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By Arthur Gonick
SARATOGA SPRINGS – In modern English language, the world ‘awesome’ is one of the most abused around. As such, it becomes common currency. Everything is awesome, dude. I got a stain out of my t-shirt at Cudney’s – awesome. My dog didn’t bite anybody today – awesome! I got 14 likes on my Facebook post – awesome!
You get the idea. So I propose to reclaim the word for what it is supposed to mean. At the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) on Sunday night, August 24, I heard Zac Brown say this to the large crowd:
“We truly appreciate each and every one of you coming. We remember what it was like to play for beer money not so long ago, and we take nothing for granted, I assure you.”
Now, in the sometimes jaded world of big-time rock ‘n’ roll, THAT’s awesome, ladies and gents. And while we’re at it, the music was pretty darned special as well. That seemed to be the consensus in the electric amphitheater and from the jammed (and jamming) lawn crowd. The weather made it a great night to wander and be among the people, as it were.
Not only does the Zac Brown Band have some sparkling originals that span a wide spectrum of genres such as country, reggae, bluegrass and rock (a personal favorite in tonight’s set was “Whiskey’s Gone,” but you could make a case for several others), but spices things up with a similar variety of popular cover tunes, each stylized in their own way and running the gamut from James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” to Metallica’s “Never, Never Land” to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and back over to Marshall Tucker’s “Can’t you see?”
The latter tune found me next to a father/daughter combo with Dad explaining to his pre-teen daughter that this was one of Peter Frampton’s biggest hits. I was having such a nice time, as were they, I didn’t have the heart to tell them it was someone else.
So all in all, this was the fourth time I have seen ZBB and he’s yet to disappoint. They are my ‘go-to’ guys for a guaranteed good time. Brown is the new Black – and that’s awesome!
Ain’t No Jive… They’ve Done More Than Survive
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Any business that makes it to five years deserves props. But in the music business, you have to count it like it’s dog years.
Suffice to say, Putnam Den (63A Putnam Street, Saratoga Springs), has in five short years, established something that was not seen in this town in, well maybe, forever.
A music venue where the emphasis is on original artists.
Notice that we did not state a genre. Putnam Den welcomes them all – from rock to reggae (and yes, even hip-hop sometimes). Notice further that we said artists, not just musicians – Co-owners Tiffany and Jonathan Albert have welcomed painters, poets and probably Papier-mâché practitioners inside their roomy, comfy confines.
“There’s still a lot of misconceptions about what we do,” Tiffany said. “People think we’re a dance club, a hippie club, a this club, a that. They think we’re only a high-cover price venue, when in fact on those nights we have a national touring act the ticket price goes to the band. We have a very-high percentage of absolutely free shows.”
Putnam Den is impossible to pigeonhole, and that’s by design. An example of a superior original free show series would be beginning on July 9, when Gubbulidis, a duo from Castleton, VT that featuring members from Twiddle Zdenek Gubb and Mihali Savoulidis establish a Wednesday residency throughout the summer. During track season local legends Half-Step will also perform on Thursday evenings – also free.
It would have never happened, let alone reach the precipice of a fifth anniversary, without the shared vision and acumen of Tiffany and Jonathan. Tiffany is one of the most discerning, dedicated evaluators of talent I have ever met; Jonathan has a background that is a mélange of expertise that ranges from hospitality management to the performing arts. But even with that going for them, they credit (more than) a little help from their friends.
But not the banks. It was 2009. The recession. Banks weren’t lending money to hospitals, let alone a fledgling dream involving music; don’t even waste the paper and ink filling out the application! “We got our liquor license on a Thursday, opened the night after.” Jonathan said. “We had exactly $16 in our checking account” after they emptied their savings on permits, sound equipment, paint and supplies.
“When we put our financial plan together,” Tiffany said, “our accountant at the time said ‘it’s my professional obligation to talk you out of this’, but I told him: ‘this ship is going to sail!’”
