WXXI AM News

Jeff Spevak

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

The headliner had cancelled the tour. St. Germain, a French techno-dance maestro, was out after he broke a leg. Yet Friday night was much as we’ve come to expect on these Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival weekends. On Gibbs Street a tight knot of people watching The Community Soul Project, a Canadian band singing Motown songs. East Avenue and Chestnut Street closed, thousands of people milling about.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Gwyneth Herbert’s beautiful music, humor and humanity peeled away layers of cynicism Thursday at Max of Eastman Place. A packed house, and everyone surely left with the feeling that the world’s weighty problems might be eased with a beer and a kazoo. And by writing a letter, a fading exercise that Herbert suggested might be the answer to: “How can we listen to ourselves and each other?”

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

He had to count it out on his fingers. And it took both hands. Canadian guitarist Kevin Breit has played six of the 17 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festivals.

And every band has been a different musical idea. Folk Alarm 5, The Sisters Euclid. The Stretch Orchestra. Supergenerous, a collaboration with the Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista. Breit is a man whose résumé includes playing on Norah Jones’ first three albums.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

“Songs of Freedom” is entertaining, if that’s what you wanted. Provocative, if that’s what you’re searching for.

The intriguing project at Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival Wednesday night, created by the celebrated drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., combined the music of three fearless women at Kilbourn Hall: Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone, who Owens noted, “had freedom lodged in her voice.”

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Joe Locke said he’s inspired by words. Tuesday night, in his first set at Kilbourn Hall, the words were “welcome home.”

“This is always a spiritual experience for me to play here, because of my roots here,” he said. Raised in Rochester, an Eastman School of Music grad, Locke is widely regarded as one of jazz’s finest vibraphone players. He returns every few years to see some familiar faces and, thusly inspired, to play a knockout show at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Trail of Souls, we feel your pain. It is a very, very, very, very thin line between the loneliness of Norwegian folk music and “Motherless Child.”

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Thirty years ago, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones opened the bluegrass door, and in flew jazz, rock and country music. Classical, even. The quartet embraces a world view of sound, and Fleck has continued to expand his musical interests, in recent years releasing recordings of duets with jazz keyboard great Chick Corea, and recording a concerto with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Moon Hooch isn’t for everyone. But neither is Charlie Parker.

The dynamic Brooklyn trio brought a remarkable saxophone apocalypse to the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival Sunday. Three days into the nine-day festival, and this was the killer show.

Although, not everyone would agree.

Fred SanFilipo / for WXXI News

The crowd in front of Brian Setzer’s rockabilly trio at the closed-off intersection of Chestnut Street and East Avenue was shoulder to shoulder for nearly two blocks, thousands of thousands of them, the tight, impressive rockabilly sound pristine in the gorgeous evening air.

In Max of Eastman Place, a complete contrast, with Quebec City’s Des Sourcils playing sprightly Gypsy jazz.

In the Big Tent, another contrast, the Hip Spanic All Stars, playing what they call “JazzyAfroLatinFunk” at astonishing decibels.

Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Politics doesn’t create miracles. Nor does war, strip mining, television evangelists or corporate funding of Adam Sandler movies.

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