Bassist Garry Tallent of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band brings tons of talent (sorry … ) to the Hangar (675 River St., Troy) on Tuesday: guitarist Eddie Angel; stringed-things master Fats Kaplan and his singer wife, Kristi Rose; Mark Winchester, bass; Jimmy Lester, drums; and Kevin McKendree, keyboards.
Angel played with 31,754 bands here before heading to Nashville, where he leads Los Straitjackets and plays in the Martian Denny Orchestra with Lester, my brother Jim Hoke, Sundazed Records boss/guitarist Bob Irwin and bassist Dave Roe. Kaplan and Rose also play in Jim’s Aqua Velvets, Winchester and McKendree in Brian Setzer’s band, and McKendree with Delbert McClinton.
On a previous E Street Band hiatus (1995), Tallent played the now-defunct Metro in Saratoga Springs with the Delevantes, whose terrific debut album he’d helped produce. I asked Tallent about playing Union College’s Memorial Chapel 21 years before with Springsteen, my first show by the Boss, but he didn’t recall that gig or maybe just didn’t want to chat in the men’s room. Tallent’s new album “Break Time” (get it?) features every musician above plus guitarists Duane Eddy and Nils Lofgren. 8 p.m. $25. 272-9740. www.alehousetroy.com
Sax-master Branford Marsalis has played so well, for so long, some take him for granted. At the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall last Thursday, his artistry in skill and feel, as bandleader and soloist, earned awe at the Hall’s 37th Gala. He played tenor and soprano saxes, with costar singer Kurt Elling and secret weapon drummer Justin Faulkner, a one-man rhythm explosion, relentless in a good way.
Marsalis, Faulkner, pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis doffed their jackets in the warm Hall. Elling kept his buttoned, his crooner’s gestures echoing Piscopo “doing” Sinatra. Musically, they rode the same train, from the pulsating instrumental launching pad (“The Mighty Sword”?) into Elling’s first appearance in Gershwin’s jazzer’s ambition/mission statement “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leaving Soon for New York” to the encore New Orleans blues “St. James Infirmary.”
While Brian Wilson played the vintage masterpiece “Pet Sounds” album straight through at the Palace on Wednesday, Marsalis, Elling and band hopscotched around their “Upward Spiral” album on Thursday. “Blue Gardenia” evoked genteel romance; Sting’s “Practical Arrangement” was all post-modern ambivalence.
They got all the Brazilian bounce of Jobim’s “So Tinha de Ser Com Voce,” Elling crooning in Portuguese, but “Momma Said” went comic and wild. Calderazzo stood to put body English on “From One Island to Another” and “The Return;” Marsalis sailed in on soprano sax at the peak to take over, using rotary breathing to hold a chord with Elling’s voice. Faulkner grinned in mid-jam, gathering energy for a stupendous roll that cued a quote of ’Trane’s “A Love Supreme.” Maybe because the others got all the earlier flash and fire, Marsalis sent Revis out alone for the last encore, harvesting gusts of applause for a solo evoking elephants partying as the intro to “St. James Infirmary,” Elling singing into a drinking glass as a plunger mute. It was elegant, it was warm, it was virtuosic; it was, well, gala and glorious.
At Caffe Lena on Friday, troubadour Geoff Muldaur hinted a lingering cold might force him to sing in a Dave Van Ronk growl. But he passed with aplomb the major test of “Wild Ox Moan” that leaps into falsetto after every phrase and showed why Richard Thompson famously said, “There are only three white blues singers, and Geoff Muldaur is at least two of them.” He sang beautifully, both in a soft, heartbreaking croon and in bold, brassy defiance. Grounding each antique tune in its history as well as meaning and feel, his one-man, roots-music ramble was geography-specific, mostly southern.
He swapped guitar for banjo to sing Virginian Dock Boggs’ “Mistreated Mama Blues,” calling Boggs both terrific and a bummer, noting Boggs’ best-known tune is “Death Spare Me.” Recalling a drunken quest from New Orleans to Texas seeking Blind Lemon Jefferson’s grave, Muldaur evoked the languid, boozy haze of the Big Easy. Old-timey tunes felt deep and contemporary: “Kitchen Door Blues,” “Gee, Baby; Ain’t I Good to You,” “Fishing Blues,” “Dark Was the Night” — noting any artist who recorded this dour Blind Willie Johnson blues died within six months — “Chicken” by Mississippi John Hurt (Muldaur recalled him as a sweet guy; he was the first artist I saw play the Caffe when I was still in high school), humming in harmony with his guitar on “Drop Down Mama.”
Muldaur recalled visiting a Louisiana roadhouse with Woodstock neighbor/tour mate Bobby Charles. He said the sign read “Blues tonight,” Lightnin’ Hopkins and Jimmy Reed sang onstage and cockfights drew crowds to the parking lot — all by way of introducing Charles’ “Small Town Talk” — title of Barney Hoskyns’ terrific Woodstock tales collection.
After “Talk,” which was quietly terrific, came a smash finish: the New Orleans street-funeral lament “Just a Little While to Stay Here,” and “Heavenly Grass,” a Tennessee Williams poem Muldaur set to bluesy but serene music.
ROOTS MUSIC AT THE EGG
Roots-rocking troubadour Lucinda Williams plays The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) on Tuesday. “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” (1998, her fifth album of 13) made her a star; the rocking “Ghosts of Highway 20” (2016) continues her string of much-honored albums of personal reflections with poetic power. A three-time Grammy winner (in country, folk and rock categories) and two-time Americana Music Award winner, Williams ranks in music’s cross-cultural elite. 8 p.m. $55, $47.50, $37.50. 473-1845 www.theegg.org
Celtic rockers Enter the Haggis play The Egg on Saturday. They rock, they’re traditional; in other words, bagpipes wail in the rumble seat of some sizzling hot rod. Their latest album is “Broken Arms” of nearly a dozen releases. They’re Canadian, so they’re polite – but not TOO polite. 8 p.m. $29.50. 473-1845 www.theegg.org
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected].