XRIJF – Day 9 It’s Over for 2014

We have been having a great time on Jazz Street for 9 nights. Now we must recreate our day to day life without the planning, reading reviews and 6 to 7 hours a night waiting in line and attending performances.  Last night required some additional logistical planning because huge crowds were expected on East Ave at Chestnut St where George Thorogood and the Destroyers: 40 Years Strong were entertaining for free. This plugs that section to any easy access to Montage or Xerox.  this did not matter to us as our plan had us staying on one side of the congestion.

We got in line for Newport Jazz Festival:Now 60 in Kilbourn Hall at 3:40 for the 6 PM show. This seemed extreme as we had gotten into a show on Thursday arriving after 4, but we were only just a few minutes ahead of the line filling to sell out proportions.  By 4:15 the line had extended from the front of the hall down the side alley and around the corner onto Swann where we were and then out to East Ave and past the Ticket office, it was there that the line counters started telling people that they were unlikely to get into the hall. To understand the draw here are the performers in the group: Anat Cohen, who sold out everything she did in her last time at the Festival, Karrin Allyson/vocals, piano, Randy Brecker/trumpet, Larry Grenadier/bass, Peter Martin/piano, Clarence Penn/drums, and Mark Whitfield/guitar. If you want to know more about them and the rest of the performers Rochester Jazz link will get you all the information you want and more. Once they closed the door with 450 in the seats and maybe 50 standing room there was very little movement and I doubt many from the long line left outside the door made it in to the hall. All of the performances were over the top and when the set was over the audience stood in place applauding and screaming for MORE. And MORE we got, with superb encore performance with Karrin taking the piano from Peter Martin for the intro and giving us the best singing of the performance and then the band members each did another solo before wrapping it up. We exited and bought an Anat Cohen CD to have her sign in the Merchandise Tent. There we met and had a chance to talk with her and several of the group, they seemed as buoyed by the crowd response as the crowd was by their performance.

We then stopped to get some food at Ludwigs before continuing on to Lutheran Church, one more time, to hear Susanna. Her sound was ethereal and interesting, but it couldn’t hold our attention. I suspect part of it was that our heads were still full of the high energy from the previous performance. We left and went to the Big Tent as we had planned, to hear Ester Rada. She had performed on the street as an opener to the big group on the Chestnut and East Stage on Friday and the buzz was very good. This was a very high energy performance by an exciting Ethiopian Israeli with 7 Israeli musicians in her band. It was wonderful as I listened and realized that in more than one song the language was neither English nor Hebrew but must have been Amharic. I don’t think that there has been any singing in Amharic at the Festival before. Once again we were floating on a sense of joy and energy as we exited the tent after the show and headed to Max to see if we could get in to hear Cyrille Aimee perform.

The door was open and the line was moving as we joined it. They stopped the line as we got to the front. We were held there for a few minutes while they determined if there was place along the wall for us to stand. We got in before the show started. We leaned on the wall until we realized we had our line chair with us and we could take turns sitting. Cyrille is a coquette, very cute especially in the lacy short skirted frock she was wearing for the performance. Her vocal control is wonderful and her use of scat was a delight to us. Also she sang in French as well as English and her songs were fun. We especially enjoyed her song based on train travel in India One Way Ticket to Somewhere. This is a different version although the bowl in the same. This was our last number for the 2014 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

We went on to to the Jam at the Plaza Hotel, but it seemed anticlimactic and we decided to take a “One Way Ticket to Somewhere” as our lead for next year’s Festival!

John Nugent, Producer and Bob Sneider at the Jam



It seems to be just yesterday that we set out on this 13th edition of Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, yet here I am writing about the the eighth day and planning for the ninth and last night of music. I approach today with mixed feelings. We will be able to get back to some kind of normal schedule of eating and sleeping and getting something done during the day. We will miss the time in long lines getting to know people with whom the only thing we have in common to start with is the music. We will miss the music, especially the rich and varied choices that the producers have brought us for these few days. Where else can we get our fill of straight ahead jazz, americana, Nordic and UK jazz and just plain rock all in one setting with thousands of fans milling around in a five block area? That’s the Festival.

Last night, Friday, we started out in line at Kilbourn once again, waiting to Hear Bill Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age. With a moderately early start, 3:30 for a 6 O’clock show, we got the seats we were looking for and settled in. We were far from the first in line. Frisell took the stage and in his manner he spent quite a while setting up loops, modifying the sounds and generally making spacey noises. It resolved into sustained music with his partners on steel guitar (mostly), bass and drums that pinned us to our seats with anticipation of what was coming next. Too soon the set was over and we were on our feet demanding MORE. And more we got, the encore took off on a classic surfer song, “Surfer Girl” which he spun out in ways the Beach Boys had never thought of.

