June 21, 2008

Rochester International Jazz Festival 2008 Day 6 and Day 8

         

The 2008 Rochester International Jazz Fest is in full swing, and this page has been taken over and re-dubbed for the week.  If you are looking for other RIJF goers who seek virtual and face-to-face interactions, check these guys out:

I’ll add others during the week as I find them.  I’m always looking for discussion, argument, and reflections on one of my favorite weeks of the year, so please e-mail or comment, and maybe even say hello at a show.

“I’ve got a bad liver and a broken heart…”  Tom Waits 1976

“I am a sick man.  I am a spiteful man.  I think there is something wrong with my liver.”  Fyodor Dostoevsky 1864

I saw Billy’s Bandlast night and I am not sure yet what to think.  Dressed like Tolstoy and singing lyrics that are Dostoevskyesque (Dostoevskian?) they are on one hand a very good Tom Waits tribute/cover band and on the other a group of excellent musicians reclaiming and applying an aura and aesthetic that is very Russian.  I’m just not sure where the percentages are yet.  Feel free to make your own judgement.

There were times when the act was so dead-on in the channeling of Waits that it bordered on creepy, but at other moments the detailed shuffling choreography and original music in Russian were strikingly beautiful.  It will take further experience for me to decide if these guys are ripping Waits off, or building on his foundation, but I’m leaning towards the latter.  Either way, I enjoyed the set.  As musical theater it was excellent and entertaining.  The judgement of the crowd was certainly positive as it demanded and received an encore of Waits’ Blue Valentines.  I was hoping for Cold Cold Ground, but I was happy they came back.  On a side note, I think Billy Novik’s voice sounds more like Louis Armstrong than Tom Waits, so they could easily expand their jazz repertoire.  Don’t forget, Modeski, Martin, and Wood’s debut album was Notes from the Underground, and they are playing tonight.

While I took Thursday off, I did catch Wild Magnolias and Jake Shimabukurothe day before.  Jeff Spevak of the D & C mirrored my own assessment in his take on the New Orleans group, so see him about it.  Shimabukuro is a different matter.  He was difficult see on Wednesday once the buzz got out, and my wife and I were lucky to get in line early enough to receive a red ticket being given out before the show.  (I don’t if that was High Fidelity, or RIJF, but it was a basically good idea for managing the crowd.)  Shimbaukuro is the real deal, and while the venue and crowd lessened my enjoyment, I’ll have to give him another shot if he returns in the future.  I was leaving when he showed up at State Street later that night, but I heard that he wowed the crowd, including local guitarist Bob Sneider who plays master of ceremonies at the nightly gig.

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June 18, 2008

Rochester International Jazz Festival 2008 Days 4 and 5

    

The 2008 Rochester International Jazz Fest is in full swing, and this page has been taken over and re-dubbed for the week.  If you are looking for other RIJF goers who seek virtual and face-to-face interactions, check these guys out:

I’ll add others during the week as I find them.  I’m always looking for discussion, argument, and reflections on one of my favorite weeks of the year, so please e-mail or comment, and maybe even say hello at a show.

On Monday night I was lucky enough to catch a good seat for Cindy Blackman’s first set (She is a monster!) at the Harro and a little of Dan “The Festival Guy” Quilty hoofing at the Jazz Street Stage.   While one occasionally hears snickers and giggles when Dan is around, I have to say that his lack of self-consciousness and his ability to freely be himself is at the heart of the jazz ideal. 

I was thinking about Dan after seeing both of the Dr. Lonnie Smith sets last night.  Smith was so at ease on stage.  He responded to some inattentive audience members by upping the ante and playing at a level that could not be ignored.  His old band-mate, Lou Donaldson displayed the same ease the night before to play a set that elicited a similar response from a vocally appreciative crowd.

Another thing that I saw on Monday, and then again last night was post-set interaction of the artist with the crowd. Cindy Blackman took time after the set to talk to many of the audience members who lined up to shake her hand or grab an autograph. Bill Tiberio did the same thing last night. Most of the musicians that I have the pleasure to interacting with have been generally appreciative and accepting of the interactions. It is one of the really appealing aspects of this festival.

So, I noticed that every time I took pictures of Lonnie Smith his hands were blurry.  Surprise.  Surprise.  So today, instead of writing a bunch of stuff that no one wants to read, here are some pictures of the good doctor’s hands. 

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June 16, 2008

Rochester International Jazz Festival 2008 Day 2 and Day 3

        

Have you ever watched Télemundo as a non-Spanish speaker, or asked for directions in Hong Kong?  Seeing Jacob Anderskov at the Lutheran Church last night was a bit like that, if the person giving directions was a brilliant poet.  Anderskov amazed me.  I don’t have the training or understanding to really appreciate what I saw, but the experience was absolutely enjoyable.  It began with Jack Garner’s introduction, in which he described the “conversation that an artist has with himself.”  While I found it ironic that a man who has spent his career rating the creative efforts of others on a scale of one to ten would introduce an act that had and might use an unlimited number of musical paths, Garner correctly and deftly identified what was about to happen.  My criticism is not of Garner, by the way, but with the culture that demands such simple and limited analysis.  I would take a gig like his in a second. 

