Cyndi Cain is a superstar. I could hear her voice booming loud and clear for blocks before I reached the venue. Serving up tunes that had a funky soul vibe, Cain's pipes were a force to be reckoned with last night. Her body moved with her voice, and she waved her hands and bobbed her head with every riff. And Cain wasn't the only one moving; the powerhouse vocalist had the crowd inside the Squeezers stage tent grooving and buzzing.
Unfortunately, Cain's bandmates did not match her intensity. Her two background singers moved robotically to the beat with bored looks on their faces. Even the instrumentalists who joined her on stage seemed unenthused. With the passion and confidence that Cain was giving, the nonchalant attitude of her fellow musicians detracted from the overall vibe. You've gotta sell the gig, friends - even if you're not in the spotlight.
Still, the show was a quintessential Jazz Fest good time. Outdoor venues are the heart and soul of the fest, especially when the weather is nice.
I'm seriously looking forward to tomorrow. For one, I'll be hitting up some laid back venues like Montage and the outdoor stages. But most importantly, I get to see Ibrahim Electric - a Danish trio known for epic and awesome weirdness. Can't wait.
Jazz Fest 2014: Cyndi Cain
Cyndi Cain performed at the Squeezers Stage at the Inn on Broadway on Thursday, June 27 as part of the 2014 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
Watching the blur of mallets in the hands of Warren Wolf at Max, I realized that great vibraphonists are a special breed. They are striking bars that are something like a double piano keyboard, but they’re doing it from a distance with sticks that have little balls on the end. They’ve got to be as fast as a great drummer, but they’ve also got to hit the right targets.
Wolf hit his targets at lightning speed on uptempo tunes and made the bars sing on ballads. He wasn’t flashy; he only used four mallets when he was backing a bass solo, but he sure knew his way around that instrument.
When I entered the Harro East Ballroom to see the Mike Stern/Bill Evans Band, the crowd was heavy with the hump-day blues; they were clearly thirsting for something more than happy hour cocktails.
The band brought the tonic. Midway through the first song, it was clear that the crowd’s energy had been renewed. Men and women dressed in business casual clothes hooted and hollered. It was deserved. Stern and Evans — with bandmates Tom Kennedy and Steve Smith— are as technically impressive as they come. And they make it look easy.
Standout moments included Evans on soprano saxophone. As a former sax player myself, I know how difficult it is to make the high-pitched soprano sound bearable. Evans produced a clear but smooth sound that was not just bearable, but beautiful. Both Stern and Kennedy moved their fingers with near-impossible speed in their solo moments. Their talent is undeniable.
Overall, the band’s sound was more rock-infused and less refined than other acts. They brought a blue-collar vibe to the venue, allowing themselves and the audience to let loose. More than anything, it was clear they were having a good time on stage. And as a result, the rest of us had a good time, too.
Diane Schuur has the voice of an angel with a rusty halo. That is to say, it’s angelic but Schuur flexes it with sex appeal and impish glee. She’s one hep chick.
Opening so wonderful and swinging, the first lady of vocal jazz went from scat to lyric, from contralto squeal to a hooker appeal —- “how, how, how.” If there is one word to describe her early set at Kilbourn Hall tonight, it's “control” —- control on the range, control on the rhythm section’s hairpin turns and deep dish groove. And can I just say Ulysses Owens is the man!
Despite her vocal range on love songs or love-lost songs, Schuur hovers around heartache and heartbreak in a way that is palpable and contagious even in the face of her obvious joy.
Squeezed my way into The Squeezers stage to dig 5Head continue its “We’re only getting back together for one show" shuck ’n’ jive from two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Rochester’s ska heroes are back… and apparently so are a lot of people who squeezed their way in as well. The joint was nut to butt by showtime.
The band sounded absolutely great and looked great, too. (Dancing girls in checkerboard halter tops feverishly go-going on stage didn’t hurt.) The horns were big and bad and the band's accelerated dynamics flooded the asphalt dance floor with happy feet. Best show I’ve seen the band put on. They were prime; they were choice.Christine Ohlman brought the low down and dirty rock ’n’ roll to the Abilene stage with her band, Rebel Montez. People are always bumpin’ their gums about Ohlman’s sky-high platinum beehive, and though, yes, it’s cool (the higher the hair, the nearer to God), but I dig her sky-high vocals and the storied lyrics of a life that made that voice.
Albany's The Lustre Kings are a fine example of more than one style of music living together in harmony. Yes, the band offers vintage classics, or a vintage lens which to listen through. But the hillbilly side of the Lustre Kings goes toe to toe with its jazzier/swing side. Generally that equation would equal rockabilly -- Gene Vincent et all -- but the Lustre kings play as varied as the music is frenzied, like a rock 'n' roll encyclopedia.
