Monday, June 26, 2017

Jazz Fest 2017, Day 3: Ron reviews Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan, Jochen Rueckert, and Adam Kolker Trio

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan performed in Kilbourn Hall on Sunday night as part of the 2017 XRIJF. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan performed in Kilbourn Hall on Sunday night as part of the 2017 XRIJF.

When guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan picked up their instruments at Kilbourn Hall Sunday night, they eyed each other playfully. But when they began to play, almost the entire first tune was a sort of musical primordial soup. There were notes and chords and deep bass responses, but they were all in search of a context. The second tune began the same way, but eventually was shaped into Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk." It was good, but seemed a bit simple for players of this caliber.

Frisell has been to the festival in different configurations five or six times. This was the simplest group -- just guitar and bass -- and although he had a full array of the pedals he uses so skillfully, he only employed them on one tune. Most of the early set was pure electric guitar and double bass. It was evident from the start that Morgan is as much a virtuoso on bass as Frisell is on guitar, but it took them a while to get in the groove.

Some of their best work came late in the set when they played two pop songs: Marty Balin's "Hearts," and Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now."

For more than two decades, I have greatly respected Mark Turner's work on the saxophone. I have also admired the work of Mike Moreno on guitar every time I've heard him. And more recently, I've had a very positive response to Orlando LeFleming's work as a bassist. These three musicians were all side-men in the Jochen Rueckert Quartet at the Lutheran Church. And I should add that Rueckert is an excellent drummer.

So why was I so disappointed in the group's performance Sunday night?

Maybe it was because there was so little energy on the stage. Turner, Moreno, and LeFleming seemed like hired guns, not fully involved in the music. And the music itself seemed lackluster. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the kind of jazz tunes that begin with a head; a tune you can have in the back of your mind that peeks out from time to time through the solos. Rueckert's tunes seemed abstract from start to finish. Some of them were almost morose. It seemed like a waste of these great players (including Rueckert).

I was more impressed by the Adam Kolker Trio at The Little Theatre. Kolker began the set by telling the audience not to be alarmed by the absence of a bassist. He explained that the group had been a quartet when, distracted by being a new dad, the bassist didn't show up for a gig. Kolker, guitarist Steve Cardenas, and drummer Billy Mintz played the gig anyway and liked the sound, so they've kept the group bass-less.

Judging by the sound, that proved to be a great idea. It was refreshing to be able to hear every note of the sax and guitar, every stroke of drumstick or brush. Kolker's trio is a subtle group. In fact, when they kicked off the set with Harry Warren's "I Wish I Knew," it reminded me of John Coltrane's "Ballads" album, just a beautiful melody played with gorgeous tone by great players.

Among the set's highlights were four tunes by Monk: "Four In One," "Epistrophy," "Ask Me Now," and "Evidence." It's appropriate; 2017 is the 100th anniversary year of the birth of the great jazz composer. Kolker and Cardenas played the heads like a horn section in harmony. When they weren't playing excellent solos, they bounced musical ideas off of each other with ease. Mintz wasn't afraid to keep quiet when the tune called for it; he's among the most tasteful drummers I've seen at the festival.

Miguel Zenon is one of my favorite saxophonists; I can't wait to see his group at Kilbourn Monday night. I'll also catch Ikonostasis at the Lutheran Church and Red Hook Soul at Xerox Auditorium.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to correct a reference to drummer Billy Mintz.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Jazz Fest 2017, Day 2: Ron reviews Billy Childs, Eivør, and Gabriel Algeria Afro-Peruvian Sextet

Posted By on Sun, Jun 25, 2017 at 4:00 AM


Billy Childs opened his Kilbourn Hall show in a gallop and hardly let up throughout the hour-long set. He played the piano with the sort of wild abandon that can only come after decades of painstaking practice and extensive experience. His quartet -- with Dayna Stephens on saxophone; Ben Williams, bass; and Ari Hoenig, drums -- operated like a well-oiled machine, perfectly in sync with Childs.

Childs played mostly original compositions and each one was totally distinct from the others. While the opener, "Backwards Bop," was a hard-bop burner, his other tunes experimented with time signatures in complex ways. No matter what the tune was, Childs's solos were brilliant, with shimmering right-hand runs punctuated by chordal bursts. He would play in time, syncopate to the time, and venture outside the time, but made perfect sense every time.

Another great featured soloist, Stephens tended to play in John Coltrane-style sheets of sound. Williams contributed a beautiful bass solo on "Peace," the one non-original tune and the only ballad of the set. Hoenig excelled on every short solo he took trading eights.

The Billy Childs Quartet won't perform again during this year's XRIJF.

When I took a seat at the Lutheran Church, I wondered if I would prefer Eivør in the context of Yggdrasil more than on her own. That notion was quickly dispelled. Eivør has an absolutely remarkable voice, and I couldn't get enough of it.

There was a difference; in general, the tunes were catchier and more pop-oriented than those of Yggdrasil. But they were wonderful songs, a strange combination of her Faroe Islands folk roots and the music of the global village she now lives in. Even the instrumentation was a cross between the primitive (a Faroe Island hand drum) and the futuristic (synthesizers and petals). Her two bandmates were excellent, one providing bass, keys, effects, and guitar, the other on drums and absolutely perfect harmonies.

The audience in the church hung on every word of her ethereal singing. There seems to be some Kate Bush influence in her style, but there is more than enough originality to make it her own. The set was dominated by original songs, many in Faroese, but she also sang a lovely version of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat."

Eivør's stories -- one about stalking Leonard Cohen, finding his house, and knocking on his door (he wasn't home) -- were always endearing. The local crowd appreciated her account of visiting the House of Guitars on her first visit here 12 years ago and buying her first electric guitar, and how she ended up there again today. "I knew it would be dangerous," she said as she held up a second electric guitar that she proceeded to play for the first time.

Eivør isn't performing again during XRIJF 2017. For more, check out

I ended the evening at Xerox Auditorium where the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet was laying down a rhythmic feast. Every time percussionist Freddy Lobatón took a solo on his Cajón (a wooden box that he coaxed an extraordinary range of sounds from) the audience responded enthusiastically.

Solos by Alegria (trumpet) and Laura Andrea Leguia (saxophone) also excelled. The set was pretty free-ranging, with a Peruvian-tinged rendition of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" evolving into a long parade of other tunes, resulting in a half-hour of non-stop music.

That's it for the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, but you can find more at

Sunday night, I'm looking forward to hearing Bill Frisell at Kilbourn Hall. Then I'll head over to the Lutheran Church to check out Jochen Rueckert. And I'll end the night at The Little Theatre with saxophonist Adam Kolker.

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Jazz Fest 2017, Day 2: Frank reviews The Quebe Sisters and Adam Wakefield

Posted By on Sun, Jun 25, 2017 at 4:00 AM

The Quebe Sisters performed in Harro East Ballroom on Saturday as part of the 2017 XRIJF. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • The Quebe Sisters performed in Harro East Ballroom on Saturday as part of the 2017 XRIJF.

Other than the meteorological mind games the clouds played with our heads, it turned out to be a beautiful day as we traipsed the jazz fandango well into the night. Ron Netsky knows what I like and immediately insisted I check out Grace, Sophia, and Hulda, The Quebe Sisters.

These three fiddle-wielding young women from Dallas sang like absolute angels -- or more accurately, The Andrews Sisters ... or maybe The Del Rubio Triplets. Their music had that cozy yesteryear feel of those wartime-era three-part harmonies, harvested, picked, and re-planted in Western swing dirt. The songs were plaintive and refined, allowing the sisters' vocals to haunt and wreak heartache, lyrically and melodically. They pulled out a handsome take of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart," Johnny Cash's "Wayfaring Stranger," and a killer stab with the sweet sawing of their bows on Les Paul and Mary Ford's "How High the Moon."

So I've decided I'm going to have The Quebe Sisters play my funeral. (I had initially had Popeye booked for the ceremony, where he and Olive would do a little interpretive dance to Santo & Johnny's "Sleepwalk.") The sisters were enchanting and even a bit shy with funny anecdotes about the songs or the latest haps in their young career, like recording with Willie Nelson or hangin' with Asleep at the Wheel.

The Quebe Sisters will perform again Sunday, June 25, at the Xerox Auditorium (100 South Clinton Avenue). 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. $30, or you can use your Club Pass.

