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Category: Rochester

Scooter trip: PA to Rochester and the Finger Lakes

01 Last week I took my longest scooter ride so far: 500 miles from State College, PA, to Rochester, NY, and then on to Canandaigua, a small town in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. I took this ride to have lunch with some friends. Admittedly, this is a crazy way to have lunch.

The real question, of course, was how Zaphod, my Aprilia Scarabeo 150, would perform at highway speeds for an extended period of time. The answer? Like a total champ. Sure, I got passed a lot, but not like I was going backwards. Just like I was going a bit more slowly than everybody else. And I had way more fun than all those cars.

I left around 7 a.m. on Thursday. It was cold, just on the edge of too cold for my First Gear jacket. I have a mesh jacket with a rain liner, and I had a long-sleeved t-shirt under it. I did a little bit of shivering, but I’ve always been very susceptible to cold.

I took smaller roads as far as Williamsport: 45 to 192 to 445 (past Krislund, where my friend Stacy Tibbets was a camp counselor), then on to 880. It was a gorgeous ride, particularly in the mountains around Krislund, where water flowed down the rocks and across the road. The fog was often thick and visibility was low in spots, although the sun did its best to break through.

From Williamsport on I switched to the highway. My first stop for gas was at Cowden’s Market near Hepburnville, PA. It’s a nice little market with everything a traveler needs, including live bait. I ate a bit of my sandwich and took a few photos.

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After about 4 hours on the road, I made it to 86W, where there were signs regarding two kinds of rattlesnakes. I have a family connection to the latter kind, as my great-great-etc uncle John Flanders fought in Sullivan’s army. I addressed this in my poem “I Am Not An Indian.”.

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I was a little worried about being on the highways until I actually got on them, and then the worry evaporated. I’ve always been a ride-in-traffic kind of bicyclist, and that same feeling came back quickly on the scooter, even at high speeds (by which I mean 65 or 70). The engine’s temp gauge was great the whole way, and as the sun came out and the morning turned to noontime, it warmed up, too.

Finally, 6 hours after leaving my apartment, I made it to Rochester, about 40 minutes late for lunch.

However, I’d been updating Facebook the whole way (shocking!) and so my friends has just ordered when I arrived. Here they are:

L to R: Rome Celli, me, Chuck Ingersoll, Otto Bruno, Bob DeRosa.
L to R: Rome Celli, me, Chuck Ingersoll, Otto Bruno, Bob DeRosa.

These are four great human beings.

I worked with Rome in the Green Party, and he then became my campaign manager when I ran for city council in 2003. He also gave me one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received, modeled after something his own dad had received when he ran for office (more successfully than I did).

I met Chuck at Jazz90.1, where I was station manager and he was a DJ. Chuck has one of the greatest radio voices I’ve ever heard, and he’s a quality guy from top to bottom. And he knows his soul jazz. Chuck was also the host of many a fine Tunes Night, where he and Bob DeRosa and I would get together and play music for one another.

Otto is one of my best friends, and my brother from another mother. I also met him at Jazz 90.1, where Otto hosts the Sunday Music Festa. I wrote a poem about Otto for my first book, and he’s been a regular presence in my life for more than 10 years now. Just one of the best people.

Bobby D was part of the aforementioned Tunes Nights, but I think we actually met in connection with his Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camp, where adults get to work with jazz professionals in a very relaxed environment. Bob plays bass and makes music happen.

We had a fun lunch — lots of laughing, great Golden Port dim sum, and the kind of atmosphere that only comes from not having to explain everything.

After lunch I rode down Route 96 toward my parents’ new home. I grew up in Canandaigua, but my parents moved from there to Manhattan and then Cape Cod, only recently relocating to Cheshire, a little hamlet outside of Canandaigua. I hadn’t been to their new home yet, and we’d only recently been back in touch, so I was excited to surprise them.

