21 posts categorized "XRIJF 2017"

The plan is no longer "draft," but final ... Day 9 of the XRIJF

I know, I know.... this is way late.  But, after beating up my body for 9 days straight, on Sunday morning my body struck back and I came down with a summer cold and, after little sleep Sunday night, arose in the wee hours Monday to fly to to Wichita, KS.  But I needed to do to get closure on the 2017 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and before tomorrow when we go back to what we do here for the other 356 days of the year.  

IMG_6214On Day 9 of the XRIJF, now so long ago, I started out with the Donny McCaslin Group in Xerox Auditorium.  McCaslin has been getting a lot of press recently as he and the band worked with David Bowie on his final album, Black Star, and accepted a Grammy Award for the album on behalf of Bowie this year. Having listened to McCaslin's new CD Beyond Now, I knew what to expect, but the music was much more intense live.  McCaslin and his band were tight and loud, with McCaslin and his keyboardist liberally using effects on their instruments. A highlight was an instrumental version of the track Lazarus from the Black Star album.

IMG_6215I wanted a final dose of the Nordic Jazz Now series for the year so hoofed over to the Lutheran Church to catch Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity. This group of Norwegians fit the bill that brings me to the NJN series over and over again, with music that was at times "out," but worked its way back "in" at others, all played by excellent musicians. Everyone was percussive (as one might expect of drummer Nilssen's music), with the bass using slaps/plucks and pops on the sax.

IMG_6216I finished the XRIJF at the Christ Church with Tessa Souter. It was Souter's sixth time at the Rochester festival, but the first I had heard her (I'm not usually much for vocalists at the festival). Her concerts this year were done in memory of the Made In the UK Jazz series curator, John Ellson, who passed away in October last year.  Souter's voice was quite beautiful with a wide range.  I'd forgotten how great vocals sound in a space like Christ Church.  One thing that struck me was Souter's choices of material, which were very eclectic, including versions of music that she or others had arranged or set lyrics to by McCoy Tyner, Kenny Barron, Chopin, U2, a standard and even some Nigerian music. She noted that that she thought ROC was best city in the world and joked about buying a place here ("... but what would I do for the rest of the year?"). 

This year I had a plan and, after the UK lady sang, found that it had indeed become my final plan.  I'm not sure what that means....  It could mean that I just planned right or that there was just not much else that appealed to what I was looking for at the XRIJF.  However, I know from talking with my "jazz fest" friends that there was a lot of fantastic music that I missed (some of it regrettably), so it could also mean that I was just being too strict in "keeping to the draft plan." Whatever it means, I had a great time at this year's XRIJF. See you next year on Jazz Street!


This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

A nice jazz sandwich ... Day 8 of the XRIJF

IMG_4666Thelonious Monk, two Steinways, Kilbourn Hall and four of the finest interpreters of his music ... how could I go wrong? Started Day 8 with 4 By Monk By 4 featuring Kenny Barron, Benny Green, George Cables and Cyrus Chestnut. The masters alternated between duo and solo piano renditions of Monk's music, including Ask Me Now, Bye-Ya, Green Chimneys, and Ruby, My Dear. The concert ended with a round robin with all four pianists tapping each other out to take over playing. 

IMG_4667Moved on to the Christ Church to catch the duo Binker & Moses.  There was just two young UK players with a sax and drums on the stage, but they produced a sound much bigger than the sum of their parts. Given the instrumentation, there was a lot of repetition in the sax with Binker weaving lines around the drummer Moses' strong, rock-influenced beat.  I always enjoy the Made in the UK Series as they consistently bring in something different that is often very satisfying.  

IMG_4668I finished the night out with the Ronnie Foster Organ Trio in Max.  As anyone who reads this blog will know, I'm a sucker for a Hammond B3 organ. Foster and his trio, who hail from Vegas, baby, did not disappoint.  He was clearly having fun and while I had to leave before the set ended, I hear that he played on until 11:20 ending with a call-and-response with the full audience that remained well pass closing time. 

So I had a sandwich (no, not talking about  the street meat kind, although there was some of that, too), with two straightahead pieces of bread slapped around some meaty substance. 

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Lousy with Eastman grads, in a good way ... Day 7 at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

I write this on the penultimate day of this year's jazz fest.  How did that happen?  It's all a blur to those of us who "live" down on and around Jazz Street during its nine days.  As you can see by reading the below, I've heard a lot of great music this year.  Keeping to my "draft plan," Day 7 was no different, although it was lousy with Eastman grads... in a good way. 

IMG_4659Started out with Walt Weiskopf Quartet at the Xerox Auditorium. This was a straightahead quartet, which was just what I needed to ease into the evening. Weiskopf and his quartet played a set of his originals and some standards from slow ballads to burners. He is an Eastman graduate and has taught there too. As this post's title implies, there are a lot of current and former Eastman students playing in this year's festival.  

IMG_4660Highlight of the evening was the UK band Phronesis at the Christ Church.  This was their third year at the jazz festival and the third time I have heard them. Double bassist Jasper Høiby held down a driving, insistent groove that was forward throughout the performance, with pianist Ivo Neame filling in with intricate and at times beautiful lines, and capped off by the frenetic, inventive and always spot on drumming of Anton Eger.  The jazz chops of each of these guys is without question. As Daniel Kushner put it in a round up of last night in City Newspaper, it was "sophisticated jazz that never sounded overwrought, but struck the perfect balance between conventional and cutting-edge."