This just in: Frank De Blase defines the word "show" as something you're missing while you live stream the event with your goddamn cell phone. Holster that smoke wagon, and enjoy the show like the rest of us.

Adam Wakefield shocked and awed the crowd, opening the show with a piece on the grand piano all by his lonesome. It's not that the Anthology crowd didn't think he could play piano, we were just expecting some loud, bordering-on-outlaw country -- which we got when the rest of his band took to the bandstand. With a penchant for 1970's, Waylon-style flanger, Wakefield plays that kind of country that wraps the cliché in the honesty of a song well-written and ultimately well-played. The crowd ate it up. But don't sweat the redneck appearance; he hails from New Hampshire.

Oh, and speaking of eating it up: Wakefield first came to national attention on a talent show where country singers are thrown in a pit of alligators as celebrities judge their performance. Winners are spared and given a recording contract. Now, Wakefield didn't win, but I couldn't help but notice his slick alligator boots.

Adam Wakefield won't perform again during this year's XRIJF, but check him out at

Tomorrow, me and my alligator shoes will be checking out English slide wizard Jack Broadbent at Montage and John Paul White of the Civil Wars at Anthology.

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Jazz Fest 2017, Day 2: Daniel reviews Neil Cowley Trio and Durham County Poets

Posted By on Sun, Jun 25, 2017 at 4:00 AM

The Neil Cowley Trio performed at Christ Church on Saturday. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • The Neil Cowley Trio performed at Christ Church on Saturday.

The Neil Cowley Trio doesn't really play jazz. Yes, all the tell-tale instrumentation is there -- piano, upright bass, and drums. But the music itself is more accurately post-jazz: spacious minimalism meets percussive pop piano and driving rock rhythms, resulting in a sound that is alternately introspective and punchy. The British trio delivered on that sound Saturday in a spirited set at Christ Church, the first of two shows the group performed as part of the "Made in the UK" series.

Neil Cowley is decidedly not an ostentatious pianist, eschewing overt virtuosity in favor of contemplative atmospheres and crowded textures. He frequently made way for his rhythm section -- upright bassist Rex Horan and drummer Evan Jenkins -- to carry the music forward with insistent plucking of the bass or the soft propulsion of brushes on drums. Cowley's economical melodies made the music all the more poignant.

On "Governance," big, block piano chords punctuated the air before giving way to sumptuous counterpoint in a quasi-classical style. The piece was a prime example of what seemed to be a cherished value of the trio: space -- the silence between notes. One of the most impressive things about Cowley and company was how comfortable they were in letting the compositions speak for themselves, without resorting to superfluous improvisations or solos that might be forgotten immediately after they were played.


As the set progressed, Cowley gradually revealed more of his piano chops. His melodies became more active and adventurous, and yet they were always perfectly nestled within the pocket provided by Horan and Jenkins. Compositionally, Cowley was frequently closer to minimalist legend Steve Reich and piano rock master Ben Folds -- with the repeated phrases and raucous, drum-heavy grooves, respectively -- than the likes of a Brad Mehldau. "The City and the Stars" was unapologetic and anthemic pop. Anyone in search of "traditional" jazz, by any standard, would likely have gone away disappointed.

I always gravitate to music that hits my ears with an immediacy that is both sweet and unexpected. I definitely felt the pull from the music of Neil Cowley Trio -- hard-hitting and atmospheric, subtle and unrelenting.

Neil Cowley Trio won't be performing again at XRIJF this year, but you can find the band at

For a band hailing from Quebec, Durham County Poets can certainly evoke the Deep South, which is exactly what they did during the late set at The Little Theatre. "Grimshaw Road" was a kind of Mississippi blues by way of Canada. Elsewhere, the Poets imbued its song "Monday Morning" with bluesy charm, and "Chasing a Feeling" was a smooth blend of folk and jazz.

Stylistically, the quintet was impossible to box in. What was certain was the warm, "easy listening" vibe of the show. Frontman Kevin Harvey had the crowd in his palm from the outset, peppering in light-hearted stories and silly banter between songs. Harvey's voice had a homey, James Taylor-esque quality, but with a bit of an edge.

