Richie Goods & Chien Chien Connected is a contemporary jazz project by Taiwan-born classically-trained vibraphonist, percussionist and composer Chien Chien Lu and jazz-funk bassist Richie Goods, which was born out of time they spent together making music during the pandemic and their frequent conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and hate crimes against Asians, which led them to try recording a project with an aim to unify people. Chien Chien's debut solo project The Path led to numerous awards and to her being named the “vibraphone rising star” in Downbeat Magazine’s 69th Annual Critics Poll in 2021. A native of Pittsburg, after school Richie Goods studied with legendary jazz bassists Ron Carter and Ray Brown and toured with Mulgrew Miller and recorded and has toured with a variety of jazz and pop artists ranging from the Headhunters, Lenny White, Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band, Milt Jackson, Russell Malone, Vincent Herring, to DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera. Richie Goods & Chien Chien Lu Connected will be appearing at the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
Finland-born pianist Alexi Tuomarila and his trio including bassist Mats Eilertsen and drummer Olavi Louhivuori is likely take us in another direction, with its strong melodies, driving improvisations, and the introspection and complexity common to jazz from the Nordic countries. Tuomarila is a rising star in Europe as both a pianist and composer. The Alexi Tuomarila Trio is appearing at Christ Church at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
Vincent Peirani is a virtuoso accordionist who fluidly moves between all sorts of genres and styles of playing. Could be the sounds of a Paris cafe, make you want to tango, or bop around with more of a rock underpinning given his newest project Jokers, such as the single, which covers Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun and integrating a more rock sound. But no polkas . . . I think. Vincent Pieirani is going to be hitting the stage at the Temple Theater at 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm.
26 posts categorized "RIJF Picks"
Yes, it is the end of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. This night offered me a choice to make. Either get out and hear something new from artists whom I've never heard before, or kick jazz to the curb and go hang out with 1000s (perhaps 10s of 1000s?) of my fellow Rochesterians to hear Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue (with opener Pedrito Martinez), and probably get a contact high while I'm grooving to both of these consummate showmen (and great musicians). Given my aforementioned "issue" I'm inclined to do the former.... You do you, but here are who I'm getting out to hear on the last day of the festival, plus some other options for those who want less surprise for their ears:
The penultimate night of the 2023 Rochester International Jazz Festival is going to be artists who are all new to me, although there are some alternatives who are well-known to RIJF listeners. I write this after the first night, where I started this year's RIJF by hearing Okan, a group from Canada that plays a high-energy mix of traditional Cuban and Afro-Cuban jazz, and is led by two women who just owned the stage at Montage. That experience cemented that this year I'm going to opt for the "... it's who you don't know" side of RIJF Producer John Nugent's now famous aphorism. You do you, but here's what I suggest for June 30th:
"Manouche" or "hot club" jazz" is a kind of small-group jazz music that sprung out of Romani guitarist Jean "Django" Reinhardt and his collaboration with French swing violinist Stéphane Grappelli in their group the Quintette du Hot Club de France. Tatiana Eva-Marie is a young singer (from Brooklyn), nicknamed the "Gypsy-jazz Warbler" by the New York Times, is mixing that manouche tradition, incorporating Balkan Gypsy and folk influences, in a ragoût of her French and Balkan heritage. She is currently working on a project, Djangology, reimagining Django's compositions with lyrics and new arrangements. While Kilbourn Hall is not a small, smoky club in Paris, it'll have to do. Tatiana Eva-Marie and her band will grace that stage at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
As you know, I like to challenge my ears and the music of vibist/marimba artist Diana Herold and her group Helium that I've heard, although accessible, promises to pulls our ears in different directions from straight up swing to more angular, out sounds. Helium is a larger ensemble (nonet?), the sound of which will fill up the space at Christ Church at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm (that is, if you didn't see them at the Rochester Regional Health Big Tent the night before).
Big bands have grown on me over the years. When you hear a really good big band playing music that was built for such large ensembles, and really listen, there is so much going on. Although new to me and rather new to the world as it was founded in 2022, the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra is one of those big bands. According to their website, the LAJO's members are top-shelf musicians from the diverse LA jazz community, some of whom have played with the Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Woody Herman, and Clark Terry big bands, as well on high profile recordings, film scores, and commercials. I will be hitting the later set, in which the LAJO will be joined by special guest trombonist and band leader Conrad Herwig (of whom I've heard of...). The Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra will be appearing in the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm. They will also appear the next day at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm at the Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, the second set with special guest Russell Thompkins, Jr.
As the Rochester International Jazz Festival nears its frenetic last couple of days, with the accompanying crowds for the free shows on Parcel 5 and elsewhere, in the Club Pass venues there will be some great choices to wrap your ears around on Thursday. Again, you do you, but here are a few options for you to check out:
In 2023, twice Grammy-nominated vocalist and arranger Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke collaborated to bring to our ears Lean In, an album that documents their twenty years of connection and partnership as musicians and friends (Loueke calls them "musical soulmates"). Parlato's voice is beautiful, both precise but fluid. Her arrangements are inventive. Born in the West African nation of Benin but long time denizen of NYC, guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke uses his mouth to add a layer of percussion to his beautiful guitar work through clicks inspired by the South African Xhosa and other "click" languages and scat-singing. Lean In draws its songs from a wide range, including bossa nova/samba, songs from Loueke's native Benin, an 80s power ballad by Klymaxx, and a cover the rock band Foo Fighters. Parlato and Loueke are appearing at Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
Nick Finzer was one of those students attending Eastman School of Music years back who I knew was going to "make it" when I saw him play, heard his compositions, and saw the drive he had. And succeed he has.... After getting an advanced degree from Juilliard, he has really made a mark on the jazz scene. Finzer has been nominated for a Grammy nomination as part of Anat Cohen's Tentet, named a "Rising Star Trombonist '' in the Downbeat Magazine 2020 Critics Poll, and received an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. Finzer has released seven critically-acclaimed albums as a leader, the most recent being Dreams Visions Illusions, which recently hit the top 10 in the JazzWeek radio charts (not his first to reach that high in the charts). Oh, and he founded a successful artist-focused record label and media company Outside In, which focuses on rising young stars in jazz. The Nick Finzer Sextet will be appearing at Max at Eastman Place at 6:15 pm and 10:00 pm.
The music on the most recent album of drummer Mark Guiliana, the sound of listening is built around an eclectic mix of jazz tradition and innovation. Mixed here and there are elements of electronic music rooted in jazz improvisation that characterizes his project BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! Mark Guiliana's collaborators are from a spectrum across jazz and other genres, including Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen, Meshell Ndegeocello, Donny McCaslin, Matisyahu, and on David Bowie's final album. Guiliana will be a busy man if he's also doing percussion with his wife Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke when they play at Kilbourn (see above). [nope!] The Mark Guiliana Quartet appears at the Christ Church at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
If your preference is aimed more straight ahead, then David Hazeltine Quartet might be a better fit. Pianist, composer, accompanist and educator David Hazeltine has over 35 albums as leader and has collaborated on piano with James Moody, Eddie Harris, Jon Faddis, Joe Henderson, Pepper Adams, Jon Hendricks and many more on hundreds of other discs. David Hazeltine Quartet will be appearing at the Montage Music Hall at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm. Another option is Ms. Lisa Fischer, who was a sleeper hit with the RIJF crowd last year, or at least that's what I heard on Jazz Street in 2022, so if the above aren't your cup of tea, go see her. Ms. Lisa Fischer is appearing with the great pianist Taylor Eigsti at the Temple Theater at 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm.
Wednesday at the Rochester International Jazz Festival will, like most nights be an eclectic mix for me. Just the way I like it. It was hard to pick the three I can possibly make, but they will be among the following five artists/groups. You do you, but you may want to take your ears to wrap them around one or more of these:
At the RIJF over the years, I've watched Christian Sands rise from a young sideman to the likes of Christian McBride and others, to a (still young) leader and composer. One of the songs on Sands' recent CD Be Water, an introspective piece that included strings, was nominated for Best Instrumental Composition at the 2021 Grammy Awards. The title actually refers to (and the CD includes) a quote from Bruce Lee: "Empty your mind. Be formless. Shapeless. Like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” Sands is a brilliant pianist and his compositions range from the quiet stillness implied by the title of his album to more driving tempos so, like water, Sands' music can flow or crash. He is likely to bring some killer players to accompany him to the Kilbourn stage, where the Christian Sands Trio will be appearing at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
Trumpeter Ralph Alessi's This Against That is being brought to this year's RIJF, which features some of NYC's most exploratory musicians including veteran bassist Drew Gress, pianist and M-BASE member Andy Milne, and drummer Mark Ferber. The music of This Against That is full of influences from jazz to contemporary classical, and highlights the interplay between the instruments. Alessi's trumpet will resonate around the sanctuary, as brass instruments tend to, adding dimensions to the interplay of instruments that should beautifully fill that space. Ralph Alesia’s This Against That will be filling the sanctuary at Christ Church at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
The Bossa Nova Wave with Diego Figueiredo & Ken Peplowski will explore the famous album Jazz Samba, the album by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd released by Verve Records in 1962 that launched the Bossa Nova craze in North America including crossover hits like One Note Samba and Desafinado. Both of these musicians are at the top of their game and It will be a treat in the intimate space of the Montage Music Hall, where guitarist FIguieiredo and reedman Peplowski are playing at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm. They will also be playing the next evening in the even more intimate Hatch Recital Hall at 5:45 pm and 7:45 pm.
