Day One . . . Some things change, some don't . . . Jazz@Rochester's plans for opening day of the RIJF
The opening night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival blows into town next Friday offering a good taste of the programming in store for the nine days to follow. There's the big name draw at the Eastman Theatre, Frank Sinatra, Jr.; returning artists like Al Foster, Timo Lassy (we saw him last year with the Five Corners Quintet) in the now institutional Nordic Jazz Now series, and Rachel Z; and some new names (at least new to us) in jazz and other "affiliated" genres of music, like Ben Riley's MONK Legacy Septet, Amina Figarova Sextet, the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, the Spam All Stars, Denis Parker & Scott Goudie "Rowdy Blues," and the Downchild Blues Band. Thrown in with this is a wider selection of local artists, this night including Gap Mangione, who will open for Sinatra, the Dave Rivello Ensemble, and the Rochester area high school bands who kick the evening off every night.
So how do I plan for the RIJF? Over the next several days, I'll share my "planning" in this blog. The goal for me is to hear as much music as I can during those nine days and, if possible, hear something new and challenging, catch those who are returning who I really enjoyed in past years, and also catch those artists or sets that I know I just can't miss. The people at the RIJF have promised me a media pass again, which will allow me to attend some of the shows in the Eastman without breaking the bank, but I'll be focusing on the Club Pass venues as I usually do.
Planning an evening at the RIJF can be quite a dance, which always starts with choices for the 6:00 and 10:00 pm slots and then gets filled in with in-between stuff. There will be changes as one of the great things about this festival is it's immediateness--all of the venues are near each other and there is a sort of "crossroads" on Jazz Street (Gibbs during the rest of the year) and in line where people often end up talking. You'll be heading to your next "scheduled" stop and you'll hear from your friends or one of the many people who you only see during the RIJF that "so and so" they just saw in "club X" was fantastic and can't be missed, which may lead you to a change in direction. So what's my plan? If you care, here goes. My Friday is shaping up a bit odd (at least in comparison to my usual approach):
- 4:00 pm: Come over early and watch the whole thing come together. I have been coming early for several years to watch the amazing way that Artistic Director & Producer John Nugent, Marc Iacona, Executive Director & co-Producer, and their staff and volunteers bring Gibbs to life as "Jazz Street" in the span of a few hours, when it will hopefully be teeming. I'll get to hear some of the best high school jazz bands in the country strut their stuff while sitting and having an early "dinner" and, I hope, a beer (if they get it open in time).
- 5:30 pm: Head over to the Harro East to catch Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet. Riley played and recorded with Thelonius Monk in the sixties and he and Don Sickler have come together to present Monk's music without a piano, but with the piano part spread among the members of this septet. In addition to the RIJF's writeup about Riley (I encourage you to check these out as they're often very good and provide links to additional information), check out this review of a set at Birdland from last year on AllAboutJazz.com and this video of an excerpt from Monk's Bemsha Swing to see why this might be a good choice if you're into Monk or even if you don't know him from Adam.
- 6:45 pm: Especially if I'm digging Riley, I don't want to cut out too soon, so I've decided to forgo a 6:00 pm Kilbourn Hall performance, as is my tradition at the RIJF. Instead, I'm thinking on heading over to the new Christ Church venue to catch the Dave Rivello Ensemble, whose been gigging at East Rochester's Village Rock Cafe for awhile. I've heard good things about Dave Rivello's compositions and their playing, but haven't had a chance to catch them yet, so I'll finally do that and see the new venue as well.
- 7:30 pm: Catch my first Nordic Jazz Now series show with Timo Lassy Band from Finland. Timo's sax was a treat last year with the Five Corners Quintet and I'm looking forward to hearing him with this new group. Here's Timo's MySpace page, with some cuts off his albums, and a video or two of the Timo Lassy Band.
- 8:30 pm: Time to get my dance groove on (it's not a pretty sight) with the Latin Grammy nominees DJ Le Spam & the Spam Allstars in the big tent. I love the intersections between different genres of music and this group from Miami appears to revel in being in many of them all at once. Perhaps they can get the usually sedate Rochester crowds up on their feet. Their site has some cuts, as does their MySpace page, plus you can check out this interview with DJ Le Spam.
- 10:00 pm: After a taste of the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, perhaps while in line, I'll likely head into Kilbourn to catch the Al Foster Quartet. Haven't heard much of Foster other than his work with Miles, but what I heard on Foster's page on MySpace and this 11 minute excerpt of Foster's set from the Novi Sad Jazz Festival in 2004 make it clear that I'll enjoy it. It will be a good end to the evening . . . if it is the end.
- After Hours: There may be several choices, but I'll focus on these in a separate post. When you're a nutjob like me, this festival is a long haul, so I may need to conserve my energy the first night out Friday.
That is what I love about this festival. I'm getting a whole lot of a whole lot of music here, all within the span of a few hours and a few blocks. So, what do you think? Who are you going to go out and hear? Let us know in the comments....