IMG_4662Finished up Day 7 with the Wee Trio at The Wilder Room.  Again with the Eastman grads, this time nearly a whole band of 'em!  The Wee Trio is James Westfall on vibes plus two Eastman alumni: Dan Loomis on bass, and Jared Schonig on drums. Years ago, Jared was the drummer with my buddies in Paradigm Shift.  At the late set the Trio was joined by another Eastman grad, Mike Cottone on trumpet for the last half of the set. A vibe trio is interesting right off the bat, with it providing such a rich palette for improvising and comping while others play. The trio mostly played originals and they even threw in an early David Bowie tune off Hunky Dory, Queen Bitch.   

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF in a nutshell ... Day 6 of the festival

Day 6 of the Rochester International Jazz Festival was one of those nights that epitomizes the festival: Great music, but each uniquely different. Just the way I like it. I flipped my schedule after remembering, well after 4:15, that I needed to get a wristband for the first set at Max on my "draft plan." But given the rest of the schedule I just replaced the first with the third and it worked just as well.

IMG_4655Started out the evening at the Xerox Auditorium with the Charles Pillow Large Ensemble featuring trumpeters Tim Hagans & Clay Jenkins.  Usually I would pass on something like this because there are opportunities to catch Pillow, a professor of saxophone in the Jazz Studies program at the Eastman School of Music, with a large ensemble throughout the year.  However, this time it was different. Pillow, his featured trumpeters, and a large 16-piece ensemble of top national players, Eastman grads and students were playing music from Pillow's new project, "Electric Miles." The first set included arrangements of classic Miles Davis music from his first iconoclastic "electric" period. The first included great arrangements of tracks from Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way and On the Corner.

IMG_4656Next stop was the Lutheran Church for Klabbes Bank.  This sextet of Swedes created a wall of sound during their first set, anthemic with rhythmic intensity and a good dose of electronica thrown in. The band included keyboards, a guitar, drums, trombone and two reed players, one on sax and another who alternated between an alto sax and bass clarinet (where was he when Kari Ikonen neede him?). All but one sax player was hooked into electronics and they used them throughout the set to loop and add other effects. In an intro to one of their songs, the drummer "scratched" voices (mostly in Swedish, although I distinctly heard "we shall overcome" in there...) into a beat. As often happens with bands who are playing the festival at the Nordic Jazz Now series for the first time here, there was some earnest banter from a band member about their time in Rochester. Keyboardist and leader Klas-Henrik Hörngren told a story of his morning taking a walk from downtown ROC to the lake, probably Charlotte.  Once he got to the lake he realized how far it was back and began panicking a bit as he had to get back for the sound check. He whipped out his iPhone and fired up his Uber app only to find out that they weren't starting up here until 12:01 this morning. Hörngren went into a bar and after talking with some patrons a woman offered to drive him into town.  "People are so nice here."

IMG_4657My final stop of the evening was for the Shauli Einav Quartet at Max at Eastman Place. Einav is an Eastman grad from Israel.  He and his fine quartet played mostly Einav's originals which were a mix of post bop and more introspective composed music, some of which were quite beautiful. A highlight was an arrangement of an old Israeli song that Einav was commissioned to write for the Red Sea Jazz Festival, with his pianist turning to a vintage Fender Rhodes piano, which was a perfect foil for the piece. 

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

A challenging night ... Day 5 of the XRIJF

IMG_4648The first challenge of Day Five of the Rochester International Jazz Festival came at the first set of Kendrick Scott Oracle in Xerox Auditorium, one of my Picks this year.  Amidst the great music from Scott's new CD was a challenge to think (and talk) about race, racial injustice and the mass incarceration of African-American men. Scott made a powerful statement by mixing an expressive drum solo with tape of President Obama speaking on race and being a black man in America, and of the sound from the Facebook Live video of the stop and shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer outside of St. Paul, Minnesota, made by Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds.  In a different challenge, Scott also announced from the stage the death yesterday of jazz pianist Geri Allen, a consummate musician and old soul, who played at the festival in 2007 (I did a podcast interview of Allen that year). He remembered playing at Carnegie Hall early in his career with Allen, Ron Carter and others and Allen's generosity of spirit.

Keeping to my "draft plan," which hadn't let me down yet, I made a challenging quick walk (for my knees) from Xerox to the Anthology venue for Charlie Hunter Trio. I've heard Hunter several times in the past, but like Bill Frisell he always brings something different every time, and I can't get over his guitar work, playing bass, rhythm and bass on his custom 8-string. I got there too late to get close enough to take a pic without getting in people's way, but luckily some of my "jazz fest friends" were in the same boat, so we sat in back of the bar area and tried to hear, gave up and caught up.  A challenge with a silver lining. 

IMG_4653Clearly the most challenging music played at XRIJF this year so far was my last stop on Day 5, Ole Mathisen's Floating Points at the Lutheran Church. As I've noted in the past, I make an effort to expand my ears at XRIJF (and in general throughout the year).  Much of the set was the Floating Points Suite from Mathisen's new CD (which was available at the set on a wristband USB drive). Daniel Kushner described it better than I could in City, writing:

The performance of the "Floating Points" suite was the Jazz Fest at its most esoteric: Mathisen and trumpeter Amir ElSaffar intoned meditative drones that explored microbial harmonies; meandering lines were delivered like non-sequiturs; abstract interjections fluttered and spasmed, wailed and shrieked. This was jazz deconstructed, dissected even; all the bones were there, but the remains told a more abstract, disjointed yet compelling story.

While not for the uninitiated to the more "out" forms of jazz, when presented with compositions like this I listen for the structure that is always there, even when the music sounds chaotic and, at times, atonal.  It can be oddly satisfying. 

