Raising the Bar – Auburn Style, one note at a time

Music, in all its specific styles and genres, has a way of elevating the spirit and enabling listeners to move through various levels of emotion and feeling. Venues throughout Auburn, NY (located in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York) and the surrounding County villages and towns continue to provide a caliber of music that enables residents to align themselves to a favorite band, musician, or style while discovering others to follow and support. And every so often, there are those rare performances that enthralls and captivates, and witnesses understand they are part of a unique experience.

This past weekend was captivating.

Theater Mack...Friday evening, September 30... embraced the return of Omar Tamez (guitars,) Angelica Sanchez (piano,) Harvey Sorgen (drums,) and Peter Mack (bass.) Their performance was a brilliant display of contemporary jazz with its point and counterpoint, call and response, subtle and daring improvisation, soaring solos and toe-tapping exchanges as the musicians led and supported each other. For me, it was the level of playing that reminded me of Return to Forever, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and the roster of visionary artists who recorded for ECM records back in the day.

Friday's Tamez/Sanchez/Sorgen/Mack performance challenged how we interpret the jazz idiom and then have the opportunity to immediately broaden our knowledge of the music. Simply, this concert presented another intriguing episode in the jazz lexicon of daring original compositions, and those musical charts were played out in Auburn, in Auburn!

Also on Friday evening, this virtuoso group released their newly minted CD, “From the Heart,” which was available for purchase ($10) with the proceeds going to the Cayuga Museum. Peter Mack arranged the performance and continues to bring world-wide recognized musicians to Auburn to make musical magic.

On Saturday evening, October 1 and again on Sunday afternoon, the music transitioned to another spectrum of vibrancy.

Rhythm in Motion and First Love Ministries presented, Dance to the Music: a Motown Rhythm and Blues Revue at Auburn Public Theater. This theatrical event highlighted and celebrated “soul music” and the influence of the Motown sound on vintage soul. And, if you missed it, the performers rocked the house. 

The stellar lineup was: Joe Whiting (sax and lead vocals,) Bernie McNabb (lead vocals) also featuring vocals by Anne Adessa, Robin Munn, and Julie Howard. The back-up band consisted of Bob Piorun on guitar, Ed Vivenzio on keyboards, Richard Howard on drums, and Fred Gibson, Sr. on bass guitar and vocals. Four dancers, Kathy Zamniak, Tricia Shine, Anna Post, and Ann Sullivan completed the cast. As with any popular music review, there were highlights after highlights.

Literally all the vocalists, especially McNabb, Whiting, and Adessa, brought their A-game and rocked the theater with many patrons dancing in the aisle and at their seats. Munn and Howard interpreted their performances with refreshing styles that respected and enhanced the original recordings.

The musicians provided the throbbing back-up and expertly crafted the party atmosphere with verve and exuberance one would expect from a festival of sound. Choreographed by Zamniak, the dancers (who gracefully put some old school dance moves into their routine) brought us back to the day when we strutted and moved to artists ranging from the Supremes, Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and others.

Jack Hardy was M.C.; provided the historical context to each song; was the glue that moved the audience along a wonderful "Soul Train" railroad track of remembrances, and clearly established that this music has become the foundation for contemporary Neo-Soul and many other current pop performers.

So, if you live in Auburn or enjoy coming to the city, get out there support and enjoy the venues that bring us the music. There are extraordinary gems that do happen more times than not!

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