On the way there, I stopped at the house where I grew up, on Knapp Road in, technically, Bristol. Knapp Road is one of the dividing lines between Bristol and Canandaigua. Our side of the road was Bristol, but our mailing address was Canandaigua, and I went to school in Canandaigua. Here’s the house, although it looks quite different with its dark stain:

And then I arrived in Cheshire, where I hung out with my parents and my sister:

13My mom asked if I wanted to stay the night. It’s time to come clean: I’d packed my toiletries in case she asked. Thanks, Mom! We had a long conversation on the front porch, then a lovely dinner, and then we rode into downtown Cheshire [pause for laughter] to get ice cream. Mom joined me on the scooter. She and my dad are both motorcyclists, although they got rid of their bikes not too long ago. I think they should get bikes again.

I meditated and went to bed early so I could get up and be on the road by 7 the next morning. Which I was, after eating a nice breakfast made by my mom.

I did the entire ride back on highways, because I had to get to work. I’m the boss, but I still wanted to get there close to my normal start time. Well, the first bit wasn’t on a highway — it was on Route 21, which winds down the end of Canandaigua Lake to Naples and beyond.

It was very cold again, but the day warmed up nicely as I went along, and I made it back in 4.5 hours, which is about an hour slower than the same trip in a car. Not bad at all. The success of this ride means I’ll be taking even more of them, of course. Stay tuned.


New episodes of The Jazz Session: Fly and Barbara Dennerlein


Jason Crane interviews the members of the trio Fly: bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Jeff Ballard and saxophonist Mark Turner. Fly is very much a collective effort — the group operates with a leaderless philosophy in which everyone contributes equally. As a result, the trio has come up with some fresh and exciting sounds as they try new combinations and new ways to balance their respective instruments. All three musicians are very much in demand as sidemen, too. A full transcript of this interview is available at



Jason Crane interviews organist Barbara Dennerlein about her pipe organ recording Spiritual Movement No. 2 (Bebab Records, 2008). The album was recorded at one of Germany’s most famous churches in front of a very appreciative audience. In this interview, recorded before a concert in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Dennerlein discusses jazz on the pipe organ; why organists should use their feet; and how she adapts to the challenge of seldom having her own instrument on stage.


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The Jazz Session is back!


THE JAZZ SESSION #52: MARILYN CRISPELL. Jason Crane interviews pianist Marilyn Crispell about her album of solo piano pieces, Vignettes (ECM, 2008). Crispell made an early name for herself with Anthony Braxton, and she’s since amassed an impressive list of recordings that include composed and freely improvised pieces. In this interview, Crispell talks about the nature of improvisation, the particular challenges of solo playing, and the joys of Woodstock, NY.

Listen to the show at

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The Rochester Dissident

I’ve mentioned my colleague Jack Bradigan Spula before. He writes the wonderful blog The Rochester Dissident.

I think the thing I like most about Jack is that he sees an entirely different side our of city from what most people see. Jack rides his bike everywhere, and his years on two wheels have caused his eye for detail to strengthen. Reading Jack’s blog is always revealing. He forces me to think about the world around me in ways that I often forget in my daily life.

For example, check out today’s post on a new college development project.

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Immigrant Rights Day speech

On May 1, I had the pleasure of speaking at Immigrant Rights Day rally in Rochester. If you’re interested, here’s what I had to say:

Buenos tardes. Mi nombre es Jason Crane. Soy un organizador para al sindicato UNITE HERE. UNITE HERE representa a trabajadores en las industrias siguientes: tejidos, lavanderías industriales, hoteles, casinos, servicio de alimento, aeropuertos y restaurantes. Mi sindicato cree que ninguna persona es ilegal. Cada trabajador tiene derechos legales, derechos civiles, y derechos de trabajo. Por favor perdóneme, pero el resto de este discurso es en inglés.

Good afternoon. My name is Jason Crane. I’m an organizer with UNITE HERE. UNITE HERE represents workers in textiles, industrial laundries, hotels, casinos, food service, airports and restaurants. My union believes that no person is illegal. We believe that all workers have legal rights, civil rights, and labor rights.

UNITE HERE supports the broadest possible legalization program for the 11-12 million currently undocumented workers. They’re here, they’re working, they’re contributing to our country. They should become legal permanent residents and then be able to earn their way to citizenship.

UNITE HERE does not support Bush’s guest worker program. However, we recognize that there’s going to be a future flow of immigrant workers. That’s why we support an immigrant worker visa with the following features:

  • The visa must allow an immigrant worker to petition on his or her own for permanent residence.
  • The new worker can’t be tied to an employer — there must be job portability. If you come to this country and go to work for a boss who treats you badly, you should be able to leave and go to work for somebody better.
  • Immigrant workers must have the same legal, labor and civil rights protections that domestic workers have. They’re American workers, not second-class workers.

UNITE HERE supports family reunification. The government backlog is so huge right now that many workers with legal residence have to wait 10-15 years or longer for their spouses and children to get family visas. We want that backlog cleared up so that these families can be reunited.

Right next to this building is the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the workers have been fighting for almost a year to get management to respect their right to choose whether or not they form a union. Many of these workers are immigrants from places like the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Vietnam. They came here to find a better life for themselves and their families. At the Crowne Plaza, many of these workers make poverty-level wages, and many can’t afford health care. Is this the promise of America?

UNITE HERE thinks we can do better. We’re committed to helping workers in our industries create power for themselves so they can have respect on the job, so they can take care of their families, and so that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are more than pretty words.

Most people have forgotten why May 1 is an important day in the lives of workers. On May 1, 1886, close to 300,000 workers nationwide, including more than 40,000 in Chicago, took part in demonstrations for the eight-hour day. On May 4, workers rallied at Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest police brutality against striking workers on the South Side. As the last speaker finished his remarks, police marched in and demanded an end to the gathering. Then an unknown assailant threw a bomb into the crowd, killing and wounding several police officers and workers. Police arrested eight anarchists on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. All eight were found guilty and four were executed: Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel. The latter three were German immigrants.

The trial is often referred to by scholars as one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in United States history. Most people now believe that Pinkerton agents provoked the incident. In HYPERLINK “” \o “1893” 1893, Illinois Governor HYPERLINK “” \o “John Peter Altgeld” John Peter Altgeld concluded that all eight defendants were innocent and signed pardons for those still alive.

As we stand here on State Street in front of the seat of government and next to the site of ongoing labor struggle, let’s remember the millions of immigrants who built this country. My union, UNITE HERE, pledges to fight for the rights of those who are here now and those yet to come. Thank you.

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BOA Editions Getting A New Home

BOA Editions

BOA Editions, one of the brightest spots in Rochester’s cultural life, is moving to new digs. This is from this morning’s Democrat & Chronicle newspaper:

BOA Editions moving to North Goodman Street

Local publishing company BOA Editions will be moving to the Neighborhood of the Arts.

It is moving from 260 East Ave. to the Anderson Alley building, 250 N. Goodman St. The new address will be effective April 30.

Poet and editor Peter Conners from BOA Editions was a guest on The Jason Crane Show last year. You can check out that episode for an interview with Peter and poetry from a number of great poets.

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NewsTalk 950 in Rochester strengthens its lineup

NewsTalk 950 WROC, former home of the original The Jason Crane Show, is Rochester’s progressive talk station. With the departure of Al Franken from Air America yesterday, WROC took the opportunity to revamp its lineup. The new version is much, much stronger. Here it is:

  • 12 a.m. — Politically Direct (hosted by David Bender, sponsored by People for the American Way)
  • 1 a.m. — Joey Reynolds (old-school variety talk show from WOR in NYC)
  • 6 a.m. — The Bill Press Show
  • 9 a.m. — Stephanie Miller
  • 12 p.m. — Ed Schultz (live instead of taped, as it had been until now)
  • 3 p.m. — Randi Rhodes (also live now instead of taped)
  • 6 p.m. — News 8 (audio of local TV newscast)
  • 6:30 p.m. — Rachel Maddow (for my money, the brightest light to come out of the whole Air America adventure)
  • 8 p.m. — Democracy Now! (finally, a local station dares to air this daily progressive news program from Pacifica)
  • 9 p.m. — Lionel (in my opinion, this show is the low point of the schedule, but you can’t have it all…)
  • 11 p.m. — News 8 (audio of local TV newscast)
  • 11:30 p.m. — Lionel (again)

I’ve got to say that I’m really impressed with this new lineup. Sounds like the program director has a vision for what to do with this station. Kudos!

The full schedule and links to the shows are at the NewsTalk 950 Web site.

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Bob Sneider, Joe Locke in Vanity Fair

This arrived this morning from guitarist Bob Sneider, who is based here in Rochester:

I do not usually promote someone else’s website. However, this is pretty cool. Just launched this AM on

Annie Leibovitz’s Film Noir photo montage of Hollywood’s A-list features the music of the Bob Sneider/Joe Locke Film Noir Project. John Sneider’s “Black Dahlia” is set to the multi-media slide show (featuring Paul Hofmann, Joe Locke, Grant Stewart, Bob and John Sneider, Martin Wind, Tim Horner and Luisito Quintero). This track is on an upcoming release titled Nocturne For Ava Gardner (release date not set).

The behind-the-scenes video of the Leibowitz photo shoot has “Rumblin'” (Bob Sneider) throughout. This is performed by John Sneider (trumpet), Bob Sneider(guitar) and the late great Bob Stata(bass).

Stay warm,


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More coverage of the PAETEC Jazz Festival

Music writer Jeff Spevak of Rochester’s daily newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle, weighs in on the new PAETEC jazz fest in Baltimore:

Jazz fest expands to bigger market
Owners of Rochester event plan a similar gig in Baltimore

Jeff Spevak
Staff music critic

The powerful chords struck by the Rochester International Jazz Festival in its first five years have reached Baltimore.

John Nugent and Marc Iacona, co-owners of the Rochester event, are co-producing a similar festival at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Attendance soared to an estimated 80,000 jazz fans last year at the critically acclaimed Rochester event, which will be the model for the new PAETEC Jazz Festival — named for the Perinton telecommunications company, the primary sponsor of the Aug. 9-11 Baltimore event.

“He likes what he’s seen and what’s been developed in the Rochester event,” Nugent said of Arunas A. Chesonis, the chairman and CEO of PAETEC who is a Baltimore native.

And it may not stop there: “We went to a bunch of different cities, most that we didn’t have any name recognition in PAETEC,” Chesonis said. “Our biggest issue is just to get people to recognize who we are. We found a city eager to embrace us, in a large market. If we can’t get that place rocking as the first pilot program, we have no business trying to get it going anywhere else, which is our intention.”

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor includes a 4,400-seat open-air shed. But much of the event will probably have the same feel as Rochester, with extensive use of music clubs and free outdoor concerts.

The Inner Harbor is operated by another company with local ties, the Baltimore-based management company Cordish Co. Earlier this week, Cordish said that it had agreed with Rochester officials to terminate its contract to run the High Falls Entertainment District. Mayor Robert Duffy confirmed Tuesday that the city and Cordish are parting ways in High Falls.

PAETEC was a small sponsor of previous years of the Rochester festival, and it was the rapid ascent of the event in the jazz world that convinced Chesonis to jump on board with Nugent and Iacona. There are no plans to increase sponsorship locally.

“They’re both good businessmen, very successful not just in Rochester but in a number of other events. They built Rochester from a small festival to a nine-day extravaganza. And Rochester is a wonderful town, but it’s a small market. There are a lot of markets out there with much greater potential.”

Big money at stake

At Wednesday’s news conference in Baltimore, promoters of the new jazz festival noted that last year’s Rochester International Jazz Festival generated $10 million locally.

“If we don’t make a $10 million impact in three days in Baltimore, we’d be very disappointed,” Nugent said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “But we’re looking to bring $20 million to the city.”

Iacona, president of Simcona Electronics, is also an investor in PAETEC and first began working out the details of the jazz partnership with the company five months ago.

