by Ed Healy

VivaldiBuffalo’s annual Viva Vivaldi Festival got underway last night in the newly opened Buffalo Religious Arts Center in the city’s Black Rock neighborhood. What a fitting setting for Antonio Vivaldi’s soul-stirring sonatas and concertos! Last night’s program marked the start of the 31st installment of this immensely popular Buffalo musical event and the full house did not leave disappointed. Various members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra took turns stepping into the spotlight and offering listeners musicality of the highest caliber.

Festival founder and violinist Marylouise Nanna got things off to a delightful start with the help of BPO violinist Ansgarius Aylward on Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Minor for two violins, strings and cembalo. What a treat. The interplay of the two violinists was sublime, filling the former St. Francis Xavier Church with gorgeous sounds and raising expectations for the program to come. What followed was a masterful tour of baroque masterworks by Vivaldi and his contemporaries Tomaso Albinoni and Giovanni Bonocini. In fact, it was Bonocini’s Sinfonia No. 10 in D Major for two trumpets that provided the highlight in an evening filled with them. BPO trumpeters Alex Jokipii and Geoffrey Hardcastle were mesmerizing as they hit notes that were high, bright, light and clear, infusing the former sanctuary with the joy that comes from music performed at the highest level. Bravo Ars Nova Musicians Chamber Orchestra and special guests!

The Viva Vivaldi Festival continues on Nov. 8 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 373 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo; Nov. 15 at First Presbyterian Church, 1 Symphony Circle, Buffalo; and Nov. 22 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1080 Main Street, Buffalo. All concerts begin at 6:30 pm. Admission is $10.

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by Ed Healy

The Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz Series at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is always a classic Buffalo experience. Seated in the ultra-modernist auditorium designed by Buffalo-born Gordon Bunshaft, a listener can be excused for being distracted by the surroundings. The glass walls to the right and left of the stage reveal bucolic Delaware Park on one side and the impressive architecture of Rockwell Hall and the Burchfield Penney Art Center across Elmwood Avenue on the other. The beauty just outside the walls imbues the space with a spirit that makes it among the most memorable in all of jazz. No wonder the series continues to attract the very best jazz musicians to Buffalo.

Used for lectures, film screenings, and other public events, the Gallery auditorium truly comes to life during the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon Art of Jazz concerts. Produced by local impresario Bruce Eaton, the series annually brings an exciting mix of contemporary and classic performers to Buffalo. This past Sunday I had the pleasure of hearing the post-modern jazz provocateurs Ted Nash and Odeon.

Saxophonist and clarinetist Nash leads a band featuring a violinist, accordion player and tuba player – a line-up that may be unique in all of jazz. This eclectic ensemble, along with a very talented and creative drummer, is both brainy and brawny, playing sophisticated, intricate arrangements of original compositions and more obscure standards while at the same time keeping things funky and fun. Highlights of Sunday’s set included the pulsing rhythms of the Brazilian “Tico Tico” and the Argentinean flavored “Tango Sierra.” The group’s innovative, rocking rendering of Duke Ellington’s “Amad,” from his “Far East Suite,” was Ellington for the 21st Century — playful, multi-textured and propelled with genuine fire.

The Albright-Knox is justly renowned for its world-class collection of modern and contemporary art, but it should also be recognized as the host of world-class cross-cultural programming like the Art of Jazz Series. The series continues on May 2nd with a special double bill featuring vocalist Kendra Shank and pianist Frank Kimbrough. For more information visit www.albrightknox.org.

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by Doug Sitler

nietzchesOn Friday night I headed down to Nietzsche’s in historic Allentown to catch one of my favorite local rock bands – The Steve Johnson Band. Nietzsche’s is a venerable Buffalo music hall that has provided music seven nights a week for over 25 years – from solo artists to bombastic rock bands, the club has seen it all. The fact that Nietzsche’s is located in Allentown is an added bonus, as it has always been my favorite neighborhood in Buffalo; full of cool shops, funky art galleries, great restaurants, and late-night hangouts.

Walking though the front door of the 300-person capacity club is like stepping into an art exhibit. From floor to ceiling, the club’s walls are adorned with interesting paintings and sculptures created by local artists and the club’s patrons. The place attracts a wide variety of patrons, with “music lover” tending to be the characteristic that brings everyone together. One of the more interesting features of this club is the ceiling. A quick glance upwards reveals autographs by Phish, Rusted Root, 10,000 Maniacs, Ani DiFranco, The Tragically Hip, and other famous performers that have graced the club’s stage.

With the club’s owner Joe Rubino quite often holding court at the corner of the bar, Nietzsche’s features two areas where patrons can experience music. In the front of the bar is a small stage that tends to feature acoustic performers. In the rear of the club is where the large main stage resides, with elevated seating on the sides of the venue, and an ample dance floor to groove the night away. The weekend shows tend to start at 10:00 p.m., with the cover charge rarely exceeding $5. Whether you go to the club to see “the next big thing,” or just to have an enjoyable night in a creative setting, Nietzsche’s will fit the bill.

Click on the following links to find out more about Nietzsche’s (www.nietzsches.com) or the Allentown neighborhood (www.allentown.org).