Review by J Hunter
Photos by Rudy Lu
It was a meeting of two truisms: “Timing is everything” and “It’s not what you know – it’s who know!” Pianist Bruce Barth and vibes master Steve Nelson were set to play a duo show at the Rochester Jazz Festival the other weekend. Knowing they were going to be passing through the area, Greater Nippertown drummer/educator Michael Benedict got in touch with Barth and asked if the duo would like to warm up with a quartet gig at the Van Dyck. Phone calls were made, emails were exchanged, and before anybody knew it, every table in the club’s upstairs space was filled with people. That doesn’t happen on a Friday night in June, and the anticipation was palpable as we waited to see what this one-off group would do.
Mind you, this wasn’t completely a one-off group: Both Benedict and bassist Mike Lawrence have played and recorded with Barth in Benedict’s smokin’-hot outfit Bopitude, while Nelson was the primary foil on Barth’s 2012 Savant release Three Things of Beauty. The latter disc had a rhythm section of bassist Ben Street and drummer Dana Hall, neither of whom you’d see on a list entitled “Slouches.” To hear Barth tell it, though, he couldn’t have been happier with the place he was playing or the people backing him up. “Albany’s become like a second home to me,” he told us, gesturing towards Benedict, “thanks to this wonderful drummer…” Barth also called Lawrence “the nicest guy in jazz,” making sure we knew that “nice” applied to his playing abilities as well as his personality, and intimating that if Lawrence ever decided to roll the dice, he could make some serious noise on the New York City jazz scene.