A tonic for my soul, if not my body ... JazzRochester's 2022 Rochester International Jazz Festival
July 04, 2022
Now that a week has passed and I've recovered from nine days of too little sleep mixed with too much street food and "beverages," I thought I'd record a few thoughts on the 2022 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival, which ran from June 17-25. Postponed since 2019 due to the pandemic, the RIJF wrapped up 9 days of music in downtown Rochester with 325 shows and a record-setting attendance of 210,000. One reason for the crowds, in addition to a pent up desire to get out with people again, was the 11 free headliner shows on 2 outdoor stages and the record 130 free shows that were available during this year's RIJF. In past years, a number of those headliner shows would have been cloistered in the elegant confines of Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre for those who could afford the tickets, but producers Marc Iacona and John Nugent used funding resulting from the pandemic to move them outside and make them available for all. Thanks for all this are also due to the sponsors who came back or joined in supporting this year's festival, and to the many Club Pass holders who held onto their passes purchased for prior festivals that were canceled or took a chance and purchased one for 2022.
The live music and just being around people sharing a love of that music was a tonic for my soul ... if not my body. To some extent it was just coming back to it after a two year hiatus. Some of the changes in this year's festival, including moving the free shows and overall footprint toward Parcel 5 and some of the tweaks to the scheduling and venues, made the festival "feel" different. A number of people I ran into felt it, too. It felt more spread out without making it impossible to negotiate your "itinerary." Jazz Street was more mellow and easier to traverse or to hang out and hear the music. This year's festival was blessed with good weather and, from what I've heard, there were no real incidents that some had feared. The crowds were happy to be together, seeing people they hadn't seen in years, and were pretty mellow (although for a significant number of folks the mood might have been enhanced by the cannabis that was a pervasive presence....).
My ears had some excellent music to fill them, offered by a diverse array of artists, but there were some other aspects of this year's RIJF that were new (in addition to just feeling "new" as there had been a 2-year hiatus). This year two friends from Chicago joined me for the first three days of the festival. It was fun sharing my city (I've now been here 20 years, so I guess I can start saying "my"....) and music with good friends from my former home. I flew the JazzRochester "flag" all nine days, wearing the JazzRochester T-Shirt (not the same one, of course, I did alternate and wash them or no one would have wanted to sit by me...). This year I also had an opportunity to announce music from the stage on a couple of occasions. While out of my comfort zone it was was fun and I plan on doing more of if they'll have me (but definitely will have to work on my delivery...). I decided not to write posts during the festival and concentrated on sharing the experience on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. On Friday night, my phone had a brain fart that silenced me on JazzRochester's social channels. While initially a bit frustrating, this hiccup also allowed me to see an alternative in how I might experience the festival in the future, not "covering" it in the same way, but just experiencing it and writing about that later. I'll be thinking about that some more in before the 2023 RIJF.
As it has been for the past 18 years, the music at this year's RIJF was a great, diverse mix of sounds. I focused on jazz in the Club Pass venues, catching 30+ concerts. Sticking mostly with my picks, I was able to hear a lot of new music and musicians who I was unfamiliar with, along with some favorites who I've heard before. It's hard to choose favorites, but some of the standouts were the incredible Ranky-Tanky, the burning set by The Cookers, trumpeter Giveton Gelin, the Ravi Coltrane Trio, Finnish band Kaisa's Machine, the amazing Arturo O'Farrill (and family...), the Wayne Escoffrey Quintet, Joe Locke bringing it again, the all-woman sextet Lioness, and the intense Immanuel Wilkins Quartet.
Hope you're all having a great July 4th weekend! Tell us about your 2022 RIJF in the comments (either here or on the accompanying post on Facebook).