Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jazz Fest 2017: What's FREE at the fest

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:00 AM

If you want to see live jazz but don't want to shell out the extra cash for a Club Pass, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest will feature around 100 shows across the nine-day event that are free of charge. Everyone likes free stuff, though, so be sure to get there early -- good vibes are boundless, but space gets crowded.

To stay updated on all things relating to the Jazz Festival, visit rochesterjazz.com for the latest information. Also, check us out on Twitter @roccitynews as we make our way through the renowned Rochester summer highlight.

Venues

Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (115 South Avenue)

City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage (Gibbs Street at East Avenue)

City of Rochester East Avenue & Chestnut Street Stage

Rochester Regional Health Big Tent (corner of Main Street and Gibbs)

City of Rochester Midtown Stage (corner of East Main Street and Andrew Langston Way)

Avangrid Foundation / RG&E Fusion Stage (corner of East Avenue & Chestnut Street)

Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside (120 East Main Street)

Friday, June 23

4:30 p.m. Harley School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Hilton High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. ECMS Latin Jazz & Junior Jazz (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. Prime Time Brass (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

7 p.m. The Steppin' Stones (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

7:30 p.m. Tim Woodson and The Heirs of Harmony (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. St. Paul and The Broken Bones (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

9:30 p.m. Tim Woodson and The Heirs of Harmony (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Soul'd Out with Karl Stabnau Quartet (Legends Sports Bar at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Saturday, June 24

3:45 p.m. Webster Thomas High School JazzBand (Jazz Street Stage)

4:30 p.m. Pittsford Sutherland High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Honeoye Falls-Lima High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. 78RPM Big Band (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

6 p.m. ECMS Jazz Combo with Bob Sneider & Mike Kaupa (Jazz Street Stage)

7 p.m. Early James (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

7:30 p.m. Al Chez and The Brothers of Funk (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. The Jerry Douglas Band (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

9:30 p.m. Al Chez and The Brothers of Funk (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Soul'd Out with Karl Stabnau Quartet (Legends Sports Bar at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Sunday, June 25

3:45 p.m. ECMS Vintage Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

4:30 p.m. Glenelg (Maryland) High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Glenelg (Maryland) High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. ESM Jazz Honors Performance Unit 1 (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. Penfield Rotary BigBand (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

7 p.m. Jimmie Highsmith Jr. (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

7:30 p.m. Fred Costello (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. Jimmie Highsmith Jr. (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

9:30 p.m. Fred Costello (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Monday, June 26

12 p.m. Katy Wright (Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County)

4:30 p.m. Bloomfield High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Canandaigua High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. Brockport Big Band (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

6 p.m. ESM Jazz Honors Performance Unit 2 (Jazz Street Stage)

7 p.m. The Red Hot and Blue Band (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

7:30 p.m. ESM-XRIJF Scholarships Concert with Jeff Campbell (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. The Red Hot and Blue Band (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

9:30 p.m. ESM-XRIJF Scholarships Concert with Jeff Campbell (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Tuesday, June 27

12 p.m. Christian Crawford (Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County)

4:30 p.m. Greece Athena High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. School of the Arts Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. New Horizons Big Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. Rochester Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

7 p.m. Vanishing Sun Band (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

7:30 p.m. Next Generation Jazz Orchestra (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. Vanishing Sun Band (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

9:30 p.m. Next Generation Jazz Orchestra (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Wednesday, June 28

12 p.m. Melissa Gardiner (Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County)

4:30 p.m. Fairport High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Eastridge High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. EYJO (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

6 p.m. ESM-XRIJF Scholarships Alumni (Jazz Street Stage)

7 p.m. Chris Northington C-Note (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

7:30 p.m. Music Educators Big Band (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. Chris Northington C-Note (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

9:30 p.m. Music Educators Big Band (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Thursday, June 29

12 p.m. Ben Tiberio (Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County)

1 p.m. Manuel Valera Jazz Workshop (Eastman School of Music Ray Wright Room)

4:30 p.m. Brockport High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Spencerport High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. ECMS Saxology 1&2 Jazz Bones (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. Greater Rochester Jazz Orchestra (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

7 p.m. Noble Vibes (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

7:30 p.m. Soul Stew (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. Noble Vibes (Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage)

9:30 p.m. Soul Stew (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Friday, June 30

12 p.m. Jacob Dupre (Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County)

