Vanessa Collier Storytellers Gig at the 443 Social Club

Vanessa Collier was an absolute stand out at the 2021 New York State Blues Festival grand return to the State fairgrounds this past June. She treated Syracuse’s most intimate venue, the 443 Social Club & Lounge to a blue note-esque performance on Thursday December 2nd. Club owner Julie B Leone told NYS music that it was their fastest show to sell out in under 24 hours.

Vanessa Collier
Photo by Steve Moore

Vanessa Collier gave a two set and encore performance to match everyone’s delight at the 443. Vanessa serves up three courses of art as she is a saxophonist, vocalist, and songwriter. She whipped up table side sax solos at the 443 while taking a stroll through the crowd. The 443 social club creates an ambience much like the “storytellers” series that many artists have been a part of. Vanessa told the crowd about her various family influences on certain numbers. She had Syracuse’s Byron Cage on drums and William Gorman on keys. Andrew Cane from San Diego on bass and Shemekia Copeland’s guitarist Arthur Neilson from Brooklyn.

Vanessa Collier
Photo by Steve Moore

Her four album names should help give some insight on the kind of grooves they laid down at 443, Heart Soul & Saxophone, Meeting my Shadow, Honey Up, and Heart on the Line. She kept the spontaneity in the show vibrant by switching to steel guitar for a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “Blender Blues”.

Vanessa credited stories like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Greek Myth of Icarus to the crowd as an inspiration before performing her original “Icarus” off her Honey Up Album…

It’s a song about little Icarus when he is just dreaming of taking that flight and its sort of a song to everybody to chase your dreams and never let anybody tell you that you can’t do something

Vanessa Collier


Vanessa took some time after the gig to post up at one of the 443 social club tables for a talk with NYS Music about music & her history,

Matthew Romano: Is there a memory of a show you’ve played or attended in New York state that sticks out as a meaningful experience? J.V Collier told me he used to go to where Jaco Pastorius slept in Central Park for inspiration.

Vanessa Collier: For sure, that’s a great question. I remember it being special because it was my very first gig opening for Bruce Katz at The Falcon in Marlboro, New York. Things come full circle. It was my first time seeing his guitar player Chris Vitarello and now I’ve played with him a bunch in my band. So we keep it going, it’s connected.

MR: It is connected. Bruce Katz used to play with Gregg Allman at our Blues Festivals like you did this year. I couldn’t help but notice a song you played tonight titled “If Only” The sentiment seemed very familiar with the “when I get this..then that will bring happiness” concept that a lot of people fall to. The sax solo at the end had a Leroi Moore like tone too. Would you mind talking about that tune?

VC: Sure, my whole thought process behind the new record was to try and write story songs. Some of them are based on true things, some are not. This one is close to me. I’ve had a person in my life who’s constantly unhappy and nothing is ever enough ya know what i mean? It was inspired by this person and just a reminder to always live life to the fullest and to live with what you got to find a way to be happy.

MR: I know exactly what you mean. With this on the go lifestyle all you have is the moment. Hard to sacrifice that time to be unhappy.

VC: Amen.

MR: My third and final question here at 443 is about two books that we have in common, Questlove’s Creative Quest and The Devil’s Horn: The Story of the Saxophone from noisy novelty to king of cool. What’s cool that sticks out to you from those two great reads?

VC: That’s killer. I respect Quest’s love and knowledge for the music. It’s not a surface level thing with him. It’s all life. He knows every groove from every single song he’s heard. From a DJ perspective and then a drummer angle is great. I know I was gonna re read it again when i get into a new record.
The thing I love about the devil’s horn is that I didn’t know Adolphe Sax’s story as much. Ya know that he almost died so many times and they murdered his assistant thinking it was him. To me what I loved is that the saxophone has this history of challenge and yet it still brings out something beautiful. I love that the inventor of the sax was that way too . He went through a lot of struggle to create this beautiful instrument.

MR: I love how the saxophone survived the Vatican when they tried to outlaw it because of its effects. What’s the oldest room you’ve ever played in?

VC: We’ve played a lot of converted churches that are now venues. So those are always awesome with just the acoustics in the room alone.

MR: There is a 150 year old baptist church turned music venue in Homer, NY about twenty five minutes south of here you should play at next.

VC: Yes, please.(laughter)

Gallery by 443 Patron Steve Moore:


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