Concert Review: Troy Winter Jazz Fest @ Alias Coffee, 2/26/2023
Nippertown jazz fans had a place to enjoy the music this late Sunday afternoon and evening, the Troy Winter Jazz Fest at Alias Coffee in Troy. Featuring three bands displaying part of the improvisational music ranging from the reinterpretation of broadway show tunes and jazz standards by Jody Shane Brooks and her trio, the World/Latin music of Elizabeth Cassius & Heard to the straight-ahead originals of Joe Barna.
Jody is a well-established presence on the local scene. Her trio truly swung with their set. John Esposito and Jeff “Siege” Siegel were imported from the Hudson Valley, while Jody’s husband Russ provided the bottom. The group provided an interesting interpretation of Monk’s “I Mean You” with a slower Latin-influenced beat rather than the fast way this tune is usually played.
Elizabeth Cassius and Heard provided a truly upbeat sound with the dual percussion supplied by Zorkie Nelson and Brian Melick; the audience was certainly tempted to dance. Some did, and many did in their seats. The NIppertown audience was introduced to the area’s newest saxophonist Laura Andrea Leguia. She hails from Peru via NYC, and the aural colors that she adds to the band bring added excitement to the frontline of Elizabeth Cassius on her electronic keyboards and melodica. The set-ending performance added to the polyrhythms with Joe Barna on agogo and Alexander Gonzalez on congas.
The closing performance was by a band led by Joe Barna with regulars Adam Siegel on alto, Tarik Shah on bass, Alexander Gonzales on percussion, and Ian MacDonald on piano. Direct from NYC, virtuoso Caroline Davis filled the slot of a 2nd alto player for the combo for her NipperTown debt. She firmly established herself with a set of mind-bending solos and unison choruses with Adam Siegel. The festival’s grand finale was all three altos on the bandstand, blowing choruses and each complimenting the other with their solos. Jazz musicians do a lot of listening to others; this was clearly demonstrated here.
The other theme of this festival is women in jazz. Two of the three bands were led by women, something that we are seeing more of in jazz but still not enough. The third featured a woman of world-class caliber, playing in the area for the first time. Women’s history month was celebrated a month early.
Hopefully, this is not the last we hear of this small festival, which certainly gave us a break from the winter doldrums. Thank you, Joe Barna, for putting this event together.