Remember what I wrote about "grand plans" a couple days before XRIJF 2018 began? All of those plans were founded on actually being at the festival. I've had to sit out a couple nights already and, listening to my body and my doctor, I'm not planning on coming back tonight and tomorrow. While I'm sure that there are folks who are dealing with much more than I who are braving it, I don't know yet what it is so have decided not to try my luck (especially with the heat....). If you've been following my posts during this year's XRIJF, you know I've been hearing some great music on the five days I was able to make it. So please go out there enjoy yourselves during the final days of the festival! And drink lots of water!
Here's what I was planning on catching tonight & tomorrow:
Nicholas Payton Front & Center at Kilbourn Hall
Gwyneth Herbert's Letters project at the Made in the UK Jazz series at Christ Church
Miles Electric Band at the Chestnut Street Band (replacing St. Germain and hoping for some Bitches Brew and On the Corner style Miles....)
Matt Wilson's Honey & Salt (putting Carl Sandburg's poetry to music) in Kilbourn Hall
Thomas Stronen at the Nordic/Euro Jazz series at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation
I'll see you on Jazz Street next year and, I hope, more of you at live jazz gigs through the other 356 days of the year!
After the news of the day yesterday, with the Supreme Court issuing its last opinion curbing union rights (my parents were both teachers and I was a Teamster in an earlier life) and Justice Kennedy's decision to retire at the end of the month, I was worried about the state of our democracy. As a lawyer, what happens in the third branch of our government takes on much more significance. I was in a funk... but I started out at Kilbourn Hall with Ulysses S. Owens Jr.'s project Songs of Freedom and was reminded that music is one way to find our way through our current state of discord or, if necessary, call out what's wrong with our nation. Owens let the music speak for him... he wasn't there to harangue the audience (I'm sure some of you are just fine with the current state of the nation) but to remind them of the foundational principles of this nation and our failure to live up to them. And USO and his project delivered on the music. Songs of Freedom explored the music of the 60s through interpretations of the songs Joni Mitchelll, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone, imagined through the Quartet and the voices of Theo Bleckmann and Alicia Olatuja. It was an abbreviated version of the 80 minute project that Owens was commissioned to create for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Bleckmann and Olatuja were amazing. Yes, I'm showing my politics on my sleeve, but the music was incomparable and it was very needed at this place and time.
As I noted on Twitter and elsewhere, I next "called an audible," literally, and went to hear Torben Waldorff at the Lutheran Church. After Songs of Freedom, I couldn't top the vocals there despite hearing so many good things about Jazzmeia Horn. This was Waldorff's third time at XRIJF. He was joined by Jon Cowherd (piano), Jon Wikan (drums) and the great Drew Gress (bass). The quartet glided through a number of cuts from Waldorff's new CD and some of his other compositions.
Ended the night with the Julian Siegel Quartet at the Made In the UK Jazz series at Christ Church. While a number of the acts in this series are new, young artists rising in the British jazz scene, Siegel has been around and his Quartet has been playing together for a decade. It showed. I had heard that one unique thing about Siegel was that he plays the bass clarinet. I wanted to hear that sound in this format and lcoation. Fortunately, he finally picked it up from its perch for the last song of the night. I enjoyed the journey to get to that as well.
I'm not adding any picks for tonight as this is being published well after it would get out to potential readers. Why? I'm sitting out tonight. Last night was a bit rough, but I hung in there and made it most of the way through. Today, I'm listening to my body, which is yelling at me that something is wrong and I need to figure out why. I may or may not see you on Jazz Street for the rest of the festival. Go fest amongst yourselves! I'll at least be watching online....
After sitting out the prior night, and still feeling a bit rough at several times throughout the night, I hit the XRIJF for the fifth night. Last night was a good example of one thing I love about the festival... it is "and now for something completely different" every time you move from venue to venue and pass through the streets within the footprint of the festival. Here's how it went for me:
I started out at Kilbourn with the Joe Locke Group. Happened to run into Joe in the alley behind Kilbourn after his sound check and said hi. He told me I'd really love what he put together this year. That's one reason I go to Joe Locke's performances at the XRIJF. I tend to try to get out to hear those whom I haven't heard before. As a Rochester native, Joe has been here quite a lot, but he always brings something different every time he comes. This time he came with a band he has come to call "his tribe" as he enjoys making music with them so much, the core quartet from his new Subtle Disguise CD. He also brought with him vocalist Paul Jost, who sang an arrangement of Bob Dylan's "Who Killed Davey Moore." The group was then joined by great Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith for "Red Cloud," a Locke composition inspired by a book (and stories he heard through his friend Tom Marcello) about the late 19th Century Oglala Sioux chief, with Jost singing and scatting in what at least sounded like Lakota (not fluent, I'm afraid). It was over so soon (partly because Joe likes to talk, a lot, during the set and he had a lot of friends, mentors and others in the audience. Knowing that Rochester audiences like their encores, Joe ended his set with a beautiful composition, "(Safe and Sound) At the Edge of the Milky Way" inspired by dialogue from the Albert Finney movie Orphans.
And now for something completely different, I headed over to the Lutheran Church for Lucia Cadotsch "Speak Low", with her bandmates Petter Eldh on the double bass (Eldh was also on the base in Django Bates Beloved this year) and Otis Sandsjö on the tenor saxophone. Even with such sparse instrumentation the sound was anything but spare. Tightly intwined Cadotsch's haunting vocals, the trio did modern arrangements of standards from the start with, of course "Speak Low." Near the end of the set, Sandsjö began Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" with an incredible solo of cascading notes powered by circular breathing, with the notes continuing to cascade after his bandmates joined in. As I've noted before, I'm not big on vocalists, but this was so fresh a take on the standard songbook that I stayed to the end and it was mesmerizing.
And now for something completely different, I hoofed it over to Christ Church to catch Partikel here as part of the Made in the UK series. Nominated for a 2017 Parliamentary award for best jazz ensemble, Partikel is Duncan Eagles (saxophones), Ant Law (guitar), Max Luthert (double bass) and Eric Ford (percussion). The quartet took a less "wall of sound" approach as a group than some others I heard in that space with similar lineup, which allowed their individual voices to get through. At times etherial and others anthemic, the group filled the space with trippy sound. Had to leave early to get to the next hit....
And now for something completely different, the music of Tom Waits sung in 3-part harmony by 3 women. Hailing from NYC, VickyKristinaBarcelona, moved through a set of well-known and not so well-known Waits tunes with two (Rachelle Garniez and Terry Radigan) trading off guitar, banjo and accordion, and the third playing percussion and squeeze box (Amanda Homi), digging deep "Down in the Hole" to bring something fresh to Waits great music.
So what's on tonight for Night 6 of the XRIJF if the rain and my health let me ... well, lemme see:
Starting out again in Kilbourn Hall for Songs of Freedom, directed by drummer Ulysses S. Owens, Jr. and featuring Theo Bleckmann, Alicia Olatuja & Joanna Majoko. This presentation explores the 1960s through the music of Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone. I'm really looking forward to this one.
I will head over to the Temple Theatre to hear Jazzmeia Horn. I've been seeing her all over the jazz press in the past years, so want to check her out. What's with all the vocalists ... perhaps I'm changing in my old age.
Will catch the Julian Siegel Quartet at the Made in UK Series in Christ Church.
As I noted in yesterday's post, I was not feeling well yesterday (a bit too much XRIJF in Days 1-3, perhaps?) and sat last night out entirely. I did listen to Zara McFarlane's latest album (it's a great album, check it out...), but finished the night off with the last episode of Westworld, instead. Feeling much better today, so will be at the "office" after picking up a wristband for the first show.
This post will be short and sweet as I'm just going to mention the artists I hope to hear tonight:
I always try to see Rochester's own Joe Locke when he comes to town, so will start out in Kilbourn Hall. He always brings something different and always brings a top-knotch band (I expect Geoffrey Keezer will be involved tonight?)
I'm thinking that my next stop will be Partikel Band at the Made in the UK series in Christ Church.
I love Tom Waits' music so will end the night in Montage Music Hall with VickiKristinaBarcelona Sings the Music of Tom Waits.
What else I'd like to hear? There's Lucia Cadotsch "Speak Low" at Lutheran Church, House of Waters, and this guy I saw in one of those big Fort Worth bars (the kind with a live bull riding ring in the bar), Junior Brown at Squeezers at Anthology ... he is always a lot of fun.
Over the years, I've developed what I've come to call "A Kilbourn night," which means that I start out in Kilbourn Hall and that sets up the rest of the night pretty well. Usually, I leave Kilbourn and go over to the Nordic/Euro Jazz Now series at the Lutheran Church, then catch some of the Made in the UK Series before heading over to the Montage or Max's at Eastman Place to end the evening. With one slight change to give some support to my friends in Paradigm Shift in a long-awaited return to XRIJF, that was last night's pattern. Another very satisfying night of music was the result. Here's my notes on what I heard:
As I waited in the Kilbourn line around 3:45 for my early entry wristband for the first set of One for All, I noticed that many of my line mates were known to me as straight-ahead jazz fans (some to the exclusion of anything else ....). That's exactly what they got ... in spades. One for All is a sextet that formed in 1997, with jazz stars Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Jim Rotondi on trumpet, Steve Davis on trombone, David Hazeltine on piano, John Webber on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums. Some have compared One for All to 1960s-era Blue Note jazz and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Every one of them are consummate musicians, leaders in their own right, and they've been playing together for a LONG time, so they're tight and seem to enjoy making music together. The crowd went wild as they burned through a set with plenty of solos and the great big sound that a sextet with that instrumentation can bring.
I count the members of Paradigm Shift as true friends and was happy when I found out that they had finally been brought back to the Rochester jazz festival after an absence of quite a few years. The trio, with guitarist Mel Henderson, Gerry Youngman on organ and drummer Sean Jefferson. Last night they were joined by Brian Thomas (now in Boston, but grew up in Rochester) on trombone and Jared Sims on bari sax. Their set was full of those Paradigm Shift originals I hear a lot with the trio when they play around Rochester, but with the added funk and umph of horns, and originals by Thomas and Sims. They had a good crowd on Jazz Street and there was much head bopping going on. I hear the second set had dancers as well.
I headed from there over to Christ Church and caught some of the 18-piece Beats & Pieces Big Band. These young guys from Manchester, Liverpool and other places in the UK so packed the stage that I'm afraid from my vantage point I couldn't get all of them in the image I shared on social media! Big band, big sound in that cavernous sanctuary. It was the band's first time in the States. Saw three members of the band at the "office," which I hit at the end of the night to hang with my buddies in Paradigm Shift. They're heading to Toronto today and they were excited that they might be able to stop and check out Niagara Falls. Their music was modern reminded me of some of the things I've heard from Darcy Jame Argue's Secret Society, with some rock guitar thrown in with the big band sound.
Left Christ Church and headed over to end the night with the Christian Sands Trio. At least 1/3 of the packed audience were also at the first set. Christian Sands has been the pianist for Christian McBride's trio, but is a born, self-assured leader himself. The young cats he brought with him, Noah Jackson on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums were fantastic support as the trio burned through a set with Sands' dazzling piano in front. The highlight for me was an arrangement of "Over the Rainbow" that was both grounded in that standard and explored many new facets (and some other songs) as the trio rollicked through it.
Tonight, I'm afraid, I have to sit out the XRIJF. I'm not feeling well and think it better that I rest these old bones than come down for my usual night of music and over-indulgence. I'll be on the interwebs, though, and share what I find on Twitter, etc., but tomorrow's post will be just the picks for Tuesday. If I had come out, I was looking forward to:
Zara McFarlane at the Made in the UK series at Christ Church
Jane Bunnett and Maqueque at the Temple Theatre
Trail of Souls at the Nordic/Euro Jazz Now at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation
If I could have worked out the schedule, I might also get over to hear Moon Hooch at the Montage. I'd also recommend Joe Farnsworth Quartet featuring Eric Alexander. I saw them at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago when I was there on business in April.
Those reading my post yesterday about Day 1 and Twitter will know that I had a car issue yesterday that threatened to delay me getting downtown for the second night of XRIJF. The AC started pouring water into the passenger side of the cabin while we were driving to a graduation party for a friend. Since our house AC went out a couple weeks ago, I thought "oh no, not the car too!). As we happened to be near the dealer, we took it in and luckily it wasn't a big deal. I made it downtown a little late to go to anything early, but managed to catch all the acts I had planned to hear....
A short recap of last night:
Although I've heard the Bad Plus several times, I made an exception to my XRIJF "rule" as I was looking forward to hearing them with Orrin Evans on piano. Evans recently replaced original Plus pianist Ethan Iverson and I had seen him with his Quartet in NYC a couple of years back and really enjoyed his music. I wanted to hear how (and whether?) he clicked with the BP. He did. The band started off with a burner and moved through a set list that included some of the old tunes and a number from their new album Never Stop II, alternatively quiet and introspective and dynamic and intense. A note about the new Temple Theatre venue. At least to my ears, the sound was great in the space. The Theatre well-handled the BP's music, which moves quickly from soft to the point of a whisper to intense, high volume, walls of sound. Reid Anderson took a quite torturous route involving smart cars and CB radio in announcing the tune "Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass" from their second album These Are the Vistas.
Next to the UK series at Christ Church for Django Bates Beloved Trio. Bates and his trio had studied the space in Christ Church and selected music to suit that space. It worked. The music, including The Study of Touch, the title track from the Bates' new ECM album, was impressionistic and introspective, and enveloped the sanctuary with intricate patterns of sound. One interesting aside was that the organ in the Christ Church was made in Gothenburg Sweden and Django's bass player Petter Eldh believes his father may have worked on the building that organ.
Ended up with Iceland’s Sigurdur Flosason with an great quartet at the Lutheran Church. His music is evocative of the natural surroundings of his native land and his saxophone was rich and beautifully played. After the intensity of my first two musical forays on Day 2, this was a welcome and comfortable place to end.
What's on for tonight? Well, lemme see... (open up the XRIJF app, which has made my spreadsheet superfluous...):
One for All in Kilbourn Hall
Paradigm Shift with the PS Horns on the Jazz Street Stage (the PShift guys are my buddies and I can't miss their return to playing at the festival).
Christian Sands Trio at the Montage
I would like to get the Kuara Trio at Lutheran and Beats & Pieces Big Band at the Made in the UK series at Christ Church in, too, but schedule won't work that way.
I was quite worried before the music began yesterday. So much going on in my brain, I barely slept on Thursday night. Things started to click into place when I took a tour after emerging from the garage, poked my head into “Jazz Street” and saw the preparations and familiar faces I always see, and then I hit my “office” at Havana Moe’s on East Ave, worked on the blog and watched the crowds start to arrive. It really clicked in when the music began.
A quick recap from last night...
The first show of the night was Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez, two incredible musicians with deep roots in Cuba and its music. I had seen both play with groups separately, but hearing them together was a wonderful way to start the 2018 XRIJF. I suspected it would be, which was why I made a exception to wanting to hear new artists this year (and my love of the music of that island). Both are such consummate musicians, both throwing flurries of notes and also pulling back and playing delicate figures. The connection between these two musicians was palpable.
Hoofed over to the Lutheran Church for Marius Neset. Another good choice. Neset and his quintet were on fire at times. Although Neset’s saxophones were up front, his band stretched out throughout the performance. The band was tight. the music was not simple, with shifting tempos and time signatures. As often happens in the Nordic (and now Euro) Jazz series at the Lutheran Church, there was a standing O at the end. For good reason....
I headed over to Christ Church for the first Made in the UK Series gig with the Will Vinson Trio. Vinson noted that while English, he’d been “marinating” in the States for awhile. He was celebrating release of a new bass-less trio recording, It’s Alright With Three, and brought along guitarist Gilad Hekselman and drummer Ziv Ravitz. Hekselman was outstanding. Vinson and the band filled that huge space with sometimes anthemic sounds.
I actually was able to get into The Wilder Room for the Sara Gazarek Quartet. It was SRO, with the reconfiguration of the Wilder Room seeming to reduce the amount of space (although moving the bar out outside must have created more space?). Vocalists are not my thing most of the time and while she has a wonderful way of putting together a song and her voice is beautiful, I slipped out the back after the first few songs of her set.
So what’s on for tonight? Lemme see...
Django Bates Beloved Trio @ Christ Church
Sigurdur Flosason @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation
The Bad Plus @ the new Temple Building venue
Depending on timing, weather, etc., I may trade off to see Mwenso & The Shakes or the late show of Gypsy jazz group Des Sourcils. On the other hand, I’m finishing up this post in Van Bortel Subaru. We were out near the dealership for a graduation party and water began to pour into the passenger side of the cabin from the dash. So, it may be that my “grand plans” will be dashed ... with a fat repair bill to boot.
Unfortunately for me and fortunately for you, the first day of the XRIJF is chock full of great artists I want to check out. Timing to get to all of them is tough, so I'm concentrating getting out to hear:
Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez @ The Xerox Auditorium
Marius Neset at the Lutheran Church
Will Vinson Trio @ The Made in the UK Series at Christ Church
Sara Gazarek Quartet @ The Wilder Room
I'm sorry that I'm likely to miss Terell Stafford Quintet in Kilbourn and Joey Alexander Trio at the new Temple Building venue. I've heard them both before and know they'll both be fantastic. Just concentrating on folks I haven't heard or, in the case of Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez, just love the LatinX side of jazz. XRIJF is all about choices... I reserve the right to change mine, but there it is.
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)
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.
Phronesis 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.”
Bill 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.
NYC-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.
Saxophonist 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....
I’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.
Drummer 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.
I 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.
My 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:
I believe that performances will be in the Dorris Carlson Reading Garden, which is a great space to sit, eat your lunch and listen to some great jazz from some great local artists and groups (if I'm not right, or if it rains, the concerts will be Kate Gleason Auditorium for bad weather).All concerts will be at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. The Central Library is located at 115 South Avenue in downtown Rochester, phone: (585) 428-7300. All shows are free. No tickets are required.
As I noted in my "introduction post" recently, I am sharing a complete list of the artists I'm thinking about checking out during the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, rather than separate posts on each of the dates as I have done in past years. I encourage you check out the full line up for each date on the XRIJF website as the XRIJF have provided much more on the artist pages to help you decide on who you want to hear. For the most part, I think that one can see all of my main choices in a single night, but I've also included "maybes" that I also want to hear but couldn't likely fit in.
This is my first pass, but not necessarily my last....
Friday, June 19
Cecile McLorin Salvant
David Gibson Boom!
Music Music Music
Maybes: New Mastersounds (I have heard that these guys channel The Meters ... I have Cissy Strut as a ringtone ... I may have to check them out)
Saturday, June 20
Dontae Winslow & Winslow Dynasty
Eric Revis Trio
Maybes: Jeremy Pelt Quartet & Andrew McCormack Quartet
Sunday, June 21
Nils Berg Cinemascope
Maybes: Jane Bunnett and Maqueque & New West Guitar Group
Monday, June 22
Joe Locke "Love is a Pendulum"
Eivind Opsvik Overseas
Maybes: Harkness Herriott Duo & Kat Edmonson
Tuesday, June 23
Fred Hersch Trio
Moutin Factory Quintet
Julia Hulsmann Trio
Maybes: Cloudmakers Trio
Wednesday, June 24
Antonio Sanchez & Migration
Ignacio Berroa & Hilario Duran Afro Cuban Jazz & Beyond"
Omer Avital Quintet
Maybes: Mitch Frohman Latin Jazz Quartet
Thursday, Jun. 25
Bill Charlap @ Lyric Theatre
Dave Douglas & High Risk
Ali Jackson Trio
Maybes: Halie Loren & Theo Croker
Friday, June 26
Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra with Ingrid Jensen
Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet
Maybes: Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (loved them last year and want to hear what this new group does after a year under their belt)
Saturday, June 27
Renee Rosnes Quartet
GoGo Penguin (Nugent keeps saying this group is one of the "sleepers" so got to check them out).
Katie Ernst "Little Words"
Maybes: Artstdir & Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (his live shows are just too much fun...)
Please add a comment below or on Facebook or Twitter to let us know who you are looking forward to during the XRIJF!
In my "quandary" post, I noted that the XRIJF had really stepped it up this year in their artist pages for the festival, regularly including links to the artists websites, and to their music on YouTube videos, Soundcloud or Spotify. These links have also been incorporated into the new Discover functionality in this year's XRIJF App for iPhone and Android. In prior years, these pages often seemed more or less slapped together and I often found myself filling in some of the missing material, at least for the artists that I had picked to be in my posts of Picks for each day of the festival, to give my readers something more to go on in choosing who they would be hearing during the festival.
This year, I will share a complete list of the artists I'm thinking about checking out during the festival (soon) and then I'll pick out some of them to delve into a bit more deeply, adding some more to what is available on their XRIJF artist pages. As I write them, if you want to check them out, you'll find them by clicking on the XRIJF Picks category in the middle column.
I want to make a couple of things clear here in this post about these picks:
My XRIJF Picks, for the most part, reflect my very eclectic approach to music in general and jazz in particular. I want to expand my ears and the XRIJF gives me a great opportunity to find new sounds and new artists and, more importantly, to hear them live. Most will fit within the "jazz" genre, but any who know me and follow this blog should be aware that I define that genre pretty broadly. As I noted before, there are not as many "bucket list" artists at this year's festival, artists who I must hear. This frees me ... I love that. As festival music producer John Nugent always says, "it's not who you know, it's who you don't know...."
My Picks this year will not include any of the great local artists and groups who will be appearing during the 2015 XRIJF. I want to make it clear why. I go to gigs and support local jazz artists throughout the year in this blog and I will be checking out as many of them as my schedule will allow (and the above mentioned freedom will allow more of that this year). I will also have coverage of the local acts who are at the XRIJF and continue my Wednesday posts listing the live jazz that will continue to be heard outside the confines of the XRIJF footprint during its nine days. However, the XRIJF offers me a unique opportunity to hear music from artists and groups beyond the Western New York area. I encourage you to check out as many of our amazing local artists during the festival and then continue to go out and here them after it is over.
Let us know what you think about the lineup and whatever else you want to discuss about the coming XRIJF in the comments below, on other posts as I publish them, or on Twitter and Facebook. I've also started an Instagram account and, while there's nothing there today, I will begin adding images to it soon. I’d love to have a conversation with you here, there … or you can talk amongst yourselves!
