BRIAN PATNEAUDE QUARTET
As We Know It (WEPA Records)
by J Hunter
The thing I love most about the Capital Region jazz scene is that it keeps moving forward. Rather than simply resting on its laurels - the venerated accomplishments of the late Nick Brignola, the continuing success of Empire State Youth Orchestra alum Stefon Harris - the landscape continues to evolve, thanks to an array of vibrant, questing players like Lee Shaw, Adrian Cohen, Keith Pray, and Lee Russo (and that's to name just a few). For me, though, the band at the head of the pack is the Brian Patneaude Quartet, and As We Know It gives their creative growth curve a big bump upwards.
The Patneaude Quartet has been popping up on the national radar for some time, thanks to radio airplay of their previous WEPA releases Variations (2003) and Distance (2005). As We Know It is another collection of well-written, well-performed originals - some of which have been in development since 2005, when Will You Be was part of the BPQ's bill-opening set at the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival. The woodshedding has paid off, since this disc contains some of Patneaude's best writing to date.
Apart from the melancholy Simple Truth, all the music comes from a very positive place. Life As We Know It swirls through varying degrees of heat and light, but the building rideout insinuates that life - as Patneaude knows it, anyway - is pretty darn good. Will You Be never completes the question (That's up to you), but it ends on a joyous vibe that says the answer was an unqualified Yes! The rapid-fire Majority is swinging, chaotic fun, with Patneaude's tenor firing staggered lines that start simply but build geometrically. Patneaude's ode to his father's secret days as a dirt-track diver, Gil Barney Wins The Race, is a roaring funkfest driven by Patneaude's honking and George Muscatello's rip-snorting guitar. Muscatello' solo on Exit is as expressive as the tune itself, and fades out like someone still talking as they walk out the door.
Thankfully, Patneaude has never been afflicted with the attitude many leaders have that, The key to a great tune is more of me and less of you! Given the choice between uncoordinated spotlight moments and a cohesive group dynamic, Patneaude has always chosen the latter, and the results have always been positive. Bassist Mike DelPrete and keyboardist Dave Payette give Patneaude and Muscatello a sweet platform to launch the opener Matters Not. Rather than building on the head himself, Patneaude lays out in favor of Payette, who fills the space with cascades and pulses of funky Fender Rhodes. The pattern is repeated on Will You Be, with the addition of a satisfyingly fat solo from DelPrete.
DelPrete joined the Patneaude Quartet just before the Albany Riverfront show, and he's been contributing enduring foundations and remarkable solos ever since. He works seamlessly with Danny Whelchel, whose drumwork has always been the engine that drives the BPQ, even on the soft, subtle Simple Truth. Payette - who splits time nowadays between his own unit and the Sarah Pedinotti Band - was the X factor on Distance, and he brings the beautiful noise to five of the seven tracks on As We Know It. While I would have liked Muscatello's guitar to sound a little less processed, his solos show the virtuosity and nuance we've all come to love a lot, and his interplay with Patneaude is as solid as ever.
As We Know It is dedicated to the late Michael Brecker, which makes sense if you've ever heard Patneaude play. While I've likened the passion in his music to another tenor legend, Stan Getz, Patneaude's lines and fills here have the clarity and conciseness that were hallmarks of Brecker; however, the beauty and maturity Patneaude brings to As We Know It is all his own. Like the Albany jazz scene, the Brian Patneaude Quartet keeps moving towards the future, and what a fine cool trip it is.
J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.