Best Concerts of 2010: Nippertown’s J Hunter

Quick: Is David Letterman looking? Oh, good, he’s watching Conan on TiVO! With that in mind, from the home office in Clifton Park, NY (“A Great Place to Live, Work, and Play”), here’s my Top 10 list of Nippertown Concerts (of all types) for 2010! Drum roll, please…

THE GARY SMULYAN TRIO @ Professor Java’s Coffeehouse, Saturday, September 25 (Read review.)
THE JERRY WELDON TRIO @ Flights of Fantasy, Saturday, November 6 (Read review.)
Joe Barna spent most of 2010 developing his own music, but he also backstopped a series of great sax-trio gigs, and these two were the best: Smulyan breathed fire through his bari while running two musical triathlons; and then tenorman Weldon and Hammond B3 wizard Kyle Koehler showed us how to really have fun at a sci-fi bookstore!

Number nine…
SUBDUDES @ the Swyer Theatre at The Egg, Saturday, November 20
Every time I think I’m done for the year, there’s always one more show that sneaks up on me. I went entirely on rep, and the subdudes totally knocked me out with great songs, amazing vocals, and a group dynamic that only comes from playing together for nearly 30 years. It’s a good thing I went, too, because the group’s taking an indefinite leave from the road. Bummer! (Read review.)

Number eight…
IVAN NEVILLE’S DUMPSTAPHUNK @ the Port of Albany’s Riverfront Jazz Festival at Riverfront Park at the Corning Preserve, Saturday, September 11
Their parents (as a group) only play New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival nowadays, but the latest generation of Nevilles has picked up the torch with a band that’s half P-Funk and half Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters. On a bill that included John Scofield and Ravi Coltrane, DP absolutely cleared the decks. Scofield dug it so much, he came out to jam on the encore! (Read review.)

Number seven…
BRUCE BARTH TRIO/JD ALLEN TRIO @ A Place for Jazz at the First Unitarian Society’s Whisperdome, Friday, October 22
Allen’s regular rhythm section did double duty at what amounted to the “inaugural” A Place For Jazz Festival. Barth opened the evening with hopping, lyrical piano-trio, and then Allen came out after the break and wrapped us in flowing sheets of ‘trane-quality sound. Throw in the eager middle-schoolers (co-led by Keith Pray) who played the intermission, and it was an event! (Read review.)

Number six…
DAVID GRISMAN QUINTET “PLUS” @ the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Saturday, February 27
The “Plus” was 20-year old Mike Barnett, who plays fiddle like Vassar Clements! Someone his age shouldn’t have been on the stage, let alone holding his own, but Barnett was driving the bus at several points, and Grisman loved it big time! We got two sets of “Dawg music” just like Jerry used to make, and then Grisman stayed to sign autographs and talk to anyone who waited. (Read review.)

Number five…
JOHN ELLIS & DOUBLE-WIDE @ Red Square, Thursday, March 4
You knew this was going to be hot when almost every jazz player in the area made the show. Double-Wide’s out of New Orleans, but don’t let the Sousaphone throw you – Preservation Hall they are NOT! This was 21st-century NOLA party music, filled with equal amounts of substance and silliness, and if people weren’t dancing, it’s because they were too busy howling with joy! (Read review.)

Number four…
JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY @ Club B-10 at MASS MoCA, Saturday, June 26
Freihofer’s Jazz Festival was happening the next day, and Jacob Fred should have been booked for the main stage! That being said, umpty-thousand people’s loss was our gain. Selfish? Me? Absolutely! But you’d have been selfish, too, if you’d had the chance to watch the latest iteration of JFJO kick ass and blow minds in MASS MoCA’s very cool club space.

Number three…
CHRISTIAN SCOTT @ the Lake George Jazz Weekend at Shepard Park, Saturday, September 18
Jazz (After Dark) @ The Lake, and fighting the first chill of fall was definitely worth it. Cold wasn’t an issue for long, anyway, because Scott set Shepard Park on fire with some of the most powerful, personal jazz I’ve heard in almost forever. Scott was “between piano players” for this show, but that only toughened up music that was rock-solid to start with. (Read review.)

Number two…
Best… Festival… EVER! Three days of art and music curated by indie icons Wilco. In this case, “curated” translated to “We dig these bands, and we think you will, too.” They were right! I only saw Day 2, so I only got Wilco, Mavis Staples, the Baseball Project, Mountain Man, Vetiver, an all-day comedy club and the run of MASS MoCA’s mind-bending exhibits. Sublime. (Read review.)

And the #1 Concert of 2010… happened in deepest, darkest South Nippertown!
THE LEVON HELM BAND w/ THE WOOD BROTHERS @ Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, Saturday, March 20
Put simply, the Ramble at Helm’s Woodstock studio is the best party you’ll ever attend! Cancer stole Helm’s voice, but he’s still a monster on drums, and he fronted a staggering big band featuring Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen on keyboards. The Wood Brothers joined Levon for his encore “The Weight,” and surprise guest John Medeski played Melodica during the Wood’s awesome electric/acoustic set. (Read review.)

And that is how we do that. As a fellow traveler in the Nippertown Revolution, I salute you! Thanks for a great year, and let’s kick it up a notch in 2011. Peace!

Story by J Hunter

Got a Best of 2010 list that you’d like to contribute? Best concerts of the year? Best local music moments of the year? Best whatever? Please send it along to [email protected]

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  1. Josh says

    Gotta love JFJO. Such an underrated jazz act.

  2. Rosemary Brennan says

    Just a critique for next year…so please don’t KILL the messenger… really would have liked the date of your BEST picks along with the musician you highlighted. My sisiter went to Levon Helm’s party and it is the same time every summer. I know that BUT do others? A Place for Jazz is seasonal -right? Just a ballpark in weeks (Jazz Fest). It would really help to know DATES-so things that you suggested that were GREAT that we MISSED could be put in our brand new calenders we’ll get for X-mas! (Three times over) If those acts got some heavy traffic then I am sure the venues will book comprable musicians! Helps when budgeting too!

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I love what you do for your music lovers!

  3. Sara says

    Thanks for the input and you’re absolutely right, the dates would be helpful. Executive memos are being circulated right now (or they would be if we were a memo-circulating kind of organization. But I’ll make sure this appears on our future best-of posts.)

    Happy holidays to you, and thanks for hanging out on Nippertown and giving us your advice. We appreciate it!

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