2015 rochester international jazz festival

We have been to every Rochester International Jazz Festival and I take a few notes on the acts we catch.

2015

Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Cecile McLorin Salvant performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Day One 2015: Free parking is getting harder and harder to find in Downtown Rochester. I dropped Peggi off near City Blue and went on the hunt for a spot. When I reconnected with her she was standing in a long line between two rows of port-o-johns on Barrett Place. But she had already talked to the vocalist, Cecile McLorin Salvant, telling her, “We’re looking forward to your performance” as she walked by. We brought our dinner, a green salad, rice dish and two Sam Adams and before we knew it we were inside Kilbourn Hall.

At twenty three Salvant has a voice way beyond her years and a fabulous piano, bass and drums trio. She opened accompanied by only the bass player with a song called “Lonely Town.” Then “Glitter and Be Gay” and three Cole Porter songs. Most of her songs are from a long time ago. She is very theatrical and musical but just didn’t draw us in with her readings of these classic songs. I would prefer a more personal stamp.

Music Music Music performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Music Music Music performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

If you search for a sound file of “Music Music Music” you won’t come up with the band, “MusicMusicMusic.” Despite their digital indexing problems the Swedish band has been together for ten years . They were at Jazz Fest in this same venue back in 2008. Their first number opened up to a drum solo, the second one was slow with bowed bass and a pretty, spacious effect on the piano. They were so enjoyable I almost forgot to snap a photo of them. The piano player leads this trio and was exceptionally melodic. They finished the set with the Theresa Brewer song, “Music! Music! Music!”

Jeremy Pelt performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Jeremy Pelt performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

On the route to Xerox Auditorium we stopped in to hear a bit of Jeremy Pelt at Montage. We heard him five years ago at this same club. We grabbed a seat down front with Jeff Spevak and Scott Regan and the band came on like gangbusters. Hard driving drums, thumping bass and Jeremy’s muscular trumpet playing. One song was not enough to hear how the pianist would fit in to this picture.

Eric Revis Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Eric Revis Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Eric Revis Trio at Xerox Auditorium had the most interesting sound files for the night. Eric plays a clear toned, punctual bass. These guys improvise on themes laid out by Reves. The drummer’s light touch, brushes and press rolls, reminded me of Danny Richmond, Mingus’ long time drummer. I realized why I was getting the Mingus vibe when Eric started grunting his notes with his voice while he played. The piano player was very delicate reaching into the piano to mute the strings. The band was extremely melodic and sounded especially good on a version of Paul Motian’s ” Victoria.”

The Splender performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
The Splender performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The first thing we noticed about The Splender at the Lutheran Church was that the piano and bass players were the same as in last night’s group. The woman who leads this group was here in 2007 wih a duo called Midaircondo. When I reread my notes from that show their performance all came back to me. Last night she played tenor and soprano saxes, bass clarinet and even constructed a loop with an omnichord and sang over that. The band itself reminded me of Weather Report but she was able to take them in cinematic directions.

Street drummer performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Street drummer performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

We heard this guy from a distance and he sounded great. He sounded great up close as well and I loved how he set himself up in the middle of East Avenue. We went into Christ Church to hear one of the English bands and when we came out this guy was playing exactly the same beat at the same tempo.

Andrew McCormack Quartet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Andrew McCormack Quartet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Christ Church is not the right venue for a group that plays with so little space. Added volume provides some clarity for the top end but the ambience of the worship hall swallows the rest. Andrew McCormack Quartet was very listenable. McCormack’s piano playing in another setting would have been really nice. The arangements were all rather academic in a jazz school sort of way.

Jane Bunnet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Jane Bunnet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Christ Church is not the right venue for a group that plays with so little space. Added volume provides some clarity for the top end but the ambience of the worship hall swallows the rest. Andrew McCormack Quartet was very listenable. McCormack’s piano playing in another setting would have been really nice. The arangements were all rather academic in a jazz school sort of way.

Nils Berg CinemaScope performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Nils Berg CinemaScope performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Nils Berg CinemaScope at the Lutheran Church, a trio with horns, bass and drums, accompanied video performances they found on YouTube. They back-projected the clips and played to the recordings. Sometimes the home video or street performer footage from around the globe was processed, manipulated or looped. The mixed-media collage was sloppy at times but very engaging at others. I love the way the concept both collapsed and expanded our worldly perceceptions. And did I mention it was the same bass player as the two previous nights in this venue?

Barnes Herriott Duo performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Barnes Herriott Duo performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Barnes Herriott Duo at the Rochester Club Ballroom was a breath of fresh air. Amazing to see two guys make it all look so easy. Flugelhorn and guitar, no effects on the guitar, no pick even and a great sense of rhythm. I liked it best when they relaxed and even better when they played a minor key ballad.

Trio Red performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Trio Red performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Trio Red at Christ Church sounded more intriguing online than they did in person. Not sure why that is. They had a substitute bass player for one thing and the sound in this hall is problematic. They opened with a Thomas Chapin song and then did a pretty number written by the drummer, the leader, called “Boy Meets Boy Meets Girl Meets Girl” to “cover all bases.”

Kinloch Nelson, Dave Areneus, and Pete Monacelli performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Kinloch Nelson, Dave Areneus, and Pete Monacelli performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

We stopped into Bernunzios to hear a bit of Kinloch Nelson on guitar, Dave Areneus on bass and Pete Monacelli on his uncle’s 1930’s trap set. They sounded great.

Elvind Opsvik Overseas performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Elvind Opsvik Overseas performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The Lounge Lizards are alive. Or their “not exactly jazz” spirit is in Elvind Opsvik Overseas. This band was here at the Lutheran Church in 2010. They were one of our favorites then and even sounded better this time. Of course they brought along two more members, a piano player and a tenor sax player. Each player has a distinctly different role in this band. No one is glomming onto another’s part or space. Consequently the ensemble creates a very rich pallette.

Led by the bass player, Eivind Opsvik, they opened with a car chase of a tune, one where the chaser forgot what it was chasing. They get cinematic in a hurry. The tenor sax adds a solid film noir aspect to the big picture, at times taking the band into Gato territory like Last Tango in Outer Space. We’ve heard drummer Kenny Wollesen with Bill Frisell a few times but he sounded better than ever in this setting, free to color the song as he sees fit.

Brandon Seabrook could be the world’s most unusual guitar player. He bowed his guitar while Opsvik bowed his bass but mostly he adds angular punctuation, melodic and rhythmic and WTF texture when he rubs a mini cassette player across the neck of his guitar.

Soul Rebels performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Soul Rebels performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Soul Rebels shook the big tent. How do you shake a tent? They had a huge New Orleans style party band sound. Two drummers, both standing up. They sounded like fun but we were afraid to go out front. My beer can was trembling with the bottom end.

Moutin Factory Quintet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Moutin Factory Quintet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Either the sax player in Moutin Factory Quintet is extremely large or his soprano sax is extremely small, maybe it’s a sopranino. It has to be very strange to have an exact twin. And weirder still to play in a band with your twin. We had seen the Moutin brothers, drums and bass, at this same club in 2007. I remembered them being tightly synced, egging each other on and playing circles around one another. They still have that quality but they’ve added a guitar and sax to the lineup so it is not as pronounced. They pushed themselves and even worked some loose, outside interplay into their set.

Cloudmaker Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Cloudmaker Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

An English trio, vibes, bass and drums, called Cloudmaker Trio played Christ Church, the same nineteenth century Gothic venue that has swallowed the sound of so many bands at this festival. They sounded really good. The ambience was perfect for the vibes player, the leader of the group and the bass sounded full yet clear and the drums were crisp. All three were great players. Even pulled off a rousing version of Thelonious Monk’s “Epistrophy.”

Julia Hulsmann Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Julia Hulsmann Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The Berlin based Julia Hulsmann Trio at the Lutheran Church was a real treat. Iimagine the first ECM album you ever heard, that smart, European take on jazz and that pristine Sunday morning sound. Hulsmann is a fabulous piano player. They played a great version Kurt Weil’s “Alabama Song,” a tribute to Monk and a gorgeous song she wrote called “The End of Summer.” My favorite tune, a real romp led by the bass player, was back announced as a song they had played for the very first time.

Interzone performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Interzone performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The bass player in Interzone, the Austrian trio at the Little Theater, was quite influenced by William Burroughs. His writing shows up in the title of their songs, their videos and the name of their band. Young, all around 25, and confident as hell, the trio with trumpet and drums and matching suits had a lot of fun with the traditional forms of jazz, making it their own as entertainment. The bass player apparently broke a string for the first time ever in the first set and Brian Williams from Bobby Henrie and the Goners was there to loan him a string. They were so eager to play that they asked the crowd if they could do one more. They gave the audience the boken bass string to pass around while they played their last song.

Antonio Sanchez & Migration performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Antonio Sanchez & Migration performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The line for Antonio Sanchez & Migration at Kilbourn Hall wasn’t as bad as we expected considering the big splash in the paper and, of course, the movie “Birdman” for which Sanchez did the soundtrack. I loved the freshness of the drum tracks in the movie, what seemed like spontaneous interactions or dialog with the script and I guess I was expecting some elements of that in his performance. Instead his, “Meridian Suite,” performed in its entirety for only the third time, was pretty tightly arranged with very little room for improvisation, an extremely ambitious project.

The sparser sections worked the best for. The sax playing one of the main themes, the bass playe back on the double bass, the piano pretty and the vocalist was given some air. I liked hearing her double lines with Seamus Blake’s sax or wind controller and I loved the the rattiness in the Fender Rhodes. The vocalist sampled a section of her voice and caught some feedback which of course came around every time it looped and I watched Sanchez wince each time. One snare drum would not be enough for Antonio Sanchez so he plays with two and he has an extra bass drum pedal for his left foot. He is a phenomenal drummer.

Omer Avital Quintet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Omer Avital Quintet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Omer Avital Quintet at Xerox Auditorium had an interesting world jazz sound. The coolest thing about the gig was hearing Johnathan Blake on drums. He was recently at the Hochstrin with Tom Harrell and Esperanza Spalding and “Colors of a Dream.” I love his low, horizantal set-up and the way he plays.

High Definition Quartet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
High Definition Quartet performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

As we were leaving the Lutheran Church I heard someone describe the High Definition Quartet from Poland as “a little too off beat for me.” Actually I found them a little too on the beat in a precision kind of mathematical way. They finished and punctuated each other’s lines, creating parts with the combinations, jazz without all that much swing, a sound our friend, Jeff, called “a little too heady.” They were but in a really interesting way. The pianist took a really unusual but beautiful solo.

Gypsophilia performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Gypsophilia performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

We only caught a few songs by Gypsophilia from Halifax, Nova Scotia. They were playing in the street as we fought our way through the crowd. Three guitars, bass and a trumpet, they combined the ever popular gypsy party vibe with little a bit of major key jazz and clap alongs. Peggi called them a “palette cleanser.”

Troyka performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Troyka performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The London based Troyka at Christ Church was a twenty-first century organ trio led by the guitar player. The drummer was not all that interested in the groove and the bass, the organist’s left hand on a Novation, didn’t provide much of one either so the whole thing fell a little flat for me. When they slowed things way down on the third or fourth song, they immediately sounded three or four times better. In what the guitar player called “a wonky version of the blues” the space, the cathedral-like room, an equal member of any band that plays here, really worked to their advantage.

Ignacio Berroa & Hilario Duran performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Ignacio Berroa & Hilario Duran performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Ignacio Berroa & Hilario Duran at the Rochester Club Ballroom. Berroa is a marvel on the drums. He effortlessly plays the most complicated parts and then does variations on those while keeping an irresistible rhythm. Duran is no slouch in the rhythm department either. Berroa played with Dizzy Gillespie for ten years so of course they did “Night in Tunisia.” These guys didn’t need the sax player because there was plenty of melody in the piano and bass. Berroa played a beautiful drum pattern on “My Funny Valentine,” Roberto Occhopinti took a gorgeous solo and Duran reinvented the tune on piano.

Bill Charlap performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Bill Charlap performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The former First Church of Christ Scientist makes an amazing venue. Now called the Lyric Theater, it is a round room with the floor slanting toward the stage and the acoustics, at least for a solo Steinway performance by Bill Charlap, were perfect. I’ve heard the building is set to undertake renovations. The pews will go and probably the two readings over the doors. “Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ.” “Christianity is again demonstrating the life that is the truth and the truth that is life.”

Dave Douglas & High Risk performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Dave Douglas & High Risk performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Maggie Brooks introduced Dave Douglas & High Risk at Harro East. I got worried when I saw the laptop sitting on a table stage right and then more worried when the drummer pushed his earbuds in. Sure enough a guy twiddling knobs and dancing behind a table was an intregal part of their sound. It reminded me of one of those Bill Laswell projects but this was better. Second song the bass player put headphones on and they went deeper into EDM territory. Instead of kids dancing around with glow necklaces, there was a bunch of white hairs sitting in seats. Dave Douglas’ trumpet playing sounded really good on top of all this.

Stanley Clarke performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Stanley Clarke performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The last time I saw Stanley Clarke he was playing with Return To Forever. I loved it then but it had a short shelf-life for me. Xerox Auditorium was just about full when we got there, about fifteen minutes before the show, so we sat and talked about the huge bass rig, a pile of amps and speakers eight feet wide and six feet high. The drum set included two snares, four rack toms, two floor toms and eight cymbals. A Steinway sat on the left of the stage and Roland and Korg keyboards on the right. The crowd clapped for the equipment guys. Stanley introduced the band, all under twenty five, and they opened with a Return to Forever tune,” Beyond the 7th Galaxy.” Then a George Duke Brazilian song where Clarke popped the strings on the double bass. The piano player was fantastic. The drummer was impossibly good and incredibly fast.

Obara International performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Obara International performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Obara International at the Lutheran Church were like one of those big abstract paintings that Gerhard Richter pulls and scrapes with giant squeegees. You don’t really know where to look. And in this case the sheets of sound wash over you. The bass player strums his bass, the drummer plays machine gun rolls. Of course you eventually find your way into a Richter painting and the saxophone here gives you a way into Obara. They finished the set with an absolutely beautiful, slow dreamy piece. I could have gone for a whole night of that.

Ikebe Shakedown performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Ikebe Shakedown performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Ikebe Shakedown at Montage is from Brooklyn, New York and were here two years ago playing at the Bug Jar. The seven piece band appropriates Afrobeat and is really smart to play only the essentials in fairly tight arrangements of simple parts. Imagine Fela Kuti at a frat party. The horn players were really good, good enough to play with with Sharon Jones last night at Kodak Hall. They got the party going with no misfires.

Triumvirate performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Triumvirate performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Before they started their gig at Christ Church, Denys Baptiste said his Triumvirate doesn’t discuss what they are going to play before they start the set and he said he was not really the leader. “The best idea wins.” They play versions of pop songs or iconic songs from the recent past. They don’t stop between songs and their set is one continuous piece. They really take their time skirting around the theme of each song and thhen easing their way out and into another. They were laid back and slightly detached from this material. Their music would work well in a moody Film Noir movie. We realized how narcotic their sound was when we were back out on the street.

Crash Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Crash Trio performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Melissa Aldana is a great tenor sax player. Her Crash Trio was doing Ellington’s “I Got It Bad” when we walked in and the drummer was sounding especially good with the brushes. They work well within the tradition of jazz but at the same time their sax, bass and drums trio shows how elastic the form can be as they carved out their own sound. They asked if they could do an additional song and finished with a song she wrote for Sonny Rollins called “Back Home.”

Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra with Ingrid Jensen at Xerox Auditorium was areal treat. At nineteen pieces you might be inclined to call them a big band but they are an orchestra. Jazz big bands often have too much stuff going on, people popping up for a quick solo in an almost desperate need to call attention to the individual performers. Not so with wiith Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra. They instead sound like an especially rich combo. Instead of hyperactive they were easy going with solid arrangements that drew you into the tune while the lead trumpeter, Ingrid Jensen and sister Christine soloed. Apparently the festival promotor, John Nugent, was Christine Jensen’s sax teacher. He taught a few of the five sax players in this big band as well. They sounded great.

Go Go Penguin performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Go Go Penguin performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

The young English band with a wacky name, Go Go Penguin, plays jazz influenced by electronic dance music. I usually think of EDM as death of jazz music but these guys pulled it off. Their rhythmic piano reputations and frantic drumming appeared to open some young ears in the packed Christ Church.

Bobby Henrie and the Goners performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival
Bobby Henrie and the Goners performing at the 2015 Rochester International Jazz Festival

It was a thrill just to be in the old Sibley’s building on the second floor, near the corner of Main and Clinton overlooking the old Jay’s Record Ranch. I made my first pot purchase here from the guy that worked in the toy department. A temporary venue for the jazz fest, they have featured the ubiguious “Americana” acts here all week. Well, no one does Americana like Rochester’s own Bobby Henrie and the Goners. “Rockabilly and swing and everything in between,” as Bobby says and that would include jazz. This was a great way to finish out the fest.

for other years
RETURN TO ROCHESTER JAZZ FEST INDEX

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *