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Dan Pugach Big Band at The Jazz Loft


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On March 22, 2024, two weeks to the day after Dan Pugach released his first big band record, the celebrated drummer-composer brought his large ensemble to The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook for an album release event that was a resounding success by any measure. That 90-seat venue—a performance space, museum and educational hub with a well-earned reputation as the crown jewel site on the Long Island jazz scene—played host to a stellar two-set concert that earned a standing ovation from the sold-out house.

Bianca (Outside In, 2024)—a marvel of musicality and a serious standout in the big band universe—offers no shortage of thrills, and Pugach and company brought its music to vivid life for those lucky enough to be in attendance. Whether delivering an ode to the titular (and dearly departed) rescue pit bull, a winning rejoinder to nose-raised academic intellectualism, a Joe Henderson-inspired manifestation of the leader's former work for a moving company, one high-octane Van Halen cover or an expansion on a poetic production that originally appeared on Nicole Zuraitis' Grammy-winning How Love Begins (Outside In, 2023), the band was always on point and in excellent spirits.

The overwhelming majority of the personnel from the album appeared at this engagement, with a saxophone section featuring Alejandro Aviles, Patrick Cornelius, Jeremy Powell, Eitan Gofman and Andrew Hadro; a trumpet lineup boasting Sam Hoyt, Jonathan Saraga, David Smith and Stuart Mack; a trombone troupe consisting of Matthew McDonald, Alan Ferber, Jasim Perales and Jen Hinkle; the rhythm section led by Pugach, with pianist Nitzan Gavrieli, guitarist Pete McCann and bassist Sam Weber beside him; and Zuraitis joining in as a special-yet-essential guest. And these musicians delivered in oh-so-many ways, injecting their respective personalities into Pugach's brilliant designs.

Highlights from the concert included a singular soprano-to-bass saxophone section workout, some baton passing across the 'bone section in bluesy exchange, Zuraitis' star-power singing and, of course, Pugach's polyrhythmic sprees. There were too many solos to mention—literally everyone in the band stood (or sat) and delivered at one point or another—but many-to-most deserved citing. This writer decided to bring his camera along to commemorate the evening, and here's a sampling of what was captured.
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