12 June 2010

RIJF 2010: Day One

I had to get a late start last night and it threw off my whole festival equilibrium. I'm a big venue hopper and like to catch snippets of as much as I can, but for the first day of this year's Rochester International Jazz Fest I found myself missing more than I saw, for better or worse. By the time I figured out what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go it was too late. And due to a prior engagement I'll be missing the whole of day 2, hopefully I'll have my fest-legs ready for day 3. So onto the music.

Started my night well into the Earl Pickens late set at the new Abilene Stage. I like what they've done with the place, though the sound in the tent leaves some to be desired. The crowd chatter in the back was drowning out the music. So I squeezed up closer to get a better listen. I was really looking forward to seeing what these guys are all about having missed their show earlier this year at Abilene. Arriving late I missed their signature and fame-producing takes on U2 and heard mostly their original tunes, save a rousing version of I've Been Everywhere. Earl Pickens was leaning heavily toward country on the bluegrass>country scale, and threw in some cheesy party band elements (apparent in both the music and persona) and needless to say I was a bit disappointed.

Next stop, the Big Tent to drop in on the Sauce Boss. I was skeptical of this act from the name and description and the cooking gumbo on stage. My inclinations were correct, this band wasn't worth more than 10m of my time. Seriously though, if you have an hour set... to play MUSIC, it'd be advisable not to waste so much of those precious minutes hawking your new album/cd-rom cookbook QVC-style (even if it was tongue in cheek) for the low low price of 19.99 (and if you order now you can get a bottle of his sauce, FREE!). Oy. Musically you'd get better blues music nightly at the Dinosaur for free all year long.

Walked over to the Jazz Street stage in time to catch the opening of Hazmat Modine. They are the subject of my new book, So You Named Your Band After A Random B-List Hollywood Actor. They filled up the stage quite roundly with two harmonicas (both filtered through plenty of effects to render them nearly unrecognizable though), trumpet, 2 guitars, drums, and a tuba holding it all down at the bottom. They played a melting-pot variety of music that I knew by leaving after a couple of long tunes was missing the big picture on. Quite engaging and danceable, I liked everything about them except the vocals, but I was yet undecided on those when I decided to join my friends on line (which was quickly filing in) for Mose Allison.

Mose Allison's set started off with a "warming-up" blazing hot improvisation. Just Mose's piano with a bass accompaniment, they were locking into some beautiful jazz grooves. That gave way to the rest of the night filled with New Orleans' boogies, blues, bops, and ballads. A delight to see.

I think I ended up missing most of the best sets on day one, hopefully I'll have better luck the rest of the way. I'll be living vicariously through others for day 2, check it out: Jazz@Rochester, City Newspaper, D&C.

I finished my evening on a high note with Walri's ArtPeace benefit show at Scotland Yard. For a venue that doesn't typically have live music (do they?) it sounded amazing in there. And Walri continues to impress, improving on each repeated listen. They added a second keyboard to the mix and it really helped fill out the sound.

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