Best of 2019: Rudy Lu’s Favorite Concerts
As 2019 draws to a close, it is time to take a look back at live music in 2019. It has been quite a year for anniversary shows and reunions. 1969 was the year that the original Woodstock festival was held, and there were many other 50 year anniversaries as well. I had the privilege of seeing some of these shows as well as many other shows, 118 live musical events total, an all time record for me. As I have stated in previous years, these are not necessarily the best shows, but these are my favorites. I have spent many a weekend torn apart by the choices I have to make between awesome shows. What a great problem to have! Your tastes may vary from mine, especially since I lean heavily toward jazz. I tried to keep this to ten but could not eliminate any of these without feeling neglectful. They cut across different genres, but admittedly lean toward jazz. In no particular order:
Native Daughters @ The Egg on 7/26
Former Carolina Chocolate Drop Rhiannon Giddens bands together with fellow banjo playing African American folk singer/ songwriters Leyla McCalla, Amythst Kiah, and Allison Russell to reclaiming power and control over their heritage by producing music about the history of the African diaspora in their own words. Hopefully, the busy schedules of these gifted musicians will allow these talented musicians who really have something to say to tour and record together in the near future. We can all learn by listening to them.
Kendrick Scott Oracle @ Zankel Music Center on 11/8
This alumnus of the Skidmore Jazz Institute returned to give a mind blowing concert with original compositions with a smattering of standards. For Jay Hunter’s review see the attached link: https://nippertown.com/2019/11/15/live-kendrick-scott-oracle-zankel-music-center-skidmore-college-11-01-19/
Vernon Reid revisits the Band of Gypsies @ The Egg on 11/1
Not a tribute show, but a reinterpretation of Jimi Hendrix’s classic recorded in 1969, this show was a blast. With Vernon Reid playing the lead guitar and his supporting cast of Andre LaSalle (guitar), Jared Michael Nickerson (bass) and James (Biscuit) Rouse one wouldn’t expect any less.
Andy Bey @ Senate Garage, Kingston on 9/6
Andy demonstrates there is virtuosity in soft music played slowly and deliberately by piano and voice.
North Mississippi All Stars @ Cohoes Music Hall on 9/16
Luther Dickinson plays and preserves the blues from North Mississippi All Stars.
Cimarron @ Music Haven Schenectady on 8/11
Colombian joropo music from the plains of the Orinoco River complete with harp and dancing. A feast for the eyes and ears.
Ben Monder/Chuck Lamb @ Caffe Lena on 9/10
Avantgarde virtuoso guitarist Ben Monder brought his unique sounds to the Caffe Lena stage, gave no quarter and stretched the ears of the audience. The trio of jazz veterans, Harvey Sorgen (drums), Jay Anderson (bass) and series producer Chuck Lamb were nothing to shake a stick at either.
Maria Schneider Orchestra @ Troy Music Hall on 3/8
NEA Jazz Master Maria Schneider/ collaborator with David Bowie leads her all star orchestra through both her old music and her new project “Data Lords”, a dystopian musical fantasy about our increasing reliance on artificial intelligence.
Pat Metheny @ The Egg on 3/30
Pat Metheny reflects on his 40 plus years of musical performances with newer musicians he has never toured with before and they add additional interpretations to his now classic compositions. The trio performing featured up and coming keyboard player James Francies and veteran Nate Smith on drums. Pat is planning another Side Eye tour of Europe in 2020, there is no news of a release of a recording though.
Hot Tuna 50th Anniversary @ Troy Music Hall on 12/3
Just Jorma and Jack with a minimal amount of amplification and the amazing acoustics of Troy Music Hall in their unique brand of acoustic blues that can be said as meditative.
Out of town concert of the year
King Crimson 50th anniversary @ Radio City Music Hall, NYC on 9/21
I travel to NYC regularly for my day job and live music is what I do during the off hours. I haunt the jazz clubs of NYC. However, this was not one of my after work hangs. This historic event commanded that I make a special trip to NYC. No better place to enjoy this band than this Art Deco palace for the performing arts. Critics have described KC as having “the power of rock, improvisation of jazz and precision of classical” rolled into one. That aptly describes them. NO PHOTOS ALLOWED!!!!
Ongoing musical series by local musicians
Joe Barna with Sketches of Influence at Lucas Confectionery
(weekly Monday nights)
Joe Barna leads a quartet whose composition varies from week to week but never fails to showcase the finest jazz musicians in the area along with an occasional out of town guest. The first set is performed by the band. The second set is a jazz jam session where musicians are invited to bring their axes and show everybody their stuff.
Keith Pray Big Soul Ensemble at Van Dyck
(1st Tuesday of every month 8 pm)
Running for nine years, this big band holds court with 2 sets of music.
Capital Region Blues Network at McGeary’s
(Sunday night at 7:30 pm)
1st set with a featured local blues band, followed by a jam session on the second session. Great opportunity for fledgling musicians to spread their wings.