Skip to content →

Category: Jazz

2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival: Day 4 In Review

Billy Bang. Period. (See details several paragraphs below.)

Tonight I saw something straight out of the past. Mose Allison played more than 20 songs in 70 minutes with no written set list, calling each tune from his book of music by its number so the bass player, Rich Syracuse, would know which song to play. Allison remembered all the lyrics, played 20+ interesting solos, and kept the audience charmed and smiling for the whole set.

Mose Allison is a quiet institution. He’s been around so long that he’s part of America’s musical fabric, and he still has such a following that the line was halfway around the block 90 minutes before showtime. It was worth the wait, as Mose played one great song after another: “Look What You Made Me Do,” “Your Molecular Structure,” “What’s Your Movie?” “Ever Since The World Ended,” and many more. He also threw in some songs by other writers, including “Fool’s Paradise” by Johnny Fuller and a very reharmonized “You Are My Sunshine,” by former Louisiana governor Jimmy Davis.

One strange element of the sound was a bass rasp on the low string that jumped out every time Syracuse plucked it, but otherwise the sound was fairly good in the sometimes cavernous Kilbourn Hall. A friend of mine once described watching jazz there as watching “jazz in a diorama.” While it often has that feel, the best performers can transcend the limitations of the space (see Allyson, Karrin and Allison, Mose).

NOTE: Three paragraphs until Billy Bang.

Outside on the free Jazz Street Stage, the reunited Respect Sextet wowed the crowd and kept them laughing. As a matter fact, Mose Allison into the Respect Sextet was a great segue, as both shows showed the value of a sense of humor in music. It was the classic Respect lineup: Josh Rutner on sax, Eli Asher on trumpet, James Hirschfeld on trombone, Red Wierenga on piano, Ted Poor on drums, and Malcolm Kirby on bass, who missed the Respect show this year at the Bop Shop because he was on tour with the Campbell Brothers. As usual at a Respect show, original compositions — in the best sense of the word “original” — held sway, including Herschfeld’s “latin surf anthem” opener, a Balkan tune by Rutner, and the wonderfully titled “Beer” by Wierenga. The band members now make their home in New York City (all but Asher, who lives in the D.C. area), but they still remember their roots here in Rochester.

NOTE: Two paragraphs until Billy Bang.

The official Next Big Thing of the 2006 festival, Sonya Kitchell, filled the big tent and caused a line down Main Street outside. Back in its inaugural year, the Rochester International Jazz Festival booked a then-unknown singer/pianist named Norah Jones. Eight Grammy awards later, producer John Nugent hoped to prove his instincts again with 17-year-old phenom Kitchell. She’s good, but she struggled to overcome the big tent’s sound-swallowing atmosphere, and her airy vocals were often lost completely in the muddy mix of sound. That said, Kitchell’s songwriting was often impressive, and if she wins eight Grammies this year, you’ll know how to rate my skills as a talent scout.

NOTE: Up next is the good bit, featuring Billy Bang.

Every year at the festival, there’s one artist who transcends the ordinary and sends writers scrambling for adjectives. This year, no matter what happens next, that artist was Billy Bang.

Violinist Bang was joined by trumpeter James Zollar, bassist Todd Nicholson, drummer Newman Taylor Baker, and pianist Andrew Bemkey. Listening to them was like someone reaching inside your rib cage and squeezing your heart. From the first note (Bang’s “Reconciliation”) to the last (“Rainbow Gladiator”), Billy commanded the room in a way few performers ever do. And the audience loved him for it. In recent years, thanks to the work of Bop Shop owner Tom Kohn, Bang has appeared in Rochester several times, both at the jazz festival and at the Bop Shop atrium. Rochester’s music lovers have embraced him, and one of the city’s leading cultural figures, choreographer Garth Fagan, has championed Bang’s music by using it as the basis for a dance piece. Bang was effusive in his praise of Rochester all night long, and he seemed genuinely moved by the intense emotion of the crowd.

The set featured one highlight reel solo after another. Nicholson’s root-to-fruit bass solo on “Reconciliation.” Zollar’s ride on Rocket #9 during the Sun Ra tribute “Jupiter’s Future.” Bemkey destroying and rebuilding the piano with a consciousness-altering two-fisted display on the same tune. Bang getting his sabroso on during the Cuban-inflected closer, which had the crowd on its feet screaming as the band tightened the screws one notch, then another, then another, leaving the audience so enraptured that the band was literally prevented from leaving the stage until they played an encore, the lovely “Rainbow Gladiator.”

