All Around Us (WEPA Records)
by Tom Pierce
With 5 CD’s as a leader, 25 others as sideman, live performances with over 50 different bands in the last 15 years and many awards & citations, there’s no need for a detailed introduction of 37 year old Schenectady-born saxophonist Brian Patneaude to Capital District Jazz fans.
Similar to his previous releases, All Around Us focuses primarily on Patneaude’s compositions. But the celebrated Wayne Shorter’s 1964 classic “Juju” and “Invitation”, a standard composed by Bronislaw Kaper for two Hollywood films in 1950 & 1952, are the two exceptions.
The band used is again a quartet; but for the first time a pianist (David Caldwell-Mason), is used rather than a guitarist (George Muscatello or Mike Moreno). But on this CD, when the Fender Rhodes is used (rather than the acoustic), it sometimes resembles the guitar sound.
The overall jazz style/subgenre again would be best described as a natural, relaxed, but swinging “contemporary mainstream” – somewhat similar to the final CD of Patneaude’s major influence, the late, great saxophonist Michael Brecker (2007's Pilgrimage.)
Another meaningful similarity to the previous releases is the way the leader’s facile, fluid style and clean, assured tone is seamlessly integrated with the rhythm section of the pianist, bassist Mike DelPrete and Patneaude's long-time drummer, Danny Whelchel, that provides the buoyancy and forward thrust, that is so essential.
In programming the song sequence, Patneaude refreshingly deviates from the all too familiar custom of leading off a CD with an uptempo tune to grab one’s attention. His independence and respect for the listeners’ intelligence & serious interest in the music led him to start off with “Lake Timeless”, a mid-tempo piece with a serene, contemplative quality. It calmly projects his childhood memories of peaceful vacationing on Schroon Lake.
“Too Vast For Malice” features a rousing stop-and-go riff that effectively reflects the mental “back & forth” he went through in making a decision on alternative approaches to a personal issue. The third song, “Orb”, an enchanting song with a delightfully probing piano solo, might seem like an unusual choice for a tribute to drummer Danny Whelchel. But it’s an alluringly deep number, executed in moving fashion.
The liner notes explain how a recent Joshua Redman concert at the Egg, with two simultaneous rhythm sections was the motivation behind Patneaude’s composing “Double Trio”. The catchy, shifting tempos make it possible to see how it reflects Patneaude’s inspiring memory of this extraordinarily creative concert.
Wayne Shorter’s “Juju” that Brian enjoys playing live, is taken at a
slightly slower, less intense pace than the composer’s original Blue Note release. On that album the 3 legendary members of John Coltrane rhythm section in 1964 (McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones) provided stimulating underpinning. This CD’s version, that radiates simmering heat, is interestingly more similar (to these ears) to the stirring version on the 2011 Lost and Found CD by the excellent quartet backing vocalist Gretchen Parlato.
Bronislaw Kaper’s intriguing standard “Invitation” is typically delivered by most vocalists as a ballad, no doubt influenced by Paul Francis Webster’s mysterious and compelling lyrics for the 1952 film of the same title. However, jazz instrumentalists, including John Coltrane on his classic 1958 version, usually play it slightly faster, as does Patneaude here. As described in the liner notes, his obviously heartfelt emotion on this tune traces back to having played it often with his dear friend & mentor, the late guitarist Jack Fragomeni.
I found All Around Us an engaging and highly pleasing recording. The leader, with sustained support and stimulation from his band, vibrantly expresses his feelings about a number of musical and personal experiences that are important to him. This was no surprise to anyone who has listened to him over the past 15 years. He’s consistently performed at a strikingly high level in a wide variety of musical situations (his own combos & that of other leaders, Latin jazz, big bands, intimate duos, etc).
Brian Patneaude has an enviable combination of technical mastery, high intelligence, musical taste and passionate love of Jazz. With these gifts, plus his demonstrated hard work, imagination and openness to change, his future should continue to be a deeply rewarding and satisfying one, where he produces many more CD’s he can be very proud of, like this one.
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.