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Sax and the City

By Josh Potter

Brian Patneaude

Riverview (WEPA)

Jazz music has always played on that brink between the new and the familiar. In fact, the balance of set and fluid components may be the thing that makes jazz qualitatively jazz. In terms of Capital Region jazzmen, there is no one more set and familiar than Brian Patneaude. Ever since his days as a St. Rose undergrad, the saxophonist has played with pretty much everyone, not the least of which is the quartet he’s led at Justin’s every Sunday for close to seven years.

For his latest recording, though, Patneaude went the new and fluid route. Recorded in one night, Riverview features the talents of in-demand NYC guitarist Mike Moreno, Texas-based organist Jesse Chandler, and longtime quartet drummer Danny Whelchel, in a sort of soul-jazz configuration that finds Chandler tackling bass duties with his left hand. Despite the configuration, the group never really dig into the groove sense or blues phraseology common to soul-jazz, instead opting to float just above, outside, or around it. The title track is funky, especially the syncopated turnaround upon which Whelchel cleverly capitalizes toward the end, but never Jimmy Smith dirty. From the cymbal work to the swell of the organ, echo of the guitar, and Patneaude’s 100-percent consistent tone, the album is not only clean but buffed to a bronze glow. This quality is on particular display in the album’s ballads (“By Reason of the Soil,” “Chelsea Bridge”), where tenderness never turns smarmy and remains well-proportioned to the moments of higher octane. Moreno consistently sets the bar high in his soloing, channeling Pat Metheny in his swift lyricism, but it’s never anything Patneaude can’t surmount with his Michael Brecker-conjuring.

Sprightly without losing a certain gravitas in his tone, the tenor man never sheds composure at his most frenetic (“Drop”). In light of the album’s dedication to Patneaude’s mother, who won a recent battle with breast cancer, “The Cost of Living” is a suitably mournful preamble to the sublime “Release,” which together constitute the album’s strongest sequence. It represents another set of polarities that great jazz plays upon and, with this offering, Patneaude’s work can be considered just that—great.

Art Brut

Art Brut vs. Satan (Downtown)

Eddie Argos sounds a bit bored on Art Brut vs. Satan. Sure, that’s kind of his thing—this marks the third time the “singer” talks his way through an album—but perhaps even he realizes that the joke is getting old. And so it’s Art Brut by numbers in the early going, with Argos expressing a tongue-in-cheek concern over public opinion (“How am I supposed to sleep at night/When no one likes the music we write?”) while the band practically ape the Arctic Monkeys. Irony? Hard to tell. So much of the lyrical capital is invested in ironic detachment that such a sly musical move could go underappreciated.

The majority of Art Brut vs. Satan finds Argos raising a glass to youth, to his teenage love of “D.C. Comics and Chocolate Milkshake,” and to the records he used to love—and the ones he loves today. On one track, he can’t believe he has “only just discovered the Replacements”; on “What a Rush” he chants, “You like the Beatles/And I like the Stones/But those are just records our parents owned/I can’t believe those things I said/I blame it on a massive rush of blood to the head.” It may be the album’s best line, equating (perhaps unintentionally) teenage lust with the music of Coldplay. Still, besides some funny/clever bits here and there, the record gets bogged down in the same old formula—Argos ranting wildly as the band churn out somewhat-anonymous guitar rock. To wit, the album’s best song is the one that introduces something new to the mixture: a melodic vocal hook, on “Summer Job.”

—John Brodeur

Dave Alvin

The Best of the Hightone Years (Shout Factory)

Over the course of the ’90s, Dave Alvin released a formidable body of work on the Hightone label. The albums themselves remain resonant entities, free of studio filigree that ties them to any particular era. In fact, the subtle production eschews anything that gets between the performance and the listener. Even when Alvin and his band crank things up and knock over some chairs, his presence remains intimate. The deftly drawn characters that inhabit his songs spring to life with the barest minimum of words. Hopes and dreams may grow faint but are never extinguished, no matter how bleak the landscape at hand. It’s no surprise that a range of sympathetic players have been drawn to Alvin and his songs. From the writing to the singing and playing, there’s not a false note on this disc. Even if you have these songs in their original settings, this is a bracing set, complete with a few worthy unreleased numbers and rarities.

—David Greenberger


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