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v, Jeffery Smith

Jared Michael Nickerson, Mazz Swift, Abby Dobson

Bruce Mack

Photos by Rudy Lu

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Schenectady, NY
January 28, 2012

by Rudy Lu

Burnt Sugar Arkestra the Chamber. The whole name is a mouthful but explains the complex nature of their music.

The band treated a small audience in Schenectady ‘s GE Theatre to a rich amalgam of music. Stream of consciousness repeating rhythm patterns mixed with funk dominated the sound. The band opened with “Cold Sweat Variations” in an obvious yet spacey tribute to James Brown. They were taking funk to places that James Brown and even Parliament/Funkadelic could not imagine.

Also heard during the band’s 2 sets were flourishes of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, Philip Glass, Jimi Hendrix and electric Miles Davis. The band also covered David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel”, “Fame” and “Let’s Dance”.

The band actually has over 20 rotating members, 10 made the trip upstate to present their music. The band was led by Greg Tate who spent much of the time conducting the band when he wasn’t playing rhythm guitar. Vocalist/freak a phone player Mikel Banks, Keyboardist Bruce Mack or electric violinist Mazz Swift conducted while Tate played. Drummer LaFrae Sci and electric bassist Jared Michael Nickerson laid down solid yet fluid funky beats. Guitarist Andre Lassalle played funk and traded leads and played in unison with Swift and Banks. Lead vocals were expertly handled mostly by multi octave vocalist Abby Dobson with many band members sharing those duties. The horn section of “Moist” Paula Henderson and V. Jeffrey Smith filled out along with the out of the world sound of Mikel Bank’s freak a phone.

Proctor’s will continue to present its exploration of the exciting new dance music from Brooklyn with the Brooklyn Qawalli Party mixing Pakistani folk music with jazz on 2/18 and Schenectady native Matt Steckler’s funk jazz band Dead Cat Bounce on 3/24. Stay tuned.

Rudy Lu is a safety consultant by day , fine arts photographer nights and weekends and an occasional music critic. He has had a passion for jazz since his college days when he was a dj for WRUC (Radio Union College). He is a frequent contributor to as well as His work has been exhibited locally and has been featured by both nationally known and local musicians. He lives in Niskayuna, NY.