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Concert remembering Russert

Most felt like they knew him, and nearly all adored him.

We're talking about the late Tim Russert, former host of NBC's "Meet the Press" who passed away just over a year ago.

While his following is decidedly less national than Russert's, jazz guitarist Tony Scozzaro has amassed an almost equally impressive list of accomplishments .

Scozzaro, Russert's brother-in-law, played a memorial concert to the national icon at East Aurora's Roycroft Inn on Friday night. The concert celebrated the release of Scozzaro's new CD,"A Special Musical Tribute to Tim Russert," a three-track acoustic set that includes "Amazing Grace," "Born to Run," "Rainbow" and a bonus video track of Scozzaro's moving performance at the Kennedy Center during a memorial service in Washington remembering Russert.

The CD in itself is worth buying for a cheap $10, especially if you're a Russert fan. The performance was the latest version of the Roycroft's weekly Friday night jazz offerings, which offer a light dinner menu and drinks in the dimly lit upper dining room of the historic hotel.

The room, abuzz with the constant service of friendly waitresses, created the perfect setting for Scozzaro's initially laid back performance. The 1995 Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductee, with his band, pulled the crowd in with soft riffs and playful chords before taking an intermission.

For anyone with ties to Russert or his hometown, this offered a chance to meet his sisters Patricia or Kathy, who were -- as you might expect -- open to small talk and good laughs with people who came in as strangers and left feeling like members of the old neighborhood.

I'm not sure what Scozzaro did besides converse with fans, friends and family during the long break, but it certainly paid off. A more social crowd was treated to more than an hour of straight jamming, with Scozzaro playing Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" and a Hendrix cover in addition to his seriously slick jazz beats.

When Scozzaro is jamming, there's no stopping him. He plays with a sense of raw emotion channeled into his guitar, not the other way around. The result is a product as fresh, polished and sometimes unpredictable as Russert's hourlong weekly newscast.

Scozzaro plays at Desi's South (3036 Seneca St.) on Sunday, and any serious fan of jazz, Russert or a fun night out with a twist you can't find at most clubs, should consider checking it out.

--Charlie Specht

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