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Our guide to picking and choosing at the RIJF

The cats on stage 

Our guide to picking and choosing at the RIJF

To take full advantage of all the RIJF has to offer, you have some planning to do. Read this section for short descriptions of nearly every act in the festival. Our critics --- Frank De Blase, Ron Netsky, Chad Oliveiri, Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, and Eric Rezsnyak --- give you the information you need to decide which acts you want to catch.

The boxes are organized alphabetically by first name; refer to our full festival calendar to see when an artist will appear. Also, check out the introductory article for logistics for all the venues and ticket information.

Badi Assad

Badi Assad plays the guitar. And Badi Assad plays her body. Born in Sao Paulo, Assad grew up in the shadow of her two brothers Sergio and Odair, the international classical guitar sensations Duo Assad. But the shadow turned into an influence. Her music is broad and worldly, made even more so by her polyrhythmic, polytonal sound. Her guitar playing is as much about her right-handed abuse as it is the gentle chords she grips. Even her vocals are percussively augmented with mouth clicks and pops. This woman starts to play and the place is gonnamooooooove, I'm tellin' ya. (FD)

Ben Allison Quartet

Ben Allison is among the most active players on the Manhattan jazz scene, leading the Jazz Composers Collective and the Herbie Nichols Project. His own groups have produced some of the most innovative jazz anywhere. As a bassist he specializes in expanding the sound of the instrument and on his new album, Cowboy Justice, he solidifies his reputation as a composer. His new group --- Ron Horton on trumpet and flugelhorn, Steve Cardenas on guitar, and Jeff Ballard on drums --- creates a distinctive sound that should be among the most forward-leaning at the festival. (RN)

Bill Dobbins Trio

The multitudinous chops at Bill Dobbins' fingertips are rivaled only by those in his knowledge box. Dobbins is not only schools on the piano, but he teaches at Eastman School of Music, where he's a real-life professor of jazz studies, conductor of The Eastman Jazz Ensemble and coordinator of The Eastman Studio Orchestra, and runs the jazz composition and arranging program. Through his stint as principal director of The WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany, Dobbins rubbed elbows with the likes of Clark Terry, Kevin Mahogany, and PaquitoD'Rivera. (FD)

Bill Tiberio Group

Rochester sax man Bill Tiberio can blow ragged when he wants to, but generally opts for smoother pastures. Above a generally funky groove Tiberio plays contempo and clean. Tiberio teaches music at FairportHigh School and is involved in numerous community groups and ensembles. (FD)

Billy Bang Quintet

No matter where Billy Bang has gone musically, or physically, he always winds up back with the violin. Bang studied the violin as a tyke, moved onto drums (Afro-Cuban in particular), and then picked up a rifle for Uncle Sam during Vietnam. He hit upon saxophone a bit in the early '70s before moving back to the stringed instrument that he plays as if it were a third arm. Bang's tone is slippery and raw as it weaves progressively about his quintet's swing with a pleasant and evocative touch or guttural and ominous slash. (FD)

Bob Sneider Trio

You haven't fully experienced the RIJF until you visit the Crowne Plaza Hotel's State Street Bar & Grill for an after-hours jam session with the Bob Sneider Trio. There's nothing Sneider and his band-mates --- Mike Melito, drums and Phil Flanigan, bass --- can't handle, from a gifted high school student who wants to step into the spotlight for the first time to the festival's top performers who simply can't come down after a hot gig. Past guests sitting in have included George Benson, Eric Alexander, Chris Potter and many more. (RN)

BraamDeJoodeVatcher

This Dutch piano/bass/drums group delves far into abstraction, even claiming that it has "nothing to do with the traditional jazz piano trio" as it consciously avoids the seriousness and overt un-listenability that mires many of its free/experimental brethren. Pianist/main composer MichielBraam's music certainly presents challenges, but the Trio's whimsical, almost mischievous approach to improvisation ensures the listener's inclusion in the feeling of adventure. Anyone familiar with the Trio's reinterpretations of Monk (or bassist Wilbert de Joode's April Bop Shop appearance backing AbBaars' all-Ellington program) knows how these guys take inside-out and turn it inside out with splendid results. (SRK)

Bruce Katz Band

In past years when the Jazz Fest line up took a detour, it tended to get a little khaki; you know, nice. Well this detour is a bluesy, ballsy, bad-ass blast of Bruce Katz B-3 soul and boogie-woogie. Ain'tno vanilla here. Katz played with Barrence Whitfield & The Savages --- one of the wildest r&b bands in the world, ever. He's done time with Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters as well. And he's sharing the cool with the kids as a professor at Berklee. This is gonna be goooood. (FD)

Byron Stripling

Byron Stripling has performed with some of the greatest names in jazz: Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Hampton and Clark Terry, not to mention The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. He is also a favorite guest with symphony orchestras from Boston to Seattle. Anyone who has seen him knows that his success is due not only to his command of the trumpet, but also to his gregarious personality. Stripling is a great musician and an all-around performer.