It was obvious by the people flocking to the exits after each piece, that they did not speak the language either.  I don’t want to give the impression that I thought that Anderskov was technically brilliant or creatively gifted.  I suspect he was to a greater or lesser degree, but there is no way for me to know that, I don’t play the piano, nor can I read music.  Cliché or melodic reference would be lost on me.  So when I say the performance was stellar, I am not seeing the emperor’s proverbial vétément nouveau.  Rather, I think I understood what those who were leaving did not; that even though I am not a musician I have ears.  I can still access and appreciate the performance on many aesthetic and experiential levels. 

The intentional contradiction in Garner’s statement (a conversation requires more than one person) suggests multiple activities happening simultaneously.  The artist was alone with the piano.  He had no other musicians from whom to take or to give direction.  But that does not mean he was immune from outside stimuli.  For example, what was the impact of people leaving on what he was saying and how he was saying it?  After the first song, he asked that a fan be turned off because of the noise and apologized for the request because of the heat.  He was aware of the audience is my point.  He understood that he was performing and not composing at home.  And even an uneducated or illiterate listener like me brings his own set of experiences to the lecture.  Many of the people who walked out must know more about music than I do.  Many must know about as much.  Some of the people who stayed probably knew less, although based on the numbers who stayed I’m on shakier statistical ground there. 

Perhaps I am trying to convince myself that the experience was enjoyable because I stayed until the end and therefore need some justification for doing so?  Perhaps, I am.  But I felt a bit of a camaraderie with the other hangers-on and with Anderskov.  I am happy that the organizers continue to book acts that might not be as crowd pleasing, that are more intellectual than feeling.  While I love the funk and reggae acts for the pure enjoyment, I also enjoy the acts that make me think and learn.

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June 14, 2008

Rochester International Jazz Fest 2008 Day One

Filed under: Jazz,Rochester International Jazz Festival,Rochester NY — seth @ 10:22 am

      

The 2008 Rochester International Jazz Fest is in full swing, and this page has been taken over and re-dubbed for the week.  If you are looking for other RIJF goers who seek virtual and face-to-face interactions, check these guys out:

I’ll add others during the week as I find them.  I’m always looking for discussion, argument, and reflections on one of my favorite weeks of the year, so please e-mail or comment, and maybe even say hello at a show.

 

In spite of few hours of rain and occasional lightning, the first night of the 2008 Rochester International Jazz Festival  went off well.  Crowds were at or near capacity in all of the venues I attended and except for some poor crowd management at the tent and a waitress who talked too much at the Montage the staff and volunteers did a great job and gracefully represented the festival and our city with aplomb.  As always, I add to my VERY minor criticisms the stipulations that they are always constructive in intention and that the organization of an event of this size is always a difficult task and perfection is not possible under the best of conditions.  Lines due to capacity limits can be planned for and waitresses can be asked not to talk during a bass solo.

Of course, I did not attend the first night to critique the interpersonal skills of food service workers, but to listen to some jazz so I will shut the hell up on that subject and move on.

With my wife, Ken, Greg, and Jane I made my first visit every to the Harro East to hear drummer Ben Riley lead a group of excellent jazz musicians through some interpretation of Thelonius Monk.  No rigging fell on us.  Riley is a jazz fixture and his brush work was amazing.  The soft, but constant hiss was like a film over water and often the support that the other instruments built upon.  I was afraid at times if it ended, they all would get wet.

Musically, the highlights for me came during the bass and drum solos which turned playful several times. Riley got hung up once during the last song, but with an unflappability earned with experience, he turned into a humorous and honest moment that is the essence of jazz.

While I often prefer to see some of the younger acts who are moving in a new direction, I can’t help but enjoy the acts that look backward at visionaries who were looking forward to today.  Riley is still at the top of his game, but there was nostalgia in the room.  After telling the audience that he enjoyed playing with these “younger” guys, Riley looked at the bass player and said, “You’re not young, we’ve played a long time together.”

After a quick visit to the Big Tent to learn from Denis Parker and Scott Goudie that the proximity between Newfoundland and the Mississippi delta cannot always be measure physically, we headed to the Lutheran Church and my favorite set of the night.  Again proving that colder climes don’t prohibit musical heat, Finnish sax player Timo Lassy (a little hottie according to my wife) made an already hot and humid room hotter and heavier.  The group of five knocked the sweating crowd out with the Brazilian inspired tune Sweet Spot.  This is a group at the top of their game, and if you get a chance to see them, do.

After Lassy we headed back to the tent and the Spam Allstars, a Miami based group that give one’s feet little respite.  I really enjoyed the energy coming from this group.  There were a whole lot of people getting a groove on.

Finally, we ended the night at the Montage for Rachel Z.  The pianist and her trio took the large amount of energy given her by the crowd and turned it into a great and wide ranging set that included jazzed out pop pieces from Neil Young, Depeche Mode, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and Alice in Chains to traditional stuff from Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson.   Everyone went home happy.   Saturday and Day Two hold the Bad Plus in my future and I hope some of the after hours fun I was too tired to enjoy on Day One.

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