Jukebox: Women shine bright at Jazz Festival

Canadian saxophonist/flute player Jane Bunnett lit up SPAC
Jane Bunnett on flute and Elizabeth Rodriguez on violin during Sunday's Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival.
Jane Bunnett on flute and Elizabeth Rodriguez on violin during Sunday's Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival.

Canadian saxophonist/flute player Jane Bunnett lit up Saratoga Performing Arts Sunday, day 2 of Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, with her all-Cuban, all-women band whose brightest star, violinist-singer-dancer Elizabeth Rodriguez, seemed incandescent.

I kicked myself, coming late to their main-stage party, though the young Noah Preminger (tenor) and Jason Palmer (trumpet) quartet shed smart new light on old blues beautifully in the (fantastic, new!) gazebo’s first set. Palmer didn’t get to do much in the Jazz 100 tribute Saturday, but shone bright alongside Preminger Sunday, saving souls at the junction of Bourbon Street and hard bop in a gloss on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” going deep and far with “Trouble in Mind,” “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” and the inauguration day protest “Mother Earth.”

Joining the largest and happiest first-set crowd I’ve seen in this fest for Bunnett’s world-music whirlwind was major ear-opening. Their sound was Latin, their feel exuberant, their skill virtuoso-level on every instrument and mic.

Back at the gazebo, abstract, episodic post-bop by trumpeter Adam O’Farrill (young son and grandson of Latin jazz giants Chico and Arturo) felt less Latin than his noble lineage suggested. O’Farrill’s playing echoed Dizzy; Palmer’s, Satchmo.

Blues kid Quinn Sullivan paid tribute to mentor Buddy Guy with his muscular quartet on the main stage: from Guy-style brash, breakneck runs to sweet, quiet meditations; but he mostly went big, loud and upbeat.

So did supergroup Hudson — Jack DeJohnette, drums; John Scofield, guitar; Larry Grenadier, bass; John Medeski, keyboards — next on the main stage. Two of their first four tunes were Hendrix classics. A sizzling “Wait Till Tomorrow” and a simmering “Castles Made of Sand” sandwiched “Hudson” and “El Swing,” both originals from their debut album, as is Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” brashly deconstructed, hard-bop style and KrazyGlued together. Veteran Scofield (and young Sullivan, earlier) used Jerry Garcia-like tones at times. DeJohnette and Grenadier rocked the groove and Medeski explored outer space, mostly on organ.

Siren-voiced Dee Dee Bridgewater’s soulful main-stage set also peaked with covers: “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Can’t Stand the Rain” and “The Thrill is Gone.” Blind Boy Paxton reached back even further in the gazebo, first urging “Don’t enjoy yourself!” as he tuned up, then delivering earthy, bawdy 1920s blues that everybody enjoyed. A hoot and a holler, he was effortlessly timeless and richly entertaining.

Next, Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles, a young septet, turned their over-long soundcheck into an impromptu song, then upshifted into Prince’s “Controversy” to irresistible, pulsating effect as the rains came, prompting umbrella sharing, happy heedless dancing and fans holding down the sound tent as winds tried to tug it to Boston. Exhilarating, and soaking.

Big-band blues dominated “To Ray with Love,” a main-stage jukebox revue of Ray Charles’ hits. Sax-man/singer Maceo Parker portrayed “the Genius” before a vast tuxedoed band and, at the end, three singing Raelettes. Note-perfect, precise on Charles’ trademark vocal hesitations and howls, Parker’s Xeroxing of Charles’ mannerisms felt jarring and the whole machine took too long getting to hits everybody wanted: “Unchain My Heart,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “What’d I Say?”

The Gypsy Kings closed, many fingers fanning flamenco flurries from many acoustic guitars over a low-key rhythm section and behind burly vocals from Nicolas Reyes and sultry solos from Tonino Baliardo, sole original members. A younger guy sang the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” played in the same lush, layered complexity as their Spanish tunes. It wasn’t jazz, but if lifted off nicely.


There was something familiar in the words NRBQ singer Terry Adams read Friday at the Hangar; all came hilariously clear as guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Casey McDonough and drummer John Perrin softly answered, “Alley Oop, oop, oop-oop!” Fans fell down laughing as NRBQ, maybe our fun-est band, tugged us into its comic-strip, bebop, romping rockabilly world where anything goes and everything makes you feel about 19.

We got astounding covers: “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Alley Oop,” “Ain’t Got No Home” (McDonough hitting both bass notes and falsetto), “Wild Weekend,” “My Back Pages,” “Wonderful World.” We got original faves: “Waiting on My Sweetie Pie,” “That’s Neat, That’s Nice,” “Boozoo,” “I Want You Bad,” “Ain’t It Alright,” “Wacky Tobacky” and the set-closing “Do You Feel It?” — we could — before big encores including “Can’t Wait to Kiss You” and “Honey Hush.” And we all got happy.

A rollicking “Monk’s Mood,” with Adams’ hottest piano solo of a hot show, set the table for SPAC’s Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival Saturday and Sunday.


On Sunday, real-country (no frills or fuss) singer-songwriters Gillian Welch and longtime music and life partner David Rawlings play The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). 7:30 p.m. $38.50 473-1845 www.theegg.org

On Monday, the Tedeschi Trucks Band rolls its third annual Wheels of Soul tour into Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Rts. 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs). One of summer’s rootsiest, rockingest shows, this revue features the large, super-strong TTB fronted by slide guitar ace Derek Trucks and wife-singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, with powerful openers the Wood Brothers and Hot Tuna. Oliver Wood, guitar; Chris Wood, bass; Jano Rix, drums, recorded “Live at the Barn” in the late, great Levon Helm’s Woodstock home-studio. Hot Tuna is always Jorma Kaukonen, guitar, vocals; and Jack Casady, bass; sometimes also with Larry Campbell, guitar; Teresa Williams, vocals; and Justin Guip, drums. 7 p.m. $89.50-$25. 800-745-3000 www.livenation.com


’Tis the season, busy and beautiful:

  • Alive at Five (Jennings Landing in the Corning Preserve, Albany): The Outlaws play southern fried rock tonight, Steppin Stones open. 5 p.m.
  • Freedom Park (Collins Park, Scotia): Rootsy Bluz House Rockers rock Saturday with fireworks after and a waterski show before; guitarist Maria Z and Alegria play flamenco/jazz Sunday; the Scotia-Glenville Pipe Band wails Wednesday. 7 p.m.
  • Jazz on Jay (Jay St., downtown Schenectady): Linda Harrison leads her quartet; today. Noon
  • Lake George Arts Project (Shepard Park): Alex Torres & His Latin Orchestra light up Latin music for dancing Wednesday. 7 p.m.
  • Made in the Shade of The Egg, Albany: Folk-rocker Adam Ezra leads his indie-diverse band Wednesday. Noon
  • Riverlink Park, Amsterdam: The Suitcase Junket (one-man band Matt Lorenz) plays everything in sight, Saturday. Noon
  • Summer Sessions at Brown’s Brewing Co., Troy: Tonight area faves Eastbound Jesus and Black Mountain Symphony roots-rock the place. 5 p.m.

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected].

Categories: Entertainment

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