This second post on the RIJF survey is a bit more difficult as the responses were so diverse that I think it's best to paint it with a broader brush, highlighting some of the areas where several people had something to say, but not providing a verbatim account (I will use quotes where I am, however). As far as the question about suggestions for the RIJF to see, I will be sending the full responses on to the RIJF staff, both positive and negative (so as not to lose any of their, shall we say, direct and sometimes earthy expression). I appreciate the kind words many of you had about Jazz@Rochester and will take to heart some of your suggestions regarding our RIJF coverage.
While some couldn't limit themselves to just one suggestion, there were some themes in the responses to this questions, including:
Comments on the strategy of selecting artists:
Comments on the sound:
Comments on the Club Passes, food & other logistical issues:
Comments on the jazz vs. non-jazz:
While a lot of responses to this question were complimentary, there were several observations and suggestions for coverage of future RIJFs that I'd like to share and solicit your further comment:
So there it is. I really got a lot out of this exercise and intend to do this every year. As I noted in the companion to this post yesterday, if you missed adding your voice to the poll itself, feel free to add
your two cents in the comments below on this post (I'd
ask that you add it to the one that includes the questions you want to
For the past month, I've been collecting the thoughts some of you had about the 2008 Rochester International Jazz Festival through an online survey. I asked my readers 5 questions, including:
I'm finally getting around to setting out the results of this informal and very unscientific poll of about 25 of my readers. Eight who responded had been to all 9 days of the festival. All but three of the rest had been "onsite" 5 or more days. In this first post, I'll cover the first three questions. In one published tomorrow, we'll look at some of the suggested changes to the RIJF and to my coverage of it in Jazz@Rochester. My survey did not record any information about who thought these other than their responses, but in almost all cases their responses seemed genuine.
The responses here were across the wide spectrum of music that was found at this year's RIJF. Some who received more than one vote included:
Others who received a vote included (in alphabetical order):
This question brought a wide assortment of artists and groups in response as well, including some we've seen before at the RIJF and some who haven't been in Rochester for quite some time. Here they are in alphabetical order (there were no repeats):
If you missed adding your voice to the poll itself, feel free to add your two cents in the comments below on this post and tomorrow's (I'd ask that you add it to the one that includes the questions you want to comment on).
A few weeks ago, I let you know about a survey I'd created to give us your thoughts on the 2008 Rochester International Jazz Festival to find out what you liked about the RIJF and where there was room for improvement in both the festival and in this blog's coverage. The answers of a growing number of my readers have been recorded over the past few weeks and and I'll compile them and share them with you (and with the producers of the RIJF where appropriate) soon. You can fill the online questionnaire is here. Do so soon as I will only be keeping the link open until Sunday, July 27th. Please take a few minutes to fill it out!
Recently ran across the article resulting from a July 2nd interview that Frank DeBlase over at City Newspaper did with Rochester International Jazz Festival honcho John Nugent. There's some interesting stuff in there on how they set the number of Club Passes each year (this year it was 3,200, which sold out early) and why the non-jazz acts are necessary (which I've explained elsewhere and don't add up to that many anyway). Frank even gives us his own tally of jazz vs. non-jazz at the end.
I'm going to try something new and provide my readers another way to voice their thoughts. So what do you think about the Rochester International Jazz Festival and our coverage here. I have created a questionnaire for you to fill out and let us know what you thought after attending the festival. Your answers will be recorded and I'll compile them and share them with the readers of this blog (and the people at RIJF) in a few weeks. Let me know if you have any questions. The questionnaire is here. Please take a few minutes to fill it out.
Took me awhile to recover enough from nine days of too much beer and street meat, and too little sleep. Now that those are all digested, I might be able to look back on the Seventh Rochester International Jazz Festival with clearer eyes. This may be one of several posts recapping 2008's RIJF and looking toward 2009. Although not doubling like it did in previous years, the Rochester International Jazz Festival posted a record crowd of over 125,000 over its 9 days. It was great again seeing so many people having fun in downtown Rochester.
So I guess I'll start with the obvious...What were my favorites of 2008's Rochester Jazz Festival? There was such a rich diversity of music that it's hard to confine my choices, but out of the 600 artists or so that played during the festival, I'll give it a go:
In many ways the above is a good representation of what makes the RIJF so satisfying musically. It's not just one kind of jazz or one kind of music, ranging from straightahead to "outsider" to R&B to offbeat. I discovered some artists that I will now want to listen to and will soon be making a pilgrimage to the Bop Shop to start purchasing some of their CDs.
This year's RIJF was just a great time for me and I can't believe it's already over. Thanks to John Nugent, Marc Iacona, Jean Dalmath and the rest of the RIJF staff and volunteers for putting on another great festival of music. I'll continue to do some other wrap ups as I think of them and will also continue with the listings and other regularly scheduled programming. What do you think? Leave a short comment to let us know about your favorites (although we've heard enough from one artist's fans, if you know what I mean....) and watch the blog for a poll that I intend to add soon so you can let us know your favorites and who you'd like to see for the Eighth Annual RIJF next year.
The last day of the Rochester International Jazz Festival was a bit light on the jazz with a large slathering of jam, but a satisfying end to the nine days of music, exploration, good friends and fun that RIJF has come to be for me. After arriving at 4:30, I got into a line that started forming much earlier than usual (around 4:00 pm) for the 6:00 pm performance of Catherine Russell and had a couple of beers in line while people watching and talking with friends in line and walking by.