And it was 7:15 and we were on the street running. This time we were headed back to the apartment to get the car and drive out to Temple Sinai where our friends Joyce and Victor were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by participating in the service and reading from Torah. It was a wonderful way for them to express their love for each other and the for the community that is so important to them.  Their entire family was present and ready to depart for Kenya in the morning.

We headed back to Jazz Street dropping the car at the apartment and changing shoes. Our first stop was Montage, where Ibrahim Electric were electrifying the house. Unfortunately we had to watch on the closed circuit tv in the bar because the crowd at the entry to the hall aws solid. After one number we headed on over to The Big Tent, where Honey Island Swamp Band were causing the tent walls to pulse. Once we got inside the volume level was just below earth shattering. We stayed for one number and decided that this really was not to our taste. So on we flitted to Max where Phaedra Kwant and her group were weaving a different kind of magic. She pulled out her cellphone and played a recording of the sound of a traffic light in Tokyo using the simple melody to build a fine piece around. There is music everyplace, just listen. After stopping for Abbots Custard on the street we headed over to the Plaza Hotel and the Jam to see what might be happening. The crowd was happening, it was thicker than ever and tonight will be even more. We left as John Nugent was wrapping up a set and went home to get some sleep.

Haven’t made plans for tonight other than Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 at Kilbourn.  Watch this space for the actual happening.

Oh, the count, well somehow we got into 4 venues last night bringing the total to 36 through the eighth night.

See Ya on the Street, one more time.

XRIJF – Day 7

A painful start to a wonderful evening. We started our night’s activities with a 3 PM funeral for a friend of the community as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. Following a very moving series of eulogies we returned to our apartment to change into clothing more suitable for Jazz Street and rushed off to get in line for Joey DeFrancesco Trio in Kilbourn. We arrived in line “only” an hour before the doors were to open somewhere near the entrance to Rochester Club (another venue). We had never been this far back but as the usher came by us with his clicker he announce 185 ahead of us and the hall seats 450 or so plus standing room. We got seats in the same row we have been sitting in when arriving two hours or more before the doors open. . .

This was a phenomenal concert. DeFrancesco on the organ, with the occasional foray into trumpet, sometimes both at once, warmed the house up from the first moments. His guitar and drum sidemen were up to the task of meeting him more than halfway and the hall was shaking throughout the performance. People started to leave after the “last number” but the cries of encore and the continued standing ovation brought them back out and people froze in place finding new seats as the group played one more piece. By now the show was almost 15 minutes overtime and our thoughts of jumping to another show were out of the question.

We stopped on Main Street where the Food Trucks were and I found some almost suitable food at the “Meatball Truck” Carol found nothing and we moved on to Lutheran Church where Anders Hagberg Quartet were playing. True to the Nordic tradition the music was very different from what most people expect. They drew on Sami (Lapland Native) themes and Indian themes among others for their sources and included an African pottery jar drum and a flute modified to give an Indian sound as well as fittings on the piano strings. All in all the music was very interesting and demanded attention. Our interests were slightly different and Carol got hungry so she left to go to Abilene where in addition to VERY different music there are good food choices. It was a bit worrying as just before she left she realized her phone battery was almost dead. We arranged a couple of alternate meeting places just in case I could not find her in Abilene after I left Lutheran Church. Never fear, I got to Abilene in plenty of time having left the Nordic environment before the last number and had no trouble finding her in the crowd. The most I can say for that show is it was loud and still hard to hear over the yammering of the crowd there more to drink than to listen. We moved on.

For the first time we made it to The Little Theater, a venue that was added last year. It is on the eastern edge of the Festival area and maybe a couple of blocks further out than the nearest venue, it is small and tends to fill. We had listened to Hey Mavis, the quartet, online and really wanted to hear them. I guess the best classification of their music I can make is Americana. They are made up of banjo, guitar (with foot pedal bass drum), fiddle and bass (with foot pedal tamborine!). They come from the Cleveland/Akron area and most of the music was there own. Talk about setting the place rocking. The crowd was captivated (there, I found a new description) and there was very little turnover until near the end. They said goodbye and the house lights came up and the crowd kept applauding and mostly didn’t move. They came back on stage and played another number and finally the crowd moved on. We stayed behind and bought a CD (the first time we have succumbed this year). It is their first and the title track is Honey Man which is playing on the laptop as I write.

It was too late to go to any other venue so we decided to head over to the Plaza Hotel for the Jam Session. We eventually got stools against the windows with a decent sight line and we listened to the Jam and the crowd until about 12:20 and we decided enough for the night.

With four more clubs to add to the 28 we had already been to we are now up to 32. The freedom to walk into a club not knowing whether we are interested in the group knowing we can walk out and not have to worry about the admission price ($20 for most clubs, $25 for Kilbourn) is priceless.

Tonight we will start with Bill Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age. We have friends celebrating a 50th anniversary and will leave to attend that at 8 PM. Not sure how we will fill the 30 minutes or so after Kilbourn nor where we will go when we get back. We will have the list with us and there is always the Jam.

See Ya’ on The Street!

XRIJF – Day 6

I had a great title for this post last night as we were walking home in the drizzle, but I forgot it. My mind is a bit scattered as I made the mistake of looking at Facebook and learned that a friend who has been battling for her life for months, lost the battle, and no longer has any pain. Add this distraction to a couple of performances that were less thrilling than we hoped and at least one find we did not expect and it was a strange Jazz Festival night. We ended up attending 6 different performances, not because we had a goal or anything just because we walked out on a couple early.  That puts the count at 28 through Wednesday.

We lined up at 3:30 for the 6 PM performance and were just around the corner from Jazz Street in the alley, under the cover in case of rain. We had one of our new seats with us and put it to good use. We made new Jazz Fest line friends who we found ourselves standing next to at Max at the very end of the evening, very typical.

Taking photos or videos during performances in Kilbourn is verboten, but the temptation is so great that I couldn’t resist this shot:

Kilbourn Stage before Diane Schuur Performance

 Diane came on stage with her assistant guiding her to her seat, she bowed deeply to the audience putting her hands flat to the floor. She got settled on her stool and began to sing, and she can still sing and belt it out and sing it soft and everything we expected even though it is clear she has aged. She sang mostly standards and mixed in a fair amount of scat.  She talked just enough to bring us in and not so much that she cut into performance time.  After the set was concluded, or so it appeared, the extraordinary group backing her left the stage and she was seated at the piano where she delivered two more songs accompanying herself on piano, what a treat!

The extra fifteen minutes rendered a run to Xerox to catch the last half of Ivan Jansen, Aruba Jazz Project out of the question. Listening to others and checking the time we headed over to Harro East where Mike Stern & Bill Evans Band Featuring: Steve Smith and Ted Kennedy were about to burn the place down. We entered as the introduction was finishing and settled ourselves at a table so I get some food and drink – our dinner – as the band started. We had no idea what to expect so were prepared to move on.  This was the great surprise of the evening, we couldn’t sit still, nor could the others in the hall, the music just kept building. I’m sure that at one point the guitar was routed through the Korg so that it sounded like an organ, the drummer did a scat number scatting against his drums in a manner I don’t remember hearing and the sax was just phenomenal.  We left the hall soaring after the last notes reverberations were dying out.

Where to? We stopped by The Big Tent to hear Lucky Peterson Featuring Tamara Peterson.  They were good, but couldn’t hold us as we really wanted to hear Ivan Jansen Aruba Jazz Project. We stayed for two numbers and left. Sitting up front, the sound at Xerox was disorganized and never seemed to come together. I’m not sure whether to blame the soundman or the way the group was situated on the stage. A further distraction was Ivan kept fussing with the knobs on his amp and guitar and never seemed to get into the music. The beat had very little of the Caribbean we expected so off we went. But where? We had heard a great review of Jamey Haddad Group at the Rochester Club so off we went. It was our first time this year and two things we had forgotten about greeted us at the door; it was COLD; the menu is great! We had eaten so the menu was of interest for the future and we just shivered. The group was fine lounge music, we were hoping for some extraordinary drumming given the writeups and fact that the leader is a drummer who has developed his own cymbals. Nope, just very good lounge music with a hint of tropic beat.

Where to? Warren Wolfe and The Wolfpack were at Max. When we got there at 10:30 ish there was a short line at the door, but having no place else to go (the line for Diane at Kilbourn was much longer and who was going to leave that show?) we waited. It turned out we waited about five minutes before they opened the door and we found leaning room behind the band. Worth the wait, worth the lousy location! Wolf is wonderful on the vibes and his group was super.

Not sure what tonight will bring. Funeral at 3PM means we get in line for Joey DeFrancesco late and maybe get in for the first show. We have some Greens and Yellow and will play it as it comes once again.

XRIJF – Day 5

Crossing the midpoint of the Festival. We have looked forward to this since we bought the tickets while traveling in China last Fall, at least the Chinese had not blocked access to that site. Actually we started looking forward to this Festival on June 29 as the last one was wrapping up and here we are almost half way through and counting last nights 4 concerts we have attended 22 concerts. But I am ahead of myself.

When we left the apartment to get the elevator with one of our new lightweight chairs on my shoulder a glance out the window showed it was dry out.  As we walked out the door it it had rained, but the sky was clear. The elevator is slow, but not that slow. We intercepted the same couple as we walked and then split at East and Main as they were headed to Hatch and we on our way to Montage to hear Tessa Souter, again. We arrived in line at about 3:30 to find two people ahead of us and the direction of the line reversed to clear the door of the office building and gym after 10 years of complaints about the line obstructing the door. We waited patiently, ducking under the marquee for shelter from the rain only once. At 5:15 as the sky threatened a major storm they opened the doors to let us into the hall to wait in the dry and cool. It did storm while we were inside. Tessa sang beautifully, as we expected, opening with “Eleanor Rigby”. Our only objection to the performance was that she sang less than we wanted and gave more time in her arrangements to her excellent sidemen on bass, trumpet and drums. We most likely will not choose to hear her again, if there is a choice next year.

We left before the last number and crossed the street to Christ Church to hear Sophie Bancroft & Tom Lyne Trio.

It was not raining as we crossed the street, but as we settled into our seats it began to pour again. They are a wonderful duo. She has a pleasant singing voice and his bass playing is delightful.  The focus was on jazz/folk blend with many songs written by her.  We enjoyed the show thoroughly and stayed through to the end wishing it would go on longer. 
We had no great desires for anything that might be on immediately following that show so we wandered up East Ave stopping at Rochester Contemporary to see the 6×6 show where Carol has several Panda pictures among the 1,000 or more submissions. Then we continued on to Golden Pond for a real sit down meal in 20 minutes. As we were leaving we spotted the Hermans at a table with friends and stopped to chat. They confirmed our decision to head to Xerox to hear Laila Biali a Canadian transplant to NYC and her Canadian sidemen on drum and bass. As we seated ourselves in the center of the 2nd row we found ourselves next to Pat and Ed who were in the same seats we had seen them in the night before. Between us was a man who was back to hear the group again, having bought all the CDs after the first show, good indications. This was a highlight performance, John, BRING THEM BACK er, well, I couldn’t speak when they were done, I could barely move. Her use of her glorious voice is wonderful and her coordination with her sidemen was exquisite and her piano playing was most enjoyable. 
I know, Carol would have dumped this blurry picture and never used it, but I want to have some visual memory of the performance here. 
We exited into a streaming rain that let up just as we got all our rain gear on. We headed to Kilbourn to hear Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy Band only to find a Show Cancelled sign on the door, apparently someone had been taken to the hospital.  Across the street at Max the doors had been closed as the house was full and there was a line in the rain, it was already 10:30. There is always a way to get into the Big Tent and Bonerama was there. The group is three trombones, who also sing, guitar, bass and drums. They make plenty of great noise and people were up and dancing. They are always an enjoyable group in the proper setting, the night before they were at Montage and we could not imagine that much sound in such a small venue, actually as I think about it imagine is the wrong word, we have heard it in past years, it is a terrible venue for them because there is no room for the music to spread. As they moved into the “Saints” almost always a closing number, the people dancing got out there umbrellas and danced holding them over their heads, no it wasn’t raining in, they just needed to use everything they had to express their joy.  Carol and I were rocking in our chairs near the back, the sound pressure up front is impressive.
Tonight we start in line early for Dianne Schuur in Kilbourne Hall.  The other groups we want to hear are Warren Wolf & the Wolf Pack in Max, Ivan Jansen and the Aruba Project in Xerox and Luck Petersen, Featuring Tamara Petersen in the Big Tent. It doesn’t seem likely we will get to all, much less the Yellow groups we have highlighted (four more).
To let you all know we are really “with it” here is a “selfie” shot in Christ Church:
Next time I’ll find some light 🙂

XRIJF – Day 4

Another great night of Jazz and people on the street. We walked out of our apartment headed for Kilbourn to get in line for the 6 PM show of Vijay Iyer Trio, he is from Rochester (Fairport actually) and is a talented and successful pianist. We noted a couple walking ahead of us who were clearly headed to the Festival. We had seen them the night before walking back.  They were remarkable because of her turquoise toenail polish, among other things. We overtook them and started a conversation which lasted us through the walk and the two hour wait on line. Such is the nature of Jazz Festival. Oh yes they are both librarians from Elmira NY in town for the Jazz Festival.