I thought I'd add this feature post at the top of the blog to guide you to my previously published posts for each evening of the XRIJF. As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes in music. I may play a jazz blogger on the Internet, but I have a wide range of musical interests and a hunger to hear new sounds and stretch. They are generally possible to hear in one night (that would be with an emphasis on "generally"...you may have to miss part of one to make another and there are some where you just have to make a choice). In each post, I try to add some additional links, especially to video of the artists performing to give you a taste of their art so you know what you're getting when you go to hear:
There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the full XRIJF listings and make your own decisions. Let us know what you think in the comments to this or the individual posts, especially if you saw one of the picks.
If you want to check out some of the "back story" from the artists at this year's festival on Twitter, you can follow their tweets on a separate page of the blog where I've embedded the [email protected] Twitter "stream."
Well, it's here! I have a couple of hours before heading downtown to Jazz Street. Beautiful day here in Rochester, so why am I here inside writing? To record my picks for Friday and Saturday, the last two days of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival for you my readers, of course!
On Friday, June 27th, the eighth night of the XRIJF, I'm going to try to get to the Club Pass gigs of the following artists (the links on their names at the beginning will take you to XRIJF's page with times and venues, plus I've added links to sites and video if missing from the XRIJF's site):
Bill Frisell's Guitar in the Space Age: Bill Frisell comes to the jazz festival here quite often, but every time he comes he brings a wildly different project. It's always like he's a completely diferent artist each time he comes. So, I'll be heading out to Kilbourn to see him for maybe the 4th time at XRIJF. Based on what I've read, the quartet he's bringing will be mining the guitar that is the formative clay of Frisell's playing, including that of: jazz legend Charlie Christian; rock and roll's Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy, Link Wray and The Wrecking Crew; surf music icons Dick Dale, The Ventures and The Astronauts; folk's Pete Seeger; and country music stars Chet Atkins, Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant and Merle Travis. Frisell was born in 1951 ... can you tell? May have to get there early to get a good seat given all the guitarists in town who will likely be there...
The Wee Trio: This trio has been here twice (in 2010 at MCC and 2012 at Roberts Wesleyan) and I had to miss them both times. Instead of a piano, The Wee Trio replaces it with vibes and a marimba. They range from standards to reimaginings of Nirvana songs, from straight up to sideways. Just the way I like it.... Here's a couple of videos, one of them playing The Oracle and another live performance from one of my favorite Chicago jazz clubs, the Green Mill (a bit of static at the beginning goes away). By the way, the Wee's drummer Jared Schonig used to hold down the beat with Rochester's own Paradigm Shift.
The Deciders: Despite City's mis-labeling them (as of this writing) in their guide as a rock band from Boulder this The Deciders is from Norway and is anything but, belonging more to the tradition of Sun Ra (without the spaceship) than to covers of blues and southern rock. As anyone who has read this blog for awhile will know, I like to open my ears and this group of musicians will do that from me. A writer for the Irish Times calls them a "big, blowsy outfit, with plenty of chops and energy in spades." For a pretty big taste and confirmation of that here is a video of them from the 2012 MoldeJazz festival, and another of a set (I think, it's 23 minutes) from Victoria (probably B.C., Canada).
Ibrahim Electric: We caught this Danish group when they were at the festival in 2010 and I am ready for more. Ibrahim Electric drives hard and breaks things, like barriers between genres, mixing jazz, rock, surf, afro-pop, soul and funk. Here they are with Rain Man, or this set from jazzahead2014's Danish Night.
This night's choices were hard as I would have liked to pull in the Rufus Reid Trio, but again have opted to branch out from the familiar as much as possible. Also Ester Rada (see below), opening for Marcus Miller Band outside.
On Saturday, June 28th, the last night of the XRIJF, sniff... sniff, I'm going to try to hear the following artists (the links on their names at the beginning will take you to XRIJF's page with times and venues, plus I've added links to sites and video if missing from the XRIJF's site):
Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60: Celebrating the 60 years that the Newport Jazz Festival, the first annual festival in the U.S., this cast of players is traveling the circuit. Directed by Anat Cohen, who was here last year, it includes Karrin Allyson, Randy Brecker, Mark Whitfield, Peter Martin, Larry Grenadier,and Clarence Penn, all of who are stars in their own right. Although I've yet to make my way over to Rhode Island for the festival itself, I have shared the great streams of the concerts that WGBO and National Public Radio do each year. Maybe for the 61st?
Ester Rada: This Israeli born fits this festival so well, mixing all sorts of influences from across the world from Ethiopian jazz of Ester Rada's heritage to neo-soul, funk and R&B. Plus the music that I've heard just makes you want to move. Her performance is going to be a party in the Big Tent (or on the street on Friday) if she brings it like she does on this live cut of Bad Guy from the Barby Club in Tel Aviv.
Cyrille Aimée: Depends on my mood, but by the end of the festival I'm usually ready to kick back and end it on a mellow tone (and that may be necessary given my previous pick). Max at Eastman Place is a space for that. If it goes the other way toward the more driving and intense side, I'll end with The Deciders at Montage, which is the space for that (although that's only if I don't see them Friday). The Washington Post describes Cyrille Aimée's voice as "like fine whiskey--oaky and smooth, with a hint of smokiness." When I saw her at the MAG awhile back she was touring with a Brazilian guitarist. This year she'll probably be appearing with the band on her new album It's A Good Day, with bass, drums and three guitars to cover her main influences of gypsy, jazz and Brazilian music. Here's a recent video of a live performance and one from 2012 singing Caravan with her Surreal Band at Birdland.
There are only 3 above as it is highly likely that I will miss one of my Friday picks and there is usually a few repeats, in different venues, between Friday and Saturday of the festival. If that's not necessary, I might get over to the Lutheran Church to see Susanna. The last night will be a fluid night.
As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes and are possible to hear in one night (well, almost...usually). There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the full XRIJF listings for June 27th and June 28th and make your own decisions. You'll also be able to choose from a fine (although limited) assortment of local gigs in my regular Wednesday listings post.
Well, it's been a great ride figuring out my 2014 XRIJF with you... I'll see you on Jazz Street (where I'm heading as soon as I hit the Enter key...).
As the excitement builds for the start of the festival tomorrow, I decided that I should pull out as many of the stops as possible to get these "pre-festival" posts out before the Rochester International Jazz Festival begins (tomorrow), as all bets are off once it gets underway. We'll see about tomorrow... but you get one tonight at least.
On Thursday, June 26th, the seventh night of the XRIJF, I'm going to try to get to the Club Pass gigs of the following artists (the links on their names at the beginning will take you to XRIJF's page with times and venues, plus I've added links to sites and video if missing from the XRIJF's site):
Manuel Valera: Although I would love to see pianist Manuel Valera with his band New Cuban Express (I would love to see a new Cuban series someday at the XRIJF... hint, hint...), he will be playing solo piano at XRIJF in Hatch Hall. As Howard Mandel, jazz writer and President of the Jazz Journalists Association notes about Valera, it is an "unalloyed pleasure to to discover a young man so accomplished that his potential seems boundless" I have to agree. For a taste, here is Valera working solo (apparently at home) on John Coltrane's Giant Steps.
Phaedra Kwant: Described as a "musical chameleon," this Dutch bassist, singer, lyricist and composer tries to "create my own musical signature by using less conventional forms of compositions, sounds and arrangements", combining her virtuosic grooves with melodic lines and leaving "sufficient room for improvisation." Here she is at Dizzy's Rotterdam (albeit a few years ago) for a taste.
Anders Hagberg Quartet: There are not a lot of flautists out there plying the jazz trade and Anders Hagberg is one of the best (along with the soprano saxophone) on the international scene. In addition to his own projects such as the Quartet, Hagberg toured worldwide with groups such as Mynta, Yggdrasil and the New Jungle Orchestra and worked with master percussionist Marilyn Mazur (who was last here in 2010 with trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg). For a taste, here is Hagberg on flute playing the song Zawinul and also some amazing sounds playing Caravan on the contrabass flute.
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble: And now for something completely different ...brass sounds from my former home town, Chicago. In the 90s, this group of 8 brothers brought together their musicianship (a trait throughout their whole family), their jazz roots and a hip hop sensibility, and made a living busking on the streets of Chicago for many years (first time I heard them was on the streets of Chi-town). The Hyptnotic Brass Ensemble will be a fun show and they are unlike any other brass band you've heard. For a taste, check out this live performance of Planet Gibbous outside a subway station in Times Square.
As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes and are possible to hear in one night (well, almost...usually). There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the full XRIJF listings for June 26th and make your own decisions. You'll also be able to choose from a fine (although limited) assortment of local gigs in my regular Wednesday listings post.
So, I was getting a bit worried about pounding all these posts (and others I have in the queue) before the festival starts on Friday and then "discovered" (again) that being in this situation is not a new thing for me. Last year, I gave up and posted only ONE post with my picks instead of the nine I've committed to this year. Serves me right for not looking at last year to see what precedents I may have set .... But now I'm committed now (or should be)!
So, on Wednesday, June 25th, the sixth night of the XRIJF, I've picked the following artists to try to get a listen to (the links on their names at the beginning will take you to XRIJF's page with times and venues, plus I've added links to sites and video if missing from the XRIJF's site):
Warren Wolf & The Wolfpack: Although I wasn't familiar with Warren Wolf but in getting cuts for my 2014 Spotify playlist (see the middle column of the blog), found some tracks and really dug them. You can check Warren and the Wolfpack out on this video from a live gig at his alma mater Berklee College of Music in Boston, brought to us by radio station WBGO.
David's Angels: This Swedish/Danish group is another genre-busting group, which is not uncommon in the Nordic Jazz series at XRIJF. As you might have guessed from some of my previous picks this year and over previous jazz festivals, while I love jazz (and straightahead at that) my ears are not slaves to any genre. Here is a video of David's Angels performing their song Visions in Sweden.
The Brain Cloud: While they sorta had me with the name of the band, I love Western swing which is a loose definition of this NYC band's genre. The name Brain Cloud name apparently comes from an old Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys song that goes "My brain is cloudy, my soul is upside down...," which you can take a listen to in the Brain Cloudy Blues.
As you can see by the number of picks, I am unlikely to get to see all of these. Geez, I also would have loved to catch Diane Schuur and the Brian Kellock & Tommy Smith gig, but at least at this juncture, I'm sticking with the "who you don't know side" of XRIJF (but who knows...?). As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes and are possible to hear in one night (well, almost...). There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the full XRIJF listings for June 25th and make your own decisions. You'll also be able to choose from a fine (although limited) assortment of local gigs in my regular Wednesday listings post.
We have a lot of jazz and other musicians conveniently located right here in Rochester and they will be out in force again this year. The number of local artists (and artists who hail from around here) playing the festival has increased over the years.
This year, you'll find the following locals gracing the Club Pass and other stages, including (to save space, I'm listing them here alphabetically and the links will take you to their XRIJF artist page, providing times and venues):
And of course there are the great High School Bands we all love to listen to while we get our first beer and get in line (or just sit on Jazz Street and the other venues and chill). Listed below alphabetically; click on the link to find out when your favorites be playing the Jazz Street Stage:
I apologize if I missed any (and feel free to point it out so I can amend). You can find out information on a number of these artists on this blog by checking out their sites linked to from Rochester Jazz Artists Links button at the top of the page. Remember that you can go hear many of these artists throughout the year, so if you miss them at XRIJF (as I will on many, I'm afraid....), you can likely catch them later.Just watch my listings posts published every Wednesday or, if you prefer to be notified by email, put your email address in the box in the middle panel, follow the instructions, and you'll get all the posts to this blog. You can check tomorrow and next Wednesday for those playing elsewhere around ROC during the XRIJF.
