The BWC Jazz Orchestra: Blending Traditions and Showcasing Jazz Brilliance at A Place for Jazz


The Brucker/Weisse/Canterbury (CWB) Jazz Orchestra mobilizes top area virtuosos to uphold three venerable traditions on Friday, Sept. 22, at A Place for Jazz. And it features a he-played-in-ALL-our-top-bands star in a rare homecoming.

Drummer/co-founder/co-leader Cliff Brucker explained that the band preserves the legacy of Albany’s Jazz Workshop Band by playing many of its arrangements. That’s tradition number one. 

Every season, A Place for Jazz showcases one local ensemble among national-caliber touring talents. CWB checks that tradition box, too.

And, nearly every season brings a big band; there’s tradition number three. As last year, when the Peg Delaney Big Band filled both local and big-band slots, the CWB is also both.

The returning star: That’s alto saxophonist Cliff Lyons, who played with everybody here before going national with New York City’s Ed Palermo Big Band and touring with the Scottish-American veteran soul crew the Average White Band. Both ensembles have brought Lyons back here, including an EPBB gig at Proctors GE Theatre in the 2014 Party Horns series Matt Steckler curated.

“Our band started off as a reading band,” said Brucker before BWC played WAMC’s The Linda in July. “I was gifted hundreds of charts from Al Quaglieri Jr. that were his dad’s from the venerable Albany Jazz Workshop,” Brucker added. “That band featured all the heavies from the ‘60s era,” including saxophonists Nick Brignola and Leo Russo, trumpeters Mike Canonico and Al Quaglieri Sr. (who also played piano), and others.

Photo by Rudy Lu

In addition to those legacy charts, “We play music from Count Basie, Thad Jones, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, and many from the traditional jazz canon,” said Brucker. “We also have young and seasoned arrangers in the band that offer original and fresh arrangements that we perform, as well as modern arrangements from Bob Mintzer and Bill Cunliffe.”

Before their mid-July show at WAMC’s The Linda, co-leader/trumpeter/conductor Dylan Canterbury listed some songs the BWC planned to play that night:

  • “When Sunny Gets Blue” (Fisher/Segal, arr. Al Quaglieri)
  • “Bill’s Riff” (Jim Corigliano)
  • “Keepin’ On” (Dylan Canterbury)
  • “Just Friends” (Kenner/Lewis, arr. Elias Assimakopoulos)
  • “The Song Is You” (Kern/Hammerstein, arr. Bob Florence)
  • “Kansas City Shout” (Ernie Wilkins)

Since forming two years ago, the BWC has played Freedom Park, WAMC’s The Linda, and other area venues.

“Special guest will be my old buddy Cliff Lyons on alto sax,” said Brucker. “Cliff has been touring with the Average White Band for the last few years and is a fantastic sax player. In fact, everyone in the band is a monster player!” He said, “We also feature a fresh and up-and-coming vocalist, Kaitlyn Fay, who also happens to be our baritone sax player.” Fay sang with her own ensemble at Jazz on Jay in 2022.

Fay and several others also play in Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble, the area’s other big band – playing Sept. 26 at the Cock ’N’ Bull in Galway.

The BWC is co-leaders Cliff Brucker, drums; Steve Weisse, trumpet; and Dylan Canterbury, trumpet and conductor; with Jim Corigliano, Cliff Lyons, Dave Fisk, Kevin Barcomb, Kaitlyn Fay (also vocals), and Wally Johnson, saxophones; Chris Pasin, Vito Speranza, and Kathleen Ehlinger, trumpets; Ken Olsen, Don Mikkelsen, Elias Assimakopoulos, and Shaun Bazylewicz, trombones; Wayne Hawkins, piano; and Dave Shoudy, bass.

A Place for Jazz presents five concerts on alternate Fridays at the Carl B. Taylor Auditorium of the SUNY Schenectady (formerly Schenectady County Community College) music school in the Begley Building. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $22.69, including the service fee.

The 2023 A Place for Jazz season began Sept. 8 with percussionist Wilson “Chembo” Corniel, Jr.’s quintet, continues Sept. 22 with the BWC Jazz Orchestra, then saxophonist Camille Thurman and the Darrell Green Quartet Oct. 6, pianist Emmet Cohen and his Trio Oct. 20, and clarinetist Ken Peplowski and his Swing All-Stars Nov. 3. 

Cohen played at Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in late June; I reported here:
“Cohen played every style, every mood, every era the piano can evoke, with bravura technique, bustling imagination and personality. He covered the waterfront but in his own colors…Cohen’s go-anywhere improvising kept young (21) bassist Joey Raineri and drummer Kyle Poole on their toes; us, too.”

Peplowski played A Place for Jazz in 2009 with saxophonist Eric Alexander’s One for All band. Any sideman gig in such fast company confirms superb team-player skill and flexibility; their vintage swing style demands it.

A Place for Jazz is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, all-volunteer organization that super-fan Butch Conn founded in 1987. The organization funds scholarships to promising young jazz players and often presents its stars in workshops and master classes in area schools. The series moved from its original home in the Unitarian Universalist Society’s Wendell Avenue “Whisperdome” to the Carl B. Taylor auditorium of the SUNY Schenectady music school during the pandemic.

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