So we started with Vijay Iyer in Kilbourn Hall and he was worth the wait. The music was complex and required close attention which was rewarded with outstanding intricacies and great performance. They stretched the first piece into three pieces for the first half of the show without a break. We stayed until the last note and then did not wait for the applause to subside, we were on a mission. Catherine Russell was starting in 15 minutes at Harro East and we really wanted to hear her again, as I noted in yesterday’s post she is a regular and worth hearing any time she performs. We made it and even got seats at a table so I could have a sandwich with my beer.

I know its a lousy picture, but what do you want with a phone camera from the back of the room at least the bass is not growing out of her head. We were enchanted with her singing and her choice of material from the middle of the 1900’s. It was impossible to sit still and the hour seemed to take only 15 minutes. Too soon we were out the door headed across the street to Abilene, yet again too late to get in even for one number and besides we met Marla and Frank on the street and had to stop for a chat and to make plans for after Jazz Festival. 
We headed back toward Jazz Street unable to decide where to go next.  We had agreed that we wanted to hear Kari Ikonen Trio in Lutheran and Matt Andersen in the Big Tent but there were other choices as well. By default we wandered into the Unity Health Big Tent to see how a solo performer could possibly fill the tent which is usually dominated by big, loud groups.  To our surprise as we entered it seemed there was a big, loud group performing to a packed house.  We rounded entry screen there was indeed a big, loud soloist captivating the hall.  Matt is large in body and even larger in voice and his guitar seems to barely survive his assault. Actually he has two guitars and we watched him break strings twice before the night was out. We dragged ourselves away as his show as only half over to cross the street to Lutheran Church knowing that after the performance there we could get in another half hour of Matt.
Lutheran church was almost empty when we arrived as the performance was about to begin and it got worse as time passed. This seemed terribly unfair as Kari Ikonen Trio were really marvelous. Of course this music is more demanding of the audience and requires a taste for experimental sound as does so much of the Nordic Festival music. We stayed for the entire set enjoying the sound Ikonen extracted from the piano by playing with the strings and also by his untrammeled playing of the piano. His bassist and drummer were equal partners in the performance and writing of the pieces and we would go hear them again. As the last few of us cheered and applauded, Carol and I headed for the door and back to Matt Andersen. 
Cannot get enough of him! His piece “C for Cookie Monster” sung in Cookie Monster’s voice was hysterical and sad as it was a blues piece! He seemed able to fill the tent with one note and his high speed strumming on the guitar turned his hand into a blur and seemed like a chorus of guitars. Some of his work seems like derivative from mandolin performance. So far this is the best guitar performance I have seen this year. Note the contingent statement, there are 5 nights to go and one never knows.  
John, Bring him back!!
Tonight, Jazz Tuesday, it is a rainy day which may keep the crowds down so line waiting may be shorter.  We want to hear Tessa Souter, who is a repeat performer, play at Montage then Sophie Bancroft and Tom Lyne at Christ Church the on to Jacob Young at Lutheran Church.  After a break for dinner we will head over to Xerox for Laila Biali Jazz Pianist after which we will try to hear some of the shows in Kilbourn, Louis Hayes, and in Max, Etienne Charles.  That would be six performances in one night. We have done it in past years but not yet this year.
Last night we got to four shows unless you count two different appearances in the Big Tent which would make it five. Call it 18 shows through night 4. 

XRIJF – Day 3

Had a dentist appointment this morning so this is a bit delayed. The other source of delay is trying to figure out if we can hear 10 performances tonight and actually enjoy them.  Not really possible, remember “It’s not who you know, it’s who you don’t know!” The Festival motto.

Recap of last night: We started in line at Kilbourn for Cecile McLorin Salvant about two hours before the doors were to open,