In addition to the above, the nightly late nigth jams at the State St. Bar & Grill at the Rochester Plaza Hotel, which in addition to Bob Sneider and the guys usually includes local students and others who sit in for a tune or two before the XRIJF artists step up to the stage for a jam. There will likely be some other performances around the "footprint" of the XRIJF that are not part of the XRIJF as well.
Some hard bop, perhaps some Creole flavors, a bit of stew from a group of Norwegians and Poles. This is on the menu for me on June 24th of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
On June 24th, the fifth night of the XRIJF, I'm going to try to hear these picks (the links on their names at the beginning will take you to XRIJF's page with times and venues):
Louis Hayes & The Cannonball Legacy Band: One thing I've noticed about this year's festival is that fewer of the old lions of jazz are present. While that is not unexpected given the age of those who blazed trails in jazz or worked with Monk, Coltrane, Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderly and other players who did. Louis Hayes, who kept time with those four and so many others like them will bring his group that pays tribute to the music of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet, one of the most popular jazz groups of the 1960s-70s. Although from 2008, I'm sure this video of a performance in Brazil will give you a good idea of what you'll be in store for in Kilbourn Hall. I believe the current lineup features some heavy hitters as well, including Vincent Herring on alto, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Rick Germanson on piano, and Dezron Douglas on bass.
Etienne Charles: Born in Trinidad, educated in Florida and New York, trumpeter (and steel drum and cuatro player) Etienne Charles is an artist that works a lot of musical influences into the gumbo of his sound, such as on his most recent CD Creole Soul, but can also hold it down, such as the hard bop of this smoking In the Winelight at B Sharps Jazz Club in Talahassee, FL. Not being as familiar with his work before this, I'm looking forward to his set and hearing more of it later.
Jacob Young's "Forever Young": This group formed with guitarist Young, a Norwegian American, saxophonist Trygve Seim, and the members of the Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski's trio, releasing an album on ECM. If you want to get a taste, check out ECM's Forever Young site. Apparently the first two cuts have a more Brazilian influence.
As you can see, I've only got three picks for this night. I'm leaving the last as a wildcard, although possibles include Peter Bernstein & Friends, Blind Boy Paxton, or 'dose of 'bones with the always fun Bonerama who have appeared at the festival numerous times. On the other hand as I will have a few more days to go before finishing, this may be the day I go home to sleep early.... nah!
As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes and are possible to hear in one night (well, almost...). There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the full XRIJF listings for June 24th and make your own decisions.
One of the things about this being my blog rather than a news outlet is that I am not trying to pick the best for the most. My readers (at least those whom I've met) are all over the board on the types of jazz that they love. I cannot make picks that will make them all happy so I'm just going pick some of the Club Pass gigs and others that I'm hoping will make me happy. On June 23rd, the fourth night of the XRIJF, it'll make me very happy if I can hear these picks (the links on their names at the beginning will take you to XRIJF's page with times and venues):
Vijay Iyer: He's playing with his trio in Kilbourn on Monday (and in Hatch solo on Tuesday). One of my favorite jazz artists these days, Vijay Iyer is one of the most innovative and interesting jazz pianists around. I'll head to get in the Kilbourn line early for this one. You can read all about why in Jeff Spevak's great profile in the D&C, but I just want to make sure that I hear him play.
Nels Cline & Julian Lage: These two guitarists are eclectic and innovative and I'm really looking forward to seeing them play together. Wilco guitarist Nels Cline's website's page on his collaboration with Lage says their set will feature compositions by both players, noting that "[t]hose familiar with Cline's work may be surprised to hear him play without effects pedals or looping devices; those familiar with Lage's work may be surprised to hear him play totally 'free' improvisation." A taste of them playing is available on Soundcloud. The Little Theatre space should be a great venue for this gig as well.
Kari Ikonen Trio: As Kari Ikonen's website puts it, this trio "cooks with the best European ingredients, the art of Afro-American cuisine and finest Oriental spices. . . . Chef Kari Ikonen and his team serve up a menu that combines his own creations with fresh interpretations of traditional Armenian dishes and classic recipes from cordons bleus like Coltrane or Shorter." I'll take an order of that... Here they are live in a video of the Trio from last year.
As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes and are possible to hear in one night (well, almost...). There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the full XRIJF listings for June 23rd and make your own decisions.
One of XRIJF Music Producer John Nugent's sayings that I subscribe to wholly is "it's not who you know, it's who you don't know" (even have the t-shirt). Opening your ears to who you don't know, at least for me, leads to new music I want to hear more of. I've started many relationships with new music at the jazz fest. In that spirit, I'm going to try to get out to hear these picks for Day 3, June 22nd, of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival:
Benedikt Jahnel Trio: This trio with a "Zen groove aesthetic" will sound great in the Max at Eastman venue and what I've heard from their recent ECM recording tells me this may be the show I see at the end of the evening to chill. Check out more on the group's site.
Harris Eisenstadt Golden State: While I love straightahead jazz, you may notice that I can tend to pick some of the groups that may challenge your ears a bit. I'm happy that some groups at XRIJF this year that will expand our horizons a bit. Harris Eisenstadt's Golden State project is one of those groups. Just wish that fellow Chicagoan and AACM alum Nicole Mitchell, who was a member of the group at its inception, was going to be along for the ride as I didn't get a chance to hear her when I was living in Chi-town. Eisenstadt made a short video about the project.
Hot Club of Detroit: Love me some Gypsy jazz al la Django. Hot Club of Detroit eschews percussion, but I'm intrigued that on their most recent disc Junction they have brought in saxophonist Jon Irabagon, who is better known as a member of the iconoclastic Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Don't know if he'll be with them at XRIJF, though. Here's a video to give you the flavor.
As always, these picks reflect my own eclectic tastes. There are so many great choices each night to fit any taste, so check out the XRIJF listings for June 22nd and make your own decisions.
Flat Earth Society: On their website, the FES notes that "To attempt to describe the music of Flat Earth Society is an impossible (and pointless) task." I may be different than the average jazz Joe, but I like that. You can hear some Zappa in these guys (they even say so...). It should be a fun mixture of jazz, rock and humor. Here's a video (and there are some cuts available on their site.
John Escreet: Hopefully pianist Escreet bring his current CD's group of Evan Parker, John Hébert and Tyshawn Sorey on his date here. Looks like Escreet is going to be doing a duo date with Tyshawn Sorey, based on his website, but with those two, it should be great. Here's a video from the new group (although not the duo...).
Snarky Puppy: This 2014 Grammy winner group is a large ensemble with a mix of jazz, funk and world music. Snarky Puppy should be a great show and one that XRIJF producer says is a must hear.
Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio: Sunna and I met on Twitter way back and it was great to finally hear her in person last year. Sunna Gunnlag's trio will fill the Lutheran Church space with beautiful sound.
As always, these picks reflect my own, somewhat weird, choices. There are so many choices each night, so make your own decisions.
I've set up a Spotify playlist with selected cuts from a number of the artists who will be playing at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (those who I could find on Spotify, that is). Many of them are my picks for trying to hear this year. I've tried to find cuts from recent work where available (or in the configuration I expect that the artists will appear at XRIJF).
Listen to a cut to check out an artist you're thinking about hearing; play the list to get a feeling for just how eclectic XRIJF will be (and I'm only just touching the surface). I'll try to add others as I find them or other Spotify users let me know about some more or a cut that highlights the artist more effectively. You can check out the existing playlist for local artists right below if you'd like too.
You can find a box in the middle panel and click on the play button to play while you read (don't leave the page or it will stop, so you may want to open other pages you read in a new page). Or download Spotify and click here (Spotify URI) to add the playlist to your own Profile. Happy listening!
If you are trying to hear as much music as possible while at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (June 20-28), you can't really go wrong as there is great music everywhere. Free on the street, in Kilbourn Hall and Eastman Theatre, and in the Club Pass venues—there is music everywhere!
If however, like me, you have picked out the music you'd like to hear beforehand, you are bound for frustration if you try to hear too much each night (and there is SO MUCH I want to hear!) as you run between venues, stand in lines, and also try to get the odd beer or street food along the way. Maintaining that kind of pace (4-5 concerts a night) for 9 days can be done, but it takes a toll (and a spreadsheet...). Like those folks you see at concerts spending most of their time holding up and watching the pixelated video image of the performance on their camera or tablet, you may end up missing out on the magic taking place right before your eyes and ears. It becomes work. As [email protected] is not a job but a passion, over successive jazz festivals, I've moved away from the the frenetic pace (although admittedly mine will be more than many). I am at the festival to listen to some great music, get introduced to some new sounds, and have a good time. Somewhere in there I hope to connect my readers to what's going on there, the artists and the general "conversation" around the XRIJF through this blog and the other places you find [email protected]
I have some initial choices for each night, but I leave it open to the endless shifting variables of each evening to determine my final choices and always leave my mind open to changing my plan. On some days it might be possible to hear all of them (or at least portions of some) without bending the rules of space and time, but like I said ... these are just a first cut. What I'll be doing in this and eight other, much shorter, posts is letting you know what I'd like to hear each night. I'll link into XRIJF's page on the artist or group, if it is useful, and link to other sources to learn more about them and their music. I have pretty eclectic tastes so not all of them will be jazz (and that's OK...), but like the festival, most of them will be. I'll expect that you'll follow the link to get the information about venue and times, or you might just pick up the XRIJF app for your smartphone to help with that.
So, at last, now my "picks" for June 20th of the XRIJF are:
Roy Hargrove: His first show at the Harro East will a great kickoff to the 2014 XRIJF as I believe I saw him at one of the earlier RIJFs after arriving in ROC in 2002.
Partisans: UK group Partisans is opening up a US tour here and based on what I'm hearing on a Youtube playlist I found (and their site) will be an intense set, especially in the setting of Christ Church.
Sun Trio: From Finland, Sun Trio had me when I read the quote in their bio from All About Jazz approximating their style to British artist David Hockney (but I'm weird that way...). We'll see if I agree with that assessment, but it fits my bill of checking out some new sounds (and I've usually enjoyed the Finnish groups that Nordic Jazz Now has brought to the Lutheran Church). You can check them out on their website or this trio cut I found on YouTube.
Holophoner: This is a group including trumpeter Eastman alum Mike Cottone with six other young jazz musicians who met in 2012 after being selected to attend the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz Performance in LA. The group performed throughout the globe as part of that Institute experience Here is a full live performance of Holophoner did at the Blue Whale.
The above are the gigs I've selected for myself for Day 1, but of course there will be a lot of other great music out there that I might be sorry I missed (or may end up at ... who knows?). There are also the great free shows on Friday the 20th, including jump jive with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, local artists (who will be profiled in a separate post) and the high school jazz bands that get us going at the beginning.