Central New York Jazz Orchestra

The flagship program for the Central New York Jazz Arts Foundation, this not-for-profit big band is celebrating its 10th anniversary. (ER)

Charlie Hunter Trio

Hunter's innovation --- to play bass and guitar lines at the same time on an instrument that's a combination of both --- might have been doomed to gimmickry if not for how unassumingly (and brilliantly) he pulls it off. A veteran of a diverse early '90s Bay Area scene where he brushed elbows with Primus and Disposable Heroes OfHiphoprisy, Hunter won the favor of both the alternative and jam band nations early on. Thankfully, he constantly presents new vehicles and formats for his expression, and his relentless creative searching hasn't let up. Behold yet another chapter in his search. (SRK)

Chris Berry & Panjea featuring Michael Kang

Even if you pay for your whole seat, you'll only need the edge when Chris Berry & Panjea play with String Cheese Incident violinist Michael Kang. Berry moved from California to Africa after high school, and there he studied as a spirit caller. Now back in the States his group's often techno-sounding rhythms fly in the face of its Latin, African, and Caribbean overtones. It's a wonderful collision that buzzes world beat stylings without ever landing. Simply put, the music is too intense to bother with dynamic dips, or to wait up for those too stunned to get up and shake a little. (FD)

Dave Rivello Ensemble

New York has the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider Orchestra and Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, but Rochester should not be envious. We've got the Dave Rivello Ensemble. Rivello also leads a band at the Eastman School of Music, but what makes his own ensemble distinctive is the manner in which the instrumentation is tailored to Rivello's distinctive arrangements of original tunes. Rivello's compositions are full of adventurous harmonies (some recall Mingus, others Stravinsky) and striking melodies. When Rivello slows down for a ballad like "Sometime" the harmonies are lush and the melody simply gorgeous. (RN)

Dawn Thomson Quartet

Dawn Thomson was born to sing the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Of course, she can do a lot more. She's a terrific guitarist who can pull off a powerful solo. And her repertoire stretches through the great American songbook. But when she sings and plays Jobim --- and I've never seen a performance when she didn't perform at least one of his tunes --- it's clear that a perfect harmonic convergence has occurred. (RN)

Dickey Betts

After spending more than 30 years as the lead axeman for the Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts is practically synonymous with Southern rock. What he's doing at a jazz festival is certainly up for debate, but Betts' status as a music legend is undeniable. In addition to all those Allman hits he's had a solo career for decades and even scored a Grammy nod in 2001. (ER)

Djabe

Like a Buster Poindexter goulash, the rudiments and retro worldliness of traditional Hungarian music get the jazz jolt from Djabe, a Hungarian sextet centered around the brilliant bass of lead composer TamasBarabas. The band's polyrhythmic play coupled with a brassy jump from the horns certainly has collision potential, but ultimately swings with both feet --- each one in any number of genres and grooves. Unexpected, unique, and fun. (FD)

Dominic Duval & Jimmy Halperin

Bassist Dominic Duval is perhaps most widely recognized for his ongoing work with Cecil Taylor. Straddling the line between jazz and modern classical/avant-garde, Duval likes to downplay his prominence within the greater whole of whatever group he is playing with, consciously making his basslines less visible when he feels the music call for it and blurring the line between leader and accompanist. This duo format with tenor/soprano saxophonist and fellow Bop Shop veteran Jimmy Halperin arguably leaves Duval with less room to retreat, however, and together the pair creates a rhythmic pocket that's no less active for its absence of drums. (SRK)

Duane Andrews Gypsy Jazz

Duane Andrews was born in Newfoundland, and by the looks of it, it happened not so long ago. However, when he plays his guitar, you'd swear it was 1934 and you were in Paris. Andrews stumbled upon his throwback style while studying classical guitar in France. Andrews picks both authoritatively and sweetly through brisk takes on Gypsy-fied classics like a cool version of The Duke's "Caravan." If he doesn't play this one when I see him, Imagonna cry. (FD)

