Keith Pray can’t remember exactly how many times he’s performed at Jazz on Jay over the years. But none of his eight or nine previous performances have ever been presented quite like his next.
Today, he kicks off the popular downtown Schenectady series as his third performance and second major show since the COVID-19 quarantine began.
“I didn’t know it was going to be happening until about a week ago,” Pray said. “It was good to see that it was going to happen and it was even better to see that they were trying to find a way to keep it safe for people and still giving people a chance to hear music and a chance for the musicians to perform music. Right now that doesn’t happen very much.”
The show will take place on the State Street end of Jay Street, where organizers say there’s more space to keep distance from others.
Chairs will not be provided, masks are mandatory and attendees are encouraged to stay home if they, or anyone in their home, feel sick.
Other events throughout the area have had cancellations — such as Music Haven’s events in Central Park, SummerNight in Schenectady and the Freedom Park Concert Series in Scotia — but Pray said being able to play the show, along with other shows, offers something special for musicians.
“It’s like getting a chance to hang out with old friends,” Pray said. “Especially jazz, it’s such a conversation with the musicians. Practicing by ourselves, we’ve been doing that. Recording by ourselves, we’ve been doing that. But jazz musicians need to play with one another; that’s what keeps us inspired. So it was a big relief to finally get a chance to do that.”
Pray’s ortet — featuring drummer Bob Halek, guitarist Mike Novakowski, saxophonist Brian Patneaude and Pray on the Hammond organ — will dish out a mix of ‘60s and ‘70s soul, jazz standards and funk tunes, along with some additional originals. Pray said he’s looking forward to playing new music he wrote during quarantine, and that he’s just as excited to play tracks from Hammond organ greats like Jimmy Smith.
“The whole idea of the group is to play fun, groovy music and connect with the audience,” Pray said.
Pray hopes that attendees, including those who haven’t yet been to a show since March, can take the night to “relax.”
“Put the worries on hold for a little while,” Pray said. “Just let go and listen to the music. And just have a good time rather than be stuck inside.”
The ortet’s performance kicks off at 12 p.m. and runs until 1:30 p.m. Next week, Jazz on Jay will see a performance from piano trio Trifecta.
The full lineup:
July 9 – Keith Pray Ortet
July 16 – Trifecta
July 23 – Jeanine Ouderkirk Quartet
July 30 – The Ragtime Windjammers
Aug. 6 – Art D’echo Trio
Aug. 13 – Tyler Giroux Trio
Aug. 20 – Brad Monkell Quintet
Aug. 27 – Colleen Pratt & Friends
Sept. 3 – Bob Gluck 3 plays Pat Metheny
Sept. 10 – Tim Olsen Quintet
Sept. 17 – Tarik Shah Trio