I missed Catherine Russell last year. She was one of the sleepers from the 2007 RIJF and they had moved her up to the bigger hall for 2008. Coming from a historic lineage (her father Luis Russell was a composer and arranger who was Louis Armstrong's music director for a long time; her mother is a bassist and vocalist who worked with Mary Lou Williams and Wynton Marsalis), she also takes a look back in her choice of songs of her father and those of others by Wynonie Harris, Fats Waller, and Alec Wilder among others, many of them on her new album Sentimental Streak. Russell's voice is strong and she's a real entertainer who made each of the songs come alive through her intros and, especially, through her eyes and expressions while singing them. One thing about Russell that stands out for me is that she released her first album, Cat, at the age of 50. For those of us still redefining ourselves at a late date in our lives, her success is encouraging (and also a testament to her amazing talent).
After a stop at Stromboli Express (future note: during the jazz fest, that's express only if you get a slice, not a stromboli), Ken, Seth and I strolled down east to catch at least some of Medeski Martin and Wood. The jam band groupies were out in force and it looked like a particularly crowded night on the East End, although there was a strangely large number of older folks like ourselves on the streets. When the crowd got to critical mass and the clock approached 10:00 pm (although now I wish we had been there when Chuck Campbell, who like MMW is known to the Bonnaroo crowd, sat in for a few songs), we decided to head on down to the Rochester Plaza Hotel for the final event of the 2008 RIJF, the song stylings of now-retired WXXI-FM announcer Mordecai Lipshutz, who always closes out the RIJF with a song at the final nights after-hours. OK, we hoped we'd hear some of the artists who were still in town. We were not disappointed. The Sliding Hammers did a couple of short numbers on their 'bones and there was a fantastic set by the Soul Rebels with Bob Sneider that had the house jammin NOLA-Style. Almost thought we were going to do a second line to close out the festival (and perhaps they did over at the late-late show at the Flat Iron? Tom, let me know...). After John Nugent and some other local talent jammed for awhile, Mordecai finally came up in his signature straw fedora on after last call with presents for John Nugent, Marc Iacona, and the house trio for the after hours Bob Sneider, Mike Melito and Phil Flanagan—a Mordecai Lipshutz bobble-head doll! Mordecai then launched into a couple of songs, including the traditional RIJF closer We'll Be Together Again. And off we went into the night....well, early morning.
Look for a wrap up post soon and I hope to do a wrap up Da Jazz podcast with my friends and fellow bloggers Ken and Seth before too long (we did one other earlier in the festival, but decided not to posted it for your sakes...). Then it's back to all that jazz that is found here throughout the year. I welcome the new readers who have subscribed and/or found Jazz@Rochester during this festival and hope you stick around and support jazz in Rochester throughout the year. I hope to be making some changes around here and doing a few interactive things to get your opinions, etc.
Some additional voices on the last day and wrap ups from our major media folks:
Click on the bar below to hear a live moblog from the 2008 Rochester International Jazz Festival in Rochester, New York.
A short signoff from the beginning of the end...the final after-hours of the 2008 RIJF... (sorry about the sound quality)
Day 8 at the Rochester International Jazz Festival was mostly a free floating experience. Ken and I met up and got a sandwich to eat from Java's, which gave us a respite from street meat for a day (although I don't really believe that the sauerkraut on my Reuben qualifies as a vegetable, which have been in short supply in my stomach all week). We sat at a table outside of Java's, people watched and listened to the great high school bands from Fairport and Spencerport. Then we took a stroll down East Ave. (with a quick stop at Havana Moe's) toward Alexander to listen to the Skatalites. Although many of the original band from the early 60s are no longer with us, the band really kicked up the ska with a thick layer of horns. It brought back some memories from parties in college in the 1980s when ska was being resurrected by groups like The Specials, The Selecter, The Beat, Madness, and Bad Manners. Before their set was over, we began walking back down East.
There was only one thing I really felt compelled to go hear and that was Billy's Band at Max at Eastman Place. Thanks to Jane deciding that sitting in the line that began developing soon after the first set for several hours was the way to go, we had great seats up front for the second set. Billy's Band hails from St. Petersburg Russia. Leader Vadim (Billy) Novik, simultaneously channeling Tom Waits and Raskolnikov, growled and spit out the biting words of Waits songs like Clap Hands and Blue Valentines and Russian songs (as I don't know Russian or all of Waits' songs, I can't tell you whether they were written by Novik, Waits or someone else. I wish Tanya had been with us to help translate...). In between the songs, Novik told tales in broken English and continued the Waits schitck with cocks of the head and other mannerisms of the Bard of the Dispossessed. Like others writing about the performance of Billy's Band at Max last night (see below), I'll continue the comparison of guitarist Andrey Ryzhik to Harpo Marx, but in addition to the hair, the comparison is more apt than it seems. Like Harpo, underneath the silence and comic antics, Ryzhik was much smarter than he appeared. He would jump around and goof (I like how he'd see someone outside the window and turned with his bandmate Mikhail Zhydkikh to play for them), but when he needed to be there in the song or to make a change on the effects board or something else connected to the music, he was all business and intense concentration. Anton Matezius played a beautiful accordion, sang and also took a couple turns on hand drum to compliment the minimal percussion for the group (other than Novik's slapping bass), which was a single floor tom and cowbell played occasionally by Zhydkikh, who is also a talented sax player. I expect that Russians have a deep resonance with many of the underlying themes of Waits' music as they appear to be very popular (and have been for awhile) in Russia and in the Russian community in the States. Sure it was schtick, but it was really fun and satisfying schtick. This was one of the highlights of the festival for me and most who attended, who scarfed up their CDs. Billy's Band has to be experienced live, but if you want to get a taste, check out videos of Clap Hands and Ice Cream Man.
After that we didn't need more festival and it was such a beautiful night, so we headed over to Abilene, the new bar near the Harro East for a nightcap. As the Park Avenue Band wrapped up their last set, we moved out to Abilene's great back yard patio and had our own after-hours, listening to reggae, and talking about the RIJF and the music scene in Rochester with Tom Kohn of the Bop Shop. A good night.
Other voices out there in the 8th RIJF night:
Joined by our friend Tatanya, I stood in the line that formed early at Kilbourn Hall to hear Joe Locke & Force of Four play. I've heard Joe Locke play here a number of times in my short time in his hometown, but knew that this night would be special. In all the times he's played here, he had never played in Kilbourn. This was the first time and it was clear that it meant a lot to him. Being able to listen to Locke's vibes and his new band Force of Four in the acoustically fine hall meant a lot to us. Working a his tight new young band with Robert Rodriguez on piano, Ricardo Rodriguez on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums seems to have been a wonderful learning experience for Locke and it showed as they played a number of originals from their new album Force of Four, which will be released on Origin Records in September, but was made available to his hometown festival goers early. As he was with friends, Joe talked and caught us up on his life. A telling comment Locke made reveals a lot about him and why he tries so many new projects, which this year has included working with Trio Da Paz, Columbian harpist Edmar Casteneda, and having his music arranged and played by a symphony orchestra with him as soloist —the guy is always about trying to learn and expand his musical vocabulary. He explained that is has been a heady year, with these projects as well as an appointment to the faculty of the UK Royal Academy of Music and winning 2008 "Mallet Player of the Year" Award from the Jazz Journalist Association (which I don't think he mentioned as he won it yesterday). But Joe didn't talk the whole set, he let his vibes do most of the talking in a set that ranged from joyous to haunting and left the notes from his four mallets ringing through the hall. When the final note of the "story" piece "Available in Blue," I overheard a woman behind me exclaim "God ... that was so beautiful." I'm looking forward to hearing this album and other projects as Joe Locke continues his education in jazz and music.
We headed over to the church to try out Beady Belle, the Norwegian group. Whoever wrote the entry for the band in Wikipedia describes their style as "jazz and acid-jazz inspired using upbeat and downbeat electronica roots, use of vocal harmonies, piano and strings." They are that and a lot more. They played a number of originals that had a lot of layers to back up the rich and beautiful voice of the lead singer Beate S. Lech. This was the band's first gig in its first tour of the United States. The full-house audience just ate them. The RIJF'ers that come to the Nordic Jazz Now series at the Reformation church tend to have open minds and are there to hear good music played by good musicians and, often, to open their ears to those who play it from across the pond from the colder climates. We've not seen a real musical dog in two years of these and we've not seen one that is the same as the other—showing the rich diversity of talent coming out of Norway, Finland , Sweden and Denmark. Beady Belle's music was rocking, soulful, interesting and played by a group of very talented musicians. All of the songs were in English (although Lech went into a kind of Norwegian accent parody during one interlude). Here they are being a bit more jazzy and scatting in Germany.
Our upstairs neighbor Kristine had joined us after meeting her at Beady Belle. We intended to go hear Tierney Sutton in Max. However, I forgot that sometimes Max lets people in for the second set early to get them fed and liquored up before the show, so instead of the line snaking down Gibbs it is just let in and the line that forms are those who are waiting in case someone leaves (one in, one out). By the time we realized what was going on, it was too late. So Kristine and I took a chance and went over to Montage to catch Blake Tartare ("raw," get it?). Blake Tartare is no Tierney Sutton (but saxophonist leader Michael Blake wouldn't want to be would he?), but it was one hell of a ride and another great stumble into music that I really loved hearing. By the crowd (quite a few of whom I knew), it was clear to me that this would be music more on the fringe. Blake Tartare is the latest project of saxophonist/composer Michael Blake, who fronts a quartet of young Danish improvisers: Soren Kjaergaard on Fender Rhodes and piano, Jonas Westergaard on bass, and Kresten Osgood on drums. Their music ranged across the spectrums and highlighted each of them. The drummer Osgood was intense, looking like he just walked out of a frat house (with beer), but applying himself to his skins like his life depended on it. In their encore they engaged the house in whistling (in harmony) the melody from a pop tune that I'm too old to place working it to a crescendo of whistles, floor tom pounding and beer bottle tooting. It was a great show and had Tom Kohn from the Bop Shop ready to tie a toe tag on his festival as he was fully sated. I'm sure he has their CD and I may have to go get a copy. For a taste of Blake Tartare, here they are in playing a outdoor pizzeria in Venice.
What are the rest of them saying? Here some other voices on Day 7:
I could only get one post out on Thursday after waking up (had been out a bit late, as you'll find later in this post...) and made that one the listings post for the next seven days, so I'll try to bang out one for Days 6 and 7, June 18th and 19th, this morning.
Wednesday night started out as it often has during past RIJFs, but less so this year—in Kilbourn Hall. Tonight's menu for the RJF began with David Murray's Black Saint Quartet. I almost joined the crowd snaking around High Fidelity to catch a set of ukelele sensation Jake Shimabukuro. I opted for some hard-edged complexity of Murray's quartet instead. The Black Saint Quartet also included Jaribu Shahid (a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago) on bass, Lafayette Gilchrist on piano and Malik Washington on drums. Playing tenor sax and bass clarinet, Murray's solos and playing were full of emotion, moving from soulful melodies to harder-edged bop, from what I can only describe as "plunking" on the bass clarinet to wild runs of dissonant notes that made your hair stand on edge. One thing I noticed that really set Murray apart from some of the sax players I've seen was the way he used vibrato in his playing, especially when he held notes and showcased his mastery of the circular breathing technique. His playing sometimes was like hearing an artery pulse with blood. Gilchrist was a demon possessed at times on piano and Shahid seemed like an proud elder watching the two young players strut their stuff while laying it down and keeping it tight. Murray and his quartet play cannot be pigeonholed into any one "genre" and why should he? His musical career has taken different paths than those taken by others and that has resulted in a broad and outstanding body of work. After noting that he got tired of playing Coltrane's Giant Steps like all the other sax players back in the day, he did a rearrangement that makes that saxophone favorite his own (didn't catch the name, but my gut tells me it's "Murray's Steps"). He noted before playing that he's "sure John would have liked it ... it's harder." It was.... I had not heard much of Murray's music in the past and left Kilbourn wanting to check him out more. If you want to go much deeper into Murray and his music, check out the special project that the author of the Wall of Sound blog has put together.
After meeting some friends who were dropping in to see a show and giving them some guidance on their choices, I headed into Eastman Theatre to catch the Rochester Jazz at the Philharmonic. Patterned after Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic series of concerts and recordings in the 50s and 60s, this was an all-star extravaganza of jazz, with rotating sets of incredible artists drawn from: Houston Person and Eric Alexander (tenor sax), Vincent Herring (alto sax), Nicholas Payton and Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Slide Hampton (trombone), Peter Bernstein (guitar), Cedar Walton and Eric Reed (piano), Peter Washington and David Williams (bass), Kenny Washington and Louis Hayes (drums) and Carmen Lundy (vocals). Like Jack Garner, highlights for me were the opener Unit 7 by Sam Jones, Freddie Hubbard's Birdlike (with Pelt, Payton, Alexander, Reed and Hayes all contributing blazing solos) and the show closer A Night in Tunisia. Rochester didn't make much of a showing for the JATP performance. Eastman was at best 1/2 full; more like 1/3 for part of it (a similar showing to that for Dee Dee Bridgewater's earlier performance at the festival. While individually stars, not everyone involved in JATP is that well known outside of jazz circles, but putting these individual artists together on the same stage could be described as historic. However, I think crowds are down in general due to a number variables that have conspired to dampen the festival's draw.—the less than wonderful weather, gas prices and their impact on airfares, and the economy in general. People are hurting and coming to Roch for a festival can't be on the top of everyone's list.
I knew that the energy that this gathering had created would not be fully spent in the Eastman Theatre, so I headed over to the after-hours at the Rochester Plaza Hotel to see what would transpire. Met up with my blogging buddies. The place was already packed when Bob Sneider, Mike Melito and Phil Flanagan kicked off the first set and the JATP artists were filtering into the house, so I knew something was going to kick off. And it did. Jeremy Pelt, Eric Alexander, Kenny Washington and Peter Bernstein all joined in and had a rousing set. Finally got my chance to catch Jake Shimabukuro as he came up afterward and played a few tunes with Bob and the guys, starting with Over the Rainbow. The young man is impressive and so expressive on that little axe. He had a cadre of fans there who started chanting "Jake, Jake, Jake..." as he made his way off the stage and then sat down and soaked up the playing for a long time afterward.
As I was taking off the next couple of days, I decided to head over to Flat Iron Cafe to talk to owner Tom LaBue and see how his week had been going since my last stop by the late-late show over there. He'd had some good nights with artists coming by to sit in with Quinn Lawrence and his trio (most of which have been written about over on the D&C blog). Finally, around 2:30 am, I had a chance to get a Don Cisso cigar from Tom and start writing my post in longhand (I just can't lug around my way too heavy laptop) out on the Flat Iron's jutt into the Lyell & Lake intersection. Quinn Lawrence had a whole flotilla of local music students who were playing up a storm in there. None of the artists came by from RIJF that night while I was there (left after 3:00 am).
And now for the other voices I've found writing in and around Day 6:
Professional musicians who are faculty at the Eastman School of Music and Eastman Community Music will be holding a jam session tomorrow (Saturday, June 21st) from 2:00-4:00 pm where they will jam with students and provide helpful feedback. Faculty who are currently participating include Bob Sneider, Jeff Campbell, Rich Thompson, Mike Kaupa, Paul Hofmann, Howard Potter and others. You never know who might pop by! The jam session will be in Room 120 in the Eastman School of Music at 26 Gibbs St. There will be a sign-up sheet (first come, first served). This great learning opportunity is sponsored by Java’s Cafe, Bernunzio’s Uptown Music and the Eastman Community Music School. Oh yeah . . . it's free!
As I set out in the preview post for yesterday's RIJF festivities, I came out to support those who ply the jazz trade in the Rochester area. After a beer and a cigar at Havana Moe's, and some street meat on Gibbs, I started the evening out in the tent with the Bill Tiberio Band. I have a confession to make. In the preview I completely blew it in setting out Bill and the band. I've known Bill for awhile and have seen him play with the Bill Tiberio Group and Bill Welch Band. When I saw he was going to be playing in the tent on Tuesday, I just assumed that he'd be playing with members of Paradigm Shift, who in the past have usually been, with Bill, the "Bill Tiberio Group". So when I got into the tent and saw Bill and his band setting up, it was quite a surprise when none of them (other than Bill, of course) were from PS. Bill's got a brand new band (apparently this was one of their first gigs together). So to give them their due, I wanted to make sure I listed who's actually in the band, which includes (in addition to Bill Tiberio on saxophone): Joe Chiappone (guitar), Geoff Smith (bass), Scott Bradley (trumpet AND piano), and Phil Lake (drums). The group played well before a large and appreciative audience in the tent.
Headed over a little while after Bill Tiberio's set began to High Fidelity to catch some of another local group, John Viviani and Filthy Funk. When I arrived shortly after their set began they were funking up the place and the place was packed full almost to the door. I was able to hear, but not see. They were really hitting their stride, with Mike Cottone joining them and laying down some brass.
Left HF and headed over to Christ Church to see Nate Rawls Band. I assumed it would be his Big Band and was somewhat disappointed when I walked in and it was a quintet (including two percussionists) and a singer. Additionally, there was that sound quality issue...Christ Church is too cavernous a space for the type of music that has been programmed into it (or perhaps there should have been more attention paid to the sound as it seems they have a bare minimum sound system in there).
