Saturday, June 23, 2018

Jazz Fest 2018, Day 2: Ron reviews Sigurder Flosason, David Hazeltine, and Django Bates Beloved Trio

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 11:39 PM

Sigurder Flosason played with his quartet at the Lutheran Church on Saturday night. Ron calls him Iceland's Stan Getz. - PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • Sigurder Flosason played with his quartet at the Lutheran Church on Saturday night. Ron calls him Iceland's Stan Getz.
As I’ve gotten to know Scandinavian/European/North Atlantic jazz — as a result of the XRIJF series — I have come to think of it as a musical parallel universe. These players obviously have no direct connection to the American experience let alone the lives of the African-Americans who spawned this great art form. And yet, they love it, they respect it, and they’ve contributed to it.

If there is a Stan Getz in that parallel universe — a saxophonist with gorgeous tone and a melodic style of soloing — it’s Iceland’s Sigurdur Flosason, who played with his excellent quartet Saturday night at the Lutheran Church. Cultural appropriation is a contentious topic and a hot one right now, but it seems to me that artists like Flosason reach across the world with nothing more than a desire to share something wonderful.

In his music, Flosason uses the language of jazz to communicate his feelings about his native land. With titles like “Green Sky,” “Slanted Rain,” and “Black Sand,” his tunes are attempts to capture in music aspects of nature in Iceland. The songs were evocative and he played them beautifully, starting with lyrical melodies before launching off into fantastic solos. One of the last tunes he played, “Serenading The Moon,” created a bridge between his land and American jazz. The title, alluding to his love of nature, is also a line from the great jazz standard “Skylark.”

Earlier in the evening I caught pianist David Hazeltine’s set at Hatch Hall. He began with selections from the Great American Songbook, including “Body And Soul,” “My Ship,” and “In Your Own Sweet Way.” He varied his phrasing in such a dynamic way that, at times, you could practically hear the lyrics coming through.

He later branched out to include a tune that’s not in the standard jazz repertoire, James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” It may not be jazz, but Hazeltine certainly brought out the song’s blues roots. He ended the set with one of Thelonious Monk’s greatest tunes, “Ask Me Now,” in this case bringing out all of its beautiful quirkiness.

Hazeltine plays Sunday, June 24, with One For All at Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.; and on Monday, June 25, with the Joe Farnsworth Quartet at Max, 6:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. $35 for Kilbourn Hall shows; $30 for Max shows; or you can use a Club Pass.

Another superb pianist was featured at Christ Church in Django Bates Beloved Trio. Bates complimented the beauty of the church but also seemed to realize the need to adjust the trio’s sound to its acoustics. “I’m just going to play things I think will work in this room,” he said. With that, the group played the subtle title track from his latest album, “A Study Of Touch.”

Bates sat at the piano to the left of center so that his right hand had an expanded territory to explore. It proceeded to do just that, seeming to glide over the keys, creating a light, shimmering, impressionistic sound. There wasn’t much in the way of concrete melody; it was more like waves of notes crashing to the shore. Bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun were perfectly suited to the music with their subtlety. Bates got a little more bluesy on “Never Ending Strife,” but it was a pretty impressionistic form of blues.

Sunday evening the all-star sextet One For All plays Kilbourn Hall and I’ll be there. Then I’ll catch Rochester pianist Bill Dobbins at Hatch Hall. And I’ll end the night with the three Scandinavian musicians in the Kuara Trio at the Lutheran Church.

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Jazz Fest 2018, Day 1: Daniel reviews Phony Ppl, Marius Neset Quintet, and Ron Artis II & The Truth

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 1:44 AM

Brooklyn quintet Phony Ppl played Anthology on Friday as part of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. - PHOTO BY ASHLEIGH DESKINS
  • Brooklyn quintet Phony Ppl played Anthology on Friday as part of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
After the first day of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, the bar for riveting performances is already high. The artists I caught were far from conventional and boasted charisma that was matched only by their musical profundity.

First up was Phony Ppl, a Brooklyn-based quintet who owned the stage at Anthology. The band’s groove was seemingly effortless, as aspects of pop, soul, R&B, funk, hip-hop, even reggae made for a musical melange that was nothing short of infectious. Lead singer Elbee Thrie possessed a sleek and slinky smooth tenor voice that sold the seductive songcraft. Guitarist Elijah Rawk lived up to his name and injected electrifying panache into every solo. Each member of the group was exceptionally intuitive and technically sound, but bassist Bari Bass’s thunderous melodies and impeccable rhythmic sensibilities rooted the band and made the songs soar.

Phony Ppl makes polished dance party music that somehow manages to retain spontaneous, raw energy. The aesthetic is familiar enough to woo fans who crave 1970’s-style soul and funk, but unpredictable enough to win over Millennials for whom genre distinctions have become obsolete. Ultimately,there’s something vibrant and sultry about Phony Ppl’s sonic concoctions that can’t be denied.

I made my way clear across the festival to the Lutheran Church of the Reformation to hear Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset and his quintet play a fascinating set that was enigmatic and esoteric, intricate and effervescent. Neset’s brand of jazz was both cerebral and danceable and his tone was penetrating and resonant, delivered with a youthful attack that often revealed funky tendencies. Yet somehow, it was drummer Anton Eger who stole the show. Eger, who has previously performed at the festival as part of the trio Phronesis, was restless and inventively lyrical, with a kinetic flow that was unstoppable. With this performance, he easily became my favorite drummer working today.

#XRIJF kicks off smooth and stylish with @phonyppl. #jazzCITY @roccitynews @XRIJF

A post shared by Daniel Kushner (@danieljkushner) on

I ended my evening at the Rochester Regional Health Big Tent, where Hawaiian trio Ron Artis II & The Truth laid down some soulful rock with ample amounts of funk and blues mixed in. Artis exuded positivity, but he played with a chip on his shoulder, as if he had something to prove. The music was simultaneously angsty and optimistic, embattled and uplifting. His solos were searing as if made of fire and grit. Undeniably virtuosic, Artis is as dynamic and mesmerizing a singer as he is a commanding guitarist. He has the most nimble hands of any guitarist I’ve ever heard before.

There’s another chance to here him and his band play the Jazz Festival with two more sets Saturday, June 23, at Montage Music Hall. 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. $30, or a Club Pass. You can also find out more about the band at

For Day Two, I’ll be taking in music by recently revamped trio The Bad Plus, saxophonist Melissa Aldana, and the jazz and hip-hop hybrid of the Doug Stone Quartet featuring Josiah Williams.

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Jazz Fest 2018, Day 1: Frank reviews Duchess Trio, Seal, and Vintage Trouble

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 1:36 AM

Seal headlined the first night of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Seal headlined the first night of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
With the maternal  armcharm  in tow, I strolled down the gangplank to the bloodbath that is the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. It felt like someone had crammed an extra Saturday night or two into this particularly balmy Friday.

I first did the broadcast boogie boogaloo with Ron Netsky and the Jazz 90.1 characters before getting involved in the proceedings that were beginning to wind up and  go off all around me.

Duchess Trio: Stop number one. I swear to God, this lovely New York City trio offered up four-part harmonies at lightning speed. They were charming and saucy and nascently naughty. They were reminiscent of The  Boswell Sisters and The Andrews Sisters and even Twisted Sister — just kidding. The harmonies were voluptuous and delivered crisply with a wink during a set of mostly original material. And they played kazoos. The slightly older crowd at Max of Eastman Place ate it up. I did, too, as I'm feeling slightly older myself.

was in charge the moment he stepped onto the Kodak Hall stage and opened with a swinging take on "Luck Be A Lady." The cat primped and preened and twirled about as he worked the crowd into a state of agitated twitterpation and lust. He knocked me out with "My Funny Valentine" — one of the most beautiful set of lyrics ever uttered. I'll even go out on a limb here and say that Seal's version of the classic rivaled Chet Baker's take. That's because he is master of his voice, which had a clarion tone that rang out when it wasn't purring low and lovely.

When I got my fill of romantic songcraft, I  Strode over to the East and Chestnut Stage to witness the beheading of several thousand people at the hands of Vintage Trouble from Los Angeles.

Vintage Trouble was a  karate kick in the nuts and came off like James Brown fronting the MC5. Front man Ty Taylor pounced and bounced around like a rabid pinball, winding up out in the audience several times. The music had a Motor City soul ache to it, or something like it came from the house that Sharon Jones built: R&B with guts and heart. The crowd ate  it up big time.

Tomorrow you can catch me catching Jack Broadbent, Charlie Lindner Trio, and Brian Setzer.

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Jazz Fest 2018, Day 1: Ron reviews Terell Stafford Quintet, Matt Savage, and Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 12:54 AM

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez at Xerox Auditorium during the first night of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. - PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez at Xerox Auditorium during the first night of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
There are so many variations on what constitutes a jazz group these days that it was almost shocking to see the Terell Stafford Quintet walk onto the Kilbourn Hall stage in ties and jackets and launch into a hard-core, hard-bop classic. The tune, “Hocus-Pocus,” was by the late, great trumpeter Lee Morgan, and Stafford, one of today’s greatest trumpeters, said if you don’t like Lee Morgan tunes, this concert is not for you. Sure enough, two more Morgan tunes followed: a fantastic rendition of “Mr. Kenyatta” and a fiery “Speedball.”

Stafford brought an all-star band to the festival. Joining him on the front line to play Morgan’s infectious heads and unravel serpentine solos was saxophonist Tim Warfield. Bruce Barth played one dynamic solo after another at the piano, at times pounding the keys with cluster chords reminiscent of Don Pullen. Peter Washington (bass) and Billy Williams (drums) anchored the band and had their own great moments.

Matt Savage seemed to be enjoying himself immensely at Hatch Hall, with a repertoire that ranged from standards, like “All The Things You Are” and “Like Someone in Love,” to more recent classics like Lennon and McCartney’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” and Strouse and Charnin’s “Tomorrow.” The Beatles tune was a stream-of-conscious tour-de-force that took a nicely circuitous path before finding it’s way back to the melody.

Much of Savage’s playing was traditional, but once in a while he took a welcome wild turn. At the beginning and end of Herbie Hancock’s classic, “Maiden Voyage,” he reached in and played melodies on the harp hiding under the hood of the piano. And on his own excellent tune, “Howler Monkey,” both of his hands were playing parts as complicated as they were imaginative, all of this seemingly effortlessly.

Over at Xerox Auditorium, Alfredo Rodriguez was playing percussively at the piano while Pedrito Martinez made his drums sing. Rodriguez is one of the most rhythmic keyboard players I’ve ever heard, but underneath the ever-present pulse were some wondrous chordal melodies. Martinez had five conga drums, all tuned to different notes. He sat on a cajón that served as his bass drum.

Two of the finest musicians to emerge from Cuba in recent years, Rodriguez and Martinez both sang on some of the tunes. On one of them, Rodriguez was assisted by a keyboard/computer gadget that turned his single notes into gorgeous harmonized chords. Martinez, who has one of those great, rough-hued Cuban voices, sang his counterpoint over and around those voices. I had no idea what they were singing about but there was a lot of passion on that stage.

