Riverview (WEPA Records)
by J Hunter
Variations, Distance, and As We Know It are points in the Brian Patneaude Quartets increasingly beguiling creative curve, with each disc mixing Patneaudes accessible compositions and slinky tenor sax with a group chemistry that made you say, Damn, thats hot! On Riverview, Patneaude ignores a long-held Business School adage (Never mess with a formula that keeps on working!) tweaks both his lineup and overall sound, switching out guitarist George Muscatello and bassist Mike DelPrete for two players Patneaude worked with at his weekly gig at Justins. B-School graduates would see this as a decidedly risky move
only, unlike Coca Colas spectacularly stupid fling with New Coke, Patneaudes reward was well worth the risk.
For one thing, the new ingredients have serious street cred. Besides his outstanding debut disc Between the Lines, Mike Morenos ethereal guitar helped lift Aaron Parks Invisible Cinema from the sublime to the sensational; Jesse Chandler has played keyboards for David Fathead Newman, Jimmy Cobb and Norah Jones, and Chandler does double duty here as foil and foundation-keeper. The result is a contemporary take on sax/organ jazz that lets Patneaude fans see him in a new light, while still connecting with a known musical comfort zone.
The title track is instantly familiar to anyone who knows Patneaudes music: The pieces warmth wraps you up as Danny Whelchels drums stay behind the entrancing melody line, then step forward when Patneaude shifts gears. The difference is in the buoyancy and buzz provided by Chandler. While the Patneaude Quartet had its feet planted firmly on the ground, theres the sense on Riverview that this unit could actually fly if it caught a good headwind. Helping this illusion is Morenos otherworldly sound; while his guitar is in a space between Wes Montgomery and John Scofield, Morenos subtle effects take you to a place that doesnt rock and roll, but makes it plain that it could if it wanted to.
Moreno and Chandler have chemistry by the truckload. Their conversation on By Reason of the Soil makes you want it to go on and on, and they help Patneaude jack up the fun quotient on the irresistibly funky Drop. Chandlers left-hand foundation may be no match for DelPretes pulsing double bass, but Chandler's overall sound has a crystal focus that fits each track like a glove. Chandlers last echoing chords on Chelsea Bridge add one last shiver to an exemplary treatment of Billy Strayhorns romantic lament, and his in-the-clear opening to Release brings a marvelously spiritual vibe to my favorite Patneaude composition.
Patneaude Quartet fans will remember Release from Distance, and thats not all theyll recognize here: Jolo and Life as We Know It began their lives on Variations and As We Know It, respectively. In no way do these versions replace the originals; rather, they show Patneaude's take on these tunes at this moment. Where the BPQ got right to the nasty groove on the original Jolo, the new rendition seems to float in front of you, like a balloon thats just out of reach; Chandlers organ fills really contrast Patneaudes tenor on Life, and Morenos solos make the piece jump about.
Most importantly, we see how far Patneaude and Whelchel have progressed, both individually and as longtime collaborators. Whelchels range of expression is such that he is equally exciting when hes embellishing Patneaude's solos (as he does on Release) as he is when he takes the spotlight and puts the pedal to the metal (as he does during uproarious solos on Riverview and Jolo). For Patneaude's part the ideas flow so effortlessly as each solo builds and multiplies, displaying levels of passion and commitment that spiral effortlessly upward. As much as we see this on Patneaudes own music, its most prevalent on Don Grolnicks The Cost of Living, a tune once covered by Michael Brecker. The late tenorman may be at the root of Patneaude's jazz, but the fervor in Patneaudes tenor is all his, and he gives Cost the loving treatment it deserves.
Brian Patneaude is ready for his close-up. Some people may check out Riverview because of Mike Morenos previous work, but theyll stay because (unlike New Coke) Patneaudes vision and energy makes you thirsty for more.
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) and Q104 WQBK/Albany. He is a frequent contributor to the web site All About Jazz and to the monthly music magazine State of Mind. He currently resides in Clifton Park.