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It ain't over until the guy with the hat sings ... Another Rochester International Jazz Festival wraps

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.

Catherine Russell album coverI 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:

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.


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