweights, and they played like champions on this night.

Patneaude’s charts for “Dear John” were tight as Jeff “Siege” Siegel’s drums as the octet launched the first set with the hard-bopping Freddie Hubbard composition. Russo’s primary ax is alto sax, which might explain why he started so high on his opening solo, but he would find the tenor’s full range as the night went on; Nania was also away from his usual tool, but he played that bari like he’d been weaned on tapes of Gary Smulyan, offering lines with both power and shape; Of course, tenor sax is Patneaude’s home and hearth, and he had the tune right in his sights as he charged through the piece’s final solo. Dave Gleason’s comping piano chords rose and rose while bassist Otto Gardner ignored his lack of amplification and attacked the piece the only way he knows how – flat out.

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FIVE FIRSTS: The Van Dyck All-Star Sax Summit

May 12th, 2015, 12:00 pm by Greg
The Sax Summit

The Sax Summit

It’s gonna be one seriously wailin’ night at 8pm Friday (May 15) when the Van Dyck All-Star Sax Summit takes over Schenectady’s venerable Van Dyck. Five of Nippertown’s top saxophonists – Keith Pray, Lee Russo, Brian Patneaude, Jeff Nania and Adam Siegel – will gather together on the same stage to blow the roof off the place, accompanied by pianist Dave Gleason, bassist Otto Gardner and drummer Jeff Siegel. Tickets are $15.

Nippertown’s J Hunter managed to corner four of the five saxmen (Adam Siegel was apparently too elusive) to ask them a few questions about their relationships with jazz, the saxophone and the Van Dyck. Here’s what he found out:

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LIVE: Elio Villafranca & Spiros Exaras @ Union College’s Emerson Auditorium, 4/24/15

May 7th, 2015, 3:00 pm by Greg
Elio Villafranca and Spiros Exaras

Elio Villafranca and Spiros Exaras

Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

In the final concert of the Ahora, Latin/Jazz! spring concert season, Cuban jazz pianist Elio Villafranca and Greek classical guitarist Spiros Exaras teamed up as a sparkling, cross-cultural duo at Union College’s Emerson Auditorium in Schenectady.

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