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: