Flashback: Muddy Waters, Elvin Jones, Walter Bishop Jr. and more at 1967 SUNY Albany Jazz Festival

Editor’s Note: This review of the Jazz Festival at SUNY Albany on May 6th, 1967 was originally published in the Albany Student Press on 5/12/1967.

The Jazz Review by Lou Strong

IT’S ALL OVER!! It finally happened and this reporter is Just about the happiest and most relieved person on the face of Stonehenge. But, in front of me right now is one of the most difficult tasks ever to face any man: I have to be objective about the thing I love. It’s a difficult task and I doubt if I’m up for anything right now, but that’s beside the point -but I’ll try my best.

Muddy Waters

Before I go any further, there are some very important people that deserve public and private recognition for a job very well done. First and most important, Linda and Denny, you have shown yourselves to be two of the hardest working people ever to grace this campus.

And now to the festival. From my objective (sic) viewpoint, the festival was a musical, aesthetic and educational success. Otherwise, it failed. We were trying to show the student body what is happening in jazz. WHERE WERE YOU?? At times I feel that some of you were really happy to be completely ignorant of anything that you know nothing about. I was told that this is the way that it usually is with a beginning activity, and I hope that this is true.

For, next year’s festival plans to be even bigger and more interesting than this year. But what can the co-chairman do when the people they are working for refuse to support their efforts?

Nick Brignola & friends

Nick Brignola, the righthand of this festival showed me that Albany’s jazz musicians have quite a bit on the ball. Nick took some solos that were absolute works of art. He shows maturity, technical proficiency, and mastery over one of the most difficult Instruments in the repertoire, baritone saxophone.

Dick Berk and Reggie Johnson, our workhorse house rhythm section, have got to be one of the most exciting duos going. In Reggie, I found the ultimate in coolness and peace that any musician can have with his instrument. Reggie loves his jazz and it shows in his playing. He was constantly pushing it and himself to the ultimate, making more notes and runs come through with less and less difficulty.

What can be said of Elvin Jones? He has added so many new things to the entire concept of Jazz drumming, that we could easily call this “Elvin Age,” His solos are beauteous things that demand the listener listen. He speaks beautiful subtleties and searing tirades that can elevate you to a pitch of frenzy. When he played with Lee Konitz (alto), Charlie Haden (bass), and Don Friedman (piano), you could notice a rapport and Interrelationship with the four, The (act that they had played together as a group before gives great testimony of their artistry and experience. They were able to relate to each other’s ideas, comment on them, and pass them on to the audience in the true manner of the avant-garde movement. This was the second time that I had been exposed to the real avant-garde and it was a truly memorable experience.

Elvin Jones

In Charlie Haden and Don Friedman, we have an interesting facet of today’s jazz musicians. Don and Charlie are both accomplished leaders in the “New Thing,” but I was able to realize that they both still have a firm anchor in the mainstream of Jazz. When they performed with Pepper Adams-Nick Brlgnola and with Reese Markewlch- Jerome Richardson, the mainstream in both of them showed through. Perhaps this disproves the theory that Leroi Jones and Archie Schepp have been propagating that the New Thing is completely new. It Is really just another step in the evolutionary process that jazz has been experiencing since its very beginning.

Muddy Waters and his sextette did something to the festival audience that was more than we could take. They shook us up!! Besides this, they described the parent of Rock ‘n Roll as well as funky Jazz.

Jeremy Steig’s Quintet was a slight disappointment to me. Jeremy seems to have lost much of the old feeling that he had for Ills flute. Perhaps it’s because of this new thing he has going with the new quintet. It’s like nothing he has done before. There were some patrons that felt that the group did not belong at a Jazz festival.

As has been the case wherever they have performed, the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band blew the roof away from the ballroom. They were one of the many performers that received a standing ovation from the audience. I hope to see them again at Newport and watch this roof-blowing process in action again.

Walter Bishop, Jr.

Walter Bishop Jr. was one of the highest highlights the festival had. His piano work was so well received that many people wonder why It Is that he Is relatively unknown.

Kenny Burrell did tor Sunday night the same thing that the band did for Saturday night. With Don Friedman, Charlie Haden, and Elvin Jones, he played a set that did so much to the crowd that lie was called back for more, His moving and unusual version of “People” reminded me of the things I heard him do at Newport ’67. His technique for guitar as well as his speed on the instrument leave little doubt in my mind as to who the first guitarist in jazz is.

See you at Newport ’67 and Albany Jazz ’68.

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