Admittedly, while the concert was entirely pleasant, I doubt I'll come away remembering any of Durham County Poets' original tunes. What I will remember, though, is a faithful, heartfelt rendition of The Band's classic song "The Weight."

Durham County Poets are done playing at this year's XRIJF.

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Jazz Fest 2017, Day 3: Frank catches Bill Kirchen and reviews Jack Broadbent and John Paul White

Posted By on Sun, Jun 25, 2017 at 4:00 AM


Master blaster of the Telecaster Bill Kirchen literally blew the roof off the joint at Abilene. Okay, it was a tent out back, but we did have liftoff. To show what a beautiful talent this man is: while the gusts of inclemency threatened to jettison the tent again, Kirchen held things down with his left hand while picking an old George Jones number with his right. It was just the man himself, spanking the plank alone, which really made for some interesting rhythm picking to fill in the gaps and trills that went up the neck (and down my spine) like Lonnie Johnson used to do. And though this wasn't a Jazz Festival show, it was part of the energy in the air that ignited the periphery -- and that's here year round, donchya know.

English guitarist Jack Broadbent played Montage on Sunday as part of the 2017 XRIJF. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • English guitarist Jack Broadbent played Montage on Sunday as part of the 2017 XRIJF.

You know, the other day, I read somewhere that the sales of the electric guitar have dropped significantly. I got together a few musician pals to speculate why: ch-ch-changes in musical tastes, rock radio with shallow rotation of the same 30 songs (with 20 of them by Led Zeppelin), idiots trying and failing to play like Bill Kirchen, and so on.

But I know, and a couple hundred folks that greased their way into Montage Music Hall last night also know, there is one man that is killing the electric guitar, and that man is English slide guitarist Jack Broadbent. One listen to him and you get a case of the "holy shits" and promptly give up the guitar. It's like skinny dipping with John Holmes.

Jack Broadbent ... goddamn ... I just knew I was gonna love this guy live after I'd first caught him on YouTube. He played the slide guitar on his lap with a flask (I initially thought it was a stapler) in his left hand for a slide. This added a beefier, meaner tone, not to mention his attack, which when he tore into it roared like King Kong with a hangnail. Broadbent played with his father on bass and his sweet mother making sure the beer was cold. The music was rooted in blues but left some room for jazz and a few covers from Little Feat, Steely Dan, and Ray Charles. This cat's show was explosive.

Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You"took on a whole new meaning for me after it accompanied a scene in one of my favorite flicks, Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects." Well now, John Paul White (formerly half of The Civil Wars) opened his set at Anthology with a beautiful rendition of this song to a crowd I can't see necessarily digging blood and guts on highway done Rob Zombie-style.

It was a mellow show, which got drowned out by the philistines in the back. White seemed unphased, and he told the members of the audience that were actually paying attention that he wasn't there to cheer us up. But if you like stark, rocking, lyrically insightful music -- like a less overwrought Wilco -- played over the din of the khaki crowd ... well then, he did cheer us up.

John Paul White played Anthology Sunday. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • John Paul White played Anthology Sunday.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Jazz Fest 2017, Day 1: Daniel reviews Jacob Collier and Gwilym Simcock

Posted By on Sat, Jun 24, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Jacob Collier played Anthology Friday as part of the first night of XRIJF 2017. - PHOTO BY KEVIN FULLER
  • Jacob Collier played Anthology Friday as part of the first night of XRIJF 2017.

English phenomenon Jacob Collier may be the most immensely talented musician I have ever seen live. As hyperbolic as that may sound, the proof was in the first of his two performances at Anthology on Friday.

The first thing I noticed about the live performance of the London-based multi-instrumentalist was his irrepressible energy. The 22-year-old literally jumped from keyboards to upright bass to drum set and back again, ingeniously utilizing looping techniques: the least gimmicky, most legitimate one-man band there could be.

Collier opened the set with two exquisite covers -- Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" and "Close To You" by Burt Bacharach -- establishing his soul and funk credentials early on. He then settled into one of his more popular original tunes, "Hideaway," which stripped away his typically virtuosic, if grandiose, instrumentation in favor of subtle fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar and the kind of sexy vocal acrobatics one heard from the late, legendary Jeff Buckley. Collier's reedy yet sensual baritone frequently leapt into a gorgeous, crystalline falsetto.


I also got the sense that this young prodigy could have excelled in virtually every conceivable genre. As they are, his compositions sound rather like the work of a jazzy Brian Wilson (indeed, Collier has an excellent version of The Beach Boys' "In My Room" in his repertoire).

But ultimately, it's clear that Collier is most interested in being himself, even when interpreting songs like George Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm," with which he closed the show. The Collier cover was sped up, highly kinetic, and infused with beat boxing that sounded entirely organic to the piece.

If you didn't get a chance to hear Jacob Collier, you should stop whatever it is you're doing right now and listen to his music. Seriously. I wouldn't at all be surprised if his performance turns out to be the highlight of the entire festival.

Jacob Collier won't perform again during this year's XRIJF. Check him out at

After Collier's spellbinding set, I made my way over to Christ Church, where a very different English jazz musician was performing. Pianist Gwilym Simcock played music that has a similarly undeniable groove, but here, there was something deeply and intangibly bluesy at work. Simcock dug into dense but accessible chords, laying beautifully vertiginous melodic lines on top of the rich harmonic framework.

An incredibly fluid piano player, Simcock immersed the listener in delectable phrases that seemed to have no beginning or end. As a composer, he was overflowing with ideas, and melodies bubbled over without ceasing. His music was easy to listen to without being simplistic. The result was jazz that was somehow both introspective and effervescent, which made for a highly enjoyable listening experience, especially amidst the acoustics of Christ Church.

Gwilym Simcock won't be playing again during this year's XRIJF.

If the first day of this year's Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival was any indication, there are plenty of awe-inspiring performances to come.

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Jazz Fest 2017, Day 1: Ron reviews Roberta Picket, Yggdrasil, and Tierney Sutton

Posted By on Sat, Jun 24, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Roberta Piket began her set at Hatch Hall, Friday night, with a kind of call and response between her right hand and her left on the Steinway grand piano. The dialog ranged from sparse melodies answered by blunt chords to lush clusters answered by pounding bass. Eventually all of this morphed into "Monk's Dream," the first of many Thelonious Monk tunes to be played at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. It appeared to be a kind of warming up, getting those fingers -- and her sensibility -- ready for the marathon to come.

When the tune ended, Piket peeked into the piano to confirm what she'd suspected: "This is a first; I broke a string," she said. "It's the jazz version of Pete Townshend." Despite her phenomenal talent, Piket had a refreshingly down-to-earth rapport with the audience when she introduced compositions. Among them were a beautiful rendition of "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise"; lesser-known tunes by Marian McPartland; and works by her father, a (mostly) classical composer, and her husband, a jazz drummer. Every one was a tour-de-force.

Roberta Piket will not perform again during this year's XRIJF.

Yggdrasil performed in the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Friday night. - PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • Yggdrasil performed in the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Friday night.

The most unique attributes of the Nordic group Yggdrasil are the ethereal voice of the band's singer, Eivør, and the compositions of its leader, Kristian Blak. The highlight of the group's set at the Lutheran Church, Friday night, was Eivør's gorgeous vocals on Blak's musical interpretation of a Shakespearian sonnet.

Eivør's voice soared with effortless acrobatics reminiscent of Kate Bush, and on other tunes her vocal vocabulary extended to bird-like sounds and Björk-like gyrations. Dressed in black, topped with a red and white floor-length cape-like garment, Eivør had the presence of a blonde goddess, witch-like in the most positive way.

When she left the stage, the band was considerably less mystical, although the guitarist made interesting sounds with pedals and electronics, not to mention occasionally bowing his guitar.

Yggdrasil won't perform again during this year's XRIJF, but Eivør appears Saturday, June 24, with her own band at the Lutheran Church (7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.); and Blak performs on piano at Hatch Hall on Sunday, June 25 (5:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.). Those shows are $30, or you can use your Club Pass.

Early in her set at Kilbourn Hall, Tierney Sutton mentioned that her band had been together for 25 years. This is highly unusual in today's jazz world, and Sutton's band certainly had an unusually high level of simpatico as a result. Sutton herself is more than a singer; almost half of her contribution showcased the instrument that is her voice in seemingly effortless, wordless scat-singing.