In the past I've gone into much detail, over numerous posts, about my pickes for each day of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. I worked pretty hard on those posts as, earlier in the festival's history, there was very little coverage in the mainstream media and, for the artists I thought were notable or was planning to hear, I wanted to provide my readers with more information than was being provided by the festival's own site and other sources. In addition to the fiasco of last year where in the end I had to do a "mea culpa" post in my utter failure to meet my own goals on the picks, the XRIJF and local media have really stepped up their game over the past few years (and especially this year). Moreover my traffic stats for those posts shows that they were not exactly burning up the interwebs in popularity (thus confirming my own feeling that "who'd care what Greg Bell is planning on hearing anyway"). So this is the only post on my picks this year before the fest. I am not going to do any wrap up posts for each night of the festival either. Why? One because over the past couple of XRIJFs I increasingly have changed focus during the festival to listening to the music and having a good time with my many friends and "jazz buddies" (the folks I only see during this nine days in June). Another factor is that while I will be taking half days from work during the festival, my workload at the day job is going to need more of my time than anticipated.
Well, here's what I hope to try to hear during the festival. Using the XRIJF's iPhone (and now Android) app to set up my "wanna sees" for each day and sending myself an email with the picks, I have listed them below. I may or may not be able to work them all in, but the ones listed should be possible (at least for a portion) and there are some that are not even jazz (oh no!). There are usually several others that I'd like to hear each day that are not on the list (but still may be later as my picks "evolve"). Please let us know what you're looking forward to in the comments.
Finally, the Picks...
Friday, June 21
Christian McBride's Inside Straight @ Kilbourn Hall
Nikki Yanofsky @ Harro East Ballroom
Trondheim Jazz Orchestra @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation
Noah Preminger Quartet with Ben Monder @ The Rochester Club
Patricia Barber @ Max at Eastman Place
Saturday, June 22
Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio @ Kilbourn Hall
Terell Stafford Quartet @ Montage
YolanDa Brown @ Christ Church
Delbert McClinton @ City of Rochester East/Chestnut Stage
Sunday, June 23
Louis Armstrong Society Jazz Band @ Kilbourn Hall
Rafael Zaldivar @ Max at Eastman Place
BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet @ Harro East Ballroom
Christian Wllumrod Ensemble @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation
Monday, June 24
Alfredo Rodriguez Trio @ Kilbourn Hall
Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet @ Xerox Auditorium
Geoffrey Keezer @ Hatch Recital Hall
Eric Alexander/Harold Mabern Quartet @ Montage
Tuesday, June 25
Anat Cohen @ Xerox Auditorium
Eero Koivistoinen Quartet @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation
David Byrne & St. Vincent @ Eastman Theatre (college in the early 80s... what can I say?)
Wednesday, June 26
Gretchen Parlato @ Kilbourn Hall
Soweto Kinch @ Christ Church
Trio Globo with Howard Levy @ Xerox Auditorium
Goldings-Stewart-Bernstein @ Montage
Thursday, June 27
Ravi Coltrane Quartet @ Kilbourn Hall
Rudresh Mahanthappa's GAMAK @ The Little Theatre
Carmen Souza @ Max at Eastman Place
Dirty Dozen Brass Band @ Harro East Ballroom
Friday, June 28
Gregory Porter @ Kilbourn Hall
Phronesis @ Christ Church
Youn Sun Nah @ Ulf Wakenius @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation
Hilario Duran Trio @ Max at Eastman Place
Saturday, June 29
Kurt Elling @ Kilbourn Hall
Torben Waldorff @ Lutheran Church of the Reformation
Tim Berne Snake Oil @ Montage
Gwilym Simcock @ Christ Church
Monty Alexander's Harlem-Kingston Express @ City of Rochester East/Chestnut Stage
I will also be taking numerous side trips throughout the festival to hear our own local Rochester artists and groups who are playing (there will be a separate post later about that) and the great high school bands that are playing throughout the festival (great for listening while in line at Kilbourn Hall).
I won't be around town, that is... heading out soon for another trip to Kansas (hopefully free of tornadoes) and some time in Chicago for my 30th Reunion at the University of Chicago. So what's going on around here?
"Snaps," the first retrospective of images from the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival opens tomorrow, May 23rd at the Center at High Falls Fine Art Gallery downtown. The exhibit features almost 200 select works of 13 photographers who have covered the festival from 2002 to 2012 , including: Frank DeBlase, Jim Dolan, Mark Druziak, Tom Flint, Tom Frizelle, Tim Fuss, Garry Geer, Kelli Marsh, Peter Parts, Michael Riebesehl, Fred SanFilipo, Don Ver Ploeg and Kelley Yost. More here. "Snaps" runs though June 30th and is free and open to the public. The Center at High Falls Gallery located at 60 Brown's Race in Rochester, NY is open Wednesdaythrough Friday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday from 12 noon to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. It is closed Monday and Tuesday.
I'm going to the opening tomorrow, I hope, along with the Art Loves Jazz benefit at Artisan's Loft too (I managed to procrastinate on tickets and the online purchase option was eliminated while I was trying to checkout). No I don't get free tickets... It's a benefit for Jazz 90.1. Hope to see you there! Update 5-23: Unfortunately, something came up and I'm going to miss both, but the images and jazz (and, I hope the benefit in $ to Jazz 90.1 radio, will go on).
So, here are the live gigs I found in and around Rochester over the next 7 days, plus some things coming up in the near future:
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Jon Seiger All-Stars Trio @ Market Cafe at Wegmans on Calkins Road, 5:30 pm
The Swooners @ Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, 5:30 pm
NightTrane @ Bistro 135, 6:00 pm
Deborah Branch @ Lemoncello, 6:00 pm
Ted Nicolosi & Shared Genes @ Roncones, 6:00 pm
Mike Kaupa Duo Project with Mike Conrad @ Monroe's, 6:00 pm
Art Loves Jazz (Benefit for WGMC Jazz 90.1) @ Artisan Works, 6:30-9:30 pm (tickets, if available at the door)
EROS Guitar Duo @ The Rabbit Room (Honeoye Falls), 7:00 pm
Djangoners @ The Little Theatre Cafe, 7:30 pm
The Joe Santora Trio with Cabo Frio's Curtis Kendrick & Emily Kirchoff @ Michael's Valley Grill, 7:30 pm
Friday, May 24, 2013
Mark Cassara Band @ Bistro 135, 5:30 pm
The Music of Ferrante & Furioso @ Yummy Garden Hot Pot (Brighton), 5:30 pm
The Westview Project @ The Mendon House (Mendon), 6:00 pm
Bill Slater @ Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, call for info
Monday, May 27, 2013
Sofrito @ Little Theatre Cafe, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Tinted Image @ Woodcliff Hotel & Spa, 5:30 pm
Ted Nicolosi & Shared Genes @ Bistro 135, 6:00 pm
Charlie Mitchell Group @ Flipside Bar & Grill (Rochester), 8:00 pm
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Big Band Dance Spring Series @ Charlotte Beach, Roger Robach Community Center, 6:00 to 9:00 pm
The Swooners @ Bistro 135, 6:00 pm
Mic Gillette, formerly of Tower of Power with the Aquinas Jazz Ensemble, Greece Jazz Band and the Viavattines @ The Aquinas Institute Auditorium, 1127 Dewey Ave., Rochester, 7:00 pm (see here for more info)
Margaret Explosion @ The Little Theatre Cafe, 7:30 pm
Vince Ercolamento & Joe Chiappone Jazz Quartet @ Murph's, 705 Titus Ave., Irondequoit, 8:00 pm
Heads Up ... Look for these Jazz Gigs and Special Jazz Events in the Future
Fairport Canal Days does its own local jazz festival with Paradigm Shift, John Nyerges Quartet, Mike Melito Quartet, Jeff Mcleod Organ Trio, Westview Project, Sofrito Latin Jazz Quartet, Jimmie Highsmith Experience, Dave Mancini Quartet, John Seiger & The All Stars, Greater Rochester Jazz Orchestra, Mighty High & Dry, and the Bill Tiberio Band @ Fairport Canal Days (Fairport), Friday, May 31st through June 2nd (see the Find It In Fairport site for more info, and watch here for more as well)
International Society of Bassists Concert: Eastman alumni Brett Shurtliffe, Yung-Chiao Wei, and Ron Carter with Russell Malone & Donald Vega @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Tuesday, June 4th, 8:00 pm
International Society of Bassists Concert: Thomas Martin; Jazz Bass Supergroup “Talking Hands” with John Clayton, Rufus Reid, Lynn Seaton and Martin Wind @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Wednesday, June 5th, 8:00 pm
International Society of Bassists Concert: Diana Gannett performs new works; Chuck Israels, bassist with the Bill Evans Trio, pays tribute to a master of bebop with “Oscar Pettiford Octet and Beyond” @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Thursday, June 6th, 8:00 pm
International Society of Bassists Concert: Orchestral and chamber music bassist Szymon Marciniak and Grammy-winning Dave Holland @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Friday, June 7th, 8:00 pm
International Society of Bassists Concert: Joel Quarrington, new principal bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Victor Wooten @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, Saturday, June 8th, 8:00 pm
Groove Juice Swing presents Stompology Swing Dances with the The Careless Lovers (Seattle, WA), Friday, June 7th, 8:00 pm; The Low Down Sires (Asheville, NC), Saturday, June 8th, 8:30 pm and June 9th, 7:30 pm
Tessa Souter with John Nyerges Trio @ Lovin Cup, Saturday, June 8th, 9:00 pm
Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, Friday, June 21st to Saturday, June 29th
If you go out to hear a performance listed here, feel free to drop a comment to this post to let us know how it went (see the Comment link at the bottom). I want to hear from you! Please share the post with your friends who love jazz.
We've compiled these listings from information obtained from the performing artists themselves and other sources. The aim is to give you a one-stop place to find all your jazz in Rochester.The aim is to give you a one stop place to find all your jazz in Rochester. Only start times are listed, visit or call the venue for more details (the websites for many of the venues are in the right panel). Please forgive any discrepancies with reality and feel free to let me know what the problem is, and I'll get the corrections up on the site as soon as possible (click on the "Contact Us" button above). If you go out to hear a performance listed here, feel free to drop a comment to this post to let us know how it went. I want to hear from you!
OK, I'm sated...my ears are full. I've put on some poundage with beer and street food. I always reach a point (and I think I even reached it earlier this year) where I've heard so much fantastic jazz and other musics and been exposed to so many diverse musical talents at the Rochester International Jazz Festival that I just float around, going where my whims or some other compelling force (such as poutin last night at Abilene). Reached that point maybe Thursday? Floating is the best way to get at the heart of this festival where it is, as John Nugent says, "not who you know, but who you don't know."
Starting out, I plan on incorporating "where you don't know" into it by finally getting into what I have heard is the nearly perfect acoustics of Hatch Hall to catch pianist Joanne Brackeen play. Consistently listed as one of the top jazz pianists, I have had albums of hers in my collection since the 80s. Hadn't had a listen in quite a while, so pulled out her Snooze LP from the 1970s (with Cecil McBee and Billy Hart) to get reacquainted. As I had remembered, Brackeen plays with lightning speed and authority, her interpretations full of both jagged complexity and lyrical beauty.
Other than those, I'm floating again. If I find myself needing a shot of straightahead, I'll head over to Xerox Auditorium for the wonderful Victor Goines Quartet or to Rochester Club for Mario Romano Quartet Featuring Pat LaBarbera. I'm also intrigued by the band Locarno, who will be playing in the Big Tent. Growing up in Southern California (@30 miles north of San Diego), the love of the music of Mexico and Latin music in general have been a constant. I'm not familiar with this project of Canadian band Paperboys' frontman, Tom Landa, but for me the music, described as "part Mexican but with strong doses of Cuban Son, Folk Music, Pop and Funk" cannot go wrong. Listening to their Una Mas y Ya Nos Vamos album on Spotify right now and loving it. Here's a YouTube video of Locarno performing last year in Vancouver.