Headed back to the tent to catch the main event for the evening, at least for me, the Henderson-Owens 3 featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith. I had missed them when they played the Exodus to Jazz series awhile back. I ran into Jeff Spevak on the way back, who raved about the 6:00 pm performance of ukulele artist Jake Shimabukuro and as I wandered up Jazz Street the "word on the street" was that this was a performance not to miss. Caught in a bind as it will be difficult for me to make seeing him at High Fidelity today, I had to make a decision.
The first session with the Doctor made that decision easy. Dr. Lonnie Smith was on fire and had us in that groove that only his B3 can do for more than a hour (Akiko Tsuruga, Lou Donaldson's B3 player from the previous night, had been Smith's student, which explained a lot). He was full of piss and vinegar, parodying Nat King Cole in Misty and Stevie Wonder in You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Sometimes he just seemed possessed by the groove and, at one point, needed to play those bass notes faster than his feet would go, so he pulled out his seat at the organ and got down on his knees to bang out the groove with his hands on the pedals. I've seen the Good Doctor several times and had never heard him sing as much as he did last night. Since I knew I would have to spend most of the set standing in line to catch the ukulele stylings of Mr. Shimabukuro, it was an easy choice to move up closer and see the second set with Dr. Lonnie Smith at 10:00 pm. We were sitting on the side during the first set and could watch Smith's hands. At the later set, all we could see was his head and his feet pumping out that bass line. His shows are always fun and funky—last night was no exception.
I headed home satisfied and ready to get some shut-eye so my body doesn't shut down before the RIJF does.
—June 19th: In an amazing feat of thoughtlessness, I managed to write the preceding words yesterday about the Henderson-Owens 3 without really mentioning two of the 3—Melvin Henderson and Ulysses Owens—and feel compelled to add something to this post now as their fantastic playing and interplay with the Doctor were the strong backbone of two absolutely satisfying sets of music that still left me wanting more. I've been hearing Mel's guitar with Paradigm Shift, the Doctor, and others since shortly after I arrived in Rochester in 2002, and always have loved his sound and the way he interplays with soloists. Mel also is a tireless supporter of live jazz in his hometown and I've come to value him as a friend. I've seen Ulysses Owens a few times with different groups. This young drummer is one of the best out there and watching him work the night before last with Dr. Lonnie Smith and their close bond as they played was a delight. Owens will be here with his own group appearing at the exciting fall season of Exodus to Jazz series (and it is a major group, so watch for further information in this blog and elsewhere on this great fall season).
Some other voices on the festival:
As the clouds started to rise up for the afternoon thunderstorm, I started the day out early at the 5:30 set of the Cindy Blackman Quartet. Blackman had received some advance press and there is always her connection to rocker Lenny Kravitz to raise the buzz a bit, but her early set at Harro East was not packed and I think that was a result of this buzz as well. More than one person said they didn't check her out because they thought the gig was going to be along the lines of jazz-rock fusion. Although Blackman and the members of her quartet—J.D. Allen on tenor sax, Carlton Holmes on Piano & Fender Rhodes, and George Mitchell on bass—played a set that ranged through a number of styles, their playing was firmly grounded in the jazz idiom and showed this group of youngsters have some great chops on their instruments. Blackman's skills on the drums lived up to both the buzz and the video and recordings I had heard beforehand—she's a monster on the trap set (although her drums were giving her a bit of trouble during the first set, but kept the beat going for the most part with one hand while fixing her set with the other). Sometimes a piece just sounded like one long drum solo--but in a good way. The booms of thunder coming from outside were lost in those coming out of those sticks and skins. Blackman was third strong African-American woman leading in this year's RIJF. As I'm married to a strong black woman, I like seeing more of that.
Came into Christ Church for the first time to catch Miguel Zenón, who had already started playing by the time I made it across from Harro East. When I said in my preview post that the church would be an "acoustically interesting" space, I must confess that I had actually heard music in Christ Church. It's a big, cavernous space and the sound they had set up was just not up to it. While I loved what I heard, the sound was muddy and Zenón's blowing was lost in the mix at times. Anyway, I had to cut out early to head over to David Liebman's second set.
I got a great seat to see the Dave Liebman Quartet. Didn't know what to expect from this cat who has been around a long time, but whom I had somehow managed to miss in my aural meanderings through jazz. The Montage was packed, a few of whom were there for a second round, and the SRO crowd was very appreciative of Lieb's dynamic and challenging music. His quartet—Tony Marino on bass, Marko Marcinko on drums, and Vic Juris on guitar—worked the interplay with Liebman's soprano and tenor saxophone. Marcinko stood out as he used all manner of noisemakers and all parts of his trap set in inventive ways. Although Liebman's writing and playing is sometimes on the freer side of jazz, this powerful and driving set was accessible and one of my standout performances so far this RIJF. One standout was a tune was Dimi and the Blue Men, which was inspired by hearing a popular West African singer's voice Lieb heard everywhere during a 60th birthday trip to Mauritania. At the end, festival producer John Nugent came in with his sax and sat in with the quartet. Nugent was Lieb's student in Canada for a time. This was the first time I had heard Nugent play outside of the after hours straightahead vein. That cat can blow....
One rant, though. Montage needs to figure out some way to deal with the noise from those who are outside of the music room in the bar area during performances. Especially with challenging and dynamic music such as that of Liebman's group, the cascade of voices coming from the other side of the curtain made it hard to concentrate on the music for those sitting toward that end of the room (and there were quite a few of us there). There is no door so that isn't an option (and it would make it more difficult for the wait staff to get in and out, which is difficult enough with the crowds). RIJF house staff don't have to shut people down entirely, but they should take into account the type of performance and music and then try to keep it to a lower hum.