With the week ahead including names like Tyner and Shorter, it may seem ridiculous to say this, but my prediction is that no individual set of music will top Billy Bang. Not this week, and not for a long time to come.

For complete information, including audio files, concert photos and more, visit

Comments closed

2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival: Day 3 In Review

Any festival is about making choices. There are more acts to see than time to see them, and musical triage is the order of the day. With that in mind, it’s tempting to do the easy thing and cross artists off the list if you’ve seen them before. I’ve seen Karrin Allyson a half dozen times, so I did the sensible thing … and lined up an hour and a half early to see her again. She’s that good.

Allyson’s new album is called Footprints. It features a number of tunes not normally associated with singers, decked out with new lyrics by Rochester native Chris Caswell. The program offered a mix of tunes from the new record — “Lazy Bird,” “Never Say Yes,” “Con Alma” — with some old friends from previous albums. Allyson was joined by a top-flight band: Bruce Barth on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, and Todd Strait on drums.

“Con Alma” was a grabber. They played it slow. The kind of slow that makes you lean forward in your chair to try to get closer to the sound. The kind of slow that the band holds together by an act of collective will. Exquisite.

As at any Karrin Allyson gig, there was a beautiful bossa nova number, sung in Allyson’s gorgeous Portuguese. During the latin numbers, Karrin played what appeared to be two egg shakers. In her hands, the egg shakers had a sensuality that they seem to lack when wielded by, say, a class of kindergartners.

Karrin also played piano on several tunes, including Jimmy Webb’s 70’s ballad “The Moon Is Harsh Mistress.” Bruce Barth added a second keyboard instrument — the Fender Rhodes — for Oscar Brown Jr.’s uplifting “As Long As You’re Living,” Hank Mobley’s “Turnaround,” and Blossom Dearie’s “Bye Bye Country Boy.”

The encore was once through the haunting “Say It (Over And Over Again)” from her Ballads album. When it ended, you could have heard a jaw drop. From start to end, a perfect set of music.

From the Not-An-Early-Enough-Bird Department: Apparently, Brazilian sensation Baji Assad is not just big in Brazil. A line four across and about thirty deep was waiting to get into the sold-out show in the big tent, so this review will be rather short. In fact, it’s over right now.

The late set at Milestones featured guitarist Joel Harrison playing the music of George Harrison. For those in the crowd expecting BeatleJazz, it was probably a shock to hear the searing explorations of Harrison and saxophonist Dave Binney, bassist Dave Ambrosio and drummer Dan Weiss. Harrison’s inventive and exciting arrangements used George’s music as a springboard, rather than an anchor. Binney was the perfect foil for Harrison, adding his sharp-edged tone and intelligent but accessible improvisations to Harrison’s fluid and free-ranging chord structures. The band played George Harrison’s “Within You Without You,” “Beware of Darkness,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” and “My Sweet Lord,” along with Joel Harrison’s own compositions “My Father’s House” and “You Bring The Rain.”

Binney lifted “Beware Of Darkness” higher and higher with each phrase, wiping his left hand on his jeans between each line like a safecracker sandpapering his fingers before the next turn of the dial. Binney wasn’t afraid to explore one repeated pitch, mining it of every ounce of meaning before moving on to the next note.

This show was a left turn from most of the fare at the festival, and it was a welcome exploration of less-charted territory.

For complete information, including audio files, concert photos and more, visit

Comments closed

2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival: Day 2 In Review

Another chilly night on the streets of Rochester completely failed to deter thousands of people from packing the clubs and filling the streets at the 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Kilbourn Hall welcomed back pianist Cedar Walton, who played an engaging hour of solo piano for an enthusiastic audience. The set list included two Walton tunes: “Cedar’s Blues” and “Underground Memoirs.” The rest of the evening found Walton navigating the entire range of the grand piano on everything from “Skylark” (an emotional touchstone of the set) to “Willow Weep For Me,” which rolled steadily on a wave of flatted fifths. The list also included a handful of tunes about time: “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” “Time After Time,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” and “Just In Time.”

When he wasn’t seated at the piano, Cedar delivered lines with the timing of a comedian. He read song titles from a scrap of paper as he introduced the tunes, but at one point he got up from the piano without the list. “That was ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye,'” he said. “The next piece is … I’ll tell you when I’m finished because I’ve got to go look at my list.” He introduced his composition “Underground Memoirs” by saying, “If this one doesn’t put you to sleep, nothing will.”

One thing the Jazz Festival might consider is handing out cough drops. Someone who sounded like they were moments from an appointment with the Grim Reaper spent the entire show hacking in the middle of the theater.

As any jazzhead will tell you, nothing goes with an hour of introspective piano like the Godfather of Soul. Which is a happy coincidence, because that’s just the menu the festival was serving tonight.

It was hard not to be skeptical about a 73-year-old man trying to recreate the soul power of his youth, but it was even harder not to be won over by the mind-jellying funk of The James Brown Show. For more than an hour, the enormous band turned the 3,000 spectators — including Rochester’s mayor, Bob Duffy — into participants, forcing them out of their seats and onto their feet to shake what could be shook. The band had two drummers with full drum sets, a percussionist, three guitarists, a bassist, four backup singers, a guest vocalist, two dancers, three horn players, an M.C., and R.J., who stood on the side of the stage for all but the last ten minutes, when he came on to ask the immortal question, “Do you want James Brown to do his thang?” Everyone said they did, so Soul Brother Number One busted out “Sex Machine,” and it was all over but the leather pants and hot flashes. That said, seeing James Brown in 2006 rather than 1966 is a little like seeing a tiger in a zoo rather than going out into the jungle yourself — you can say you’ve seen it, but it’s not exactly like the real thing. Not that it mattered; a soulful time was had by all.

Djabe played two free sets on the outdoor Jazz Street Stage, and the street was full, despite the cold. Similarly, Roomful of Blues and Little Feat filled the East Avenue Stage.

Back in the clubs, it was time for the most star-studded ensemble of Day 2, as trumpeter Eddie Henderson played swinging hard bop with pianist George Cables, bassist Ed Howard and drummer Billy Drummond (whom Henderson referred to as the “chief of the fire department”). At least, I think those were the guys — the players were almost invisible on the stage, which was apparently lit by the novelty blacklight department at Spencer’s Gifts.

But who needs to see when you can hear? And there was plenty to hear. The late set was full of classic tracks, including “One Finger Snap,” “El Gaucho,” and “Green Dolphin Street.” Henderson used the flugelhorn to wonderful effect on several tunes, his tone sounding like a warm fleece blanket on a cold (June?) night. Cables and Drummond were captivating. Drummond’s solo on “One Finger Snap” was a master class in timing, texture and musicality as he alternated between a curtain of cymbals and driving snare/tom work. A rousing “Cantaloupe Island” finished off the evening, as the band played well past the allotted time. “As you can see, we want to keep playing,” Henderson said. “I hope that’s all right.”

The jam session was packed with minor league ball players, prom guests and jazz lovers. Festival promoter John Nugent held sway for an entire set, slightly belying the “jam” concept, but he was ably assisted by guitarist Bob Sneider, drummer Mike Melito, and Roomful of Blues sax player Mark Earley, with whom Nugent attended college. The bar was full of jazznocenti, including Eddie Henderson and his son, the members of Djabe, and James Brown’s drummer, Mousie.

And that was how it rolled on Day 2.

For complete information, including audio files, concert photos and more, visit

Comments closed

2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival: Day 1 In Review

Jason Gary Beth
Jason with friends Gary and Beth outside Kilbourn Hall

It’s almost too much to take. Day 1 of the 2006 World Cup coinciding with Day 1 of the 2006 Rochester International Jazz Festival. Three hours of soccer matches (Germany and Ecuador emerging victorious) followed by 8 hours of jazz (everybody in attendance emerging victorious). Here’s what I saw and heard on the opening day of what is fast becoming one of the country’s top jazz festivals.

The weather was nasty. Let’s just get that out of the way. It was a very un-June kind of day in Rochester — cold, rainy and windy enough that the folks from the local jazz station, Jazz90.1, had to hold down the four corners of their broadcast tent to keep it from sailing off into the sunset.

This is the northeast, though, and jazz fans can’t be dissuaded by foul weather. For the first time, all the Club Passes sold out by Day 1 of the festival. (The Club Passes get you in to everything but the shows in the Eastman Theatre.) A packed house watched as guitarist Charlie Hunter and his new trio remodeled the interior of staid Kilbourn hall with a mix of Levon-Helm-Slept-Here drumming from Simon Lott and the Rhodes and organ of Erik Deutsch. A breakneck version of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” was a highlight, particularly when it screeched to a halt and became a cerebral and hushed “Out of Nowhere.” Lott and Deutsch are new to the trio, replacing long-time members John Ellis and Derrek Phillips, who left amicably to pursue other projects. The one hitch in the first set was a long, introspective tune that took up the last 20 minutes of the show. When it ended, Charlie called a closing number, but the soundman was gesturing wildly that time was up, and a surprised Charlie warmly thanked the audience and split. It was obvious that the quiet number wasn’t supposed to be the show closer, and my guess is that they worked out the timing a little better by the second set.