Saturday night, I’ll start at Hatch Hall with pianist David Hazeltine. Then I’ll head over to the Lutheran Church to catch Icelandic saxophonist Sigurdur Flosason. And I won’t miss pianist (actually multi-instrumentalist) and excellent composer Django Bates at Christ Church.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Jazz Fest 2018: Meet CITY's jazz bloggers

Get to know Ron, Frank, Daniel and Jake

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 12:33 PM

Ron Netsky


By day I am Chairman of the Art Department at Nazareth College, but during the next nine nights, I’ll be in various venues downtown indulging in music. My love of music can be traced to three generations of music-makers in my family. My uncle, Harold Karr, was a composer, who wrote Broadway musicals, including “Happy Hunting” (for Ethel Merman). My younger brother, Hankus, is a jazz and Klezmer musician, and my twin brother, Steve, is a singer-songwriter. All three of my sons are musicians, two of them in the rock group Maybird. Music has been swirling around me all my life and at times I’ve joined in. In the late-1970’s my brother Steve and I wrote the song “Love Don’t Hurt People” for the great soul singer Cissy Houston.

I love all kinds of music but at the XRIJF I tend to gravitate towards hard-bop jazz. The very first artist I’ll see Friday night, trumpeter Terell Stafford, fits that bill. So do home-grown vibraphone wonder Joe Locke and pianist Harold Danko. The festival also provides many opportunities to venture further out with the Scandinavian artists who play at the Lutheran Church. I’m looking forward to hearing artists like the Kuara Trio, Thomas Strønen and the Maciej Obara Quartet. And XRIJF Artistic Director John Nugent has a knack for booking the hottest new stars; I can’t wait to hear vocal sensation, Jazzmeia Horn.

Frank De Blase


I’m Frank De Blase and I’ve been writing at CITY Newspaper since the last century. I’m a musician a photographer and a published crime fiction novelist as well. I have more tattoos than Ron Netsky, and I always leave room for dessert.

The Rochester International Jazz Fest is the one time a year I get to flex my vocabulary, blowtificate a bit and really piss my editor off. But seriously, I look forward to this festival all year, clomping around downtown on this jazz-filled bunion derby. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes all assail my senses and I’ll be there telling you all about it over my daily Abbott’s frozen custard.

Here are some of the artists I’m excited about this year: The king of twangin’ guitar, Brian Setzer. Seal, he’s gone all American songbook on us. Jack Broadbent who uses a flask to conjure up some killer slide blues. From out of the shadows comes the noir flugelhorn of Dmitri Matheny. And the old timey tin pan alley strains of Pokey LaFarge. Come up and say “Hi.” I’l be the one with ice cream running down his chin. Or you can reach out to me on Twitter, @deblasefrank.

Daniel Kushner


I am constantly in search of new sounds. No local event gives me more opportunities to unpack fresh musical finds than the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. At this year’s festival, I’m especially intrigued about performances from Phony Ppl — with its dynamic blend of hip-hop, soul, and R&B — and the Doug Stone Quartet featuring the spoken word stylings of Josiah Williams.

XRIJF 2018 promises not only to showcase bands I've never witnessed live — jammy eccentrics Bela Fleck & The Flecktones and danceable avant-sax outfit Moon Hooch come to mind — but there's also the chance to hear familiar musicians in new, compelling contexts.

In two previous visits to the festival, the Austrian trio known as Mario Rom’s Interzone was unequivocally spellbinding, combining whip-smart jazz licks with an experimental spirit. Now, trumpeter Rom and bassist Lukas Kranzelbinder return with the septet Shake Stew, featuring Kranzelbinder as bandleader. To say that I'm excited about this group would be a understatement.

The last time I saw postmodern jazz powerhouse The Bad Plus perform, at the legendary Village Vanguard in New York City nearly 10 years ago, Ethan Iverson was at the piano. Today, Orrin Evans is at the keys, and the group is touring behind its latest album, “Never Stop II.” The trio is just as potent as ever.

On Monday, June 25, at noon, I’ll be featuring music from 2018 Jazz Festival artists on my radio show, “You’re So Post-Post-Rock Right Now,” on WAYO 104.3 FM and You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter, @danieljkushner, throughout the festival.

Jake Clapp


As CITY Newspaper's Music Editor, I'm usually pretty behind the scenes, coordinating coverage, posting photos, talking to people on social media, and making sure these writers don't fall asleep before submitting their reviews at 1 a.m. But I still always try to squeeze every drop I can out of the Jazz Festival.

