I know, I know.... this is way late. But, after beating up my body for 9 days straight, on Sunday morning my body struck back and I came down with a summer cold and, after little sleep Sunday night, arose in the wee hours Monday to fly to to Wichita, KS. But I needed to do to get closure on the 2017 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and before tomorrow when we go back to what we do here for the other 356 days of the year.
On Day 9 of the XRIJF, now so long ago, I started out with the Donny McCaslin Group in Xerox Auditorium. McCaslin has been getting a lot of press recently as he and the band worked with David Bowie on his final album, Black Star, and accepted a Grammy Award for the album on behalf of Bowie this year. Having listened to McCaslin's new CD Beyond Now, I knew what to expect, but the music was much more intense live. McCaslin and his band were tight and loud, with McCaslin and his keyboardist liberally using effects on their instruments. A highlight was an instrumental version of the track Lazarus from the Black Star album.
I wanted a final dose of the Nordic Jazz Now series for the year so hoofed over to the Lutheran Church to catch Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity. This group of Norwegians fit the bill that brings me to the NJN series over and over again, with music that was at times "out," but worked its way back "in" at others, all played by excellent musicians. Everyone was percussive (as one might expect of drummer Nilssen's music), with the bass using slaps/plucks and pops on the sax.
I finished the XRIJF at the Christ Church with Tessa Souter. It was Souter's sixth time at the Rochester festival, but the first I had heard her (I'm not usually much for vocalists at the festival). Her concerts this year were done in memory of the Made In the UK Jazz series curator, John Ellson, who passed away in October last year. Souter's voice was quite beautiful with a wide range. I'd forgotten how great vocals sound in a space like Christ Church. One thing that struck me was Souter's choices of material, which were very eclectic, including versions of music that she or others had arranged or set lyrics to by McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Chopin, U2, a standard and even some Nigerian music. She noted that that she thought ROC was best city in the world and joked about buying a place here ("... but what would I do for the rest of the year?").
This year I had a plan and, after the UK lady sang, found that it had indeed become my final plan. I'm not sure what that means.... It could mean that I just planned right or that there was just not much else that appealed to what I was looking for at the XRIJF. However, I know from talking with my "jazz fest" friends that there was a lot of fantastic music that I missed (some of it regrettably), so it could also mean that I was just being too strict in "keeping to the draft plan." Whatever it means, I had a great time at this year's XRIJF. See you next year on Jazz Street!