“Schenectady is a-a-a-a-ll right,” said Dylan Perrillo late in his quintet’s Jazz on Jay show Thursday. The sunny noontime concert was also very a-a-a-a-ll right.
Perrillo said this without irony; the bassist-bandleader wields a wry wit and was often pretty funny at the announcer mic. But he clearly meant this, and he and his guys worked hard to make it so. While he brought serious respect to vintage tunes, he also showed a playful zest for reinventing them and for composing often terse tunes with strong flavors of his own.
He first served up Duke Ellington’s “C-Jam Blues” (later retitled “Duke’s Place” as longtime A Place for Jazz chief Tim Coakley confided at our table). The thing swung plenty, and the immediacy of its energy eclipsed altogether any sense of an antique museum piece. Alto sax-man Adam Siegel and pianist Tyler Giroux – he later grabbed his more familiar valve trombone at times – carried the solos capably. But guitarist Brad Brose, newly arrived from Paris, pumped the song to starting effect both in a fast-strum solo and comping behind his band-mates.
Playing an electrified acoustic guitar that could have come from Django Reinhardt’s caravan, Brose phrased aggressive accompaniment in the muscular but supportive style of Freddie Green in the Basie band. The resonance of his pleasing, organic sound came from the wood, not from his amp.
His two-chord vamp flowed from a fanfare start into Perrillo’s original ballad “A Pleasant Day on the Krumkill,” then Siegel guided his alto all the way to the top in feisty jabs that somehow never burst this cozy tune’s serene spirit.
In bassist-composer Charles Mingus’s swinging “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” Giroux grabbed his valve trombone, blended tight with Siegel’s sax in harmony statements through stop-and-go riffing, then got red-faced in a romp of a solo. Serene looking at the keyboard, Giroux went wild and wild-looking here. And, just as he’d responded to Brose’s guitar in “Krumkill,” Siegel reached convincingly for the high bar Giroux set here.
“Snowfall” – a favorite with both our own late, great Lee Shaw and rambunctious rock-jazz band NRBQ – got a beefier reading than customary for this Claude Thornhill classic. First it rocked, then it swung, with Giroux back at the keyboard and Siegel having fun.
Perrillo selected “Buckingham Pond” from his collected impressions of Albany green spaces, a short and sweet waltz, followed by another whose title I didn’t catch. Brose and Giroux shone on both. The leader announced his original ballad “Syracuse” depicted the one in Italy, a ballad so pretty I didn’t try to sort out if he was joking about the title.
Teamwork was again key in “Tricotism,” Brose strong in zippy chords behind Siegel’s inventive sax lead. Then Perrillo took a questing, imaginative solo himself, adopting the freedom Siegel had just shown. The solos, by everybody, flowed so fast and seamlessly that Perrillo joked afterward that everybody got half a chorus.
If Perrillo’s “Buckingham Pond” affectionately portrayed an Albany park in pastoral terms, his indignant “Homewrecker” dove deep into a way darker mood. Brose’s guitar emulated a mandolin to suggest the Italian character of “the Gut,” the working class neighborhood leveled to build the Empire State Plaza. They slowly, sadly mourned that destruction, then Siegel’s sax sang out hard anger.
Back to the trombone for Giroux in “Caravan,” intro’ed first by a raucous drums clatter by the ever-steady and explosive-whenever-he-wanted Nick Anderson. Then Brose and Perrillo joined the fun before the horns climbed on this familiar theme. They did what everybody does with this classic: ride the riff together, then gallop off in all directions across the desert sands for solo jaunts. Everybody said their piece with panache, Giroux going all raspy.
While Siegel swung “Out of Nowhere” to graceful effect, Brose soloed every bit as well, completely unaccompanied while everybody else laid out; then he and Perrillo traded short riffs, really swinging it.
The only time Perrillo bowed his bass was in “Baseball with Drum Solo,” a slow, sparse melody with an inviting open feel; and at the end, he and Anderson (playing just toms) swapped riffs.
Perrillo then slapped the bass to pump the energy of “I Got Rhythm” and they surely did. Siegel soloed first, next came a terse Perrillo bass break, Giroux roamed the keyboard with hot hands, then Brose’s crackling foray mixed chords and single-note runs. Back to Siegel, hotter in his second solo than his first and then, most rhythmic of all, Anderson soloed on just his snare.
More than most jazz players of his generation, Perrillo looks back with both evident affection and a spry willingness to mess with things. In his originals, always interesting and well-thought-out, he could actually stretch a bit more, so that moods also incorporate more movement. But in honoring those who came before, he steered a clear and confident course, of taste and tunefulness.
Check Rudy Lu’s typically cool photos of the show on Nippertown.
Jazz on Jay continues July 29 with keyboardist Jon LeRoy’s Trio.
The Dylan Perrillo Quintet plays WAMC’s The Linda on Sept. 3.