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
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.
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.
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 .