No performers’ names were offered at Wednesday morning’s news conference in Baltimore’s City Hall. That is expected to happen in May.

Now in its sixth year, the June 8-16 Rochester International Jazz Festival will announce in April its lineup for the nine-day event, the bulk of which takes place in the East End Entertainment District.

Since 2000, Nugent has also produced the Stockholm Jazz Festival, whose 24th season is July 17-21. It drew 50,000 fans last year.

“We’ll have some big plans to announce for Rochester,” he said by phone from Baltimore on Wednesday. Those plans are expected to include expanding the festival beyond the East End District.

“Marc and I hopefully will be doing some good stuff around the country as well,” Nugent said.

Nugent, who has lived most recently in Toronto but holds dual citizenship, is also reinforcing his personal commitment to Rochester. He’s buying a house in Brighton and is expecting to close the deal on Friday.

“I’m excited to be in town and hopefully contribute to the local arts scene,” he said.

The original story is here.

Again, I couldn’t be happier at the success of the Rochester International Jazz Festival, or at its migration to Baltimore. I have family in the Baltimore area, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time at Inner Harbor. It’ll be a great site for a jazz festival.

I also think John Nugent’s decision to move here to Rochester is a strong sign of his committment to this town and to the RIJF.

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Supporting Rochester’s Jazz Festival

The Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester’s daily paper, weighed in this week in support of using the arts as a growth engine for Rochester:

A mix of activities: Jazz Festival’s growth should inspire Music Fest surge

(January 30, 2007) — As part of a larger plan to create a dynamic city, Rochester officials must provide entertainment on a large scale.

So news that the city is headed in that direction with the annual Rochester International Jazz Festival is encouraging.

With just $35,000 last year, the event managed to attract 80,000 people. Imagine what could be done with the $250,000 the city has asked for.

The idea is to expand the festival beyond the East End and hold events in other areas of the city such as High Falls and Corn Hill, creating a more appealing event.

This would be money well- spent. But the focus on the jazz festival creates a question. What about Music Fest?

The event was a product of the Johnson administration, and has primarily highlighted R&B and hip-hop acts. The event has seen some changes over the years — a reduction in the number of days it is held and a change of venue last year to Frontier Field. Charles Reaves, commissioner of recreation and youth services, said keeping the Music Fest going for years to come remains a priority of the city.

He said sponsorship for the event hasn’t grown to the level the city would like to see, but an audience is there.

Broadening the Music Fest to include other genres of music could be a smart way of appealing to more people and keeping the event fresh, though Reaves said variety can be achieved within the R&B and hip-hop genres by offering a mix of new, old and local acts.

He said it’s striking the right mix, as the jazz festival has done, will help to build the Music Fest’s appeal.

Officials will meet soon to determine the details of this year’s event, and the City Council will vote on whether to approve additional funding for the jazz festival. Nurturing both events should be on the top of the city’s to-do list.

That’s a song I’ve been singing for years. You’ll find that opinion and a lot more about the Rochester International Jazz Festival by looking through the RIJF category here at

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Otto’s back

My good friend Otto Bruno is back in two media: He’s (finally!) got a new entry on his blog, From Where I Sit, and he’s also on the radio tomorrow (New Year’s Eve) with his wonderful show the Sunday Music Festa. Tomorrow’s show features an interview with vocal legend Julius La Rosa. Don’t miss it. Tune in to Jazz90.1 in the Rochester area, or visit to listen live via the Internet.

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The White Hots have a new CD

White Hots

The White Hots are Rochester’s premier “chamber blues” band. If you’re in the area on December 11, this is one event not to miss:

The White Hots announce the release of Caught in the Act, our first CD with vocalist Tina Albright!

Come to our CD release party on Monday, December 11 from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Little Theatre Café, 240 East Avenue.

All three of our CDs are also available at any of our gigs (we are at the Little Theater the first three Mondays in December) or via

Caught in the Act is dedicated to Dennis Monroe, the amazing musical talent who was our friend and fellow Hot. Dennis passed away earlier this year.

We look forward to seeing you!

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