New Horizons
Patneaude and quartet to introduce new CD in show at WAMC


For jazz tenor saxophonist Brian Patneaude, musical ambition began right next door, took him through many of the area’s most celebrated bands and found an ambitious new shape with the quartet that bears his name.

    On Saturday, the Brian Patneaude Quartet will celebrate the release of "Distance," the group’s second album of Patneaude’s original compositions, performing at the WAMC Performing Arts Studio Linda Norris Auditorium.

    Patneaude said his musical education began out the back door of his Rotterdam home. "My first inspiration was my next-door neighbor," he recalled. "He was a slightly older guy who played saxophone. He’d go out on his back porch and practice. So when I had a choice of what instrument I wanted to play, I knew what it sounded like."

    Patneaude’s mother was a guitarist who accompanied the Schalmont Folksingers, his father a drummer. Patneaude played in every Schalmont school band available, but his enthusiasm flagged in middle school until music teacher Sean Lowery played some songs for him by saxophonists Michael Brecker and David Sanborn.

    "I started getting interested again, getting into jazz and learning what a saxophone could actually do," Patneaude recalled.

    Both Brecker, a tenor player, and Sanborn, an alto player, have distinctive techniques and sounds. They operate comfortably in jazz and rock settings and as both leaders and sidemen. Patneaude followed their lead, playing in both rock and jazz bands, leading groups and playing in support. He detoured briefly into heavy metal, drumming in the band Fusion with his two best friends.

    But since then, he has consistently challenged himself as a jazz player and composer, a diligent student who graduated from the jazz program at The College of Saint Rose, where he won the Nick Brignola Jazz/ Saxophone Scholarship, the A Place for Jazz Scholarship, The College of Saint Rose Music Department Talent Scholarship and its Music Department Service Recognition Award. He also was profiled in the international jazz magazine Downbeat.

    Patneaude then continued his studies at the University of Cincinnati. "In Cincinnati, I refined what I was doing," said Patneaude. "I was able to study with good teachers, codify aspects of improvisation and understand better where artists were coming from and what they were doing."

    Returning to the Capital Region in 1997, Patneaude formed his first band, a quintet that featured Matthew Loiacono (now with Kamikaze Hearts) playing drums, pianist Rob Lindquist and guitarist Joel Villa. Patneaude also played in numerous other bands, often several at once.


    "At one point, I was doing my own jazz quartet, playing with Alex [Torres], in the Empire Jazz Orchestra and with the Refrigerators," Patneaude recalled. "I had a pretty busy couple of summers."

    He remains pretty busy, teaching 40 students regularly at Blue Sky studios in Delmar and hosting and maintaining the Web site "It’s something to foster a sense of community," Patneaude explained, "devoted to jazz performers and listeners and as a hub for what’s going on."

    Patneaude still plays with his own quartet, as well as the Alex Torres Orchestra and the Empire Jazz Orchestra.

    "Brian is an incredible musician," said Torres, who recently shortened the name of his 25-year old Latin group from Alex Torres and the Latin Kings Orchestra to the Alex Torres Orchestra.

    "I don’t say this about a lot of musicians, Torres said, "but he’s very gifted and very fast at learning."

    Torres said he enjoyed watching Patneaude learn the choppy, muscular meringue rhythm. "I’d turn around to look at him and his eyes would be bulging and his glasses were falling off his nose," Torres laughed.

    "Meringue is very fast music and has these pretty intricate sax lines, and I struggled learning to play those lines," Patneaude acknowledged. "Alex writes his own music and when he would sing those parts to show them to me, I would say, ‘It’s impossible, I can’t do that.’ "

    But Patneaude persisted and soon learned from a Dominican musician he met in Washington how to use false fingering to achieve the speed and clarity this zippy music demands. "Alex’s band is a good opportunity to get acclimated to that kind of music," said Patneaude. "I had no exposure to it before. So it’s been a really good education."

    Patneaude plays on two of Torres albums, "Elementos" (2000) and "Punto de Vista" (2003), as well as "25 to Life," scheduled for release this August, and on albums by nearly a dozen other artists since 1995.


    Bill Meckley, director of the Empire Jazz Orchestra at Schenectady County Community College, said he recruited Patneaude into the 19-piece orchestra after being impressed with the younger player when both played in Torres’s band. (Meckley no longer does.)

    "Brian is a tremendous player," said Meckley. "He understands generations of players. He plays very modern but he’s not locked into being a Coltrane clone. He plays the continuum."

    Meckley appreciates how Patneaude rose to the challenge of playing period big-band music with the orchestra, some dating from the 1920s, and he admires Patneaude’s drive and intelligence. "He generates, as a soloist, a lot of excitement and pacing," said Meckley. "He takes the listener on a journey."

    Patneaude credits a lengthy Sunday night residency at Justin’s on Lark Street in Albany for allowing him to take giant steps on that journey.

    "It’s been every Sunday for three years and if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have two CDs and this band," Patneaude said gratefully. "It’s been pretty crucial to what I’ve been trying to do," he explained. "It’s a great workshop for us, to try out new things on the bandstand and explore original compositions and standards."

    Jazztimes critic Jeff Waggoner named the quartet’s debut album "Variations" one of the Top 10 CDs of 2003, while the All Music Guide gave it four (out of five) stars, and said: "We’ll be hearing a great deal from this group in years to come."

    Patneaude and his quartet — guitarist George Muscatello, drummer Danny Whelchel and bassist Ryan Lukas — reach further on the new "Distance." It has muscular, straight-ahead blowing, some lyrical ballads — "Alone" may be Patneaude’s most evocative slow melody ever — and some change of pace surprises.

    The Brian Patneaude Quartet recorded "Distance" in a single marathon session, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., last November. "We played it all together, except for some acoustic guitar [overdubs]," said Patneaude. "Some of our best and most intense playing was after midnight when I thought the guys had nothing left to give, but they went into overdrive."


    At WAMC on Saturday, "We’ll be playing the new album, all the songs," Patneaude promised, "and also newer music that was just written in the last few weeks or months."

    He said the two-set show will be all original compositions, with a song or two from the first album.

    Keyboardist Dave Payette, who guests on three songs on "Distance," will also play as the quartet celebrates the release of its new CD.