Bonanza of festivals makes it hard to choose

How do you choose among three music festivals in Albany: the Restoration Festival all weekend at St.

Could someone have organized things better here on Saturday? How to choose among three music festivals in Albany: the Restoration Festival all weekend at St. Joseph’s Church (see Brian McElhiney’s overview), Local Legends Live at the Empire State Plaza and the Riverfront Jazz Festival.

Local Legends Live stars Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing (he recently played WAMC’s The Linda, and THAT’s local), and it features Eastbound Jesus, John Brodeur & Charmboy, Karma’s Army, the Chronicles, Catching Cadence and Happy Birthday Dr. Jim on the main stage at the Empire State Plaza.

The Capital Underground stage on the Plaza features Let Go Daylight, JB a.k.a. Dirty Moses & Awar, the Latent, David Fey, Olivia Quillio, and Hard Soul. Show time is noon for this free show.

Contest to start

The Riverfront Jazz Festival actually starts on Friday night with the Downtown Albany Jazz Fest Competition, in which a local act will be selected to open Saturday’s free festival. Beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, these artists will play these venues: Pat Attanasio Quartet at 74 State, Brian Axford at Carmine’s Brazilian Grille, The Chronicles at The Bayou Café, Doctor Magnum at Blue 82, Gabriel’s Groove at McGeary’s Irish Pub, Le Rubb Duo at Taste, the New York Jazz Trio at The Merry Monk, and the Erica Sequine/Shannon Baker Jazz Orchestra at Capital Rep. Phone 465-2143 or visit

The winner of Friday night’s competition opens the full festival on Saturday at the Riverfront Amphitheater (rain site: the Palace Theatre at Clinton Avenue and North Pearl Street). The festival is free, and truly an embarrassment of riches.

Way Down plays at 1:15 p.m. These three recent Crane School of Music grads have local roots and play complex fusion music.

The Pedrito Martinez Group follows at 2:30 p.m. I saw them play a stunning set at Jazz Fest in New Orleans this May, and they wowed the crowds at Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival in June. Martinez combines Cuban and African influences in his percussion-powered music, and his band co-stars the tremendous keyboardist-singer Ariacne Trujillo.

Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis leads his band onstage at 4 p.m. Yes, one of those musical Marsalis brothers from New Orleans, Delfeayo spoke recently with J Hunter for an informative profile on the site.

Guitarist/bassist Charlie Hunter — he plays melodies, rhythm fills and bass lines all at once, on one instrument — performs at 5:30 p.m. A veteran of many Red Square and Van Dyck shows, he actually gets to play in daylight on Saturday. Almost alarmingly prolific, skilled beyond belief, Hunter is an expressive artist who makes serious content rather than simply showing off a flashy style.

Closing out this 11th Riverfront Jazz Festival — before the fireworks, that is — drummer Terri Lynne Carrington leads her ever-changing/always-thrilling Mosaic Project, starting at 7 p.m. (see David Singer’s write up on page D8).

The Riverfront Jazz Festival is always free. Visit

Carpenter in the house

When country-pop singer Mary Chapin Carpenter returns to The Egg on Saturday with opener Tift Merritt, the show resonates, all kinds of ways. Unusual for a country-marketed singer, Carpenter made her local debut at The Egg in the late 1980s while her contemporaries broke in by playing county fairs or kicker bars. (Then again, her manager at the time knew The Egg well. He was former Albanian John Simson, still a University at Albany student when he signed a record deal and recorded his first album in London. Simson and his band, mostly fellow UAlbany kids, opened the first concert I ever reviewed, for Kite in November 1973: Jethro Tull at the Palace. I liked his cellist: We met a short time later and dated for years, but I digress.)

Carpenter came by her songwriting craft through top-notch training, at Brown University. And, just as Jeff Foxworthy jokes that NASCAR fans dislike Jeff Gordon because he enunciates too clearly, mainstream country fans were slow to warm to Carpenter until the sheer beauty and insightfulness of her songs simply won everybody over to her.

Carpenter has navigated some show-biz and health rough spots en route to enduring stardom refreshed by periodic infusions of fine, fresh songs. Her latest is “Ashes and Roses,” her 11th, released this summer.

Remembering her earlier, obscure years from early in her country-star years, Carpenter wrote the wry lyric “You don’t know me: I’m just your opening act.” She has always chosen quality, lesser-known artists to open her shows, generously giving them the sort of boost she could have used. We know Merritt around here mainly from her WAMC gigs at The Linda, so she’ll draw her share of fans to The Egg on Friday.

Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $49.50 and $39.50. Phone 473-1845 or visit

Skerik’s Bandalabra

Sometime Charlie Hunter collaborator Skerik, a prolific and versatile saxophonist, brings his new group Bandalabra to Red Square on Monday: guitarist Andy Coe, bassist Evan Flory Barnes and drummer Dvonne Lewis. Skerik describes their fusion sound as “Fela Kuti meeting Steve Reich in rock’s backyard.” Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is $10. Phone 465-0444 or visit

More festivals

MusicFest 2012 on Saturday at the Indian Lookout Country Club benefits the Middleburgh High School sports program, recovering after last year’s Irene and Lee. The lineup is wide and deep: Matt Durfee, Eric Harkes, Happy Birthday Dr. Jim, Shakey Ground, Malorie Carr, the Slatehill Band, Black Mountain Symphony, Chelsea Sulkey, Courtney Blackwell, Russ Gentner, Paul Stringer, Cassie Blackwell & the Bobcats in “The Patsy Cline Experience,” and One Step Away. Advance tickets are $25, adults; $15, students; admission at the door is $30, adults; $20, students. Phone 414-2066.

The Mohawk Valley Garlic & Herb Festival Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Canal Place in Little Falls features performers TBA. It benefits the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts, and it has the best slogan of all of this weekend’s too-many events: “Eat, Stink and Be Merry!”

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts

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