Jukebox: Wood Brothers lead off weekend full of blues, roots

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, Brett Dennen, Studebaker John, David Bromberg among other acts performing in the Capital Region
The Wood Brothers will perform at the famed Troy Music Hall on Thursday night.
The Wood Brothers will perform at the famed Troy Music Hall on Thursday night.

Categories: Entertainment

Happy stuff first: enough tough same-night-shows choices to make you stomp on your fedora. But sad stuff, below.

Tonight, the Wood Brothers bring percussive, tuneful blues to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). Brothers Chris (bass) and Oliver (guitar) Wood and Jano Rix (guitar/percussion) were already riding a wave of talent and ambition when a live album recorded in Woodstock (“Live at the Barn” at Levon’s place) and a SPAC stop on the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Wheels of Soul tour multiplied their local fan base. Deservedly so! Nashville old-school pop singer Nicole Atkins opens. 7:30 p.m. $39.50, $34.50, $29.50 518-273-0022 www.troymusichall.org

Also tonight, veterans Tommy Castro and the Painkillers with guest Tinsley Ellis blues up The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Half a generation younger than the Wood Brothers, Ellis and Castro and Castro’s muscular trio learned from the greats. 8 p.m. $44, $34. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org

Baby-faced popster Brett Dennen, singing uplift and community, takes over the Hall’s stage Friday. A sometime opener for John Mayer, he’s released six albums and numerous live sets. Folk-country singer Erin Rae opens. 8 p.m. $30

Studebaker John plays old-school blues Friday at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). How old school? He drives a Studebaker Hawk (a sporty coupe, made 1956-59 in Indiana), named his band after Chicago great J.B. Hutto’s crew, picks his vintage guitars with silver quarters fans bring him, and has even recorded on a 78 rpm Recordio machine. He’s guested with Brit-blues bands the Pretty Things and the Yardbirds, made 18 albums since 1988 and played everywhere. 8 p.m. $18. 518-465-5233 www.thelinda.org

Kat Wright sings soul Saturday at WAMC’s Linda, wrapping a big band (seven-pieces, sounding like early E Street) around her strong, clear voice. 8 p.m. $15

In fact, Saturday brings wall to wall roots music all over town.

David Bromberg brings his Big Band to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall Saturday, successor to the rollicking crew that he says “snuck up on me” in the late 70s and gave his albums and shows back then a brawny energy before he famously stepped back from performing (1980-2002). But the man can’t help himself: He’s edged back toward big-band-leader through solo, duo and small band shows here. Loudon Wainwright, a one-man band bursting with angst and wit, opens. 8 p.m. $55.50, $45.50, $35.50, $25.50

A younger, smaller big band (seven pieces versus Bromberg’s ten), Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, play The Egg Saturday. Singer Arleigh Kincheloe is Sister Sparrow, brother Jackson plays harmonica, in a funky mix of vintage sounds. 8 p.m. $34.50

Jazz trumpeter Chris Pasin reaches back to free-jazz roots on Saturday at the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Ave., N. Troy). Skilled, supercharged, flexible, Pasin plays with everybody in bands large and small here. On his own new album “Ornettiquette,” he celebrates the exhilarating freedom Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler brought into the mainstream in the 1960s.

I caught the band Pasin calls Ornettiquette at Jazz at the Spring last year and loved how Pasin infused Coleman’s sometimes spiky music with warmth but didn’t try to tame it, to sand off the rough edges of songs marking Coleman as the next great innovator after Thelonious Monk. The “Ornettiquette” album features Pasin with Adam Siegel, alto sax; Michael Bisio, bass; Harvey Sorgen, drums; Karl Berger, keys and vibes: and Ingrid Sertso, vocals. (Berger and Sertso co-founded the Creative Music Studio, Woodstock’s new-music lab/cauldron.) 7 p.m. $20. 518-272-2390 www.mediasanctuary.org


Sunday, British-born/NYC resident singer-songwriter Bobby Long brings conventional singer-songwriter fare to Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). But he’s surrounded by the mostly unexpected on the Caffe calendar.