You don’t get to five, though, without some help, and the Albert’s received a lot from both the business and local government communities. They rattled off names in such rapid fashion I could barely keep up; some might be a surprise:
“Jake Hogan, Tony Ianello, Peter Beames, Bruce Levinsky, Patricia Berry, Kevin Saxton, Dan Cogan in the building department, Stephanie in the city clerk’s office, Steve Ellwanger our C.P.A., Dave Harper, Julie Francis…” they said. If I left anyone out, the fault is mine, not theirs.
In addition to this, they salute the loyalty of their staff. “We have had surprising little turnover.” Tiffany said. “What makes me happy is that they make it more than a ‘bar job’. They buy into what we are doing, and use there work here as a platform to achieve their life’s goals.”
An example of this is Brian Petroski, one of the “core four” on the staff during their five years. Brian is one of the most accomplished abstract painters you will ever see, and he’s living right here. In fact, he deserves a plug of his own: visit brianpetroski.artspan.com.
Further, they have bona-fide crowd pleasers like Sam Bottini (who has been there from the beginning) and Lauren Cognato, as well as Emily Hill, who just had her second baby yet keeps coming back to the ‘Den’ family.
And so they have a lot of people in their crowd to thank. But this is a crowd that gives back. It’s a rare month on the Putnam Den calendar that you don’t see several benefits for one local cause or another, from fundraisers for established charities like Jake’s Help From Heaven to a neighbor family struggling to pay some enormous hospital bill.
When I ask Tiffany and Jonathan about a vignette that describes their quintessential Putnam Den moment, neither of them gave me what I expected.
Tiffany touched on the spirit and energy she felt “…when people say thanks. Thanks for bringing in this band, or that, yes. But, more importantly, thanks for opening our home to their cause. Often, we get out of there at 5 a.m. on Saturday night/Sunday morning, and re-open for a charity event at 11 a.m. But it’s at the only way I would do this.”
For Jonathan, that moment involves “hanging out with my son (Zion, age 3. They also have Anthony, who just graduated from Saratoga H.S. and Violet, 10 months) during the afternoons. We play with the soundboard, sometimes help with a band’s load-in.”
He continued, “One time, Donna Jean Godchaux (a member of the Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979) came in with her son’s band: Her son was named Zion too. He was maybe 45 at the time; my son was 2. They bonded big time- the eldest said it was the first time he had met another Zion.”
These examples are instructive because, much like Putnam Den itself, it is often not what you think it’s going to be.
If you’re a regular visitor, you already know that. If not, my advice is to suspend disbelief, don’t wait five more years to help them blow out the candles, and thank them for their seminal contribution to Saratoga’s cultural scene.
Putnam Den has a slew of events planned for their anniversary on Wednesday, July 2, throughout the summer and beyond. For more information on everything, visit PutnamDen.com or call (518) 584-8066.
A Full Weekend Of… Everything Awaits
SARATOGA SPRINGS – We are blessed with a vibrant arts scene year-round in this region. But, to paraphrase Emeril, it’s time to kick it up a notch…
BAM! And here we are – the Eighth Annual Saratoga ArtsFest is upon us and there is still plenty of time to get in on the action. Last night’s opening featured the acclaimed Martha Graham Dance Company at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Sponsored by SPAC, the performance included pieces from such classics as Appalachian Spring and The Rite of Spring, as well as other compositions.
On Friday, June 13’s ArtsFest will present its signature event, “An Evening with Duncan Sheik,” at the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College. Sheik, a Grammy and Tony award winner, launched his musical career in 1996 with the Grammy-nominated hit “Barely Breathing.”
Sheik is more recently known for his role in composing the musical Spring Awakening, which earned two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Sheik’s December, 2013 debut of the stage production of American Psycho in London opened to rave reviews. Tickets for the Sheik performance at Skidmore are priced at $50, or $25 with an ARTSPASS.
Speaking of the ARTSPASS, it’s not to late to pick one up and it remains an outstanding value. The price for the SaratogaArtsFest admission package is $40 for adults and seniors, and $35 for military members and their dependents. Children under 12 are admitted free.
Admission packages may be purchased online at SaratogaArtsFest.org or at the ArtsFest Center and Gallery at 385 Broadway. Admission materials must be picked up at the Center. The Center’s hours of operation during June 9-15 are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The Center phone number is (518) 871-1379.
If, however, you prefer to sample ArtsFest a la carte, there are many free events such as the “en plein air Paint Out,” along Broadway on Saturday, June 14, family events such as “Kids do Art” at UPH and the Beekman Street Arts Fair, both on Sunday, June 15.
Also, here is a listing of premium events that you can purchase admission singly without an ARTSPASS:
Saratoga Shakespeare Company presents “Shakespeare: The Remix”
The Remix, performed by two actors, introduces Shakespeare to young audiences. When a hip-hop-loving high school girl on the verge of dropping out meets Shakespeare, a 400-year-old ghost having a mid-death crisis, a pitched battle of wits erupts.
Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street
Home Made Theater presents “Theatrical Therapy – A Cabaret Performance”
Find out what happened to your favorite musical theater characters after the final curtain. This original piece is filled with laughter and song. Supported by a SaratogaArtsFest program enhancement grant.
Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street
No. 11 Productions presents “Coosje”
In this whimsical love story two sculptors learn to collaborate in life and art. Meanwhile, a pear falls out of a fruit bowl, gains consciousness, and travels the world.
Universal Preservation Hall, 25 Washington Street
Panel Discussion: “Sport as Art”
Former professional athletes and professionals in the field of collegiate sports will discuss the concept of sport as an art form. Skidmore professor Jeffrey Segrave, a noted expert on the Olympic games and the role of sport in society, will lead the session. Sponsored by the Saratoga National Golf Club.
Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, ELM Room 117
Heard and Skidmore College present “Spirit of Life: 150(1) Years of Words, Music and Dance”
Choreographer Mary Harney and composer Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius join forces to present original choreography and music, performed live by the jazz group Heard and Skidmore dance and theater students.
Skidmore College, Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater
Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra (SSYO) presents “Neapolitan Renaissance”
SSYO is fresh off a May 30 performance at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Center in New York City, under the direction of Maestro Gioacchino Longobardi. They represented the Saratoga Region in one of a thousand concerts that took place around the world as part of the Thousand Tones Project in tribute to Japanese Tsunami victims.
Today, journey back to the 18th century with the musicians of SSYO as they explore and present for your listening enjoyment a Neapolitan Renaissance experience.
Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall
From Academy Award nominee Scott Hamilton Kennedy comes a documentary exploring the trials and tribulations of talented teens as they reach for their dreams of becoming actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. Kennedy will be on hand to discuss the film.
Dee Sarno Theater at the Arts Center, 320 Broadway
Hubbard Hall Projects presents “Serenata Italiana: Exploring the Music of Italy”
Hubbard Hall Opera Theater presents a concert featuring music ranging from powerful and familiar arias by Verdi and Leoncavallo, to popular songs by Tosti, Donaudy, and others. This concert explores the music of Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries and features the talents of four outstanding opera performers.
Skidmore College, Arthur Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall
Instead of hunting for scarce parking spots for ArtsFest and Flag Day festivities, arts and parade lovers can support free professional theater by parking downtown with Saratoga Shakespeare Company.
The Company will open The Saratogian’s private lot for public parking during ArtsFest on Saturday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to midnight.
The lot, located at Maple Avenue and Caroline Street, has its entrance on Pavilion Row. A $10 donation can be made to Saratoga Shakespeare Company by cash, check or credit card.
For single event admission pricing and more programming information visit the ArtsFest Center and Gallery, 385 Broadway or SaratogaArtsFest.org
SARATOGA SPRINGS – When you get a chance to visit with Cole Broderick you are always impressed with his confidence and enthusiasm. Qualities you often see in people who have achieved major accomplishments in mid-life.
