Jukebox: Jam giants in Albany, GE Smith in Cohoes

Top guitarists visit the region this week
Warren Haynes, left, and Jimmy Herring
Warren Haynes, left, and Jimmy Herring

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

Top guitarists visit this week. Two southern/jam-style giants play Albany: Warren Haynes with Gov’t Mule tonight at the Palace, Jimmy Herring with a new band Tuesday at The Egg. Three team up in one show at the Cohoes Music Hall Saturday: G.E. Smith, Jim Weider and Duke Levine. And gypsy-jazz revivalist Stephane Wrembel returns to Caffe Lena, also Saturday.

Haynes and Herring share formidable skills and made some of the same stops along a winding road. Playing in the Allman Brothers and The Other Ones/the Dead, though not at the same time, equips both as adroit, flexible improvisers.

Restless as Trey Anastasio (Phish, the Trey Anastasio Band), Haynes launched Gov’t Mule in 1994 in an Allman Brothers’ hiatus and now runs both Gov’t Mule and his solo project, Warren Haynes.

Comprising New Orleans aces, Warren Haynes makes southern soul music.Gov’t Mule cruises back roads of the blues, proving as durable over time as it is faithful to its original roadmap. Even while exploring jazz (“Sco-Mule”), reggae (“Dub Side of the Mule”) and even Pink Floyd prog-rock (“Dark Side of the Mule”), their trademark guitar cries and high-crunch grooves remain powerfully consistent on a prismatic blues journey with detours, now more than 20 albums deep.

The Mule even survived the death of founding bassist Allen Woody by parading guest brand-name bassists through early 2000s albums before Andy Hess, then Jorgen Carlsson, became full members.

When this Bring on the Music fall tour hits the Palace (19 Clinton Ave. at N. Pearl St., Albany), Gov’t Mule is Haynes, founding drummer Matt Abts, Danny Louis playing keyboards and guitar and Carlsson, bass. 8 p.m. $59.50, $49.50, $39.50, $29.50. 800-745-3000 www.palacealbany.org

Jimmy Herring introduces a new band dubbed the 5 of 7 Tuesday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). In addition to the jam-bands (Allmans, Dead) on a journey that landed him the lead guitar slot in Widespread Panic, Herring’s fast-on-his-feet improvising with the mercurial Aquarium Rescue Unit (led by the unpredictable Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret.) armed him with play-anything, any time speed and wide-open imagination. Herring hails this experience as teaching “how to think on your feet and exist in the moment.” Herring has said of his new crew, “There’ll be vocals, there’ll be instrumentals. There will be funk and rock and roll, with some songs leaning towards more sophisticated harmony … but, to me, it’s just music.”

The “just music” makers of the 5 of 7 are Kevin Scott, bass; Darren Stanley, drums; Matt Slocum, keyboards; and Rick Lollar, guitar and vocals; all but Darren had played together in King Baby whose album caught Herring’s ear. 7:30 p.m. $39.50, $34.50, $29.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Haynes played the Palace in the early 2017 Last Waltz all-star bash while Herring’s instrumental combo the Invisible Whip and John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension celebrated the legacy of McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra at The Egg later that year.

GE Smith, Jim Weider and Duke Levine play the Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.) Saturday as “Masters of the Telecaster” (the Fender electric Bruce Springsteen also plays), but borrowing Letterman’s “…need’s no introduction” tag also works.

In addition to WAY too many side-gigs to list here, Smith led the Saturday Night Live Band and played with Hall & Oates before touring with Bob Dylan; Weider played here with The Band (post-Robbie Robertson), Levon Helm and The Weight Band; and Levine has backed Peter Wolf and Rosanne Cash in area shows. They’ll play classic rock tunes with their own personal spin(s). The Nate Gross Band and Sly Fox and the Hustlers will open. 7 p.m. $49.50, $37.50, $29.50. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org

French-born Stephane Wrembel learned Django Reinhardt’s fleet “gypsy jazz” guitar style around caravan campfires, taking his skills to Carnegie Hall, Django festivals everywhere and many area shows, returning to Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) Saturday amid a strong run of shows. 8 p.m. $27 advance, $30 door, $15 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org

Former Saratogian and longtime Caffe stalwart Don Armstrong returns Friday from his Tucson adopted home in good company: singer son Joaquin Armstrong, fiddler-guitarist Chris Brashear, mandolinist Michael Markowitz, singer-guitarist Elizabeth Tighe and fellow Caffe stalwart keyboardist-singer Teresina Huxtable. Armstrong will bring fresh tunes from a CD now under construction: “Mother, Don’t Give Up On Me Now,” to be released by the Ronstadt Record Company. Armstrong guested with Petie and Michael Ronstadt (Linda’s nephews) last April at the Caffe; and he played some with Linda’s brother Michael before Michael died in 2016. 8 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 children and students

Caught the Linda bio-pic “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” at Proctors last week and found it powerful musically and emotionally. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, it’s full of live performances and interviews with and about her. 

The 95-minute film — its last area showing is tonight at Albany’s Spectrum 8 — portrays Ronstadt as fearless in chasing her muse and in frequent battles with a record industry reluctant to support her ambitions and experiments — all triumphs, by the way.

For a time, I asked women artists in interviews about sexism in the music biz. They all acknowledged it as a barrier to their artistic and commercial ambitions; but they all also said they found less of it in music than in the world at large. Singing what she wanted and leading all-guy bands, Ronstadt pioneered empowerment for her women colleagues at the time and since.

Other mixed media Caffe Lena notes: YouTube will stream Don Armstrong’s Caffe Lena show Friday. And tonight, WMHT airs “Lena…A Life In Folk” at 8 p.m. 

The one-hour documentary surveys the music-filled but challenging life of the Caffe’s late, great founder Lena Spencer. “As of this year, we’ve been operating as long without Lena as we did with her,” said Caffe Executive Director Sarah Craig.

Tonight, the Caffe presents blues-rock singer/saxophonist /guitarist Vanessa Collier, a Berklee grad, Blues Music Award winner and valued side-person stepping out on her own with four albums-worth of originals and covers and a young band of killers from Berklee. 8 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children

Collier isn’t the only strong woman saxophonist here this week: Melissa Aldana plays A Place for Jazz (Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, 1221 Wendell Ave.) Friday. The Chilean-born alto and tenor player also graduated from Berklee then studied with George Coleman. 
Aldana co-starred in last year’s Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour show at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, holding her own alongside Bria Skonberg.

Aldana was the first woman and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. 7:30 p.m. $20. 518-393-4011 www.aplaceforjazz.org

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