My involvement with music started with my family. My grandfather was a bandleader, my uncle was a composer for Broadway shows, and both of my brothers were (and still are) musicians.
My interest in jazz in particular can be traced to my younger brother Hankus, who was always practicing Joe Henderson tunes on his saxophone in the next room when we were kids. Later, when I really started exploring it, I found great jazz to be every bit as brilliant and transcendent as Beethoven and Ravel.
My real job is Chairman of the Art Department at Nazareth College, where I teach printmaking (and create etchings and lithographs). But another major interest is music and I've been writing about jazz for City since the late 1990's. A couple of years after I began writing about jazz the festival was launched, putting Rochester on the map as a great jazz town.
In recent years at the XRIJF I've found myself spending less time with the headliners in Kodak Hall and more time in the Club Pass venues, where acts tend to be more raw and experimental. This year is no exception. Here's my plan for opening night, Friday, June 21:
One of the world's great bassists missed his plane on his way to last year's XRIJF and his concert was cancelled. This year Christian McBride (and his group Inside Straight) should be right on time at Kilbourn Hall, and I'll be there.
I'll head over to Xerox Auditorium to catch Thiefs, the spelling-impaired but musically intriguing trio from France. And I'll end the night with the wonderful singer/pianist Patricia Barber at Max of Eastman Place.
Two more things that I do at the XRIJF every year:
I never leave home without earplugs because the outdoor acts (and some indoor acts) can be insanely loud. I've often wondered why the city's health inspector doesn't care about people's ears. In any case, I love music and I want to be listening to it when I'm 90, so I bring earplugs.
Throughout the festival I'll try to hear acts whose names I
have trouble pronouncing: artists like RudreshMahanthappa's GAMAK, Youn Sun Nah
& Ulf Wakenius, GwilymSimcock. It's sometimes
a good indicator that an artist will take me somewhere I've never been before musically,
and that's where I like to go every night of the jazz festival.
Hello there, jitter-buggers, jumpers, jivers, and jazz fans. My name is Frank De Blase but you may know me better as Frank De Blase. I've been a music writer at City Newspaper for 13 years -- long before I sought to get my ya-yas out writing smutty crime fiction.
For the next nine days I'll be your guide through the swingin' swamp, the boppin' brou-ha-ha that is the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Often imitated, but never duplicated, we here at City Newspaper have been blogging this event since the beginning, before blog was even a word. Our picturesque language and keen ears will hip you to what you won't want to miss, and relentlessly torment you with the stuff you do. Face it: it's bound to happen, you can't see it all.
Compare your opinions and insights to ours. Agree, disagree, feel vindicated, start an argument, call me names -- just get involved and add to the beautiful chaos found only in music, and in the hearts of those who love it.
Friday night I'll get the ball rolling with Nikki Yanofsky, Pink Martini, Dr. John, and the Hackensaw Boys. If you see me out there, stop and I'll tell
you a jazz joke. Warning: I work blue.
Summer is here, and in Rochester, that means the city is again putting on its shiny shoes and making the transition from Flower City to Jazz City. I can't seem to remember exactly how many years I've gone to or been involved with the Rochester Jazz Festival, but it goes back at least to high school (as part of a high-school jazz band performing on the Jazz Street Stage), and this year marks my third time covering the festival for City, where I work as the Music Editor.
I've got quite a wide mix of artists I'll be covering over the nine days, some you've heard of, some you haven't, and many for whom this will be my first time experiencing. As for my own jazz tastes, I tend to stray on the hot and rock-heavier side of jazz. I want something that is going to get me moving and not lull me to sleep, and having some tight low brass (read: tubas) doesn't hurt a band's chances with me, either. Bring some energy, and at the very least you've got my attention. Make me go deaf and you've got it twice (though maybe not for the same reasons).
On my end, I'm slightly disappointed by the line-up for the festival as a whole this year. I'm most looking forward to a return appearance from last year's show-stealers, the accordion-powered Dwayne Dopsie & The Zyedeco Hellraisers, plus my first chance to finally catch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and seeing festival veteran Trombone Shorty. He's a killer performer, and if you haven't seen him in the past years he's been here, don't pass it up this time around .
And of course, for my stomach, I'm glad that Bayou Billy's scrumptious food is returning. Nom.
See y'all out on Jazz Street.
I'm the Features Editor at City Newspaper, which means I oversee all of our arts & entertainment content; everything from dining to music to theater to art to movies. This will be my seventh year handling City's coverage of the XRIJF.
Although I like to think that I appreciate all kinds of music, I'll admit that going into the festival my first year I was skeptical because jazz...not my favorite. So imagine my surprise when I found myself loving most of the Jazz Fest shows I went to see. Over the subsequent years I've found that I enjoy the vast majority of what I've seen/heard at the festival. The moral of the story is, "I don't like jazz" is a poor excuse to skip this festival, because it is way broader than what you probably think of as "jazz."
This year I'll be taking a somewhat different tact. I won't be hitting up Club Pass shows or running around from venue to venue. Instead I'll be camping out at Jazz Street, running City's social media and taking the temp of the crowd at the heart of the festival. So follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, and interact with us as you experience the festival. Long line to get into a show? A particularly awesome first set for a band that people shouldn't miss later? Shoot us a message and we'll broadcast it.
I'll be up until the wee hours of the morning posting all of our Jazz Blogs and photos, so that you have something to read while enjoying your coffee and bagel in the morning. But we want to know what YOU think. Leave your comments on the blogs, or post them to Facebook, or Tweet us.
On that note, here's your first assignment: what concert are YOU most excited about at this year's Jazz Fest?