4:30 p.m. Greece Olympia High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. Gates-Chili High School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. Greece Jazz Band (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

6 p.m. ECMS Jazz Combo with Bob Sneider & Paul Hoffmann (Jazz Street Stage)

7 p.m. Toronto Community Soul Project (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

7:30 p.m. Down North (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. Caravan Palace (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

9:30 p.m. Down North (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Soul'd Out with Karl Stabnau Quartet (Legends Sports Bar at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

Saturday, July 1

4:30 p.m. Charles Finney School Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

5:15 p.m. MCC Jazz Band (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. ESM Jazz HonorsPerformance Unit 3 (Jazz Street Stage)

6 p.m. New Energy Jazz Orchestra (Rochester Regional Health Big Tent)

7 p.m. Danielle Ponder and The Tomorrow People (Midtown Stage)

7 p.m. Balkun Brothers (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

7:30 p.m. Toronto Community Soul Project (Jazz Street Stage)

9 p.m. The Hooligans: The Musicians of Bruno Mars (Midtown Stage)

9 p.m. Colin James (East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage)

9:30 p.m. Toronto Community Soul Project (Jazz Street Stage)

10:30 p.m. Jam Sessions -- Bob Sneider Trio (Ballroom at Radisson Rochester Riverside)

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Jazz Fest 2017: Meet the writers covering the XRIJF

Get to know Ron, Frank, and Daniel

Posted on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Ron Netsky

My real job is Chairman of the Art Department at Nazareth College and my main work is in the field of printmaking, but I love music and I've been writing about jazz for CITY since the 1990's. Late-June is one of my favorite times of the year, a chance to indulge in great jazz and much more for nine overflowing days at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

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My love of music can be traced to the people I grew up around. My uncle, Harold Karr, was a Broadway composer who wrote "Happy Hunting" for Ethel Merman. My younger brother, Hankus, is a jazz and Klezmer musician, and my twin brother, Steve, is a songwriter. Both of my brothers have had long careers in music and I have dabbled in it from time to time. 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 while meandering around the many XRIJF venues, I tend to gravitate toward the sounds of hard-bop jazz. I'm especially looking forward to artists like saxophonist Miguel Zenon and his all-star group. I can't wait to hear pianists like Kenny Barron and George Cables playing Thelonious Monk tunes (4 by Monk by 4). But I also love hearing some of the more ethereal acts who play at the Lutheran Church, so Yggdrasil and Eivor are on my list. And there are some extraordinary singers returning to the festival, so I am looking forward to once again hearing Tessa Souter and Youn Sun Nah.

Frank De Blase

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For 15 years now, I have been writing, debating, analyzing, critiquing, and generally trying to put into words all the music that comes to Rochester for nine days every early summer. It's been 15 of the 18 years I've spent at CITY. I love turning readers on to something new -- hell, I enjoy turning myself on to something new. I love inciting debate, and rubbing elbows with those I can learn from is as tantamount as the smell, touch, and taste of the music.

There are artists I know you want to see, but there are a handful of must-sees, like new jazz iconoclasts Binker and Moses. Caravan Palace from Paris will be the first band to mix techno elements as part of its sound at the fest (so far as I can remember). Pianist Marcia Ball will polish the elephant teeth New Orleans-style. And you gotta dig when Jack Broadbent plays guitar on his lap with a flask as a slide. Oh, and did I mention the legendary Mavis Staples at Kodak Hall? That show will undoubtedly be the closest I'll get to being in a church.Can I get an Amen?

Guitarist Bill Frisell lets the music play him for a change; he's wildly unpredictable yet charming in his attack and worth the wait in line. He doesn't play a particular sound -- he harnesses tangible soundscapes. And I have a feeling, the last night's performance of The Hooligans, Bruno Mars' band, as well as show-opener Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People will be a rhythm and blues blow out.

And do you know who my favorite act is? I don't either. So stay tuned in and find out with me. I'll be soaking it up like a sponge with two ears and a camera and will be blogging about it here. Come on up and say hi or to start an argument. Just make sure you leave room for dessert.

Daniel J. Kushner

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I started listening to jazz early on -- and by early, I mean the womb. I'm told that Dave Brubeck was a staple for me in utero, and I'd like to think that this pre-birth musical experience helped prepare me for a lifetime of listening to the kinds of creative, intrepid artists I'll encounter at the 2017 XRIJF.