I walked back over to Swan Street to get in line for Lou Donaldson at 10:00 pm in Kilbourn Hall. Surprisingly enough, this was my first time in Kilbourn during the 2008 RIJF. The line was already to Swan by the time I got there, but Seth and Jane were a bit ahead of me and saved me a seat. Donaldson is 81 years old, but still a "player" in more than one sense of the word. As is common with these cats who came up with all the greats (James Moody was another), Donaldson was full of stories and jokes. He also has a few opinions on the place that straightahead and bebop have in the jazz firmament ("We play bebop ... very fast, very tricky ... not recommended for fusion and confusion musicians."). At 81, Donaldson can blow and he's still fast and tricky. He mentioned coming to play Rochester often during the heyday of the Pythodd and other jazz clubs in town. Donaldson's quartet included two Japanese musicians—B-3 player Akiko Tsuruga, who Donaldson noted "of course by her name you can tell she's from Alabama" and drummer Fukushi Tanaka (he, of course, was from "Mississippi"). They were both monsters on their instruments—with Tanaka tearing it up in a 5-minute solo and Tsuruga making the organ sing as only a B3 can do. On guitar was Eric Johnson, who walked though the hall during one solo on wireless, and played a great foil to Donaldson's still speedy runs on tenor sax.
While I hesitated when asked "are you going over to the hotel?," the fatigue of the last few days got the better of me and I drove home to get some shut eye, so I can do the day job as well.
Some other voices can be found in the following places:
You may notice in the right column that there is a new space with the heading RIJF Preview Posts with links to the posts that I created last week highlighting my "picks" (i.e., what I'm intending to see) during the 2008 Rochester International Jazz Festival. Not that you care what I think .... but at least now they'll be easier to find. Just wish I'd thought of it before the RIJF began....
Took in a movie to start the third day of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. WXXI filmed some great bands in Rochester in the 1970s when they performed in a restaurant on top of Midtown Plaza. I caught a bit of Count Basie and his Orchestra. It would be cool if these were presented outside of the festival, if possible.
After leaving the movies, I was trying to decide what my next move would be. Dianna had told me that if she was going to go see something it would be John Scofield, but it would be the later set, so I had planned on seeing Dharma Jazz in Max at 6:00. I heard on the street (OK, it was Seth...) that one of that group's key ingredients had taken ill and would not be at the gig, so we all went over to Montage to catch Howard Alden. As Ron Netsky points out in City's Music Blog, Alden "is a keeper of the flame. No fuzz, loops, or wah-wahs for him, just fingers that can fly over the fretboard like nobody's business." Alden did the soundtrack for Woody Allen's movie Sweet and Low Down and ended up teaching actor Sean Penn how to play guitar so he could be more convincing (Alden joked that Penn was his most successful student). Alden played a number of standards backed by a superb bassist Jon Burr and drummer Rob Garcia. I stepped out before the end and called my father from the bar area to wish him a happy Father's Day.
Although Alden ran late (he started late, too...) we made it to the church on time and saw Danish pianist Jacob Anderskov. Since I had not listened to Anderskov before, when he set down to play his set, I had a sinking feeling that his was going to be more of a new agey sort sound. That feeling was immediately dispelled. Anderskov built intricate soundscapes that interlaced often beautiful melodies with freer and discordant figures. While I was having some issues with fatigue that really took me out of the space I need to be in to really listen to such intricate music, I'd like to hear more of him when I'm in that place. Seth was transfixed by Anderskov's playing; Ken thought it reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's solo work.
After that the initial "plans" sort of went by the wayside and we improvised from there. We couldn't get even close to the tent to see Alison Brown Quartet and were too late to see Faroe Islands favorite Yggrasil over at Christ Church, so we sat down in front of the Jazz Street Stage and took in JazzKamikaze. While they were excellent musicians, these Norsemen almost sounded a bit too 80s for us who went to college in the early part of that decade. However, they were a lot of fun and had the crowd going pretty good (including "Festival Guy") until the sky began to open up. Ken, Seth and I made it to our cars before the crowd knew what hit them and headed over to the after-hours since it was early so we could get a good table, have a beer, and possibly do a podcast. Listened to our meanderings this morning . . . won't inflict that on you, although it was fun talking anyway. We did hear some good music with Pat Labarbera, Howard Alden, and others sitting in. Yggdrasil was sitting right up front with members of his group, but did not play. Of course, festival producer John Nugent came in and sat in and brought up his partner in the Stockholm Jazz Festival who also plays sax, so we ended up having a Three Tenors thing going. We didn't catch the last set, but I think the sax player from JazzKamikaze played as well as some others.
Other voices about Sunday night:
I'm putting out a second post today of some of the other writing in and around the Rochester Jazz Festival surrounding the second day of the festival from local media. I may add some from my friends and other sources as they come up, so check back if you'd like to read some other voices about the artists on Day Two:
Rolling in Saturday morning around 4:00 am after going to the after-after-hours at the Flat Iron Cafe, by the time I woke up I had a limited amount of time to catch up my posting to where I was and get out of "preview" mode and into writing about what's going on now. I just had to get that last post out about after hours clubs and events, and so ended up down to Jazz Street a bit later than I wanted. Waiting in line for Robin McKelle at the Montage, I realized I just wasn't likely to get in and, if I did, would not really enjoy the performance, so I left and went in search of "something else."
One of the wonderful things about the Rochester Jazz Festival is that you sometimes discover something just by accident. I found Stephanie McKay and what a sweet "accident" it was. I have a sweet spot in my innards for soul, funk and R&B and she just served it up with a powerhouse trio of musicians behind her laying it down ("Yo, Manny ...drop that beat!). McKay just tore it up and had all our butts moving with a powerful set. Her songs were personal, political, powerful and...funky. I discover as many talented artists in other areas than jazz at the RIJF. I wish my wife Dianna had been there to see the show as she is responsible for rekindling the fire I have for this music. After losing her mother a few years ago, she would have been moved by McKay's sharing from the stage that her mother had died a mere week ago and then launching into a beautiful song in dedication to her dedicated mother. Bought McKay's CD on the way out and look forward to hearing her new CD when it is released in July. To see what I mean, here's an "official" video and one that is more stripped down and personal. You can listen to more of Stephanie McKay on her MySpace page.
