FIVE FIRSTS: The Van Dyck All-Star Sax Summit

The Sax Summit
The Sax Summit

It’s gonna be one seriously wailin’ night at 8pm Friday (May 15) when the Van Dyck All-Star Sax Summit takes over Schenectady’s venerable Van Dyck. Five of Nippertown’s top saxophonists – Keith Pray, Lee Russo, Brian Patneaude, Jeff Nania and Adam Siegel – will gather together on the same stage to blow the roof off the place, accompanied by pianist Dave Gleason, bassist Otto Gardner and drummer Jeff Siegel. Tickets are $15.

Nippertown’s J Hunter managed to corner four of the five saxmen (Adam Siegel was apparently too elusive) to ask them a few questions about their relationships with jazz, the saxophone and the Van Dyck. Here’s what he found out:


KEITH PRAY: “Dave Brubeck’s Time Out.”

LEE RUSSO: “I have searched all over the place for this compilation LP from the V.S.O.P. record label. It is mainly a west coast label. Anyway, my father had this compilation LP, and I listened to it over and over again. I think I wore it out! It had tracks from Pepper Adams’ “Freddie Froo,” Gabe Baltazar, Bill Holman, Richie Kamuca & Phil Woods. It was just awesome! I have all of the albums from V.S.O.P. that those tracks came from, but I wish I could find the album cover image. Just a great compilation and it was truly my first jazz album all the way through… again and again.”

BRIAN PATNEAUDE: “I’m not positive, but I think it was David Sanborn’s live album, Straight to the Heart.”

JEFF NANIA: “This is very difficult to determine because my father and my mom’s father were both big into jazz, and so I grew up hearing lots of stuff all the time. That said, I do remember getting my first batch of jazz CDs from one of those mail order CD clubs. I believe Dexter Gordon’s Our Man in Paris, Wayne Shorter’s The Night Dreamer and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps were among the first albums that I listened to countless times. My mentor Jim Corigliano taught me how to listen to an album multiple times over, sometimes listening just to the bass, and then just to the drums, and then just to the piano, and then just to the sax to make sure I was really getting as much out of it as I possibly could.”


KEITH: “I was already starting to head that route, but a saxophonist in one of the Air Force jazz bands, Grant Koeller, was really helpful by encouraging me and letting me see that it was possible – and he sounded amazing, too! We had several random meetings over the years, and he always let me know that I had a shot at it.”

LEE: “This one is way too easy for me! My father is my inspiration. I would have gone to every gig with him if I could have. Just listening to him and watching him play made me love everything about the saxophone and music! Period!! One bad thing though: Pop always made it seem like it was easy.”

BRIAN: “Michael Brecker”

JEFF: “I remember this one quite well. I believe I was in fifth grade, or possibly the summer between elementary and middle school when I saw the movie “Round Midnight,” which featured Dexter Gordon. The shots of the long daytime walks in Paris, and the nighttime gigs featuring all the different musicians like Bobby Hutcherson, Jim Hall, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock got me hooked. Dexter’s sound was everything for me: Warm and burly with a strong, but sensitive masculinity. I told my dad that night that I wanted to play the saxophone and be a jazz musician. I remember getting my first sax – a rented “vito” alto. I taught myself the melody to “Shiny Stockings” before having my first lesson after hearing Dexter play it.”


KEITH: “Maceo Parker. I was 18 and from a cultural void. I had seen very little live music and had no idea who he was other than he was in the jazz section at the local CD store. I went on a whim, and it changed my life completely. And I ended up onstage dancing with the rest of the audience in about 20 minutes.”

LEE: “Stan Getz, Washington Park! I was lucky to be there with my father who is a huge Getz fan. My father played with Teresa Broadwell’s Quartet that day and opened for Getz. Right before Getz went on, My father and I got to meet him and get his autograph. That was the day I fell in love with Stan Getz.”

BRIAN: “Again, not positive, but I think it may have been David Sanborn at the Newport Jazz Festival Saratoga in the late ’80s or early ’90s.”

JEFF: “This one is also very difficult to determine. My mom’s family lives downstate, and I could be mistaken here, but I do believe it was either David “Fathead” Newman at a theater in NYC, or maybe Illinois Jacquet at Jazz At Lincoln Center. Either of these occasions would have been with my mom’s dad.”


KEITH: “The summer between 10th and 11th grade, I played in a band at Santa’s Workshop near Lake Placid. I got to play shows several times a day and a chance to practice in between six days a week. What’s better than that?”

LEE: “I honestly don’t remember, but some of my early memories of getting paid were when I played with this trumpet player/band leader by the name of Jeff Clark. I was in my late teens. He used to book his small big band to play basically as a pep band for the RPI hockey games at the Fieldhouse. We’d get $40 a game. It was a trip. Music… $$$… Hockey game… I felt lucky to have had that gig!”

BRIAN: “Fairly sure it was at Pauly’s Hotel my freshman year of college with Method 11, a killer horn band led by saxophonist John Savage.”

JEFF: “Probably at the Starbucks in Stuyvesant Plaza when I was a freshman or sophomore at Guilderland High School with a group called the Sly Stevens Sextet. I don’t believe there were actually six people in the group, and the name was fictional as well. I remember Jeremy Lawrence (bassist Mike Lawrence’s younger brother) was playing the drums, and a couple of our other friends filled out the group. Jeremy really loved drummer Matt Wilson’s quartet. I think we got paid $75 each, and we were in our early teens, so it seemed good at the time.”


KEITH: “1991, Mose Allison. I was so impressed that he knew his book so well that without a physical copy for himself, he could rattle off numbers of tunes to the local musicians who accompanied him, and he had a ton of tunes!”

LEE: “I have been to many concerts at the Van Dyck, and I am almost positive it was Nick Brignola. Talk about another inspiration. I really miss that guy.”

BRIAN: “I can’t recall which was my first concert, but I do have fond memories of seeing Michael Brecker (twice), Pat Metheny, Chick Corea’s Origin, the Brian Blade Fellowship and the Dave Holland Quintet (among others) over the years at the Van Dyck.”

JEFF: “Stanley Jordan, I believe. I think this was a school night in high school. I remember hearing about Stanley Jordan and checking out his records and just being blown away by his finger-tapping style, which I had never witnessed before. He came out on stage sat on his stool put his guitar on, said hello into the microphone, and then said “I’ll be right back” before leaving for another couple of minutes and then coming back to blow everyone away with an inspired solo performance.” 

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