Having studied music at Roberts Wesleyan College and then arts journalism at Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communications, I've long sought out music that delights and challenges me; sounds that satisfy my curiosity and defy my expectations. My sense is that this year's Jazz Festival will not disappoint in that regard.

I'll be spending most of my time at Christ Church and Lutheran Church of the Reformation for the "Made In The UK" and "Nordic Jazz Now" series, respectively. Both venues have consistently hosted Jazz Fest musicians who actively defy genre conventions while playing to their greatest compositional strengths.

The atmospheric Neil Cowley Trio; the smooth experimentalism of trumpeter Laura Jurd's project Dinosaur; Ole Mathisen's enigmatic, freewheeling tenor sax; and the synth-soaked avant-garde melange of Klabbes Bank; all promise the kind of forward-thinking approach to sound that gets me excited about the future of music.

Other festival highlights include opening night at Anthology, where English wunderkind Jacob Collier will perform. Collier filters his poppy, vocal-centric jazz through genius-level, groove-based orchestration. The hyper-talented 22-year-old may just prove himself to be the jazz savior of the YouTube generation.

I'm also looking forward to the return of Austrian trumpet player Mario Rom to XRIJF, who will bring his trio Interzone to the Little Theatre on Tuesday, June 27. Rom distills his virtuosic skill through an attitude of high-energy cool, and is sure to delight audiences much like he did in 2015.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

[Updated] Jazz Fest announces 2017 lineup

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 4:00 AM

With the headlining acts already announced, the Xerox Rochester International Festival’s bigwigs filled in the remaining blanks with the what’s what of who’s coming to town for the festival’s 16th edition. The 2017 XRIJF takes place Friday, June 23, through Saturday, July 1, in and around Rochester’s downtown.

There are a few past Jazz Fest favorites returning this year, like the lovely vocalist Tierney Sutton, this time interpreting the music of Sting; pianist Monty Alexander; stars of the Nordic Stage Yggdrasil; and the trombone-driven party gone out of bounds known as Bonerama.

Headlining shows at Kodak Hall include Joss Stone, Maceo Parker with the Ray Charles Orchestra, Postmodern Jukebox, Mavis Staples, Sheryl Crow, and King Crimson. The Club Pass series this year offers more than 230 shows, and there are 95 free shows over the 9-day festival.

Like last year, you can save time in line for the early shows at Kilbourn Hall and Max of Eastman Place with the festival's wristband system. The shuttle bus will make its return (route will be announced in June). And here for at least one more year: Parcel 5 will again be the site for the City of Rochester Midtown stage, with two free shows on the festival's last night.

A few changes were announced as well: 2017 marks the return of The Lyric Theatre as a venue, and the nightly jam session will move to the Riverview Ballroom at the Radisson.

The 9-day Club Pass is available for $204, and a 3-day Club Pass is $154. Club Pass shows are $30-$35 cash at the door without the pass. New this year, Club Passes will also have a photo of the holder printed on them.

Headliner tickets, Club Passes, and the complete list of performers can be found at rochesterjazz.com.

Look for CITY’s annual Jazz Festival preview guide on stands June 14.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Jazz Fest announces rest of 2017 headliners

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 4:00 AM

The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival has announced the remaining four headliners of its 2017 edition. King Crimson, Joss Stone, Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox, and Maceo Parker performing a tribute to Ray Charles join previously announced headliners Mavis Staples and Sheryl Crow. The Jazz Festival, now in its 16th year, will take place June 23 to July 1 in downtown Rochester.

British soul musician Joss Stone will perform Friday, June 23; and iconic saxophonist Maceo Parker will be joined by The Ray Charles Orchestra featuring The Raelettes for the program "To Ray, With Love" on Saturday, June 24.

Postmodern Jukebox has been a popular sensation the last few years for its creative spins on modern music, such as re-imagining Radiohead's hit "No Surprises" in a 1930's jazz style, or performing Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine" as a distinctly New Orleans jazz band. The group performs Tuesday, June 27.

And King Crimson, the long-running, influential prog-rock band, will perform Friday, June 30.

All performances are at 8 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets go on sale Friday, January 20, at 10 a.m. via rochesterjazz.com or by phone at 454-2060.

Tickets are $55-$120 for Joss Stone; $55-$95 for "To Ray, With Love"; $45-$85 for Postmodern Jukebox; and $75-$125 for King Crimson.

