Rather than rush down early to get in line, I took my time on Tuesday at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. I came down after 4pm and just hung out at Havana Moe's for a bit before heading out to get something to eat and get to my first venue.
There was a lot of buzz on Twitter and elsewhere around Anat Cohen Quartet's performance at the Xerox Auditorium, the first stop on my perambulations around the fest. I knew it would be good knowing her constant appearance on the Jazz Journalist Associations top lists and having heard her music quite a bit. The set was outstanding with Anat Cohen pulling out great licks of notes from her clarinet and, a couple of times, soprano sax. She can be both soul-pulling and playful within the same song and was, especially on an extended "themes and variations" approach to the classic La Vie En Rose. Her quartet, rounded out by Jason Linder on piano, Joe Martin on bass, and drummer Ullyses S. Owens (who Exodus to Jazz fans will note was here in April last year with his band, including XRIJF Friday opener Christian McBride), was locked in tight to her playing (and each others') throughout an hour, which flew by. Many others had the same experience, case in point Mr. Spevak at the D&C. WXXI recorded one of her tunes to give you a taste:
I was going to try to catch at least some of the David Byrne/St. Vincent performance in Eastman Theatre, but apparently now had to get on a list to get into the theatre as media. My bad for not asking... but it resulted in a lot more music (although hearing all the buzz about their performance last night I have some regrets).
After leaving Eastman, I floated around the rest of the night. First up was Julian Arguelles Quartet at the Made in the UK Series at Christ Church. Although I didn't stay for the entire set, I enjoyed the half that I heard. Arguelles filled the church to its ceilings with his sax, which I think is an instrument that works well in that soundspace. The sound was contemporary and incorporated a number of influences (some had tweeted that it was free form, but it was quite composed).
Moved from there to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation for Eero Koivistoinen Quartet from Finland. Although lightly attended, the second set was good, with the quartet putting out a beautifully played if not exceptional performance. Although I left early, I was not hearing African influences others had noted. Koivistoinen's bassist got a nasty cut on his hand part way through. I thought he was just drying the sweat off his hands in the sanctuary, which was still quite warm, but then the towel started showing rather large amounts of blood and he ultimately left the stage with the drummer and church staff to see to it. As Koivistoinen played a duo with his pianist while first aid was administered, I moved on out into a light shower that had developed outside.
I ducked out of the rain into Max to catch some of Michael Wollny Trio. Wollny is German and was here with bassist Tim LeFebrve and Erich Schaefer on drums. Wollny is another great pianist with a killer trio, like Rafael Zaldivar earlier this week. He uses all of the piano, reaching in and manipulating strings while playing, which was modern and muscular, with Wollny hunching so low on the piano sometimes that his hair seemed to also be playing keys (he couldn't be getting all of them with his fingers, could he?). Wiped from the last 5 days, I headed home for some very needed sleep to make it through the rest of the week.
See you on Jazz Street....