June 14, 2008

Something to Blog About - RIJF 2008 Has Begun

It's not that I've been lazy about posting; it's that I haven't felt that inspired to post. Until now. The Rochester International Jazz Festival kicked off its seventh run last night and I met up with the usual suspects, Ken, Seth (with wife Christine sporting her first club pass) and Greg to see it off to a good start.

After tooling around last year as a club pass member, I knew that there was no other way to do the Jazz Fest. I was left however, with a bit of anxiety up until the last minute as to whether this was actually going to happen. A friend at work had promised me some time ago that he could hook me up with a complimentary pass through a connection in the local music biz. As the time drew closer though, he had not yet confirmed a pass for me despite my numerous efforts to ascertain this status and my willingness to go out and purchase my own pass. He insisted I had nothing to worry about yet worry I did until about noon, yesterday when I was finally given my very own ticket.

The Harro East was our first stop of the Fest and it did not disappoint. This was my first time in this venue, and I was rather taken with it. The acoustics were quite good and the air-conditioning provided a nice respite from the heavy humidity that hung about outside. Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet put forth a worthy tribute to its namesake, whetting our appetites for more jazz. It was the perfect starter course.

We popped into the tent for a few minutes for some good ol' acoustic blues reminiscent of Muddy Waters, courtesy of the Rowdy Blues then made our way to the Lutheran Church, where the Nordic Jazz Now series returned after last year's acclaim. The Five Corners Quintet was one of my favorite gigs from last year and that was certainly one of the reasons I wanted to hear the band's saxophonist with his own ensemble, the Timo Lassy Band. This was my favorite set of the night. Like The Five Corners Quintet, the band was spot-on and clearly enjoying themselves. Their exuberance was contagious and I don't think there was a member in the audience who wasn't swept away by their their Afro-Latin flavor.

Not letting the intermittent rain dampen our spirits, we waited briefly in line at the Big Tent to get in to see the funk band Spam All Stars. The pieces had a catchy beat and there were few in the crowd not bopping to the Latin/Hip Hop groove. This is a band I need to play at my next party, served in conjunction with drinks with tiny umbrellas.

With the rain coming down harder, we sped quickly over to the Montage to hear Rachel Z's interpretation of pieces ranging from Neil Young to Depeche Mode to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I don't know if it was sitting in the back corner away from the speakers or what, but the sound quality at the Montage seemed much better than it was last year. The arrangements for the trio consisting of piano, string bass and drums were intricate and engaging -- the perfect recipe for a pleasurable experience.

Like my fellow fest-goers, I opted to go home and save the after-hours jam sessions for another night.

On the agenda for tonight are The Bad Plus, Robin McKelle and the Ola Kvernberg Trio. In the meantime, I'm off to run some errands.

No comments: