The whole of yesterday’s activity was a prelude to the Respect Sextet performance outside the Bop Shop at the Village Gate. We have seen this band about ten times now and they continue to shine. The former Eastman students are the best band to come out of Rochester. Their newest cd, Sirius Respect, is a tribute to Sun Ra and Stockhausen and every other song is by one of these two giants. They did a little bit of that last night but they have already moved on. The place was packed and the crowd was a lot younger than the usual jazz beards.
The Ethnic Heritage ensemble showed up about 9:30 for an 8pm gig tonight at the Bop Shop Atrium. They were coming from Toronto and they got hung up at the border but the crowd stuck around. The band sauntered in like they weren’t even late and opened with a trance/chant tune on thumb piano with the lyrics, “Pharoah Sanders”. When we last saw these guys at the Jazz Fest in 2005, they did a similar piece called “Ornette Coleman”. All three played beautiul percussion at various times. Corey Wilkes, who also plays trumpet with the Art Ensemble, is an amazing player. Tom Kohn should have a great recording of this show.
Peggi started teaching a new round of Dreamweaver classes at the Genesee Center for the Arts last night. I rode downtown with her and then walked over to the Memorial Art Gallery for a lecture by local artist, Jim Mott. He travels the country trading paintings for hospitality and his “Itinerant Artist Project” was featured on the Today show. He talked over a PowerPoint presentation, sometimes talking about one thing while flashing paragraphs of type on the screen that had no relation to what he was talking about. But he had fun with it all and he seems like the the nicest guy you would ever want to meet. His photos and paintings are beautiful. They are small, like 6 by nine, so he can travel with them when they are wet in a plywood case with slots. His landscapes are relaxed and painterly but perfectly readable. There is a nice little slide show on his site.
I met Geri McCormick after the lecture and we went across the street to Village Gate to see Fay Victor and her band. They had just driven up from NYC and they were playing in the atrium outside the Bop Shop. They sounded great here, a little bit like the Art Ensemble with Fontella Bass. Avant and soulful at the same time.
Respect Sextet played the Village Gate Atrium on Tuesday night so there was a serious conflict with my painting class. I checked their website and it said they would be be doing a clinic at their alma mater, the Eastman School of Music, at 4PM that same day.
So we found our way to Room 305 and sat in the back in desk/chairs. The word “idiomatic” was underlined on a chalk board and under it were three descriptions,” dance based”, “variation” and “improvisation”, three things that don’t immediately come to mind when you think of this prestigious school of music. The other green blackboards were permanently lined with musical staffs. The G clef was waiting.
There were about twenty five people in the room, most of them Eastman students. Josh Rutner, the group’s sax player, closed the door and the group launched into one of drummer, Ted Poor’s compositions. They started reading and just as quickly moved to playing and the band sounded great. It felt like we were inside a big, warm speaker. I gather most of them graduated in 2003 but they sound like seasoned pros, in full command of some meaty music.
Between songs they discussed making money with music, getting gigs, doing without health insurance, and life in NYC versus Rochester. Bass player, Malcolm Kirby and Ted Poor are apparently making a living with their music. Josh said, “I think I’m happy”. The Eastman students all talked of moving to New York, Boston or Europe after graduation. Trombone player, James Hirschfeld, in a Sun Ra t-shirt, said getting together to play involved an insane amount of travel. “It would be like driving from here to Fredonia to rehearse.” They emphasized the importance of their formative weekly Wednesday night gig at Java’s while they were here going to school. They released a 3 inch cd of Sun Ra’s “A Call For All Demons”. It was recorded live at Java’s in 2002 and gives you an inkling of what you missed.
I snuck out of painting class at the Memorial Art Gallery and caught a few of their songs outside the Bop Shop in Village Gate. These guys are my favorite group to have ever come out of Rochester.