Sunshine combined with beautiful blue skies, gentle breezes and moderate temperatures to provide a near perfect setting for the fourth of five summer Sunday jazz concerts at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
While there were folks sitting close to the stage, shade was at a premium and the bulk of the formidable-sized audience sought comfort under the leafy canopy of trees where they set up chairs, stretched out on blankets, and settled in for a delightful pairing of good weather and pleasant jazz.
They were all there as tenor saxophonist Don Rice made his 17th consecutive appearance in the Buffalo News Summer Jazz Series. That’s a tad amazing but, as noted later during the concert, it was also the 28th time Rice has played the 37-year old series.
Rice is a conceptually solid player and the set list leaned heavily on tunes drawn from the formidable catalog of jazz standards. These were, in general, pop culture classics from the mid-20th century with roots in Broadway shows and songbooks made famous by singers like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis.
Songs like “Autumn Leaves” and “Everything Happens To Me” have graced Rice’s previous appearances in Buffalo and that’s to be expected given his length of service to the art and his inclinations.
Rice opened up with a quick (and appropriate) take on George Gershwin’s “Strike Up the Band” that introduced the program and swiftly led into “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” tunes highlighting the solid support he received from the Bobby Jones Trio. They even managed to get a couple dancers swinging in front of the stage during “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
At a couple of points during the show, Rice stepped aside as the trio - Jones, bassist Wayne Moose and drummer Dan Hull - displayed their talents by riffing their way through solid performances of “Stella By Starlight” and “Yesterdays.”
The series closes with a performance at 2 p.m. Aug. 5 by Don Menza.
Jazz at the Albright-Knox featuring Don Rice, July 29 outside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.