Luminaries honored, memorable concerts given
Among the highlights in jazz this year was a joint presentation by the Swingtime Jazz Society and A Place for Jazz of Italian violinist Luca Ciarla’s quartet at the Van Dyck in June. Before the concert, local jazz DJ Bill McCann was honored as a Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Saxophonist Keith Pray continued his two-week summer Jazz Institute at Proctors in Schenectady. The young student musicians were joined by guest instructor and trumpeter Ray Vega in a final concert as they showed what they learned.
Pianist Lee Shaw was honored for a lifetime in music in a special performance at Emma Willard School in Troy. She and her longtime bassist, Rich Syracuse, gave a sparkling performance of music by women composers which got, and deserved, a standing ovation.
Here, in chronological order, are the top 10 jazz performances of 2012 as selected by Gazette reviewers Tim Coakley, Michael Hochanadel and David Singer.
Frank Vignola at The Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theater (Feb. 4) His show doesn’t change much, nor do you want it to. He’s a master guitarist from the schools of Django Reinhardt and Les Paul, and his duet show presented his fast, clean, emotional, clever playing. Attended by many guitarists of all ages, the show taught and inspired. (Singer)
Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. (March 19) Led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the orchestra performed its usual classy show of traditional blues-based jazz. While Marsalis stayed out of the solo spotlight, we got top-notch players blowing clean and hard all night to standards we can never hear enough of. (Singer)
Salute to the Saxophone in Proctors Robb Alley. (April 15). The Schenectady Musical Union presented the Adirondack Saxophone Quartet Plus Two, Keith Pray’s Songs From Home, the Brian Patneaude Quartet and Lee Russo’s Salute to Hank Mobley. Pray’s folkish-sounding group was especially intriguing. (Coakley)
The Empire Jazz Orchestra at Schenectady County Community College. (April 17). The orchestra wove its way through the intricate challenges of music by the late Clare Fischer, conducted by his son Brent. Fischer’s music has unexpected twists and turns, and made the program, like most of the EJO’s, both ambitious and satisfying. (Coakley)
Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (July 1). A thrilling set by Hiromi — one of three great women pianists that day along with Diana Krall and Rachel Z — dazzled the sun-drenched crowd, and Trombone Shorty brought the funk in a tremendous explosion of New Orleans spirit to close the show. Other highlights: Edmar Castaneda, Sachal Vasandani, the Yellowjackets, Steve Kroon, Arturo O’Farrill. (Hochanadel)
Tom Harrell at A Place for Jazz (Sept. 14) The trumpeter led his quintet through a mostly high-pressure show with just one ballad in each set. He closed his eyes when playing, and echoed Miles, Clifford Brown and Freddie Hubbard in his swagger, melodic invention and momentum, respectively; but he always sounded like himself in thinking his way through the songs. (Hochanadel)
Doc Severinsen at Massry Center, The College of Saint Rose (Sept. 14) The trumpeter and bandleader, of Johnny Carson fame, delivered world-class jazz through a great set of ballads with samba beats, pop tunes from Argentina, gypsy-influenced jazz, fusion jams and swing. Even with a small band, Severinsen’s arrangements came with the gusto and excitement of a big band. (Singer)
Jazz One2One at the Athens Cultural Center. (Sept. 29). Bassist Ben Allison, saxophonist Joel Frahm and guitarist Steve Cardenas performed music by guitarist Jim Hall that was intricate but accessible. “The Train and the River,” which Hall recorded with the Jimmy Giuffre Trio, drew an immediate and joyful reaction. (Coakley)
Robert Glasper Experiment at The Egg (Oct. 7). Less experimental than its jazz/hip-hop mashup lineage suggested, this was a simply sensational display by a band that bears Glasper’s name but is actually a crisp ensemble of tremendous individual skill and breathtaking cohesion and power. Tremendous! — best show in any genre I saw all year. (Hochanadel)
— By Gazette music reviewers Tim Coakley, Michael Hochanadel and David Singer