First, details on Long: big voice ala Sean Rowe; fleet finger-style guitar, prolific – nine albums since 2009. 7 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 students and children

Fun starts tonight with California rootsy rockers Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, a rollicking California combo with rockabilly swagger, laid-back swing and tremendous vocals from Robert “Big Sandy” Williams who sports the best pompadour this side of Johnny Rabb. 7 p.m. $20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children

Caffe fave Roy Hurd, an authoritative singer-songwriter whose Adirondack roots show in every song, returns to the Caffe stage Friday with a versatile trio. 7 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 students and children

Ethereal folk/torch trio Everything Turned to Color evokes song styles of past decades Saturday at the Caffe: two guitars, a uke, often in waltz time, with harmonies from heaven. 8 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 students and children

Then the Caffe goes instrumental. The Chuck Lamb Trio brings guest trumpeter Valery Ponamarev to play jazz on Tuesday. 7 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children. Then, the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra goes really unexpected Wednesday. Scales plays steel pans, the metallic-sounding Caribbean tuned drums, with ELon JD, bass; Maison Guidry, drums, plus guests on their sixth album “Pillar.” Fantastic rhythmic and melodic energy! 7 p.m. $20 advance, $22 door, $11 students and children

Meanwhile, The Egg continues rolling through the week.

Former Great Big Sea singer Alan Doyle from Newfoundland brings his new band in on Tuesday. 7:30 p.m. $29.50

And the neo soul band the Suffers plays Wednesday. Singer Kam Franklin boasts the biggest and best voice among the woman-fronted big bands here this week, and the band has the steps and sounds of vintage funky R&B and soul. They lit a BIG fire at SPAC’s Jazz Festival a few summers back. 7:30 p.m. $29.50


A huge, happy crowd greeted Anat Cohen in last Friday’s final show at A Place for Jazz, wrapping the six-concert season. Skilled, effervescent, with enough personality for five bands, Cohen brought powerful, poetic playing, a light-touch leadership style and a contagious exuberance, declaring at one point how cool jazz is for the way it presents the chance to “invent stuff on the stage.”

Cohen’s clarinet and sax playing often rhymed with Gilad Hekselman’s guitar, though she made her reeds sing in mostly sweet fashion while Hekselman’s edgier palette recalled the hard-note masters John Scofield and John Abercrombie.

Her opening “Happy Song” was all that and a shot of bourbon – an abstract fusion number in the Miles “In a Silent Way” mode, dialogs in all directions and guitar fading the song into the ozone. “Purple Peace” followed, a slow smoky blues in waltz time in which Hekselman formed a melody from disjunct shards and passed it to Cohen whose clarinet made the most of it until they completed each other’s sentences.

Classics of Duke Ellington and Fats Waller wrapped the first set; Or Bareket’s bass summoning everybody back to the head in the former, Adam Cruz’s drums detonating a dense clatter before mutating into a Latin vamp in the latter as Cohen spiced the groove with shout-outs.

The second of two (shorter than usual) sets followed a spirited showcase in the cafeteria by the Oneida Middle School Band led by A Place for Jazz soundman Rob Aronstein. Peaking with “Autumn Leaves,” the kids earned smiles all around.

Hekselman’s helpful/necessary original “It Will Get Better” served up serenity before Cohen steered the quartet into familiar songs, but with highly individual variations. They closed in spunky overdrive with “After You’ve Gone,” melody and groove forming from scattered artifacts into a spirited, everybody-flying neo-Dixieland/bebop romp that was pure fun.


In a year already sad with the loss of musical greats (www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/obituaries/notable-deaths-music.html), funk guitarist Wah Wah Watson and jazz trumpeter Roy Hargove left us for what WCDB jazz DJ Bill McCann calls that “great 52ndStreet in the sky.”

Watson passed at 67 after laying down-home/scratch-the-sky riffs into many Motown hits, contributions so crucial he often earned composing credits. Pour some of the good stuff and check this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJV2pWFyfn4

Gone at just 49, Hargrove told us what he was all about in the intro to this clip. He promises, “It’s a fun place!” Hargrove’s music was a fun place, even at SPAC in the worst weather ever there. www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxeb0cwjE8U

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