Best of 2022: Michael Hochanadel’s Year in Review

Best of 2022: Michael Hochanadel’s Year in Review

Tickets are buzzing, seats are filling up again, and once dim marquees are blazing with big names.

After the limited “disengagement” from claustrophobic Covid, care in the summer of 2021, 2022 has been mostly better for live music and musicians.

For jazz fans, especially, the contrast was stark.

Freihofer’s scaled-down SPAC Saratoga Jazz Festival 2021 (one stage) played to small crowds divided into pods surrounded by spray paint on the lawn and segregated seating inside. (Sorry, no, it’s not Jazz Fest — the only one of those is in New Orleans. But I digress.)

Photo by Rudy Lu

This year’s edition brought a full schedule and full crowds. Also, the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival and Lake George Jazz Weekend were full of fun ahead; and A Place for Jazz (in a new location) filled her calendar.

Our Music Haven stage’s premier world music season was one of the best yet; and Nippertown sponsored its own two-stage showcase of the area’s top acts there for the first time.

More Covid-wary than most, I’ve been playing mostly outdoor shows throughout the year, masking only a few indoor shows that rose to the top of my risk-reward calculations.

These were the top 10 of the 38 I saw in 2022, in calendar order. Apologies here for not making it to MANY shows and other interesting venues this year.

January 30: Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives – The Egg, Hart Theatre. If you’re only doing one national show all year, like I did, why not go see the most traditional virtuoso band of all the killers from Nashville? This crew blasted the winter gloom to convincing effect.

June 4: NRBQ – Hangar on the Hudson. I know I know; my favorite band, and they really delivered. They have that magical musical secret of making sounds so fun that you feel young when you hear them. To the theory that our musical tastes are forever shaped by the sounds we loved at age 14, let me add that these guys take you there, every time.

June 25 & 26 – Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at SPAC. Popular favorites included Booker T. In a Stax soul revue, Brazilian singer and pianist Eliane Elias, super singer Kurt Elling in a new band with Charlie Hunter, the Mardi Gras party on the Cha Wa stage, and the most revered of all, Wynton Marsalis who conducts his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. It also featured the dazzling breakthroughs of New Orleans funk giants Galactic with young singer Angelica Jelly Joseph, Matt Wilson’s secretive Honey & Salt, and Amina Figarova’s augmented string Sextet. Some of these were probably new to me, but familiar to you; and I hope you agree that this had it all, as usual – or, as before…

July 3: Tedeschi Trucks Band and Los Lobos – SPAC. The most powerful and versatile big rock band on the road today, combined with the deepest and most authentic Latin inspired rock band. Soulful, swinging, joyful – you can’t ask for more.

July 23: NipperFest – Music Haven. A well-curated showcase for the area’s top bands, presented on a perfect day in the perfect place, this inspired, lifted and rocked on the main stage, relaxed and sang on the small one in the Tom Isabella Picnic Pavilion. Special tip of the hat to The Fig, but everyone, EVERYONE brought their A-game.

Photo by Dakota Gilbert

August 4: DakhaBrakha – Heaven of Music. These long-hatted visitors made the most emotionally powerful music I’ve heard all year: Ukrainians celebrating/mourning their war-torn people. No music touched the heart with such poignant sound and feeling.

August 31: Richard Thompson – Caffe Lena. The gruff-voiced guitar player, my favorite troubadour, lit up the smallest venue I’ve ever seen him play. (Biggest? OK – Gentilly Stage at New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2008.)

October 21: Bobby Watson – A Place for Jazz. Watson wrapped his post-be-bop alto-sax power into a soaring, brilliantly swinging set.

November 3: Darlingside – Universal Storage Hall. The Massachusetts chamber magicians played their final show in their long-running quartet setup, as simple sentiment permeated their sophisticated back-up.

Girlfriend.  Photo by Jim Gilbert
Girlfriend. Photo by Jim Gilbert

November 12: Dende Macedo – Proctors GE Theatre. It took a while to solidify, but it peaked – is that the right word – with everyone in the country on stage surrounding these Brazilian dance-jazz-funk noisemakers.

Honorable mentions: Willie Nile Feb. 18 at WAMC’s The Linda, area jazz community anniversary celebration of Tim Coakley’s Nov. 11 jazz show in the same room; Keith Pray’s Big Soul Ensemble on July 26 at Cock ‘N’ Bull’s new outdoor venue, Chris Pasin’s Ornettiquette on August 11 at Jazz on Jay and Steep Canyon Rangers on August 14 at Music Haven.



NRBQ opened for Bonnie Raitt at Albany’s Palace Theater on April 15th, then played their full show on June 4th at the Hangar on the Hudson in Troy. More NRBQ is always better than less.

I caught the Darlingside quartet’s last show on November 3 at Universal Preservation Hall, then their first as a five-piece at the Salon Room in Northampton 12 days later. Both were explorers.

Ledisi sang brilliantly at the Freihofer Jazz Festival in Saratoga in late June, then returned to SPAC on August 3 with her delicious full Nina Simone tribute.

Samara Joy was a surprise hit at Albany’s Riverfront Jazz Festival on Sept. 10, then returns here for a Christmas-themed show at Universal Preservation Hall tomorrow night. She is special.

It’s my list, so I can bend over backwards to note that I hit Art D’Echo Trio at Jazz on Jay at noon on August 4th, THEN DAKHABrakha that same night at Music Haven.

ACT OF OPENING THE OPENING GOODS Named for the straight rock band fronted by the late Kal David that stole a SPAC show from the James Gang – OK, OK; it was after Joe Walsh left.

Kingfish Ingram with Buddy Buy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Symphony Hall in Springfield

SMART AND OUTSTANDING Honoring the artists who best mix humor and hot slaps.

Sammy Miller and the Congregation at Music Haven on July 24th. The acting was excellent, the jokes were almost non-stop.

ONE MAN BAND AWARD (Well, until his singer-wife joined him on stage) Richard Thompson August, 31 at Caffe Lena.

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