We'll see.... (I do keep saying that, don't I?). It's been a great festival! Hope you all had as great a time as I did....
I'll start the evening in a typical way, arriving early to monitor the line for Kilbourn and, hopefully, getting into it before it turns the corner so I can catch the early show for Roy Haynes and the Fountain of Youth Band. Each year there is usually at least one of the great lions of the jazz of the 40s, 50s and 60s, who come to XRIJF and are usually on my bucket list. Roy Haynes is one of them. In over sixty years of playing, Haynes has played with everybody (too many to lis in a wide range of styles ranging from swing and bebop, to jazz fusion and avant-garde. For more on Haynes, see my Pick post.
At the other end of the evening at 10:00 pm, I'm thinking that I'll catch The Music of Gil Evans with Ryan Truesdell. Ryan was given access to a number of newly-discovered, never-before recorded works of jazz composer Gil Evans and has been raising money and recording a CD in celebration of Evans' 100th birthday, which was released in May of this year. The Gil Evans Project people contacted me awhile ago to help with promoting the ArtistShare project that raised money for the recording. I love the music that Gil Evans did with Miles Davis and others, such as the landmark Columbia recordings with Miles Davis of Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain, as well as his contributions to the breakthrough Miles album Birth of the Cool. Ever since I heard about the project I have been interested in the outcome and so will get the live experience of it tonight (and perhaps the CD).
In between, perhaps Jean Michel Pilc in Hatch (still trying to get to this venue that I've heard so much about), or Italian saxophonist Marco Pignataro at the Rochester Club, or just float a bit and soak up the crowds. We'll see....
Thursday night, Day Seven of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, the last night before the wrap up maelstrom of crowds that is the last two days of XRIJF (is it here already). While the offerings are great, there were none that were "must sees" on my list. This shouldn't be looked at as me saying "there's nothing good on Thursday!", rather it's just going to be one of those "it's who you don't know" days at the festival. As I've said before, that situation often leads to discovery.
Today, I'm intrigued by Colin Stetson, who I think I recalling John Nugent advised us at the press conference in March would be a standout. Just deciding whether to go to the early or late show at Kilbourn. If I choose late, then I may finally make it into Hatch Hall. As I've walked the XRIJF site I keep running into acquaintenances who ask whether "you've been to Hatch" and then extol its acoustic perfection. I am planning on going on Saturday to see Joanne Brackeen, but today could end up there early to see Eastman professor and pianist Harold Danko, who has played with a number of well-known artists from a long association with Chet Baker to Gerry Mulligan, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Lee Konitz and Woody Herman. I've seen him perform around Rochester a few times and always loved his solo piano. I'll also make a point to get out to see Terje Rypdal & Bergen Big Band at Xerox Auditorium (I think Thursday will work better for me, but they also appear at the Lutheran Church on Friday). The rest is up for grabs, including the possibility of finally getting over to Abilene (I love the scene there and the joint itself during the rest of the year) to see Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. I may also start with Stetson, which could result in a different mix.
Since I fell down on the job of getting all my picks published, I'm admitting complete and utter defeat and will just be writing a short note going forward about the artists I'm aiming for each remaining day of XRIJF. Of course, like every night of the festival, this is a "rough sketch". This year more than most I've been "floating" a bit, diverging from my laid out plan due to who I hear about on the street or just because it feels right.
After a break from the Kilbourn line yesterday (yeah, I know, Benny Green was a Pick...), I return to catch Eliane Elias Brasiliera Quartet at 6:00 pm. Love the Brazilian music. Here's a live concert clip from 2009. On the other end of the evening at 10:00 pm, I'm going to hit Kneebody at Montage. They were described in the New York Times a couple of years ago as "a band that inhabits the borderland abutted by post-bop, indie-rock and hip-hop, without seeming to give much thought to the border." The hard edge of this group will be just the thing at the end of the night of Day 6 as my energy needs a recharge. Here's a video of them playing their composition Teddy Ruxpin from 2011.
In between those two very different bookends, I'm not planning anything, but will float as my ears (and stomach as I'll need to eat somewhere in there...) take me. Mostly like it will some of FFEAR (Forum for Electro-Acoustic Research) at the Lutheran Church and some of Rich Thompson's Generations Trio at Xerox Auditorium, and a host of other possibilities in between. Oh, and possibly a line for Kneebody, which could impact the rest. We'll see...
From many of my picks so far you may have begun thinking that my ears have no place for straightahead—au contraire—my ears just like a wide variety of jazz and other music and that's precisely what is presented at the XRIJF. I love jazz trio music and pianist Benny Green is one of its masters. Green has been hailed as one of the most exciting, hard-swinging, hard-bop, pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. A student of the history of Jazz piano, the Green mentions Erroll Garner, Ahmad Jamal, Phineas Newborn, Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson as some of his main influences.
Photo Credit: Tom Haynes
Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned to jazz. As a teenager he worked with Eddie Henderson and experience with a big band in a 12-piece group led by Chuck Israels. After graduation and some freelancing in the Bay Area for a year, Green moved to New York in the spring of 1982, where he met pianist Walter Bishop Jr. After a short stint with Bobby Watson, Green worked with Betty Carter between 1983 and 1987. Afterwards, at the age of twenty-four, Benny Green he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers band. He remained a Jazz Messenger through late 1989, at which point he began working with Freddie Hubbard's quintet. In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto's Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. That year, Green replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown's Trio, working with the veteran bass player until 1997. From 1997 on, Benny resumed his freelance career, leading his own trios, accompanying singers like Diana Krall, and concentrating on solo piano performances.
Benny Green has recorded 10 albums and appeared on a guest performer on over one 100 recordings. In 2011, Green released a Trio album, Source (affiliate link), with Kenny and Peter Washington, his first recording with a trio in 10 years. The year 2011 also marked the premier tour of a long developed project, Monk's Dream: Fifty Years Fresh, paying homage to the legacy and the man that is his first and most significant musical hero, Thelonious Sphere Monk. He's set to release a new CD Magic Beans soon.
In addition to his page on the AMS label, Benny Green has a Facebook page that you might want to check out. Listen to the Benny Green Trio on NPR station WGBO's JazzSet presenting Monk's Dream: Fifty Years Fresh' In Concert. Watch the Benny Green live at Yoshi's Oakland with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington on May 28, 2010:
There is a video of what appears to be a whole gig for German television, although it appears to be from awhile ago (based on the mustache, the mid-1990s?) and in the comments identifies Green's bandmates as Carl Allen on drums and Ben Wolfe on bass (Wolfe comments himself saying it was a special date):
Sunday, June 24th, Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza @ 6:30 & 9:00 pm
I have heard Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey more than once, once in an odd pairing with Al Dimeola at Water Street and a couple of times at the jazz festival. There is no Jacob and no Fred, but their music is an odyssey and I love exploring it each time I hear them. They've opened for jam band "gods" Phish, but also are known to play Thelonious Monk, Abdullah Ibrahim, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Louis Armstrong. Each member of JFJO is a consumate musician and their intensity and seemingly telepathic communication on stage sometimes leaves you there sitting, slack-jawed.
You never know what these guys are going to do. I don't think they've played the same thing twice in the 3-4 times I've heard them. I'm thinking they will bring at least portions of their latest project The Race Riot Suite to this year's festival. For their 21st album, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has reached into a dark part of their hometown Tulsa’s history. The piece waswritten, arranged and orchestrated by Chris Combs, and is a long-form conceptual piece that tells the horrific story of the 1921 Tulsa race riot during which, as set out on the site's page for the album "[t]he oil-elite, civic government and local press colluded to take advantage of a racially tense climate in Jim Crow-era Oklahoma, resulting in the death of hundreds of black Tulsans and the destruction of an entire city district." Through jittery, propulsive rhythms and melodies, the Suite is intended to be an onlooker’s journey through that night that nearly destroyed the one of the country’s most thriving black communities. The band cites influences as diverse as iconic jazz and classical artists like Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Ludwig van Beethoven and Gustav Mahler, as well as, modern artists, including Radiohead, The Dirty Projectors, Fight the Big Bull and Animal Collective in the conception of the recording. Time Out New York said that "12-part suite pinballs between majestic melodies, free improv and ragged New Orleans rhythms, sometimes all within the same song…expect a heavy dose of history, but an even heavier dose of forward-looking, down-home jazz." If they are doing this piece at their show on, in addition to the permanent line-up of Combs (lap steel), Brian Haas (piano), Josh Raymer (drums) and Jeff Harshbarger (bass), the quartet may a horn section.
Here's a link to a Downbeat article on the project, Meditation on a Riot. The JFJO have also linked to a video of them performing a Prelude from the piece in October 2011 (there are tons more videos of them playing on their site):
I have a confession to make here. I had this grand plan (even wrote it out) about how I was going to get through a bunch of posts for individual artist picks through the last few weeks before the XRIJF began. While I like how they've turned out so far, the production output has been "not so much." Even today, despite having taken the day off to do some more pick posts, I made the mistake of checking my work email and had to do some final work on a project that I thought I finished yesterday before turning to [email protected] and preparing for the beginning of the festival (I'm heading out of here in just a couple of hours to head downtown). My approach this year was way too optimistic given my current workload of getting enough of my pick posts out before the XRIJF started. I'll still get some more picks out while the festival is going on, but my focus is changing to enjoying the festival with my friends and the rest of you. I'll focus on my "must sees".
Although I've received some great feedback on my new approach, I'm sure you all won't be too worried about getting my "picks". You can make your own choices. My posts were focused on providing you links to more information upon which to make that decision. They are based in part on my very eclectic tastes in music and in part on knowing some of the "must sees" from following the national and international jazz scenes. This blog is a labor of love of the music and live music in general. As the XRIJF begins I want to really focus it on what's happening in front of me at the festival. Much of it may be on Twitter or elsewhere. I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants this year (which can lead to problems as one of my profs in college told me about a paper that exhibited a similar attitude "if you fly by the seat of your pants, at least turn around and look once in awhile).
We have a lot of jazz talent conveniently located here in Rochester and they will be out in force this year. The number of local artists (and artists who hail from around here) playing the festival seems to have increased and there are more than a few who are gracing the stages of some Club Pass venues, including:
Penfield Rotary Big Band @ Verizon Wireless Big Tent, 6:00 pm
Gap Mangione & Special Guests @ The Rochester Club Viva Italia Series, June 23rd, 6:00 & 10:00 pm
RPO Marimba Band @ Verizon Wireless Festival Big Tent, June 23rd, 6:00 pm
J.M.O.G (Jazz Men on the Go, including Pat LaBarbera) @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza, June 23rd, 6:00 & 10:00 pm
Joe LaBarbera Quintet @ Montage, June 24th, 6:00 & 10:00 pm
ESM-XRIJF Gerry Niewood Jazz Scholarships Performance @ Kodak Hall At Eastman Theatre, June 25th, 8:00 pm
Bill Dobbins Plays Ellington @ Hatch Recital Hall, Eastman School of Music, June 26th, 5:45 pm
Jack Allen Big Band @ Verizon Wireless Festival Big Tent, June 26th, 6:00 pm
The Westview Project @ Verizon Wireless Festival Big Tent, June 27th, 6:00 pm
Generations Trio with Rich Thompson @ Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza, June 27th, 6:30 & 9:00 pm (you can check out their new "Generations" CD on the Rochester Jazz Sounds page by clicking on the button above)
Greater Rochester Jazz Orchestra @ Verizon Wireless Festival Big Tent, June 28th & June 29th, 6:00 pm
Harold Danko @ Hatch Recital Hall at Eastman School of Music, June 28th, 7:45 pm.
