Saturday, May 11, 2024

Jazz Musicians Perform “Coastal Suite” May 19 at Plattsburgh’s Strand Theater

Alan Blackman Jazz will perform The Coastal Suite on Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m. at the historic Strand Theater in Plattsburgh, New York. The Coastal Suite stands as a significant achievement in the notable career of composer-pianist Alan Blackman. A New Jazz Works commission by Chamber Music America with funding awarded by the Doris Duke Foundation, the full-length, multi-media work was premiered live in Baltimore and New York in 2014 and featured on NPR’s JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. Performances of The Coastal Suite have met with widespread acclaim by audiences and jazz pundits alike.

Tickets are available online at and also at the Strand Arts Center during their regular business hours. For further information, call (518) 293-7613, e-mail or visit

Alan Blackman has created an evocative concept piece that explores a 24-hour tidal cycle from pre-dawn through the night at a remote ocean beach. Highly programmatic, The Coastal Suite conjures the sound-universe of the seashore, as the musicians create nautical sounds through extended techniques, expanding the vocabulary of their instruments’ sonic capabilities. Augmenting Blackman’s regular Baltimore-based trio of bassist Max Murray and drummer Frank Russo are Canadian saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk and Brazilian percussionist Rogerio Boccato.  

The Coastal Suite is performed with projected images of gorgeous abstract seascape paintings by the renowned Shetland Islands artist Ruth Brownlee. With equal parts written and improvised, Blackman’s long-form suite features 17 continuous numbers, with titles such as “Before Dawn,” “Eddies and Pools,” “Driftwood,” “Steps in the Sand,” and “Fractured Moonlight.” In their improvisations, the musicians constantly react and respond to the changing images, as the paintings encourage and inspire them to sonically reproduce the environment that the projected images evoke. 

Blackman stated: “As a composer I loved the idea that I could write out traditional composed pieces but also leave space for the musicians to explore, invent, and create with the utmost freedom. In this way, every performance is different in a much deeper way than just the typical improvised solos of traditional jazz.”

In addition to their performance at the Strand Theater, Alan Blackman Jazz Group will offer some community outreach:  they will perform a concert of jazz standards at Lake Forest Senior Living and will spend a day at Saranac Central School to perform a concert for students, coach the SCS Jazz Band rehearsals, and lead workshops in improvisation and extended instrumental techniques.

YouTube video

Reviews About The Coastal Suite:

“There is something here, a beauty, that is captivating,” said renowned jazz artist Joe Locke.

“An absolutely gorgeous album, which communicates its waterside vision with stunning resonance.” said Dave Sumner from Bird is the

About the Artists:

ALAN BLACKMAN – Baltimore-based pianist, educator, and award-winning composer, whose various ensembles have performed at Blues Alley, the Kennedy Center, and many festivals and venues from San Francisco to New York. Recent performances have been with Donny McCaslin, Joe Locke, Michael Formanek, Helen Sung, Vardan Ovsepian, Orrin Evans, Ferenc Nemeth, Mike Pope, Warren Wolf, Tim Green, Richie Cole and Othello Molineaux. 

He was awarded the eastern regional songwriting award by the Gospel Music Association and was selected to be part of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center and JazzAhead in Germany, as well as residencies at The Banff Centre, Millay Arts, and the Avaloch Music Institute. Alan has received more than a dozen grants from the Maryland State Arts Council in jazz composition, jazz performance, and world music. 

He was the recipient of Chamber Music America’s prestigious New Jazz Works multi-year commission, which brought forth The Coastal Suite. Most recently Blackman was awarded grants from The MAP Fund and Puffin Foundation for his new long-form concept piece Once Upon a Prairie, a multimedia exploration of the loss of the American grasslands to fracking. Original arrangements and performances of his music have been featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation and JazzSet; NBC’s This is Us; TV shows Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville, and Redemption; and Stephen King’s film 1408.

Alan released his first CD of original music, Shadowdance, in January 2000 with the Blackman/Barke Quartet. His next CD, Turning Point featuring Donny McCaslin was released in 2010 on Top Floor Records. A recording of his two-piano improvised series, Alone Together with four guest pianists was released in 2011. The Coastal Suite was recorded in 2015. His 2018 release entitled Chapter 3 features guitarist Gilad Hekselman. December 2022 saw the release of his latest endeavor entitled Sacred Spaces, which features eight new original compositions.

Bassist MAX MURRAY began making music at the age of four.  The son of a professional musician, music was ever-present in his childhood home near Boston, MA.  After experimenting with brass & woodwind instruments, the double bass found him at age 13.  While in high school, he studied with Boston Symphony Orchestra bassist, Lawrence Wolfe.

At seventeen Max was accepted into the United States Navy Music Program, and upon high school graduation he enlisted in the Navy.  After boot camp, he attended the Armed Forces School of Music in Little Creek, VA, and graduated at the top of his class, and ahead of schedule.  He then was forced to endure arduous tours of duty with Navy Bands in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Newport, RI.   In 1985 Max won an appointment to the Premier United States Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, MD, where he remained until retiring from the Navy in 2000.   During his twenty-plus years of service he performed a broad spectrum of music, including top-40, rock ‘n roll, R&B, plenty of marches, classical literature, show tunes, rap, country, salsa, big band & small group contemporary jazz.

Max is honored to have studied with or participated in master classes with some of the finest bassists on the planet, including Paul Johnson, John Clayton, Rufus Reid, Glen Moore, Buster Williams, and Lynn Seaton.

In addition to the many wonderful regional musicians he collaborates with, Max is honored to have shared the stage with a diverse list of major artists, including Henry Mancini, Don Menza, Mose Allison, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lee Greenwood, Neil Sedaka, Louie Bellson, Gene Bertoncini, Dave Samuels, and Poncho Sanchez.   

In 2003 he and longtime partner Frank Russo released their first collaboration with pianist Doug Bickel & John D’earth,  “In My Mind’s Eye.”  He also can be heard on recordings by Suede, Rob Vuono Orchestra, Tom Lagana Group, Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, The Fred Hughes Trio , Rob Levit, Pete BarenBregge/Frank Russo Group, The Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big Band.  As a member of Afro Bop Alliance he received a Latin Grammy Award for the 2008 release, “Caribbean Jazz Project – Afro Bop Alliance.”

FRANK RUSSO joyfully paints colorful soundscapes with his highly skilled, passionate, musical drumming. He’s an in-demand performer, recording artist and educator who currently resides in Maryland and teaches at Towson University. He is also an artist/educator for Bosphorus Cymbals, MD Drums and The Vic Firth Education Team. Raised in the NYC area, Frank was steeped in the rich musical heritage of the jazz legends at an early age and carriers on the legacy of a musical family.

An incredibly adaptable musician, a partial list of his performances testifies to his diverse talent. He has performed with Mundell Lowe, Dr Lonnie Smith, Hal Crook, Craig Handy, Keter Betts, Ethel Ennis, Greg Gisbert, Chuck Redd, Bill McHenry, John O’Gallagher, Dave Ballou, John D’earth, Denis DiBlasio, Ron McCurdy, The Coasters, Frankie Lane and many more. Highlights of his performances include the Detroit Jazz Festival, Ottawa Jazz Festival, Stan Getz Jazz Festival, East Coast Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center and many others. Tours have included several trips to Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda. Frank completed a distinguished career with the prestigious Naval Academy Band where he performed in and led several dynamic ensembles. He was stationed in Annapolis, San Diego, Great Lakes, Monterey, and Norfolk during his career.

Frank is a Summit Records Recording Artist whose recordings have gained national recognition and praise from Downbeat, Jazztimes and Modern Drummer along with others. He is featured on “Point of Grace” with PF Flyer, “No Turning Back” with Fred Hughes, “Gabrielle’s Hand” with Bob Boguslaw and the acclaimed Shook Russo Quartets “Featuring Greg Gisbert” all on Summit Records. As a sought-after studio ace he has played on countless sessions, crossing all genres, including PBS 

Documentaries, “Quiet Now” with John Toomey, “In My Mind’s Eye” with Max Murray & Doug Bickel, Kenny Carr’s “Turn the Page” featuring brilliant saxophonist Donny McCaslin, “Uncertain Paths” with Rob Levit and many more.

Frank is also a member of the Bob Butta Trio, The Fred Hughes Band, Rob Levit Trio, Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, Bob Boguslaw’s The Way, and Mozart to Motown with Stefan Scaggiari, PF Flyer and The Shook Russo Quartet. His most recent release on Summit Records “A Thousand Eyes” is with the superb saxophonist Pete BarenBregge.

Frank is proud to exclusively perform on maple drums designed by Keith Larsen (Maryland Drum Company), Bosphorus Cymbals and Vic Firth Products.

“Creating and Expanding Community” might be the best way to describe saxophonist JEFF ANTONIUK’s laser-like focus in his three-decades long career. Both a world class performer and recording artist, and a national leader in jazz education, Jeff is driven by the desire to bring musicians, students, and audiences together. He has led discussions on art and education at the White House, busked for loose change with sax legend Jeff Coffin, and toured Siberia in February. And we’re just getting started . . .

Born in Edmonton, Canada, Antoniuk studied at the prestigious University of North Texas, where he earned both a BM and a master’s degree in jazz performance and Ethnomusicology. Living in Nigeria, Africa as a child, and traveling the world as a musician, Antoniuk became enthralled with the questions of how we learn, what is innate, and what inspires us to create. His studies, research and insights have led to a rare ability as a musical coach and guide. Jeff has developed and served as Artistic Director on over 50 different workshops on specific jazz topics and conducted over 2500 jazz masterclasses in the last 15 years.

As a performer and composer, Antoniuk is heralded for his “considerable chops” (Jazz Times Magazine) and “a creative spark that never lets up,” (Rochester City Paper). His recordings with Jeff Antoniuk & The Jazz Update and The MARS 4-tet have all received critical praise, with appearances on the Jazz Top 40 charts. In 2016, Antoniuk was tapped by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to be the featured soloist for their world premier performances of “A Swingin’ Nutcracker,” the first full jazz realization of Tchaikovsky’s 25 movement ballet.

Also a busy sideman, Jeff Antoniuk has played with or led bands with such luminaries as fellow saxophonists Ralph Bowen and Walt Weiskopf, guitarists Tim Miller and Steve Rochiniski, drummers Sherrie Maricle and Warren Wolf, bassists Jimmy Haslip and Marcus Miller, and trumpet players Tim Hagans and Ingrid Jensen.

Featured on three Grammy-award-winning albums (Kurt Elling & Danilo Perez, Maria Schneider Orchestra, and Billy Childs), Brazilian percussionist ROGÉRIO BOCCATO plays/recorded in projects led by some of today’s leading jazz artists, including Brian Blade, John Patitucci, Fred Hersch, Kenny Garrett, Luciana Souza, David Binney, Renee Rosnes, and many others. He has also collaborated with top-ranking Brazilian artists, such as Toninho Horta, Moacir Santos, Zé Renato, and Vinicius Cantuária. 

As a longtime member of the “Orquestra Jazz Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo,” Rogério Boccato has played with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, Milton Nascimento, Egberto Gismonti, João Bosco, Joe Zawinul, among many others.

Photo at top: Alan Blackman. Photos provided by Angela Brown of Hill and Hollow Music.

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