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Was wowed, got Mooged by a Finn and heard some of that sweet home Chicago at Day 5 of XRIJF

IMG_4642My fourth night at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival started out in Kilbourn Hall with Miguel Zenon's Tipico, one of my picks this year.  Zenon and his excellent band of Luis Perdomo, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Henry Cole on drums, started out strong and didn't break their stride until the last note.  It was all about the music and such music!  I'm sure that some who came to last night's performances were expecting a night of Latin jazz (and the music playing before the show didn't belie that conclusion). What they heard was some of the best jazz compositions out there, with only the title track of his new project Tipico clearly showing the roots of his Puerto Rican background (although you heard bits and pieces throughout).  Walked out of that 6:00 pm concert with one word ... Wow!

IMG_4646Ever been Mooged by a Finn?  After a beautiful short piece from his new CD that was both classical and showed his chops on the keyboard, Finn Kari Ikonen turned to his Moog, bringing out those otherworldly sounds in a way that showed how the Moog synth can be played as an interactive instrument, rather than the background to a sci-fi soundtrack.  Alternating with the piano, Iknonen and his band mates wove intricate tapestries of sound.  The set was pure Nordic Jazz Now, inventive and a little out at times, but accessible enough that most of the audience sat transfixed through the whole set. At the beginning of the set, Ikonen noted that he hired Ole Mathiesen because he thought he played bass clarinet... he doesn't. But he's a fine saxophonist who studied (and on my draft plan for tomorrow with his band Floating Points).

IMG_4647My draft plan had a choice for the third show of the night, Jae Sinette's Zero to 60 or the Marquis Hill Blacktet.  When I remembered that Hill is from Chicago, where I lived for 25 years, the choice was made.  This young group played a strong, muscular set. Tight and full of energy. In addition to Hill, young vibe player Justin Thomas was a standout. Mostly, though, listening to this band brought me back to the sounds of jazz in Chicago, which is a major influence on Hill, who now hails from NYC, and his latest CD The Way We Play. It's rare on a Monday night for Max to fill up at the 10pm show, but it filled and stayed filled until the band played their last note. 

Ron Netsky at hit 2 out of three of these in a nice review of last night's XRIJF in City.


This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

So far the draft plan has held ... Day 3 at the XRIJF

IMG_6175This one is going to be short.  I may start sounding like a broken record. Again on Day 3 at the XRIJF  I hit all my draft plan for the night. Started out in Kilbourn Hall with Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan.  Frisell was his usual palette of sounds pulled out of his guitar, relaxed and somewhat free at times.  Thomas Morgan was a monster on the bass, moving up and down the fretboard, but especially in the high register of the instrument. They were completely in sync. It was the mesmerizing music that had been promised.

Moved on to the Jochen Rueckert Quartet Lutheran Church. This group of NYC cats were great although they played a more relaxed set than I expected after listening to some of their music online. Playing mostly the music of Rueckert, the band was excellent all around if not especially Nordic (only Lage has a connection, Rueckert is German), but even he has been in the States for quite a while. 

After a brief respite for some Marty's Frisket and some time at the "office," I finished the night in the Wilder Room with Holophonor. This band is made up of members of a class of the Thelonious Monk Institute from about 5 years ago, one of whom was Rochester native and Eastman grad trumpeter, Mike Cottone.  The members of the band lived and played together for the two years they were at the Institute.  As Mike said, somehow they managed to stay friends, too.  The years playing at the Institute and since have created a very tight sound as they played compositions of the band's members. Glad I finally had a chance to catch them playing here. 


This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Oh what a night... of music at Day 2 of the XRIJF

IMG_4620Started out the second day of the Rochester International Jazz Festival at my first Kilbourn Hall concert this year and one of my 2017 Picks, the Billy Childs Quartet. Childs and his stellar quartet of Dayna Stephens on saxophone, Ben Williams on bass and Ari Hoenig on drums. Childs started the set with a burner and barely came up for breath for the rest of the set.  Playing older and some from his new Mack Avenue disc Rebirth. It was one of those performances where at the end, the entire audience spontaneously jumps to its feet in a standing O... amazed at what they just experienced.  Damn. Good. Music.  Mike drop.  As for new experiences, this was my first with the new line system for the first performances at Kilbourn and Max's. Showing up sometime after 3 pm, I got my purple wristband and then came back about 5:15. The lines for those with wristbands are inside and color-coded.  Finally found my way to the purple line just before the line started to go in.  Much like it was under the old system, I was guzzling my beer before getting to the door... All in all, it works for me and let me go write my first post after getting my wristband at my "office."

IMG_4629After a hiatus, I headed over to the Christ Church for the Neil Cowley Trio.  Neil Cowley just attacks the keyboard, repeating chords or figures with a crescendo of intensity until he's pounding them to pieces.  I wondered on Twitter whether there was anything left of that Steinway for the rest of the week? Their hard-driving set was not all fury, there were moments of humour (the UK spelling, of course) and introspection ... which gave us a needed aural break from the onslaught. Again... Damn. Good. Music.  Mike drop....

IMG_4631I had to stay to the end of Neil Cowley ... just couldn't leave.  That meant that Max's was full-up by the time I walked up for the Igor Butman Quartet.  One-in-one-out. Was inside within 10 minutes.  Got a place to stand in back and listen (which was all I could do given that there was a post between me and the band). But that's what I was there for (saw the band play with the Moscow Jazz Orchestra on Day 1 and could remember what they looked like anyway).  What I heard was fantastic, but after the first two I was musically spent....

Took a chance on the after-hours jams at the Radissson Riverside Hotel.  It's a new venue this year for the jams.  All I can say now is that it is different.  I like the fact that they've added a new  jam, coordinated by local sax player Karl Stabnau, that gives those that are not at XRIJF to play jazz a chance to participate. I'll let it steep a bit more and check it out again later next week.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Where do I find JazzRochester during the XRIJF?

Image by Studio Michaelino, http://www.studiomichaelino.com/As I pointed out in a post in early June, during the 2017 XRIJF I intend to focus as I have in more recent years on hearing the music, sharing the great coverage that others are doing and trying to make connections between the artists and festival goers. I’m also going to focus on doing what I can during the XRIJF to raise awareness of JazzRochester and what it does throughout the other 356 days of the year to get people out to hear the great live jazz in and around Rochester.  Where? 

  • Here on the JazzRochester blog, of course.  However, as I'm focused on hearing music and not on writing during the festival, my posting here may be limited.  You know where I'm heading (or at least the "draft" plan).  I'm not sure where I'll end up, but I may write some posts highlighting what I've heard. If you see me on Jazz Street or elsewhere at the XRIJF, introduce yourself and, if you wish, I'll sign you up to receive JazzRochester's posts throughout the year in your email.
  • JazzRochester on Twitter: I hope to use Twitter to share posts from other media and folks attending the festival, plus the posts of musicians playing the festival.  If you're playing XRIJF, don't forget to mention @jazzrochester and let me know so I can add you to a list of XRIJF artists I'm building during the festival.  
  • JazzRochester on Facebook: I'll be sharing here as well.  Please like the Page!
  • JazzRochester on Instagram: I'll share images from the festival here (you can also check them out in right panel of the blog if you're not on Instagram).

Hope to see you on Jazz Street or at one of the Club Pass venues! Enjoy XRIJF 2017!

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

A “draft” plan for 2017’s XRIJF … Oh the music I’ll hear!

XRIJF logo While I’ve already posted about my picks this year, I’ll be hearing a lot more during the next nine days of the 2017 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. It is theoretically possible for me to hear them all. However, once the festival begins there are many things that may end up causing me to change my choices. I try to be fluid, taking in what my “jazz fest friends” and others are raving about or just deciding that I’m in the mood for something other than my earlier choice. I encourage you to do the same. Test your ears! Listen to the “street”! This is what XRIJF is about. The oft-repeated XRIJF motto of “it’s not who you know, it’s who you don’t know” is really one to live by during the festival. My choices are a mix of both. But I can’t say how many times that I’ve changed my mind due to lines or other issues and found a new band that I add to my list of “favorites” of the festival. That’s how some of the folks on the following “itinerary” ended up on my list.

Links in the choices below are to those artists for whom I’ve written separate “Pick” posts. Remember that these artists often play two separate sets and sometimes are appearing on more than one day.

Friday, June 23rd

  • Gwilym Simcock @ Christ Church (6:45-7:45 pm)
  • Moscow Jazz Orchestra @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Center (9:00-10:00 pm)
  • Huntertones @ Montage Music Hall (10:00-11:00 pm)

Saturday, June 24th

  • Billy Childs Quartet @ Kilbourn Hall (6:00- 7:00pm)
  • Neil Cowley Trio @ Christ Church (8:45-9:45 pm)
  • Igor Butman Quartet @ Max at Eastman Place (10:00-11:00 pm)

Sunday, June 25th

Monday, June 26th

  • Miguel Zenon "Tipico" @ Kilbourn Hall (6:00-7:00 pm)
  • Ikonostasis @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation (7:30-8:30 pm)
  • Jae Sinnett’s Zero To 60 Quartet @ Montage Music Hall or Marquis Hill Blacktet @ Max at Eastman Place (10:00-11:00 pm)

Tuesday, June 27th

  • Kendrick Scott Oracle @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Center (6:30-7:30 pm)
  • Charlie Hunter Trio @ Anthology (7:45-8:45 pm)
  • Ole Mathisen Floating Points @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation (9:30-10:30 pm)

Wednesday, June 28th

  • Marcia Ball @ Harro East Ballroom (5:30-6:30 pm)
  • Shauli Einav Quartet @ Max at Eastman Place (6:15-7:15 pm)
  • Klabbesbank @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation (7:30-8:30 pm)
  • Charles Pillow Large Ensemble Feat. Tim Hagans & Clay Jenkins: ”Electric Miles” @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Center (9:00-10:00 pm)

Thursday, June 29th

  • Walt Weiskopf Quartet @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Center (6:30-7:30 pm)
  • Phronesis @ Christ Church (8:45-9:45 pm)
  • The Wee Trio @ Wilder Room (10:00-11:00 pm)

Friday, June 30th

Saturday, July 1st

  • Donny McCaslin Group @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Center (6:30-7:30 pm)
  • Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation (7:30-8:30 pm)
  • Tessa Souter @ Christ Church (8:45-9:45 pm)

One thing I have noticed this year is that I will have more time to just wander around, listen to free music, eat and drink than in past years. I won’t always be running from one venue to another. This will make discovery easier … I like that.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017: A chance to hear the music you can hear the other 356 days of the year…

XRIJF logo As JazzRochester’s main focus is the live jazz you can hear in and around Rochester during the other 356 days of the year, I always provide a separate post that lets you know the local jazz musicians and bands who will be heard at the XRIJF, bands from the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music, and the great local high school bands playing early in the evening at the City of Rochester Stage on Jazz Street.

