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Thank-You Notes

To the Editor:

After reading Al Quaglieri’s eloquent appreciation of the late Nick Brignola [Listen Here, Feb. 14], I reflected on my own memories of Nick. As a high school student some 30 years ago, I studied jazz theory with Nick at his home in Eagle Mills. I remember how thrilled and privileged I felt, sitting at the piano with the guy I had just seen perform with the likes of Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. Nick was your unassuming next-door neighbor who just happened to be one of the top jazz musicians in the world. Although renowned as a baritone sax player, he was no less fluent on tenor, alto and certainly soprano—not to mention various sizes of flutes and even clarinet. Plus, Nick had mastered the difficult technique of circular breathing, in which he could stretch out a note or phrase for what seemed like hours.

A few years later I was at a wedding in Saratoga when I spotted Nick. At first I thought he was one of the guests. Then he explained without a trace of condescension that he was actually playing at the affair—a “casual date,” in musicians’ parlance. To Nick, a gig was a gig, and there was no shame in performing for money, under any circumstances. Nick was the epitome of a working musician.

I moved west six and a half years ago, but I had the pleasure to catch up with Nick a number of times at Justin’s during my periodic visits to Albany. He always treated me like a pal, and no matter how many times I heard him play, I was forever blown away by his exquisite mixture of pyrotechnics and lyricism. It was as if I needed to be reminded how amazing he really was.

One of the last times I saw Nick was a couple of years ago at the Jazz Bakery here in L.A. He was playing a double-baritone gig with Cecil Payne, so my friend and fellow Troy native Bob Etoll and I went to say hello and enjoy the show. The near-octogenarian Payne somehow kept up with Nick, albeit at this point with more heart than chops. Afterward, Nick regaled Bob and me with hysterical tales of touring with the addlepated Payne, even while admonishing us that Payne was still a great player deserving of our utmost respect. Nick could be acerbic, but he never lacked humility.

I can hardly believe such a huge voice has been silenced. Nevertheless, Nick Brignola the musician will live on in our ears, and Nick Brignola the man will live on in our hearts.

Peter Iselin
Los Angeles

To The Editor:

It was both sad and surreal reading Al Quaglieri’s piece on local legend Nick Brignola’s passing. A truly superb musician. Since first seeing him perform in 1966, to this day I have not heard a more brilliant master of the jazz baritone saxophone. It will be unbelievable seeing his name added to your Gone But Never Forgotten category and no longer seeing him in Best Reasons to Live in the Capital Region. For all those great nights of inspiration: Great show, Nick. And goodbye.

Dennis Dzamba
New York City


Re: Advice Goddess: Either dump her or do a better job editing her. She overwrites like crazy, repeats herself ad nauseum and generally takes 10 sentences to answer a simple question when three would do. But I’m addicted to that drivel, so . . .


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