5th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 1-3
Covering the 5th Rochester International Jazz Festival this year turned out to be as pleasurable and frustrating an experience as last year's. Held from June 9-17, and with a slate of 170 concerts, the festival came into its own this year with lots of local media coverage (especially of the "big events" such as Woody Allen, James Brown, Etta James), the backing of the city and county governments and the crowds that came out in force. Over 80,000 people strong (nearly a 20% increase over last year's figures) attended various events and this upstate New York city buzzed with the excitement that jazz can produce.
Following the successful template used in previous years, the festival presented the event concerts at the Eastman Theatre, a 3,000 seat capacity concert hall, with individual ticketing per concert. The remaining concerts were held in various clubs, the beautiful 500 seat Kilbourn Hall, Eastman's smaller venue, and the Festival Tent, erected in a parking lot kitty-corner from the Eastman Theatre. These shows were accessible with a "club pass" which cost under $100 and was useable throughout the festival's 10 days. Additionally there were free nightly concerts on the Gibbs St. Stage, (which was renamed "Jazz St."...yeah it's hokey but...) a small cross street that was blocked off for the festival's ten days. This allowed people to sit and listen or roam around sampling the various food vendors and restaurants in the area. Everything happens within a three block area and for those ten days, it seemed as if jazz was all that mattered in Rochester, NY.
The festival was also a good demonstration that all the various stripes of the music can peacefully co-exist and be presented in a manner that's respectful to all genres. Almost every concert I attended (and I tended to go to see what would normally considered the more "marginal" artists) was at or near capacity. And people seemed to be listening, even when the music was "difficult". Sure there was some attrition but it was great to see say, violinist Billy Bang or saxophonist Stephen Gauci, taking an audience on a journey into their music and finding a majority of the people stayed until the end. It puts lie to the idea of marketers that music has to be mainstreamed and presented in just one way and it must be frustrating as hell to them. But what was frustrating as hell to me was there were so many acts and not being the type who likes to jump from concert to concert, having to miss some that I would have really liked to see because of scheduling conflicts. But what I saw was, for the most part, a satisfying mix of music with some genuinely thrilling moments.
Henderson-Schonig Trio featuring Dr. Lonnie Smith
Dr. Lonnie Smith-Hammond B-3; Mel Henderson-guitar; Jared Schonig-drums.