This will be my fifth Jazz Fest, and if I've learned anything, it's to soak up as much music as nine days will allow. While Ron, Frank, and Daniel carry the majority of CITY's coverage, I'm excited to fill in the cracks with a diverse group of artists, from some vocal jazz with Zara McFarlane to the funky, strange Ghost-Note. If you have any tips on who I should check out this year, connect with me on Twitter @jake_clapp.

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. Join the conversation by leaving your comments on the blogs, posting them to Facebook, or Tweeting us at @roccitynews.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The F Word: Occupy Jazz Fest

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 2:52 PM

The F Word. An online column for Frank De Blase to pontificate, ruminate, placate, and salivate. We'll have reviews and previews, we'll discuss trends in local and national music scenes, and we'll try to do it as reverently as possible. Yup. Let's get started.

The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival makes a joyful noise each year as it hits downtown like a tsunami of music, street meat, and humanity. Logistically speaking, the Jazz Fest bigwigs do a phenomenal job. But there are still some things music fans have to do on their own to keep things running smoothly. Think of it as defensive Jazz Festing.

  • The problem with all you cell phone cinematographers is simple: the people behind you in a crowded venue want you dead. How many people go home, seriously, and watch these shaky, distorted clips of “check-out-what-I-could-have-seen-if-I-weren’t-fucking-with-my-iPhone”? The Jazz Fest is now, baby, and should be enjoyed as such.

  • Although the outdoor stages are free, they are host to just as much big talent as the venues that have a cover charge.

  • Between the thousands of fans these stages draw, adding to the ebb and flow of patrons shifting from one venue to the next, it tends to get a little crowded. Sometimes it can feel like bumper cars in a sea of pickpockets or an over-zealous first date on the make. But I’ve got a little trick that will either clear up the area immediately around you: pretend to throw up. Bend a little at the waist, put your hand over your mouth, utter something like “Oh, God,” or “goddamn oysters” and brace yourself for the impending street pizza that doesn’t ever come. Don’t worry, nobody in your immediate vomit vicinity will stick around and you’ll have more space.

  • To me, jazz isn’t just a style of American music; it’s an augmentation, an interpretation, a bucket of hot sauce, that transcends its name. Jazz’s origins are salacious to say the least, but it doesn’t ring out nearly as nasty and blue nowadays. So let’s fix it. It’s got a good head start at the end with the two sleazy “z’s” but it needs more. I’m thinking “Jazzzzzz.” Say it with me and really let it buzz as it trails off, Jazzzzzz. Now don’t that sound better? We oughta pass around a petition.

I Scene it

American Acid played balls to the walls rock ‘n’ roll last Saturday night for the leather and denim crowd at The Record Archive’s Backroom lounge. Like an alcohol funny car with Rat Fink at the wheel, the band cruises straight ahead and loud, reminiscent of Motorhead and Zeke. Damn near cleared my sinuses.

By the way

It is in shock, disbelief, and profound sadness that we mourn the the loss of Sirens and Stilettos’ sharp-tongued chanteuse and trash-talking emcee, Penny Scandal. Kelly O’May was found dead in her South Wedge apartment Friday morning. Her boyfriend, Robert Norry, was arrested and charged in Spokane, Washington.

A tribute gathering, Remembering Penny Scandal, happens Sunday, July 1, at Skylark Lounge, 40 South Union Street. 3 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Check out the blogs and reviews from the Jazz Fest right here at, or drop me a line at

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Monday, June 11, 2018

The F Word: The look, sound, and taste of words

Posted By on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 at 2:01 PM

The F Word. An online column for Frank De Blase to pontificate, ruminate, placate, and salivate. We'll have reviews and previews, we'll discuss trends in local and national music scenes, and we'll try to do it as reverently as possible. Yup. Let's get started.

Anthony Bourdain's work revolved around food, but it also revolved around words. Sadly, there are no more words as Bourdain took his own life last week in France.