Dwayne Dopsie & TheZydecoHellraisers

Of all the not-quite-jazz-bands on the line up this year, Dwayne Dopsie & TheZydecoHellraisers are closer to the jazz than anything else. I dunno --- sometimes zydeco seems a little jazzier than, say, a jam band. Anyhow, Dopsie is zydeco royalty; his dad, Rockin' Dopsie, is often referred to as "the king of zydeco." And now Dwayne's vying for a crown of his own. He's got a squeezebox and nobody's gonna sleep at night...at least the night he and the ZydecoHellraisers decide to raise hell at the jazz fest. (FD)

Eddie Henderson Quartet

When Eddie Henderson was growing up in San Francisco his parents sometimes hosted a touring musician at their home. Before Henderson realized who his parents' friend was he criticized the man's trumpet playing. Later, he proudly showed the man how well he could play along with his albums, only to be told, "You sound good, but that's me." Henderson eventually became friends with the man, Miles Davis, and developed his own style. Still, Henderson was greatly influenced by Davis over his four-decade career. A couple of years ago he releasedSo What, a tribute to him. (RN)

e.s.t.

This trio sounds more soulful and engaging than many of the self-proclaimed "soul" acts out there. The beauty of it is that e.s.t. doesn't play soul music or even mention the word "soul" as part of its mission. It sees itself as a pop band playing jazz and intends its music as a mix of both with a twist of classical. Nonetheless, feeling flows effortlessly from these guys, and their sound (free of gimmick, thankfully) revolves around chunky piano chords so rich and immediate it feels as though you could swim through them. (SRK)

Folk Alarm 5 featuring Kevin Breit

Probably better known as a member of Norah Jones' Handsome Band, Canadian mandolin man Kevin Breit puts his instrument to the test by taking it out of its comfort zone. But a cat who cites both Bill Monroe and Johnny Winter in the same breath should have no problem with that. Breit's a little safer in Miss Jones' camp, but now he's forced to keep up with Folk Alarm 5 as it pumps and swings. Thing is, playing instruments out of their element is exactly what jazz is about. And when you dig Breit's picking in tandem with squeezebox it'll all make sense. (FD)

Fonfy, Johnny, and Rox Trio

This trio is more of a colab of stars. Michael Fonfara and John Finley kicked off in mid-'60s Canada as The Checkmates. The Checkmates moved to New York City, then to LA where they were discovered. Changing to Rhinoceros, the band had a hit with "Apricot Brandy." Fonfara went on to tour with Lou Reed. Composer Robbie Rox lives in Toronto and fronts The Monster Horn Band. (FD)

Gap Mangione Quintet

You simply couldn't have any kind of jazz fest here without this cat. Pianist Gap Mangione kicked things off with his brother Chuck in the late 1950s as The Jazz Brothers. Mangione has recorded four platters for A&M, played with Dizzy Gillespie, toured the world and appeared on national TV. His music was recently sampled by rapper TalibKweli. Famed Rochester musicians Tony Levin and Steve Gadd's first ever recordings were on Gap Mangione affairs. Mangione plays a residency at Horizon's Lounge at The Lodge at Woodcliff. He's ours, dammit. Hearing his music bop around with all the touted international stuff oughta make us all proud. (FD)

Gray Mayfield and Mark Whitfield

Gray Mayfield was a precocious saxophonist when he was taken under the wing of Wynton Marsalis. Recognizing his talent, Marsalis steered him to the University of New Orleans to study with his father, Ellis Marsalis. His self-titled album is practically a Marsalis family affair with Ellis on piano, Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone and Jason Marsalis on drums. At the RIJF he'll be joined by one of the most joyful and lyrical guitar players working today, Mark Whitfield. (RN)

Greater Rochester Jazz Orchestra

This 19-piece ensemble formed in the fall of 1998 with the mission of keeping the jazz stylings of the Count Basie Orchestra alive. It has done just that under the direction of composer/musician Dave Rivello and current leader Roland "Ron" Bowks. (ER)

Hard Logic

Saxophonist Paul DeLoria heads up this regional band, which mixes smooth jazz, funk, fusion and more with some international Latin and Celtic vibes. Hard Logic is currently promoting its first album, Anytime Anywhere, which should be out (wait for it) any time now. (ER)

Harold Danko & Friends

Listen to Harold Danko's latest wonderful album, Hinesight, and you will immediately understand why his career as a leader and a sideman has flourished for four decades. Danko, an Eastman School of Music professor, made his reputation backing greats like Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, and Lee Konitz. But it's the albums he's made as a leader over the past two decades that have solidified his stature. On HinesightDanko pays tribute to the under-heralded piano great, Earl "Fatha" Hines. But any of his recent albums, Three of Four, Fantasy Exit, etc. are a treat. His performance will be too. (RN)

