June 19, 2008

Jazz Fest Is Hard Work. RIJF Days 5 & 6

Phew. On the one hand, I think to myself, "It's over." And on the other hand, I think to myself, "It's over?" Jazz Fest is hard work, I tell ya. Popping from one set to the next, listening to great music, indulging in greasy street fair food, slurping on frozen custard cones and carrying on at the after hours sessions. I mean sheesh! A gal can get tired, for crying out loud!

So ends another Jazz Fest, and another good one at that. I didn't hit too many of the after hours sessions, but last night was one of them, as we closed the night out and I came stumbling home around 3 in the morning.

Caught up on my sleep today, gleefully hitting the sack last night without turning on the alarm clock. Though I didn't stay out late every night, the hustle and bustle sure catches up to one so I took advantage of this day of rest, and slept until my body could take it no more.

I ran out of time during the week to keep up on my posts, so here's a partial rundown of the latter half of the week:

Day 5 - Double Dosage

A college friend of mine was in to The Yellowjackets. I remembered that I liked some of their stuff so decided to check them out at the Harro East to start my evening. I've decided that smooth jazz isn't really my thing, but that being said, the band is quite good. The musicality was excellent and you can tell these guys have been playing together for awhile. Not a bad way to start the day.

After the show I met up with Seth and some others to catch the tail end of the Bill Tiberio Band. Greg joined us shortly thereafter and we set up shop for the Henderson-Owens Trio with Dr. Lonnie Smith. Being relatively new to this whole jazz thing, I had no idea who this guy was. I learned however that he is a fellow Buffalonian and Akiko's teacher.

Oh, and he's Phenomenal.

He was on fire and if I had thought Akiko could play the organ, well then I don't know what the Doc was doing with it. At one point he was even blasting away at the keys with his nose. He was flying all over the organ filling the Tent with funk and groove in Pentecostal fashion. Check out Seth's blog for some great pics of the fabulous flying fingers.

Staying for the second set was a no brainer. The later show was mellower and more soulful but no less rich than the first. During the earlier set, we sat off to the side and had an unobstructed view of the completely synchronized chemistry between him and drummer Ulysses Owens. It was hard to tell who was having more fun -- Smith or Owens.

We moved to a front table for the second set to catch a different view. From there, I fell in love with guitarist Mel Henderson, who seemed to be having the laugh of his life. Every look had some gleeful mischief and it was as if he and Smith were sharing an inside joke. His guitarin' warn't too shoddy neither. I was thrilled to learn he's local and can't wait to catch more of his stuff.

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Day 6 - Who Needs Sleep?

After Day 1, I thumbed through the handy dandy Jazz Fest guide to try and decide which artists I wanted to see the rest of the week. I was intrigued by the write up on Jake Shimabikuro, and no less intrigued after I viewed the YouTube video that apparently was the catalyst to his current fame. So he went on my list of must-sees. My initial interest was even more piqued when we heard Tuesday night that he was possibly the sleeper artist of the festival. Apparently both Montage shows were packed and people were turned away. Lucky for me, I was able to sneak away from work early and got myself into the line by 4:20 for the 6:30 show. Even still, I was just shy of a seat in the smallish venue. I did however get the next best thing -- an unobstructed view (very unusual given my lack of height) of the guy who makes the four-stringed ukelele sound much more than that and is well-deserving of the comparison I overheard one festival goer make that he is the Jimi Hendrix of the ukelele.


From there I wandered over to the Lutheran Church to see the Iro Haarla Quintet. I'd have to say that this was the set that disappointed me the most. I went to see this act because the guidebook said she was a pianist and harpist. There was no harp. There was also no audience which guilted me into staying for the whole thing. It was probably this latter fact that threw the band out of sync -- they seemed nervous and out of touch with each other. I felt bad for this band and hope they can iron out whatever kinks they need to to get it together. I also hope that if I ever hear them again, there's a harp.

Despite the letdown at the Church, I got myself over to State Street for the after-hours sessions, after hearing from a reliable source who had heard from his reliable source that it was likely going to be a good night. There were after all, some heavy hitters in playing with the Rochester Philharmonic at the Eastman Theatre. Word was that some might show up and jam with Bob Sneider and company. The word proved true and I discovered among others, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, whose charismatic talent wowed me and saddened me a bit that I hadn't thought to see the Eastman show. Also with him at the session were saxophonist Eric Alexander, drummer Kenny Washington, and guitarist Peter Bernstein, whose energized performances set the bar high for the night.

We were not to be disappointed.

Jake made his second after-hours appearance (rumor had it he was there the night before) and we had the pleasure of seeing him strum-down with Bob Sneider:

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Following Jake was a wonderful saxophonist who I learned to be Stanley Wilson. The night rounded out with a number of young local musicians taking turns at the stage including Mike Cottone, who gets better and better each year.

I stayed for the entire session, thinking that if I didn't make it to another jam session for the whole festival, it wouldn't matter. Of course, I did make it for one more night as I noted above, but I'll save that as well as my thoughts on the last days for another post.

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