Jazz Fest Guide: Three thoughts for the 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival 

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The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival is here, and with it, a whirlwind of concerts by national, international, and local musicians. It can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned jazz fest fan. As you sort through your personal concert itinerary, I have three thoughts that we at CITY Newspaper hope will be helpful as you make your way through this nine-day marathon of music, running from June 21 through 29:

1. Let’s dance

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been to a high-energy jazz fest performance filled with infectious, toe-tapping grooves, only to see a mere handful of other concertgoers dancing. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking it all in from your seat, there’s a special kind of joy you can only get from cutting loose on the dance floor.

2. Take it easy

Hitting the proverbial wall around Day 5 or 6 of the festival is inevitable, but you can avoid burnout. While there may be four or more different shows you want to see on a given day, it’s really more about the quality of the performances you witness than the sheer quantity of sets you attend. Sometimes it can be best to choose two or three shows per day, and allow yourself time in between to relax and soak in the vibe of the festival.

3. Get surprised

For me, the best part of the jazz festival every year is always the discovery of artists I had never heard play before. For one uninterrupted hour, each jazz fest performance allows the listener to dive headlong into what makes the musicians tick creatively, what they value. Sometimes, you can find that you value you the same things, and you just didn’t know it. Those kinds of unexpected realizations help to make the concert experience all the more enjoyable.

Have fun and enjoy the festival! [ UPDATED 6/23/19 ] CORRECTION: The schedule grid in CITY's Jazz Festival Guide incorrectly listed Jeff Goldblum as the headliner at Kodak Hall on Friday, June 28. In fact, Steve Miller Band is still the headliner on June 28, while Jeff Goldblum and The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra will be headlining at Kodak Hall on Wednesday, June 26 (as previously indicated in the grid). Tickets for both concerts are available at the CGI RIJF box office and online atrochesterjazz.com. [ UPDATED 6/24/19 ] The free concerts at the Rochester Regional Health Big Tent are scheduled for 6 p.m. daily, and not 4:30 p.m. as previously listed in the schedule grid.

Jazz Fest 2019: Meet CITY's jazz bloggers

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In This Guide...

  • Festival Information

    Everything you need to know about tickets, venues, parking, and how to connect with us to make the most of your Jazz Festival experience.

  • Feature: Sasha Berliner Quintet

    When 20-year-old vibraphonist Sasha Berliner received the call, letting her know that she'd won the 2019 LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award, she couldn't believe it. "It was a surreal moment," Berliner says.

  • The Players: Friday, June 21

    Teagan and the Tweeds | teaganandthetweeds.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion - Squeezers Stage (Bluesy rock 'n' roll)

  • Profile: Dawn Thomson's Imagine That

    When digging on an artist of two or more disciplines, you have to wonder which one dominates in that artist's heart and head. Dawn Thomson plays it slick and sweet on the guitar.

  • The Players: Saturday, June 22

    Ambassadors Jazztet | armyfieldband.com/about/ensembles/jazz-ambassadors 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

  • Interview: The Honey Smugglers

    Blame it on love. Rochester's The Honey Smugglers is here because it's frontman, Brian MacDonald, fell in love.

  • The Players: Sunday, June 23

    Zion Hill Mass Choir 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Gospel)

  • Interview: The Willows

    The voices of Krista Deady, Andrea Gregario and Lauren Pedersen are spun gold, blended so well that they come across as one three-tiered voice. The trio known as The Willows makes other vocalists sound like Edith Bunker.

  • The Players: Tuesday, June 25

    Soul Passenger | soulpassenger.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Rock)

  • The Players: Monday, June 24

    Fred Costello | fredcostello.com 4:30 p.m.| M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (B-3 organ jazz)

  • Profile: Harold Mabern

    When Harold Mabern was growing up in Memphis, he had no ambition to become a jazz pianist. "I didn't choose it; it chose me," says Mabern, a self-taught musician.

  • Feature: Jeff Goldblum & the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

    When you're known for being chased by dinosaurs and being turning into a giant fly, it's inevitable that you'll have to do the rounds: going on press junkets, shaking babies, kissing hands, and hocking your latest wares -- in this case, a jazz recording. Jeff Goldblum, the actor and Hollywood bon vivant found himself on the Graham Norton Show about a year ago, doing the standard media song-and-dance for the movie "Thor Ragnarok."

  • The Players: Wednesday, June 26

    Herb Smith Freedom Trio | herbtrumpet.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

  • Feature: George Coleman Quartet

    In the early 1960's, after saxophonist George Coleman had earned his way to the top of the jazz world playing with Booker Little, Max Roach and Slide Hampton, he was tapped by Miles Davis to play in one of the greatest quintets in the history of jazz. Coleman recorded four seminal albums with Davis: "Seven Steps to Heaven," "My Funny Valentine, "Four," and "Miles Davis In Europe."

  • The Players: Thursday, June 27

    The Buddhahood | thebuddhahood.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Jam-band, world music)

  • Profile: Bill Charlap

    You might say pianist Bill Charlap was born to play standards. His father, Moose Charlap, was a Broadway composer best known for his iconic musical "Peter Pan."

  • The Players: Friday, June 28

    Kansas Smitty's House Band | kansassmittys.com 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.: Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

  • Interview: Cha Wa

    The music of New Orleans band Cha Wa is a party in itself, a joyful collision of brass band music, funk, soul, and Mardi Gras Indian music and culture. The group is led by singer J'Wan Boudreaux and drummer Joe Gelini, both of whom learned from the preeminent musician Monk Boudreaux, Big Chief of the Mardi Gras Indian tribe Golden Eagles and J'Wan's grandfather.

  • The Players: Saturday, June 29

    Acoustic Alchemy | acousticalchemy.co.uk 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.: Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage | (Smooth jazz)

  • Jazz Fest 2019: CITY's Daily Jazz Blogs

    The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival runs from Friday, June 21, through Saturday, June 29, and CITY Newspaper will be out every night of the festival, covering multiple shows. Check back each day for reviews, photos and video of each nights festivities.

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