LIVE: Sketches of Influence @ the Massry Center, 3/17/11

Lou Smaldone and Joe Barna
Lou Smaldone and Joe Barna

The Brian Patneaude Quartet was first out of the gate for “An Evening of Jazz” at the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts in Albany. Patneaude’s tenor saxophone bobbed effortlessly over the beats laid down by long-time bandmate and drummer Danny Whelchel with the assistance of new bassist Mike Parker, who pulled double duty on acoustic upright and the electric bass. Exchanging solos with acoustic pianist and electric keyboardist David Caldwell-Mason on a handful of original tunes, Patneaude was leading one of his most melodically pronounced and distinctive quartets.

In contrast to Patneaude’s more stoic approach to jazz, Sketches of Influence’s bandleader and drummer Joe Barna hit the stage with the explosive energy and exuberance of a bull in a china shop. He wasn’t holding back, and he wasn’t about to make this just another run-of-the-mill jazz gig. No way, no how.

This was his CD release party, and Barna was out to energize the audience with his infectious enthusiasm for the band that he had assembled on stage and for the release of his newest CD, “Blowin’ It Out,” a tour-de-force that bridges the gap between the old and true Blue Note live recordings of decades back and the new vitality of the contemporary hard-bop jazz on the scene today.

It seemed as though half of Nippertown’s jazz musicians were in attendance, including heavyweight hitters like the exquisite Lee Shaw, who sat in the front row. The night was a double treat for Shaw – having one of her star pupils, Theo Hill, sitting behind the keys and having Joe Barna dedicate a self-penned number, “Ivory Romance,” to Albany’s grand-dame of the piano.

In fact, the duo of Hill and soprano saxophonist Joe Gordon performing “Ivory Romance” was one of the highlights of the evening. The tune evoked a heart-felt passion to Lee and jazz music that was the gateway to inner soul of all who heard it.

In all the original compositions played that night, saxophonist Gordon, trumpet giant Joe Magnarelli, acoustic bassist Lou Smaldone and drummer Barna reprised their brilliant three-day recording stint at the late and much lamented Bread & Jam Café almost a year ago. The only difference this time around was the substitution of former Albany native Hill for Syracuse pianist Dave Solazzo, a gifted performer in his own right.

With loads of spirited drum energy and a healthy dose of showmanship, Barna wooed the crowd from the start throwing signed Sketches of Influence t-shirts out into the audience and later presenting a single rose and a hug to a smiling Lee Shaw.

In another startling move, Barna invited promising Philadelphia-based saxophonist Adam Siegel, super trumpeter Dylan Canterbury and long-time saxophone giant Lee Russo up for a tune.

However, the highlight of the night was was when Barna invited everyone who had a direct or indirect hand in the making of his monumental CD up to the front of the stage. How many times does a musical artist acknowledge all the people – not just family, agents and the like – who had a hand in the recording and also in keeping the regional musical flame alive? Very few, in fact, but Barna proved he is one of those who doesn’t forget his friends in his journey to bigger and better things.

Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

J Hunter’s review at AlbanyJazz
Rudy Lu’s photographs at AlbanyJazz

Theo Hill and Jon Gordon
Theo Hill and Jon Gordon
Joe Magnarelli, Joe Barna and Lou Smaldone
Joe Magnarelli, Joe Barna and Lou Smaldone
Joe Barna
Joe Barna and friends

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