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

August 19th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
(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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LIVE: Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys @ the Music Haven, 8/3/14

August 15th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Jeffrey Broussard & The Creole Cowboys

Jeffery Broussard (photo by Stanley Johnson)

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Rudy Lu and Stanley Johnson

A recent Sunday evening crowd with an affinity for roots music got a double-dose of the good stuff at the Music Haven in Schenectady’s Central Park.

Ramblin Jug Stompers, local heroes of traditional jug-band music, got the feet tapping and hands clapping with their fine opener, “Mountain Dew.” Mister Eck’s lively mandolin propelled “Jug Band Music,” coaxing percussionist Will Bill to sing (and even whisper) like a mercurial carnival barker. Bowtie and Mister Eck played five-string and four-string banjos (“a patented duel banjo attack,” mused the latter) for a spirited “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” which was followed by guitarist Cousin Clyde’s mournful “A Man of Constant Sorrow.”

A delicate, swinging instrumental, “Frypan Jack Enters into Heaven” (from Hobo Nickel) was a fine showcase for Bowtie’s banjo and Cousin Clyde’s synchrony. Will Bill put aside his various percussion instruments for some soulful country harmonica during “Blues in the Bottle,” a showcase as well for Mister Eck’s robust vocals and resonator ukelele playing. No doubt hearing the freight train to their next destination, RJS closed their set with tight harmonies on crowd-pleaser “Old Plank Road,” a touchstone of the band’s live performances since its formation in 2006.

Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys brought the exuberant sounds and rhythms of zydeco from Louisiana for over an hour and a half. With a toothpick lodged in the right corner of his mouth, Broussard sang with a hearty voice in English and French and played his blue, white and red accordion masterfully. The crowd’s lack of familiarity with many of the songs – very few titles were announced – did not matter given the energy levels on the faster ones and the glorious ache of romance on the slow waltzes and two-steps. People young and old began dancing; by the end of the show, the area in front of the stage was crowded with happy dancers. Good will and good times never sounded so natural.

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LIVE: Maria Muldaur & the Campbell Brothers @ the Music Haven, 7/28/13

August 8th, 2013, 2:00 pm by Greg
Maria Muldaur with The Campbell Brothers Band

Maria Muldaur with The Campbell Brothers Band (photo by Stanley Johnson)

Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Stanley Johnson and Richard Brody

Rain, and the threat of additional rain, may have diminished the turnout, but nothing could dampen the joyful sounds of Maria Muldaur together with the Campbell Brothers on a recent summer Sunday night in Schenectady’s Central Park.

Muldaur, whose career began at roughly the same time and place as Bob Dylan’s, has been prolific and eclectic. The Campbell Brothers, based in Rochester, have carried the sacred steel tradition into the 21st century, oddly to the dismay of some of their church brethren, with several fine recordings and tours with the Slide Brothers and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Recently Muldaur and the Campbell Brothers joined forces for a collaboration they’re calling “Spirit & the Blues,” and their free concert at the Music Haven was their public performance debut, but one would never know that based on quality of the over dozen songs performed at the Music Haven stage.

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LIVE: Lorraine Klaasen & African Connexion @ the Music Haven, 7/14/13

July 19th, 2013, 2:00 pm by Greg
Lorraine Klaasen & African Connexion @ the Music Haven, 7/14/13

(photo by Timothy Reidy)

Photographs by Stanley Johnson
Additional photographs by Timothy Reidy

The Music Haven’s 2013 summer season was unfortunately delayed when the scheduled opening concert by Malian guitar great Vieux Farka Toure’s performance – slated for Sunday, July 7 – was cancelled due to unsafe weather conditions.

Disappointing to be sure, but Music Haven concert-goers still got a dose of great African music when South African vocalist Lorraine Klaasen launched the belated series on Sunday, July 14.

The Soweto-bred Klaasen – the daughter of Tandie Klaasen, who known as the Ella Fitzgerald of South Africa — brought her band African Connexion to the Central Park concert venue in Schenectady to deliver the joyous, infectious beat of township music. Much of the free concert was devoted to a tribute to Africa’s iconic musical legend Miriam Makeba, but Klaasen hit her highwater mark with a towering, tour de force performance of the Gershwins’ classic “Summertime.”

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LIVE: The Deb Callahan Band @ the Music Haven, 7/22/12

August 9th, 2012, 1:00 pm by Sara
Deb Callahan (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Deb Callahan (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Review by Rudy Lu
Photographs by J Hunter and Andrzej Pilarczyk

Schenectady’s Music Haven was rocked by the down home sound of the blues last month in the summer’s third installment of 2012’s free concert series that takes lucky concert-goers “traveling the world one concert at a time.”

Powerhouse Philadelphia-based vocalist Deb Callahan sang a mixture of classic R&B covers, country blues, Texas blues and blues-rock, deftly balancing the mix of both originals and covers.

Opening her set with Ray Charles’ classic “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” Callahan followed with a riff-driven topical song on single mothers, “Food on the Table.” Driven by a salacious hard-driving beat, Callahan and Co. fired up another topical song, “My Old Ways,” about the difficulties of change.

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LIVE: Sierra Maestra @ the Music Haven, 7/24/11

August 8th, 2011, 5:00 pm by Greg

Sierra Maestra

With the exception of just a handful of people, the dancing throughout most of Sierra Maestra’s performance set was limited to the area behind the seating, far from the stage where the Cuban band was firing up their percolating rhythms. It wasn’t until the encore that the band seemed to notice and point-blank asked the audience to get out of their seats and dance to the music.

Well, it turned out that that was all it took. Within seconds it seemed as though the area in front of the Music Haven stage was filled with all kinds of dancers. Some knew what they were doing in the Latin realm of organized dancing, but most didn’t. And that’s OK because they just moved to the infectious rhythms and beats of this world-class Cuban ensemble.

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