Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band Brings Fusion Ignition to Irvington

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February 4, 2020

by Thomas Staudter –

Fand of hot jazzwith an emphasis on deep grooves and winning melodies, will want to head to the Irvington Theater on Saturday, February 15 to hear the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band, a sextet that brings together veteran virtuosos, younger dynamos and a fluent vocalist in R&B, soul and swing.

If you’re wondering how such a remarkable set has operated under the radar around the region noted by its moniker, it’s because the latest incarnation is still relatively new, with two key members only jumping on board at the over the past four months or so.

Led by drummer Jeff Weiner of Yonkers, the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band was launched five years ago with an entirely different lineup than today, except for bassist Adrian Calonico, originally from Argentina who now lives in Suffern, New York. The intention from the outset, Weiner said, was to perform updated arrangements of some of the best hits from the height of the jazz fusion era, which began in the late 1960s and was led by giants like Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin and Mahavishnu Orchestra.

In jazz fusion, instrumentalists are plugged into amplifiers and various affects applied to the sound to expand the soundscape and intensify the performance. After revered keyboardist Corea started his fusion band Return to Forever in 1971, he then introduced another fusion band called Elektric Band with frontline guitar, reeds and keyboards – a template, name included, for his own band , Weiner admitted.

At first, Weiner and Calonico worked with other musicians in different setups. Gradually, the idea of ​​putting together a fusion band that could attract a mainstream audience made more sense. “I realize the general public can’t listen to avant-garde music and jazz that isn’t totally harmonic all night long,” the drummer said. “So we brought in some amazing musicians who are versatile and thought about how to break up the sets, add variety.”

Two instrumentalists now on the front line are guitarist Dave Kain from Hartsdale, known for his work with saxophonists Joel Frahm and Noah Preminger, and multi-reedist Tim Veeder from Harrison, New York. Veeder, who plays saxophone and flute in the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band, is a busy sideman and educator outside of the band.

When it came time to look for a singer, Weiner, now 60, simply traveled back in time and tracked down one of his earliest bandleaders, Debbie Major, who some music fans will remember at the time. leader of the popular Street Talk group around Westchester and the Hudson Valley. In the 1980s. “I remember the band playing jazz tunes from (renowned fusion band) Weather Report, and also Steely Dan,” Weiner said, “and then having dinner with songs from Dionne Warwick. Debbie can sing anything. She has an excellent falsetto. Every night we play, she seems to outdo herself. She’ll write notes and I’ll be like, “Where did you get that from?” We are lucky to have him in the group.

With Major on vocals, a typical Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band set begins with a few instrumentals, like Corea’s “Blue Miles,” an Electric Band favorite, then follows with Michael Brecker’s dynamic “African Skies” (which the found on his album Hudson Tales) and the “revelation” of the Yellowjackets. Major then leads the band on tracks like Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” and a reading of classic classic “Nature Boy” before finishing with something uptempo; the band returns for another instrumental or two, and Major closes the set.

“I think the audience of the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band comes to hear some instrumentation playing that delicious vibe that you get in fusion and jazz, and then another kind of connection is made when the vocalist joins the band on stage,” said said Major, who lives in Montgomery, New York. “We all bring our own style and sense of music to the band, and the result is that we generate a very unique coloration in our sound. The key is to have musicians who can bring their experiences, talent and sophistication to the songs.

Major continued, “We have developed tremendous confidence in this group over the past few months. Each of us spent many nights in different bandstands; we know how to answer all the questions and solve the problems that may arise. It’s a nice balance of personalities: we do the work with maximum pleasure in the job.

The newest member of the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band is keyboardist Nir Kay, another Argentinian but with Israeli parents, now residing in Yonkers. At 25, he is the youngest member of the group. An educator at Lagond Music School in Elmsford, where the band rehearses, he was recruited to join the band this fall. Before long, Kay became the band’s musical director, choosing material with Weiner and writing the arrangements for the band members.

“From my perspective, the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band has amazing musicians, and they play really well together, producing a very sophisticated sound,” said Kay, who also sings and leads her own band, which just released its first album, Run if you don’t understand. “I’m happy to be a part of it all. I think we’re still in a transitional phase, still trying to figure things out. The best part is the mix of music we perform – each song is its own adventure in a recognizable style.

The Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band will perform Saturday, February 15 at the Irvington Theater, 85 Main St., Irvington, New York. The show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit irvingtontheater.com or call (914) 591-6602.

For more information on the Hudson Valley Electric Jazz Band, visit: www.hvejb.com.

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Henry R. Wright