If you're jonesin for a bit of the Hammond B3, you can't go wrong with the Akiko Tsuruga Organ Group, who will be appearing at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Grand Ballroom at 7:45 pm and 9:45 pm, or Catherine Russell, a vocalist who mines the history of jazz and blues to explore anew and has appeared before adoring RIJF audiences 7 times in the past and will be playing at the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
There are a lot of good choices on Tuesday of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. From one of the elders of jazz to some Finns obsessed with fly fishing, the picks for the 5th night are an eclectic bunch (although admittedly lousy with saxophonists...). You do you, but here is what I think will your ears should check out:
Houston Person & Eric Person "Person2Person" first came together in 2009 right here in Rochester at the Exodus to Jazz series that you might remember. I saw that concert and it was a burner. Houston and Eric Person are not related, they came together by happenstance and have collaborated occasionally in this "Person to Person" way ever since. Tenor saxophonist Houston is best known for his collaboration with Etta Jones on a series of albums for Prestige in the 1960s. He has recorded more than 75 albums as a leader, on the Prestige, Westbound, Mercury, Savoy, and Muse, and HighNote labels. He has worked with Charles Brown, Ron Carter, Bill Charlap, Charles Earland, Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, Grant Green, Johnny "Hammond" Smith, and others. At 88, Houston is the only one of the "old guard" of jazz appearing at this year's jazz fest. Several decades younger, alto and soprano saxophonist Eric Persons has been on the scene since the early 80s, performing with McCoy Tyner, Dave Holland, Chico Hamilton, John Hicks, Wallace Roney, Vernon Reid, and many others. Eric has 11 releases as leader. Houston Person & Eric Person are appearing in Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 and 9:00 pm.
I may find time to hear the Tia Fuller Quintet (although if not, I can catch her on the 28th). Saxophonist Tia Fuller has played with a host of people from Beyonce to Rufus Reid Quintet, Wycliff Gordan Septet, T.S. Monk Sextet, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, the Nancy Wilson Jazz Orchestra, the Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Chaka Khan, Ledisi, Kelly Rowland, Jay-Z, Jill Scott, Patti LaBelle, Sheila E, Valerie Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Janelle Monáe, Patrice Rushen, Erykah Badu, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, and Geri Allen. Her most recent album, Diamond Cut, received a Grammy nomination in the Best Instrumental Jazz category and was produced by three-time Grammy Award winner drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia Fuller Quintet plays at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Grand Ball Room at 7:45 pm and 9:45 pm, and on June 28th at Max at Eastman Place at 6:15 pm and 10:00 pm.
Firmly rooted in the tradition, the Cory Weeds Quartet is fronted by saxophonist Weeds, a Canadian who in addition to being a top shelf jazz player he owned one of the best jazz clubs in the Americas, Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, and currently runs the Cellar Jazz Group music label. Weeds has recorded over 19 albums as a leader and collaborated with a number of jazz icons like Joey DeFrancesco and Christian McBride. The Cory Weeds Quartet will be appearing in Max at Eastman Place at 6:15 pm and 10:00 pm.
It's all in the name of the project for Finn Joona Toivanen's Jazz & Fly Fishing. Who woulda thunk it to put together a jazz group for which one criteria is that you love fly fishing? It's a quirky post-bop jazz quartet, a film project, and four guys who like to stand in rivers whipping a pole around. Starting early June, the group will tour the Eastern/Northeastern U.S. for a week, and then travel west to Colorado/Wyoming/Idaho/ Montana, staying there for ten days and I expect doing some spectacular fly fishing. They are stopping by RIJF on their way back to Scandinavia. Perhaps they will serve fish with their jazz (if they have time to smoke it)? Jazz & Fly Fishing will appear at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm at Christ Church.
The fourth night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival seems to have become the "night of the guitar" as my picks are predominantly lead by pickers (or guitar is featured) . . . oh, and vocalists. However, despite the uniformity of instrumentation, there is a lot of variation in these choices. You do you, but if you're interested, here is what I think will be a good bet to wrap your ears around:
First stop, as often is the case, will be Kilbourn for the Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet. Rosenwinkel is a genre-bending player and composer who has jazz chops formed early in his career by being Joe Henderson's guitarist, through working with Gary Burton, Paul Motian, Brian Blade, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman, Seamus Blake, and even Steely Dan's Donald Fagen. After a number of years with Verve, in 2016 Rosenwinkel has set up his own label, Heartcore, that focuses on developing young musicians and also allows him a lot of room to explore his own music. Recent projects include a Undercover, recorded live at the Village Vanguard and a reimagining of Chopin's piano music, The Chopin Project. Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet will be playing Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
The Olli Hirvonen Group will be a stop as well. This Finnish guitarist has been plying his trade in NYC since 2011. Listening to recent recordings, Hirvonen can move from achingly beautiful and sparse compositions to shredding those strings. The sounds of his guitar should resonate in the soaring sanctuary of Christ Church, where the Olli Hirvonen Group will be playing at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
Victoria Victoria is the alter ego of North Carolina-based singer/songwriter Tori Elliot, with whom guitarist Charlie Hunter collaborated to produce the album To the Wayside.... Jazz? Not really... but the vocals and harmonies, Hunter's reserved playing, and the songwriting are often beautiful. Victoria Victoria with Charlie Hunter will be playing at Montage Music Hall at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
While Dawn Thomson & Gary Versace are local to Rochester, they are known world-wide. Pianist, organist, and accordionist Gary Versace has worked with John Scofield, Maria Schneider, John Abercrombie, Anat Cohen, Al Foster, Regina Carter, Rich Perry, John Hollenbeck, Ralph Alessi, Kurt Elling, Madeleine Peyroux, Matt Wilson, Ingrid Jensen, among others. He also has been a prof in Eastman School of Music's Jazz Studies program since 2017. Guitarist and vocalist Dawn Thomson has worked with Gary, as well as Matt Wilson, Renee Rosnes, Ron Miles and many others and has released 6 CDs as a leader. She recorded and toured with Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt project, contributing vocals and guitar on its music inspired by the American poet Carl Sandburg. Their 2017 release won album of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Oh, and festival producer John Nugent is her spouse.... Dawn Thomson and Gary Versace will be playing the Eastman School of Music's Hatch Recital Hall at 5:45 pm and 7:45 pm.
A Rochester native, singer Nancy Kelly is well-known here, but she is also known throughout the U.S. and world-wide. She sings with the authority of someone who has been at it for many decades, swinging hard and cool, and as her bio notes with a "take no prisoners" attitude. Her phrasing and nuance stand out. Known as a "singer's singer," Nancy Kelly has twice been named “Best Female Jazz Vocalist” in the Down Beat Readers’ Poll, and has recorded six critically-acclaimed CDs, including B That Way, which enjoyed 8 solid weeks in the top 50 on the JazzWeek jazz radio charts, and Remembering Mark Murphy, named one of the top 20 Jazz recordings of 2019. Her most recent recording is Jazz Woman: The Reel to Real Sessions, which is a collection of songs she wrote early in her career when she was singing in a number of genres as she found her way to jazz. Nancy Kelly is playing the Wilder Room at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm
Given the local artists I'm including in this post, I also want to call your attention to my earlier post that collects all of the talented musicians from the Rochester area playing at this year's RIJF.
I'll looks like I may have some time on the third night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival to wander around, but have two Club Pass shows I definitely want to hit. You do you, but if you're interested, here are those two and a few others that I probably won't be able to get to, but are also a good bet:
I'll start out with Blue Note recording artist Nduduzo Makhathini. I've listened to a couple of this pianist's albums (his debut on Blue Note Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds was named one of the “Best Jazz Albums of 2020” by The New York Times), along with his second Blue Note album In the Spirit of Ntu, provide a complex palette fusing the church music of his early years, the music of South Africa (Makhathini is from Kwazulu Province) with influences of Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and other jazz pianists like Abdullah Ibrahim, Andrew Hill, Randy Weston, and Don Pullen. Nduduzo Makhathini is appearing in Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
I will also try to be "Celebrating Toots Thielemans" with Kenny Werner & Gregoire Maret on the third night. Pianist Kenny Werner accompanied Toots as a sideman and Gregoire Maret, his heir apparent on the harmonica. Having seen both of these killer musicians separately, their combination should be a treat. Toots will be celebrated at the Temple Theater at 7:00 pm and 9:15 pm
Coinciding with the release of their new CD featuring the music of Marian McPartland, local pianist Laura Dubin and her trio will be playing a Club Pass venue this year. You may have heard her and her husband (and musical partner) Antonio Guererro during the pandemic on their nightly concerts from their Virtual Jazz Club in their house. The Laura Dubin Trio is playing at the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm
I might try to catch some of Mozambican guitarist Albino Mbie, who also appears on the Montage Music Hall stage on June 24th (but couldn't fit that one in). Albino Mbie will be at the Rochester Regional Health Big Tent at 8:30 pm. Another option is another chance to catch Camille Thurman with Darrell Green Quartet (if I miss on the 24th, who will be at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Grand Ballroom at 7:45 and 9:45, especially if I decide to hit the Squeezers jam session that night in the Hyatt.
If I can make it all the way through, the second night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival will follow a familiar pattern for me--start at Kilbourn Hall, head over to the Global Jazz Now, and then to Max of Eastman Place to close out the night. Here's who I'm planning on listening to on the second night of the festival:
I missed both shows when Samara Joy was at the RIJF last year. Joy was just breaking out and has since won a Grammy this year for Best New Artist and also Best Jazz Vocal Album for her disc Linger Awhile, which is wildly successful (for a jazz album). Her voice is deep and rich, evoking the great jazz vocalists of yesteryear like Sarah Vaughn, but she is no imitator, going beyond standards to dig into the old disks and unearth new standards for her. Don't usually love vocal jazz, but there are some artists who break through my initial reticence and, listening to Linger Awhile proves that Samara Joy is one of those artists. Samara Joy has moved to Kilbourn Hall this year, with concerts at 6:00 and 9:00 pm.
What is the RIJF without hearing some jazz by Norwegians? The Oddbeir Berg Trio will be my next stop. The trio's recently released While We Wait for the Brand New Day is a departure from the more ECM, dark Scandinavian sounds of previous recordings. They should sound great in the space of Christ Church, where they will be playing at 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
Hopefully, I'll close down the night with saxophonist and vocalist Camille Thurman with the Darrell Green Quartet. I might as well go for broke with the vocalist, but that likely will be leavened with her definite sax chops. Camille and the band will be hitting the stage at Max at Eastman Place at 6:15 and 10:00 pm
You never know what you're going to get with guitarist Bill Frisell, who has graced RIJF stages 9 separate times. It's always different and that is a good thing. You'll always come away amazed at the sounds he weaves out of his guitar. The Bill Frisell Trio is over at the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 and 8:30 pm.
As I only have a couple of weeks to bang these posts about what I want to hear during the Rochester International Jazz Festival, I should get started.... My RIJF is going to be different as I am wrestling with a health issue that will likely undermine my usual approach to the RIJF (hard charging all 9 days ... little sleep, too much drink and street food). I'll have to take it easy. That will also affect how I do these posts—instead of trying to come up with picks that one could actually hear in the evening, I'm going to just pick those I would choose if I could be at all of them, as it is likely I will not be. That's a good thing for you as my choices won't be constrained by timing. Additionally, there are fewer "bucket list" artists in this year's RIJF, which gives me the freedom to be more adventurous in my choices as well. You do you, but if you're interested, here are some of the artists/groups that I would like to hear on the first night of the 2023 RIJF:
Pat Metheny Side-Eye is on my list, but we'll see if we hear him. Metheny was one of the first jazz I heard live when he and Lyle Mays came to play at The University of Chicago while I was in college. Having missed Metheny's Side-Eye project in 2021 at the Kodak Center on Ridge and 2019 in the Smith Opera House in GenevaI've asked to cover the concert in the Big House (a/k/a Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre). Metheny always delivers something different and sometimes the music is sublime (one of my favorite concerts was here in Rochester years ago when he was doing his Orchestrion project. There are still tickets, but they are mostly in the nosebleeds. Pat Metheny and Side-Eye are appearing in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre at 8:00 pm.
I would like to get a listen Chris Minh Doky's All Stars with Randy Brecker, Dennis Chambers, George Whitty and Dean Brown (assuming he's playing with these players, who he'll be with in NYC shortly after RIJF). I'm intrigued with the many possible influences on this Danish bassist, who has found success in the jazz, rock, Nordic and classical worlds. There's not much current sounds of the Allstars out in the interwebs to sample, so I'm flying somewhat blind, but that's how I like it. The Chris Minh Doky All Stars are playing in the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 and 9:30 pm
Okan is a woman-led group from Canada and takes its name from the word for heart in Santeria, the Afro-Caribbean religion based on Yoruba beliefs and traditions combined with some Catholic elements. Their music is a fusion of Afro-Cuban roots with jazz, Cuban folk music, and global rhythms. The leaders are Elizabeth Rodriguez, a classically trained violinist from Havana, Cuba, and Magdelys Savigne, who is from Santiago de Cuba, both of whom are Grammy-nominees for their contributions to Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.
If you're looking for something in a somewhat more straight-ahead vein, you can't go wrong with either Deanna Witkowski, who will be playing the music of Mary Lou Williams (after recently writing a well-received book about this amazing woman in jazz whose career spanned the 20s to the 70s), the Helen Sung Quartet+, or the Tom Guarna Trio. I've never heard Deanna Witkowski play live and I love the music of Mary Lou Williams. I've heard Helen play several times in Rochester (she appeared at the Exodus to Jazz series several times and has appeared at the RIJF before as well. She always brings a killer band with her when she comes to town. I'm not familiar with Tom Guarna, but he has worked with a wide range from Blood, Sweat and Tears to Wallace Roney, Les McCann, and Manuel Valera’s New Cuban Express. He's bringing a trio with Dezron Douglas on bass and Jason Tiemann on drums. Deanna Witkowski is playing solo at ESM's Hatch Recital Hall at 5:45 and 7:45 pm. Helen Sung Quartet+ is playing at the Wilder Room at 6:00 and 10:00 pm. Tom Guarna Trio is playing the Global Jazz Now series in the Christ Church at 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
I should also remind you that there is the Squeezer's Jam Session every night of the RIJF at the Hyatt Regency Rochester. The music begins at 10:30 each night with guitarist Bob Sneider and trumpeter Mike Cottone trading off running the jam which includes local students and those musicians from the night's fare who sit in. Mike starts the first night as M.C. This year the jam will be held in the new Astor on Main space in the Hyatt, which is showing jazz several nights a week during the rest of the year and I think will offer some great options to share in the magic that sometimes happens at these jams.
After a two year hiatus from the Rochester International Jazz Festival, getting such a large dose of live jazz and other music is a real tonic for my soul and I'll probably try to soak as much up as possible on this last night. I know ... it'll be back and even good things must come to an end. On the last night of the RIJF here are my jazz picks for your consideration:
- Starting out the night with Kurt Elling "Super Blue" with Charlie Hunter. Back in Chicago years ago, I saw Kurt Elling perform at Andy's shortly after signing to Blue Note with a pick up band of local Chicago jazz guys. I've followed his career as one of the preeminent jazz vocalists since and have seen him perform a number of times. Like Joe Locke and some other artists, Kurt always brings something new and this outing fits no mold. Teaming up with the extraordinary guitarist Charlie Hunter to record a socially-distanced album SuperBlue, Grammy-winning Elling goes in a much different direction with Hunter (who co-produced), working with keyboardist DJ Harrison and drummer Corey Fonville from the funk/jazz/hip-hop group Butcher Brown. I've heard the album and am looking forward to hearing them live. Kurt Elling "Super Blue" with Charlie Hunter will be at Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 and 9:00 pm.
- Next up will be the Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio. Gunnlaugs hails from Iceland and, while rooted in the sparse and beautiful nature of that land, she and her husband (and drummer) Scott McLemore honed their craft for many years in the NYC jazz scene. She appeared at RIJF in 2012 and 2014. The Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio plays at the Glory House International at 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
- Next stop after wandering around a bit while storing up some of that live jazz fest vibe for the long winter months, will be Immanuel Wilkins. As profiled by Ammar Kalia in Downbeat Magazine, "saxophonist and composer Wilkins has established himself as a uniquely thoughtful and empathetic voice in jazz ... [and] weaves lyrical alto lines around the intricate instrumentation of his long-established quartet to produce music that traverses everything from skewed Thelonious Monk melodies to the raw power of Ornette Coleman’s breath." Wilkins will be appearing at the Temple Theater at 7:00 and 9:15 pm.
Other good jazz choices that I couldn't easily fit into my night included Drum Battle: Kenny Washington vs. Joe Farnsworth in the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 and 8:30 pm, the McDonald La Barbera Quintet "Trane of Thought" in The Wilder Room at 6:00 and 10:00 pm, and 3D Jazz Trio in the Spirit of Ray Brown appearing at Max's at Eastman Place at 6:15 and 10:00 pm.
I finally found some time to finish up sharing my picks for the final two days of CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival. During the festival itself, I focus on getting out to hear the music and being with my friends, rather than writing posts for this blog. The festival is one of my happy spaces and I try to maintain some balance so it doesn't turn into a job, so focus my sharing about the RIJF through JazzRochester's social channels, including Twitter, the JazzRochester Facebook page, and Instagram (click on the Follow Us... links icons for each at the top of the right panel). Here are my jazz picks for June 24th at the festival:
- I think I'm going to start out the night unusually (i.e., not in Kilbourn Hall) by hearing the Parker Trio, which is the first trio outing for Gene Perla, Adam Nussbaum, and Jon Ballantyne, who got together as the pandemic eased in 2021 to record. The conversation between these musicians in that intimate space should be special. The Parker Trio will be playing at The Wilder Room at 6:00 and 10:00 pm.
- I'll probably head over to the Temple Theater to hear the Joe Locke Group. Born and raised in Rochester, Locke always brings something different in the many times I've heard him at the festival, so while familiar it also feels new, all with a reliably killer band backing him up. Joe Locke Group will be at the Temple Theater at 7:00 and 9:15 pm.
- The next stop on the 24th will likely be the Jonathan Kreisberg Trio featuring Eric Harland and Rick Rosato. You may remember Kreisberg appearing here before with Hammond B3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, who passed away last year. The Jonathan Kreisberg Trio will be appearing at Glory House International at 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
There are some other choices tugging at me as well on this night, including the Mike Ledonne Trio (6:15 and 10:00 pm at Max's at Eastman Place), Sunna Gunnlaugs appearing on solo piano at Hatch Recital Hall at 5:45 and 7:45 pm, and my Chicago roots are pulling me toward blues master Bobby Rush, who will be appearing at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Ballroom at 7:45 and 9:45 pm. Who knows where I'll end up?
I'm sharing my picks for another two days of the Rochester International Jazz Fest for what it's worth. For someone who promotes Rochester live jazz, you'll notice that my picks usually don't include anyone from Rochester. It's not because local artists not worthy of attention (I will devote a whole post to the local artists who are appearing at RIJF this year before the week is out). We have world class jazz artists (and some who are likely to become so...) in the Rochester area, so I don't include them in my picks because we all have access to many of these artists the other 356 days of the year. You just have to come to JazzRochester to find out! So here are my picks for Tuesday and Wednesday of the RIJF, June 22-23....
Wednesday, June 22nd
- Like most nights, I'll start at Kilbourn with the Arturo O'Farrill Quintet. O'Farrill is a pianist, composer, and educator, who was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City. He began his career in jazz with the Carla Bley Band and has performed with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte. He is the founder of the Latin Jazz Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the performance, education, and preservation of Afro Latin music. O'Farrill is playing at Kilbourn Hall, 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm
- Another day, another Finn. I'll next turn out to hear the Joonas Haavisto Trio. Haavisto has been playing with this trio of renowned Finnish jazz artists for 15 years and I believe it is their first time at RIJF. Reading the descriptions of Haavisto music we're in for the usual atmospheric and mesmerizing sounds we've come to expect from jazz artists from the northern European climes. The Joonas Haavisto Trio will be appearing at Glory House International at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
- I think it's high time I hear a vocalist and the first of those at this year's festival will be Samara Joy. She has been appearing recently in Buffalo, backed by the Pasquale Grazzo Trio (and will likely appear with them here at the RIJF). Samara Joy is a winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan Jazz Vocalist competition. Although just 21, Joy has already performed in many of the great jazz venues in NYC, including Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, The Blue Note, and Mezzrow, and worked with Christian McBride, Kirk Lightsey, Cyrus Chestnut, and Barry Harris. Joy will be appearing at Max at Eastman Place at 6:15 pm and 10:00 pm.
Thursday, June 23rd
- Surprisingly enough, my first stop on the 23rd will be to hear the Wayne Escoffrey Quartet in Kilbourn. I have enjoyed his playing the several times I've heard him with the Tom Harrell Quintet, but don't think I've heard him yet as a leader. In addition to Harrell, Wayne Escoffrey has played with the Ron Carter, Ben Riley, Abdulah Ibrahim, Eric Reed, Carl Allen, Al Foster, Billy Hart, Eddie Henderson, Rufus Reid, Wallace Roney and Herbie Hancock among others. Escoffrey and his quintet play Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
- And again over to the Global Jazz Now series to hear the Jochen Rueckert Quartet. He has played and recorded with the Marc Copland, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Marc Turner, John Abercrombie, Sam Yahel, Pat Metheny, and others. There was one line from drummer Rueckert's bio that sold it: "Jochen's deliberate avoidance of formal music education, albeit initially for budgetary reasons, provides a great lack of erudite nonsense in his writing." No shade on the Eastman School of Music. I love watching the budding careers of former ESM students who I saw play in their "infancy" (see the next bullet...). The Jochen Rueckert Quartet will appear at Glory House International at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
- I'll make my way over to the Innovation Theater to hear Lioness, which is new collective of female jazz instrumentalists with a mission to inspire and educate the community at large by sharing music created by women in jazz, both past and present. There are (and should be) more women in jazz today. Included in the group is reed player Alexa Tarantino, who graduated from Eastman School of Music a few years back. It's been great to watch her career, playing and composing develop after leaving Eastman and moving into the NYC jazz scene. Lioness appears at the Innovation Theater at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
- I'll try closing out with the Itamar Borochov Quartet. This is an international jazz festival and Borochov is creating a new musical hybrid by bringing the sacred sounds of Sephardic Judaism of his upbringing to a jazz quartet setting. Saby Reyes-Kulkarni writes that Borochov's latest recording, Blue Nights draws from an array of elements including bebop, rock, pop, Arabic maqam scales, the Gnawa patterns of North Africa’s Hausa people, and sounds that Borochov encountered in a local Yemenite-Jewish synagogue in his native Jaffa, Israel. What is surprising is the way the band manages to introduce changes without disturbing the silken flow of the music." Now that's international... The Itamar Borochov Quartet will be appearing at the Wilder Room at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
I always start these picks posts too late. With the Rochester International Jazz Festival starting this coming Friday, I'm again running out of time, so I will need to kick this up a gear and give you my picks for Sunday and Monday. I had to leave town for a wedding, which put a crimp in my schedule. But, a couple more like tis and I'll have this done before the RIJF starts
So for Sunday and Monday, although some of my picks over these two days are well-known to me, most will be new to my ears. Looking forward to that...
Monday, June 20th
- I missed the memo, but my initial pick Sammy Miller & The Congregation was replaced in the schedule by the Melissa Aldana Quartet. While I was looking forward to something new, the replacement will give me a chance to hear how Chilean saxophonist Aldana has developed as she moves into the "big house" of the Club Pass venues and arrives at Blue Note Records with her latest album 12 Stars. The Melissa Aldana Quartet will be appearing at Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 and 9:00 pm.
- I always try to catch the Finns when they come to the RIJF. Finnish bassist Kaisa Mäensivu's Kaisa's Machine is described in the NYC Jazz Record as "Energetic bebop that could have just easily wafted out of a hole-in-the-wall NYC bar." They are coming to RIJF directly from playing Smalls in NYC, which is, of course a hole-in-the-wall NYC bar (and a great place to hear jazz in NYC). Kaisa's Machine will be playing Glory House International at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
- Although I've heard many of the jazz artists with whom guitarist Dan Wilson has played as a sideman or collaborated, including Joey DeFrancesco, Christian McBride, Monty Alexander, Jimmy Cobb, Russell Malone, Les McCann, Lewis Nash, John Clayton, Terri Lynne Carrington, Rene Marie, Sean Jones, and Nicholas Payton. Starting in the church in his native Akron, OH, Wilson's musical identity has been shaped by everything from gospel, blues and traditional jazz through to hip-hop. Dan Wilson will be playing in Max's at Eastman Place at 6:15 pm and 10:00 pm.
Tuesday, June 21st
- I will be starting out Monday with trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and his quintet. I've seen Pelt perform a number of times here in Rochester, including sitting in with some ESM students after a post-gig cigar at my "office" Havana Moe's years ago. As Ron Wynn in JazzTimes wrote about an earlier album, "Pelt is a technical marvel. He executes intricate solos with ease, plays gorgeous ballads in a tasteful manner, and never lacks flair or sensitivity." He always brings it... The Jeremy Pelt Quintet will be in Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
- Swedish trumpeter Oskar Stenmark will be the next stop on my Monday. With a musical legacy dating back to the mid-1700s in his native Sweden, Stenmark's music tries to fuse the traditional Swedish music with contemporary jazz. The Oskar Stenmark Trio will be playing at Glory House International at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
- You may be saying, what's with all the horns on Monday? Believe it or not, I am planning on ending my evening with horn man Nabate Isles. This trumpeter is new to me. Not sure why given who he's played with and the acclaim he's received. Reading a New York Times review of an outing by Isles in NYC in 2018 after release of his album Eclectic Excursions sealed it for me as one of the pieces his quintet did was described as a "a trippy, motivic original composed around a set of 12-tone harmonies from Alban Berg’s experimental opera, 'Wozzeck'." Not that he will be playing that at his set at the RIJF, but that he composed it at all compelled a listen for me. Isles will be playing at Max's at Eastman Place at 6:15 pm and 10:00 pm
- While I usually only hit three shows a night, I may also try to hoof over to hear Peter Bernstein after Oskar. I've heard Bernstein play several times, with a special treat being the organ trio he was in with Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart, but not as a leader. Plus, I just must leaven the trumpets with some guitar. Bernstein will be playing at the Innovation Theater at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
At the Rochester International Jazz Festival you are often confronted with many options, pulling you in different directions musically, but you do have to choose. Some of these choices are imposed on you by timing, some by lines, some by the kismet of hearing raves about an artist you didn't even have on your radar. The third evening of the RIJF is one of those nights. My picks on this night are mostly focused on seeing some artists who I haven't heard, plus one I've heard multiple times. For the third night, coincidentally, they are all trios....
- As I do many nights at the RIJF, first stop will be the Kenny Werner Trio at Kilbourn Hall. I love hearing trios in Kilbourn Hall with its acoustics allowing you to hear all the intricacies woven by trio artists as they play off each other. Kenny Werner, whose career spans over 40 years as a player, leader, and educator, and his trio are known for that. The Kenny Werner Trio will be playing at Kilbourn at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm.
- I hope to also hear the Ravi Coltrane Freedom Trio. Ravi Coltrane is the son of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane. He has both followed his father's (and mother's) giant footsteps and forged new paths for himself, probably incorporating more of his mother's approach to music, but his father's instrument (he was only 2 years old when is father died). If I can make the timing work and get to Innovation Theater for this concert, it'll give me a chance to see how smaller acoustic groups sound after it's recent renovations.
- I may also hear the Bill Frisell Trio. Frisell has played the RIJF something like 8 times. I've heard most, if not all of Frisell's appearances at the festival. One reason I keep going back is that Bill Frisell brings something different every time. Frisell is appearing at the Temple Theater
- However, because I've heard Bill Frisell so many times, I may instead work in hearing the Dutch trio Under The Surface for something completely different as the trio, which spans 3 generations, are said to have a improvisation language that combines jazz, folk, ethnic and electronic music. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I enjoy challenging my ears and often found those challenges at the Nordic Jazz Now series. Unfortunately, one of the effects of the pandemic apparently was to thin out the artists from that series, often whom were appearing in the U.S. for the first time at the RIJF. Under The Surface will be appearing at the newly-christened Global Jazz Now Series at the Glory House International church (formerly the Lutheran Church of the Reformation) at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm.
Given that three seems to be the theme here, I expect I'll have to make some choices. So what else is new at the RIJF.
The second day of the Rochester International Jazz Festival presents new sounds and some sounds that will be more like comfortable shoes. While I've selected three that I can see during the night, as always I will be open to have my ears lead me elsewhere. Here's my thoughts on what I'm going to try to hear on the second day of the RIJF:
- My first stop is likely to be Ranky Tanky. You might think that Ranky Tanky is what I'm talking about above, but think again. While this Charleston, SC quintet mines the rich musical heritage of the Gullah culture, the members of the band deep jazz roots as well. Their first album climbed to #1 on several jazz charts. The term “Gullah” originates from West Africa and means “a people blessed by God.” Apparently, “Ranky Tanky” translates loosely as “Work It,” or “Get Funky!” This is precisely the reason I keep coming back as I get the chance to hear music that broadens my perspective (and I like funky...). Ranky Tanky will be hitting the stage at Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm. They will also be performing at the new venue at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Ballroom on Sunday, June 19th at 7:45 pm and 9:45 pm.
- I believe I'll head over to hear the Champian Fulton Trio. I heard only part of her last set at the 2015 RIJF, and I believe she was playing solo. Fulton mines the standards and has performed with jazz royalty such as Lou Donaldson, Frank Wess, Scott Hamilton, Buster Williams, and Louis Hayes. Champian Fulton Trio will be playing at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm at the Innovation Theater. She will be playing solo piano on June 19th at Hatch Hall at 5:45 pm and 7:45 pm.
- I plan on closing the night out with the Tiberi & Garzone Quartet. I'm not sure whether this will be the comfortable shoes or new sounds. Veteran jazz saxophonist George Garzone is the creator of the triadic chromatic approach, and many saxophonists I enjoy have studied with him (including Joshua Redman, Seamus Blake, Danilo Perez and drummer Antonio Sanchez). Garzone is joined by Frank Tiberi, who is a reed all-star who has played with the masters since 1969 when he started in Woody Herman band, ultimately leading the group since 1987. The Tiberi & Garzone Quartet will be appearing at the Montage Music Hall at 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm.
The shows in my "back pocket" might be Gary Versace Trio (where/when) and some fun with Dwayne Dopsie & Zydeco Hellraisers (where/when). While I'm unlikely to go out for the Devon Allman Project, I might sneak over for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band who open for it...
Yes, me and my alter ego JazzRochester, along with some good friends from out of town, will be hitting the 2022 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival, coming June 17th through the 25th. All 9 days, baby! I'm going to try to put out some relatively short posts on my choices for this year's RIJF. While there are few "bucket list" concerts this year, that's not a bad thing in my book. I've seen plenty of bucket list jazz artists and groups over the years of attending the festival (and elsewhere). I keep going back to Music Producer John Nugent's oft repeated adage . . . "It's not who you know, it's who you don't know." It's that possibility of discovery that often makes this festival for me. While I do have some favorites, you will see me trying to stretch it a bit across the nine days. So, my initial thoughts on the first night of the 2022 RIJF are:
The Cookers are Billy Harper, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, and Billy Hart, a septet of veteran jazz players, all leaders of their own bands, who jazz critic Nate Chinen calls a "dream team of forward-leaning hard-bop". They are touring again after recording their sixth album as a group, Look Out! (Gearbox). Here's Ted Panken's profile in Downbeat to get some more about this super-group. The Cookers are likely going to live up to their moniker and blow the roof off Kilbourn Hall at 6:00 pm and 10:00. pm.
Depending on my companions' thoughts on the matter, I may catch the virtuosity of the California Guitar Trio, who I saw in the 2009 edition of the RIJF, and who will be playing at the Innovation Theater at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm. However, at the moment I'm leaning toward finally catching the country swing of the Hot Club of Cowtown, I group I've managed to miss the 3 times they've been at the fest, most recently in 2017. They sound like a lot of fun. This year is their 25th anniversary as a band. Hot Club of Cowtown be at the RIJF Big Tent at 8:30 pm or 10:00 pm. They'll also be at the new venue at the Hyatt Regency Rochester Ballroom on the 18th at 7:45 pm and 9:45 pm.
As sh*t sometimes happens, I always try to have a few alternatives in my back pocket for the night, which on the first night might be the Lew Tabackin Trio, who will be appearing in the Wilder Room at 6:00 and 10:00 pm, and jazz vocalist Tessa Souter, who will be appearing at the Glory House International Global Jazz Now Series (the former Lutheran Church of the Resurrection), at 7:30 and 9:30 pm. However, who knows, I may end up somewhere else altogether . . . .
I'll take a break to send out the local listings post tomorrow, but look for these fairly often over the next week.
The wandering ears of JazzRochester on the last night of the 2019 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Me and my ears were all over on the last night of the RIJF. The last two nights focus on the outdoor free shows and there are fewer "must see" acts in the Club Pass venues. However, that doesn't mean that those appearing in the Club Pass venues are "also rans," but the artists do tend to be on the side of "who, you don't know" rather than "who you know" on the last two nights. For me it also encourages a bit of wandering around. Last night, my ears were all over the place...
I started out, again, in Kilbourn Hall to hear Kansas Smitty’s House Band, a septet of mostly Brits (the saxophonist grew up in Saratoga, NY). Not only are the house band for the hot London jazz club Kansas Smitty’s, they own it. The band is on their first U.S. tour. A great group of excellent musicians who, after working together as a band and as proprietors, still seemed to be having fun together. Their set bounced along with music that harkens back to the origins of jazz some in some places and looks further forward in others, sometimes in the same tune.
Following a familiar path, I next headed over to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation for the Tuomo Uusitalo Quartet. I hadn’t read the bio so went in blind, but as Tuomo Uusitalo is Finnish (albeit having lived a long time in NYC), I have come to expect something more sparse and angular from the jazz artists who hail from Finland. To my surprise (which, I realize, might have been less surprising had I read the bio on the RIJF site), the band opened up swinging and then proceeded to play a first set that was a diverse mix of jazz—eventually getting to sparse and angular, but only fleetingly. Good object lesson in doing your homework, but not a problem as I enjoyed all of it....
I left the Lutheran Church assuming that was the last jazz of my night (and of the 2019 RIJF). Headed over to the Parcel 5 site to catch a bit of Trombone Shorty and to check out how they had set up the space. Trombone Shorty was just coming on stage when my friend and I arrived among the sea of people moving in on the site (by the height of the concert it reportedly reached over 10K). We had been wondering what they would do with the Squeezers tent that was on the Main Street end of Parcel 5. Much to our surprise (we hadn't heard about it from folks who saw the Betts Allman gig the night before) we found that the wall facing the stage built at the base of Tower 280 had been peeled up and it was now a covered "VIP" tent for us hoity-toity Club Pass holders (well, mine is a Media pass, but it grants me no more privileges than a Club Pass). Trombone Shorty ripped into his first number and before its end I felt like my ears would start bleeding, which may have been exacerbated by the sound reverberating inside the tent, and I left shortly thereafter since I have seen Trombone Shorty perform several times and still had miles (well...hours) to go before I slept....
After a short time at my "office" at Havana Moe's, I climbed the stairs at The Wilder Room to listen to a little of the Gene Perla Quartet, which included local jazz star Pat Labarbara (although long since decamped to Canada). I hadn't planned on hearing Perla. However, I realized while at the "office" that I would probably spend most of my time waiting in my car if I left at that time. Plus the cacophony on East Avenue was driving me a bit crazy. A friend and I were sitting at the corner by the Unter Biergarten and could hear, AT THE SAME TIME, German oompah drinking songs from a woman performer at the restaurant, a lone rock drummer who had been playing his trap set in front of Bernunzio's (across from the "office") for going on 3 hours without a break, and the R&B band that had taken up residence in front of The Temple Bar. The excellent bop of the Wilder Room was a sanctuary from that for a while. By the time I came downstairs and back over to the office after a large chunk of the set, much of the Trombone Shorty crowd were gone as the festival started to wind down (and, thankfully, the police silenced the drummer so that they could start clearing the street).
After I've slept some more and re-entered my normal life, I will probably do one more wrap-up post with my overall thoughts about the festival but, for now, let's tie a toe tag on the 2019 Rochester International Jazz Festival! I hope your festival was as great as mine! See you next year on Jazz Street ....
In my experience at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, the penultimate night is usually a subdued night for me. It may be intentional programming or it may just be exhaustion setting in, but while I heard some good music on the eighth night of the RIJF, the last show I really wanted to see was last night's last show. Compared to Thursday, the crowds were a lot smaller in the Club Pass venues, which may be correlated with avoidance of the crowds coming in for the free shows (I notice this every year, but this year it was more pronounced in my opinion). Here's what JazzRochester's ears found to listen to last night....
Started out with Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley in Kilbourn Hall. An all-star quintet fronted by alto saxophonist Jim Snidero and trumpeter Eddie Henderson joined by Joe Farnsworth on drums, Nat Reeves on bass and Peter Zak on piano bounced through interpretations of well-known Cannonball Adderley songs like "Jeanine" and "Work Song", but also included some of Snidero's own music. It was a bouncy, fun hour of bop played by great musicians.
I got some grub and hung out around Jazz Street for awhile, catching a good part of the first set by Brit Nubya Garcia on the Jazz Street Stage. She's part of a diverse and growing London jazz scene (notice how many Brits were found in all of the Club Pass venues ... correlation?). The performers on this free stage tend to be more on the rock or funk side, but Garcia and her band, while bringing on the funk and hip hop grooves, were also slinging jazz our way, some of it on the out side. It was not necessarily the cup o' tea of some of those who pitch their campsites in front of the Jazz Street stage, but there were a number of younger cats on the perimeter who were really getting into it.
Next stop was Christ Church for Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based trumpeter Itamar Borochov. Borochov’s music is plying the connections between the musics and cultures of North Africa, modern Israel, ancient Bukhara (a city in Uzbekistan in the ancient Silk Road), mixing in some East Village and Brooklyn, melding them into jazz that sounded both foreign and familiar.
Finally, I arrived at Max of Eastman Place atrium for what for me was the last "must see" for this year's RIJF, Sullivan Fortner Trio. I had heard the New Orleans native Fortner play as a sideman in several bands, including Roy Hargrove's, and in a duo album with vocalist Cecile McLorin Savant's, and wanted to hear him as a leader. He was joined last night with the great Dezron Douglas on bass and Joe Dyson on drums. The trio's set started out quiet and introspective, at times somber set as Fortner remembered the many artists in his life who have passed in the last few years (including Hargrove). Just as I had put out some posts to Instagram and Twitter to that effect, a switch went and the trio was off to the races for the last few songs of the night. Fortner is an amazing pianist who makes it look too easy and would look off (I want to say "wistfully") into the audience and look like he was following an attractive girl walking across the back of the venue (I glanced around ... he wasn't) with a slight smile on his face. Meanwhile his fingers are all over the piano. He also was quite funny, bantering with the audience throughout the performance. After the introduction was made (including the obligatory fire exit announcement), Fortner said “part of jazz is knowing where the exita are...” (I've heard jazz musicians say similar things, as you need to know how you're going to get out of a solo).
A night of "and now for something completely different" at the Rochester International Jazz Festival ... just like we like it.
For me, the 7th night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival captures what makes the RIJF a great festival—both the diversity of the music and the reason "international" is part of the festival title. Only two more nights to go, but so far my picks have all been spot on ... for me, that is. Here's what JazzRochester's ears heard on Thursday night, the 7th night of the RIJF:
I started out in Kilbourn Hall to hear the George Coleman Quartet. Somehow, while I was familiar with many of the Miles Davis and other artists' albums upon which he appeared and remember the great sax solos, I was not as familiar with Coleman. At 84, one could expect that this would be one of those nights where one of the legendary artists of jazz from the 50s and 60s appeared, but were greatly diminished. Coleman may have needed help on and off the stage and sat in a chair for the concert, but man that cat could blow! He was joined by a great band, including fellow octogenarian Harold Mabern on piano (who was maybe one of the hardest working musicians at the festival this year, appearing in 3 different venues). Bringing festival Music Director, and accomplished jazz saxophonist, John Nugent on for the first numbers of the set, Coleman proved he came to play. After a set that went well past the usual 7:00 pm, when the thundering standing O slowed down and the lights came up in Kilbourn, the band started putting their instruments down and milling around, but Coleman was not ready to stop and the band played another number. Encores rarely happen at Kilbourn, but then again after asking Nugent sit in it was probably not a problem, and I’m sure the crowd would have let him play until the 10:00 pm set....
Given that the Coleman gig didn't let out until after 7:20, I needed to hoof over to the Lutheran Church and was there presented with the first "and now for something completely different" experience of the night. DH's Random/Control a trio of Austrians playing arrangements of jazz standards—including Brubeck's Take Five and Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood—but with a twist (well quite a few twist). The instrumentation was unique, effectively a quartet with a piano and assorted reeds, and with bass and drums provided by a Sousaphone, beatboxing, all played by the same musician (plus a kick drum by the piano). Oh, and that same musician also occasionally plays a trumpet and trombone (and didgiredoo) and had some percussion strapped to his knees. The arrangements were inventive and used all this instrumentation to draw something new out of these jazz standards. The full house at the Lutheran for the first set (which is unusual on a week day) was eating it up, giving an enthusiastic standing O. This band is a great example of why I love coming to this festival. I didn't know what to expect, but discovered something new... and my ears said "Wow"!
Another venue and another "and now for something completely different" moment with the Elda Trio, who appeared at the Christ Church in the Made In the UK Jazz series. The members of the Elda Trio epitomize the “international” that is found all over this festival with Swedish vocalist Emilia Mårtensson, Slovenian multi-instrumentallist Janez Dov on accordion (and some electronics), and Brazilian percussionist and composer, Adriano Adewale. Mårtensson has a bright, clear voice that rang true through the sanctuary (of sound) that is Christ Church. While not particularly jazz, the music was beautiful and compelling, and all of the trio's members were constantly improvising off each other in songs that interwove the folkloric traditions of their respective cultures into something new. One of my friends who saw them said he often has to leave before the end of the concerts in Christ Church, but he was transfixed at this one and stayed to the end of the thunderous standing O that followed their set. So did I....