After a quick round of sushi to restore the vital signs, it was off to the Eastman Theatre to see … Woody Allen? That’s right, the film auteur was in town with his trad jazz band to play the most expensive show of the week. Unfortunately, the music didn’t live up to the hype. If his name were Woody Jones, he and the band would have been a very enjoyable local outfit that you might see on a small stage. For $90 a head, though, you really have to like looking at Woody as he energetically keeps time and plays clarinet with what can only be described as a sadistic amount of vibrato. (As it turns out, the standout member of his band was Cynthia Sayer, who charmed the jam session later in the evening with her delightful banjo playing.) It’s important to note, though, that a portion of the proceeds from this show go to benefit folks in New Orleans, so from a nonmusical perspective, it was a good thing.

Over in the festival tent, Hungarian fusion band Djabe made their second appearance in Rochester and once again won the crowd over with the kind of feel-good electric music that was big with guys named Corea and Clarke back in the early 80s. The members of Djabe radiate a personal warmth from the stage that does a lot to win the crowd over, and they back up that vibe with solid musicianship.

Milestones Music Room was host to one of the standout shows of the night, as Gregg Bendian and his Mahavishnu Project channeled John McLaughlin and stoked the inner mounting flame. The five-piece band features Bendian on drums, Adam Holzman on keyboards, Rob Thomas on violin, Glenn Alexander on guitar, and Dave Johnsen on bass. “We believe jazz can be electric,” Bendian told the crowd, “and when it’s electric, it should be heard live.” The room was packed with admirers, from the grey goatees who listened to the original records in the 70’s, to jam band kids who’ve grown up listening to extended improvisation. Highlights included a beautiful version of “Dawn,” a hard-charging “Celestial Terrestrial Extraterrestrial Commuters,” and a mesmerizing rendition of Jan Hammer’s “Bamboo Forest.”

It’s worth mentioning that Milestones booked its own act to go on between the jazz fest sets. Singer/songwriter/pianist Juliet Lloyd played an hour of original music that could easily find its way onto stations that play Jamie Cullum and Nellie McKay. Her song “Too Little, Too Late” would be on the radio in a better world.

For the fifth year running, every night of the festival ends with the Bob Sneider Trio leading a jam session for headliners and amateurs alike at the Crowne Plaza. Guitarist Sneider was joined by bassist Phil Flanigan and drummer Mike Melito. The opening night session featured members of the Woody Allen band, local boys Filthy Funk, and many, many others. A packed crowd stayed until after 2 a.m. to drink in the music (and a few liquid refreshments) and celebrate nine days when Rochester becomes the Jazz Capital of the World.

For complete information, including audio files, concert photos and more, visit

Comments closed

Hilton Ruiz, R.I.P.

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS – Jazz pianist and composer Hilton Ruiz, who came to New Orleans to work on a Hurricane Katrina benefit recording, died early Tuesday, his agent and manager said.

Ruiz, who turned 54 on May 29, had been comatose at East Jefferson General Hospital since he fell early May 19 in front of a French Quarter bar.

He died about 3:50 a.m. Tuesday, agent Joel Chriss said in a telephone interview from New York.

Ruiz, of Teaneck, N.J., has been described as one of the most versatile musicians in jazz, playing bop, Afro-Cuban, stride and many other styles.

“He’s one of the few musicians on the scene that is equally at home in both the jazz genre and the Afro-Cuban genre in a complete sense. … He really can play the blues, too. For real,” trombone player Steve Turre, who had known Ruiz since 1975, said in an interview the week after Ruiz fell. “There’s a lot of people who dabble with both worlds. But very few can authentically deal with both. And he’s one of them. That’s your rarity.”

He described Ruiz as a complex man and a brilliant musician, a pianist, composer and bandleader of genius.

Ruiz came to New Orleans with Marco Matute, a producer for the M27 World label, to shoot video to go along with a Hurricane Katrina benefit compact disc of New Orleans music, attorney Mary Howell said before his death. They arrived May 18, she said.

“They spent the whole day filming, riding in carriages, talking to people about New Orleans,” She said.

She said Ruiz “got very involved in the situation here” after playing in a New York benefit concert for the hurricane’s victims.

