4th Rochester International Jazz Festival (June 10-18, 2005) Concert Diary
Later that night it was onto Max's, an upscale restaurant in the atrium of Eastman Place complex. It was an attractive setting to see Ernie Krivda's quartet, playing in front of a glassed in area with flashes of lightning occasionally bursting behind them. Krivda's music can be alternately brash and bracing and subtle and thoughtful. Both sides were on display this night. With long-time cohorts Bob Fraser on guitar and Jeff Halsey on bass and young guns Dominick Faranacci on trumpet and Carmen Intorre on drums, this band cooked for a set of attractive Krivda originals including a nice little piece in 6/8 "Alcara Li Fuse , a homage to his family's ancestral village. The performances were lengthy and Krivda took advantage letting his solos unwind at a leisurely pace, building to effective climaxes. Mention also has to be made of long-time band mate Bob Fraser who's possibly the most unassuming guitarist around. He's the quintessential jazz guitarist with a crystalline tone whose measured solos provided an effective contrast to the heated (and equally effective) improvisations of trumpeter Faranucci. If this band ever comes to your town, they're worth checking out.
The following night, free jazz Chicago style (AACM's "great black music, ancient to the future ) was represented by an appearance of Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble. Long time affiliate, saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins manned the saxophone chair. The real surprise was new member, trumpeter Corey Wilkes, a player who's just beginning to make a name for himself. His trumpet work was stellar. His tone could be clear as a bell, yet he would continually shade it with effective smears and growls. He had great technically facility but he wasn't continually hitting the listener over the head with trumpeting acrobatics. His solos had a maturity and intelligence that belies his young age (early 20s?). If there was a rising star at this festival, it was Wilkes. But it was the group cohesion that made this band so effective. With El'Zabar at the center, on both trap drums and hand drums and Dawkins and Wilkes flanking him on either side, they ran through a set of EHE favorites including "Ornette and Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance . A surprisingly effective "All Blues chugged along on El'Zabar's thumb piano and Wilkes delivered a solo that succeeded because it wasn't aping Miles' licks and displayed original ideas. By the end of the show, the almost-full house was on their feet. It was an indication that this type of adventurous music can be booked at jazz festivals and audiences, given half a chance, will respond to something different.
Thursday night, the Festival Tent was the destination to see Trio East with Clay Jenkins (trumpet), Jeff Campbell (bass) and Rich Thompson (drums). The trumpet trio is not the most common of formats so it's always a treat to hear these guys. Over a noisy, dining audience (it was around 6:00) they delivered a tasty set of originals and interesting covers (Coltrane's "Up 'Gainst The Wall , Duke's "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart , Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes). Jenkins is an interesting soloist and he seems to relish leaving open space during his solos. He knows his trio mates are more than capable of filling it in and maintaining the momentum, something they did time and time again. Set highlight was Campbell's "West End Avenue , title track from their first recording, which grooved along on a funky, almost Vernel Fournier-style beat, big loping basslines and Jenkins' incisive playing on top. A great set, whose subtleties were regrettably lost on the majority of the chowing down noshers.
The well-dressed crowd filled the Eastman Theatre for one of the festival's big events, the return of Dave Brubeck to the RIJF. He brought his quartet with Bobby Militello on alto, Michael Moore on bass and Randy Jones on drums. He appeared in a relaxed, almost playful mood. After an annoying heat wave earlier in the week, the weather broke and the day had been rainy and cool. "I'm not going to play the tunes I thought I was going to play because the weather has made me change my mind, Brubeck announced. And with that the quartet whipped into a series of rain songs including "Pennies From Heaven and "Stormy Weather . Only the first line of "Stormy Weather was alluded to in his solo intro and then he was off on his own fantasia of re-harmonization. It was up to Militello to let the audience know exactly what the tune was. "The Duke , one of Brubeck's greatest compositions was given a solid reading. Brubeck and Militello seemed inspired from the git-go but it seemed to take the rhythm section a little while to wake up. It was only on a new composition "London Flat London Sharp that they seemed to kick in, probably propelled by the intricacies of this nifty piece. It's impressive that at 84, Brubeck has maintained his creative output. He gave the audience what they came to hear but he also gave them a lot more.