The band laid this knowledge at the dancing feet of two packed Abilene tents. The band's towering front man, Mark Gamsjager led a swinging arsenal -- guitar, doghouse bass, drums, two saxes, and a lap steel -- as it chipped away at a mostly original set peppered with twang-tastic takes on stuff from Link Wray and Louis Prima. The Lustre Kings are about as much fun you can have with your pants on.
The rain dampened my tramping about with a bag of cameras, but I was able to deftly dodge the drops and catch Lucky Peterson at the Harro East Ballroom. I watched the former Buffalo native burn the joint down. Holy shit, he was amazing.
Starting off on the organ and dressed like a day-glo Easter egg, Peterson and his band thundered and roared mightier than the weather outside. A few tunes into the set, he picked up his big, red guitar and that's when the blue sparks really flew.
And Peterson, who is quite nimble for such a corpulent gentleman, jumped off the stage and into the crowd where he strutted and preened calling upon SRV and Willie Dixon. By the time the man was finished, the weather outside had relented, replacing its stubborn inclemency with the biggest rainbow I've ever seen.
Diane Schuur tomorrow, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!
I began Tuesday evening in Kilbourn Hall with Louis Hayes & The Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band. I found out later that Hayes had a medical issue and the 10 p.m. show was cancelled. But he seemed fine, if a bit subdued, during the 6 p.m. show.
Because Hayes had actually played with the Cannonball Adderley Quintet in the 1960's, he was the essential player on the stage. Still, he only took one solo and left the MC duties to saxophonist Vincent Herring, who had played in the band of Cannonball's brother, Nat Adderley (Nat was also in the quintet).
While Herring, one of today's top saxophonists, took on the musical role of Cannonball, the great trumpeter Jeremy Pelt played Nat's parts. They were phenomenal, especially on the closing piece, one of the best-known -- and irresistible -- songs by the Adderley Quintet: "The Work Song."
Though Herring told a funny story about dreading the song because he'd had to play it twice a night when he toured with Nat, he came to appreciate it. Written by Nat, the tune begins with a call and response between sax and trumpet and ends with the two instruments in harmony. In between, there's lots of room for solos, and Herring, Pelt, pianist Rick Germanson, and bassist Dezron Douglas did not disappoint.
Jazz Fest 2014: Louis Hayes
Louis Hayes and The Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band played Kilbourn Hall on Tuesday, June 25 as part of the 2014 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
Over at the Lutheran Church, the group Jacob Young & Trygve Seim with the Marcin Wasilewski Trio was simply referred to as Forever Young, the name of Young's new album. Although there were the same instrumentalists on stage -- pianist, guitarist, saxophonist, bassist, and drummer -- as there are in many jazz groups, the players' roles were considerably different.
It was almost more like a classical ensemble with written out parts. There were, of course, solos by guitarist Young, saxophonist Seim and pianist Wasilewski, but they tended to be part of the song rather than open-ended.
Because Young is a gifted composer and all of the musicians were excellent, this prescribed way of playing worked. I preferred when Young played his acoustic guitar rather than his electric and I especially loved the piano forays of Wasilewski.
I ended the evening with Tessa Souter and her special guest, trumpeter Lew Soloff, at Montage. Actually, I had managed to catch the last two tunes of her first set and it was not hard to notice what a wonderful addition Soloff was to Souter's already excellent band. She ended that set with one of her best original songs, "You Don't Have To Believe," which has Middle-Eastern and Flamenco strains running through it. Soloff's solo was short but astoundingly good.
He continued to enhance every tune in the second set, as did Souter's formidable young guitarist, Yotam Silberstein. Her bassist, Yasushi Nakamura, always lent solid support, but the few times he soloed, he was equally impressive.
Of course the star of the show was Souter, who was in great form, enchanting the audience with her gorgeous voice and her vibrant personality. This was Souter's fourth appearance at the XRIJF and she has never been predictable.
While most jazz singers concentrate on standards, Souter did just one, a lovely rendition of "I'll Remember April." Her set was filled with her own adaptations of classical and jazz instrumental works and a beautifully re-imagined version of McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation," renamed "Ancestors" by Souter's friend who wrote lyrics to the tune.
Wednesday night I'll be at Max for the early show of vibraphonist Warren Wolf & The Wolfpack. Then I'll catch the duo Brian Kellock & Tommy Smith at Hatch Hall, and the Jonathan Gee Trio at Christ Church.
Jazz Fest 2014: Bonerama
Bonerama played the Unity Health Big Tent on Tuesday, June 24 as part of the 2014 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.PHOTOS BY JOHN SCHLIA
Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press: the Big Easy trombone onslaught was in full effect tonight as Bonerama (not to be confused with a Vanessa del Rio flick) rocked the Montage stage. Instead of merely flooring it the minute it hit the stage, the horn-driven band built up from a funky groove, taking turns before building it into a thundering brass blast. The guitar wasn't as prevalent as it is in most other settings, but honestly, the parts it delivered were mostly made up of vowels from out of nowhere and some deep funk.
Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio were skirting the abstract with a lighthearted, romantic slant and pitch. It was the drummer that knocked my socks off as he buttered the music with fills, stops, and starts with a slap-happy grin and drama. It seems every year or so, I fall in love with a drummer. The last one was from The Bad Plus (that m***er f***er played with his elbows for Chrissakes). This year's percussion crush is this Crash Trio cat. Now if I only knew his name...
Squeezer's Stage was the scene for some serious, no bullshit rock guitar thanks to Don Mancuso and DDrive. As I always say: if it's too loud, you're not old enough. And Mr. Mancuso was gloriously loud as he divided his set between instrumental stuff from his solo LP and the boogie and drive of DDrive with Phil Naro -- one of the best rock voices in the world -- up front. The place was packed, the rock gods were pleased, my ears are still ringing...and I'm old enough.
Like a smokier, darker Kelly Willis, Jeanne Jolly and her band splashed alt-country holy water on the faithful in the Abilene revival tent. The sparseness of the band worked as a rudimentary call and response to Jolly's beautiful voice. The set was peppered by a few too many stops, but Jolly's charm made just about anything that could've happened or gone wrong, alright with me. I know she's not a drummer, but maybe this was a night to fall in love twice.
I'll be ballin' a jack with The Lustre Kings tomorrow night along with other delights, but now I'm beat. Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.
Vijay Iyer was clearly relishing his homecoming during his trio's concert Monday night. It had been a decade since his last XRIJF performance at Max of Eastman Place, and after winning just about every award there is to win in the jazz world, the former Fairport resident was elevated to Kilbourn Hall. His joy clearly came through midway in the set when he asked the audience to "give it up for my entire family" in attendance.
My favorite pieces were Iyer's ballads, but that may be due to the difficulty of hearing the piano clearly over energetic drumming in the acoustic environment of Kilbourn Hall. The same qualities that make it perfect for an acoustic string quartet make it a challenge for a full-tilt jazz trio.
"Desiring," which Iyer said he wrote for his wife, featured a beautiful, haunting melody and a great bass solo by Stephan Crump. Another unnamed piece not only had an excellent solo by drummer Marcus Gilmore, it took several turns including one in the direction of blues and another toward gospel music.
As for Iyer's solos, he was in full command. He has brilliant technique but he's not afraid of simplicity. In fact, he uses the full range of piano projection, from so subtle you can hardly hear him to full ringing tone.
Jazz Fest 2014: Kari Ikonen Trio
Kari Ikonen Trio performed at the Lutheran Church on Monday, June 23 as part of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
Finland's Kari Ikonen Trio -- with Ikonen on piano; Ara Yaralyan, bass; and Markku Ounaskari, drums -- played a high-energy set at the Lutheran Church. Ikonen has an ingenious way of turning the piano into a cross between a clavichord and a synthesizer by placing an object on the strings inside the piano. He used it sparingly but effectively to play repeated choruses on several tunes. The highlight of the set for me was the group's handling of Ikonen's composition "Azure," which nicely evoked the Mediterranean Sea.
My last show of the night was another strong one: guitarists Julian Lage and Nels Cline at the Little Theatre. Cline, who plays with Wilco, used an electric guitar while Lage preferred an acoustic. They are both such virtuosos that sometimes it seemed that their fingers were in a constant series of races to the end of the fretboard. (Cline alluded to this when he introduced the first song, "Racy," which was about something else.) But when they latched on to a great tune, the interplay was sublime. One of those great tunes was "Rosemary," though Cline, who did all the talking, didn't say who wrote it. The set ended with a two-song suite (also unidentified) that was superb from start to finish.
Tuesday evening, I'll begin at Kilbourn Hall with one of the greatest drummers in jazz, Louis Hayes. Then I'll head over to the Lutheran Church to catch Jacob Young with Trygve Seim and Marcin Wasilewski Trio. I'll end the night with one of my favorite singers, Tessa Souter, and her special guest, trumpeter Lew Soloff, at Montage.
Vijay Iyer will perform solo at Hatch Recital Hall on Tuesday, June 24, 5:45 and 7:45 p.m.
Good review of my favorite band(s); go see them if you get the chance.
Bill, thank you for the catch. We updated the story to reflect her French background.
sorry frank but Cyrille Aimée is all French maybe with some American mixed in ...
Not reviewed by anyone this year, but surely one of the Festival's most outstanding acts,…
I would strongly agree with Ron's review of The Wee Trio -- for me they…