Here are some random notes from my fifth night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Attended a media event for the 2010 Copenhagen Jazz Festival, July 2-11. Rochester has three artists from Denmark appearing at this year's festival: Palle Mikkelborg, Helen Davies, Marilyn Mazur and Mikkel Nordsoe (Mikkelborg & Mazur have not played together since playing on Miles Davis's Aura in 1985, which was written and produced by Palle as a tribute to Miles), Little Red Suitcase, and Ibrahim Electric. All of these artists are on on my pick posts, so see those for Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the left panel for more information. Artistic Director Kenneth Hansen came to town yesterday to promote the Danish festival here. Rochester's festival was one of three at which they're promoting the Copenhagen festival this year. The other two are Berlin and London (pretty good company). The Copenhagen festival includes some of the other artists you're seeing here, including the headliner last night Herbie Hancock (Mr. Hansen was scoping out the show in the balcony with the media last night). There are over 1,000 performances over 10 days in all sorts venues around the city of Copenhagen. Hansen said that if you toss a stone over your shoulder, chances are you'll hit a concert.
Guitarist Russell Malone was my first stop. Enjoyed the set and loved his ballad playing. I got a chance to hear some of my friend Jimmie Highsmith Jr.'s set on the Jazz Street Stage (and some more after leaving Herbie); looked like he was having fun and it was good to see him playing for a big, appreciative crowd in Rochester, a city to which he has given so much.
Headed into the Eastman Theater to see Herbie Hancock. In addition to the fewer seats that Eastman's recent renovation left, the ticket sales for the headliners appear to have been improving. The theater was nearly full. In past years, media could usually sit up fairly close on the wings. Not this year. Most of us were up in the nosebleeds of the upper balcony. Fine by me. Herbie Hancock and his band of stars played for 2-1/2 hours straight through without a break. This was the first stop on a world tour for his album The Imagine Project, which is due out next week. The band included Lionel Loueke on guitar, Tal Wikkenfeld on bass, Vinnie Coaluita on drums, and keyboardist Greg Phillinganes (all of whom sing, except Vinnie), and singer Kristina Train. The first part of the set included a number of Herbie's greatest hits, some of them mashed up with other music or together. The second part premiered songs from his new Imagine Project album. While I enjoyed listening to all of it, and expect as we were the first outing on the tour that some of it was a bit rough, I have to echo Ron Netsky, who wrote in his review on City's blog that "[t]he trouble for me was that Hancock's band was transformed into a very extravagant cover band with a hell of a pianist." I think the album will be wonderful with its worldwide mashups of music and musicians. I'm not sure how it translates to a concert. However, most people in the Big House loved it without reservation. I think that part of it for me is that I'm always somewhat ill-at-ease at "big time" concerts by major artists, opting usually opted for smaller, more intimate spaces and clubs in my live music consumption. That was at play last night, too.
Tonight, although, I may switch up the order, but I think we're back to the usual swing of things. See you on Jazz Street.....