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Soundcheck: In Buffalo, music making is a family affair

Music making seems to be a family affair around these parts. In recent weeks, it has occurred to me that we’re now seeing a whole slew of second-generation musicians making their mark, both locally and out in the world.

Longtime musician, educator and producer Mark Hunt’s son, Elliott, is making some serious waves with his indie-pop band Mom Said No, most recently with a well-received set opening for Phosphorescent, Tank and the Bangas and Death Cab for Cutie, as part of this year’s Rockin’ at the Knox.

Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Guillermo Izquierdo’s daughter, Elena, recently celebrated the release of her debut EP, “Hard to Love,” with a much buzzed-about show at the Imagine Event Center.

Long-serving prog-rock aficionado Bill Bunny’s son, Mike, has dazzled audiences with his virtuosic performances of intricate progressive pieces as a member of Random Order, and is now pursuing his master’s degree in classical guitar at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.

Elliott Hunt, second from right, with band Mom Said No. (Contributed photo)

I recently caught another Version 2.0 from a Buffalo family at his rather triumphant homecoming show, fresh from graduating from the music department at Purchase College.

Ethan Weissman is the son of renowned jazz guitarist Stu Weissman, and I’ve watched him grow over the years, our families having maintained close relationships as our kids grew up.

Ethan was a pianist first, became a guitarist in his teens, and pursued an in-depth, hands-on study of audio engineering at Purchase. His father is a jazz and blues purist, for the most part, and Ethan was raised hearing upper-echelon musicians in those forms, as well as the best rock bands of the classic era. But somewhere along the way, Ethan caught the heavy metal bug, and he moved rather rapidly into the full-scale virtuosity that playing modern prog-metal requires rather rapidly. (His father, a dear friend, is infinitely proud but also not above the occasional “I wish he was playing jazz” remark, he won’t mind me telling you.)

Stu has another son, Avery, who also is a gifted musician. Avery started as a guitarist, and still plays that instrument, but over the past few years, he has been gaining a reputation as a serious bassist in a multitude of idioms – jazz, blues, rock, rhythm and blues and various permutations thereof.

Ethan Weissman's Mass Extinction Event, with Ethan, center, and brother Avery, far left. (Jeff Miers/Buffalo News)

Last week, Ethan and Avery were joined by a pair of Ethan’s Purchase colleagues for their first Buffalo show. Dubbed Ethan Weissman’s Mass Extinction Event, the quartet landed a sweet spot opening for legendary prog-shredder Tony MacAlpine at Mohawk Place. They made the most of the opportunity, turning in a blistering hourlong set that displayed not just their dazzling chops, but a strong compositional acumen and a deeply ingrained sense of pacing and dynamics.

I stood next to Stu Weissman throughout his son’s set. We smiled at each other, a lot. He was virtually glowing, his love for his kids so evident in his features. Much more than just the passing on of the family business, this was about knowing that your children will feel the immense joy, the sense of connection and community based on shared vision and hard work, that a life in music can provide.

I’ve been lucky enough to know that feeling, too. And it’s something I wish everyone could feel.

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