Mavis Staples ($25-$85) performs Wednesday, June 28, and Sheryl Crow ($75-$125) plays Thursday, June 29. Those tickets are currently on sale.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jazz Festival announces two 2017 headliners

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2016 at 4:00 AM

The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival has announced the first two headliners of its 2017 edition. R&B and gospel singer Mavis Staples will perform Wednesday, June 28, and roots rocker Sheryl Crow will play Thursday, June 29. Both shows are at 8 p.m. in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets for Staples are $25-$85, and $75-$125 for Crow. On sale Friday, December 9, 10 a.m., via rochesterjazz.com or by phone at 454-2060.

The 2017 Jazz Festival, now in its 16th year, will take place June 23 to July 1 in downtown Rochester.

Sheryl Crow has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, and now holds nine Grammy Awards for her blend of classic roots rock and popular country. Crow has collaborated with popular musicians across genres, from Kid Rock to Sting, and continues to write hit after hit, like "If It Makes You Happy," "My Favorite Mistake," and "The First Cut is The Deepest."

Mavis Staples has history in her voice. Taking on gospel, soul, and R&B, Staples is an iconic singer and activist, and a staple in American music. A two-time Grammy winner in her sixth decade of dedicating her life to music, Maples released her latest album, "Livin' on a High Note," last February. Staples has performed alongside other big names in music, such as Justin Timberlake at the White House and Elton John at the Grammys.

The festival will announce its full lineup in March 2017.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Jazz Fest 2016, Day 9: Ron reviews the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience, Brian Dickinson, and Laura Dubin

Posted By on Sun, Jul 3, 2016 at 4:00 AM

The Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience - PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • The Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience

Bassist John Lee played with Dizzy Gillespie for the last 10 years of the great trumpeter's career. Lee continued that legacy Saturday night at Kilbourn Hall with the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience. The group features another veteran player, master percussionist Roger Squitero, along with a host of young stars.

Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix had a pivotal role as he stepped into Gillespie's shoes, and he did an admirable job every time he took a solo, especially when he ventured into the higher register. Saxophonist Sharel Cassity was equally adept in her solos, and Brazilian pianist Abelita Mateus was not only superb at the keyboard, she was featured singing a tune in Portuguese. Evan Sherman rounded out the group, doing a fine job on drums.

But I couldn't take my eyes off Lee who was playing a fretless bass so flawlessly and effortlessly, it seemed to be a part of him. Even after the show, when he came over to talk to fans, he was still wearing it.

My next stop was Hatch Hall where Canadian pianist Brian Dickinson made a great first impression. He was mostly an interpreter, playing only two of his own tunes, but his renditions of songs by others were highly original.

Especially strong were two medleys, the first consisting of three tunes by Billy Strayhorn, the second, two compositions by Thelonious Monk. In every case he embellished the original melodies from every angle, re-inventing the compositions as he played. I thought I might have to go through an entire festival without hearing my favorite jazz standard, Monk's "'Round Midnight," so I was happy to hear it not only played, but played so well.

I've heard at least half a dozen world-class pianists at the festival this year and Rochester's own Laura Dubin fit right in, playing with her trio at Xerox Auditorium. She was stunning on covers, like Michel Camilo's "On Fire," and on her own tunes, such as "Barcelona."

But perhaps the most wonderful aspect of her concert was the manner in which she combined classical pieces (part of her background) with jazz standards. She began one of these excursions with Debussy's "Reflections in the Water" and ended it with George Gershwin's "Love Is Here to Stay." But in the middle, the two pieces were perfectly interwoven in an inventive and lovely way.

Dubin's bandmates were just as strong. Her husband, Antonio H. Guerrero, was not only an excellent drummer, he was quite a showman, twirling sticks expertly while never missing a beat. And bassist Kieran Hanlon also stood out, especially when he played a beautiful solo on Dubin's "Kelly Green."

Looking back on this year's festival, my favorite performances were by Mikkel Ploug's Equilibrium at the Lutheran Church, Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra at Christ Church, and Eldar at Hatch Hall.

Ploug's Equilibrium featured the otherworldly singing of Sissel Vera Pettersen, which nicely melded with Ploug's guitar and the gorgeous clarinet playing of Joachim Badenhorst. Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra added a harp to a jazz quintet, and played a unique kind of world music that was nothing short of wondrous. And finally, I was once again in awe of Eldar, who combines the technical brilliance of a top classical player with an ability to swing like crazy.