Hayes Greenfield Trio/Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz

Saxophonist Hayes Greenfield is all over the New York City jazz scene and has been since the late '70s. Whether as an educator, band leader, performer, composer, or children's filmmaker, Greenfield has his fingers in a lot of pies when they're not wrapped around his sax. He has shared the stage with notables like JakiByard, Rashied Ali, Paul Bley, Barry Altschul, and Richie Havens, and has toured the world. (FD)

Henderson-Schonig Trio featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith

When someone is awarded a doctorate in groove-ology, it is customary to replace the academic cap with a turban. OK, that doesn't make any sense, but it comes as close as I can to explaining soul-jazz virtuoso Dr. Lonnie Smith. After honing his skills with George Benson in the mid-1960s, Smith went on to play with Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie and others. At the RIJF the B3 master will be joined by guitarist Mel Henderson and drummer Jared Schonig, both known locally for their work in Paradigm Shift and other groups. (RN)

Hofmann & Sneider Duo

Guitarist Bob Sneider and pianist Paul Hofmann have been pleasing local audiences for years with their ability to play off each other in an ongoing creative dialogue. Last year's release of Interconnection confirmed that the magic could extend into the studio. The duo's most recent release, Escapade, containing great new tunes by both, is even better. Aside from originals, look for fresh interpretations of standards and a great new tune that's become a favorite in their repertoire, "Mañana Time," a Calypso composition by their long-time collaborator, the late bassist Bob Stata. (RN)

Italian Tenors featuring Frank Tiberi and George Garzone

A versatile saxophonist, Frank Tiberi was a member of the Benny Goodman Orchestra in the mid-'50s. He played with Dizzy Gillespie and others before joining the Woody Herman Band in 1969. After Herman's death in 1987, Tiberi took over leadership of the band. George Garzone is a powerful tenor player who has built a reputation outside of the Boston area, where he is based. Put them together and you are guaranteed to get more than the sum of the parts. (RN)

Jack Allen Big Band

Jack Allen has been blowing the trumpet for 72 of his 80 years. Inspired by the big band bigwigs of the day ---- James, Goodman, Basie, Ellington, Herman, etc. --- Allen formed his own band while at FranklinHigh School. By 17 he was gigging in swingin' joints around Rochester like The Swing Club, The Riviera Club, The Bartlett Club, and The Chateau. In 1943 he toured nationally with The Tommy Reynolds Big Band. Today the Jack Allen Big Band serenades in lush and creamy sounds with Allen's bright 'n' beautiful horn shining on top. It's romantic as hell. (FD)

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

A new kind of eclectic trio has emerged in the space where jazz bands and jam bands collide. Medeski Martin & Wood and Bad Plus may be the best known, but the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is gaining ground. On their latest album, The Sameness of Difference, they prove to be more different than same. It's not unusual for a jazz band to play tunes by Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck. But JFJO also covers songs by Bjork, Brian Wilson, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young. They do it all with a spirit of adventure that audiences should find thoroughly engaging. (RN)

James Brown

See feature.

Jane Bunnett & Spirits of Havana Quartet

To anyone ignorant of the strength and beauty of Cuban jazz traditions, The Buena Vista Social Club was a wake-up call. But RyCooder (who was featured in the film) was not the only musician making trips to the island in an effort to revive its great heritage. Soprano saxophonist extraordinaire Jane Bunnett began visiting Cuba in the early 1980s. Since then she's recorded 10 albums with Cuban musicians. The latest, Radio Guantanamo, celebrates the Changüí music of Guantanamo. If her last visit to the RIJF is any indication, her quartet will be one of the festival's hottest bands. (RN)

Jazz Epicure

Consisting of guitar, violin, and bass, Jazz Epicure digs in deep to the "great American songbook," as they say. What keeps this trio separate from the same, ol' same ol' is its furious (dare I say it?) gypsy attack. Funny, the violinist's name happens to be Steaphane. Go figure. Go see 'em. (FD)

Jeff Campbell Trio

Eastman prof Jeff Campbell is a jazz bassist who's deeply rooted in the instrument. Fortunately, his theoretical chops don't outshine his playing, which, we assume, is something he owes to a youth spent playing out in just about any context. His chemistry with drummer John Hollenbeck (also a member of the notable Claudia Quintet) leads to a sort of jazz pointillism, where the greatest attention is given to the smallest notes. And still things manage to swing. (CO)

Jeremiah

Rochester's Jeremiah has a smooth, rare voice; one that skirts the upper registers gently without relying heavily on falsetto or excessive volume. He gets up there --- don't worry about that --- with gospel passion and soulful urgency. He is both authoritative and gentle. Jeremiah just released his debut, Folktales Of a Fat Boy. Sensual tone and boyish good looks --- the girls are gonna just lose it. (FD)

The Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Quartet

Joe Locke needs no introduction to Rochester audiences. He began his career in area clubs before heading to New York City in the early 1980s. Three decades later Locke is one of the world's top vibraphonists. On stage, he's a whirlwind, attacking the vibes like an athlete/dancer/punk rocker. At the RIJF he's joined by pianist Geoffrey Keezer. Good enough at 17 to be recruited by Art Blakey for the Jazz Messengers, Keezer has since released a dozen albums as a leader and enhanced the bands of many others. Rounding out the quartet are drummer Terreon Gully and bassist Reuben Rogers. (RN)

Joel Harrison

He recently pulled off a narcotic lullaby version of Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line" with Nora Jones, so there's no tellin' what jazz guitarist Joel Harrison is gonna do to the music of George Harrison. I mean, we all got a hint with his recent Harrison On Harrison LP. However, it seems to me the man likes to explore and get out there a bit. So these ex-Beatles nuggets are probably just merely suggestions or templates or, better yet, a launch pad. Yeah, a launch pad. (FD)

John Hollenbeck & Claudia Quintet

The Claudia Quintet may very well embody several aspects that we look for in the festival all wrapped into one. By turns raucous, sophisticated, fun, and abstract, the Quintet is also visibly shaped by minimalism/new music, tinged with novelty, clearly intent on pushing jazz into new realms, and anchored by bandleader John Hollenbeck's driving yet unobtrusive groove (a compliment in no way intended to sum up his attributes or intentions as a musician). No matter what your listening background is, this group's unique voice shines through. (Hollenbeck also appears separately with the Jeff Campbell Trio.) (SRK)

Jon Ballantyne Trio

Jon Ballantyne may not yet be a star on the jazz circuit, but last time he was in Rochester, for the 2003 RIJF, he turned in some of the most satisfying performances of the festival. This is hardly surprising considering that he won the grand prize of the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in 1986. Since then has played with the Woody Herman Big Band, the Mingus Big Band, Joe Henderson, Clark Terry and many others. Ballantyne's trio has performed extensively in Europe and Asia. (RN)

JuanitoPascual

JuanitoPascual possesses a masterful touch on the guitar, combining elements of flamenco and classical styles with the ability to improvise like a jazz player. None of this is surprising, considering he studied flamenco with some of the finest players in Spain, jazz guitar with Gene Bertoncini and classical with Eliot Fisk. Pascual is making a name for himself in all three worlds and should provide one of the virtuoso performances of the festival. (RN)

Karrin Allyson

Of the many jazz singers who have emerged in the last decade, one of the most engaging is Karrin Allyson. In the past she has covered standards, Brazilian classics and even pop tunes by Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Carole King and Cat Stevens. On her latest album, Footprints, Allyson explores vocalese in new adaptations of classic jazz tunes. At her RIJF performance, look for interpretations of "Con Alma," "Lazy Bird," "Footprints," and more. (RN)

Katrine Madsen

Katrine Madsen's voice is simply beautiful in an inviting yet completely unobtainable way --- blondes this pretty and talented wind up on the arms of movie stars. Hers is a warm alto that, in its richness and tone, casually falls from her lips like a sustained, melodic sigh. Picture a Scandinavian Julie London. She'll give the goosebumps on your goosebumpsgoosebumps. Bring a date --- especially if you wanna seal the deal. (FD)

Kelley Hunt

Singer/pianist Hunt has become a fixture on the blues festival circuit in recent years, and she's been broadcast on the airwaves of NPR's A Prairie Home Companion and blues radio show Beale Street Caravan a total of 13 times. Not too shabby for an artist who got a record deal of her own while trying to pitch Trisha Yearwood's producer some of her own songs for the future Mrs. Garth Brooks to sing. Hunt's latest album, New Shade of Blue, debuted at No. 9 on Billboard's blues chart last summer. (ER)

Little Feat

The jam band mainstays keeps enough Texas twang in the mix to keep it from getting too patchouli. Expect lots of noodling and lots of earthy, feel-good vibes, with a decided kick. The hippies'll dig it, but so will you. (FD)

Magnus Lindgren Quartet

On his latest album, The Game, Magnus Lindgren plays tenor sax, flute, alto flute, bass flute and bass clarinet. No matter what instrument this Swedish wonder chooses, what sets him apart is his ability to create a different mood with every composition. No small part of the atmospheric magic is due to the members of Lingren's quartet: Mathias Algotsson, piano; Fredrik Jonsson, bass; and Jonas Holgersson, drums. When this group tackles Ellington, or an American standard, they put their own refreshing stamp on it. (RN)

Mahavishnu Project

It's hard to imagine any local music fans being completely unfamiliar with the Mahavishnu Project. The band plays the area often enough, and its jazz fusion appears to have earned some cachet in the hippie scene. Be warned: This is not the MahavishnuOrchestra, which was formed by guitarist and electric Miles alum John McLaughlin back in the day. This is a band that, essentially, covers Mahavishnu Orchestra jams. Yeah, it sounds like a contradiction in terms. Thankfully, the MP is led by drummer/composer Gregg Bendian, whose skills behind the kit and love for comic book legend Jack Kirby are worth exploring. (CO)

McCoy Tyner Trio

See feature.

Mike Kaupa Quartet

Mike Kaupa is a top local jazz educator, but his trumpet playing has enlivened so many bands in Rochester that it's about time he stepped into the spotlight. From Vince Ercolamento's group to the Dave Rivello Ensemble, Kaupa's trumpet solos have been a highlight of any performance he participates in. On a national level he has played with Gary Bartz, Luciana Souza, Ray Charles and many others. His recent release (with pianist Gordon Webster), This Is Spring, showcases his sensitivity and adventurous spirit as a soloist. (RN)

NickiDenner's Latin Jazz Trio

NickiDenner's piano playing gets pretty goddamn caliente, whether she's extrapolating a Latin standard or taking listeners on jazzy jaunts into her lively originals. On the New York City scene since 2002, NickiDenner's Latin Jazz Trio just released their first album in May. (FD)

OsageCounty

A New York City session drummer for the past quarter century, Scott Neumann comes to RIJF with his own group, OsageCounty. This is groove-based jazz that certainly won't surprise folks who've heard Neumann perform with newgrass outfits like Jazz Mandolin Project and The Tony Trischka Band. If some of the oblique structure and sound forms out there become overwhelming, we bet Neumann has your antidote. (CO)

Papa Grows Funk

In keeping with the 2006 line-up's underlying Big Easy theme, here comes New Orleans' John "Papa" Gros and his organ-driven funk outfit Papa Grows Funk. If anyone could ever cover the theme song to Carwash and give it even more soul, it's these cats. Plus, this'll be something for the hippies and those of us who can't stand still. (FD)

Phil Woods

See feature.

Rachel Z

Pianist/vocalist Rachel Z emerged on the scene in Boston almost two decades ago, headed for career steeped in jazz. There's no doubt she's got jazz chops, having worked extensively with Wayne Shorter, George Garzone, Larry Coryell and others. But she has never categorized or limited her musical involvement; she also recorded and toured with pop avatar Peter Gabriel. On her latest album, Grace, Z has added singing to her keyboard talents. With a voice reminiscent of Kate Bush, and nicely composed original tunes, she should be among the most engaging performers at the RIJF. (RN)

Red Stick Ramblers

The Red Stick Ramblers got my immediate attention and respect the minute I heard them bust out Tennessee Ernie Ford's "16 Tons." They infused it with a little Cajun waltz and hazy vocals over a lonesome and rather minor progression. 'Twas noir, all right. Hailing from Baton Rouge (hence the name, for those of you who don't parlezvous) the band is a romantic affair of western swing, country boogie, funk (yeah, I said funk), and gypsy jazz. It's café music for the highly caffeinated. (FD)

Respect Sextet

Beloved locally, this group of Eastman alums (now based in New York) returns for what promises to be another edge-of-your-seat homecoming like the one that nearly brought the Village Gate roof down last December. Respect's music soars, swoops, and glides like some large, prehistoric bird --- at once formidable and majestic, but with a decidedly playful edge. Eastern European folk, toyish-sounding electronics, and general eclecticism all get anchored by drummer Ted Poor's enthralling, simultaneous command of drive and flexibility. Respect makes a lively ball of sound that sends color and good cheer exploding in all directions. (SRK)

RigmorGustafsson

Oh Rigmor, you cheeky devil. Jazz singing in the aughts is no easy calling. The form has been done so well by so many others years ago, and there's just so much cultural baggage that comes along with it. RigmorGustafsson hails from Sweden, so we were eager to hear a take on the form divorced from New York City and Paris. Sadly, we're still searching for even the slightest glimmer of identity in her sound. (Something interesting is happening in the first 10 seconds of "I Will Wait for You," but it disappears so quickly.) All the rote gestures of the jazz singer are here: breezy vocals, technical aptitude, longing lyrics... But is that all she wrote? (CO)

Rob McConnell Trio

With all the trumpet and saxophone players crowding the venues at the RIJF, it should be refreshing to hear a man who can coax a full range of sounds out of a trombone. Rob McConnell is a trombonist/band leader whose Boss Brass (ranging from 10 to 22 pieces) has won top awards in Canada and recorded for Concord Jazz in the United States. In the trio setting McConnell's trombone should come through loud and clear. (RN)

Robert Gasper Trio

See feature.

Roberto Occhipinti Quartet

Bassist Occhipinti plays, writes, and arranges with a cinematographer's sense of composition and an editor's sense of motion. His music proceeds at a swift, dramatic pace that can almost literally sweep you off your feet. It is also eminently, delightfully listenable without suffering from one iota of over-sweetened polish. Heavy doses of Latin swing and deliciously elegant strings don't hurt. A veteran of several prominent Canadian orchestras, Occhipinti swings like there's no tomorrow. (Hell, Gorillaz must've seen something in him!) Mark this down as the one show you can bring your Mom to without wanting to shoot yourself. (SRK)

Roomful of Blues

Rhode Island's originators of swingin' sleazy, jumpin' blues, Roomful Of Blues is "the hottest blues band I've ever heard," according to the late Count Basie. The band has put out numerous, notable discs backing up American music legends like Big Joe Turner, Earl King, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roy Brown, and others, in addition to its own powerful platters. With more than 43 members in and out of its illustrious ranks, this road-weary outfit now celebrates its 35th anniversary of gettin' backfields in motion. Roomful creates a rockin', brass filled atmosphere and the opportunity for the most fun you can possibly have standing up. (FD)

ShiranthaBeddage

ShiranthaBeddage may have been born and raised in North Bay, Ontario, but he has absorbed American jazz with the enthusiasm and insight of a New Orleans native. Currently a doctoral candidate at the Eastman School of Music, he has received the school's Raymond and Maxine Schirmer Award for achievements in jazz composition. Beddage, who also plays piano, has a huge sound on the saxophone and should be one of the surprise hits of the festival. (RN)

Sliding Hammers

At the 2004 jazz festival everyone was talking about Sliding Hammers. The two tall, beautiful, trombone-playing, blonde sisters from Sweden sounded like they had some good gimmicks (all of the above), but could they play? Well, not only could they play, they charmed crowds at each venue with their improvisational skills and their wonderful personalities. As if their instrumental talents were not enough, MimmiPetterssonHammar is also a wonderful singer as exemplified by her treatment of "The Old Country" on their album, Spin Around. (RN)

The SmugtownStompers

Rochester's own Big Easy raconteurs, The SmugtownStompers play beautiful Dixieland and ragtime culled from dusty old 78s. The band opts for the less played, more obscure nuggets. The saints may still come marching in, but it may be by way of a long lost B-side. Walking between indoor shows and hearing The SmugtownStompers' outdoors set on the Gibbs Street sidewalk was one of the coolest things about last year's fest. (FD)

SOMI

The daughter of a diplomat employed by the World Health Organization, this enchanting vocalist proves that we must drop the term "world music" once and for all and stop lumping African cultures and music together. (SOMI's music is rooted in her ongoing discovery of her Ugandan/Rwandese heritage.) Blessed with a sparkling, crystalline voice and the restraint to let it sit within the music as one instrument among many, SOMI's work is delicately threaded and flows by with breezy, effortless grace. Jazzy chord structures change with the utmost patience while SOMI evokes Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Expect smoldering intensity live. (SRK)

Sonya Kitchell

Sonya Kitchell's youth, beauty, and dusky voice already have the critical winds crying "Norah" --- or the next Norah, anyway. Despite the hype, Kitchell is a lot more folky and a little less ethereal than Miss Jones. Joni Mitchell comes to mind. Kitchell's background is in jazz singing, and when coupled with her more plaintive singer/songwriter style, both genres get a nice kick in the pants. (FD)

Soulive

This trio attempts to combine classic soul, soul jazz, and traditional guitar- and organ-driven small ensemble jazz. Expect to contend with long lines and ticket shortages, as the young, open, and jazz-literate contingent who embraced acts like MMW and John Scofield via the jam band community will fill the seats to capacity. Bonus points to anyone who remembers that two-thirds of Soulive are alums of an early '90s indie funk/jam band named Moon Boot Lover, which used to play around here much to the delight of THZ-enthralled UofR students. (This writer "does not recall" inhaling.) The more things change... (SRK)

Steve Gauci Trio
How can we resist going out to see a man whose playing has been described (by jazz aficionado Bruce Gallanter) as "somewhere between Trane and Getz"? Is any additional enticement needed besides just imagining what kind of equatorial paradise lies between those two poles? Well, just in case: tenor saxophonist/flautist Gauci, who has accompanied a long list of New York improv luminaries including SabirMateen, Daniel Carter, and Roy Campbell Jr., is also acclaimed not only for forging his own voice but for the intuition, intelligence, integrity, and fire he brings to doing so. (SRK)

Susan Tedeschi Band

Hope And Desire, Susan Tedeschi's fourth album was produced by Joe Henry. 'Nuff said. Henry has Tedeschi laying off the guitar a little and really laying into her dusky vocals. And Texas guitar monster Doyle Bramhall II has got her back guitar-wise so she can really sing with the soulful authority her earlier work hinted at. She's kinda like Bonnie Raitt with a higher, less pop rating. And this isn't just another pretty face that can pick a little and sing the blues. Tedeschi is for reals and is only gonna get better as time goes by. (FD)

Terell Stafford B3 Band

One of my favorite albums last year was Bobby Watson's Horizon Reassembled. Aside from Watson's wonderful saxophone playing, the album showcased the fine young trumpeter Terell Stafford. McCoy Tyner has called Stafford "one of the great players of our time." Tyner should know, having hired Stafford to play in his Latin All-Star Band and his sextet. At the RIJF Stafford will be in a classic setting, accompanied by a soulful Hammond B3 organ. (RN)

Tim PosgateHornband featuring Howard Johnson

Tim Posgate is an innovative guitarist who alternates between Mingus-like melodies and Jimi Hendrix-style runs. The fact that his band features three horns, no bass, and no drums adds to its textural uniqueness. Both LinaAllemano (trumpet) and QuinsinNachoff (sax, clarinet, flute) make important contributions to the mix, but the real difference here is the presence of legendary tuba player Howard Johnson. Johnson has played on hundreds of albums, including those by Miles Davis and Charles Mingus in the jazz camp and John Lennon and The Band in the pop world. He should make this concert a blast. (RN)

Toots Thielemans

See feature.

The York Quartet

Bassist Jennifer York is a popular "Skycam diva" for KTLA in Los Angeles. It's a fitting profession, since her quartet's music sounds so much like those light and bouncy instrumental interludes you might hear in a morning broadcast. Perhaps it's just Carol Chaikin's jazz flute and bassoon weirding us out. But we're having visions of Anchorman that are not altogether pleasing. Still, we're certain there'll be a happy audience for this lite jazz. We just don't swing that way. (CO)

In This Guide...

    Rochester International Jazz Festival 2006

    Welcome to Jazz Fest
    The 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival is heavy on greats who are carrying on legacies. McCoy Tyner emerged from John Coltrane's classic quartet.

    Godfather of the revolutions

    James Brown's primal scream still echoes, and always will
    Rock 'n' roll's primal scream can be traced back to James Brown. It came from within this man. And at 73 years old it's still in his soul, in his throat, and in your face.

    Keys to greatness

    Robert Glasper debuts on a legendary label
    Up-and-coming pianist Glasper is one of the few true jazz artists signed to Blue Note in recent years.

    From Brussels with love

    Toots Thielemans embraces America's art form
    At the age of 84 Toots Thielemans has lived through much of the history of jazz. You can hear it in his playing.

    Taking flight

    Phil Woods rides on the wings of Charlie Parker with "Bird Lives"
    When Phil Woods steps onto the Eastman Theater stage at the Rochester International Jazz Festival he will be carrying on a tradition that has enriched his career for six decades. As a young man Woods idolized Charlie "Yardbird" Parker.

    Perpetual motion

    Out of the gate running, McCoy Tyner never stopped
    Talk about starting at the top. McCoy Tyner was barely 20 in 1960 when he was tapped by John Coltrane to become part of arguably the greatest quartet in jazz history.

    Spotlight on

    Asylum Street Spankers Austin, Texas' The Asylum Street Spankers are Tin Pan Alley ragged and beat poet sharp. They're Dixieland with a pre-war jazz jump.

    Jazz Fest Schedule

    Friday, June 9 Eastman Theatre

    City Newspaper's Jazz Blogs

    Starting Saturday, June 10, check in every day to see our writers' takes on the previous night's shows at the 5th Annual Rochester International Jazz Festival. With more than 600 musicians performing in 170 concerts, they'll have plenty to dish about.

  • Our guide to picking and choosing at the RIJF

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