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Mike Moreno

Danny Whelchel

Brian Patneaude

Jesse Chandler

Mike Moreno, Brian Patneaude
& Jesse Chandler

Danny Whelchel

Mike Moreno, Brian Patneaude, Jesse Chandler & Danny Whelchel

photos by Rudy Lu

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"Riverview" CD Release Performance
Picotte Recital Hall
Massry Center for the Arts
College of St. Rose
Albany, NY
February 7, 2009

by J Hunter

Nestled among the many buildings lining College of Saint Rose’s Madison Avenue side, Massry Center for the Arts doesn’t have the visual pizzazz of EMPAC, the wood-and-glass complex that debuted with multiple big bangs on Rensselaer’s hillside late last year. Still, good things come in unassuming packages; at the back of this particular package is the Picotte Recital Hall, a 400-seat piece of acoustic perfection where Brian Patneaude debuted his latest disc Riverview. Along with being a terrific show in a wonderfully intimate space, this was essentially a homecoming for Patneaude: He got his undergraduate degree at CSR before moving on to the conservatory at Cincinnati College.
Considering what meteorological fun this area can offer in February, it was no mean feat that the quartet appearing on Riverview also played this show: Guitarist Mike Moreno faced a three-hours-plus drive from New York City, while keyboardist Jesse Chandler (who recently relocated to Texas) was at the mercy of both the weather and the airlines. Fortunately, both players made it to Albany without any climactic problems, and the additional factor of equipment being lost, stolen, or damaged in transit was negated by Sten Isachsen and Dave Solazzo, who generously lent their respective kits to Moreno and Chandler. So all hands were on deck as drummer Danny Whelchel started working cymbals & rims, and the group opened the ninety-minute show with the new disc’s title track.
“Riverview” is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s listened to the Rotterdam native’s warm, evocative music over the last few years. True, there are obvious differences from his previous releases with the Brian Patneaude Quartet – Chandler’s organ replaces Dave Payette’s funky Fender Rhodes, and all the bass comes from Chandler’s left hand. But the real change is in Patneaude’s personal sound, and you heard it all night long: His tenor sax was a little deeper, a little broader, and just that much less focused. The ideas flowed as freely as ever during Patneaude’s solos, but the aforementioned tonal changes took his spotlight numbers from Great to Really Great, whether he was playing a sizzling new tune like “Drop” or re-shaping Patneaude Quartet standbys like “Release” and “Jolo.”
Having someone from the national scene onstage was a real coup, and Moreno definitely brought his “A” game on this evening. Aaron Parks’ favorite foil plays almost perpendicular to the crowd, with his black Fender held out in front of him like a weapon. That’s fitting, because his notes flew like they’d been fired out of an Uzi. The velocity and construction is reminiscent of John Scofield, but the technique oozes Wes Montgomery subtlety. That sense of delicacy served Moreno well on a meditative in-the-clear opening to “Chelsea Bridge” that preceded Patneaude’s most expansive work of the evening; his first solo had all the loss inherent in the Billy Strayhorn standard, but his closing solo thrilled with resolution, as if the protagonist had found a reason to step off the bridge and go on with life.
Between Moreno’s echo effects and Chandler’s cathedral-ready organ chords, all the music seemed to float on one continuous thermal. That cathedral morphed into the First Church of the Divine Looney when Chandler bridged “By Reason of the Soil” and “Release” with an unaccompanied keyboard tsunami straight out of “Genetic Method”, Garth Hudson’s mind-bending in-concert intro to The Band’s classic “Chest Fever.” I still had problems with Chandler being the only source of foundation, but that problem went away with the throbbing bass notes he laid down to launch the swirling new, extended opening to “Jolo.”
I’ve never had a problem with any of Whelchel’s work, and the lack of a bass player let his own subtlety come out to play. Whelchel’s ending solos on “Riverview” and “Jolo” were every bit as thunderous as we’ve come to expect, as was his own “bridge moment” between “Release” and “Drop.” But the real artistry happened when he was playing behind Patneaude, using all his tools to build new frames for his longtime leader’s music. As with the slight teaks to Patneaude’s tenor, Whelchel made a little go a long way.
Not only was this an occasion for Patneaude, it was an occasion for everyone who’s jumped on the train since Patneaude started being everywhere in the Capital Region music scene. People were lining up outside the hall more than a half-hour before show time, and they were still creeping in as the band wrapped up their next-to-last tune. Nobody cared if they saw two numbers or the whole show, because there is a sense that Patneaude might well be going everywhere else very soon. Everybody wanted to be part of this exceptional moment, and seeing it in a great space like Picotte Hall was an added bonus.

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.