BEST OF 2015: Rudy Lu’s Top 10 Favorite Concerts


Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

To quote my colleague Stanley Johnson, “This is not a ‘Best Of’ list, because my tastes are mine not yours.” Based upon the 90-plus music performances I attended in 2015, these are my 10 favorites for 2015 in chronological order:

Roger Noyes’ “Invisible Man” @ the Albany Public Library, Albany, February 25: Greater Nippertown jazz guitarist Roger Noyes composed and performed music inspired by three passages from Ralph Ellison’s classic novel “Invisible Man” with a jazz trio. Coupled with readings, the music brought Ellison’s evocative prose to life.

Nellie McKay @ the Van Dyck, Schenectady, April 4: McKay is a talented, uncategorizable entertainer who played two sets of standards, British Invasion covers and originals that left the audience smiling.

“Reelin’ in the Years: A Night of Steely Dan Music @ the Bearsville Theater, Woodstock, June 5: Producer-bassist Scott Petito put together a band of all stars (not hard to do in the Hudson Valley) to pay tribute to a band known for its hummable melodies, tight arrangements and quirky lyrics. Of particular note were the Marotta brothers (Rick and Jerry) sharing the duties on drums, Leslie Ritter and Kat Mills as the “chick” singers and Gail Ann Dorsey performing many of the lead vocals. The audience was frequently singing along. An evening of pure fun.

Charles Lloyd @ Solid Sound at MASS MoCA, North Adams, June 28 (Day 3): Wilco’s biannual festival had two days of sporadic rain but nevertheless was enjoyed by all. The majestic performance of jazz legend Charles Lloyd with guitar great Bill Frisell sitting in was a breathtaking journey through bop, Latin and blues all within a half dozen songs in 80 minutes.

Beacon Jazz Festival @ Seeger Riverfront Park, Beacon, July 25: At the first of a hopefully annual event at the Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park, the music ranged from both inside and the outside world of jazz with no pop sweeteners to bring in the crowd. Downtown jazz performed outside in Upstate NY on the beautiful Hudson River. Of special note, the Sun of Goldfinger featuring David Torn, Ches Smith and Tim Berne. Ya dig!!!

Felicia Collins and Bobbie Van Detta
Felicia Collins and Bobbie Van Detta

Felicia Collins @ Music Haven in Central Park, Schenectady, August 9 – Home girl done good and comes home to give a rousing performance of the blues with an amazing band of locals and nationally known musicians such as drummer Anton Figg. A performance that kept the crowd on its feet and dancing most of the time. Best of all, it was free.

Rude Unkal @ The Falcon, Marlboro, August 21: Ace drummer Eric Harland and studio producer/free jazz saxophonist Dan Rovin led a band of seven musicians through a wild journey of musical styles ranging from klezmer to fusion, from free jazz to Gregorian chant, from Bach chorales to funk. Harland describes the amalgam as “purified garage jazz.”

Howard Fishman @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, October 3: Fishman and bandmates reinterpreted Bob Dylan & the Band’s Basement Tapes at the Spa City’s revered coffeehouse. ‘Nuff said.

Bruce McDaniel and Katie Jacoby
Bruce McDaniel and Katie Jacoby of Ed Palermo’s Big Band

Ed Palermo’s Big Band @ The Falcon, Marlboro, October 31: “The Torture Never Stops: 50 Shades of Frank” was Palermo & Co.’s annual Halloween concert complete with costumes, razor-sharp big band arrangements for baby boomers and some side-splitting adult humor. Had to be both seen and heard to be fully appreciated.

“Remembering Lee Shaw” @ Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady’s Whisperdome, Schenectady, December 11: A heartfelt memorial concert celebrating Lee Shaw’s life and music performed by seven bands and 23 musicians with others Skyping in from as far away as Germany and China. A truly fitting farewell to Greater Nippertown’s Queen of Jazz.

Those are my Top 10 in the Greater Nippertown area, but there is one performance I was privileged to see in NYC that I have to mention – Jose James’ stand at the Blue Note. James’ tribute CD, Yesterday I Had the Blues: The Music of Billie Holiday, sparkles, but he took it to the next level in concert with lots of interplay and space for his accompanying all-star trio – pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland.

Well that’s it for 2015. What will 2016 bring?

Stanley Johnson’s Favorite Things
J Hunter’s Top 25 Jazz Recordings, Part I
Tim Livingston’s Coolest Rock Event/Album That You Probably Never Heard About
Albert Brooks’ Top 5 Vocal Albums
J Hunter’s Top 25 Jazz Recordings, Part II

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