To hear some people talk, jazz in the Albany, New York, area begins and ends with Nick Brignola, whose brilliant baritone sax was taken from us when he died of cancer in 2002. Aside from the fact that this outlook completely dismisses Albany native Stefon Harriswhose African Tarantella: Dances with Duke (Blue Note, 2006) made a bunch of "Best Of listsit also ignores the array of vibrant, exploring players that make up the current Capital Region jazz community.
The Brian Patneaude Quartet is at the top of that roster. The BPQ has been popping up on the national radar for some time, thanks to radio airplay of its last two discs. As We Know It is another collection of well-written, well-performed originals, some of which have been in development since the band's last release, Distance (WEPA, 2005). Clearly the wood-shedding paid off.
Patneaude eschews the attitude advocated by too many leaders that the key to a great tune is "more of me and less of you! It's not that he hasn't got the chopsfar from it. Patneaude has a rich, smooth tenor that is always enjoyable, and his solo ideas start simply but build both delightfully and logically. However, given the choice between a series of "spotlight moments and a cohesive group dynamic, Patneaude always chooses the latter. On the opener, "Matters Not, and "Will You Be, Patneaude lays out after establishing the melody, letting Dave Payette solo out of the head. Payette (one of the region's best keyboardists) is an absolute demon on Fender Rhodes and brings the beautiful noise to both pieces.
Bassist Mike DelPrete joined the BPQ right after Distance, and he's been serving up fat foundations and substantive solos ever since, giving us the latter on "Will You Be and the swinging romp "Majority. Danny Whelchel is the turbocharged engine that drives the Patneaude Quartet, even when limited to brushwork on the melancholy "Simple Truth. Guitarist George Muscatello has been Patneaude's foil from the beginning, and fulfills that role perfectly when he's not playing inspired solos on the chaotic funk fest "Gil Barney (Wins the Race) and the wonderfully expressive "Exit.
As We Know It is dedicated to one of our most recent lossesthe amazing Michael Brecker. That makes sense when you consider how much of Brecker's clarity and conciseness can be heard in Patneaude's tenor. With that in mind, the passion and maturity in Patneaude's writing and playing is all his own, and this disc is his best recording to date. Like the Albany jazz scene, the Brian Patneaude Quartet keeps moving toward the future. However good the past was, the BPQ's future looks just as good, if not better.
Personnel: Brian Patneaude: tenor sax; George Muscatello: guitar; Mike DelPrete: bass; Danny Whelchel: drums; Dave Payette: Fender Rhodes (1-3, 5, 6).