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Live Reviews

6th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 1

By Published: July 18, 2007

After Anker, it was one more block north to the Harro East Ballroom to see tenor master and composer of many jazz standards, Benny Golson. We arrived just as the first set was ending with a rousing non-Golson standard, "Take The A Train." When Golson and his quartet took the stage for the second set, they wasted little time picking up where they left off. First tune was one of Golson's greatest compositions, "Whisper Not." Taken at mid-tempo, the composer-tenor saxophonist took a series of variations on the tune that made one realize he owned it. The set was varied, including a classic by an early Golson collaborator, trumpeter Clifford Brown ("Tiny Capers ), a newer tune by Golson ("Pierre's Moment ) and a popular standard.

After playing his own composition, the leader brought out his sidemen for individual turns. Ciacca, a fine Italian pianist who spices his bop pianistics with a slight left-of-center tinge, played an attractive original, "Nico's Song." Golson introduced veteran bassist Irwin's solo feature with "You didn't know it but this is the moment you've all been waiting for. Irwin then proceeded to sing, whistle and spin his bass to "There's No You." Mike Melito, a Rochester drummer, was the last-minute replacement for Golson's regular drummer. When one is looking for a bop-based drummer in Rochester, one needs to go no further than Melito. He propelled the music with finesse, and Golson featured him liberally, seemingly enjoying his playing.

The lengthy set (it ran about 75 minutes) ended with a killer version of Golson's "Stablemates." The loquacious leader was a great ranconteur between songs, including stories about the meaning of the title "Whisper Not and the genesis of "Stablemates. The one drawback to the entire set was the poor sound of the Harro East facility. The piano and bass were barely audible at times, and the sound in the hall was boomy. Minor annoyances aside, it was still an enjoyable set and a rare chance to hear this great jazz veteran in Rochester.

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