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Category: Music

Hilton Ruiz, R.I.P.

PIANIST HILTON RUIZ DEAD AT 54
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY
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.

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Billy Preston, R.I.P.

Billy’s passing
BY ROGER FRIEDMAN
6-6-2006

‘FIFTH BEATLE’ BILLY PRESTON DEAD AT AGE 59

The great singer-songwriter and performer Billy Preston, the real “Fifth Beatle” has died after a long illness as a result of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. As a result of a medical insult he’d been in a deep coma since last November 21st, but was still struggling to recover. He died at Shea Scottsdale Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona where he’d lived for the last couple of years.

Billy was called the Fifth Beatle because he played keyboards on Let it Be, The White Album and Abbey Road. He also played on the Rolling Stones’s hit song Miss You, and often played with Eric Clapton. He also did the organ work on Sly & the Family Stone’s greatest hits. Preston’s own hits included “Nothing from Nothing,” “Will it Go Round in Circles,” and “You Are So Beautiful,” which Joe Cocker turned into an international hit.

Preston was actually mentored by Ray Charles, and acts like Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, and James Cleveland had a huge impact on him at a young age. In the early 60s, Billy went to Europe with Little Richard who playing in Hamburg. The Beatles were the opening act and as the story goes he was the one who made sure they got fed.

His friendship with them lasted through the 1960s and he was the first act signed to Apple Records thanks to George Harrison. The resulting album is called “That’s the Way God Planned It.” In 1971, Preston played in “The Concert for Bangla Desh.” Last year, in one of his final appearances, he performed at a renuion in Los Angeles for the release of the Bangla Desh DVD with Ringo and Harrison’s son Dhani on guitar.

More recently, Billy can be heard on the latest albums by Neil Diamond and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s also featured on the Starbucks soul album “Believe to My Soul” featuring Mavis Staples and Ann Peebles.

I had the good fortune to know Billy the last few years, and saw him perform–as chronicled in this column–last August at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and last October at the Atlantis in the Bahamas. He was one of those spectacular performers who put everything into his show even though he had no working kidneys by then and was receiving dialysis. He was a warm, wonderful human being with a mile wide smile. He was also a genius musician, the likes of whom we will not see again.

Rest in peace, Billy. You deserve it.

From BillyPreston.net.

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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 ussoccer.com.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 woodclifflodge.com.

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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Sea Symphony

Tonight I went with a friend to see a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ wonderful Symphony No. 1: A Sea Symphony. It was performed by the Eastman-Rochester Chorus, the Eastman Chorale, and the Eastman Philharmonia. I went to see it because the text of the symphony is by Walt Whitman. I’d never heard the piece, but as soon as I got home, I picked up a copy. If you’d like to get one, here are two links:

Amazon.com
Sea Symphony

iTunes
Sea Symphony

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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.

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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 RochesterJazz.com, 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 RochesterJazz.com.

Enjoy!

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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 cuongvu.com. 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.

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Respect the review!

My good friends in the Respect Sextet have had their CD reviewed on popmatters.com. 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 respectsextet.com.

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More talent than I

Zuza 1

My friend Zuzanna Szewczyk gave her Master’s Degree recital today at the Eastman School of Music. She played Calendar Collections by Judith Lang Zaimont; Sonata In C Major, KV 330 by Mozart; Scherzo No.2 in B-flat Minor by Chopin; and nine of Chopin’s Etudes.

Zuza 2

This concert highlighted several important facts, including: (1) This music is hard to play; (2) Zuza has a lot more talent than I do; and (3) I would’ve lasted about 7.3 seconds at the Eastman School of Music.

She did a great job, and will soon be continuing on to get her doctoral degree. Huzzah!

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Back in the day

I went to Tapas with a friend tonight. Tapas is a bar/lounge in downtown Rochester that features salsa music. Tonight, the band Tumbao was playing. Man, did that take me back.

If you’ve only known me since I moved to Rochester, you may find it hard to believe that I used to play salsa and latin jazz for a living. That’s right. The pasty, overweight, reasonably lame guy that y’all have come to know and/or love was, at one time, a pasty, much thinner, slightly hipper cat who played saxophone and percussion in the dance clubs of the Southwest. As a matter of fact, Jen and I met in a latin dance place. Wacky, huh?

Being down in the basement lounge at Tapas with the music blaring and the dance floor filled was like stepping into La Machine De Wayback. If you’ve never had a roomfull of people grooving to your music, you’ve really missed out. And there’s nothing like that moment when the band is completely locked in clave and the whole joint is heaving back and forth in one fluid motion.

I gave up playing when I moved here, and I thought I had come to terms with that. But tonight made me remember what I really loved about the music, and it made me miss it. Maybe I’ll give Tony Padilla a call and see if they can use a just-past-his-prime sax player.

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Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield is a genius. There, I said it. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Go right now and pick up a copy of his solo debut Curtis (1970). If you’re an iTunes user, here’s the link to the album.

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