Don't get me wrong, I heard some wonderful music last night and got to spend some time with my friends, but ... geez ... what was I thinking! My schedule for Day One of the Rochester International Jazz Festival was a bit TOO ambitious. I was running here and there (just listen to my second moblog!). Started out at the Jazz Mandolin Project, but left after they jammed out a couple tunes in their set. Hoofed it over to the new venue, the Xerox Auditorium and then found myself compelled to stay for the whole of Billy Bang Quintet's first set. Why? Because it was a fantastic set, with some of Bang's pieces from Vietnam: The Aftermath album at one end, and Ornette Coleman's Lonely Woman (the version with Don Cherry and Dewey Redman) and a tune he wrote At Play in the Fields of the Lord (about living in the Bronx) at the other, I just had to stay. Why? Because you just can't walk away from a set like that. Staying with Bang caused me to miss the Finish group Kari Ikonen & Karikko at the Nordic Jazz Now Series, which was on my list. That was the only thing I missed entirely though. Still, I want some more time to kick back and take it in. Didn't really achieve that this night, but damn I heard some fine tunes.
The tightness in my Friday schedule also caused me to cut too short a great set from Peter King at Christ Church, which has had some auditory upgrades from the muddy mess of sound it was last year. King's Quartet (especially his pianist really sounded great in that huge space, but his Suite of Trane (well, that's what I heard, but have found no recording of it) mashing up motifs from a number of John Coltrane's book. Unfortunately, I had to leave before it was over to get in the queue for Eric Alexander's 10:00 pm set. The sacrifices we make ....
Eric Alexander, who began cutting his jazz teeth in Chicago while I was living there (I think I first saw him there in a gig he played with the great Hammond B3 player Charles Earland), was just on fire in the first couple of pieces in his Quartet's late set at the Montage. He appeared with his regular quartet of Harold Mabern on piano, drummer Joe Farnsworth, and John Webber on bass. Mabern was a powerhouse on the piano, although I detected some issue that they may have brought in their trek from the green room (or perhaps the sound?). Midway through, Mabern said "not tonight" when Alexander introduced that he was going to set out while Mabern lead the other two in a piano trio piece. It was an odd moment, but then they launched into another quartet piece and it came back together.
Had to leave that set a bit early as well to meet friends who were ready to head over to the after hours at the hotel (I'm working without a car right now). That "scene" was the usual. Music was good, beer was flowing and so was the conversation (sometimes overpowering the music—but that's as much an issue with the room). I guess there was a wedding around with the bride and groom later doing a jazz "Wedding March". Must have been the last set—we only made it through the second.
OK, enough here. If you want to go somewhere else and read some more about last night, try these(let me know of others and I'll add them later):