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Having OGS take over The Egg is a bad idea

Thursday, March 7, 2013
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When the state Authorities Budget Office suggested that the Office of General Services take over The Egg, some alarmed fans of the superb programming at one of our premier venues compared it to building superintendent Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington Jr.) on TV’s “One Day at a Time” taking over from ace showmen Ed Sullivan or Bill Graham.

Some bureaucratic, process-oriented criticisms related to board operations rather than management, programming or results. Financial concerns in the report are bogus: Cuts in state funding — from $540,000 to $220,000 over the past two years — make this seem like criticizing a blindfolded pitcher for not throwing strikes.

Despite the cuts, The Egg has continued presenting the finest slate of performers at any area venue, working with reduced staff and still succeeding.

The Egg became The Egg as we know it when Peter Lesser came from the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and invigorated a once weak, unfocused program. He enlisted an efficient professional staff, created and promoted distinctive series with the widest range and highest quality of performances in the area — including American Roots & Branches, Rhythm International, a family series and the best dance program around.

In addition to presenting more and better shows, The Egg began generating revenue to keep tickets affordable by building a large membership base and supporting operations by recruiting a vigorous volunteer network.

Restaurant or bar operators within a dozen blocks of The Egg would agree that all this improved business and life in downtown. Artists love to perform there, complimenting Lesser and his staff even while good-naturedly joking about its shape. Eccentric Brooklyn rockers They Might Be Giants even made a music video about it. Music writers’ best shows of the year list are always full of shows at The Egg.

What might an OGS takeover bring? With all due respect to OGS staff who, like The Egg staff, must make do with less, OGS has never demonstrated concert-presenting skills comparable to what The Egg puts on stage night after night.

As a state agency, OGS wouldn’t qualify for grants to help sustain The Egg financially, and a change in management would almost certainly erode the loyalty of its staff, crew and members, and its audiences and artists.

This is a very bad idea.

ALL THAT JAZZ

Three generations of jazz guitar royalty team up at The Egg tonight: Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo.

Now 87, Pizzarelli hasn’t lost a step. Vignola, 47, plays even faster but with the same sense of swing. At 28, Raniolo has already learned from and kept up with the greats, including Pizzarelli and Vignola.

Show time is 7:30 p.m. Get there on time. When Vignola and Raniolo played the Eighth Step last year, he complained when some fans came in late that they had to start over. They then played bits of everything they’d played to that point, jumping quickly and hilariously to the next.

Tickets are $24. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.

Dead Cat Bounce kicks off Proctors’ Party Horns NYC third series on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Proctors GE Theater (432 State St., Schenectady).

This powerful, versatile, four-saxes-and-rhythm-section band is the brain- and heart-child of Schenectady’s own Matt Steckler, a Brooklyn transplant who, by the way, has a newborn son, Eliot. Let’s see if he has any new songs about him, since the band’s brilliant “Chance Episodes” album (2010–honored on Best CD lists of Downbeat and JazzTimes).

Tickets are $15. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.

Meanwhile, just blocks away, Gypsy jazz guitar whiz Stephane Wrembel plays the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Last year at The Egg, Wrembel led a 10-piece band in celebrating Django Reinhart’s music in swinging fashion by playing what Wrembel aptly called “the best guitar possible, but not polite.”

An adroit composer, Wrembel wrote the theme for Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and performed it at the Academy Awards show, and wrote the score for Allen’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona.”

Tickets are $18 in advance, $22 at the door. Phone 348-7999 or visit www.vandycklounge.com.

The Terry Gordon Quintet introduces its new album “Tomorrow Calling” on Sunday at Panza’s (510 Route 9P, Saratoga Lake), a showcase sponsored by the Swingtime Jazz Society.

“It’s all about the writing,” Gordon told radio host (and Gazette copy editor) Tim Coakley on WAMC-FM on Saturday night, going on to describe how he wrote “Blues for Tanner” right before they played it the first time.

This experienced band — Gordon, trumpet and flugelhorn; Eric Walentowicz, saxophone; Michael-Louis Smith, guitar; Bill Lawrence, bass; and Matthew Maguire, drums — is curious and inventive together, and fast on its feet.

The Terry Gordon Quintet plays two sets, starting at 4 p.m., then opens the stage for a jam session. Admission is $15, $5 for students. Phone 584-6882.

WHEN IRISH EYES . . .

One of the very finest traditional Irish bands playing today, Altan visits The Egg on Saturday. This is a week and a day ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, when The Egg belongs to Maura O’Connell. But expect the full melodic beauty, poignancy and dancey rhythms of Irish music at its best. (Click here to read more about the band in Brian McElhiney’s story)

While co-founder Frankie Kennedy died in 1994, the rest of the band remains unchanged: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, vocals, fiddle; Ciarán Tourish, fiddle; Mark Kelly, guitar; Ciarán Curran, bouzouki; Dáithí Sproule, guitar; and Dermot Byrne, accordion. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28.

On Sunday, the Eighth Step presents Irish troubadour Tommy Sands with son Fionan playing guitar and mandolin. Sands writes and sings rebel songs; he calls his new album and his Eighth Step show “Arising From the Troubles.”

But he also sings of peace and forgiveness, including Pete Seeger’s “The Music of Healing” on the album.

Show time for Tommy Sands’ “Arising From the Troubles” is Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre).

Tickets are $26 in advance, $28 at the door and $50 for up-front seats and a preconcert meet and greet reception.

ALL THAT FOLK

A Place for Folk (First Unitarian Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.) presents the terrific duo of Anne Hills and Michael Smith on Friday at 8 p.m.

Compelling individually, as writers and singers both, they have a remarkable chemistry when performing together. Hills’ voice has such beauty it may distract from her songwriting, but longtime fan Tom Paxton points out what a mistake this would be. The very title of Smith’s new album — “Old Man Dancing” — shows the humor and realism behind his writing.

Tickets are $16; $2 for each child over 6, $14 for students. Phone 377-0002 or visit www.aplaceforfolk.org.

Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at hochanadel@dailygazette.net.

 
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