11 posts categorized "Other Voices"

"A stepping stone towards all of these..." Martin Luther King on jazz

Martin-luther-kingIn July 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King received a request from the producers of the new Berlin Jazz festival to write a forward for the festival’s program. Although he did not actually deliver a speech at the festival, his words remain a powerful statement about jazz music and its musicians.  So, in commemoration of MLK Day, here is the text of the essay he provided the festival (and the world): 

God has wrought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create—and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.

Modern jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls. Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down. And now, jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.

In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

And for those of you who would rather hear the words, check out this video with a reading by multiple jazz artists, a production by Jazz In Pop Culture and SF Jazz:


This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Capturing the moving target of jazz and its artists, one at a time: Ron Netsky's Jazz Snapshots

In the years since I moved to Rochester from Chicago, I've enjoyed reading (and often linking to) Ron Netsky's articles in Rochester's City Newspaper profiling the jazz musicians or groups playing at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, various programs at the Eastman School of Music, The Bop Shop, the former Exodus to Jazz series of concerts, and other venues around Rochester. So, it was great to receive a copy of Ron's new book, Jazz Snapshots, which assembles over 150 of those articles behind a cool cover by Rochester artist David Cowles, whose work you'll recognize from RIJF posters. As Ron describes the thought behind the title in the Introduction to the book:

The title is based on the premise that I wrote about these musicians at particular points in their careers and short articles are far from complete pictures. They are, rather, snapshots of moving targets. Every life is full of twists and turns; jazz musicians don't even know where their next solo is going.

The profiles and interviews in Jazz Snapshots include giants of jazz, major U.S. and international jazz artists from ragtime to straight-ahead to avant-garde who have played in Rochester over the years (some of whom have ties to Rochester), and some of the local jazz musicians who you love to go out to hear throughout the year. These thoughtful "snapshots" are not "so-and-so has played with X, Y, and Z" profiles, but rather dig much deeper into the artists to reveal more about who they are and and their craft. Ron sets out a few examples from the book of these revelations in the sheet he included with the book, like Ron Carter talking about his delight in making saxophonists inhale, McCoy Tyner recalling the moment John Coltrane decided to record My Favorite Things, and Cécile McLorin Salvant explaining why she doesn't mind making audiences squirm. There are many more. 

The nearly 500 pages of articles are mostly arranged by instrument (you all have your favorites...) and then chronologically once you are in a category, noting where they were playing at the time. Ron also provides a few miscellaneous articles on artists who don't quite fit the other categories (like Tom Lehrer) and from genres that have always had a close association with jazz like blues, R&B, and soul. After publishing JazzRochester for so many years, it reminded me that Rochester had provided me the opportunity to hear so many (if not most) of these artists play. I'm looking forward to re-reading many of these articles. If you have a favorite article (either from the book or City), leave a comment on this post.

You can buy Jazz Snapshots and check out some of the book in print or Kindle by selecting the Amazon links underneath the cover image in this post. Full disclosure, if you choose to purchase the book after clicking the "Buy" link, JazzRochester may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you or the author.  

Ron Netsky is currently a Professor and the Director of the Studio Art Undergraduate Program at Nazareth College (or should I say "University"?) and still writes occasionally for City about music.


This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

How I Learned to Love Jazz ...A guest post by Frank A. Salamone

Image by Frank A. Salamone
Golden Grill, Lake Avenue, Charlotte

I must have been about 10 or 11 when I first caught the jazz bug. I had heard jazz on the radio, of course. It was still the 1940s and jazz and jazz-influenced music was still on the air. You could hear Gerry Mulligan, for example, on an afternoon music show Gerry and Chet Baker might be squeezed in between Frank Sinatra and Doris Day but they were heard as part of the music scene.

But I had no idea that there was a whole genre of music called jazz. However, one Sunday my uncle Jake asked me if I wanted to go with him to the Golden Grill to pick up a relative. I said why not. I think I was flattered that my dad’s youngest brother asked me to tag along with him and some other people. I was never sure whether my uncle liked me or not. Although he had a heart of gold, he could appear formidable. It was only a few years back that he was a decorated sergeant in army.

I went along for the ride, little knowing it would lead to another ride that has lasted almost 70 years, the jazz train, which has been the ride of my life. We drove down to Charlotte and the Golden Grill. I was told to wait in the lobby because only adults could enter. When my uncle said stay, you did not question him or ask why. So, I stayed.

But then he opened the door and the most glorious music I had ever heard poured out from the open door. I had heard big bands in person in movie theaters, but this was different. It was wild, exuberant, mind numbing – and, yes, transformative. I was never the same. I asked my uncle what that music was. He said, “It’s jazz. It is Dixieland.”

The group was the Dixieland Ramblers. They had a steady gig at the Golden Grill in those days. It was earthier than swing or bop, both of which, especially bop, I have come to love. But at that time, it hit me heard, like a gut punch. I was quiet, for once. I was lost in thought. I wanted to hear more, and even more after that. Indeed, I have never been able to get enough jazz, never hear enough, know enough, or understand enough.

Because I love jazz, I have learned more about European classical and romantic music as well as African music and various forms of American music. I still don’t know enough. I have written books and articles about jazz, and other forms of music, but I still do not know enough.

As I grew older, I began to go to the Golden Grill and its successor, the Mardi Gras. I met many of my heroes. I even interviewed them and wrote about them. So many were so generous with their time and ideas. I studied music with one or two. I did so to know more about what they were doing. I never could come close to their skills. And it all began at the Golden Grill on Lake Avenue.

Frank A. Salamone was born and raised in Rochester. He lived on the east side on Noth St. and then Clifford Ave., near Goodman St. Frank attended 25 School and Holy Redeemer, and went to high school at East High and Aquinas. He is a graduate of St. John Fisher (BA), the University of Rochester (MA) and SUNY-Buffalo (Ph.D). Frank left Rochester for many years but returned in Dec 2017. He has interviewed numerous jazz musicians over the years and has seen most of the greats. He has written articles and books on the music, including  Music and Magic: Charlie Parker, Trickster Lives! (affiliate link) and The Culture of Jazz: Jazz as Critical Culture (affiliate link), plus several volumes on The Italians of Rochester, and a number of anthropological studies and other books.

Note from Greg: Keep this conversation going by adding a comment below (either in the box if it's visible or click on the Comment link to get to it). This is just the first (in a long while) of what I hope will be many guest posts. I would love to get more voices into JazzRochester, writing about Rochester, its jazz history and future, the current jazz scene here, or the music in general. I'm wide open to ideas.  If you're interested in being a guest author, just contact me through the Contact Us link at the top of the blog (or in the menu if you're on mobile).  I look forward to hearing from you!

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Rest, Mordecai, rest . . . the end of festival week will never be the same

As you may already know, Mordecai Lipshutz, former WXXI radio host and for Rochester jazz listeners, the voice that traditionally has closed the late night jam sessions during the Rochester International Jazz Festival with "We'll Be Together Again," passed away on Sunday following a long illness.  

Here's his last festival closing performance last year:


A couple more, made available by WXXI:

Friends and WXXI listeners are invited to celebrate his life and share memories this Sunday, March 16 from 1 to 3 p.m. at ARTISANworks, 565 Blossom Road, Suite L, Rochester, New York 14610. For more information, call ARTISANworks at (585) 288-7170.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Local guitarist lets you in on a little XRIJF secret ...

Sam Nicolosi dropped this over my transom...

Psst! keep it to yourself, but we're meeting in the "Garden" on Wednesday. That's the day, June 26th, during which the two science guys (and acoustic-jazz guitarists), "Ted Nicolosi and Shared Genes" hit the stage behind the Central Library (that's across the street from the Rundel building). High noon, 90 degree temps, situated in the middle of an enormous heat sink comprised of concrete, asphalt and brick: A "Thermodynamic Scenario" for sure. Ladies: permission granted to bring hats! The guitar necks will be expanding causing the strings to go sharp, the coefficient of friction will rise along the frets, linear speed may be affected and power amps will loose efficiency. Shared Genes

Oh well, that's what goes through the mind of the very first Xerox Product Design Engineer to perform in the "Xerox-RIJF". Yup, sorry to disappoint you, but that's me, Sam Nicolosi, the elder of the duo. In many years of service I have had the privilege to develop mechanical designs and patents for several Xerox products, including the new Xerox iGen Production Printer.

I will be joined by my ace side-man and son, Ted, a guitar virtuoso in his on right. Ted, however, is off in a different science direction, he is a fourth year Biomedical Sciences major at the Rochester Institute of Technology (my alma mater), "premed as they say". So if you have the time and "curiosity', stop out to see us on Wednesday at noon, to see the R.I.T. "science" connection to the Xerox-RIJF. Ladies, remember the hats!

Note from Greg: I would love to have more personal experiences of XRIJF 2013 from the many local artists who are playing. Contact me through the email in the middle panel to get the ball rolling.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

The more voices the better... Other XRIJF coverage

XRIJF Jazz StreetWhen I started writing about the Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2005 on this blog's predecessor (it's still out there), there wasn't much coverage of the festival in the local mainstream media—a few stories and some headliner interviews, etc.

With its success and the growing crowds, the festival is being covered widely—much more locally, but also nationally and internationally. It's a testament to the success of the festival itself and why it is becoming known as one of the top jazz and music festivals in the U.S. Check out other XRIJF coverage by our mainstream media outlets at:

  • The Democrat & Chronicle's coverage starts with their Jazz section online. There you'll find the stories appearing in the paper. There's also the Arts Blog, where you'll find posts by Jeff Spevak, Anna Reguero, Stuart Low and others. One highlight are the photo essays and other multimedia done by D&C photographer Will Yurman (here's last year's multimedia project).
  • Rochester City Newspaper has it's annual Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival Guide. There are listings for each day with links to the bios they've prepared (many of them are the same you'll find on the artist's page on the XRIJF site, with links to artist sites). Or you can look at all the artist bios in one place. City's music writers will all be blogging from the field as well.  I think it will be on the Music Blog.
  • Freetime Magazine has a bit different take for their XRIJF Guide. You can click on a venue and they've listed all of the artists who will be appearing there with times, etc.
  • This year WHAM Channel 13 has a "Jazz Lounge" where they'll be collecting their XRIJF coverage.

I'll try to link out to other coverage from national as well as local blogs and other sites as I come across them (please feel free to make them known to me).

All this other coverage feels a bit liberating. I've already given you my preliminary "itinerary" for the festival.  I will likely be working at my day job throughout the festival, so I just can't do the daily sum up posts I've been doing in past years. My coverage here will focus on images, short posts and moblogs "from the field," and possibly some short video interviews. I'll be tweeting, of course and, if you're on Twitter, you can follow the tweets of various XRIJF artists who are on Twitter on the list I've created. The posts here and some tweets will end up on the Jazz@Rochester Facebook page as well.  Please feel free to join in on these conversations!

Mostly, I'm going to concentrate on having some fun, hanging with my old "jazz fest buddies," and trying to communicate the experience to you best I can.  See you on Jazz Street!

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Another voice is raised up about an unsung jazz legend . . . Andy Bey at Exodus to Jazz

Another voice joins Jazz@Rochester with a review of Friday night's Andy Bey gig for the wonderful Exodus to Jazz series, written by Christopher Teal:

Unsung jazz legend Andy Bey came to Rochester’s Clarion Riverside Hotel on Friday for two sets of fresh interpretations on standards, as well as his own stirring originals. Rounding out a trio with Bey’s piano and vocals were bassist Joe Martin and drummer Vito Lesczak. I have heard Martin on record and live on several occasions with Kurt Rosenwinkel’s bands and he always plays with a focused rhythmic drive—last night being no exception. Lesczak has been playing with Bey for several years in rotation with the legendary Kenny Washington and displayed masterful restraint and in his swinging accompaniment role.

Andy Bey album coverThe late set started out with an instrumental version of the standard There is No Greater Love, with Bey’s distinctive piano playing in full effect. Bey displays great patience at the piano, unfolding his ideas with deliberate care. By eschewing traditional left hand accompaniment, he leaves ample space for group interplay. This medium tempo swinger featured plenty of smart rhythmic interaction between the whole trio and an especially spirited solo from Joe Martin.  In the next two selections, a style-shifting workout of All the Things You Are and a pensive rendition of On Second Thought (both featured on his latest album It Ain't Necessarily So, Bey displayed the full capacity of his immense vocal instrument. Able to create a huge array of colors and tones with his four-octave range, Bey belted new life into the warhorse All the Things (a tune that Bey described as being "older than salt") and created an intimately dark tone on On Second Thought. Approaching seventy years of age, Andy Bey’s lyrical interpretations percolate a mix of experience and vitality that bring to mind Jimmy Scott and Bill Withers, but without losing his own unique character.

After two originals, Pretentious, and There Are So Many Ways to Approach the Blues, Bey stepped from behind the piano to perform a vocalese rendition of A Night In Tunisia that included a stellar scat solo riddled with quotes from other bebop classics. Following this closer, Bey was summoned by applause to perform a solo encore of Little Girl Blue that provided a tender close to the set.

This final set for Bey’s trio was also the last of the season for the Exodus to Jazz series. Promoter Jose DaCosta surprised the crowd by unveiling the lineup for the Fall-Winter season of ETJ, which brings back familiar acts as well as some compelling new artists, leaving the crowd with even more to buzz about over the summer.

Christopher Teal is a second-year Masters student at Eastman School of Music in jazz drum and plays with the local band Po' Boys Brass Band, Localized Tenderness out of Spokane, WA, and the Chris Teal Trio. You can find out more about Chris at his website and the MySpace page for Localized Tenderness. We hope to have Chris write more for us while he's here in Rochester. Let us know what you think in the comments.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Tracy got out on Friday . . . I didn't

Just a quick note to point you over to my friend Tracy's writeup on her blog Rochester Music Scene (and Heard) after hearing the Steve Greene Trio with Tina Albright over at the Jazz at Immanuel Series at the Immanuel Baptist Church on Park Avenue. 

At least one of us got out to hear some jazz on Friday.  I'm recovering from a way too hectic week (although I did go to the WGMC benefit Art Loves Jazz at Artworks on Thursday).

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

The comment box . . .

One of the goals of Jazz@Rochester is to get you all talking to each other about live jazz in Rochester. As you may have noticed, I have been bringing other voices to write guest posts on the blog for awhile. What you may not have noticed is that some of you are also talking . . . in the comments to posts. Recently, we've had some great comments and I wanted to point them out to you, in case you missed them:

  • After I published "Another voice from Rochester jazz . . . Drummer Mike Melito" on April 10th, a conversation developed in the comments.  Following Mike, bassist Fred Stone wrote about the jazz scene in Rochester in the 60s and leaving the city at 20 to find new ideas and ways to express himself on the bass and finding it in Boston at the Berklee School of Music.  He returned to Rochester and continues to explore those new ideas, although finding the city a pretty lonely place for his brand of progressive jazz. Fred's comment drew a replies from Mike and from Bob Sneider (perhaps it was the "Blue Note buddies at the Strathallan" aside"?) and even Tracy at Rochester Scene (and Heard) chimed in at the end.
  • Some time after I posted Ian Kloss's review of Henderson-Owens Trio featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith,  Sean Jefferson, drummer for Paradigm Shift and The Jazz Mad Lab wrote a second review of the show in a comment (we may hear more from Sean in the future).

A blog (at least this blog) is intended to be a social media, to create, feed and join in on conversations that are going on out there. They serve this purpose mostly through comments and through linking to other bloggers; in short, interacting with the conversation. I think they add to the knowledge and the community of jazz here.  For me, these comments are an example of this blog serving that purpose.  I've had over 100 comments in the past 2 years, but there are few instances where they start resembling that conversation. I want to encourage that.

How do you do it yourself?  To read or leave a comment, just click on the Comments link at the bottom of each post. If you're leaving a comment, it is simply a matter of filling in the "boxes" and hitting the button (you'll have to fill in a captcha after that). If you're reading, I hope you feel compelled to join the conversation. My comment policy is pretty simple (for a recovering lawyer, that's saying a lot...):

No spam, stay on topic, play nice, and only put in links where you're guiding my readers to relevant resources or information.

I may expand on this in the "I Told You So..." page, but there it is.  Let's get on with the conversation!

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

There was a Doctor in the house . . . Ian Kloss joins the voices on Jazz@Rochester and reviews Dr. Lonnie Smith at Exodus to Jazz

Thanks to one of our previous voices, Jazz@Rochester was introduced to Ian Kloss, who is the latest occasional voice that will be read in these pages. Ian is just completing a Bachelors degree in jazz guitar at Eastman School of Music and is staying on for a extra year to focus on art criticism. He's performed at the Rochester International Jazz Festival with the Eastman group Hunter and Bear and will be doing so again this year. He's the regular guitarist in the Ben Britton Band (formerly known as Sonic Duality) and sits in occasionally with Dubblestuff. Ian took in the Henderson-Owens Trio featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith last night in another installment of the wonderful Exodus to Jazz series. Here's what Ian sent in:

Dr. Lonnie Smith . . . he could very easily be the funkiest person alive. Last night (Thursday, April 12) at the Riverside Clarion Hotel, the legendary organist returned to Rochester with a trio featuring Brooklyn-based ace drummer Ulysses Owens and local guitarist Mel Henderson, who is a core member of funk-fusion group Paradigm Shift. At 65, Smith is as vigorous and unpredictable as ever, cutting loose on his B-3 with an intensely physical approach. In the hour-plus first set, Smith led the band through a varied collection of tunes that favored simple harmonies and rolling grooves, allowing Smith’s unparalleled mastery of phrasing to shine. Highlights included “Willow Weep for Us,” Smith’s playful take on “Willow Weep for Me,” and “Nawlin’s,” the blues-funk standard that served as the group’s closer. Another interesting moment came when Smith indulged his love of guttural, expressive singing on a sped-up, much-funkified version of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” I could ramble for some time about Smith’s great qualities, including his impressive control of his instrument’s sound, summoning an astonishing range of tones and dynamics.

