Brian Patneaude Quartet
"Variations" reviewed:
  • All Music Guide
  • JazzTimes Critics' Picks 2003
  • Cadence Magazine
  • Ipirotikos Agon

"Tenor saxophonist Brian Patneaude and his quartet display a strong group aesthetic on their debut disc, Variations.  Patneaude has a lithe, controlled sound not unlike Michael Brecker, and guitarist George Muscatello's snakelike intensity brings to mind both Pat Metheny and Pat Martino.  The duo makes solid use of harmonically complex dual guitar/sax arrangements urged on by drummer Danny Whelchel and bassist Ryan Lukas.  Muscatello's fascination with avant-garde guitarist/composer Leo Brouwer takes center stage on a few cuts, while Patneaude pays homage to modern sax giant Joe Lovano on "Jolo."  There is a softness to Variations, a sensitivity to melody and harmonic color, that belies an improvisational muscularity.  This is a highly accomplished debut recording that truly is the sum of some excellent parts."

 All Music Guide

JazzTimes Critics' Picks 2003

Jeff Waggoner

Top 10 CDs:

1. Dave Holland Quintet Extended Play (ECM)
2. Terence Blanchard Bounce (Blue Note)
3. Art Ensemble of Chicago For Lester (ECM)
4. Greg Osby St. Louis Shoes (Blue Note)
5. Marc Copland/Greg Osby Round & Round (Nagel-Heyer)
6. Dave Douglas Freak In (RCA/Bluebird)
7. Charles Davis Blue Gardenia (Reade Street Records)
8. Teddy Edwards Smooth Sailing (HighNote)
9. The Bad Plus These Are The Vistas (Columbia)
10. Brian Patneaude Quartet Variations (WEPA Records)

"Any self-help guru will tell you that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. In jazz, that truism can easily apply to debut albums: You only get to make one. A strong first album can set the pace for the rest of an artist's career as a leader. Think of debuts like Joe Henderson's Page One or Jeff "Tain" Watts' Citizen Tain. If the Brian Patneaude Quartet’s maiden voyage, Variations, is any indication, we’ll be hearing a great deal from this group in years to come.

The album takes its title from guitarist George Muscatello’s composition “Variations on a Variation,” which is as good a description as any for the music on this CD. Each member of the quartet contributes one or more of the compositions, and each track reflects the character of its composer. As the author of six out of the album’s nine tracks, it would be easy to say that Muscatello is the prevailing voice here, but the cooperative spirit of the band helps to overcome this and make sure that no one musician dominates the proceedings. Muscatello is both a strong composer and an excellent guitarist, however, demonstrating the influence of Pat Metheny and Pat Martino in his playing and Leo Brouwer in his writing. Muscatello’s moods range from the pensive - as in the title track - to the playful, as heard on “Tons of Fun,” the CD’s closer.

Although he wrote only two of the tunes, saxophonist/leader Brian Patneaude amply demonstrates why his name resides alongside the title. A powerful tenor who combines the seemingly incompatible influences of Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, Patneaude keeps a tight reign on the proceedings while allowing each musician the freedom to do his own thing. The band operates as a single entity, and that in itself is a tribute to Patneaude’s leadership. Both of his compositions are tributes to saxophonists – “Jolo” to Lovano and “Freedom Trane” to both Eddie Harris and John Coltrane – and Patneaude is indeed a worthy disciple. He’s clearly been listening hard to his heroes, taking their teachings to heart and creating something wholly original. Definitely one to watch.

Not to be overlooked, bassist Ryan Lukas and drummer Danny Whelchel each contribute one composition (Whelchel co-writing the enigmatically titled “Hide the Fat Guy” with Muscatello). Their interaction creates a complex but rock solid rhythmic groundwork upon which Patneaude and Muscatello weave their harmonic magic. Lukas’s “The Longing” is a showcase for his engaging finger-work. Whelchel’s drumming is a treat throughout the album. His accents and cymbal splashes punctuating his colleagues’ statements, contributing a sort of rhythmic equivalent to Flaubert’s la mot juste.

Variations is an impressive first effort which leaves the listener eagerly awaiting the Brian Pateneaude Quartet’s second and third albums.

Bon appetit!"


Chances are, you've never heard of Brian Patneaude's quartet before - that is, unless you live in the Albany-Schenectady, New York area where his group usually performs.  This is the quartet's first CD.  Chances are, though, that you'll be hearing more of Patneaude's quartet in the future as more of it's music is released, especially if it takes on a higher profile though touring and greater publicity.  For Variations is the work of young professionals who have developed their own ideas about the direction of their music and who, while strongly influenced by numerous jazz stalwarts like Eddie Harris or Pat Martino, customize their compositions to fit their musical personalities.  Ironically, while Patneaude cites Joe Lovano as a primary influence, and even names a song after him, "Jolo", the instrumentation and spirit of Patneaude's quartet recall that of Oh!, on which Lovano joins guitarist John Scofield.  The similarities between Patneaude and Lovano are those of intervals and non-traditional melodic development, rather than that of tone, Lovano's bury authority and overtones being inimitable.  Each member of Patneaude's quartet contributes a composition.  And while the overall effect of the tunes vary, the tightness of the quartet - such as the way Patneaude and guitarist George Muscatello play the unison twisting lines and bounce ideas off each other on "Hide the Fat Guy" - establishes a distinctive style that constantly catches the listener off guard with it's unpredictability.  The point of the CD's title, and that of Muscatello's tune "Variation On A Variation", is that none of the music on Variations will ever be played the same way twice.  With 56 minutes of pure improvisation, guided by the slight outlines of melody and chord structure, the value of Variations lies in the musical wonder and discovery that Patneaude's quartet presents to us as each of the tunes organically attains unpredicted structure.

- Cadence Magazine

"Variations is the debut of 29 year old saxophonist Brian Patneaude from New York.  During the last 10 years the college of St. Rose graduate has participated in many groups and had the opportunity to obtain remarkable performing experience in a variety of styles. Last year he formed his quartet with George Muscatello (guitar), Ryan Lukas (bass)and Danny Whelchel (drums). A few months were enough for the four of them to build a considerable repertoire and to record "Variations", a tight and elaborated album considering their short time together as a group. Melodic jazz full of passion played by four integrated yet very young musicians. Patneaude's versatile tenor incorporates elements derived from various sources of inspiration, such as Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker and certainly the saxophonists to whom his two compositions are dedicated: Joe Lovano ("Jolo") and John Coltrane / Eddie Harris ("Freedom Trane"). The bulk of the album's compositions belong to George Muscatello. They impress his musical interests that span from modern classical music (he is a fervent admirer of Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer) to funk and rock ("Tons of Fun"). Ryan Lukas contributes with an excellent composition too: the stunning "The Longing", a ballad reminiscent of Don Grolnick's "Cost of Living" from Michael Brecker's debut that induces the four soloists to show off their improvisational skills. Brian Patneaude quartet's entrance in discography is very impressive and creates an air of expectations for an even better follow up."

- Vangelis Aragiannis -"Ipirotikos Agon" - Ioannina, Greece