For the first time in some years, Mrs. N and I went to see some of the acts at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. This is only the 8th year of the festival, still young by the standards of say, Monterrey, Montreaux, or other, more well established venues. This doesn't mean it's not a big deal. In fact it has gained a reputation on the festival circuit as being one of the best run in the country, and this is from the artists themselves.
It all starts here, at the Eastman Theatre...
Built in 1922 by George Eastman of Kodak fame, it is home to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and serves as the principal venue for all the headliners at the jazz festival. It is also connected with the Eastman School of Music, the most prestigious music school in North America, even surpassing Julliard in many of its programs. Students come here from all over the world to study.
What is even more impressive is that in the face of economic hardship, when many other festivals have been canceled, (including the NYC jazz festival, of all places) Rochester's has expanded and is actually doing better and better every year. Like many other jazz festivals however, they have needed to book acts outside of what would be considered jazz, especially by purists of the art. Still, it makes for a fine music festival, with both international, national, and local musicians plying their trade in the music halls and streets of the East End of downtown Rochester.
We strolled down Gibbs St. after being on East Ave. to hear both Tower Of Power, and Robert Randolph and The Family Band, that were playing on opposite ends of East Ave. Mrs. N. is not a fan of funk, so we wound up listening to the Po' Boys, a band that does covers of everything from jazz to rock.
Of course there were the requisite vendor stands, with everything from hot dogs, to ice cream to t-shirts to what-have-you. To say that the streets were packed is an understatement
To get an idea of who was playing here, you simply came to the bill plastered on the side of the Eastman, and you get a pretty good feel for the scope of the concert:
There are some acts that have been here before, especially one guy, who some of you might know. He is, in no uncertain terms, a legend:
The man is 90 years old and still tours. He is the epitome of the jazz musician who will probably die doing what he loves.
There are other regulars too:
Yep, Rochester is a huge music town, and this festival is just one example. If you're in the area, there's still one night left, so, "Grab your flat hat and your axe/For tomorrow at ten, we'll be working again." (Steely Dan - "Teahouse On The Tracks.")
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