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Live Reviews

6th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 2

By Published: July 18, 2007

There were plenty of vocalists to be heard at this festival, including Tessa Souter, Madeline Peyroux and Nancy Kelly. But many missed one of the finest singers at the festival, Hanna Richardson. She performed a free outdoor concert at the Jazz Street Stage with her quartet early Wednesday evening at 6:00 when most of the early club concerts were starting.

Richardson is a singer influenced by the great singers of the 40s and 50s who came out of the big band scene: Anita O'Day, Maxine Sullivan, June Christy. Like those singers, she has a natural swing in her phrasing and knows how to deliver a lyric. Her voice is warm, rich and full-bodied. Her program consisted of both the familiar ("The Simple Life , "It Might As Well Be Spring , "Hey There ) and the resoundingly obscure (Irving Berlin's "He Ain't Got Rhythm , and "How'd Ya Like To Love Me from a Bob Hope/Martha Raye movie.) She was more than ably accompanied by a band that also doubles as the Bob Sneider Trio. Being an outdoor concert in the center of a city, there were the usual intrusive urban sounds. During a bass solo a motorcyclist decided to idle behind the stage, prompting Flanagan to turn his solo into an impromptu rendition of Slim Galliard's "Put-Put-Put Goes The Motorcycle." It was all handled by the quartet with aplomb. Richardson has a charm and a wit about her that most contemporary jazz singers lack, and she demonstrated it with this set. She should be put in a club next time.

Paradigm Shift
Festival Tent
June 12, 2007
Mel Henderson: guitar; Gerry Youngman: organ; Jared Schoenig: drums; Gray Mayfield: alto sax, flute; Wycliff Gordon: trombone;

I've harped before on this, but the Festival Tent is one of the least attractive venues at the festival. Cavernous, filled with talking people, I've heard sets by the Claudia Quintet and Trio East sabotaged by less than optimum sound and indifferent audiences. One of the few bands I've seen overcome both of these obstacles is Paradigm Shift, a group with roots in Rochester. Basically it's the trio of Henderson, Youngman and Schoenig with guests added. Saxophonist Mayfield also has roots in Rochester, but he recently moved to Atlanta. And Gordon has no roots in Rochester but seems to enjoy playing with these guys. He was the special guest when the trio played the Jazz Festival in 2005.

The band came storming out of the gate with the title track from their new album Street Expressionism, a track featuring some effective flute playing by Mayfield. . Paradigm Shift's music originates from organ trios of the late 60s/early 70s. The music is funk-based but with a solid jazz grounding. Schoenig carries this off easily, bringing up the muscle and power during the funk part and easing back nicely when a more solid jazz groove is needed. Henderson is a tasty guitarist. He never overwhelms the music, preferring to emphasize a Wes Montgomery-based groove, and he always seems to be in the pocket with Schoenig. (It's no mystery as to why Dr. Lonnie Smith chose these two as his backing band last year.) Youngman's organ comes from the Jack McDuff/Lonnie Smith school of playing, but one occasionally hears him slipping in some Larry Young-style textures.

The band continued with "Falling In The Crack," a tune that seemed to particularly inspire Gordon to a strong gutbucket solo. As with all the other concerts I attended, the tent was filled to capacity (at least 1,000), and everyone was grooving along. There was even a group that seemed to be refugees from a Phish concert oscillating wildly to the band's all-powerful groove. The band concluded strongly with Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time," with Mayfield on alto mixing an Adderley-like verve with a Bird-like intellect, reaffirming this music's jazz roots.

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