Having recently recorded an album of songs associated with Sting, it was no surprise to hear her rendition of "Fields of Gold" and "Every Breath You Take." She introduced the latter as "the ultimate stalker song" but said she preferred to think of it as a song dealing with empty nesters who are happy that their kids are out on their own and are still concerned about them.

Sutton's set went far beyond Sting to the Miles Davis catalog, with Bill Evans' "Blue in Green" and three tunes from George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's "Porgy and Bess." She also displayed her vocal dexterity on the impossibly complicated lyrics of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's "Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and on her wonderfully creative rendition of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."

Tierney Sutton will not perform again during this year's XRIJF.

Saturday night, I'm looking forward to hearing pianist Billy Childs at Kilbourn Hall, the Scandinavian singer Eivør at the Lutheran Church, and Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet at Xerox Auditorium.

Check out the slideshow below for shots of Yggdrasil's Friday night performance in the Lutheran Church.

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Jazz Fest 2017, Day 1: Frank reviews Barbra Lica, Joss Stone, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Posted By on Sat, Jun 24, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Barbra Lica played Max of Eastman Place on Friday night. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Barbra Lica played Max of Eastman Place on Friday night.

Well, the 16th edition of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival took off its clothes and did a cannonball. The energy in the thick arid air was surprisingly electric; a vibe this strong at Jazz Fests past usually didn't get this feverish so quickly. It must have been the battle for souls raging on two different stages last night ... but first let's take a look at the show I knew we'd all enjoy: a confection of a swingin' band and a swingin' ma'am, Barbra Lica.

It starts and ends with Lica's voice. It's a bright, vibrant contralto one minute, laconic and syrupy the next when she lets a phrase die on the vine and trail off. Lica's songs are little, self-deprecating vignettes about drunken first dates and finding an ex-lover on social media. She peppered her originals with some Duke Ellington ("Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'"), some Cole Porter ("Just One of Those Things"), and a version of "A Spoonful of Sugar" -- however, the way Lica pulled it off, light and airy and delivered at hyper speed, earns it the new title of "A Spoonful of Trucker Speed." Her band was tight and a vision of precision. Lica was charming through and through. Her voice was beautiful ... heart-breaking, really.

Barbra Lica will play again Saturday, June 24, at Montage Music Hall. 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $30, or you can use a Club Pass.

I'm convinced now more than ever that soul wants your soul. Soul music isn't for the betterment of your soul or to lift your spirits high; it wants you to feel it deep in the fissures of your fevered brain all the way down to your naughty parts. Me? Hell, I'm down with it and will go along willingly. I'm the devil in Miss Jones after all. And I witnessed the devil in Miss Stone with 1800 other lost souls in Kodak Hall to see Joss Stone.

Joss Stone headlined the first night of the 2017 XRIJF at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Joss Stone headlined the first night of the 2017 XRIJF at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

Stone was a lot better than I'd heard in the past. Her voice tends to get a tad brassy when going for those notes way up high in the penthouse suite, but how many singers do you know can hum -- just hum -- a melody? Well, Stone did it early in her set, and she totally unglued me. The barefoot chanteuse had 'em all on their feet by the fourth song. The Burt Bacharach send up was excellent.

While Stone was stealin' our souls gently, St. Paul and The Broken Bones were doing it with heretical splendor and volume on the free East and Chestnut stage. Front man Paul Janeway intoned the opening lines in a chasuble before slinging it aside to reveal a red suit. The band was like a blast furnace with the horns punching and kicking dangerously to counter the non-stop wail of Janeway's howling pipes.

So there you have it, suckers; two ways to sell your soul. God damn us all. See you tomorrow night when I'll be digging on The Quebe Sisters at Harro East and Adam Wakefield at Anthology.

Paul Janeway led St. Paul and the Broken Bones during a free East Ave. and Chestnut St. stage show. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Paul Janeway led St. Paul and the Broken Bones during a free East Ave. and Chestnut St. stage show.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Jazz Fest 2017: Music around the fest

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 4:00 AM

If the XRIJF's more than 320 shows isn't enough to quench your jazzy thirst, several other Rochester venues not affiliated with festival will host their own performances Friday, June 23, through Saturday, July 1. If you need a break from the Jazz Fest crowds, or want to catch one more show late night, keep an eye on Abilene Bar and Lounge (153 Liberty Pole Way), Joe Bean Coffee Roasters (1344 University Avenue), The Little Cafe (240 East Avenue), Downstairs Cabaret (20 Windsor Street), and Victoire (120 East Avenue).

