JazzRochester's ears had a great time at the 2019 Rochester International Jazz Festival ... Some final thoughts
July 06, 2019
After a bit of rest and reflection, I thought I'd add some thoughts about the 2019 Rochester International Jazz Festival. Just a few bullets with my reflections. I encourage you to use the comments to add your thoughts as well. Overall, I had a great RIJF. I heard a lot of music and managed to hear something at almost all of the stages, except for Geva's smaller stage and the RG&E/Avangrid stage (although I heard some of the latter as I passed by a few times). There was a great diversity of music for available to choose from and in my conversations with folks near me in line or at a venue it seemed like most were also really enjoying their festival. While I try to cover the festival for JazzRochester, my focus is on hearing as much jazz as possible. Here's my more specific thoughts:
- For me, while there were a few regrets for those I missed due to scheduling or choices I made, the picks I made for the 2019 festival were right for my ears. I'll let you read the posts at this link to detail my thoughts on these picks.
- Although I heard that a lot of people had issues with the changes in venues—Geva Theatre for the types of concerts you may have caught at the Xerox Auditorium and the Harro East Ballroom, the Squeezer's stage on Parcel 5 for artists who may have played Anthology and Harro—the changes worked for me. That some of these changes and others may have resulted from disagreements with the festival is too bad, but I respect the choices of the former venue owners—they have to make the right decisions for their businesses. And yes, Geva was a bit of a hike (however, it really was only 5 minutes further walk from the location of the Xerox Auditorium) and they had some issues with misunderstandings created by their first shows with the Cult of Jake Shimabukuro, but it was otherwise a great venue and allowed for more creativity in programming given Geva's two stages.
- The use of the Squeezer's tent during the free shows on Friday and Saturday as a Club Pass "VIP" tent, opening up the stage side of the tent on Parcel 5 to the stage set up at the foot of Tower 280, was a good idea (especially for those of us who had Club Passes or their equivalents).
- The 2019 festival was lousy with Brits (or expats living and making music in the UK)! While I loved all of the Made in the UK Jazz sponsored events that I managed to hear, folks brought over the pond by the Brits were all over the festival in other venues than the Christ Church. I enjoyed meeting a number of the musicians who graced the Christ Church stage at my "office" at Havana Moe's after the last set. I always enjoy the opportunity to talk with musicians, talking about their music and our jazz scene here during the rest of the year.
- I was able to get some great images of the artists while at the festival. Images are important for my blog during the festival and for the other posting I do to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. My approach is to take them from the vantage point of a regular festival goer, even though with a media pass I could be closer (it does not, however, get me a better place in line... just so you know). However, so that I don't annoy those who are around me, I always adhere to the same rules that the professional photographers and other media outlets must follow. I only take my images during the first song of the set and, usually, warn those around me of that so they don't sit and fume thinking that they're going to be staring at my iPhone screen throughout the whole concert. I never take video. I don't use flash.
- I did not get out to the after hours at the Hyatt this year. Just having too much fun with friends in my own after hours at my "office" talking with Brits and elsewhere (not to mention getting some sleep) to make the trek over. I don't like the scene when I'm there alone and couldn't drum up anyone to head over to the Hyatt ,so kept to my own devices.
- The busking on East Avenue was a mixed bag. At times it reminded me of a trip the Beaches Jazz Festival on Queen Street North in Toronto. When I attended years ago the night before they set up a band every other block and walking down the street was like walking along a radio dial, moving from reggae to jazz to string band, etc. Busking is great and should be encouraged, but when it interferes with the other music in the festival or brought in by other businesses on the street, there may need to be some controls put in place. One band who set up near the Christ Church park was made to leave as their sound was overpowering the quieter music happening in the Made in the UK Jazz series (without AC, Christ Church has to have windows open to make it bearable in that space). They came back the next night, moving down the street the next few nights in front of Temple Bar and had large crowds enjoying their music. However, on the last night, four non-stop hours of rock drumming (and only rock drumming) by a young drummer who was oblivious to the effect he was having, especially for those of us across the street at my "office" and nearby venues that had hired musicians to play during the festival, was annoying as we couldn't hear each other or anything else over the din.
- How about that weather? I can't remember a year where there was NO rain or at least spot thunderstorms to deal with in rushing between venues. Rochester's weather can be so unpredictable... I remember some jazz festivals (and there are pictures to prove it) where entire evenings were soggy and cold to boot. We were blessed with the best of Rochester's weather for all nine nights.
Next year's festival runs from June 19th through June 27th. While festival Music Director John Nugent and Producer Marc Iacona seem to be dialing it in, hitting last year's 200,000+ festivalgoers. Hope to see you on Jazz Street next year!