Friday, March 9, 2012

Brian Patneaude Adds to Quality Discog with 'All Around Us'

Compositions, as well as the performance, shine again for saxophonist

The Capital District region of New York state is pretty rich in musical talent and has a strong jazz scene, even if it’s one that suffers the same trials and tribulations as the national scene. One of it’s attributes is saxophonist/composer Brian Patneaude, a fine player and arguably the face of the local jazz scene whether he humbly eschews that (and he does) or not. Annuals polls by Metroland and the Albany Times Union newspapers bear that out.

As Brian is quick to point out, there are many talented folks around Albany, NY. (the answer to ‘Where is the Capital of New York?’ for those who might be reading from outside the region and think NYC is the capital -- or all that New York state consists of.) True. And people all have their favorites. That’s good. But the area is fortunate in that most weekends Patneaude and those of his ilk can be found playing somewhere.

Another good thing is that Patneaude has released his fifth CD as a leader, "All Around Us," celebrated with a CD release concert on March 3 at the College of St. Rose in Albany. It’s another very strong outing, adding top a discography that is remarkable in its consistency -- high-quality consistency. Not a clunker in the bunch and each has shit that can bring you back for repeated listens. All very satisfying.

That’s not as common as one might think.

Reviewing CDs isn’t something I normally do. (Generally, too much pontification that is pretty much masturbation in that genre). But there may be somewhat more along those lines in this blog over time. (To paraphrase Buddy Rich’s response to a fan’s song request: ‘I’ll write what I want. It’s my blog.’) But this really springs out of the release concert, where Patneaude played all eight selections from the recording, of which six are originals.

The show was sweet, the saxophonist is fine form and his band in synch. Bassist Mike Delprete is a solid sumbitch, strong sound, on the money. engaging soloist. Drummer Danny Whelchel has been with Patneaude about 15 years and is very simpatico. Good time and colors the music. Doesn’t think he’s Tony Williams. What you get is what’s needed, tastefully laid out. Pianist David Caldwell-mason’s style, which plays a lot with the harmonics of the structures, is well-suited. Good stuff. As with all live jazz, the show in the college’s really nice, cozy Massry Center brought the tunes even more to life. A wonderful evening of jazz.

Highlights included the funky “Bluocele,” that was delightfully greasier than the recorded version; the song written for his fiancĂ©, Melissa, “Aimless Antithesis,” and “Too Vast for Malice.” Hell, it was all good, take your pick. Same with the CD. The show was robust. Patneaude’s playing is outstanding, a sound that stays away from being harsh. It can have elements of John Klemmer when Patneaude goes into his delightfully softer, melodic moments. And he can burn, of course. But his solos have a logic, as well as the aspect of improv.

So does his writing, which seems to impress me more and more. Patneaude writes great songs. He has from the beginning. It’s never “this is what I learned at Berklee” excess.

Where a lot of musicians come out of the gate recording standards, so people get to know their playing, Patneaude never has. Getting away from the safety net of standards might have been somewhat of a gamble. His first CD, “Variations,” (all five are on WEPA Records) included originals and compositions from his mates. Since then, his compositions dominate and they should. They’re interesting, catchy, sophisticated. Some have a great simplicity that his bands build on to great result. And there’s no particular sameness that can lead to mundane. His composing is a great deal better than many “names” I could name. They should be played by people like Joe Lovano and that ilk. (Maybe they yet will). That’s no shit. All the recordings are that way. “Distance,” from 2005, is one I go back to. Don‘t really know why, because they’re all worthy.

The day is gone when albums would sit on your turntable for while, getting repeated playing. Hell, iPods have curtailed CDs sitting in the players for a while. So for any composer, the chance for a song to spread and have longevity is compromised somewhat. That’s just part of how technology has changed the way people listen. Off the top of my head, I thought music John Scofield wrote for “This Against That” might spread. But it hasn’t. Just another example.

But Patneaude’s writing is first-rate and should be -- hopefully will be -- not just for fans but musicians. Grab the new one. Listen to the aforementioned recordings, as well as “Riverview” and “As We Know It.” Different ones may become your favorite. You can’t go far wrong. For performance and for composition.

Consistency is a good thing. Consistency of quality even better. Brian gets high marks for both.

Albany jazz fans can continue to enjoy Patneaude’s live gigs. And anyone, anywhere can dig this new disk regardless of where you live. Go here, here or here.

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