The family has been “inundated with calls from people wanting to help.” They asked for prayers; an account to help pay Ruiz’ medical expenses was set up, Howell said.

Trained in classical music as well as jazz, Ruiz played at Carnegie Recital Hall when he was 8 years old. His teachers included jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams; in his early 20s, he and Turre both worked with saxophone player Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

In an interview with Ted Panken, for liner notes on his 2003 CD, “Enchantment,” Ruiz said Kirk – known, among other things, for playing a saxophone and two of its turn-of-the-century cousins at once – nurtured and demanded versatility.

“All the music I enjoyed was part of the Rahsaan experience,” Ruiz told Panken. “He played the music of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Real down-home blues, as they’re called. The great composers of classical music. Music from all over the world – Africa, the Orient, the Middle East. We had to play all these musical flavors every night.”

He was playing with Latin groups in his early teens. His first recording, at age 14, was with a group called Ray Jay and the East Siders. While still in his teens, Ruiz worked with tenor saxophonists Frank Foster and Joe Henderson and trumpeters Joe Newman, Freddie Hubbard and Cal Massey.

“I was pretty lucky in being exposed to a lot of different kinds of music, and studying them with good teachers,” he said, quoted in a biography on the Telarc International Corp.’s Web site.

The many musicians with whom he worked included Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus.

He was among musicians featured on the 1997 video The Best of Latin Jazz, and his song “Something Grand” is part of the American Beauty soundtrack.

Comments closed

What a week: World Cup and Jazz Fest both start June 9!

It’s not often that too of my favorite activities collide in such a wonderful way, but 2006 is special. June 9 marks the opening day of the World Cup, and the opening night of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. Scroll down to see my picks for the jazz fest, and keep reading for some nice soccer-related sites to visit.

Let’s start with Studio 90. U.S. Soccer is broadcasting daily from the U.S. Men’s National Team camp in Germany. The show features interviews, training highlights, tours of the stadiums and training facilities, and a whole lot more. Check it out at the USMNT section of

Also nice is the blog being written by reporters from The New York Times and International Herald Tribune. The New York Times also has a nice World Cup News section.

For a global perspective, check out FIFA’s English-language site. For you podcasters out there, give a listen to the Guardian’s fun and funny podcast. You can subscribe for free via iTunes, or use the podcast feed URL.

Comments closed

My new relationship with All About Jazz

A few years ago, when I was station manager and drive-time host at Jazz90.1, I wrote a couple reviews for All About Jazz, the Web’s most visited jazz site.

Today, AAJ published my review of Claudia Acuna’s recent appaearance in Rochester.

Happily, this marks the start of my increased involvement with AAJ. Starting today, I’ll be writing CD and concert reviews, and doing some interviews for AAJ. In addition, I’ll be their correspondent at this year’s Rochester International Jazz Festival.

I’m thrilled to be working with All About Jazz, and I recommend to all you jazzheads that you make AAJ a regular part of your day.

Comments closed

That ol’ Acuna magic

Claudia Acuna 2Sigh.

That’s what I’m left with as far as words go. I just spent the evening listening to one of my favorite singers in the world, the delightful Claudia Acuna. She did two sets at the Lodge at Woodcliff, and it was one of those nights that ended too soon.

I walked into the club more than 30 minutes early, but there were no tables. As I was looking for a single seat, I bumped into Pete McCrossen, the general manager of the hotel. I’ve known Pete for several years, ever since he started the current jazz series at Woodcliff, back when I was at Jazz90.1. Pete’s a stand-up guy who loves the music, and who brings in amazing A-list artists and presents them for free (!) at his hotel.

Pete graciously invited me to join he and his wife at their table. The three of us had a nice chat — Pete’s been on the Rochester scene for a long time, and he has lots of good stories. The three of us watched the first set, which was almost all new music that has yet to find its way onto an album. The new band is really hip. It features Claudia’s longtime musical soulmate Jason Lindner on piano and keyboard, Juancho Herrera on guitar, YaYo Serka on drums, and Omar Avital on bass. (Keepin’ it real, I have to say that her band with John Benitez and Gene Jackson was the bomb, and pretty hard to top, but this band is wonderful in its own right.)

After the first set, Gap Mangione came and sat down at our table, followed shortly by Claudia. The five of us swapped stories and jokes and just generally had a blast. I always enjoy hanging with Gap because he’s seen it all and is happy to take the time to tell you about it. During the break, I asked Claudia if the band could play “Esta Tarde Vi Llover,” one of my favorite tunes from her MaxJazz album Luna. I told her not to worry if they don’t play that tune anymore, and I got the sense that they probably don’t.

The second set kicked off, and tune #2 was … “Esta Tarde Vi Llover.” And it blew the doors off the place, evolving into a jam that lifted everyone in the room about an inch off the ground. The whole second set was that way — including a creative version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and another great tune from Luna called “Historias,” which ended the set. A little more chatting with Claudia and the McCrossens, and it was time for me to head home, elated and enchanted.

UPDATE: Check out my review of the show at All About Jazz.

Comments closed

Claudia Acuna at Woodcliff

Claudia Acuna 1
Don’t forget to keep some space in your schedule on Wednesday or Thursday evening. Vocalist Claudia Acuna will be performing at the Lodge at Woodlcliff from 7:30-10:30 p.m. both nights. Direction to the Lodge are at

Comments closed

Two great singers, one great location

If you’re a fan of good music, you should be planning on two trips to the Lodge at Woodcliff in the very near future.

Tierney Sutton
Photo by Bruce C. Moore

The wonderful jazz singer Tierney Sutton is playing at Woodcliff on April 25 and 26. The shows start at 7:30 p.m. and run until 10:30 p.m., with a break in the middle. There’s no cover charge, although there’s a bar and an excellent restaurant in the performance space.

If you’ve never seen Tierney Sutton, you need to be at this show. She’s a wonderful interpreter of songs, and her band is top-notch and swingin’.

Claudia Acuna 1

Then, on May 10 and 11, head back to Woodcliff for one of my favorite singers and favorite people, the magical Claudia Acuna. Claudia’s shows will leave you feeling better about life, and she’s are a must-see for latin music fans, too. Again, the shows run from 7:30-10:30 p.m.

One Comment

The Rochester International Jazz Festival — year 5!

The lineup for the 5th Annual Rochester International Jazz Festival was announced this morning at Max of Eastman Place. The list of artists gets better each year, and this year’s festival looks like it will be a fantastic party.

One of the coolest parts of the festival experience in recent years has been watching as more and more people hop on to the festival train. I’ve written before about the need for the city of Rochester to embrace the festival — not for altruistic reasons, but for its own economic benefit. (The cultural benefits are wonderful, too, but they’re usually not enough of an enticement to move a government to action. Maybe some day that will change.) As you can see in the picture below, Mayor Duffy is stepping up the city’s involvement with the festival, and he seems genuinely excited to do it.

Duffy at RIJF

Another sign of the increasing support for the RIJF is the expanding media coverage. Today’s press conference was covered by all the networks, and broadcast live (for the 5th year running) by Jazz90.1. Here’s a shot of the media in action:

RIJF media

Now for the lineup. It’s phenomenal. Rather than list the entire thing, which you can find for yourself at, I’ll give you my picks for the must-see shows of the festival. Remember, all musical opinions are subjective, so check the music out for yourself ahead of time and make your own decisions. I’m going to go night by night and plan out an itinerary. In other words, you could actually see all the shows I’m going to list, as long as you walk fast, and maybe leave before the last song.

Friday, June 9

This first night features two groups in the 10 p.m. slot. Jazz-rock fans should probably check out the Mahavishnu Project, while soul-jazzheads should see the Henderson-Schonig trio.

  • Charlie Hunter Trio: Charlie is one of this age’s guitar virtuosos, and he’s funky as the day is long. If you like your jazz with hip hop and funk mixed in, see this show. And for you purists, don’t worry — there’s enough brainpower behind the music to make it worth repeated listening. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Djabe: If you’re a fusion fan or a world music fan, Hungary’s Djabe is not to be missed. They came to the festival two years ago, and blew the roof off the place. (Big Tent, 8:30 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Mahavishnu Project: Guitarist John McLaughlin set the world on fire with his playing in the Miles Davis band, and then added fuel to the blaze when he left Miles and formed the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Now drummer Gregg Bendian leads the Mahavishnu Project, which performs McLaughlin’s music. It’s the next best thing to having a flashback to that gig you saw in 1971. (Milestones, 10 p.m., Club Pass) OR
  • Henderson-Schonig Trio featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith: If you like your jazz soulful, you can’t miss with this trio. Guitarist Mel Henderson is a Rochester original, and the co-founder of Paradigm Shift. Eastman grad Jared Schonig has played with Paradigm Shift and many others, and he’s one of the better drummers to come out of our scene. And what can you say about organ guru Dr. Lonnie Smith that hasn’t been said already? A guaranteed good time for the groove crowd. (Montage, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session with the Bob Sneider Trio: Every night of the festival, the Iron Man of Jazz, guitarist Bob Sneider, leads a trio in the bar at the Crowne Plaza. Many of the musicians who play in the festival will drop by, and you never know what kind of off-the-hook jam session is going to happen. Yes, it’s late, so make sure you have the week off from work. Hangin’ with Bob and the boys every night is your civic duty. (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Saturday, June 10

  • Cedar Walton: One of the giants of jazz, pianist Cedar Walton has been on the front lines of improvised music for decades. He’s been here before, but he’s worth seeing every time. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m., Club Pass)
  • James Brown: This one’s a judgment call. If you’ve never seen James, and want to rectify that, then here’s your chance. Otherwise, this might be a nice chance to grab dinner at the Montage so you have a good seat for…
  • Eddie Henderson Quartet: Eddie plays fiery, gutsy trumpet that is guaranteed to have the Montage Grille jumpin’ all night. (Montage, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: That’s right, kids. Night #2. Rest up. (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Sunday, June 11

  • Karrin Allyson: First, a little tip — it’s pronounced KAR-in, not CARE-in. Now you can hip your friends to what an insider you are. Anyway, she’s been one of my favorite singers for years, and I’ve never seen her give a bad performance. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Badi Assad: OK, not to do this twice, but it’s BA-ji a-SAHJ, more or less. She’s a big deal in Brazil, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor by figuring out what the Brazilians already know. (Big Tent, 8:30 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Claudia Quintet: The instrumentation alone lets you know you’re in for a good time — drums, bass, accordion, vibes, sax/clarinet. Eastman grad John Hollenbeck leads this critically acclaimed band. (Little Theatre, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #3. Just hitting your stride. (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Monday, June 12

  • Mose Allison: Any guy responsible for lyrics like … “A bad enough situation / Is sure enough getting worse / Everybody’s crying justice / Just as soon as there’s business first” and “Well you know the people running round in circles / Don’t know what they’re headed for / Everybody’s crying peace on earth / Just as soon as we win this war” … is worth your time. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Respect Sextet: Begun in Rochester, now based in NYC, this group is one of the reasons to be proud of our city. Expect the unexpected. (Jazz Street Stage on Gibbs St., 7:15 p.m., FREE)
  • Sonya Kitchell: OK, so this is a recommendation I’m making without having heard too much from this artist. But I’ve heard enough to know it’s worth hearing more. And my friend Richard says go see her, so go see her. She may just be The Next Big Thing. (Big Tent, 8:30 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Billy Bang Quintet: One of the best shows I’ve ever seen was a duet gig by Billy Bang and Kahil El’Zabar at the Bop Shop. Every time Billy comes anywhere near here, you need to check him out. (Montage, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #4. No yawning! (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Tuesday, June 13

  • Robert Glasper Trio: Pianist Glasper is Blue Note’s new man on the scene. If you want to say “I knew him when,” you should see him now. (Max of Eastman Place, 6:15 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Bird Lives! with Phil Woods: “I’ve got Bird’s axe” is one of those old hipster jokes. Well, Phil has Bird’s charts — the charts to the album Bird With Strings, to be exact, given to him by Charlie “Bird” Parker’s wife, Chan Parker. Now you can hear a great alto man revive these charts with the Rochester Chamber Orchestra. A special evening of music, to be sure. (Eastman Theatre, 8 p.m., Ticketed)
  • Gray Mayfield & Delfaeyo Marsalis: Gray is married to a Garth Fagan dancer, and he’s spent quite a bit of time in Rochester. Now’s he’s making waves on the national scene. If you were ever at one of Gray’s sets at the inaugural RIJF, you know that he makes the magic. Throw in a Marsalis brother, and musical mayhem is likely to ensue. (Big Tent, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #5. Grrrrrrr! (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Wednesday, June 14

This is a tough, tough night. The first three acts listed are all playing at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and they’re all on my must-see list. So that means you’ll have to miss one and see the other two. Oy!