Another night at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, another night of diverse, compelling sounds for my ears to take in. I don’t have too much time to write this post, so we’re going to get right to what my ears took on the 6th night of RIJF:
- Started out at Kilbourn Hall with Raul Midon and Lionel Loueke, two completely different musicians, but who, as Loueke noted when he started the set, are “two brothers from other mothers”. They played separate and then a small set together in the middle. Loueke weaved his beautiful guitar with his signature vocalese that incorporates clicks inspired from the Xhosa language. Raul Midon came out and they played a set together that was awe-inspiring as they both glided across their guitars, interweaving and riffing off each other. Midon continued solo with a selection of songs from his Grammy winning albums, including the title track off his most recent “Bad Ass and Blind”. They finished up together and the audience stood, dumbstruck by the artistry.
- I hoofed over (Midon and Loueke went long) over to the Lutheran Church for Swedish reedist (mostly sax and a cool baritone clarinet last night) Thomas Backman and his quartet. The music alternated between achingly beautiful, jagged, and anthemic. Keyboardist Joselfine Lindstrand wrote the lyrics to Backman’s originals, which she sang with a beautiful and sometimes haunting voice backed up by the drummer Julia Schabbauer. Some may remember Backman from a group a couple years back Klabbes Bank.
- I finished the 6th night at the Temple Building Theater for Kandace Springs. Although vocalists are not usually my first choice, I always love those who also have chops on an instrument other than their voice. Her voice was beautiful with an incredible range as her and her trio romped through a set that included a wide range of songs starting with Carousel, with forays into the American Songbook, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Sade, with a little “cadenzas” of Oscar Peterson and Chopin (she’s classically trained). Springs voice and singing was powerful, smoky with a side of Saturday night and Sunday morning.
What’s on for my ears tonight? Here’s the three I think I’ll hear:
- George Coleman Quartet (Kilbourn Hall)
- DH's Random/Control (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
- Elda Trio (Christ Church)
And on the fifth day, JazzRochester’s publisher rested (only a little, maybe an extra hour of sleep). But before going home, there was some music to be had—with a bit of an adjustment to accommodate that sleep and a stop at the “office” chatting with some of the musicians from the last couple of nights at the Made in the UK Jazz series. On the 5th night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival, here’s where my ears were to be found:
- Ozmosys Band (Temple Building Theatre): A new band formed by the legendary drummer Omar Hakim with Rachel Z, bassist Linley Marthe and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. As I had not had a chance to hear anything by the band beforehand, I went with my memories of a previous project of Hakim and Rachel Z (Trio of Oz). The musicians This high energy concert was something completely different a rocking jazz fusion with a lot of pyrotechnics of Rosenwinkel, Rachel Z’s intense riffs on the organ, Marthe’s deep grooves on bass and Hakim holding down on the skins. I’m not a major fan of jazz fusion, but as anyone who reads this blog knows, I like all kinds of music and if it’s played by consummate musicians like these four (who have a strong foundation in jazz) I put my predilections aside, open my ears, and let the music decide. The chemistry of this group was clear ... they were having fun playing and, by their reaction, so was the audience.
- I wandered around for a while listening to the bands on Jazz Street (and getting some grub) before heading over to Christ Church for the second set of Trish Clowes’ My Iris group. As I wrote on Twitter last night, their set full of complexity interwoven with melody ... a bit of darkness interwoven with light ... a bit of chaos in the order ... and a B3 Hammond organ which added a new and welcome voice. Afterwards I hung out with the band at my “office” giving up a bit more sleep for a welcome opportunity to chat with these young, talented UK musicians.
Tonight, JazzRochester’s ears will be opening up for the following:
- Lionel Loueke & Raul Midon (Kilbourn Hall
- Thomas Backman (Lutheran Church)
- Kandace Springs (Temple Theater
- Tamar Korn & A Kornucopia @ Montage (a little overlap, so may or may not make this one if the crowd is large or I’m ready to go home)
I decided not to try to hear everything on my list for the fourth night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival, so trimmed off the 10:00 pm performance in a (albeit failed) attempt to get home a bit earlier for some much needed sleep. From what I've heard about Paa Kow, I have a bit of regret... oh well. Ended up hanging a bit at my "office," for a time with the members of the band Enemy and tonight's Made In the UK Jazz group, My Iris. Tonight, I'm really going to do it... really.
Here's what JazzRochester's ears were up to last night:
- Hiked over to Geva Theatre for the Brazilian percussionist Cyro Batista. Spread out before him on a table was an artist's palette of percussion instruments and various noisemakers. Batista started out using one that most in the audience probably thought was there to cool him down... a cheap handheld fan, which he used with another object and the microphone to create a rushing sound. Other sounds were made and the objects that made them were then thrown aside as there was plenty else there to make the next one. Behind him, Batista had a PVC pipe "organ" that he slapped the tops with mallets, a la Blue Man Group. Picking up an African instrument called a berimbau, which is a single wire attached to a bow with a gourd sounder on one end. He called it amongst his "weapons of mass percussion" and I knew what was going in my next posting to Twitter. His band (especially that accordion player!) was outstanding, even as it was the first time they'd played with Batista. After a standing O that brought the band out for one more, as I saw the audience walking out, I noticed that most of them had a big smile on their face. His work here was done....
- I saw about 15 minutes of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio who were putting some "stank" on the Squeezers stage. I was there mostly to check out the new venue, which could pretty much be called the "Almost Big Tent" as it is very close to the same experience in there.
- While I enjoy most of the acts that are pulled into the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, I pretty much never miss when there are Finns on the stage. I'm not sure why.... I was familiar with Kari Ikonen as he has appeared at the RIJF 4 times, either as a leader or in another band, and knew that I was in for writing that Ikonen and the band would be building a sound collage, starting quite sparse and building to an anthemic climax. They delivered....
- After downing some street meat (in this case Marty's Frisket...), I made a beeline to the Christ Church for Enemy, a trio of young Brits (but this time not in sharp suits with pencil leg trousers). The band includes Kit Downes on piano, who the previous night had improvised on the church's unique pipe organ, Frans Petter Eldh on bass, and James Maddren on drums. These four are explorers, venturing out to the edges of what you think of when you think "jazz trio" music, moving from a simple melody to the carefully structured chaos of free jazz in an instant and then back again. Great sounds. Nice guys, too, I found when I was introduced to them when they came by Havana Moe's for a nightcap after the second set.
Here's where my ears may find some music tonight....
- Ozmosys (Temple Theatre)
- Trish Clowes My Iris (Christ Church)
- Mikkel Ploug Trio (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
I'll wander around until time to go to the first gig, but may cut out after the second to get some much needed sleep...
And on the 3rd Night of the Rochester International Jazz Fest, we went off the (previously mapped) path...
On Sunday night there were some changes to my prescribed movements though the music at the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival, which resulted in some discovery and, as with the first two nights, a great night of music. After my knees decided a walk to Geva and back was not a great idea, here's the path I took:
- Stefon Harris Blackout: I could have left after this concert and just gone home satisfied with my night. Harris brought a great band to Kilbourn Hall including one of my favorite drummers, Terreon Gully, who just tore up the kit, and a great bassist who we hear with many of the top-shelf bands, Ben Wiliams. The set opened and closed with high energy burners, with Stefon Harris alternating between a xylophone and marimba, the latter that was outfitted with lower note sound tubes that curled back toward the audience like an exhaust pipe of a chopper. In between some of the numbers, Harris waxed poetically about bringing empathy to the world through jazz, which has that quality at its core (he also chatted very charmingly about his two "babies" who are way out of diapers). Toward the end of the first set, Harris called out to the audience to get 4 notes to completely improvise around and proceeded to do so solo before the band kicked in and they finished us off... a dangerous thing to do in an Eastman School of Music facility.
- I love soul jazz and wanted to hit the Russell Scarbrough Soul Jazz Big Band on the Jazz Street stage, which I thought was supposed to start at 7:30 according to the schedule. After leaving Kilbourn Hall, my friend and I went to get some street meat (Marty's) and sat and ate it, hearing a band play. We thought it was the ESM group that was supposed to precede the Soul Jazz band. Apparently they started early? By the time we got over and realized what was going on we had missed half the set... but we caught the half with soloists guitarist and Eastman prof Bob Sneider and jazz flautist Ali Ryerson.
- I just had to slide over to the Christ Church to hear a bit of Kit Downes improvising on the church's Craighead-Saunders replica baroque organ. It was too unique and opportunity to miss and while I was unable to stay long for it, the bit I heard was sublime...