On the free venues, there's even more:
ECMS Jazz Combo led by Bob Sneider @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 22nd, 6:00 pm
John LaBarbera Big Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 22nd, 7:15 pm
The Uptown Groove @ The RG&E Fusion Stage, June 22nd, 9:00 pm
John LaBarbera Big Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 22nd, 9:15 pm
Dan White Group @ Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, June 23rd, noon
Bill Tiberio Band @ The RG&E Fusion Stage, June 23rd, 9:00 pm
ECMS Latin Jazz Ensemble @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 23rd, 5:15 pm
ESM Honors Performance Units 1, 2 & 3 @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 23rd, 6:00 pm
Teagan & The Tweeds @ The RG&E Fusion Stage, June 23rd, 7:00 pm
Calle Uno @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 25th, 7:15 pm
Doug Stone Group @ Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, June 26th, noon
Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 26th, 6:00 pm
New Horizons Big Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 26th, 7:15 pm
Music Educators Big Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 26th, 9:15 pm
Sean Jefferson Group @ Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, June 27th, noon
ESM-XRIJF Jazz Scholarships Alumni Combo @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 27th, 6:00 pm
Russell Scarbrough Soul Jazz Big Band @ The RG&E Fusion Stage, June 27th, 7:00 pm
Fred Costello @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 27th, 7:15 pm
Russell Scarbrough Soul Jazz Big Band @ The RG&E Fusion Stage, June 27th, 9:00 pm
Fred Costello @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 27th, 9:15 pm
Bob Sneider & Friends @ Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, June 28th, noon
The Gutbusters @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 28th, 4:00 pm
Bat McGrath @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 28th, 6:00 pm
Bill Tiberio & Friends @ Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, June 29th, noon
ECMS Saxology + Jazz Bones @ City of Rochester Jazz Street, June 29th, 6:00 pm
Po' Boys Brass Band @ City of Rochester East Ave. & Chestnut St. Stage, June 29th, 7:00 pm
ECMS Jazz Combo led by Howard Potter @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 30th, 5:15 pm
ESM Honors Performance Units 1, 2 & 3 @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 30th, 5:15 pm
And of course there are the great High School Bands we all love to listen to while we get our first beer and get in line (or just sit on Jazz Street and the other venues and chill):
Fairport HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 22nd, 4:45 pm
Hilton HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 22nd, 5:15pm
Gates HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 23rd, 4:30 pm
Buffalo Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 23rd, 5:15 pm
Brockport HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 24th, 4:30 pm
Spencerport HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 24th, 5:15 pm
Webster-Thomas HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 25th, 4:30 pm
Greece-Athena HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 26th, 4:30 pm
Pittsford-Sutherland HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 26th, 5:15 pm
Webster Schroeder HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 27th, 4:30 pm
School of The Arts HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 27th, 5:15 pm
Eastridge HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 28th, 5:15 pm
Greece-Olympia HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 29th, 4:30 pm
Newark HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 29th, 5:15 pm
West Irondequoit HS Jazz Band @ City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage, June 30th, 4:30 pm
Geez, that was a lot! I apologize if I missed any (and feel free to point it out so I can amend. You can find out information on a number of these artists by checking out their sites linked to from Rochester Jazz Artists Links. Remember that you can go hear many of these artists all throughout the year, so if you miss them at XRIJF (as I will, I'm afraid), you can likely catch them later. Just watch my listings posts on Wednesdays or, if you prefer to be notified by email, put your email address in the box in the middle panel, follow the instructions, and you'll get all the posts to this blog (and nothing else... I don't spam or sell your address).
In addition to the above, the nightly late nigth jams at the State St. Bar & Grill at the Rochester Plaza Hotel, which in addition to Bob Sneider and the guys usually includes local students and others who sit in for a tune or two before the XRIJF artists step up to the stage for a jam. There will be some other performances around the XRIJF that are not part of the XRIJF as well. The Little Theatre has teamed up with WXXI for some nearby "tie-in" jazz events and Bernunzio's Uptown Music has at least one special event during the festival. Check out my Jazz Around Town posts on Wednesdays below (and to come) for more details on that and on the jazz going on outside of the festival.
Karrin Allyson was actually one of the first jazz artists from out of town who I saw perform after moving to Rochester, appearing at Woodcliff out in Victor when that venue still was bringing in national acts (or was the best place to stay while the artists made their way to points East or West, and the stopped for a couple spa days and some gigs). I've seen her several times since, including at least once at the jazz festival. Like some others picks this year I may not actually go hear Karrin Allyson, but she is a major talent who, if you haven't heard her before, should be on your list. She doesn't just stand in front and sing, she's out front on piano. Like the quote from Don Heckman in the Los Angeles Times, Allyson has "been described as a 'musician's musician,' and for once the overused term actually makes sense—a complete performance by a complete artist—one of the jazz world's finest."
Last year Karrin Allyson, who has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards, released her thirteenth album on Concord Jazz, Round Midnight, since her 1992 debut. On her albums (and in her concerts, Allyson moves easily from the Great American Songbook through bebop and into the sounds of Brazil, pop and beyond. Her sophistication and chops as a musician shine through when her and the great musicians who usually accompany collaborate on each song.
You can listen to some of Karrin Allyson's music on her site and on MySpace. Here's Allyson performing Moanin' filmed in celebration of Concord Records' 30th anniversary, Voices of Concord Jazz - Montreux Jazz Festival - Live at Montreux, July 2003:
Here's her take on Charlie Chaplin's Smile as a guest on NPR's KPLU:
You can check out my other picks for the 2012 XRIJF as they come out on the blog or by clicking on the “XRIJF Picks” Category in the middle column (or the link in this sentence).
Gregoire Maret was born in 1975 in Geneva, Switzerland and began playing the harmonica at age 17, bringing the diverse musical influences from his Harlem born, African- American mother and his Swiss father, a local jazz musician, as he developed his craft. Graduating from the prestigious Conservatoire Suprieur de Musique de Genve, Gregoire moved to New York City to pursue Jazz Studies at the New School University. He is now one of the most sought after harmonica players in the world, developinghis own unique sound and versatile style that enables him to play across different musical genres. He is often compared to legends Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder (see below) and has worked with diverse array of of musicians including Pat Metheny, Youssn'Dour, Me' Shell Ndegeocello, David Sanborn, George Benson, Cassandra Wilson, Herbie Hancock and Sting. In 2005, Gregoire toured with the Pat Metheny Group, which received a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. That year he also won the Jazz Journalists Association "Player of the Year" award, after which Maret embarked on a two-year tour with the world-class bassist Marcus Miller and subsequently joined Herbie Hancock's band. This year he released his first as a leader.
There are a lot of videos of Gregoire Maret out there (here's the channel), but I've picked a few out, including this one of his Quartet doing The Man I Love in a nicely recorded 2010 RTS Label Suisse Production:
...and a nice long bit of the Quartet playing Lucilla's Dream in a January 2011 club date:
...and as promised above here's an impromptu jam with Stevie Wonder at the Stevie Wonder Suzuki's National Association of Music Merchants booth this year:
Check out my other picks for the 2012 XRIJF as they come out on the blog or by clicking on the “XRIJF Picks” Category in the middle column
Hailed by critics as the toughest and most creative group of his career, saxophonist Tommy Smith’s KARMA leads a band of virtuosic musicians on a deeply grooving acid jazz adventure that draws on influences from around the world. The band features Tommy Smith (saxes, shakuhatchi, synth), Kevin Glasgow (electric bass), Steve Hamilton (piano, synth), and Alyn Cosker (drums). Born in Edinburgh in 1967, Tommy Smith won best soloist and best group titles at Edinburgh International Jazz Festival at the ripe old age of 14, and recorded his first album at a mere 15. After studying at Berklee College of Music, Smith joined Gary Burton's group and toured worldwide. He signed to Blue Note Records in 1989 and then formed his own record company, Spartacus, on which he has now released 24 CDs as a leader. His many compositions include four saxophone concertos, the symphonic work Edinburgh for Edinburgh Youth Orchestra, The Morning of the Imminent for Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth, the Glasgow Jazz Festival commission Beasts of Scotland, and a series of large scale works, including Planet Wave, Beauty and the Beast, Torah and the world's first meeting between jazz and Japanese taiko drumming, The World of the Gods, for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, which he had directed since 1995. In June 2010, Smith was awarded a professorship by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where he is artisic director of jazz.
Smith can play the daylights out of full-on post-bop or explore north-Euro ambiance, but this is a hard-hitting fusion album—one that sounds pretty familiar at first, with its hammering backbeats (from the ferocious Alyn Cosker), slick unison choruses and Headhunters keyboard and bass guitar effects. But Smith is much too smart for the obvious, and this set for what he calls his "grunge band" turns out to be a rare splicing of rich-toned, pipe-like themes, fiercely guttural up-tempo tenor improv, Arabic and Irish music, tight grooving that suggests Weather Report or Chris Potter's Underground band, and some haunting atmospherics from his shakuhachi bamboo flute. Smith's compositions are way ahead of the usual slam-bang fusion forays, and the sombrely pensive Star (based on an Irish folk song) is a great sax-ballad performance.
Here is a promotional video from Smith's site about Karma:
And here is the band playing Karma live at the Capstone Theatre, Liverpool, to give you a taste of the live set in a setting similar to what you'll see here:
Check out my other picks for 2012 XRIJF as they come out on the blog or by clicking on the “XRIJF Picks” Category in the middle column
Every year one or more of the old lions of jazz comes to XRIJF and for those of us who have listened to these giants of the bebop era and before for years, hearing them live is usually on the bucket list, as it will be this year on mine. However, from what I hear and read Roy Haynes is not going quietly into his elder years (how could any drummer do that...) and remains very active and a powerful drummer.
Haynes is one of the most recorded drummers in jazz with a career spanning across over 60 years. He has played in a wide range of styles ranging from swing and bebop to jazz fusion and avant-garde. He has an expressive, personal style that is voiced in the "Snap Crackle" nickname given him in the 50s. Roy Haynes has worked with jazz goliaths like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Sarah Vaughn, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny and countless others. In recent years, Haynes has also played with popular rock acts such as The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers Band, and Phish. Haynes is an NEA Jazz Master and a sharp dresser, being named one of Esquire’s Best Dressed Men in America at one point. The Fountain of Youth Band is a group of young 20-something musicians, usually including Jaleel Shaw on saxophone, David Wong on bass, and Martin Bejerano on keys.
To get a taste, listen to Haynes on NPR's JazzSet, hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater here, and read a recent article about Haynes and the Fountain of Youth Band by Daniel Lehner on AllAboutJazz.com. I've also found several videos to check out, including one with the Fountain of Youth Band at Dizzy's in NYC:
...And another of the group in Barcelona in 2010:
Check out my other picks for 2012 XRIJF as they come out on the blog or by clicking on the “XRIJF Picks” Category in the middle column.