Meeting up with Dianna, we headed into Eastman Theatre to see Dee Dee Bridgewater's A Malian Journey and the opener Richard Bona Band. As the time for the performance neared, it was disappointing to see how empty that large hall was despite it being Saturday. Richard Bona and his band played a fun and diverse set of music that ranged across continents and genres. The dynamics of Bona's music and singing were at times astounding, such as with his opening number that started with ethereal flute like sounds coming out of his 5-string bass and, with the break, went into a more Afrobeat groove. I like the way an article in AllAboutJazz.com described his style:
Dubbed “The African Sting," Bona's distinctive style blends a bevy of cultural influences that explores a polyrhythmic, pluralist society; Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Caribbean and Anglo-Saxon pop harmonies exist alongside jazz, bossa nova, afro-beat, traditional song and funk sounds . . . .
Bona got the audience involved with the Afro-Cuban sounds of O Sen Sen Sen. Bona and his band seemed to be having fun up there and played much longer than you'd expect an opener (I kissed any chance of catching the Bad Plus before he was done).
Coming on stage with her band in a shocking pink wig (which several audience members sitting close to the front also had on their heads), Dee Dee Bridgewater pulled the wig off to reveal her gloriously bald head and paid a compliment to Bona by saying she needed to do something dramatic to follow his set. Bridgewater and her band then launched into a powerful personal journey that she took to discover her roots in Mali and the music and inspiration she found along that trek. She started that journey at its end, her jazz roots, with Mongo Santamaria's Afro Blue. Her band was from all over the world and included an amazing pianist Edsel Gomez, bass and musical director Ira Coleman, multi-percussionist Minino Gara, a wonderful and three Malian musicians (sorry but I don't have all of their their names, other than Cherif Soumano, who was fantastic on the multi-stringed kora—I don't want to just assume they are the same as on her album Red Earth: A Malian Journey). She was also joined two absolutely stunning Malian vocalists—Mamani Kéita and Kabiné Kouyaté, who is griot. Bridgewater's duets with these two singers were especially powerful and had Dianna in tears and shouting out approval. Kouyaté's singing hit you somewhere deep inside as it clearly did Bridgewater. It was clear that this was a deeply personal journey that Dee Dee Bridgewater was presenting and her expressive face, joyous dancing, and powerful voice told that story and well. I just wish more people had come (and stayed through to the end) to hear it.
The jazz around town does not end after the 10:00 pm shows during the Rochester International Jazz Festival let out into the streets. There are an increasing number of venues that will be presenting some special local talent and, we hope, will draw some of the many performers playing during the festival to come sit in and jam into the wee hours. So where can you go? Here are some of the things I've heard about to date:
Day One of the Rochester International Jazz Festival went according to plan . . . well almost. When I got downtown about 4:30, it was hot and humid and there seemed to be more people than I remember from previous years. The high school jazz band from School of the Arts was playing and lines were already forming for Kilbourn and Max at Eastman. However, in the venues themselves, things seemed somewhat lighter than I expected (with exceptions).
I ran into friends and many of the the people I see every year at the jazz festival (and only at the jazz festival) and finally hooked up with Ken, Seth and his wife Christine, and Jane. According to plan, we took the step (I think unprecedented since we first met up in 2006) of not hitting the Kilbourn Hall concert first. Instead, we headed over to Harro East and caught Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet. Riley was Thelonious Monk's drummer on such classics as Straight No Chaser and Monk's Blues. Although the crowd was lighter than I expected, he and his band played a set of Monk that simultaneously payed homage to the off-beat master while also putting a personal spin on Monk's music, especially in that the Septet has no piano, with the other instruments taking Monk's piano lines. For me, Bemsha Swing, Bright Mississippi (on which the bass solo was killer) and Rhythm-A-Ning were standouts.
We ducked into the Mondavi tent and caught a few minutes of the blues with Newfoundlanders Denis Parker and Scott Goudie. As the rain clouds grew and the drops started to fall, we ducked back out and headed over to the Reformation Lutheran Church for the Timo Lassy Band, part of the Nordic Jazz Now series. It will be hard to top the smokin' set that the Finnish saxophonist and his bandmates laid down. Lassy doesn't wow with speed on the tenor and baritone sax, but by playing with emotion. From start to finish they were burning with a soul groove that reminded me at times of Horace Silver (there was a piano vamp in the second tune Early Move that made the connection for me). Another highlight was the Sweet Spot at the end of the set, including some incredible piano by Georgios Kontrafouris. The drum solos were unique as Timo's band has two percussionists and there was some great interplay between them. Ten minutes before they finished I wrote the note "standing O" in my notebook and closed it up as I knew, of course, I would be right (it wasn't a great leap by the crowd's reactions during the set). When we walked in the church was hot. It was hotter inside when we left.... That could have been the end for me and I would have been satisfied.
However, on the outside the rain had come and it was cooling down. With increasingly larger drops falling and some danger of lightning striking near by we headed over to the tent to hear DJ Le Spam and the Spam Allstars. It wasn't long after they started that there was a large group of people dancing to the right of the stage and having a great time. I spied José DaCosta from Exodus to Jazz and his wife leading the group in some rhumba and other moves. Although I'm sure it wasn't a pretty sight, I went over and joined them for a few minutes and said hello to Jose, who will be announcing his fall ETJ series lineup soon. The group's sound was a great melánge of jazz, hip-hop, Cuban and the other influences found in South Florida.
