Smokey Robinson, Taj Mahal will Headline Jazz Festival

Rochester, NY – The lineup for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival was announced Tuesday, and it includes a new venue and a new series to go along with its new name.

In October, festival organizers added "Xerox" to the annual festival's name. And this week, organizers announced the nine-day event -- now in its eighth year -- will include a series focusing on British artists, sponsored by the Arts Council of England. There will also be a new stage at the Xerox Auditorium.

Headliners for the festival will include Smokey Robinson, Dave Brubeck, Michael McDonald, and Taj Mahal. They'll all play at the Eastman Theater. British artists performing in the "Made in the UK" series will include the Peter King Quarter, Toni Kofi and Norma Winstone, among others, at Christ Church.

The Nordic series at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation will return for a third year, featuring Kari Ikonen Karikko, Jonas Kullhammar Quartet, Nils Petter Molvaer Group, Delirium and others from Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

The new venue at Xerox will include performances by Billy Bang, Kate McGarry and the Aaron Parks Trio.

This year the festival is gunning to top its previous attendance record of 125,000 people, as the festival grows in renown, according to artistic director John Nugent.

"I know that a lot of Canadians [come], we have drivers coming in from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New York City, Albany. They find out about this event and I think from what the New York Times has said in the past, we've got one of the top five jazz festivals in the country."

Nugent says there were over 1,300 submissions for the 250 performance slots for the festival this year, and that calls come in every day with requests for information about the club pass and line-up. Club pass tickets went on sale in November and organizers say they're likely to sell out.

The festival runs June 12 - June 20 this year. It will feature over 800 artists in about 250 shows.

Also returning in 2009 is a free stage featuring local jazz bands at Gibbs Street and East, and free concerts at East and Alexander and East and Chestnut, sponsored by the City of Rochester.

Free shows this year will include the Marshall Tucker Band, Tower of Power, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Buckwheat Zydeco and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Organizers will also honor a fallen friend. The jazz scholarship series at the Eastman School of Music will be dedicated to Gerry Niewood, a member of Chuck Mangione's band, who died in the plane crash in Clarence, New York in February.

Xerox is also planning client meetings and presentations in conjunction with the jazz festival, so visitors can participate in the events, and employees at Xerox will serve as volunteers throughout the nine day festival.

Click the "Listen" link above to hear Nugent introduce the 2009 line-up, with a special satellite appearance by some of the "Made in the UK" series performers.