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Jazz Fest 2016, Day 9: Frank reviews Tia Fuller and Flat Earth Society

Posted By on Sun, Jul 3, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Tia Fuller performed at Max on Saturday. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Tia Fuller performed at Max on Saturday.

Going to the Jazz Fest is like eating ice cream for nine days straight. I like ice cream, but now my tummy hurts. So before I go on a ice cream-less sabbatical, I went down one more time for the crushed nuts, the hot fudge, and jazz.

Tia Fuller bopped to the max at Max. She and her band cut up hard. She opened up the show on the soprano sax, running lines full of nasally toots that left a few folks scratching their heads. It was when the band added a passage that repeatedly modulated up and down that people got it, and the light bulbs in their heads clicked on. It can happen that fast. Fuller played intense throughout the set in a blinding sequin top.

The Flat Earth Society looked like a ragamuffin miscasting for a school play. I counted 14 musicians on the stage creating the rather storied music that was as free as Zappa but as elegant as Ellington.

It found the sweet spot just shy of completely weird, tossed in the anchor, and stayed put. I particularly liked the Neil Young type electric guitar especially in church, it made me think that evil, the real cool kind, still stands a chance.

So after one last dish of ice cream, I bid you all good night. Elvis has left the building...



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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Jazz Fest 2016, Day 8: Frank reviews Curtis Stigers, Gregg Allman, and Los Lonely Boys

Posted By on Sat, Jul 2, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Curtis Stigers performed in Kilbourn Hall Friday night. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Curtis Stigers performed in Kilbourn Hall Friday night.

Well a wop bopa loo bop a wop bam boom. No sooner did I send up the Bat Signal for some scat then Curtis Stigers rolls into town delivering a mouthful of syllabic sensations. Suave ain't the word; it doesn't do the man justice.

Stigers hit the stage with so much cocksure swagger it was as if he were the missing member of the Rat Pack. This silver-haired cat and his band (including homeboy, Bob Sneider on the guitar) came out swinging like Jake LaMotta with a case of the fleas. He wound the Kilbourn crowd up good and tight with a singing style you could describe as velvety vocal-ease. His band pumped and swung as tight as his suit.

He took time to dedicate Randy Newman's "Living Without You" to the late, great jazz pianist and bon vivant Paul Tillotson. It caught me off guard, and I got teary: Tillotson, who appeared at the Jazz Fest some years back, was a good friend to me and especially my wife. Stigers was visually teared up as well before getting back in the swing of things. But it was a gesture and a tender moment I won't soon forget.

The crowd won't soon forget the way he switched off effortlessly from swingin' on the sax to singin' to the max. Curtis Stigers, the ultimate smooth operator. Total class. Goddamn.

More magic on a Friday night followed with Gregg Allman and his band with an amazing set of classic -- timeless, really -- blues-based rock 'n' roll. Allman's band? Amazing. Allman himself? The voice is still there as he tore through an hour and a half set.

Gregg Allman performed a headliner show at Kodak Hall on Friday. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Gregg Allman performed a headliner show at Kodak Hall on Friday.

There was a beautiful rendition of "Sweet Melissa," a soulful take on "Midnight Rider," a rockin' sing-along to "One Way Out," and a barely recognizable re-working of "Whipping Post." Allman, who split time between the B3 and guitar, was a casual yet charming host with all eyes riveted on him, was a thrill to see. However my pick for MVP is definitely his guitarist and musical director, Scott Sharrard. Sharrardsh-redded with feeling and soul and frankly blew me away...

... just like the speakers did at the Los Lonely Boys set outside. You probably couldn't have seen them from space, but you could certainly hear them. They played with a vicious Texican attack to a crowd of thousands and thousands. I dug it for as long as I could, but I split after the subwoofers threatened to give me an involuntary colon cleanse.

Saturday night I get my fill of Tia Fuller, before walking off the edge with Flat Earth Society.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Jazz Fest 2016, Day 7: Frank reviews the Lauren Sevian Quartet, Dave Rivello, and Rai Thistlethwayte

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Lauren Sevian performed with her quartet at Max on Thursday night. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Lauren Sevian performed with her quartet at Max on Thursday night.

Once I finished playing Monday morning quarterback with the cats at JAZZ 90.1, I crossed the street -- to get to the other side and catch the Lauren Sevian Quartet deliver some hard bop via her baritone saxophone. Miss Sevian stayed mostly in the upper register while ignoring the delicious honks and growls associated with the instrument; if you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t have been able to tell it was a barry.