- Somehow I've been doing this jazz thing for years and never really got to know the music of multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson, who I finished up the third night with at Max. With a great quartet including pianist Helen Sung and bassist Martin Wind, touring with a new album that features his main instrument, the tenor sax. Before the concert commenced, Robinson was presented with 2 awards from the Jazz Journalist Association's Ed Trefzger (one for multi-instrumentalist and one for most unique instrument used in jazz). His set was full of small asides and banter with a dry humor, which started by explaining his hat, like a straw boater, but made out of reeds from his woodwinds. As the band romped through some of his, Wind's and other compositions, I was wondering why I hadn't heard him before... he has such a rich tone in his playing and his music was both beautiful and complex.
Now we start the march through the week toward the final two days of crazy crowds and exhausted ears. Although my ears are fine, the rest of my body may need some rest soon, so the schedule that follows is, shall we say, "fluid":
- Cyro Baptista (Geva Theatre, Wilson Stage)
- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (M&T Pavillion Squeezers Stage) (I may pass through this on my way to another...)
- Kari Ikonen (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
- Enemy (Christ Church)
- Paa Kow (Montage Music Hall)
Eight for eight so far... another diverse journey for JazzRochester's ears on the 2d night of the RIJF
At least for my ears, the first two nights of music at the Rochester International Jazz Festival have been just right and a thoroughly satisfying musical, eight artists/groups with distinctly different musical journeys as I walked (and later limped as my knee started yelling at me...) from venue to venue. The second night's highlights were:
- Brecker Plays Rovatti (Geva Theatre, Wilson Stage): Randy Brecker and his wife Ada Rovatti and a killer band played a great set of some of his older material and compositions of Rovatti's from a yet-to-be released album (hence, "Brecker Plays Rovatti"). This was also my first trip over to the Geva Theatre and in my opinion this is a great new venue for the RIJF, with two theaters to book diverse acts and great acoustics, plus food (a new menu just for the festival). I even was able to sit in the seats where my wife and I sit during the Geva season, which gave me a good vantage point for the concert. It is a bit of a hike, but really only a 5 minute walk from the location of the venue it replaced (Xerox Auditorium)
- Gilad Hekselman (Lutheran Church of the Reformation): Israel-born guitarist Gilad Hekselman was a perfect choice for the acoustical space of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation. Moving through a diverse set of music that displayed his chops on the guitar from small, quiet ballads, to effects layering modern, to a blues. It was a testament to Hekselman that he had a nearly full house despite the fact that mere steps away at the Temple Theatre, guitar god Bill Frisell was playing. When a number of folks got up to go late in the set, Hekselman took notice, but added "I don't blame you, I wish I could go over to listen to Frisell."
- Empirical (Christ Church): OK, two nights running there have been absolutely fantastic bands playing some great bebop and post-bop, populated by young(ish) UK lads playing blazing fast at times and tight like the pencil leg trousers of their sharp suits. Despite the similarity in sartorial choice, Empirical's music was completely different and just as compelling as the previous nights fare. I think it was the first time that I've heard a vibraphone in the Christ Church acoustics. As I noted on Twitter last night, when the reverb was pedaled up, it was on steroids.
- Celebrating Art Blakey with the SNJO Sextet (Montage Music Hall): What can I say? Five members of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra with Bill Dobbins sitting in on piano, channeling the sextet that was Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers from 1961-64. It was a blazing set with some top notch players and Bill Dobbins got to stretch out some, too.
What's in store for JazzRochester's ears tonight?:
- Stefon Harris Blackout (Kilbourn Hall)
- Scott Robinson Quartet (Max at Eastman Place)
- Russell Scarbrough Soul Jazz Big Band (Jazz Street Stage)
Given my increasing knee pain and timing, I think I'm going to miss Over the Rhine.
My first night at the 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival was a great way to start the festival. Watching people trickle in at the beginning from my "office" (Havana Moe's on East) and then following my eclectic path through the evening, I came out the other end tired and happy. It's great seeing the city appear to wake up to welcome summer and get fully into festival mode after what was a long winter and wet spring. The ugly mug on the left (me) is sporting the prototype of a JazzRochester t-shirt I've been toying with making. Unfortunately, it is the only one for now and I can't wear it every day (you who may be sitting next to me at a future Club Pass venue might agree). I'll have to get on finishing the design and making up some for myself and others for next year....
I managed to get my ears into four Club Pass venues for all four of the shows I set out to hear, which were distinctly different concerts. Highlights of the night were:
- The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, directed by Tommy Smith, were in the Temple Theatre and performed Prokofieff's Peter and the Wolf with a modern Scottish twist and a whole lotta swing. Arranged for this large ensemble by Smith and with the narration performed with gusto and a thick Scottish brogue by Tam Dean Burn. For a taste see this trailer on YouTube. It was unique and a lot of fun.
- When Derek Lucas of WGMC Jazz 90.1 FM introduced The Leo Richardson Quartet at the Christ Church Made in the UK Series, he noted that these four young dudes from the UK, decked out in sharp suits, were going to take us back to the London jazz club Ronnie Scott's in 1959 (where they have been the house band and general hangers on...). Derek nailed it. Richardson and his band had lightning speed, some great original music, and were as tight as the pencil legs on their trousers.
- The intense and intricate beats from the drummer and percussionist, weaving with the atmospherics of keyboards and saxophone, transfixed the audience for the second set of the Danish/Swedish band Girls in Airports. This was exactly the type of ear-stretching music that keeps me coming back to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation for its Nordic Jazz Now series (now Nordic/Euro Jazz).
I expect tonight's itinerary will be just as diverse, music-wise:
- Brecker Plays Rovatti (Geva Theatre, Wilson Stage)
- Celebrating Art Blakey with the SNJO Sextet (Montage Music Hall)
- Empirical (Christ Church)
- Gilad Hekselman (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
This blog's readership has a broad set of tastes in jazz and other music, so my approach is to tell you the artists and groups I'm planning on hearing at the 2019 Rochester International Jazz Festival. There are so many great artists playing this year who I want to hear, but due to scheduling and other issues I have to choose. In years like this one, where there are few artists playing who are on my "bucket list," my ears have a lot of room to roam. My choices may change for the same reasons.
The selections below are not listed in any order, but you should be able to catch them all in one night without leaving any venue early (or too early), check your favorite guide to figure out times and places that work with your schedule. Sorry, but I got busy and wasn't able to get this out until 4:00 pm of the first night.
The jazz festival cannot really be planned in advance (at least mine can't...), but here goes:
Friday, June 21st
- Leo Richardson Quartet (Christ Church)
- Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (SNJO) (Temple Building Theater)
- Girls in Airports (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
- Sasha Berliner Quartet (Max at Eastman Place)
Saturday, June 22nd
- Brecker Plays Rovatti (Geva Theatre, Wilson Stage)
- Celebrating Art Blakey with the SNJO Sextet (Montage Music Hall)
- Empirical (Christ Church)
- Gilad Hekselman (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
Sunday, June 23rd
- Over The Rhine (Geva Theatre, Wilson Stage)
- Stefon Harris Blackout (Kilbourn Hall)
- Scott Robinson Quartet (Max at Eastman Place)
- Russell Scarbrough Soul Jazz Big Band (Jazz Street Stage)
Monday, June 24th
- Cyro Baptista (Geva Theatre, Wilson Stage)
- Paa Kow (Montage Music Hall)
- Enemy (Christ Church)
- Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (M&T Pavillion Squeezers Stage)
- Kari Ikonen (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
Tuesday, June 25th
- Ozmosys (Temple Building Theater)
- Mikkel Ploug Trio (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
- Trish Clowes My Iris (Christ Church)
Wednesday, June 26th
- Lionel Loueke & Raul Midón (Kilbourn Hall)
- Tamar Korn & A Kornucopia (Montage Music Hall)
- Kandace Springs (Temple Building Theater)
- Thomas Backman (Christ Church)
Thursday, June 27th
- George Coleman Quartet (Kilbourn Hall)
- Veronica Swift (Montage Music Hall)
- Elda Trio (Christ Church)
- DH's Random/Control (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
Friday, June 28th
- Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley (Kilbourn Hall)
- Sullivan Fortner Trio (Max at Eastman Place)
- Itamar Borochov Quartet (Christ Church)
- Nubya Garcia (Jazz Street Stage)
Saturday, June 29th
- Kansas Smitty's House Band (Kilbourn Hall)
- Tuomo Uusitalo Quartet (Lutheran Church of the Reformation)
- Joey DeFrancesco (Temple Building Theater) or Trombone Shorty with Cha Wa (Midtown Stage)... depending on how I feel at the end
Well, gotta go and get downtown to begin this nine days of music, friends and street food. Share your choices and why in the comments, if you like. Watch these pages and the other JazzRochester channels for more....