LIVE: Sketches of Influence @ Flights of Fantasy, 7/24/11

Joe Barna
Joe Barna

Like many of his Nippertown compatriots, drummer-composer Joe Barna is not content to rest on his laurels.

Barna recently returned from a cruise ship gig, playing in a jazz band on a three-month tour at sea. While cruising, Barna didn’t just play the gig and retire to his cabin each night. He sat down and composed new material for his quintet, Sketches Of Influence.

The cruise ship evidently had a number of other bands on board, too – ranging from Latin music to pop – and Barna breathed it all in, learning and compositionally digesting every nuance.

The Saturday night concert at Flights Of Fantasy in Colonie (courtesy of proprietors Maria and Dave Perry) was the culmination of a variety of influences that Barna absorbed and incorporated into his new music.

On board were his long-time bassist Lou Smaldone, trumpeter Dylan Canterbury, pianist Dave Solazzo and saxophonist Adam Segal.

Starting the set with the aptly titled “Ship Songs, Stories From the Mediterranean,” Barna enthusiastically regaled the full house with tales of his travels and the inspirations for the new compositions that he and the band showcased.

Launching into “The Dreaded Blues,” the band was up to speed in no time at all, sailing solo-by-solo through such tunes as “Johnny Dropped By,” “Tais,” “Luciana & Gustavo” and others.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was “Ship Life,” a marvellous solo piano tune that spoke volumes about Joe Barna as a composer. Known for his gregarious, but harmlessly friendly, ego, Barna simply handed off the tune to Solazzo to play unaccompanied.

With a world-class CD release under his belt and a valid passport, Barna is already back out at sea, currently playing on a cruse ship that’s headed first to Alaska and then to Singapore, Thailand and other exotic ports o’ call.

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
See more of Andrzej’s photos from the show at

Sketches of Influence
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