Throwback Concert: Dave Pietro’s NYU Ensemble Live at Blue Note

by Xin Rui-Lee

via New York University

MacDougal is eerily quiet for Sunday lunch. Considering the Halloween festivities of the night before, no doubt half the city is curled up in bed nursing hangovers. Entering the dimly lit club, the crowd in Blue Note is thin and predominately comprises of NYU students and middle aged others. The wait staff continue to run the restaurant as though it was a busy Saturday night, an odd and inefficient system during the day.

As a part of their weekly Sunday Brunch series, the Dave Pietro NYU Ensemble are to provide the entertainment aspect of the brunch and show promised. The room is only a third filled when the house lights are turned off and the instrumentalist’s thread their way through the tables and chairs towards stage. Greeted by hoots and applause, the audience is warm and receptive. Through the course of the performance it becomes evident that majority of the students present are there to support their friends on stage. The all male ensemble are dressed smart casual, the event feels very laid back and intimate.

With a wide grin and an almost fatherly air about him, saxophonist Pietro explains their set list for the afternoon. Focusing exclusively on the works of prominent jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, the ensemble played a diverse selection of his pieces composed during the 60’s and 70’s. “When you go from the 60s to the 70s,” Pietro explains, “you go from acoustic to electric.” He mentions this as the bassist switches between his acoustic double bass to an electric bass guitar before they play Elegant People, a piece released in 1976.

The inherent professor in Pietro is obvious from his genuine enthusiasm to share the background of each piece with the audience. Together, the ensemble sounds tight and crisp, but each instrumentalist is still given the opportunity to have a solo and shine. Heads bowed to their sheet music, the ensemble members are each in a musical world of their own.

Perhaps the most engaging piece, thanks to its sheer ferocity, was “The All Seeing Eye.” Pietro interjects with a word of wisdom, ‘Were gonna jump back to the 60s. It’s not Wayne’s most well known, but possibly his most adventurous. Where he got into free music.” It would not be inaccurate to say the pianist was beating the crap out of his piano keys. Together with the double bass and drums, an oddly pleasing harmonious cacophony of beats was conjured. “Transcendental!”  shouted an appreciative audience member.

After the show, the band congratulates one another and audience members return to their meal. A girl goes up to ask for Pietro’s autograph.

Xin-Rui Lee is a Staff Writer. Email her at


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