Downstairs Cabaret will be extending its weekly Grove Place Jazz Project nights (usually every Tuesday) to both Fridays and Saturdays of the festival. 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.; tickets are $10. And Victoire doesn't have official schedule, but you can stop by the restaurant to see who's playing what.

Abilene Bar and Lounge

Friday, June 23

Grand Canyon Rescue Episode; 9:30 p.m.; free

Saturday, June 24

Tobey Village House Band with special guests The Crawdiddes; 8:30 p.m.; $15

(This performance will be "on the road" at The Penthouse at 1 East Avenue)

Dirty Blanket; 9:30 p.m.; free

Sunday, June 25

Bill Kirchen; 4 p.m.; $20-25

Ruckus Juice Jug Stompers; 8:30 p.m.; free

Monday, June 26

Folkfaces; 8:30 p.m.; Free

Tuesday, June 27

Marshall Crenshaw y Los Straitjackets; 9:30 p.m.; $25-30

(This performance will be "on the road" at The Penthouse at 1 East Avenue)

Miller & The Other Sinners; 9:30 p.m.; free

Wednesday, June 28

The Lustre Kings; 9:30 p.m.; Free

Thursday, June 29

The Fox Sisters; 9:30 p.m.; Free

Friday, June 30

The Genesee Revelers; 6 p.m.; Free

The Buffalo Brass Machine; 10 p.m.; free

Saturday, July 1

Meg Gehman & The Influence; 9:30 p.m.; Free

Joe Bean Roastery

Friday, June 23

Mark Kellogg; 8 p.m.; free

Saturday, June 24

Dave Kluge; 5 p.m.; free

Moses Rockwell; 9 p.m.; free

Sunday, June 25

Jon Seiger and the All-Stars; 5 p.m.; free

Monday, June 26

The Melissa Gardiner Jazz Trio; 5 p.m.; Free

Tuesday, June 27

Neighbor's Cat; 5 p.m.; free

(This performance will be "on the road" at The Penthouse at 1 East Avenue)

Tyrone Allen Electric Mind Traveler; 8 p.m.; free

Wednesday, June 28

Gibbs Street Quartet and Tyrone Allen II; 5 p.m.; Free

Thursday, June 29

Ryan Johnson; 8 p.m.; Free

Friday, June 30

Giganotosaurus Rex; 8 p.m.; Free

Saturday, July 1

The Saplings; 8 p.m.; Free

The Little Cafe

Tuesday, June 27

Sam Nitsch; 7 p.m.; free

Wednesday, June 28

Kinloch Nelson; 7 p.m.; free

Thursday, June 29

Big Blue House; 7 p.m.; Free

Friday, June 30

Trio East; 8 p.m.; Free

Saturday, July 1

Susana Rose and John Delmonico; 8 p.m.; Free

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Jazz Fest 2017: Favorite Jazz Fest moments

Ron Netsky and Frank De Blase recount their favorite moments from Jazz Fests past

Posted on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Frank De Blase with Etta James when she played the XRIJF in 2006 - PHOTO COURTESY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Frank De Blase with Etta James when she played the XRIJF in 2006

Vagabonds invade Max

One of my favorite Jazz Festival experiences was entirely unexpected. Between shows in 2008, I was walking down Gibbs Street when I ran into Frank De Blase. He told me I had to see this group at Max. I hadn't planned to see them but Frank was adamant.

On the stage I found Billy's Band, a group I described at the time as a cross between the Marx Brothers and the Brothers Karamazov. Fresh from Russia, they had a thorough knowledge of Louis Armstrong and Tom Waits, which they put to great -- and absurd -- use.

Billy (Vadim Novick) spoke English with great confidence but made no sense at all as he swung his double bass around like a toy fiddle and sang in a deep growl. All four band members may have shopped that day for the torn thrift-store raincoats they were wearing. They had no trouble holding the audience's rapt attention but, if they noticed people gathering outside the wall of windows behind the stage, they turned their backs on the audience and played for their new fans.

The guitarist was the Harpo Marx of the group, shaking his wild mane of hair at every opportunity. The band also boasted an accordion wizard and a wailing saxophonist; their musicianship was every bit as brilliant as their bizarre behavior.

Billy's Band was a wonderful group of vagabonds, straight out of the 1920's, and the large crowd at Max was completely under their magic spell.


Eldar wins over Hatch Hall

A thrilling experience of another kind happened in 2012 at one of the festival's smallest venues. After a set of standards like "I should Care," "Embraceable You," and "Moanin'," the great pianist Eldar ended his set by playing George Gershwin's masterpiece, "Rhapsody in Blue." The perfectly tuned Steinway in Hatch Hall never had it so good -- and neither did the audience. It was nothing short of phenomenal.

Eldar played the piece a little faster and a little bluesier than modern audiences are used to, but that's the way Gershwin played it on his own recording. All through his set, Eldar played brilliantly, his hands moving across the piano keyboard seemingly faster than humanly possible.

"Rhapsody in Blue" may be the first great fusion tune; an incredibly challenging piece requiring equal measures of classical mastery and jazz sensibility. Eldar took it in stride, cross-hand parts and all. He got the largest ovation (in the smallest hall) that I've ever witnessed at the XRIJF.


Ron Netsky steals some of James Brown's mojo

James Brown almost killed Frank De Blase - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • James Brown almost killed Frank De Blase

The scene was keen and anything but serene. It was plain outta sight.

Ron Netsky and I were front and center at The Eastman Theatre, mere feet away from the Godfather of Soul, dancing like incurables and singing loudly along to every song we knew -- and even louder to those we didn't. Suffice it to say, we were down with Brown who was in town for the 2006 Jazz Fest.

Brown and his band were tighter than Orson Welles in Spandex that summer night so many years ago as they all segued seamlessly and salaciously slick on stage. Brown's moves were part moonwalk, part pugilist footwork.

Now, if you'd seen before where Brown knocks the mic stand over and snatches it back up with a flick of the cord, you know it's pretty cool. However, if you're like Ron and me -- squealing like a couple of teenage fans on pogo sticks -- you don't necessarily see it coming. So there I was throwing a first-rate tempo-tantrum, unaware that Brown had launched the mic stand accidentally toward my head. By the time I saw it, the microphone was inches away from my face, so to avert any collision I dove to the side, which to everyone behind looked like Brown has brained me.

From my spot on the floor in front of the stage, I looked up to see James Brown's smiling countenance and outstretched hand. He pulled me up and apologized, saying "Hey man, we're just trying to have a little fun up here. You ok?"

I'm not sure what I said if anything. I was looking down at my hand, which was slick with Brown's sweat. But before I realized I had witnessed something so cool, Ron reached out, grabbed my hand and shook it, effectively stealing a good deal of the maestro's moisture that was on my hand. The bastard stole James Brown's mojo from me.


Etta James loves me

Etta James was one of my favorites, and I was triple twitterpated to secure an interview over the phone with her for her 2006 performance. "At Last," I thought. But alas, it fell through.

I was compelled to write about her just the same. I wanted to express how I felt while giving her adequate respect and relevance. I referred to her in my write-up as a "bouquet of switchblades" -- which she apparently loved when she read it.

Her assistant called me and said that Ms. James wanted to meet me. *Swoon*. The assistant met me and Ron Netsky at our seats to secure the backstage particulars for after the show. The assistant must have pointed us out to James because the moment she came on stage, she blew us a kiss. No, it wasn't in our general direction; it was aimed directly us, I could feel it. OK, innocent enough, I thought, and blew one back.

And then it got raunchy.

If you know Etta James, you know her music is sweet and sexy; it sets the mood. Throughout the show, it was as if she were playing to Ron and me. She rubbed her hands up and down her body as if she were in a bubble bath. She got up and shook her moneymaker in our direction and licked her lips. I've got to admit, it was kind of dirty. At one point, Ron started to get alarmed and said, "She doesn't want to meet us, she wants to make out."

When we got to her dressing room, Ms. James was cordial and insisted I sit next to her on the couch. She posed for a few pictures and I got a kiss. I think I collected Ron's as well, that ought to make up for the James Brown sweat he stole from me.


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