Since forming The Chronicles in October of 2009, trombonist Bryan Brundige and saxophonist Jeff Nania have strived to mix things up both genre- and membership-wise.
In just four years, the group has seen entire lineups come and go. The band, while primarily instrumental, has performed with rappers and singers, and spends an equal amount of time playing both the burgeoning Capital Region jazz scene and the jam band festival circuit. For a brief time after forming, when the band would regularly busk in Albany, they even had a tap dancer, Dha’Sean Serrano, who is now based in Los Angeles.
“It was just an element of jazz in the ’20s and ’30s; it was a huge thing in the swing era,” Brundige said. “I really dug it; it transcended that history and was very exciting. Not everybody does that — the only cats I saw doing that were Igmar Thomas and those guys. . . . There are a couple other bands maybe nationwide that have tap dancers, so we were really one of a few doing that sort of thing. It was very modern and a lot of fun; it really brought smiles to people’s faces, and when we were playing on the streets it brought in a lot of tips.”
The Chronicles album release
WITH: Richard James & The Name Changers
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Red Square, 388 Broadway, Albany
HOW MUCH: $10 (includes digital download of “Spanning the Gap”)
MORE INFO: 465-0444, www.redsquarealbany.com
The title of the band’s second album, “Spanning the Gap,” which will see official release on vinyl at a show at Red Square on Friday night, is a reflection of the band’s genre-melding philosophy. Perhaps the best example is the album’s title track, written by Nania and featuring him rapping about the history of jazz over a hip-hop influenced groove.
The album, produced by Soulive’s Alan Evans, features the current sextet lineup of Brundige, Nania, keyboardist Tyrone Hartzog, guitarist Justin Henricks, bassist Daniel Lawson and drummer Andrae Surgick, along with guest performances by longtime collaborators such as singer Tara Merritt, bassist Dylan Perrillo and former members Philippe Chow (trumpet) and Nicholas Lue (piano).
“The whole concept behind the album is that we’re spanning the gap between different generations and genres, spanning jazz and hip-hop and bringing jazz to the public,” Brundige said.
“Jazz is not mainstream; you’ve got to hunt it out to really get it. You’re not gonna sit on a radio station and hear jazz if it’s not a regular jazz station; if you’re hanging out with somebody, nine times out of 10 they’re not playing jazz. We try to bring that vibe in there, the element of jazz within our music.”
So far, the band would seem to be succeeding in this endeavor on the local music scene. Both last year and this year, the band was named Best Jazz Band in Metroland’s staff poll. The band’s high-profile regional gigs include appearances at Tulip Fest, and a well-received debut at LarkFEST this September, opening the day’s festivities on the Washington Stage.
Based on friendship
The band evolved out of Nania and Brundige’s friendship. The two met as music students at Schenectady County Community College in 2004, and proceeded to play in at least three other bands together, including Lull and Nautilus, before forming The Chronicles.
“I was getting into Igmar Thomas & The Cypher, who’s now with Esperanza Spalding,” Brundige said. “It was kind of like this meld of musical genres, jazz and funk and hip-hop and soul, with a lot of gospel cats, too, and I was thinking, ‘How can I form this band in Albany?’ ”
The band played in its first incarnation for a little over a year before splitting up. By 2011, Nania and Brundige had re-formed the group with new musicians for a tribute to rapper J Dilla at Red Square, backing rapper J-Live, a University at Albany alumnus.
“That was kind of, I guess, the pivotal point — I was kind of done with it before because it was frustrating dealing with everybody,” Brundige said. “Kind of when it really started coming back together was when [we] backed him up. I said, ‘Hey, if you ever need a band to back you up,’ and [J] said, ‘Well, I’m playing this Brooklyn hip-hop festival.’ . . . That was pretty much the pivotal point where I said, ‘We’ve got to get this band back together.’ ”
Last December, the band released its self-titled debut album, produced by Brundige. Nania, Brundige and Henricks composed the majority of “Spanning the Gap,” which will be the band’s first vinyl release.
“We tracked it all live with slight overdubs,” Brundige said. “It was a great experience — Al [Evans] was a super genuine dude and had a lot of great ideas to offer.”