Make Out Machine

Michael Blake's Red Hook Soul performing at Xerox during the 2017 Rochester Jazz Fest

We stopped in to hear Michael Blakes’s Red Hook Soul on Sunday night but we only stayed for a few songs. The sound in the big tent is so oppressive. We had already decided to hear them at Xerox on Monday and they were so good we caught both the early and late shows. Every member of this band is a solid pro and the sound here was perfect. We sat in the front row for both sets and we had an incredible stereo mix of the two mostly rhythm guitars. Tony Scherr on the left had the crunch and Avi Bortnick the classic clean soulful scratch. Of course none of this would work without a way in the pocket bass player. The band plays vintage 70’s soul and Blake writes songs in that vein (“Make Out Machine”)for the band. He chooses the best and Michael calls out songs on stage. Last night they played a different Gladys Knight song in each set along with Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Volunteered Slavery” and Taj Mahall’s “Buy You a Chevrolet.”

Bill Frisell was at the first show with his wife, Carol d’Inverno, and his current bass player, Thomas Morgan. Margaret Explosion played the Mercer Gallery opening for Carol’s art show at MCC last year and we had her over for dinner. She told us they are in the process of moving to Brooklyn where she begins a residency next month.

En route to the Xerox hall we spotted Bernie Heveron, formerly of Personal Effects, playing bass with the Red, White and Blues band.

Ikonostasis at the Lutheran Church was the most avant-garde guard band of the festival so far and maybe my favorite. A trio with no bass player. This one worked, unlike the band we saw at the Little Theater last night. Kari Ikonen, the piano/synth player is the leader but I was sitting so close I could only get two players in the frame and the sax player, Ole Mathisen, and drummer, Ra-Kalam Bob Moses were far more interesting to look at. The band went from pretty to abstract to outer space and back. “What time is it?” asked Ikonen after an hour or so. “Just keep playing’ said someone in the crowd. And they did with a beautiful middle eastern piece that started like a call to prayer.

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