Live Jazz Withdrawal

Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Rochester Jazz Festival
Joe Lovano and Us Five at the Rochester Jazz Festival

Joe Lovano opened the last night of Day 9 with a different Us Five than his YouTube video. This one featured only one drummer and his wife, Judi Silvano, in that order. Joe moves about the stage with a wireless mic and tosses off melodies like he is in the middle of a lively conversation and most of the animation was between the amazing drummer, Francisco Mela, and Joe. Judi’s skat, Cameron Brown’s bass, (he’s recorded with Archie Shepp and Mal Waldron) James Weidman’s piano made this a rich musical experience. Joe Lovano is big league.

Delirium at first seemed like a toy band. But that is only in comparison to Joe Lovano. This Finish quartet has been together for ten years and they sound it. Their arrangements are crisp and cleanly delivered with lots of unison horn. They are all great players but the tenor sax player was exceptional. They have their own European (more pageantry and less blues based) jazz sound and it’s a lot of fun. Their last tune was entitled, “Let’s Have Some Pie”.

Aaron Parks has one of the goofiest haircuts I’ve seen in a while. We were excited to see the Respect Sextet’s Ted Poor in the drum chair and gave these guys about a half hour but never warmed up to them. Aaron’s flowing, lyrical piano style seemed to butt heads with Ted’s rambunctious rough edges and the bass player was not holding this all together. Can’t we have Respect Sextet here every year?

We finished the Fest at Montage with the Antonio Ciacca Group. We had see Antonio at Kilbourn a few years back and really loved his playing. He came out limping (literally) tonight and seemed kind of tired. We were sitting right next to his piano but he was not loud enough. The tenor sax player was great. Everybody is great. This festival just keeps getting better and better. We said hi to and thanked co-promoter Marc Iacona on the way out (he was a former student of Peggi’s) but we can’t thank him enough.

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Set Sail For The Sun

Respect Sextet at the Village Gate Attrium in Rochester New York, May 1st, 2009
Respect Sextet at the Village Gate Attrium in Rochester New York, May 1st, 2009

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.

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R e S PE ct

Respect Sextet at the Rochester Jazz Fest in 2006

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.

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