During the festival, I tend to focus on those artists coming from out of town, taking the opportunity to hear new sounds that won’t likely be here in Rochester otherwise. That doesn’t meant that I don’t think that the great local jazz musicians are not worthy of your attention.  Here they are:

Friday, June 23

  • Harley School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • Hilton High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • Prime Time Brass @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm
  • Laura Dubin @ The Wilder Room, 6:00 & 10:00 pm
  • Eastman Community Music School (ECMS) Latin Jazz & Junior Jazz Bands @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm

Saturday, June 24

  • Webster Thomas High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 3:45 pm
  • Hilton High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • Honeoye Falls-Lima High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • Bill Dobbins @ Hatch Recital Hall, 5:45 & 7:45 pm
  • 78RPM Big Band @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm
  • ECMS Jazz Combo with Bob Sneider & Mike Kaupa @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Al Chez & The Brothers of Funk @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 7:30 & 9:30 pm

Sunday, June 25

  • ECMS Vintage Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 3:45 pm
  • Zion Hill Mass Choir @ Lyric Theatre, 4:00 pm
  • Eastman School of Music (ESM) Jazz Honors Performance Unit 1 @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Jimmie Highsmith Jr. @ Avangard Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage, 7:00 & 9:00 pm
  • Fred Costello @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 7:30 & 9:30 pm

Monday, June 26

  • Katy Wright @ Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, 12:00 pm
  • Bloomfield High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • Canandaigua High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • Harold Danko @ Hatch Recital Hall, 5:45 & 7:45 pm
  • Eastman School of Music (ESM) Jazz Honors Performance Unit 2 @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Vince Ercolamanto Quintet @ The Wilder Room, 6:00 & 10:00 pm
  • Brockport Big Band @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm
  • Herb Smith’s Freedom Trio @ The Little Theatre, 7:00 & 9:15 pm
  • The Red Hot & Blue Band @ Avangard Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage, 7:00 & 9:00 pm
  • ESM & XRIJF Scholarships Concert with Jeff Campbell @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 7:30 & 9:30 pm

Tuesday, June 27

  • Christian Crawford @ Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, 12:00 pm
  • Greece Athena High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • School of the Arts Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • New Horizons Big Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Rochester Metropolitan Big Band @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm

Wednesday, June 28

  • Melissa Gardiner @ Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, 12:00 pm
  • Fairport High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • East Ridge High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm
  • ESM-XRIJF Scholarships Alumni Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Charles Pillow Large Ensemble featuring Tim Hagans & Clay Jenkins in “Electric Miles” @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Center, 6:30 & 9:00 pm
  • Music Educators Big Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 7:30 & 9:30 pm

Thursday, June 29

  • Ben Tiberio @ Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, 12:00 pm
  • Brockport High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • Spencerport High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • ECMS Saxology 1 & 2 Jazz Bones @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Greater Rochester Jazz Orchestra @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm

Friday, June 30

  • Jacob Dupre @ Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County, 12:00 pm
  • Greece Olympia High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • Gates-Chili High School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  • ECMS Jazz Combo with Bob Sneider & Paul Hofmann @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • Greece Jazz Band @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm
  • Bill Tiberio Band @ The Little Theater, 7:00 & 9:15 pm

Saturday, July 1

  • Charles Finney School Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 4:30 pm
  • MCC Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 5:15 pm
  •  The Majestics @ Harro East Ballroom, 5:30 & 7:15 pm
  • ESM Jazz Honors Performance Unit 3 @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 6:00 pm
  • New Energy Jazz Orchestra @ Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, 6:00 pm
  • Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, 7:00 pm

Check them out at the XRIJF, I will when I can, and then sign up for our email list to find out when they’re playing during the rest of the year!

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Phronesis, Christ Church, June 29th, 6:45 & 8:45 pm

PhronesisPhronesis has appeared at the Made in the UK series of the Rochester International Jazz Festival twice before (2011 and 2013). Discovering this band in these earlier appearances, I am looking forward to hearing how they’ve evolved in the ensuing years. Their most recent CD Parallax (affiliate link) brought me back to why I found them compelling in their earlier appearances.  A 2017 recording The Behemoth (affiliate link), which they collaborateed with sax player, bandleader, arranger and conductor Julian Argüelles and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, put a new cast on their music as a trio that brought to mind the lush compositions of Maria Schneider.  Unfortunately, it’s too expensive to bring a big band on a U.S. tour, but what I heard in Parallax reminds me of why I bought their CD after hearing them in 2011. As described in Downbeat in 2016 about Parallax, "[i]magine if Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke convened a modern edition of Return to Forever that opted for acoustic instrumentation instead of electric, while retaining the high-velocity improvisational jousting and flair. Such impressions casually make their way onto Parallax, the sterling new disc from the Danish/British jazz trio Phronesis.”

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan, Kilbourn Hall, Sunday, June 25th, 6:00 & 9:00 pm

FrisellMorganBill Frisell and his guitars have been to the Rochester International Jazz Festival six times since his first appearance in 2003 (most recently in 2014). Often this would be a reason for me to not go hear an artist at XRIJF, but with Frisell it’s different. Every time Frisell appears he brings something completely unique to the Rochester jazz festival audience. This time he brings his duo project on the ECM label with NYC bassist Thomas Morgan, Small Town (affiliate link). A review in the UK’s Guardian, describes the new album as a “wistful, mesmerizing set… recorded at New York’s Village Vanguard (with only the odd creak and clink departing from ECM’s legendary audio standards), this latest slice of Frisellian Americana includes the Carter Family’s country song Wildwood Flower, Fats Domino’s New Orleans rocker What a Party, Lee Konitz’ sly cool-bop swinger Subconscious-Lee, and even an affectionate and tonally ingenious detour into Goldfinger.” As Spin notes “Bill Frisell is the Clark Kent of the electric guitar. Soft-spoken and self-effacing in conversation, he apparently breathes in lungfuls of raw fire when he straps on his (guitar)…His music is not what is typically called jazz, though it turns on improvisation; it’s not rock’n roll; and it sure ain’t that tired dinosaur called fusion.” And a AllAboutJazz.com review in describing Thomas Morgan’s playing says “[i]f there’s any single precedent for Morgan, it would have to be the late Charlie Haden—a bassist who, like Morgan, was capable of playing in any musical context, while always favouring the one perfectly right note over an unnecessary many.” In the intimate and nearly acoustically perfect Kilbourn Hall, this duo should shimmer.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Jochen Rueckert Quartet, Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Sunday, June 25th, 7:30 & 9:30 pm