at 5:30 pm so we could gets seats with both leg room and great sightlines. There are a few.  People arriving later found themselves winding through the alley and back out to East Ave.  I am not sure all got in for the first number.  Read Carol’s review for my thoughts as well. This may well be the Festival topper for us. We moved on to Harro East to hear the Brubeck Brothers, two sons of Dave Brubeck and two sidemen who played with Dave as well.  They are enormously talented and this was a wonderful performance.  They focused on Dave’s pieces which was a joy.  When they started into Blue Rondo ala Turk tears came to my eyes and then they went overtime to play Take Five.  Charles Brubeck played the drums, he learned from Paul Desmond and it shows. By this time I could not contain myself.  The last time I heard these pieces performed live was during the Festival several years ago when Dave Brubeck took the Eastman stage and came back after an intermission and said he was working on a reprise of the Time Out album, would we mind if they played it for us!
By the time we got out it was too late to get into Abilene for Rachel Brooke so we started wandering with no real idea where we were headed.  In that mode we drifted into Christ Church for the first time this year to hear Euan Burtan and his Trio. This was good solid jazz and very enjoyable, but not enough to pin us to the benches, beside we had heard good things about Benedikt Jahnel at Max at Eastman Place so not wanting to miss it we trotted over a bit early only to find the doors open and the place half empty. We chatted with friends new and old until the group came out.  Great lounge music, nothing to pin us to the chairs and Cecile was singing across the street for her second show.  
Locked out! the doors were closed, it was 10:30 and the line was not moving. We headed over to Montage where Les Doigts de l’Homme were playing. We got in and were able to stand in the crush inside the music hall against the back wall.  We wormed our way forward so Carol could see and thrilled to the performance.  Three guitars, bass and accordion make up the group and they are in the line of Django Reinhardt. They played well past the 11 pm closing and finally at 11:15 the staff begged for mercy and they went off after a final number.  We went to the apartment satisfied that we had heard three great performances, one fine performance and one the was really good but could not hold us.  Five shows again.  The Festival count stands at 14 through Day 3.

Tonight could be as many as five or as few as three sets depending on our willingness to move on. We are starting at Kilbourn again. Vijay Iyer Trio will be performing and the advance reviews and listening to his group on YouTube convince us this is our first choice.  We will hotfoot it to Harro East for Catherine Russel who is a XRIJF regular with a great voice and wonderful performance and who we have heard several time before.  The other Green groups on our list are Karl Ikonen Trio at Lutheran Church and Matt Andersen at the Big Tent.  There are three Yellow groups and that is just because we don’t see a way to even get to the other venues, otherwise it would all be Yellow.


We had a glorious anniversary day. The weather could not have been better (Carol would have liked it about 3 degrees warmer – she’ll get that today). The music was fine and waiting in line for 2 hours at Kilbourn was much more fun as we were on Jazz Street and could watch the crowds and the many people headed for the 4 o’clock Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers show.

Jazz Street from the line outside Kilbourn

 So we got in to hear Jason Marsalis and his Quartet, we even got seats with leg room, the performance was very good, however it seemed to us a bit laid back. It wasn’t until the last third, just as we were contemplating leaving, that he went up tempo and seemed to get into the performance.  As it was we left before the last number to head on over to Abilene to see if we could get into hear Woody Pine (yes that is someone’s name) and get some dinner.  Wonder of wonders we just walked in and had time to pick up meals and stand at a table midway back in the tent.

As we were standing there another couple asked if they could share the table top. I kept looking at the man, knowing I had seen him some place. Then I looked down at his Club Pass and noted he had written his name on it “Paul” at the same moment he noted the “Paul” on my pass and we started to sort it out.  We served on a subcommittee studying electronic medical health records in Monroe County for the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency something like 15 years ago. We really were on the bleeding edge and as one might expect the project went no place at that time. But I digress: Woody Pines took the stage with his cohorts on guitar (and Kazoo!) string bass and Woody himself on Dobro guitar (at least a resonator top guitar that looked like a Dobro), harmonica and from time to time drum. I don’t think anyone left during the show.  It was solid country very musical and very humourous. We were dancing in place throughout the tent to his enthusiastic beat and everyone with a pulse was smiling.

Still bouncing we headed to Xerox to see and hear Flat Earth Society. Where do they get these names? This group of 14 musicians filled the hall with a lot of sound.  Note I said sound, not music. I guess you can call it music as much as you can call John Cage’s work music. Before we could get to the hall we had to pass through the crowd gathering in front of the Chestnut Street stage to here Lou Gramm. I took Carol’s hand and forged through the mob pulling her in my wake. About half way there I found myself behind Doug Gallant who is bigger than me and we played icebreaker delicately pushing people aside as we continued to advance against the grain (trying to see how many metaphors I can mix in one sentence).  Once in Xerox we stayed for three or four numbers before deciding that enough was enough and we really wanted to hear Two Siberians in Montage.

