Brian Patneaude is a phenomenon of nature. Unlike another Albany, New York, native, Stefon Harris, Brian's rise as a musician isn't coming abruptly, but incrementally, through steady growth as saxophonist -- one who composes, performs, practices and teaches during almost every waking hour. He only puts his sax down for a quick sip out of his ubiquitous cup of coffee and to recharge his iPod.

He's a work in progress, and that he's made much progress is revealed here on his second album - “Distance.” While his first album “Variations”, released two years ago, was one of the best of 2003, it didn't carry the warmth and yearning that this new CD has. While “Variations” was the work of an excellent musician, “Distance” is the work of an artist. While his first CD showed the definite imprint of his major influences - chiefly the saxophonist Michael Brecker - Brian's own personality is on display here. Even the tone he gets out of his battle-scarred Mark VI tenor has a rounder, warmer feel than just two years ago. You hear a sound that is all his own.

Brian plays here with the rest of his traveling quartet, a veteran team made up of George Muscatello on guitar, Ryan Lukas on double bass and Danny Whelchel on drums. The precocious Dave Payette appears on tracks 2, 3 and 6, playing the Fender Rhodes. Brian allows each to stretch out throughout this album, and all attach their own tasteful statements on what is definitively Brian's product.

Throughout, this CD is lyrical, melodic, musical, and tasteful. Every note has its meaning. It is a CD that will probably be best played in mornings when you don't want to be shocked awake, or in the evenings when you don't want to be forced to stay awake. The songs serve as both provocative remarks and lullabies.

Distance makes a statement - a beautiful one. One that we will keep coming back to long after Brian's third, fourth, and more CDs. And let there be many more.

Jeff Waggoner
Contributing Writer, Jazz Times