Friday, June 19, 2009

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing. Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah.

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.")


Peter said...

I'm truly impressed, watching your billboard shot listing top acts like Smokey Robinson. And to be honest, I had no idea your hometown hosted such a prestigious festival.

I also enjoyed watching the street shots of downtown Rochester at night, as they conveyed the festival's atmosphere very well. They actually brought back memories of a memorable local soft-jazz event on a warm summer night some years ago.

Regarding the regretful cutbacks: in this part of the world the yearly "summer of Antwerp" festivities have been reduced to some cheap circus acts, some 3rd rate amateur street theatre, open-air movie projections near the river, topped off with 'the greatest show of all': wooden seats to watch the sunset.
I'd laugh if it wasn't so sad.

Retiredandcrazy said...

My grief, I didn't know that Dave Brubeck was still alive let alone touring.

Anonymous said...

For the first time in years I'll be home for Marciac - if I still have any pennies left after 4334km in a fortnight, though that's probably local to you Yanks ;-)

Kittibee said...

hi :) very slowly typing cuz , my brain signals are not reach my fingers yet lol ! ... what a weekend ^^ my visitors came , we had a booze fuelled night on saturday , stayed up most of the night ended up annoyed cuz one of my lady guests had commandeered my partner for the entire evening @@ ... i was cool untill the second vodka back home lol ... when out it popped ha ha " would you please release my guy cuz your makin me feel jealous @@ omg ha ha ha ! the moment it came out i realised its not the way to do it lol sometimes i cant stop blurting stuff out ... everything was ok , and we joked about it next morning ^^ my guy was chuffed cuz he said it was first time anyone had been jealous about him ^^.. conclusion !! ..
Im not able to drink as much as i think i can ! and also im very conscious of other womens men ! i dont hijack them ever !... and i must be nice to my guy he has spend the weekend with 3 women ! lol ... i do love festivals that cover a few new and old also ! catch ya soon .. Kittibee ;)

Bina said...

That sounds like so much fun, and I AM a fan of Funk!

A man is 90 and still touring. That is so very impressive and this may come out wrong, but I only HOPE that he dies doing what he loves. We should all be so lucky.

I had NO idea that was an Eastman School of Arts, and when I was in college, my team did a paper on the Kodak corporation from when it was first founded on up. That must not have been in the area I had to report on! LOL

Mr. Nighttime said...

Peter - It's regrettable when the arts suffer for the sake of a budget. Garth Fagan Dance, one of the premier dance companies in the U.S. is based here in Rochester, and is on the brink of going under. Garth Fagan is the choreographer of "The Lion King," won a Tony for his efforts, and is a contemporary of the likes of Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp.

Retired - amazing, isn't he?

J - I checked out that festival, and I'll have to find a way to get there one of these eons... ;-)

Kittibee - jealousy, thy name is woman! ;-) LOL, it seems as though you got quite pissed, but had a good time.

Bina - Fan of funk, huh? I'm going to e-mail you a few YouTube links that you should like. Yep, in this town, Kodak and Eastman's name is everywhere, though sadly, the company has downsized dramatically over the past 15-20 years. they made some bad business decisions.

If you ever make it up this way, I can take you on a tour of the George Eastman House/Museum Of Photography. It really is something.

VioletSky said...

Jazz Festivals are so much fun. Until they get too big and popular. We have the Beaches Jazz festival every July. Some years one was hard pressed to hear any jazz, but it was always neat to have the street closed down for miles and hordes of toe tapping and bopping people streaming along. Now it is too crowded to really enjoy.

Hearing Dave Brubeck perform would have been ah-mazing!!