Holdsworth, Dead Cat Bounce play Saturday

It’s wrong: two first-class jazz shows on Saturday, both in Schenectady, too. The all-star Alan Hold

It’s wrong: two first-class jazz shows on Saturday, both in Schenectady, too.

The all-star Alan Holdsworth Band plays at the Van Dyck (237 Union St.) at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Both shows are nearly sold out, for good reason. Musician magazine ranks Holdsworth in its top 10 of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, a master equally fluent in rock and jazz and able to mix them in a personal, pleasing style.

His band features bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Virgil Donati. Haslip played Proctors several years ago with Yellowjackets, and guest guitarist Mike Stern; and he’s played here many times with many bands. I first met him playing at Saratoga Performing Arts Center with Al Jarreau. He’s among the most versatile and skilled electric bassists playing today.

Born in Australia, Donati has also played with many artists of all kinds and is touring with Holdsworth between projects with his fusion band Planet X.

Marbin, a jazz-rock group formed in Israel and now headquartered in Chicago, opens both shows. Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 on Saturday if still available. Phone 348-7999 or visit www.vandycklounge.com.

Meanwhile, across town, Dead Cat Bounce returns to the Proctors GE Theatre for a 7:30 p.m. show to wrap up Proctors Party Horns NYC series. (Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber and Brooklyn Qawwali Party preceded Dead Cat Bounce in this popular series.)

JazzTimes called Dead Cat Bounce’s fourth album “Chance Episodes” one of its top 50 jazz CDs of 2011. Bandleader Matt Steckler composed the music on commission by Chamber Music America and the American Music Center’s Composer Assistance Program, but this music is anything but academic. It’s varied, energetic, smart and strong.

Dead Cat Bounce is four saxophones (Steckler, Jared Sims, Terry Goss and Charlie Kohlhase), bass (Dave Ambrosio) and drums (Bill Carbone). They’re inspired in about equal measure by the World Saxophone Quartet and Charles Mingus, plus Caribbean, Brazilian and West African echoes. It’s in nonstop intelligent motion but never feels hectic because the melodies are so pleasing, the beats so earthy. They go pretty far outside at times, but they know the way back and how to get there without a map.

They’re well-schooled but intuitive, individual in their soloing but also eagerly cohesive section players. They toured the Midwest when “Chance Episodes” hit, played in New York in November, and this is a homecoming for Steckler, a Schenectady High School grad I met at the Freihofer’s Jazz Festival with his father, Union College professor of theater set design and artist Charles Steckler.

Matt told me how he discovered the World Saxophone Quartet while at Wesleyan University and that seminal band remains a primary influence on his music, which has also roamed in all directions through inspiration and curiosity. Jon Garelick called their music “tightly arranged, swirling contrapuntal reeds and multi-part blues n’ roots-infused tricky compositions” in the Boston Phoenix while Mike Joyce reported, “DCB revels in a reed-driven sound marked by sharply contrasting forms, textures and tones — strident, joyful, lush and strutting use of a horn section” in the Washington Post.

Dead Cat Bounce hits the Proctors GE Theatre stage at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $15. Phone 346-6204 or visit www.proctors.org.

Departed musicians

We lost two exceptional musicians recently: keyboardist Louie Mauriello, 62, and producer/engineer/keyboardist Art Snay, 60.

Louie and his twin, Ralph (bass), played in the first bands with my brother Jim Hoke, starting in fourth grade at St. Joseph’s Academy. They played school dances all over town as the Auratones, then all over the Northeast, recording some singles as West Side Highway, then Electric City. I was sometimes their roadie and always their fan. I loved hearing stories of odd gigs — how stunned they were when grown-ups cried at a dance when they played “Summertime,” how nobody actually danced in a Vermont gym where boys lined up on one side, girls on the other. The boys would cross the empty floor and invite girls to walk around the edge of the gym holding hands as the Auratones played a song, then stop when it ended.

Louie was a gentle soul and seriously fun-loving. He was aboard the only time I pushed my motorcycle over 100 mph. Something about the guy made you want to push things, if it was fun. On that run, he needed something at a drugstore and I waited outside on the bike. He was gentle, yes, but his fierce hairiness made some people nervous, like the clerk in the drugstore. I watched through the window as she tried to hide her alarm when he approached her — long ponytail down his back, beard bulging in all directions and tufts of hair poking from shoulders, back and chest through the mesh of his purple tanktop. I laughed and told him about her reaction when he came out; so he immediately went back in and first alarmed then charmed her.

When Jim went to Oklahoma to study music, the band followed, producing an ambitious, environmental-ahead-of-its-time song-cycle before splitting up. Jim stayed, they came home. On visits home, Jim would sometimes tote a sax to their gigs at such local joints as Allen’s on Route 50, slip in, then stand up at our table and start playing. We gladly spent many a Christmas Eve at their open-bar, free-for-all, night-long jams at the Towne Tavern. Part of my world’s-best-ever-50th-birthday celebration was the Auratones’ reunion there — all those guys rocking away for us for the first time in many years, as they did decades before.

That was the last time I saw Louie, and it was perfect.

I met Art Snay as the producer and engineer at his Arabellum Studios for a story on a band that was recording an album there but split up before completing it. The most evolved musician there was Art; his instrument, the studio. I’d kind of met him years before when the very sophisticated, ambitious but short-lived band/theater troupe od presented a complex mixed media show at Page Hall, unlike anything here before or since. Art’s keyboards were a big part of it, and watching him in the studio was a revelation.

He never moved very fast, and always spoke softly, directing everything to his own perfectionist standards. He’d move a microphone two inches, listen, then move it two more, or move it back — then do it five more times until it sounded right. His hands and ears were the indispensable tools that shaped the music.

He recorded many of our best bands: Blotto, Mambo-X, Dirty Face, the Lustre Kings, New Shiny Things, AKA/etc. and too many more to count; just as too many musicians to list here regard Art as the mentor who showed them the way, quietly and with endless patience and enthusiasm.

Musicians and fans will gather to remember Art on Sunday at Lynn’s Uptown Tavern (15 Colvin Ave., Albany) from 3 to 6 p.m. Steven Clyde Davies will host and play with the Ramblin Jug Stompers to launch what should be lots of music. The Last Conspirators, the Lustre Kings, Mark Emanatian and many more will play, and pay tribute.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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