6th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 1
Fred Hersch became an instant Rochester favorite after performing here last fall in a solo context on the very same Kilbourn Hall stage where his trio assembled. So the audience greeted the trio warmly as they ambled on stage and dove into Cole Porter's "So In Love." The piece started slowly, rhapsodically, gradually picking up steam until Waites kicked it into double time, at which point the music exploded. From his Walt Whitman cycle, Hersch went into "At The Close Of The Day, which turned into a feature for Hebert, his sound filling the hall beautifully. As the set progressed, the music seemed to head further and further toward the fringes, taking in Monk's "Work and Ornette Coleman's "Forerunner." They took sufficient time to dissect each piece, taking a phrase or a rhythmic motif and exploring it in depth before moving on.
Waites could very well be the most complete drummer of his generation. For this trio, his drumming was subtle, never overwhelming, adding color and shading yet always pushing the music along. It's hard to believe this was the same musician who recently toured as a duo with Peter Brotzmann. He would employ a different style in another, pending set in the festival. (More about that later.)
The trio concluded with two Irving Berlin tunes: a highly abstracted version of "How Deep Is The Ocean and a version of "Change Partners full of tricky trio interplay. When brought back for an encore, the pianist did a lovely solo version of "Mood Indigo." It now became apparent that Hersch had programmed a complete set, taking the audience on a journey to the outer reaches before returning them safely in their seats with the familiar. It would prove one of the most satisfying sets of the festival.
Lotte Anker Trio
Lutheran Church Of The Reformation
June 10, 2007
Lotte Anker: alto sax, soprano sax, tenor sax; Craig Taborn: piano; Gerald Cleaver: drums
After Hersch's set, we high-tailed it two blocks to one of the new venues, the Lutheran Church Of The Reformation. It was here that all of the concerts in the Nordic Jazz Now seriesa set of nine concerts featuring Scandinavian bands generally unknown to most listenerswere held. Initially, some were referring to the venue as the Nordic ghetto, but it proved one of the most pleasant festival sites with surprisingly good sound and surprisingly comfy pews. The only drawback was the absence of air-conditioning on several nights when the temperature got quite warm. But, as in all the concerts I attended, the music rose above any personal discomfort.
The first concert in the series by Anker was the one true representative of the avant-garde end of the spectrum at this festival. So among certain people, this was the show to see. The alto saxophonist was performing with two American musicians, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Together they made uncompromising, beautiful music that filled the church with the probing sounds of free jazz.
The set started with Taborn pecking out a light staccato attack, etching nervous jittery lines in the upper reaches of the keyboard. Next Cleaver fell in. Anker picked up her soprano and soon the three were off, building a swirling intensity little by little. This is a trio that understands pacing, and Cleaver is the perfect drummer for this music. In the ensemble he functions as much as a colorist as the rhythmic component. Taborn's virtuosic piano was a joy to behold. He frequently jousted with Anker, each feeding lines off the other's playing. Anker showed her facility on all three saxophones, demonstrating she had a distinctive and individual voice on each. She tended to build her solos incrementally, working with Taborn at times to create contrapuntal textures, using the extended range of her instrument sparingly but effectively.
The church was packed for this performance (capacity was roughly 500 people). There was attrition between the first and second pieces, which was not surprising for music as unfamiliar and challenging this. But one had to give those who left points for at least giving the music a chance. As for those who stayed, they became privy to what was one of the finest sets of the festival.
Benny Golson Quartet
Harro East Ballroom
June 10, 2007
Benny Golson: tenor saxophone; Antonio Ciacca: piano; Dennis Irwin: bass; Mike Melito: drums.