In photo: The Keith Pray Quartet plus Jerry Weldon played the Cock ’n Bull last Friday. From left: Dave Payette, piano; Lou Smaldone, bass; Jerry Weldon, tenor sax; Jeff Siegel, drums; and Keith Pray, alto sax.
When Yossarian cried, “I see everything twice!” in “Catch-22” (hoping to escape combat), he could have been hollering about multiples here: two tribute shows and five blues shows.
First, here in Veterans Day week (I was Navy), hats off to WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany) for presenting “SongwritingWith: Soldiers” tonight. SW:S showcases songs written by veterans with guidance from mentors/pros including Georgia Middleman, David Forman, Jay Clementi and Terry Radigan, who’ll attend. SW:S co-founder Mary Judd, photographer Rick Loomis and others will discuss the project, which heals the trauma of war through songs. 8 p.m. $22. 518-465-5233. www.thelinda.org
Pairing Roy Orbison with Buddy Holly in “The Rock ’N’ Roll Dream Tour” Friday at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) matches these architects of ’50s rock by stature and honors little-known connections, apart from horn-rimmed glasses. Orbison jammed with Holly, then brought the fellow Texan to Norman Petty Studios, launching Holly’s short, brilliant career. Holly recorded two Orbison tunes on his debut album. In this roots/virtual presentation, holograms of Orbison and Holly perform with a live band. 8 p.m. $65, $55. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
In another tribute, sadly the same night, The Garcia Project recalls the Jerry Garcia Project — a funkier, more eclectic band than the Grateful Dead — at Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St.), Like some Dead tributes, The Garcia Project recreates actual setlists. 8 p.m. $27 floor, $25 parquet and balcony. 518-953-0630 www.thecohoesmusichall.org
BLUES, MORE BLUES
Blues blast off Friday at WAMC’s The Linda in the International Blues Challenge Winners Benefit Show. Area bands representing the Capital Region Blues Network will perform this benefit show to raise funds for their Memphis trip to complete in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge: Wyld Blue; Mark and Jill; and the Young Wildcats. 8 p.m. $15
Saturday, the North Mississippi Allstars play the Cohoes Music Hall. Blues scholars/players Cody (drums and keys) and Luther (guitar) Dickinson (sons of producer-musician Jim Dickinson) learned from venerable masters of juke-joint get-down, but play the blues with as much rollicking, rocking spirit as reverence. Powerful and prolific, they’ve made an album a year since 2000. 8 p.m. $38, $28
Also Saturday, the Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band and J.D. Wilkes play funky southern blues at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). It’s sold out, silencing my usual same-night-shows complaint.
As Indiana Nash tells us in The Gazette today, veteran blues guitar giants Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd play the Palace on Tuesday. Wednesday, two more play the Cohoes Music Hall: Californian-but-Memphis-style Tommy Castro + the Painkillers, and southern-fried Tinsley Ellis; compatible enough they may share Castro’s band as in a recent Upper Room show. $45 floor, $35 parquet and balcony
Marty Stuart all but stole Ken Burns’s “Country Music” PBS series, and brings the same insight and respect to The Egg on Saturday. Nobody goes deeper into country music and meaning than Stuart, who lifted the Byrds’ “Sweethearts of the Rodeo” jukebox/history show over the moon last year at The Egg. Now, Stuart celebrates his own 1999 classic album “The Pilgrim.” His Fabulous Superlatives, rhinestoned to the max, are Kenny Vaughan, guitar; Harry Stinson, drums; and Chris Scruggs, bass. 3 and 8 p.m. $49.50, $39.50; VIP Big Chief Special $169.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
JAMS FOR JOSH
To help Josh Bloomfield afford medical treatment, fellow musicians play Sunday at the Hangar (675 River St., Troy). Super 400, Soul Sky, the Chris Busone Band, Soul Serenade, Scotty Mac, Luke McNamee, Matt Mirabile, members of the Lawn Sausages, Steve Candlen, Sly Fox, Brothers Flynn, The Tradition, Donna Tritico, Amy Collins and others will honor their pal, who has played more benefits than anyone can count. 4 p.m. 518-272-9740 www.thehangaronthehudson.com
RUSH TO CAFFE LENA
No folksinger exerts a more compelling musico-emotional effect than ironically named Tom Rush, who never hurries but never misses his mark at the heart of a song, either. Famed since the ’60s for astute song-scouting and low-pressure/high-impact performing, Rush plays Caffe Lena Sunday at 4 and 7 p.m. $55 advance, $65 door, $32.50 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Hit the Van Dyck last Tuesday too late to see Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble play “Free Bird”; my friend and Siena professor John Michael Caldaro laughed that the tune left his physics of music students incredulous. But the second set brought funky swing from the Kenton, Strayhorn and Basie canon, bop and blues aplenty. Then I caught every note, and dinner, when Pray’s quartet with guest tenor sax-man Jerry Weldon bebopped the Cock ’n Bull on Friday.
Most songs hit hard, especially the one-two blast of “No Greater Love” and “I Remember April” early and “Wabash” late; honking note-squalls of force and feeling. When they slowed a bit into “For Ge-Ge,” Weldon quoted “The Girl from Impanema” and Pray picked up on it immediately. Very different players — Weldon flamboyant with backbends and aggressive crouches, stalking the song; Pray intent but more reserved — the two horns harmonized fluently and ping-ponged ideas as if sharing synapses. But it wasn’t all blast and burn: Weldon’s “Body and Soul” shimmered with emotion just as Pray’s “Stars Fell on Alabama” cast a melodic spell later.
Drummer Jeff Siegel, bassist Lou Smaldone and pianist Dave Payette lit their own fires in the rhythm section, and formed a solid floor for sonic cathedrals Weldon and Pray spun upward.
Kendrick Scott Oracle reached into the same intuitive realm of many-hands/one-mind music magic the next night at Skidmore’s Zankel Music Center. Again, ballads offered revelations. In “Darn That Dream,” they conjured a compelling illusion: Saxophonist John Ellis seemed the only one, at first, who knew the song’s secrets. As he soloed, he seemed to lead the others into its heart, teaching; by the sweet ending, everything the band played seemed to emanate from his fingers.
Scott noted he’d come to Skidmore’s jazz camp in 1998, a life-changing experience he cited in giving his return a heartfelt poignancy. He led with a light touch, intro-explaining songs from “The Wall Became a Bridge” as personal statements his melodies and arrangements persuasively expressed. Somewhat distracting recorded-spoken passages faded during the 90-minute show, letting the music speak.
“New Eyes” opened with a droning groove that eased into a waltz vamp over a galloping drums clatter into “Mocean” that softened to let us down easy. “Catalyst,” about friendship, formed its melody from an abstract haze, then “Voices,” about life balance, pulsated in circular beats over tempo shifts that also mutated into a waltz.
Polyrhythms pumped from Scott like a beat factory in full production. His broad sonic palette colored the music, song to song, notably with startling, seismic bass booms in “Catalyst” and a pulsating clatter on two snares at once — one pounded by foot pedal — in “Cycling Through Reality.” If the titles seemed abstract, the effect was earthy, but also delightfully blithe in a joyous encore of “On Green Dolphin Street” with Shai Maestro’s piano leading the way.
Effortlessly intuitive, sizzling or sweet, the band was aces all the way: bassist Chris Pine flying or funkifizing the beat with Scott, guitarist Mike Moreno and tenor or soprano sax-man Ellis ably handling the solos, but also supporting one another and Maestro.
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