But for some people, relatively early success in life brings that big question: “Now what?” For Cole, it led to a “What’s next?” attitude.
By the mid-1990s, his music had provided a jazz soundtrack for Saratoga itself.
Those around at that time would see and Cole at every major venue and festival in town – cranking out iconic, original music, discs that were released one at a time (and is still available as a 4-CD Box Set known as the Seasons of Saratoga) that was a tribute to what Saratoga had become: A thoroughbred in its prime.
Laced with titles like “Gaffney’s Courtyard,” “Skating in Congress Park” and “August in Saratoga (The Starting Gate)” the music celebrated Saratoga’s charms and it’s status as the “year-round place to be” before it became a marketing slogan.
Along the way, the accolades accumulate and Cole himself had been woven into the fabric of Saratoga itself. It could be opined with scarce argument that had Saratoga constructed a Mount Rushmore replica in tribute to its musical heritage, it would be hard to keep Cole off the mountain.
Consider this one native son’s thought in support of his credentials:
“The jazz is as cool as it is hot …obviously Saratoga has a good influence on all aspects of the arts, from dance to theater, from Balanchine to Broderick.”
- David Hyde Pierce
And so, having reached that rarified air of “exemplar,” Cole looked for new worlds to explore.
Those new worlds still involved music, although in different forms. Cole explains “I had a great time with my band mates (during the “Seasons” albums he was billed as the Cole Broderick Quartet), “but I had a strong desire to depend less on others. To achieve this, I went deeper into the piano, as I did when I was in college, actually, to further refine and improve my technique.”
Not that the listener had anything but praise for his phrasing before, mind you. But he was answering to a higher authority – the greats of all time.
“I’d always use my idols in classical and jazz as measuring sticks… guys like Oscar (Peterson), Art Tatum and Vladimir Horowitz.” Cole noted. The result of this measuring led first to the release of In a Dream in 2004, a solo album with 11 new original songs.
The deeper exploration also led to a rekindling of his love for the songs of what is termed the “Great American Songbook”: those timeless classics penned by George Gershwin, Cole Porter et.al.
Which led to regular and ongoing appearances at local “Boomerang” hangouts like Woodlawn at Wesley and the Home of the Good Shepherd; and a rekindling of a teenage love – The Beatles. That led to a release of a solo piano tribute CD in 2009. “I paid the royalties for the music – ouch! But it was worth it,” Cole said.
The recent 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s arrival in New York coincided with Cole’s latest coming out party, if you will. He recently teamed up with Skidmore Professor and Beatles expert Gordon Thompson on a multi-media tour of seven libraries in the region to deliver a commemorative program about the event and then topped it off with a solo Beatles set within an all-star tribute evening to a capacity crowd at The Egg on Valentines Day.
“It was great to hear the reaction,” Cole said “and makes me feel good about my choices. I believe I’ve gotten the new repertoires down to the point where I can start putting it out live to the public on a regular basis.”
So don’t be surprised if you start seeing Cole Broderick in the music listings more, or even at your friend’s private party. He didn’t go away, he went down a different road to keep his talent stimulated and us entertained. Based on recent results, it was the right move.
But that’s no surprise here. The man who wrote a classic tune as part of “Summer in Saratoga” called On the Horizon has always had the gift of seeing beyond it.
For a listen to some clips or more information, visit colebroderick.com
By Egan Mills
For Saratoga TODAY
BUGEMBE, UGANDA— (Editors Note): Egan Mills is a freshman at Saratoga Springs High School. In mid-February she, her mother Meg Kelly and thirty other volunteers went on a voyage to the Town of Bugembe in Uganda to work with the Aids Orphan Education Trust. She will be there until the end of this month.