JochenrueckertqtNYC-based, German-born drummer Jochen Rueckert is bringing his working quartet with guitarist Lage Lund, bassist Orlando LeFleming and legendary saxophonist Mark Turner to Rochester for the festival. I’m thinking that the placement in the Nordic Jazz Now series is due to Norway-born and raised Lund (he moved to the states after high school), but Lund, Rueckert and the rest of the band are all denizens of the jazz scene in the Big Apple. Jochen is celebrating his 4th album from last year, Charm Offensive (affiliate link). The band has been touring for over seven years and as the bio on his site notes, as a result, have been “reaching greater depths of musical interaction as it continues to do so, proudly devoid of the mounting gimmickry and desperate festival-pandering observed in many of its peers.” While I believe that if you look hard enough, there are quite a few offerings at the XRIJF that don’t show that “desperate festival-pandering,” but that, listening to Charm Offensive, and the fact that I usually enjoy the programming at the Nordic Jazz series (and the great Lutheran Church of the Reformation venue) are the factors that draw me to make this a 2017 pick.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Donny McCaslin Group, Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza, Saturday, July 1, 6:30 & 9:00 pm

DonnyMcCaslinSaxophonist Donny McCaslin and his band have been in the news recently for being featured on David Bowie’s last album Blackstar (affiliate link), made their debut on the Motéma Music label in October with the release of Beyond Now (affliate link), an album dedicated to Bowie. Recorded about three months after Bowie’s death, the project was influenced by the extraordinary experience McCaslin and the group had collaborating with Bowie on his final album. "It was like a dream except it was something I never could have dreamed of," reflected McCaslin on working hand-in-hand with Bowie on Blackstar. "David Bowie was a visionary artist whose generosity, creative spirit, and fearlessness will stay with me the rest of my days. Beyond Now is dedicated to him and to all who loved him."

The Donny McCaslin Group, is comprised of the core Blackstar personnel, including bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer Mark Guiliana, and Jason Lindner, along with guitarist Nate Wood and producer David Binney. The new CD, Beyond Now includes two Bowie songs, covers of record producer and DJ Deadmau5, MUTEMATH, and the Chainsmokers, plus McCaslin originals, including the title composition, inspired by a track inspired by a song McCaslin recorded for Blackstar that didn’t make the album.

OK, I admit that growing up in the 1970s-80s, David Bowie was a major part of my soundtrack, but that's not why I want to see this group. McCaslin is a top-notch sax player and Beyond Now straddles both the traditional sounds of that horn with a funky and modern alternative rock sensibility. I doubt they'll get people dancing in the aisles at Xerox Auditorium, but it could happen....


This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: 4 By Monk By 4, Lyric Theatre, Thursday, June 29th, 4:00 pm & Kilbourn Hall, Friday, June 30th, 6:00 & 9:00 pm

4bymonkby4I’m a sucker for Thelonious Monk. The angular and quirky music of this founder of modern jazz and bebop has always made my ears perk up and I count a number of his LPs and CDs in my collection. The 4 By Monk By 4 is a project presenting four renowned jazz pianists celebrating Monk’s featuring the refined styles of Kenny Barron, Benny Green, Cyrus Chestnut and George Cables who will interpret classic Monk compositions at two venues—The Lyric Theatre and Kilbourn Hall. It’s a can’t miss if you’re a Monk nut like me.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Kendrick Scott Oracle, Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza, Tuesday, June 27th, 6:00 & 9:00 pm

KendrickScottOracleDrummer Kendrick Scott notes that the concept for his band Kendrick Scott Oracle was “conceived from the influence of jazz master drummer, Art Blakey and the movie The Matrix” where the main character, Neo, would visit The Oracle for counsel and would challenge reality by questioning the concepts and being she presented by asking questions to help him discover the answers within himself. He notes that Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers made music to reach people by challenging the audience’s concept of music. Scott connected with this concept of communicating a message of truth to the listener through questioning the status quo. One thing that draws me to new artists are the questions he or she asks of jazz and its traditions. Listening to his 2015 Blue Note Release We Are the Drum (affiliate link), I found him exploring those questions as Scott and the band engage in a broad spectrum of high-energy sounds. Even with a name like that, this was not drum-centric album but explored the talents of all of the young artists he works with, showing another quality recognized in the music of the Kendrick Scott. As noted in 2015 by trumpeter and bandleader Terence Blanchard of his longtime drummer on the release of this Blue Note record, “Kendrick Scott has become the Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, and Tony Williams of his generation … He’s a brilliant mind bringing innovation to the music at the same time as creating a safe place for young talent to develop and grow.”

