As you can hear in my moblogging meanderings in the multiple posts on June 8th and the wee hours of the 9th, I put about 10 hours into Friday's opening night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival and, strangely enough, was up and ready for more by late Saturday morning. The evening started out with an early arrival around 4:00. I always try to get there early to see the place fill up with people and watch the transformation from Gibbs Street to "Jazz Street". John Nugent, Marc Iacona and other staff were bouncing back and forth through the street fixing last minute details. Unfortunately, early in the evening there was an accident at one of the food vendors in which two of the vendor's employees were seriously injured, one with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. Mostly everyone that night didn't know that had happened; the only evidence was the vendor was not open.
About 5:15, I joined the line for Geri Allen Trio at Kilbourn Hall and, after Dianna showed and we went in, we were treated to a fantastic opening set for this year's RIJF. The excitement in the air as Kilbourn filled up was palpable. Ms. Allen's mastery on the piano was complemented her band, which included drummer Jimmy Cobb, a man who has been an icon of jazz longer than I've been in this world, and Kenny Davis on bass. A short time after the set ended, Ms. Allen invited Dianna and I into the heat of her backstage green room for an interview. It was a first time for me and was a wonderful experience, thanks to Geri Allen's graciousness and the thoughtful insights she offered about the performance at Kilbourn and what she drew from the audience, her music, and the experience of playing jazz. I recorded it for a podcast and hope to offer it here after the festival.
Walking in the cooling rain remaining from the thunderstorm that had just passed, I met up with my friends and fellow bloggers Ken and Seth as they departed the Peter Asplund set at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation and, after a short time with Canada's The Shuffle Demons in the Big Tent (it seems to be getting bigger each year, eh?), we headed over to Max's at Eastman Place to catch bassist Esperanza Spalding. She seemed transported as she hunched over her travel bass playing with attitude but offset with her beautiful lilting vocalese. She's all of 22 and has all the attitude you'd expect of her youth, but that attitude appears to be backed up with musical talent and an intelligence about the music (as evidenced in the videos I posted links to earlier).
After Spalding's set was over and the crowds left, Ken and Seth and I recorded the podcast that I posted earlier today. I was then cajoled to head over to State Street Bar and Grill for the after hours sets hosted by Bob Sneider. The music was good, although not too many of the artists joined in this first night and I cut out just after 1 a.m. and went home to bed.
Check out some other thoughts on the first day by Ken, Seth, Ron Netsky and Frank DeBlase (also here) in the City Newspaper. You can also follow new blogger Tracy Kroft-Symonds as she Twitters around the RIJF. Feel free to leave your thoughts on the first day in the comments to this post.
I'm going to resume my posts on the rest of the festival (starting with June 13th) tomorrow. Now I have to get my stuff together to head over to Jazz Street for Day Two!