Dr. Lonnie SmithSmith’s strongest rapport was with Owens, a young drummer who’s already made a name playing with a long list of straight-ahead greats. Owens’ flexibility, and his comprehensive use of his drum set’s palette of sounds, make him a great match for the good Doctor. The group dealt gamely with the sonic demands of the space, an echo-prone banquet hall that sometimes made Smith’s more subtle playing difficult to hear. There was also a P.A. system which may or may not have been necessary (for one thing, it made the bass pretty overpowering). The sound was adjusted, for the better, after the first couple of tunes, and it was smooth sailing from there.

Smith deserves his reputation as a jazz ambassador. When he made the rounds after the set, cordially greeting everyone in the audience- strangers and old friends alike- it was like seeing a mysterious foreign dignitary in action. Smith cut a great figure in his instantly-recognizable concert attire. Although his clothes of choice (including his famous turban) resemble traditional Sikh garb, Smith once explained that he favors these duds for “no particular reason.” The audience was with him, and the group as a whole, all the way.

Exodus to Jazz founder Jose DaCosta gave a brief pre-concert address. It was good to catch this talk, as DaCosta laid out some of the upcoming Exodus lineup, including famed jazz saxophonist Seamus Blake, who recently sat in with Helen Sung at her ETJ performance when her sax player was ill) and an almost unheard-of straight ahead set by smooth jazz saxophonist Mindi Abair (here's the schedule for the rest of the Spring season of ETJ). For anybody who didn’t catch Smith this time out, the good news is that he’ll be back in town as part of this year’s exciting RIJF schedule.

Thanks, Ian!  We hope to hear some more from you in the coming months.  Please feel free to leave Ian a comment in by clicking on the comment link below. 

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Another voice from Rochester jazz . . . Drummer Mike Melito

As I've promised, I'm trying to add new voices to Jazz@Rochester. I've heard today's guest post writer, drummer Mike Melito, a lot over the past few years, playing with various groupings with Bob Sneider and Phil Flanagan and others at the Strathallan, and sitting in with a number of other artists such as James Moody and Benny Golson at the RIJF. I've heard him enough that I can recognize Mike's style even before I see his smiling face. He's just a great guy and I'm glad he's willing to write some stuff for my readers. I asked Mike to write a bit about being an jazz artist here in Rochester and he sent in the following:

I’ve been a professional jazz musician in Rochester for 25 years. The jazz scene here has changed quite a bit over the years. Some years there would be all kinds of gigs and other years not as many. I would do quite a bit of driving between playing gigs in Buffalo, Syracuse and Utica as well. I can say that today Rochester probably has the most venues for jazz out of all those cities. I’ve been asked many times by people why I never moved to NYC? There are a few reasons but the main reason is the players I get to play every week here are every bit as good as most guys in NYC. I think there is a misconception about New York. People think if you live in New York you must be great. Mike Melito at RIJFThat is totally not true!! I’ve played with many guys who live in NYC and make a good living in jazz that can’t touch the guys I play with here every week.

My regular Strathallan gig has been going great! We’ve had some great guests come in to play with us. Guests have included Vincent Herring, Grant Stewart, Ralph Lalama, John Nugent, John Swana, Peter Bernstein, Ken Peplowski, Harry Allen, Don Menza, Frank Strazzeri, Rachel Z, Todd Coolman, Gerry Niewood, Pat Labarbera and many more. Bob Sneider has done a TREMENDOUS job with booking all these guests. Look for many more guests to come as well. The next guests to come are three on the same weekend! Trumpeter Jim Rotondi, bassist Lee Hudson and my brother drummer Tom Melito all play the Strathallan the weekend of April 11th and 12th. That should be a GREAT weekend! Having Bob Sneider, Paul Hofmann or Bill Dobbins on piano will be equally exciting! We play every Friday and Saturday night from 8:30pm to 12:00 am. No Cover!

I recently recorded a new CD that should be out in the summer. It’s called In The Tradition and features Grant Stewart on tenor, John Swana on trumpet, Bob Sneider, Paul Hofmann and bassist Neal Miner. I’m very proud of this record. It came out well! There are some great tunes by Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, Tadd Dameron, plus some originals too. Stay tuned . . . .

Watch for Mike's album on my Rochester Sounds page in the future and check out his albums now on CDBaby.com.  I'm sure we'll hear (and read) more from him in the future. By the way, feel free to leave a comment and let me know who you'd like to hear from and I'll see if I can get them to write something up.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.