Dave Rivello’s ensemble played some fairly intricate, multi-layered jazz that kept listeners on their toes. It seemed as soon as you identified with one of the melody lines within a tune, he’d turn around and highlight another one. This went on for the whole set at The Little Theatre. I also witnessed a tuba mute the size of a Volkswagen in use for the first time.

Don’t you just love douchebags all around you with their all too important conversations with their fellow dickheads, prattling on instead of listening to the band. It took Australian pop sensation Rai Thistlethwayte extra effort to shut up the rear portion of Anthology which was lousy with these Chatty Cathys.

For those who did pay attention, we were treated to musical excellence that is the beginning spark of what should prove to be a pop star before long. Armed with an electric keyboard for the left hand and a piano for the right, and joined by a drummer, Thistlethwayte rocked up and down the keyboards with determination and genuine mirth. A little Elton, a little Ben, a lotta cool -- especially when he looped a sort of beat box pattern before scatting over it. It’s a goddamn jazz festival and I haven’t heard any scat until now. And I wanna hear some more. C’mon and try it with me : Ah scooby dooby bay wah wah zup zi.

Skipped the East Avenue fantastic to end my evening with the full bore romance of The Bossa Nova Bradley Brothers. This is one of the city’s best kept secrets ... not for long.

Tip: If you're going to see someone as good as Rai Thistlethwayte, just shut up and enjoy the show. - PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Tip: If you're going to see someone as good as Rai Thistlethwayte, just shut up and enjoy the show.

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Jazz Fest 2016, Day 8: Ron reviews Helen Sung, Ben Monder, and Matthew Halsall and The Gondwana Orchestra

Posted By on Fri, Jul 1, 2016 at 4:00 AM

The intimacy of Hatch Hall was perfectly suited to the highly personal set Helen Sung played Friday night. Between tunes, she told the audience about her musical journey, starting with her upbringing in Texas with a strict Russian piano teacher who told her classical music was the only music worth listening to and playing. Once she discovered jazz, her studies continued at the Thelonious Monk Institute in Boston.

Her classical background was apparent in her flawless technique, but so was her ability to swing and deal with the intricacy of a Monk tune. She played a medley of them, starting with "Eronel," moving on to "Light Blue," and ending with "In Walked Bud." If you think of yourself as a jazz aficionado but you only recognized "In Walked Bud," that gives you a sense of how unpredictable Sung's song choices were. She also performed "Armando's Rhumba" by Chick Corea, "Equipoise" by Stanley Cowell, and her own heart-felt tune "Hope Springs Eternally."

Helen Sung plays with her quartet on Saturday night, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., at Montage Music Hall.

Over at the Little Theatre, Ben Monder sat with an electric guitar balanced over his knee in the manner of a classical guitarist, and played a series of original tunes all of which involved finger-picked chords, up and down the fret-board, with the occasional melody breaking through. But these were not the chords you learned at guitar lessons. They were a unique variety that hovered on the edge of harmony and dissonance, often slipping over both sides.

Not everyone appreciated Monder's chord-centered style and a significant portion of the crowd left as the show progressed. Those who stayed until the end witnessed a sharp left turn on the last tune, which was filled with electronic distortion and a palette of echoes and other effects.

My last stop was Christ Church where Matthew Halsall and The Gondwana Orchestra played a wonderful set. Halsall's group features a fairly typical line-up -- piano, saxophone, trumpet, bass, drums -- until you get to the harp. It was the first harp I've seen at the festival in 15 years, and Rachael Gladwin played the first (beautiful) harp solos I've heard there.

Halsall, a fine trumpeter, is from Manchester, England, but his music came from all directions. Some of the tunes evoked Eastern Indian music and one composition was referred to as a Japanese ballad. Curiously Halsall and the equally talented Jordan Smart, the saxophonist, never played together; it was always one or the other. Taz Modi, the pianist, was superb, as were the bassist and drummer. Christ Church is a tough room for a large band, but this group's sound was perfectly balanced.

On the last night of the festival, I'll start at Kilbourn Hall with the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience. Then I'll head over to Hatch Hall to hear pianist Brian Dickinson, and I'll conclude the festival with hometown pianist Laura Dubin at Xerox Auditorium.

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