Egan and the other volunteers worked on various projects including fixing up the school buildings, providing medical care and working hands-on with the children on some basic educational skills. One of Egan’s projects was teaching the children a few songs and some dancing. We asked her to share her journal. This segment covers her first four days after arriving on the African continent.
- Arthur Gonick
Monday: 2/10/14 Day 1
Today was the first full day in the compound (that is what it is called) where we will be staying for the next 17 days. This complex is located in Bugembe, Uganda. Last night, our bus pulled in and all of the children who live outside the compound were joyously shouting and waving.
This was the first moment that I realized the exceptional quality of life that I have in Saratoga Springs. Everyone in Bugembe is welcoming even though they are living in extreme poverty. They smile when you smile, they wave when you wave, and they welcome you with open arms like a close relative. In Saratoga Springs you don’t have to sit on the street and sell products to feed and support your family, we have options. We are able to turn the shower on have CLEAN, hot water at our disposal, there is no thought of having contaminated water coming out of the faucet. What a different world!
We went to several private schools that we in close proximity to us today. Hundreds of children were singing and rejoicing for what they have, which is very minimal. They are all so grateful that we are there to help them. One of the most precious moments I saw today were three small children playing with three baby goats. We watched them from the bus as we drove to the dormitories we were scheduled to paint. The painting project took approximately 4 hours because it was a large dorm, housing 150 boys. Once the paint dries, they will line the walls with bunk beds.
My schedule for tomorrow is working in the mobile clinic, which means I will be traveling around to different towns and assisting people with various medical needs.
Tuesday: 2/11/14 - Day 2
My adventure in the mobile clinic today was in a more remote and extremely rural part of Africa. It was only about 15 minutes from our compound. We worked all day doing various medical tasks. I documented medical information in the patient records while the patients were being tested for HIV. Over 180 people were tested and only about 10 tested positive for HIV. Everyone was grateful that we were there to provide him or her with some medical attention.
Our group brought over some green tennis balls for the children to play with. I enjoyed my time today playing with all the children. The ground in and around the play area is dirt and dried mud, so by the time we were done with our games, the tennis balls were orange and brown. Through the entire time of playing, we were taking pictures and they all greatly enjoyed seeing themselves on the digital camera screen.
Tomorrow’s agenda consists of teaching the children at the elementary school a song from a performance I was in. I am looking forward to it.
Wednesday: 2/12/14 - Day 3
Today was a busy day. We went to Rehoboth Primary School and I taught a class of 40 children a song and dance all by myself. The children are all so talented here and very eager to learn. They have natural rhythm and beautiful voices. I worked with the third grade class and there was a mix of ages. They all enjoyed the song. When I taught the song and dance work, I read a book to them from Dr. Seuss titled “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think.”
I enjoyed interacting with the children during the song and dance work and afterwards playing with them in the yard. We played a variety of different games. They seem to enjoy singing and moving games. The children really enjoy anything so just running around is fun for them. Tomorrow I am going back to the class to add in musical instruments such as shakers and clappers for the kids to use during the song. I’m so excited!
Thursday: 2/13/14 - Day 4
Today was so much fun! We went back to the primary school. I went to the classroom where I taught the children yesterday. They all stood up and clapped and laughed. They were so excited. I added musical instruments to the song today and handed out shakers and clappers to all the children. They loved making music and they all loved doing the song again.
At the end of the class we asked the teacher how many children there were in the class today and she said 63 children. That is 23 more than yesterday! I am going back tomorrow to do the song again with them. We will be practicing for the show will be doing. They are going to have to show the older children the song and dance they learned. In the afternoon we worked on a shoe project – handing out shoes to children who did not have any or those who need new ones. We handed out hundreds of shoes to smiling children who were very happy and thankful.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Every Sunday evening in July, the Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center presents the “Jazz In July” Free Concert Series In Congress Park” from 7–8:30 p.m., weather permitting— on inclement days, call the Visitor Center at (518) 587-3241 starting at 5 p.m. to confirm scheduled concert.