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You need not preach to Joel Yannuzzi on the importance of timing.
In hindsight, however, it is ironic to remember how he was running late to his band’s rehearsal one Thursday night. We agreed to meet at Justin Fuld’s home in Voorheesville. That’s where Victory Soul Orchestra gets together. When fully assembled, it’s a nine-piece funk band. Coordinating schedules between bandmates is a task within itself. We initially agreed to meet at six o’clock. Just prior to that, he said he was running late. “I will make it there by 6:10,” he texted.
The Fulds live in a quiet development comprised of raised ranches, well-kept lawns and only holiday lighting to distinguish one home from the next. Their driveway is atop of where two streets intersect at a “T.” A fact that’s important only, as I sat inside my car, I observed Yannuzzi’s sedan sprint down the road and coast up the driveway like T.S. Garp in his make-believe submarine before he popped out the car, retrieved his gear and slipped himself past the open garage door. It was the start of a near procession of cars as the rest of his bandmates rolled in and found their place before disappearing through the garage door. Within minutes, it had the look of a high school keg party, but on a school night.
Inside, everyone works on preparing their respective instrument. Ben Fedak pieces together his drum kit. Nick Palazeke does the same with his congas. Fuld is caught in a conversation over his addiction to Starbucks cold brew coffee with keyboard player “Devo” Devine and alto sax player Chris Russell. Sarah Clark is taking out her bass when the band’s trombone player Dave Paul hustles in. He shares a quick apology as he takes his place next to Joe Paparone, the baritone sax player. It’s a few minutes after 6:30, and they’re giving themselves two hours to go over their playlist. Within minutes, Yannuzzi pulls his trumpet in. He calls “D is Dead” out into the room. On queue, Fedak strikes his tom-tom and the horns blast.
“It’s all about schedules,” said Yannuzzi. Everyone juggles times with jobs and families. Yannuzzi is a school teacher. Palazeke lives “20 minutes” away in Rotterdam, but plays in a handful of other bands. Fuld plucks away on his guitar while his wife tends to the kids upstairs.
Clark may be the coolest librarian around. The affable base player picked up the instrument a dozen years ago because she found it “easy.” She said the same thing about going into library science. “Well, I thought it was easy,” she said. She seldom seems to be without a smile on her face. After several years working in a frenetic environment at the Albany Public Library, she accepted the director position at Voorheesville Public Library last November. “I could get used to this,” she said, describing her first day on the job.
“Nobody here is making money off of this,” said Yannuzzi. “Any money we made went towards the record.”
Tonight, the band’s preparing for it album release party at The Hollow Bar + Kitchen on Saturday, Jan. 26. It’s the first show in which they intend to play all — mostly all — original work. They will showcase songs from “Astrobeat,” an 11-track album printed exclusively on vinyl, outside of online streaming channels like Spotify. The show will also include Hartley’s Encore, DJ Trumastr and JB aka Dirty Moses, who cameo’s on “Shot Your Shot,” an inspirational B-side track. It’s also the only track on the album with lyrics.
Victory Soul Orchestra is unique to the local scene. An exclusively instrumental group backed by a strong horn section you’d be hard pressed to find outside of a big band. So many moving parts, Yannuzzi furrows his brow as he concentrates on each part. As the band finishes a song, he gives a quick suggestion to try something different.
“It’s physically exhausting,” he said, speaking more towards playing his own instrument. With a slender build, he appears to be in good shape. He said he also just gave up smoking. A habit he picked up in high school.
Yannuzzi started piecing the band together four years ago. Devo joined after hearing about it from Clark. Fuld, who’s been friends with Devo since grade school, asked to tag along for a practice, and it grew from there. Each brings in an appreciation for music from the past. Paparone, however, hates Jimi Hendrix.
“I don’t hate Hendrix,” he said, as the rest of the band chuckles. It’s a reputation he developed after the band performed a Hendrix themed show, and it’s been a joke within the band ever since. He moans to the thought of covering “Fire.” “Every high school garage band does that song.”
As the evening starts to wane, Fuld throws on a King Curtis record. Captured on vinyl is Jerry Jermont plucking away at his bass while Curtis introduces Aretha Franklin’s band during a performance at Fillmore West in 1971. It’s “Memphis Soul Stew.” Fuld tries to step in.
“I give about a half a teacup of bass,” he said, as Clark mirrors back on her bass. It was the start of a near procession as the rest of her bandmates rolled in and found their place in the stew. Fuld, though, stumbles as he tries to find words that will reference home instead of Memphis.
“Well, that’s how Curtis makes a stew,” he said. “I’m not going back and telling him that he’s wrong.”