The centuries haven't been kind to humanity. There really isn't a lot we need to relive about the past. Except the music.
Backed by an acoustic trio of guitar, bass and piano, Rochester International Jazz Festival favorite Catherine Russell overlooked no detail in mining the 1920s, 30s and 40s Friday night at two packed shows at Temple Building Theater.
A late bloomer -- Russell spent years singing on other people's albums, including the work of David Bowie -- she's totally at ease with Fats Waller's "You're Not the Only Oyster in the Stew." She minded history, careful to credit the songwriters. Back to 1932 and "Alone Together" by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz. And 1936 with "When Did You Leave Heaven?" by Richard Whiting and Walter Bullock. The New Orleans piano groove of Louis Jordan's "Early in the Morning" and "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby."
She moved gently to the music, at times dropping the microphone to her side and simply singing to the room's acoustics. And no one brings innuendo to the fest quite like Russell. This year it was back, back, back to 1923 and Rosa Henderson's "He May Be Your Dog But He's Wearing My Collar."
There were words to live by, as in the Caribbean-flavored "Make It Do," about living within your means. And a song that went back again to 1936, but one that Russell suggested was a theme for these days. "You can't pull the wool over my eyes," she sang, "you can't get away with telling those lies like that."
The audience roared and applauded with approval when it recognized how that 1936 theme applied to the current political situation.
This has been a fine year for tributes at the jazz fest. Art Blakey had his moment here. Nat King Cole. Even Tom Waits and Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf." On Friday, Day Eight of this nine-day fest, it was Cannonball Adderley's turn.
To a degree. This was not a reproduction, but an echo.
Jim Snidero, whose 2018 album "Jubilation! A Celebration of Cannonball Adderley" with Jeremy Pelt was the foundation of this show, is a New York City-based alto saxophonist who's played with Frank Sinatra and Brother Jack McDuff. He's an Adderley acolyte -- "One of the strongest voices ever in music," he said -- but Snidero was also his own man at the early set in Kilbourn Hall.
This five-piece band knows its Adderley, who would have been 90 this year if he hadn't died at age 46 in 1975. In fact, Adderley used to drop by trumpeter Eddie Henderson's parents' house in San Francisco. The quintet opened with Adderley's "Jeannine," a cooking little number. But the set soon turned to Snidero's latest album, and his songs "Visions" and "Old Folks," which Snidero assured the audience had that abstract sensibility that the later Adderley would have approved of. They were abrupt, urgent compositions that took on a more-ominous feel when Henderson muted his trumpet.
And then, a return to Adderley. But this time it was Nate Adderley, Cannonball's brother. "I heard that Nate Adderley was able to buy a house because of this tune," Snidero said. And then the opening drum solo gave way to Snidero and Henderson trading riffs on Nate's "Work Song," inspired by the chain gangs working along the highways when Nate was a kid growing up in Florida.
Today's jazz haiku
Look out, Cannonball
Too many ghosts in this room
give the man some air
Taking down the wall
If musicians ruled the world, walls would be obsolete. That was Jewish folk music, North African rhythms and American jazz crossing the borders at Christ Church.
Itamar Borochov comes from the Israeli city of Jaffa, which is seemingly tuned into all three frequencies. His skirling trumpet and his quartet's sinuous grooves would shift to building crescendos of piano, bass and drums.
Yet Borochov was always mindful of his Jewish heritage. "Take Me to the Bridge" was a slow, romantic piece, the drums muffled by felt heads on the sticks. Borochov said it was inspired by the words of an ancient rabbi, the idea being that the world itself is a bridge.
Day Nine: Jeff's picks
If the past is any indicator, a swarm of humanity will descend on Parcel 5, off of East Main Street, early Saturday evening. That's where the free City of Rochester Midtown Stage is standing. The band Cha Wa starts off at 7 p.m. with its contemporary sound infused with New Orleans culture. At 9 p.m. it's yet another fest favorite, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.
Acoustic Alchemy, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., Geva Theatre Center, Wilson Stage. The English band has been a torchbearer of soft acoustic rock since the early 80s. Nick Webb and Greg Carmichael were the core of the band until Webb's death of cancer in 1998, when Miles Gilderdale joined Carmichael in the signature guitar interplay.
Joey DeFrancesco Trio, 7 and 9:15 p.m., Temple Building Theater. Master of the Hammond B-3 organ, and a trumpet player as well, DeFrancesco released an album with Van Morrison in 2018, then turned right around and this year released one a few months ago that dives into the likes of Pharoah Sanders.
Sisters Euclid, 6 and 10 p.m., The Montage Music Hall. Where's Kevin Breit? It's not a Rochester jazz fest without Kevin Breit. Oh, there he is… they've saved the musically adventurous guitarist for the last gig of the last night. Breit returns with one of a half-dozen or so bands he's played with here; you'll remember him from last year in his disguise as the El Paso rocker Johnny Goldtooth.
On Saturday, the final night of the nine-day fest, I'll be at the Sisters Euclid show, I'll check out the inventive bluegrass of the John Stickley Trio at Geva Theatre Center's Fielding Stage, and I'll be there for Trombone Shorty.