Giving the gift of Respect

The Bop Shop Atrium was rockin’ last night with the joyous music of The Respect Sextet, one of the best bands to come out of the Rochester scene.

The band — Josh Rutner, Eli Asher, James Hirschfeld, Red Wierenga, Ted Poor, and Matt Clohesy — played its patented brand of jazz (whatever that word means) replete with radio transmissions, electronicals, uplifting beats, gorgeous melodies, intricate post-bop lines, and … um … some other stuff.

A capacity crowd crammed around the Xmas tree that now fills up most of the atrium. People were peeking through the branches, sitting on the stairs that lead up to the second floor, and hanging over the upstairs railings to see the show, the first in Rochester by the band in 18 months.

If you’ve never heard the Respect Sextet, do yourself a favor and visit their Web site. And while you’re there, pick up a copy of one of their CDs. The most recent recording, Respect In You, has received critical aclaim in several national magazines. It captures the band during a live performance. Also available is the popular studio album The Full Respect. Either one makes a great gift for yourself or for anyone you know who digs good music that manages to say something without taking itself too seriously.

New boxed set from Utah Phillips

Utah Phillips

If you’re a folk fan, a progressive, a worker, or just someone who loves great music and storytelling, you need to check out Starlight On The Rails, the new boxed set from folk singer and raconteur Utah Phillips.

Here’s a link to the album at the iTunes Music Store, and here’s Chris Nickson’s review from the All Music Guide:

Utah Phillips has become an American folk institution — or is that an anti-institution? A former union organizer, he might not be well known in the greater scheme of music, but he’s certainly worth this four-CD, 61-track box set. What makes it especially fascinating is the fact that each of the cuts is accompanied by Phillips’ reflections on the pieces, whether performed by him or others. He’s as much a raconteur and philosopher as songwriter. With its mix of live, studio, and unreleased performances, it justifies calling itself definitive, whether on the topical “Talking N.P.R. Blues,” which excoriates not only the corporatization on public radio, but also the attitudes of the FCC. He can be funny, he can be serious, but whatever tack he takes, he makes his point concisely and effectively. He’s lived a hobo’s life, been there and done that, a symbol of America that’s fast disappearing, a time where the ideas of Mark Twain helped define a growing nation. He’s known the drifters, the characters, the politicians. Some he’s liked, some he’s loathed. But along the way he’s lived and acted for his conscience and written some fine songs, such as “Yellow Ribbon” and the title cut. For anyone who’s a fan of his work, this is a must-have purchase. But even for those less familiar with his canon, it’s a vital peek into America as it was, and in some small corner, still is. Hopefully he’ll be around for many years to come, remaining an inspiration to a younger generation of troubadours, celebrating people and loudly criticizing what needs to be criticized. (© 2005 All Music Guide)

Bruuuuuuce in Rochester

Jen and I saw Bruce Springsteen for the second time on this solo acoustic tour. Tonight’s show was the first show on this leg of the tour, following a couple weeks off. Here, to the best of my recollection, is the set list. Following the list if my little review:

  • Idiot’s Delight
  • Living Proof
  • Devils & Dust
  • My Father’s House
  • Long Time Comin’
  • Independence Day
  • Two Faces
  • Ain’t Got You
  • Maria’s Bed
  • Cautious Man
  • Reno
  • Nothing Man
  • Real World
  • Racing in the Street
  • The Rising
  • Further On (Up the Road)
  • Jesus Was an Only Son
  • This Hard Land
  • Two Hearts
  • Galveston Bay
  • Matamoros Banks

ENCORE

  • Growin’ Up
  • The Ties That Bind
  • The Promised Land
  • Dream Baby Dream

All in all, a fantastic show. His voice was in perfect form, the crowd was into it, and the show was a lot more upbeat than the July 18 Buffalo show, which had a great set list and a lame audience. Idiot’s Delight was a powerful opener, with somewhat distorted and delayed vocals and a great electric guitar part. Long Time Comin’ is quickly becoming one of my favorites. When he announced that he was going to play a song “for the first time on this tour,” the crowd cheered. He said, “I don’t know why people always cheer. I’ve played about 120 songs on this tour, which means you’re going to miss about 100 of them. But I’ve thought about it, and these are the best 20. There’s a system.” Then he played Independence Day. Further On Up The Road was very intense. The encore was great — Bruce changed some lyrics in Growin’ Up, I think. I know he also changed them in ain’t got you (from “king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally” to “king’s ransom for doin’ what I’d do for free”).

Rochester loses one of the good guys

Forrest Cummings

I’m very sad to report the passing of Forrest Cummings, who I knew through his work at Jazz90.1, where he hosted the great show Jazz Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul. Forrest was one of those people who make the world a better place, and it was truly an honor to know him and work with him.