In eulogizing Bourdain a few days ago, it got me thinking about art, its various disciplines, and their descriptive flexibility. When viewing or listening or reading an artist's endeavor — when you're taking it in, as you do — it becomes apparent that all forms of art share a lot of the same metaphors and hyperbole. Unleash those similarities and you double your pleasure, double your fun.

Language is an art in and of itself and when conveying an emotion outside of a medium's purview, it inflates the capacity in which a description is given. Bourdain's parlance was, simply put, delicious. But he went way beyond that polite parlance when describing his first oyster as if remembering a sexual encounter. Apparently it was epic.

"I took it in my hand, tilted the shell back into my mouth as instructed by the by now beaming Monsieur Saint-Jour, and with one bite and a slurp wolfed it down. It tasted of seawater ... of brine and flesh ... and, somehow ... of the future. Everything was different now. Everything. I'd not only survived — I'd enjoyed.

"This, I knew, was the magic I had until now been only dimly and spitefully aware of. I was hooked. My parents' shudders, my little brother's expression of unrestrained revulsion and amazement only reinforced the sense that I had, somehow, become a man. I had had an adventure, tasted forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life — the food, the long and often stupid and self-destructive chase for the next thing, whether it was drugs or sex or some other new sensation — would all stem from this moment."

The late, great Java Joe hipped me to this wider view of using one art's language to create something new when he based a coffee, Cafe Tubac, on a review he'd read about one of his favorite cigars. Joe translated the things said about the cigar into coffee lingo and ingredients. Cigar reviews typically discuss the sweetness, the smoothness of the draw, hints of wood, and the finish of a cigar. So Joe, with a dash of cardamom, a splash of cinnamon, and some other ingredients he took with him, recreated his favorite cigar in coffee connoisseur lingo.

And it's the same with music. I write about music with splashes of color that can themselves be turned around and described by music: A painting can be bold and loud, just as a song can be bright or moody. And both can be equally captivating, happy, or sad.

A sculpture can loom, and so can a string section. A guitar can sound as blue as the sky. A book can read with the rhythm of a drum. Music especially, can be used to describe virtually anything.

Sometimes it can be a bit of a stretch, especially in the craft beer department, where some ales defy description. For instance, it has been announced that Motorhead is coming out with a "Road Crew" beer. I love Motorhead, but I'm not sure any of that flowery terminology that describes beer really applies to the band.

Art that can be interpreted by other art is more durable and accessible. I suggest you give it a try; look at it as something other than it is. It'll broaden your view and improve your experience immensely. Enjoy the oysters. And for some added shits and giggles, once you've skulled a couple of the new Motorheadbrews, send me your descriptions in musical and non-musical words.

Reach out and touch Frank at

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Friday, June 8, 2018

The F Word: Anthony Bourdain

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2018 at 2:13 PM

The F Word. An online column for Frank De Blase to pontificate, ruminate, placate, and salivate. We'll have reviews and previews, we'll discuss trends in local and national music scenes, and we'll try to do it as reverently as possible. Yup. Let's get started.

Anthony Bourdain, the rock star of the culinary world, lived to rile up the curiosity and wanderlust lurking in us all. His opinions were disseminated through loquacious diatribes and sharp-tongued lamentations. Priceless. Beyond his work as a chef, his art was taking others’ art and framing it in an easily understood and simple context. And he was clearly one of the cool breed that roams the earth.

Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room this morning in France from an apparent suicide. He was 61.

From surviving on the streets of NYC selling paperbacks to feed a drug habit to becoming an Emmy Award-winning TV host and author, Bourdain’s was a Cinderella story. He dined with President Obama and members of The Ramones. And he cut through the bullshit. He did not suffer fools, he did not self-censor.

As a kind of food ambassador and dinner diplomat, Bourdain taught us that the secret to a person’s lifestyle and culture was in found, in large part, in what they ate and how they ate it. The world is a cooler place for having Bourdain in it for a while.

Bourdain is quoted saying:

“I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet.”

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