Fortunately we did not have to pass through the Lou Gramm mob again as Montage was on the same side of it as we were. Two Siberians are actually two Siberians with limited English on the part of the guitar player and none on the part of the electronic violinist. Somehow we found our way to the front of a table at the stage. I am not sure how I got in and certainly had no hope of leaving before everyone else. Since I was facing away from the stage, I had to gradually turn my chair, slowly dislocating those in contact with me.  We found ourselves sitting next to Sally Hirst and her daughter, Sally had been at our apartment just before the festival to present a project she has been working on which we had funded in the past.  The world just doesn’t get much smaller than XRIJF. It was just as well that I was trapped, I had no desire to be anyplace else. The two men from Siberia had the place jumping from the very first. The bass line had everything in the hall vibrating and the violin soared above and blended with so beautifully that we were transfixed.  I would go to hear them again, unfortunately this was the last of their four performances. I guess I should mention that well into the show the violinist broke a string and continued the piece playing around the broken string so that it was not noticeable other than the string hanging from the peg box.

We streamed out into the balmy air unable to let go of the performance we had just heard. Carol and I were tired and decided to give the Jam Session a pass for the night.  There is a bit too much standing around wondering who is going to perform, when, in a very tight crowd. We went home to gather our strength for today, Day 3. We still need to refine our choices as I note we have three groups listed as Green and six groups listed as Yellow. In our system Green is must see and Yellow is we want to see if we can. We are not going to get to nine performances.  Unless we make more than one bad pick it is unlikely to get to more than five.  Last night was four. The Green choices are Brubeck Brothers at Harro East, Rachel Brooke at Abilene and Cecile McLorin Salvant at Kilbourn.

Count so far is 9 – the passes are paid for.

See you on the Street or in tomorrows post.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest – Day 1

A brief note to those of you who have joined the list in the past twelve months: XRIJF will be how I refer to the subject Fest from here on.  For the duration of XRIJF, through June 29, I will be posting a daily report on our wanderings through the Fest. This year there are 13 venues, within easy walking distance of each other and our apartment, open to holders of the Club Pass. Each venue will host two performances a night of mostly different performers each night.  That gives us the chance to hear 117 different groups, and that does not include several free performances each night on a variety of street stages and 6 major concerts in Eastman theater.  Finally, we will try to end each night at The Plaza Hotel, just across the river from our apartment, for the nightly Jam Session lead by Bob Sneider which continues on until 2 AM.  Needless to say we will be shifting our body clocks to PDT for the duration.

We are celebrating our 50th Anniversary today, June 21, with time at XRIJF. Click here to see Carol’s post What better way to share our love of each other and music than to wear ourselves out jumping from performance to performance as we seem to agree to the measure when we have had enough of one group and it is time to move on.

Last night, June 20, was extraordinary as we stayed through three performances in their entirety before splitting the 10 PM session in two, getting us to five performances on the first night.  We started the Fest by getting in line way too early.  Somehow we arrived at the entrance at 3:30, a mere 2 hours before the doors were to open for the 6 PM show and we were not first in line.

Outside Montage 2 Hours Before Doors Open
Montage, is a grimy heavy metal bar most of the year. Akiko Tsuruga Quartet was performing. How fitting that the first performer we heard is from Osaka, Japan, the last country we toured in our whirlwind travels of 2013-14.  She plays the Hammond B3 Organ and is backed by a wonderful guitarist, horn player and drummer. The club is set up a little differently from past years and we were sitting in each others laps.  None of that mattered.  We were mesmerized by the performance on stage and never even thought of moving on even though that was the plan since Carol wanted to hear Lorraine Klaasen at Xerox Auditorium. 

Having almost 30 minutes until the next planned performance on our schedule we elected to eat.  I had reserved a sandwich at Java Joes and Carol went to Ludwigs for a salad.  We regrouped with our food and then moved on to Lutheran Church for Sun Trio.  Far out! as one would expect at the Nordic Jazz Fest in the Lutheran Church.  Trumpet, Bass and Drums, oh yes and electronics.  We are well past the early days when live looping and effects were experimental and over used, even abused.  The use of effects was fully integrated and enhanced the experience.  The drummer made use of every part of his kit and for one piece played so quietly that sitting in the second row we were listening intently so as not to miss a thing.  Once again our plan to leave after a couple of pieces to go to Abilene to hear Nikki Hill collapsed as we could not think of leaving.  It turns out that that was a good thing as reports were that once the first people got into Abilene the line never advanced, no one left, thus late arrivals got to listen through the walls of the tent from the street.

Now it was time to hotfoot is over to Xerox to Lorraine Klaasen, South African Jazz singer and performer. We got second row seating so we could see clearly, hearing in that hall is seldom a problem, large as it is, but the stage is very low, maybe one step up from the floor.  Her group was all African, but from all over Africa. guitar, five string Bass, drum kit and hand drums. Her singing style is reminiscent of Miriam Makeba. Indeed she sang many songs she attributed to her, including what we call “The Click Song” (she gave it a name in its own language).  Again we were captured by the performance and could not bring ourselves to leave so we stayed on.  The only negative was the presence of “the dancer.” This guy is mostly at Abilene where his behavior is almost appropriate. He stands just off to the side of the stage and dances extravagantly and with boundless energy. In this case he was a distraction from the performance onstage.  Furthermore, his whistles of appreciation, are ear piercing and might be fine if they didn’t interfere with the music.  Oh, well I guess no one is prepared to restrict his freedom of expression.

