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Category: Music

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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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.

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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)

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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”).

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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.

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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.

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Jason at the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival (Part 6)

It’s over.

The 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival has come to an end. And what an end it was.

This year the festival featured two outdoor stages (up from one in previous years), and tonight the streets were jammed with folks checking out the lineup of free music on both stages.

I went with my sister to see the Derek Trucks Band. They tore it up. Had the joint had a roof, they would have blown it off. I knew we were gonna be OK when the band opened up with Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Volunteered Slavery,” featuring Derek Trucks and his wailing slide guitar. They tackled some other jazz classics, too, including Dr. Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” (one of my faves) and John Coltrane’s arrangement of “My Favorite Things.”

What a joy to see people of all ages and races crammed onto East Avenue, dancing and laughing and singing along. I’ve said it before (see my earlier posts on the jazz fest) and I’ll say it again: the city of Rochester needs to grab this festival with both hands.

And there you have it. There’s still great jazz happening in Rochester the rest of the year, but nothing can top the vibe of the festival. I’m already making my plans for ’06. See you there!

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Jason at the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival (Part 5)

The penultimate night of the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival was a mixture of exhilaration and disappointment.

The disappointment came in the form of the Wallace Roney Sextet. Not because the band was bad, but because the sound was horrible. Kilbourn Hall was plagued with sound problems this week, spoiling a number of shows, including Night of the Cookers, Ravi Coltrane, The Bad Plus, and the Roney band. In truth, Kilbourn may not be the best venue for loud, electric groups, but I’ve seen other electric bands there with much better sound. In this case, the same sound tech was working all of those shows, and I think it’s fair to lay the blame at his feet. At one point during the Wallace Roney show, the pianist actually turned around on his bench to yell at the sound tech. That’s when things have gone way too far.

That said, the band was hip. Trumpet, sax, piano/keyboards, bass, drums, and turntable. I’d love to hear them in a better sonic environment. Or on their new album, Prototype. I’m sure Erik Telford will have some good insight into this show over on Miles Radio.

The real revelation of the night — and of the festival — was singer and guitarist Raul Midon. He’s been mentioned in the same breath as Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. That kind of hype usually spells disappointment, but Midon is more than up to the challenge. Jen and I saw him at Milestones last night, and we were absolutely blown away. If you get a chance to see this guy, don’t miss it. In fact, you can catch him on The Late Show with David Letterman on Tuesday, June 28. Stay up late and watch one of the best emerging talents you’ll see this year.

Earlier this week, I told you about the death of guitarist Mark Manetta. Sadly, yesterday was also the day of the memorial for bassist Bob Stata, who died after a long illness. Bob was a true gentleman, and one hell of a bass player. He also believed in working with kids and in giving back to his community. He will be missed. A tribute is planned for later this year. Stay tuned.

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Jason at the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival (Part 4)

Once again, it’s that bittersweet time of year when the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival is winding down. Most of the bands have played. Most of the jams have happened. And while there are still some outstanding shows on the way, your thoughts can’t help but turn to the realization that in three days most of Rochester will forget about jazz for 51 weeks.

I worked the door at the Montage Grille again last night. The Moutin Reunion Quartet blazed away inside, one of the hottest acts of the festival. People left raving about the band after the first set, and the word quickly spread, with people coming in as much as two hours before the second set to make sure they got a seat. I heard that the band will be back in Rochester in the fall — don’t miss them. They’ve also got a new record coming out in August, the follow-up to their excellent album Red Moon.

I spent a lot of time last night chatting with some of my favorite jazz people in town. In addition to Erik Telford (whose Miles Radio blog is worth your time), I talked with Gerry Youngman and Jared Schonig of Paradigm Shift. If you’ve never checked them out, do yourself a favor and catch them. You can find out more about the band here, and you can read a review I wrote of their album Shifting Times. If you’ve read the program for the Rochester International Jazz Festival, then you’ve already read most of the review, because it was copied — without attribution — in the program. What’s that Tom Lehrer tune?

UPDATE: Turns out the program notes are provided by the artists, so the festival is not at fault. And of course the Paradigm Shift guys are friends of mine, and I’m sure they meant no harm. But it is important to remember that published work should be credited.

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Jason at the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival (Part 3)

If you’re a jazz fan, you have to feel like a kid in a candy store during the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival. Great names in jazz and world music from several continents. The streets are filled with people. Rochester seems like the center of the jazz world. More about that in a minute.

I got reassigned last night to the Montage Grille, rather than Kilbourn Hall. That was fine with me — although it meant that I missed the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, founded by one of my faves, Kahil El Zabar. Instead, though, I got to see two sets by one of the biggest draws of the festival: the Lew Tabackin Trio. Lew played two sets of mainstream jazz, led by his tenor and flute and featuring Boris Koslov on bass and Mark Taylor on drums. The crowd ate it up like it was the last show they’d ever see. Completely sold-out houses for both sets.

I also took in the first half of the movie Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue. This film focuses on Miles’ 1970 performance at the Isle of Wight festival. The first half of the documentary features interviews with the musicians who played with Miles in that era — Dave Liebman, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Pete Cosey, Airto Moreira, Dave Holland, and many more — and others who were inspired by him, the most interesting of whom was Carlos Santana. The film also features the usual cast of characters — led by Stanley Crouch — taking potshots at electric Miles. I had to leave before the concert footage came on, but the film is out on DVD, so I’ll get a chance to check it out. It was very capably introduced by my friend Erik Telford, the host of Miles Radio on Jazz90.1.

Now back to the impact the festival is having on the city of Rochester.

I’m not privy to too many insider stories, but from where I sit, I think the city is really missing the boat when it comes to this festival. Let’s face it, folks: Rochester’s manufacturing days are over. Say it with me one more time: Rochester’s manufacturing days are over. If this town has any chance of regaining a slice of its former glory, it needs to turn to other sources of attracting people and revenue. Forget High Falls, where no one lives and no one could live, and focus on things like the Rochester International Jazz Festival.

As an example, just look at Montreal. In 2004, the Montreal International Jazz Festival drew 1.9 million people. That’s right, nearly 2 million jazz fans went to Montreal from all over the world, injecting millions upon millions of dollars into that city’s economy. “Sure,” you may be saying, “but that’s a big city.” Folks, don’t kid yourselves. The Rochester International Jazz Festival is one of the top 10 festivals in the U.S. already, in just its fourth year. Can you even imagine the impact on our city from Montreal-level tourism? If even 10% as many people each spent $100 here, that’s $19 million into Rochester’s coffers. (By the way — Monroe County is $19.5 million in the hole. I’m just sayin’.) And that’s completely achievable — but only if the city takes a much more active role in subsidizing the festival, advertising the festival, and integrating the festival into Rochester’s core image.

Yes, it will cost some money. Yes, it will take some vision and initiative. But it’s worth it. Rochester could be one of the centers of the jazz world. And that will benefit all of us. Let’s make it happen.

UPDATE: For more festival reviews and commentary, check out Erik Telford’s excllent Miles Radio site.

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Jason at the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival (Part 2)

Last night was another fun night at the 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival. I volunteered at Kilbourn Hall, part of the Eastman School of Music. Kora player Mamadou Diabate and balafon player Balla Kouyate performed two sets of enchanting music. You may know Mamadou from his work with Ben Allison — he appeared on the album Peace Pipe with Ben in 2002.

My highly skilled job at the show was to count the people with a little clicker as they walked in. Just to make me even more superfluous (zing!), there was an Eastman student standing two feet away doing the exact same job. Huzzah!

Later in the evening, I saw Chick Corea with his new band, Touchstone. If I only see Chick once in my life, I’m glad it was last night. This band hearkens back to Chick’s albums like My Spanish Heart, Touchstone, and Friends, some of my favorite Chick recordings. The band was phenomenal.

Many good friends were in attendance throughout the night, too, which was great. It’s so much fun to see all these folks again, renewing some old connections and catching up with good people.

Tonight, I’m working at Kilbourn Hall again for two sets by the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. I also plan to take in a new movie about Miles Davis’s 1970 performance at the Isle of Wight festival. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

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