This appears to be the first time for Kendrick Scott Oracle at XRIJF. The band features Joe Sanders on bass, John Ellis on reeds, Taylor Eigsti on piano (who has been and Mike Moreno on guitar.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Miguel Zenon, Kilbourn Hall, Monday, June 26th, 6:00 & 9:00 pm

MiguelZenonTipicoI think it was the 2008 jazz festival that turned me on to Miguel Zenón. His was one of quite a few CDs I bought that year either at the fest or shortly after. What drew me is in that he has cut a “unique path for himself as an interpreter of the music of his native Puerto Rico through the lens of cutting-edge, acoustic jazz,” as Felix Contreras wrote a recent review on NPR. His music for me epitomizes the fusion that happens in jazz as players bring their cultural heritage to bear on the tradition. It’s result is new sounds that bring you to the same place as the “old” ones do. In addition to several Grammy nominations, Zenón has a MacArthur “genius grant,” a Guggenheim, and widespread critical acclaim. He has a broad and diverse experience as a sideman and collaborator, working with older jazz masters and with the music’s younger innovators, including; Charlie Haden, Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, David Sanchez, Danilo Perez, The Village Vanguard Orchestra, Guillermo Klein & Los Guachos, The Jeff Ballard Trio, Antonio Sanchez, David Gilmore, Paoli Mejias, Brian Lynch, Jason Lindner, Miles Okazaki, Ray Barreto, The Mingus Big Band, Bobby Hutcherson and Steve Coleman. Zenón is also a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective, a group whose past and current members include Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Lovano, Joshua Redman, Brian Blade, Nicholas Payton, Dave Douglas, and Eric Harland, including serving as a resident artistic director for the Collective in 2012.

This year, Zenón is bringing his Tipicó project (Miel Music, 2017) (affiliate link) to XRIJF, his 10th album as a saxophonist and leader. The new CD celebrates the Miguel Zenón Quartet, his working band of more than 15 years, including Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, Austrian bassist Hans Glawischnig and fellow Puerto Rican drummer Henry Cole (an international jazz festival on one stage, which is not uncommon at XRIJF). The cuts on the CD were each specifically written for the members of the Quartet and directly inspired by their individual playing and personalities, documenting their chemistry and collective musicianship. While the cuts on it have echoes of Zenón’s Puerto Rican roots, it is not looking back, but looking forward with a hard edge and beautiful playing throughout by all of this consummate band.

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

XRIJF 2017 Picks: Billy Childs Quartet, Saturday, June 24th, Kilbourn Hall, 6:00 and 9:00 pm

BillyChildsMy picks for the 2017 XRIJF are not all the same as Jeff and Jack’s picks, but that should not be a surprise to those who follow my blog. I try to expand my ears at the jazz festival every year. Yes, I focus on the jazz at the festival (although I sometimes venture beyond that because I’m not just a jazz hound). I will be publishing a number of posts over the remaining days before June 23rd letting you know about my picks and setting out my “itinerary” for each day of the XRIJF. This is the first… there will be more (and I hope I get them published before the music starts).

Billy Childs has garnered thirteen Grammy nominations and four awards in his career so far. He is known as much as a contemporary classical composer as much as a jazz artists. His four Grammy awards include 2wo for Best Instrumental Composition and two for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist. As a pianist. Childs has performed with a wide variety of luminaries in both classical and jazz Yo-Yo Ma, Sting, Renee Fleming, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Chick Corea, The Kronos Quartet, Wynton Marsalis, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Ron Carter, The Ying Quartet (recently here at ESM), The American Brass Quintet, and Chris Botti. As you might expect, it is the eclectic sources of his music that draw me to pick this one as a "must hear" this year.

Billy Childs is touring his Rebirth CD this year (affliliate link). As a recent review of Rebirth in The Guardian noted “this scintillating set is a return to the snaking quickfire hard-bop Childs played in the 70s, albeit infused with all the musics he has visited so intelligently since….” His partners on the album (and hopefully at Kilbourn) include alto saxophone player Steve Wilson, Charles Lloyd drummer Eric Harland, and vocalists Alicia Olatuja and Chilean singer Claudia Acuña.

Check it out to see if you want to add it to your Must Hear list:

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Looking back and forward at JazzRochester’s coverage of the Rochester International Jazz Festival

I started JazzRochester's coverage of the 16th Edition of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival back at the end of March, right after the lineup was announced, and since have threatened to start it up again several times. Now we begin a series of posts over the next few weeks highlighting some of the music I hope to hear at this year’s XRIJF with a look back at how JazzRochester’s coverage has “evolved” over the years and where I intend to take it.

XRIJF logo JazzRochester’s coverage of the Rochester International Jazz Festival began back in 2006. Back then, there was not much local coverage during the festival by the major media outlets in Rochester. A couple of fellow bloggers and I met that year (we’ve heard a lot of music together since). We met up again in 2007 and inaugurated a short-lived podcast of sorts, which we called “Da Jazz”, a decidedly low brow recap of the evening’s listening. That year I also tried my hand at “moblogging,” which was me doing a sort of “man on the Jazz Street” thing, and which I admit were pretty lame (although the idea spread a bit that year and other more professional efforts were heard). In 2007 there was also the first (and only) “taped” interview of a jazz artist (pianist Geri Allen), where I learned how much work it was to not sound like a rank amateur (and given that I was, it was only because Ms. Allen is such a professional that it came out as well as it did....). After the final performance of the night by Avishai Cohen at the Montage, Jason Crane sat in and recorded the group doing a final “Da Jazz”, which was published to his great podcast interview site The Jazz Session.

Given the multiple attempts at moblogging in 2007 (most of which are no longer available for listening to thank the Lord), there were 76 posts during that year’s festival! I don’t think I’ve had that many in any year since. After that year I began learning that the more I tried to post to the blog during the festival itself, the less I was able to do what I really was there for … listen to the music. Additionally, as the years went by and coverage of the festival began to increase in the major media, especially after Xerox’s entry in 2010, I found that the blog’s traffic actually started to go down during XRIJF (before it had usually doubled or tripled). This is the inevitable result of the wall-to-wall coverage that the festival is now getting in local TV and newspapers. As that coverage increased, the importance of posting to the blog itself during the festival seemed less important; enjoying the festival and the music became my focus. Over the ensuing years, I began turning my coverage during the festival to other platforms where JazzRochester has more of an impact, especially Twitter where JazzRochester was building a larger and broader audience (now at over 11,000), Facebook and elsewhere. Now I try to do a recap post after each evening, but most of the coverage during the festival itself is found in other places. I’ll have a post closer to the 23rd that will outline where to find JazzRochester during the XRIJF.

Last year was the first that there was no direct coverage of the XRIJF in JazzRochester since 2006. Why? As those who read the blog regularly will remember, I wasn’t here. I was in Wichita, Kansas from the end of April through October, helping to care for my father, who was on home hospice and passed away at the end of September. Being on the outside for the 15th Edition, I gained some perspective about what this blog is really about, which is covering the live jazz in Rochester for the other 356 days of the year. I hope to use that perspective in framing my coverage and other activities this year.

In 2017, during the XRIJF I intend to focus as I have in more recent years on sharing the great coverage that others are doing and trying to make connections between the artists and festival goers. I’m also going to focus on doing what I can during the XRIJF to raise awareness of the site and what it does throughout the year. In addition to that, I’m looking forward to seeing how new concepts introduced at the festival are affecting the experience of the festival. For example, how will the new (last year) Save Time in Line wristbands for the Kilbourn Hall and Max’s Club Pass venues (two which I tend to include in my itinerary often) will affect my (and others) ability to hear more of the local artists, high school bands, and just to experience more of the festival’s great atmosphere, from someplace other than the alley next to Kilbourn or behind the vendors on Jazz Street. Looks like I won’t have to assess the effect of the XRIJF’s announcement of new Club Passes with pictures and names on Club Pass use given that, since the announcement in March, the festival decided to hold off implementing that change (it will be voluntary this year).

I’m looking forward to the nine days of the XRIJF at the end of June. Please tell me what you’re thinking about for this year’s Edition of the XRIJF in the Comments at the end of the post!

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.

Highlights of the 16th Edition of the XRIJF coming in June

“XRIJF OK, I'm a little late to the party, so you may have heard most of this elsewhere after the lineup announcement press conference last Tuesday, but I finally had some time this weekend to start my coverage of the 16th Anniversary Edition of the Rochester International Jazz Festival, coming June 23rd through July 1st. This year's festival will present more than 1,500 artists from around the world in 325+ shows at 19 venues around the East End of Rochester.  I'll just run through a few highlights, including what's new this year:

  • First thing is that XRIJF has a spiffy new website.  While the components are pretty much the same, navigation is much easier and the site is responsive (like this one), so it'll fit whatever screen you're looking at.  
  • The Club Pass will be personalized with your picture and name (using Xerox technology, of course...).  You can see how they'll look on the front page of the new website. While they didn't go into too much detail about the process at the presser, I expect that there will be stations throughout the site to pick up your pass and that's where the photo will be taken and your pass issued. You may want to give yourself some time and look your best (or how you wish to be seen for the next 9 days) before coming down to pick it up for the first time. While the spin on this new development is that it increases security and will make it possible to issue a new pass if you lose yours (and these are good things...), part of its purpose is to close down sharing of passes, which was always frowned upon, so be forewarned unless you have an uncanny resemblance to the person you intend to share with.
  • The after-hours jam sessions each night will be at the Riverview Ballroom of the Radisson Rochester Riverside hotel (and, conveniently, the artists will also be staying there....). There will actually be two different jam sessions, each with a different focus, and the new one led by Karl Stabnau (more on that as I learn of the details). If you haven't been in the Ballroom for a wedding or other event, it is a pretty large space (much larger than the State Street Bar & Grill inside, good sight lines,  and it has a separate and large bar area. I've heard jazz there and, with good sound, some ambience and food/drink, it may be an improvement.  Of course, it may also be a bit harder for the artists to find it... will leave it John Nugent and Bob Sneider to help them find the way.
  • The Lyric Theatre returns as a Club Pass venue after last year's absence due to the Inner Loop construction, with five shows running from Sunday, June 25th through Thursday, June 29th.  The Democrat & Chronicle is sponsoring it this year.
  • The Rochester Club is being renamed (for the festival) "The Wilder Room."  That doesn't mean the music will be wilder, though.  Looks like a good, eclectic lineup for this venue.
  • The Save Time in Line wristbands are returning for the Kilbourn Hall and Max's at Eastman Place venues.  As I missed last year's festival, I didn't experience how these worked, but since I tend to see a lot of the shows at Kilbourn (and Max's for that matter...), I love the idea of being able to leave the line and hear something else.  Nothing worse than showing up to line up for a Kilbourn show after the line has snaked down the alley and then spending more than an hour there.
  • Young musicians will have an opportunity to take advantage of 5 free workshops, working with artists performing at the festival. These are sponsored by Wegmans.

I would love to hear your thoughts about any of the above.  Just click on the Comments link at the bottom of the post, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

As I noted on Wednesday, and paraphrasing the bard of "Jazz" Street John Nugent, in this year's XRIJF there will be some you know, some you don’t know ... That's just the way I like it!  More later....

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.