I had been looking forward to hearing Holophonor at Max since starting my preview.  This group of mixed instruments with the leader playing vibes sounds good on Youtube.  Less great in person. Maybe our reaction was driven by arriving 10 minutes into the performance to a packed hall where security was being officious about standing against the wall if not seated. As a result we were sort of around the corner peering around the corner to see them. This was not the way to experience the group so after one number we moved on to The Big Tent where Mingo Fishtrap was onstage.  Usually we find performances in this venue to be overloud and overbearing.  Not Mingo Fishtrap, the eight players on stage were excellent, the balance was fine and we enjoyed the lively performance and audience from somewhere near the rear.

We went on to the Plaza for the Jam Session, but only lasted until a bit past midnight.  None of the out of town performers were in evidence so we crossed the pedestrian bridge to go to the apartment to get some sleep.

Tonights plan Includes Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet at Kilbourn (yes from THAT family), Two Siberians at Montage Snarky Puppy at Harro East, Woody Pines at Abilene and Flat Earth Society at Xerox.  There are a couple more on the list, but it is unlikely we will get to all of these.  You can listen to any of these groups by just putting their names into YouTube.  That is how we prepare in advance to know who we want to hear and what to expect before we get in line.

If you at XRIJF, see you on the street!  Otherwise watch here for a report of another day of music.

In Rochester

The trip from Brown to Rochester was not the way I used to do it 50 years ago.  Then I filled the car – a 1960 Dodge Dart convertible – with paying passengers and set out for the 400 miles at high speed with a fixed schedule to drop off riders along the way.  I never thought about changing drivers and stops were basic, fill the tank, empty the bladder and move on.  Also the route was direct. RI 146 to Mass Pike to NY Thruway and let’s get it done (note the lack of Interstate numbers, the toll roads were not in the system).

This time we meandered down to Point Judith, about 30 miles, and after a pleasant night in the state park campground, we caught the ferry to Block Island. All those years in Providence and I never made it to Block Island until now.  Norm Topf was at the ferry to meet us and take us to their home where we were to stay the night.  Shelley had baked and she ample food for lunch.  We set out to tour the island after some food and a lot of sharing and talking.  It has been a year or more since we have seen them.  Dinner at Hotel Manisses was wonderful and after a great night’s sleep and plenty of talking over breakfast we caught the ferry back to the mainland to pick up the coach and head another 30 miles west to Seaport Campground in Mystic CT.  We were there to visit Marcia and Howard and their friend Betsy who we had traveled with on the Japan trip in April.

I won’t detail all the meals since we were there three nights.  We saw a lot of Stonington, New London, Mystic and other towns in the area. Betsy gave us her personal guided tour of Stonington Borough where she is on the preservation board. Not only did we see a lot of the town, but we had a lot of interesting stories about the people and places.  As a special treat for Carol two dinners were in vegetarian restaurants. Actually the second restaurant, 6 Main, is vegan. Marcia and Howard’s son David joined us and he is vegan so they knew where to go. David is a percussionist, trained at Juilliard, and so naturally the talk turned to the percussionists Carol and I know and our ties to music and the Rochester Philharmonic. We were pleasantly surprised to receive this link http://artnhv.com/2014/06/04/existence-of-a-small-world-confirmed/ to David’s blog.

As we headed toward I 90, finally, we made one more stop just short of the Mass border to chat with Joe Green and his wife Jenny. We actually pulled off the road into a school parking lot that was empty, it being Sunday, and had room to turn the coach and get reasonably level. Various meals were consumed, Joe brought breakfast I had lunch and we had a wonderful hour to relive the reunion and share more stories we had not been able to get to in the crush of so many people at reunion. It really is amazing how we can pick up the threads after so many years.

We had one more stop to make before the storage yard. We stayed the night at Villages at Turning Stone, the RV park across the street from the Casino. There Carol cleaned the interior to prepare it for storage and I started transferring the limited items we need to move from coach to apartment into the car so that when we arrived we would mostly need to deal with moving the food into the car. They did not permit washing the coach so I will need to find another way to get the exterior cleaned.

I am starting to prepare for Jazz Fest and don’t expect to post anything until that gets underway.