Ralph Lalama 4tet @ The Other Side, 1/24/15

This was in no sense a warm-up by tenor titan Ralph Lalama for his appearance Sunday afternoon, along with singer Nancy Kelly, at the CNY Jazz Arts Foundation's Jazz in January event.  Lalama, who anchors the sax section of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, has visited Utica & Rome several times previously, & he always delivers a powerhouse performance.  As often in the past, he was backed by John Piazza (tp), Rick Montalbano (kb) & Jimmy Johns (d) in a program of GASB standards & jazz classics, including 3 by Vanguard Jazz Orchestra co-founder, trumpeter Thad Jones.  The 4tet hit it with "There Will Never Be Another You", Thad's "Mean What You Say" & Blue Mitchell's Caribbean-flavored "Fungii Mama".  John Piazza took a relaxed vocal on "Everything Happens to Me", & the combo wrapped the 1st set with the leader's bouncy original "Dalama's Dilemma".

Not one of the 80+ fans filling every seat in the cramped rectangular club, a little reminiscent this night of Small's in Greenwich Village, left at intermission.  The 4tet rewarded them with hard-hitting versions of Thad Jones' "3 + 1" & "Evol Deklaw Ni".  Then the tenor man revealed himself a master balladeer with an extended take on "These Foolish Things", ending with an endlessly imaginative 2-minute cadenza that brought the crowd to its feet, clapping & cheering.  The 4tet closed by sailing through the infectiously swinging "Just In Time".

Here's what Orin Domenico, co-owner of The Other Side with wife Kim, wrote this week about the concert:

 On Saturday, 85 people packed the house for one of the finest evenings of Jazz ever.  This was my third time hearing the great tenor sax player, Ralph Lalama, perform in our space.  Every time was impressive but on this occasion I found myself completely engaged with his incredibly inventive and inspired playing.  All the musicians - Rick Montalbano on keyboards, Jimmy Johns on drums and John Piazza, Jr, on trumpet were at the top of their form.  John's vocal solo, "Everything Happens To Me," humorously introduced by Ralph as "the story of John's life,"  was especially sweet and on target.  And Ralph's extended solo toward the end of the show held the audience in its spell from first to last note, a gorgeous example of the high art of improvisational jazz.

CNY jazz fans who haven't taken the Thruway to Utica to check out this venue are missing outstanding musicians active on the national scene, some with an upstate connection.  Syracuse native Joe Magnarelli & Utica native Jimmy Wormworth, both based in NYC, have led combos there.  Guitarist Paul Kogut, another Utica native on the scene in the Big Apple, with a recent CD, Turn of Phrase, was in the audience Saturday night.  Singer Giacomo Gates, who played both the Rochester Intl Jazz Fest & the Syracuse Jazz Fest in 2013, is scheduled to appear at The Other Side 3/28.

These photos were taken with 2 Sony digital SLRs, an A55 with Tamron 17-50mm/f2.8 lens & an A57 w/ Tamron 70-200mm/f2.8 lens, & are displayed here in the order in which shot.  The pix are intended for benefit of the musicians, The Other Side & the fans in the seats, all of whom are free to use them in any way that will advance the music.

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