6th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 3

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Rochester International Jazz Festival 2007—6th Edition
Rochester, New York
June 8-16 (Part 3)

Hilario Duran Trio
Max Of Eastman Place
June 13, 2007
Hilario Duran: piano; Roberto Occhipinti: bass; Mark Kelso: drums

There was a strong Latin presence at this festival with several local bands playing the free stage. Cuban pianist (by way of Canada) Hilario Duran is one of most accomplished in this music. Not as well-known as Gonzala Rubalcaba or Omar Sosa (who also played the festival this year), Duran is one of the finest pianists combining a Latin rhythmic sense with a solid jazz grounding. He first played Rochester back in the mid-90s as a member of Jane Bunnett's Spirits of Havana band, in which he stood out among the battery of 10 strong musicians. Since then he's gone his own way and put out a fine series of recordings on Justin Time and Alma.

He started his set with Tadd Dameron's bebop classic, "Hot House." While the tune was played in a relatively straightforward manner, it was framed by a Latin intro and coda that suddenly took the music into some complex rhythmic interplay guaranteed to trip up many a foot tapper. The bulk of the set was comprised mostly of originals, and Duran writes some intriguing compositions. "Yamaya Olodo starts with a characteristic Cuban figure that has some uncharacteristic harmonic elements. Midway through, the music switched to straight ahead swing, and the effect was magical. Occhipinti and Kelso were a dynamic rhythmic section, well versed in both styles and capable of following this music anywhere. Duran's piano style has the full bodied harmonic approach favored by most Cuban pianists (Duran at times sounded a bit like McCoy Tyner), but he will frequently pare the music down to simple single note lines splashed with dissonances worthy of Monk. By the time he left, Duran had shown audiences just how dynamic Latin piano trio music can be, shorn of the flash and splash that smothers the music of some practitioners of this style. Duran delivered solid, straightforward Latin piano trio music, and his music was all the stronger for it.

Matt Wilson Arts & Crafts
June 13, 2007
Matt Wilson: drums; Michael Rodriguez: trumpet; Gary Versace: piano, keyboards, organ; Dennis Irwin: bass

Matt Wilson has led a couple of bands at the festival in years past, and this year he brought his Arts & Crafts group. Once again the venue filled up quickly (capacity around 250), even though it was the late show. The most recent Arts & Crafts disc, The Scenic Route, has proven to be popular in this area. They took the stage for the second set seemingly ready to go.

This is a fascinating group and shows Wilson's ingenuity in forming a band and making it work. Wilson has a wide-open view of modern jazz, and he's fond of pulling out obscure compositions by Ornette Coleman, Jaki Byard, Donald Ayler. The group led off the second set with a rousing version of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Stompin' Ground." But what's even more interesting than the interpretation of the music of jazz legends is that Wilson writes his own first-rate compositions. In "Free Range Chicken," Wilson has written the best jazz farm tune since the Art Ensemble of Chicago's "Barnyard Scuffle Shuffle." He announced it with pride, saying it won "The American Poultry Association's award for best jazz farm tune of the year. It's their equivalent of a grammy. It has a great rhythm—Wilson's drumming on the piece reminded me of Billy Higgins. With funky organ fills from Versace and great squawking muted work from Rodriguez, this tune was one of the highlights of the festival for this review.

Terrell Stafford was originally announced as the trumpet player, but Michael Rodriguez was a substitute. His playing was superb, confirming the terrific work he did on Charlie Haden's most recent Liberation Music Orchestra disc. They followed that up with a lovely ballad by Brazilian Nelson Cavaquinho, "Beija Flor." The group ventured credibly toward the outer fringes on "In Touch With Dewey," dedicated to saxophonist Dewey Redman, in whose band Wilson manned the drummer's chair for 12 years. Concluding with a singalong and processional leading the audience out to the streets on "Give Peace A Chance," Wilson and company left everyone happy after delivering one of the more talked-about sets of the festival.

Jason Moran & The Bandwagon
June 14, 2007
Jason Moran: piano; Taurus Mateen: electric bass; Nasheet Waites: drums

It seemed that everyone I spoke to was waiting for this set. Moran played Rochester once before—in a duet with Marian McPartland, oddly enough. But those who were only familiar with him in that context were in for a surprise. It seemed most people were familiar with the Bandwagon album, but this is a piano trio trying to expand outwards beyond that format's limitations.

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