BEST OF 2017: Rudy Lu’s Top 12 Favorite Concerts
Story and photograph by Rudy Lu
Anybody who knows me, knows my tastes are quite eclectic and varied, so rather than saying these performances were the best I have seen in 2017, these are my favorites. It has been a very good year for live performances this year, so I have a dozen favorites out of over 90 live performances from Greater Nippertown down to NYC. I am skewed to both ends of the popularity spectrum this year, from avant garde jazz to mainstream rock. By chronological order as follows:
1. David Amram @ The Falcon, Marlboro, February 5
An attempt to summarize Amram’s amazing 60-year career that includes collaborations with Leonard Bernstein, Charles Mingus, Jack Kerouac, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie and Hunter Thompson. David played piano, French horn, various percussion as well as the exotic Chinese woodwind, the Hulusi with musical accompaniment, poetry and dramatic readings by guests. Featured tributes to Phil Ochs and Woody Guthrie.
2. Arch Stanton Quartet @ Book House, Albany, February 25
Roger Noyes and crew bridge the gap between literature and instrumental jazz based upon the great American Novel Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” Hopefully some of the casual book browsers in the store absorbed some of this synthesis between music and literature.
3. David Weiss & Point of Departure @ The Falcon, Marlboro, April 2
The jazz rock fusion of the late ’70s is not rotting in a museum; it is still a progressing genre.
4. Michael Bisio Accortet @ Sanctuary for Independent Media, Troy, May 20
Contemplative yet challenging concert with an unusual quartet consisting of accordion, bass, alto sax and drums. There were frequent duos and solos among the players.
5. Amadou & Miriam @ Music Haven Schenectady, July 16
The Malian Afro-pop duo with their crack band kept the crowd up dancing for most of the entire performance.
6. Chick Corea Elektric Band / Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, The Egg, August 5
Two superstar fusion bands from the past reunited and touring together for the first time. They both played their own sets brilliantly. But the true treat was when they jammed together for the first time!
7. Jazz in the Key of Dylan @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, August 19
Local musician, producer and emcee Michael Eck has filtered Bob Dylan’s music through numerous tribute shows, but this was the first in jazz. Greater Nippertown’s prodigious bench of jazz talent was exclusively used to play this event. The combos included musicians who had played together for years as well as those who had never played together before. A showcase of the wide variety of songs that were penned by Dylan, painted with a broad brush of the improvisational music known as jazz. (Note: Caffe Lena is now also hosting a monthly jazz series on the first Tuesday of each month.)
8. Creative Music Improvisers @ Maverick Concerts, Woodstock, September 2
An octet of musicians led by Karl Berger and his wife Ingrid Sertso paid tribute to dear friend, the late Don Cherry, in two suites of his music. The music was laced with African and Asian influences and full of emotion.
9. Roger Waters @ Times Union Center, Albany, September 23
Greatest hits – from both Pink Floyd and Waters’ solo catalog – arranged to illustrate his outspoken statement on the human struggle for dignity and against oppression, complete with multimedia effects. A highlight was the appearance of students from Albany’s School of Rock appearing to perform in “Another Brick in the Wall.”
10. Hudson @ Bardavon Theater, Poughkeepsie, October 4
A homecoming concert for the jazz supergroup with Woodstock-based musicians Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Larry Grenadier and John Medeski. Jazz heavily influenced by the aura of ’60s music that originated in the Hudson Valley.
11. King Crimson @ the Egg, Albany, November 9
The second night of their two-night stand. The legendary monster band defies categorization and has undergone many personnel changes under the leadership of Robert Fripp. The present line up has a trio of drummers in the front with eight members total. Intense music. Enough said.
12. Shadows & Light’s “Joni Mitchell: A Tribute” @ The Falcon Marlboro, November 17
Bassist recording engineer, producer Scott Petito coined the band’s name on the spot when the band was being introduced. This sextet performed a heartfelt homage to the iconic singer-songwriter, and hopefully, there will be more from where that came from.
Joe Lovano’s Trio Fascination @ Atlas Studios, Newburgh, July 28
Completely free blowing jazz orchestrated by Maestro Lovano at a new venue in Newburgh devoted to free jazz, classical chamber music and dance.
Brad Terry with Mark Kleinhaut & John Menegon @ Spring Street Gallery, Saratoga Springs, September 28
Clarinetist and whistler extraordinaire Brad Terry played old school jazz in an intimate, 50-seat listening space. Jazz concerts occur on the last Friday of each month (apart from December).
FAVORITE OUT OF TOWN PERFORMANCE
Sebastian Shames @ Small’s, Manhattan, May 1
The Spanish pianist played with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxman Greg Tardy, bassist Javier Moreno and pianist Johnathan Blake. Straight ahead jazz.
MORE BEST OF 2017 LISTS
FRED RUDOFSKY’S Favorite 50 Albums of the Year
ED CONWAY’S Bakers’ Dozen Best Concerts
J HUNTER’S Best Jazz2K Releases (Part Deux)
DON WILCOCK’S Top 8 Blues Albums (And Year-End Rant)
WES SENECA’S Best Third Member of a Duo, Fourth Member of a Trio, Fifth Member of a Quartet…
STANLEY A. JOHNSON’S Top 12 (Or So) Live Music Performances
J HUNTER’S Best Jazz2K Releases (Part I)
Did no one else go St Paul and the Broken Bones at the Egg? Haven’t seen it on a single Best Of list this year. And what about the Ommegang shows? Best outdoor venue in the region. Elvis Costello and Cake were tremendous there. It seems these lists are about picking the most innocuous shows.
Dave, why don’t you submit your top shows to us? Check out many of my choices, most are far from innocuous!
if I lived in cooperstown, I could go to cake shows there, but most reviewers are not in the leatherstocking country.
I see shows in NYC and Hudson on several lists, so making a trip to Cooperstown isn’t exactly a stretch. And that’s fine, it’s a phenomenal venue and the less you guys mention it the less likely it is to get overrun. I’m not a rock critic, just an average guy who pays for tickets to every show but here’s my top 5 for the year:
St Paul & the Broken Bones at The Egg
Green Day at DCU Center in Worcester, MA
Elvis Costello and Amy Helm at Ommegang
Joe Bonamassa at SPAC
Primus at The Palace
Sting at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles (lucky accident on a west Coast business trip)
Cake at Ommegang
U2 at Gillette Stadium
Shows I missed but wish I had seen:
Hurray for the Riff Raff at The Egg
Spoon at Upstate Concert Hall
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