June 22nd, Nordic Jazz Now in the Lutheran Church Of The Reformation, 7:30 and 9:30 pm
Anyone who follows my blog and my wanderings around the music scene here in Rochester and elsewhere (such as my former home, Chicago), or looks at my collection of CDs and LPs knows that I have a wide and somewhat eclectic set of ears when it comes to music, including jazz. One of the things I love about the XRIJF is that it is nine days offering many opportunities to explore jazz and other music from the rest of the world and discoveries music and musicians that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra's mix of jazz and world music influences offers just that. Like some other picks that I've made and will make, this will not be your "cup o' tea", but if you're willing to try something different, check them out.
Goran Kajfeš is one of Sweden's top jazz trumpeters and a sought after session player, touring musician and producer. Kajfeš has performed with Robyn, José Gonzales, Mando Diao, Eagle-Eye Cherry, Lester Bowie and The Soundrack of our Lives to name a few. Of Croation heritage, Kajfeš grew up in Sweden in a family full of musicians and artists. He started off his solo career in 2001 and has since been acclaimed as a talented musician on the Scandinavian scene. A trumpeter, Kajfeš now leads the Subtropic Arkestra, which usually consists of seven musicians including Per "Rusktrask" Johansson on baritone sax and flute, Jonas Kullhammar (oh, yeah, Kulhammar can't stay away from the XRIJF it seems and we love him here) on tenor sax and flute, Jesper Nordenström on organ, Andreas Söderström on guitar, Johan Berthling on bass, and Johan Holmegard on drums. In 2011, Kajfeš was awarded the Nordic Music Prize for his most recent album X/Y, where the jury said the following:
A very distinctive voice unexpectedly united the jury, everybody instantly recognized the love that has gone into the playing and, also, the packaging. It's an ambitious and warm fusion of sonic elements, from jazz with both African and Eastern influences to electronica....This double album really does something that is quite rare: it communicates the pure joy of music.
For a taste of the Goran Kajfeš and the Subtropic Arkestra, here they are live doing Sand Boogie off the X/Y CD, at the Nefertiti in Gothenburg, Sweden from last year:
And here they are doing Dinner with Inner in another from last year, along with some impromptu interpretive dance by a young audience member:
It is possible that I won't go hear Gerald Clayton when he plays with his Trio at Max on the 23rd, but only because I've seen him several times this year, both at concerts in the great Exodus to Jazz. In the intimate setting of Max, this Trio will be a real treat.
Born in the Netherlands in 1984, Clayton grew up mostly in Los Angeles in a family of musicians including his father, bassist/composer John Clayton, and uncle, saxophonist Jeff Clayton. As professional jazz musician, he has performed with some of the most established names in Jazz such as Lewis Nash, Al Foster, Terrell Stafford and Clark Terry, including duo piano concerts with artists as diverse as Hank Jones, Benny Green, Kenny Barron, Mulgrew Miller and Tamir Hendelman, with whom he "dueled" on piano here in January of this year for Exodus to Jazz in a benefit for the Museum of Kids Art. He has also played with a number of the next generation of jazz innovators such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, and Kendrick Scott. From 2006-2008, Clayton toured extensively with Roy Hargrove in his quintet, big band, and funk groups and is currently a member of the Clayton Brothers Quintet. Clayton received a Grammy nomination this year for his CD Bond: The Paris Sessions (affiliate link) in the top category of Best Instrumental Jazz Album. Clayton has also been nominated this year for a Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition for his composition Battle Circle from the New Song and Dance album with the Clayton Brothers, which itself had been nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album.
Clayton's playing and his trio has a sound that, while steeped well in the tradition, also has a more modern edge, alternatively introspective and powerful. To give you a taste, here's a video of the Trio playing at the Harker Concert Series (in fact, it's over 30 minutes of the set):
Here is the Trio playing Dizzy Gillespie's Con Alma in May:
And playing last month at Smalls in the Village in February 2009:
I've "known" Sunna Gunnlaugs for several years now, so this pick is personal. OK, we've only been "friends" on Twitter, but we have exchanged some messages and I'd like to think that I gave her the idea of applying to play at Rochester's festival. I've been listening to her music since the time we connected. Sunna and her trio a great fit for the Nordic Jazz Now series that has become such a popular part of the festival, being from Iceland and all, and her sound is made for the wonderful sonic climate of the Church of the Reformation.
Sunna Gunnlaugs began recording a few years after graduating from William Paterson College in NYC in 1996, and now has released eight CDs as a leader, which have consistently met with critical praise. All About Jazz wrote that "Gunnlaugs proves that jazz can have a wider appeal without losing integrity." She is influenced as much by American pianists as Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett as by Scandinavians like Bobo Stenson and Jon Balke. The Washington Post described her music as possessing "such timeless virtues as lyricism and grace ... elegantly bridges soul-searching passages with uncluttered swing." Sunna Gunnlaugs has reaffirmed the praise she's received on previous outings on her latest CD, Long Pair Bond, which features fellow Icelander bassist Thorgrimur Jónsson and long-time partner Scott McLemore on drums. Long Pair Bond is Sunna Gunnlaugs first trio album since her debut in 1997. Gunnlaugs is an independent jazz artist who has been funding her own CDs through KickStarter. As Stephan Moore of the blog Jazz Wrap put it in reviewing Long Pair Bond as one of the best CDs of 2011: "As an independent artist, Gunnalaugs has the liberty of writing, produced and recording when and what she pleases. I think this allows the really artist's personality to shine through. . . . On the musical side, after continually listens over the last month, I really have to repeat, Long Pair Bond is phenomenal." Gunnlaugs' stop in Rochester is part of a bi-coastal tour of the US in June to promote the new CD.
As an independent artist, Sunna Gunnlaugs has learned a lot about promotion using the interwebs. In addition to her website, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, even MySpace. I also found that Jason Crane interviewed Gunnlaugs in 2010 on his podcast The Jazz Session after she released her CD The Dream. But wait . . . there is more, including a live concert with the trio that you can stream (and download as high quality files)....
Although a few years old, here's Sunna Gunnlaugs solo doing A Garden Someday at the Nordic House in Reykjavik, a part of the 2009 Reykjavik Jazz Festival:
Here is a quartet doing Tunnelvision at the Songwire studios in Richmond last year:
I bet you're saying ... "at least it's not another trumpeter this time!" These Picks posts are not in any particular order and I'm going to be mixing them up from here. If you'd like to check out my other picks for XRIJF, you can do so by clicking on the link XRIJF Picks under Categories.
June 25th, Xerox Auditorium at Xerox Plaza @ 6:30 & 9:00 pm
Yes, I am beginning to see a pattern here, too ... this being the third trumpeter (although Payton is really much more than that, on his most recent album Bitches, he plays all the instruments... and sings). There seems to be a lot horn men playing this year who I want to catch and they are each very individual players. After tonight, I swear I'll move on to something that doesn't include a trumpet.
Nicholas Payton has been playing and touring since he was twelve, making his major label debut on Verve with From This Moment On in 1994. He has toured with Clark Terry, Marcus Roberts, Ray Brown, Elvin Jones, and Roy Haynes and scores more. He does not like to be pinned down into a particular musical genre and has performed and recorded with R&B and hip-hop musicians. Payton is credited on well over 120 recordings as a composer, arranger, special guest or sideman. He is a multi-instrumentalist, although trumpet is his main axe, he may also play some Fender Rhodes here.
In addition to being one of the best with a horn out there, Payton says in reference to both his music and his life outside of it that he feels he has finally "arrived":
most solidly in a place where I'm coming to terms with who I am. I've weeded out those things that don't feel right for me. I'm not out to try to impress and I'm not worried that what I play is going to upset some people. I want to write and play music that speaks for me and means something to me and that I feel passionate about.
His music, including his most recent, is a reflection of that journey, but is always rooted in the tradition and New Orleans ground from which he grew. Payton is a man with opinions and his expressions of those opinions in his blog and on Twitter have created a lot of controversy in bringing issues relating race and jazz music and audiences into a stark light. If you want to hear more about Payton's thoughts about his music, jazz and (his preferred term) Black American Music, I suggest you check out his conversation with Jason Crane on The Jazz Session about his music and a very interesting conversation with Willard Jenkins at 2012 Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival to really hear what he's saying (rather than focusing on those who are reacting to him). He's speaking his truth and I for one respect him for it.
Oh, according to his website, Payton will also be appearing with Ninety Miles on the 24th (don't know if that means Christian Scott will not also be appearing).
Here's a video of the Nicholas Payton SeXXXtet @ NYC's Winter Jazzfest:
Here's another festival date of the SeXXXtet at Rio das Ostras in 2011:
And here with Bag's Groove on a TV appearance overseas:
Terance Blanchard, a four-time Grammy award winning trumpet player, began playing piano at the age of five and then the trumpet at age eight upon hearing Alvin Alcorn play. With more than twenty-nine albums bearing his name, Blanchard is a five-time Grammy winner. I'm looking forward to his June 25th appearance in Kilbourn with his Quintet.
Playing alongside childhood friend Wynton Marsalis in summer music camps, it was only in high school, when young Terance Blanchard began studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts under Roger Dickerson and Ellis Marsalis, Jr. that his talent began to shine. From 1980 to 1982, Blanchard studied while touring with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra until, in 1982, Wynton Marsalis recommended him take his place in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengersm. With Blakey and as co-leader of a quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison and pianist Mulgrew Miller, Blanchard rose as a key figure in the 1980s "Jazz Resurgence" the Harrison/Blanchard group recorded five albums from 1984-1988 until /Blanchard left to pursue a solo career in 1990.
Photo Credit: Jenny Bagert
In the 1990s, he recorded his self-titled debut for Columbia Records, which reached third on the Billboard Jazz Charts and also performed on soundtracks for Spike Lee movies, including Do the Right Thing and Mo' Better Blues, after which Lee asked Blanchard to compose the scores for his films. He has written the score for every Spike Lee film since. In 2006, he composed the score for Spike Lee's 4-hour Hurricane Katrina documentary for HBO entitled When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. The catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina was a cauldron from which spring further creative expression Blanchard’s song cycle, A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), a 13-track "emotional tour de force of anger, rage, compassion, melancholy and beauty." The Blue Note CD from that project features Blanchard’s quintet—pianist Aaron Parks, saxophonist Brice Winston, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Kendrick Scott—as well as a 40-member string orchestra.
Blanchard's latest disc, Choices, the new CD was released on Concord Jazz. Recorded in Blanchard's hometown of New Orleans at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Choices addresses the choices we make in life, both as a society and on a personal level. Accompanying Blanchard on the album are longstanding band members Fabian Almazan on piano, Derrick Hodge on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums, along with newcomer Walter Smith III on saxophone, all of whom wrote significant track contributions to the CD as well. Guest artists include writer, speaker, educator and activist Dr. Cornel West, critically-acclaimed guitarist and Blanchard protg Lionel Loueke, and singer, musician and composer Bilal. West performs spoken word pieces on the album with Bilal providing vocals on several of the tracks.
Here's a video from February of this year of music from Choices played by the Quintet in the Greene Space in NOLA:
Here's a video with excerpts from a 2007 PBS interview with Blanchard about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and watch his Quintet in performance at Blues Alley in Washington, DC playing music from the Grammy award-winning CD, A Tale of God's Will: