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'Jazz Sundays' kick off at The Falcon, extending a Hudson Valley legacy

The Miguel Zenon Quartet at The Falcon on March 11, 2016.
Nate Chinen
The Miguel Zenon Quartet at The Falcon on March 11, 2016.

The Falcon, a community-minded arts mecca in the Hudson Valley hamlet of Marlboro, NY, endured every kind of challenge an independent venue could face over the last two years, managing better than most. Then came the death of Tony Falco, its visionary founder, last fall. For the club and its far-flung yet close-knit musical community, it was a devastating loss that also raised uneasy questions about the future.

But the fate of The Falcon is in sure and steady hands — with Tony’s son Lee Falco, an accomplished drummer and producer who grew up with a revolving door of world-class artists in his backyard. “It really is a roller coaster, and it’s continuing,” Lee says of his experience as a venue proprietor during our unsettled moment in time. “This is just the first weekend that we've reopened, really, since my dad’s passing.” He adds: “I’m just kind of searching and trying things, trying to be open to all kinds of possibilities with the place, and really just trying to do whatever it takes to keep it all going.”

courtesy of the artist

In that spirit, The Falcon has just announced Jazz Sundays, a new series in collaboration with a friend and fellow Hudson Valley resident, Danny Melnick, of Absolutely Live Entertainment. Beginning this Sunday with a Mardi Gras celebration featuring the irrepressible New Orleans trombonist and singer Glen David Andrews, it will run through June — with a boost from funds that Melnick secured through a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG), which provides emergency assistance to eligible venues affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

After attending a memorial for Tony Falco last fall, Melnick began checking in with Lee about the situation at The Falcon. “It dawned on me as we were discussing this, throughout the late fall and into the winter, that I had this SVO money that I could probably contribute. And so part of my desire to get involved — knowing that I could not make any money, and didn't really care about making any money — was that I was able to contribute not only my contacts and my knowledge, but also a little bit of money to the musicians, and sweeten the pot for them to make this whole thing just a little bit more exciting coming out of Omicron.”

courtesy of the artist

By the strict eligibility guidelines of the SVOG, The Falcon — which has made a point of never charging admission for its shows — is classified as a restaurant, rather than a music venue. So it’s especially helpful that Melnick has found a use for the grant: in addition to booking Jazz Sundays, he will use those funds to pay each band a $500 guarantee. As has always been the case at The Falcon, the artists will also receive 100% of audience donations at the door.

A glance at the bookings suggests the same high artistic caliber and stylistic breadth that Melnick brings to Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival each summer. Among the eye-catching attractions: drummer Johnathan Blake’s Trion, with Linda May Han Oh on bass and Chris Potter on saxophones (March 13); an 82nd birthday celebration for tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin (March 27); an album-release show for the Michael Leonhart Orchestra’s The Normyn Suites (April 3); and another album-release show, for Jeremy Pelt’s Soundtrack (April 24).

Next weekend’s offering will be Tim Ries’ Universal Spirits Ensemble, named after his 1998 album on the Criss Cross label. “We have only played live with this group so far at the Carter Center for a speech President Carter gave: A Time For Peace,” explains Ries, a saxophonist widely known for his association with The Rolling Stones. (He adds in an email that the band is busy rehearsing this week in preparation for the gig.)

For Melnick, who moved to the Hudson Valley within the last decade, Jazz Sundays is not only a nod of support for The Falcon but also a tribute to the example set by Tony Falco. The implications of that gesture aren’t lost on Lee, who has worked often with Melnick’s wife, singer-songwriter Bari Koral.

“For me, keeping it going in the spirit of my dad is sort of this larger picture,” says Lee. “And so many people in the community love my dad, and have reached out and are willing to help, and I feel very supported. And I haven't felt that more than with Danny and his help here. It feels special, and it’s really appreciated at this time.”

Below, find the schedule for Jazz Sundays. See The Falcon for more information.

2/27: Glen David Andrews Mardis Gras Celebration

3/6/22: Tim Ries Universal Spirits Ensemble
3/13/22: Johnathan Blake Trio with Chris Potter & Linda May Han Oh
3/20/22: Brandee Younger
3/27/22: Lew Tabackin's 82nd Birthday

4/3/22: The Michael Leonhart Orchestra
4/10/22: Brianna Thomas
4/17/22: Aaron Parks
4/24/22: Jeremy Pelt

5/1/22: Orrin Evans Trio
5/8/22: Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days
5/15/22: Samara Joy featuring Pasquale Grasso Trio
5/22/22: Sasha Dobson featuring Peter Bernstein
5/29/22: Richie Goods & The Goods Project

6/5/22: Olatuja: A Musical Reunion
6/12/22: Pilc Moutin Hoenig
6/19/22: Kat Edmonson
6/26/22: The Ben Allison Quartet

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.