  • Jane Bunnett Quartet: Canadian saxophonist Jane Bunnett is as impressive a human being as she is a musician. She’s been mining the Cuban motherlode for years now, and every Bunnett show is a good time for the feet and the mind. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m. or 10 p.m., Club Pass) OR
  • Ben Allison Quartet: As the leader of the Jazz Composers Collective, bassist Ben Allison has been responsible for much of the good music to come out of NYC in the past decade. From funk to freak-outs to kora jams to burnin’ post-bop, Ben does it all. (Milestones, 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., Club Pass) OR
  • Joe Locke & Geoffrey Keezer Quartet: No RIJF is complete without a leave-it-all-on-the-stage, vision-inducing vibe fest with Rochester’s own Joe Locke. Joe’s been making pulses rise and hair stand on end since the first fest, when he rocked the Pythodd. (Montage, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • McCoy Tyner Trio: Face it, you probably never got to see Coltrane. Me either. But if you want to connect to the essence of that era, you need to make the pilgrimage to McCoy. This show also features harmonica legend Toots Thielemans, who I believe will be opening for McCoy. (Eastman Theatre, 8 p.m., Ticketed)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #6. Energy drink, anyone? (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Thursday, June 15

  • Osage County: Groove music led by drummer Scott Neumann and featuring pianist David Berkman and saxophonist Sam Newsome? Sign me up! (Milestones, 6 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Wayne Shorter: SEE THIS SHOW. Period. (Eastman Theatre, 8 p.m., Ticketed)
  • Sliding Hammers: Two Swedish sisters who play trombone. They were the talk of the festival a couple years back, and now it’s your chance to find out why. (Big Tent, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #7. Home stretch! (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Friday, June 16

  • e.s.t.: A night of groove and funk and mayhem begins with Europe’s best-selling jazz act — this dynamic piano trio. And don’t worry if the words “piano trio” don’t set your heart racing. These guys will pin your ears back and knock your socks off. But that’s OK — it’s warm in Rochester in June, so going barefoot feels nice. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Soulive: The ubiquitous funksters are everywhere these days, both as headliners and as the opening act for folks like the Dave Matthews Band. Join the big party on the closed-down East Avenue. (East Ave. Stage, 9 p.m., FREE)
  • Asylum Street Spankers: The name alone should tell you that these guys are worth seeing. This is jazz in a train going over a cliff into a lake of fire. What does that mean? I don’t know, but the Spankers will help us all figure it out. (Milestones, 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #8. Here’s where we cull the weak from the pack. (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Saturday, June 17

The final night! This night is filled with international artists about whom I know nothing, so consider it a grab bag of goodies and experiment for yourself. The only thing I know for sure is that you should see…

  • Kenny Garrett: He’s often referred to as one Miles Davis’s alumni, but saxophonist Kenny Garrett stands on his own two feet. He’s usually on fire, and always worth hearing. (Kilbourn Hall, 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., Club Pass)
  • Jam Session at the Crowne: Night #9. Close down the festival in style with the final jam session. Thanks, Bob! (State St. Bar & Grill at the Crowne Plaza, 10:30 p.m. – 2:30 a.m., Club Pass)

Remember, this list doesn’t even include most of the great free acts at the Jazz Street Stage on Gibbs St. or the East Avenue Stage. These acts include hundreds of area students, playing on the same stage as headliners. It’s a chance for you to get a glimpse of the future of the music. The student acts will be selected by Alan Tirre and Bill Tiberio, two of Rochester’s finest, so you know they’ll be good. There’s so much to see!

And here’s a very important tip: PLAN AHEAD. You’ll see more music and have a better time if you know where you want to be. You don’t have to have every night planned out, but make sure you leave time to stand in line for the things you really want to see. Tickets for the Eastman shows go on sale at Ticketmaster outlets on Friday, April 7. Club Passes are on sale now, too. Remember, it’s all at


Comments closed

Cuong Vu

Trumpeter Cuong Vu is playing at the Bop Shop tonight (27 Feb 06) at 8 p.m. Joining him will be bassist Stomu Takeshi and drummer (and Rochester native) Ted Poor. If you caught the trio at last year’s Rochester International Jazz Festival, you saw something really special. If you missed them in ’05, make sure you see them tonight!

Cuong Vu

I just downloaded the trio’s new record, It’s Mostly Residual, from This is Cuong’s Artist Share site, which is a cool new way of going behind the scenes with your favorite musicians. You can download a copy of the record, complete with cover art, charts, journal entries on the “making of,” and a whole lot more, for $9.95. For higher memebership levels, you get even more behind-the-scenes info. In any case, head over to the site and support this music by buying the record. And I’ll see you tonight at the Bop Shop, 174 N. Goodman St. in Village Gate.

Comments closed

Respect the review!

My good friends in the Respect Sextet have had their CD reviewed on Coincidentally, the reviewer is also a good friend of mine, Jeff Vrabel. You can read more by Jeff at his Web site, and you can learn more about the Respect Sextet by visiting

Comments closed