With more rain coming down we walked quickly toward our final destination. Here is where I diverged (OK Goudie and Parker were too) from the plan posted earlier. I decided that I'd seen one jazz cat from the past and it was time for something new. I had seen Rachel Z with her band "The Department of Good and Evil" at the Strath in August last year. She announced that she would be doing some "deep jazz" interpretations of rock-and-roll songs and then proceeded to do just that. Her set at the Montage ranged from Neil Young's Heart of Gold, Depeche Mode, Alice in Chains, the Yeah-Yeah-Yeahs' Maps, to Bill Withers' Any Time She Goes Away, ending with Wayne Shorter's ESP.
I wasn't ready to stop there, so I parted ways with Ken, Seth and Jane, and went on my merry way to some more jazz (but more on that later).
Here's some other takes on the first day from Ken, Seth, Jane:
Hope you all had a great opening night. If you know of any more who are writing about the festival, please add them in the comments! Let us know your thoughts in the comments, too. Just click on the Comments link at the bottom of the post and follow the instructions.
Well, as the festival has begun and I need to start writing about what is happening NOW, I'm going to lay out the current plans for the last night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival (subject to change as were my plans for opening night). Here is how I'll be spending the 2008 RIJF's last day on earth:
On the penultimate day of the 2008 Rochester Jazz Festival (oooo...I've always wanted to use the word penultimate in my blog), I'm doing the traditional departure from the jazz and will join the throngs out on East Ave. for the big concerts. Huge crowds are not my thing and I've seen some whoppers (like spending a July 4th in Grant Park in Chicago with 1,000,000 of fellow Chicagoans). It's going to be a party inside as well, at least where I'm going:
Some of the "revolving door" RIJF artists will returning to the stages at the Rochester jazz festival on Day 7, Thursday, including perennial RIJF favorites The Sliding Hammers (also playing on Saturday), Djabe (who are also playing on Wednesday), and local guy made good Joe Locke (although here with a new project):
So you don't want to stop listening to jazz, but you want to quit plunking down the $ for Club Pass venues and beer (well, you'll still have to pay for the beer)...what do you do? You head to one of the fine establishments across the Rochester metro area that will be presenting jazz (most of which do so during the rest of the year). There's even another jazz festival on Thursday and Friday in Webster. This set of listings does not include those associated with the Rochester Jazz Festival, which you can find, of course on the RIJF website. Sorry it's a bit late, but I'm kinda busy if you can believe it....
We've compiled these listings from information obtained from the performing artists themselves and other sources. Please forgive me for any discrepancies with reality; feel free to let me know what the problem is, and I'll get the corrections up on the site as soon as possible. Any list items that contain an Added image or struck-through text reflect corrections implemented after initial publication of this post. Email subscribers should check the listings post online for updates or revisions before making decisions based on the information in this post. For additional information regarding a particular performance (where I haven't previewed it in a separate post in advance), you may want to check the artist or venue web sites listed in the right panel of this weblog. If you go out to hear a performance listed here, feel free to drop a comment to this post about how it went. I want to hear from you!
On Wednesday, June 18th, the sixth day of the Rochester Jazz Festival, I anticipate that my energy will begin to wane. If you're looking for more local flavor, check out Saxology, the New Energy Jazz Orchestra, or the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra (and of course, the high school bands). The lineup has a lot of choices, but my course is pretty well defined:
Lots of local friends playing on Tuesday, June 17th, Day 5 of the Rochester Jazz Festival. While there are certainly some others worth checking out, including Slide Hampton and Jacky Terrasson, Of course, there's also Gillespiana: A Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie conducted by Jeff Tyzik with special guests Jeannie Bryson (Dizzy's daughter) singing, Byron Stripling, trumpet and Gerry Niewood on saxophone a 21 piece Jazz Orchestra. The reason Jazz@Rochester is out there is to support the local scene, so I'll start out that way and perhaps catch some other interesting entries along the way:
Monday night, Day 4 of the Rochester International Jazz Festival shapes up for me to be a wide range of flavors, but most of them in the form of saxophone. While I'll take a break listening to Cindy Blackman in the middle, the rest of the night is sax-drenched. Not that I'm complaining.... Here's my Monday plans, with a little extra thrown in to help you decide if you want to join me ( I discovered tonight [6/15] that the times for these were screwed up . . . well one is screwed up . . . so I have to reconfigure the choices to make it work. The new lineup for me is as follows):
Here's how I'm scheduling my Sunday of the first weekend of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. The RIJF has put together a lot of information for you with the [listings] (and I'm linking to them in every choice below as a place to start) and City and the Democrat & Chronicle are also hard at work putting together special sites (here and here) and stories together for the festival and its artists (in fact, today they published a great writeup by Jeff Spevak and Anna Reguero on tips and tricks to making the most of the jazz festival). There will be a lot of sources of information from now through the end of this marathon session of jazz to help guide you through the festival. I'll point as many of them out to you that I find. If you want to join me on Sunday, then here's where I'll be (...I think):
By the way, in case it hasn't been clear, in these posts I'm communicating personal choices and, sometimes, perhaps making a case (by giving you some additional information) for going out to hear something that may not have occurred to you. This blog isn't supposed to be Downbeat and I'm not trying to be a "taste-setter." My primary goal while at the RIJF is to hear a lot of music; have a lot of fun; hang with my wife, friends and fellow bloggers; see some old "festival buds;" and try to communicate some part of this incredible experience to you. I only want to encourage you to explore it yourself and have a blast.
OK, it's time for Day Two. On
Friday Saturday (I better get some more sleep before Friday....) there is another smorgasbord of jazz and other music (the Buddahood are a lot of fun) for the first "weekend" day of the 2008 RIJF. Here's where my initial leanings will take me on Friday Saturday: