Sunday afternoon’s outdoor jazz concert at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery was originally listed as the Phil DiRe’ Quintet with special guest Jay Beckenstein but things changed. It wasn’t really that big a surprise since groups for the summer shows at the Albright-Knox are mutable with the bandleader being a given and the musicians surrounding him changing as circumstances dictate.
The results of shifting personnel often are a pleasant surprise and such was the case on Sunday when substitute bassist Bud Fadale slipped into the lineup and keyboard master Bobby Jones joined the proceedings, broadening the proposed lineup into a septet.
Although intermittent breezes could be found swirling around the stage – at one point almost knocking Beckenstein’s music stand over and causing scores to flutter in the wind before being corralled – meteorological adversity was dealt with in true jazz musician fashion. Conversations were held and adjustments were made; most of the set list went out the window as DiRe’ and his compatriots talked about tunes they knew in common and then proceeded to improvise on some agreed upon standards.
Before all of this happened however, the group managed to play the changes in a couple of Horace Silver tunes (“Song For My Father” and “Juicy Lucy”) and Beckenstein, known best for his work with Spyrogyra, embarked on an interesting solo soprano sax version of Charles Mingus’ ode to Lester Young, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” By then the bar was proven be at a relatively high level, but this was to be expected given the overall quality of the musicians at hand.
In some ways the sound of the band was in line with the kind of thing that one might have heard from the 1960s era Blue Note record dates by Hank Mobley and ArtBlakey where bop musicians expanded the musical vocabulary into another vision. Tenor saxophonist DiRe’, as the titular leader of the concert, provided a couple of original tunes which worked that particular vein pretty well.
It was a good gig and everyone contributed to the success of the venture.
Jones is a legend in the Western New York jazz community as someone whose talents deserve wider recognition on the world stage. Whether he was comping behind the soloists or taking off into his own spotlight moment, Jones proved his mastery of the moment.
Drummer Dan Hull and Fadale provided a solid base for everyone to work off of and each of them had times where everyone else stepped aside briefly to give the audience a shot at focusing on their talents.
Trumpeter Tim Clarke has also proven himself on the local circuit in addition to working with a number of jazz masters when he lived on the West Coast. He even managed to slip some of his fine flugelhorn playing into the mix.
Guitarist Matt Michaud, as the youngest member of the ensemble, displayed plenty of chops, none more so than when DiRe’ told him to lead a quartet through whatever tune he wanted to play. After a little conversation with his rhythm section cohorts (Jones, Fadale and Hull), the players whipped through a guitar-centric riff-filled version of Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor Madness.”
All in all, this initial offering of the current Albright-Knox summer jazz concerts was a worthwhile endeavor and, given the lineups listed for the rest of the season, there is no reason to expect a falloff in quality.