5th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 2-3
Disaster nearly struck the early Billy Bang show at Montage when drummer Newman T. Baker missed his flight. A call was in for a Rochester replacement. While initially no one seemed to be around, Dave Cohen was eventually roped in as a last minute replacement. Which was a good thing since the place was literally packed to the rafters. This was one of the shows that had the biggest word-of-mouth advance. When Bang last appeared at the RIJF in 2004, his show was cited in both local papers as the concert of the festival. Since then he's been back to Rochester several times, playing the Bop Shop (who have presented Bang in a variety of contexts since 2000) and working with Garth Fagan Dance (a local dance troupe with an international reputation) for several performances. As he eyed the crowd of people in front of him before the performance started, Bang said, "I feel like I've been adopted by Rochester .
He and his band delivered a superb performance of mostly Vietnam material. Kicking off with "Yo, Ho Chi Minh Is In The House , drummer Cohen, was initially overbusy but he fell into the groove of the piece with a little direction from Bang as Zollar began his solo. Midway through the performance, a figure was seen wending its way through the crowd and it was Newman T. Baker who wound up catching a later flight. Once the first number was over, Baker took the stand (with effusive praise by Bang to Cohen as he departed) and the concert proper got underway, with a rousing performance of "Bien Hoa Blues . That was followed by one of Bang's most affecting tunes, "Moments For The KIAMIA . It's a song he mines for its fullest emotional resonance and it always draws out the best in him. Bemkey also contributed a solo full of rippling beauty. They concluded with the Latin groove of "Chan Chan (made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club)which had the audience bopping all around in what limited space they had. What started out as an imminent disaster turned into another Rochester triumph for Bang.
Gibbs St. Stage
Eli Asher-trumpet; James Hirschfeld-trombone; Josh Rutner-tenor saxophone; Red Wierenga-keyboard; Malcolm Kirby-bass; Ted Poor-drums.
Another show that had a lot of anticipation attached to it was the homecoming of the Respect Sextet. They're former locals much beloved by this city. The band got their start here five years ago with a two year Wednesday night residency at a local coffee house. Since then most members have moved down to NYC and Rochester hasn't quite been the same since. Ironically, their outdoor set was about 50 feet away from the spot of their residency. Another anticipatory feature of this concert was the band's reunion with their original bassist, Malcolm Kirby who stayed in Rochester for a permanenet bass gig with Sacred Steel masters The Campbell Brothers. The street took on the atmosphere of a block party and when saxophonist Rutner eyed the sea of people he shouted "Look at this crowd. I just have one question. Where were all you people on Wednesday nights?
The band was exuberant as they premiered some new material and pulled out a couple of old favorites. They opened with "Ian a Latin-influenced groove piece by trombonist Hirshfeld. That led into an old band favorite, Herbie Nichols' "Step Tempest . By the third number the band was in full flower. A new tune "Copacabanitsa based on a Bulgarian rhythm (written for a recently presented a concert in NYC at the Cornelia St. Café entitled Respect Sextet Presents American Jazz Expression of Bulgarian Folklore), was in some godforsaken time signature and they also somehow managed to take a detour into Sun Ra's "Call For All Demons . The band's strong point, their spontaneous arranging was well to the fore throughout the set. One song was announced as an "old favorite and the band ripped into a mighty rendition of Albert Ayler's "The Truth Is Marching In . It's rare that one hears Ayler's music blaring at a block party but it did on this night and it drew wild applause at its conclusion. The audience was surprisingly attentive for an outdoor audience and when the band concluded, the entire street erupted. It was a triumphant homecoming for this terrific band.
Max's of Eastman Place
Michiel Braam-piano; Wilbert DeJoode-bass; Michael Vatcher-drums.