Forrest had a show on WRUR for decades, and when his time there ended, I was on the phone with him immediately, asking him to come to Jazz90.1 and work his magic. We met for lunch, and he agreed to make the move. Most of our volunteers and staff members already knew who Forrest was, and he was welcomed with open arms to our Sunday night lineup.

Even after I left the station, I’d see Forrest at Red Wings games (he was on the board of Rochester Community Baseball) and at the Rochester International Jazz Festival and other musical events. It was always a pleasure to see him — everyone always seemed to know him and respect him wherever he was.

My thoughts are with the Cummings family. We’ve lost one of the good guys, but Rochester is a better place because he was here.

Here’s the obituary from The Democrat & Chronicle:

Forrest Cummings, 56, dies

He worked to give back to Rochester and to help children

by Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Staff writer

(September 24, 2005) —

Forrest Cummings Jr. could have left Rochester for bigger cities and bigger opportunities. Instead, he spent his life giving back to the only city that mattered in his book.

Mr. Cummings, 56, died Thursday of a massive heart attack.

He worked more than 20 years as regional director of the state Division of Human Rights. In addition, he served on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club, Urban League, Baden Street Settlement and the Rochester Red Wings.

Brenda D. Lee saw every step of Mr. Cummings’ path from a young boy at Edison Technical and Industrial High School to the man who was well respected in the community.

“He was a person who had incredible discipline on one hand but could be very humorous on the other,” said Lee, a childhood friend. “The person you would see in a social setting was completely different than the person you would see as regional director.”

While his time was often spread thin, one area always had a priority on his schedule.

“He was absolutely passionate about making a difference in the lives of children,” said Lee. “Forrest was an incredible role model for everyone, especially young African-American males.”

Gary Larder, Red Wings president and CEO, said Mr. Cummings was the first board member to financially contribute to offering season tickets for the underprivileged.

“He brought a mature attitude and certainly a team spirit,” said Larder.

When Mr. Cummings died, he was spending time with Maurice Stone, 43, a Penfield man with a developmental disability whom he visited every Thursday. Friends say it was an example of the life Mr. Cummings led.

“Even though he was in a position where he dealt with judges, lawyers and politicians, he was very comfortable with everyday folks,” said the Rev. Lawrence Hargrave, acting dean of black church studies at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School.

“He could walk around the streets of Rochester and people would know him, and he could walk into the highest offices of the state and people would know him.”

Mr. Cummings hosted Jazz Ain’t Nothing but Soul for 26 years on WRUR-FM (88.5) Sunday evenings before moving to WGMC-FM (90.1) for the past two years.

He is survived by his wife, Juliette Rhodes-Cummings. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Bruuuuuuce!

Jen and I went to see Bruce Springsteen last night. She’s a huge fan, and I was along for the ride, having never been much of a fan (although I really dug The Rising). Bruce is on a solo acoustic tour to promote his new album, Devils & Dust. Here’s what he played (tunes marked with * were played last night for the first time on this tour):

  • Prove It All Night*
  • Reason to Believe
  • Devils & Dust
  • Empty Sky
  • Long Time Comin’
  • Black Cowboys
  • 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)*
  • Leap of Faith*
  • State Trooper
  • Nebraska
  • Maria’s Bed
  • The Line
  • Reno
  • When You’re Alone*
  • You’re Missing*
  • The Rising
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town*
  • Jesus Was an Only Son
  • If I Should Fall Behind
  • The Hitter
  • Matamoros Banks
  • Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
  • My Best Was Never Good Enough
  • The Promised Land
  • Dream Baby Dream

For me, the only weak link in the show was Reason To Believe, which was so distorted and nonmelodic that you couldn’t understand the words or the tune. Very cool effect, though, with Bruce singing through a distorted harmonica and pounding on an amplified footboard. Highlights included 4th of July, which was beautiful; Maria’s Bed, which rocked; You’re Missing, which still chokes me up; Jesus Was An Only Son, which I found very moving despite my obvious disagreements with the ideology, mostly because of the good stuff he said about parents and kids; and Dream Baby Dream, which was one of the coolest show closers I’ve ever seen.

All in all, a very cool show, and I’m glad I went. Jen was quite surprised. She had no idea where we were going, and didn’t figure out who was playing until we got right up to the arena (which has no sign out front) and heard a little of The Rising playing on the sound system outside.

JEN: “Y’know, this is getting a little annoying, actually.”

(Takes two more steps, hears music.)

JEN: “Is this Bruce?”

JASON: “Yup.”

JEN: “It IS?!?! Now I’m excited!”

While you’ve still got Bruce on the brain, check out this excellent interview of Bruce, done recently by author Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, A Long Way Down). Thanks to Jeff Vrabel, himself a fine music columnist, for the link.