By Scott Gudell
Wearing black Texas cowboy boots and black fishnets, she enthusiastically hopped onto the stage, setting her tequila and lime on an orange, upside down Home Depot bucket. Within a moment or two and a few spins here and there, her guitar cord was coiled around her legs like an affectionate desert snake. Rosie Flores quickly launched into the set and was dancing, prancing and singing up a storm at the outdoor tent at Abilene on opening night of Rochester Jazz Fest ’12.
A feisty Americana and rockabilly veteran whose been performing since the 1980’s, Rosie Flores was accompanied by the bare minimum: a bass player and a drummer. But they filled the tent with potent sounds. A pair of Yardbirds songs – “I’m Not Talkin’” and “I Ain’t Got You” – opened the second set. By the fourth song, the trio was well on their way to creating a rockabilly riot.
Wanda Jackson’s “Tunnel of Love” and “Rock Your Baby,” plus a number of other amped up songs, kept things moving forward. Flores engaged the crowd, but never pleaded with them, until they were all working together, proving that many of the most successful live shows are a balance between the hypnotic sounds flowing through the speakers and the sincere, appreciative feedback from the crowd.
With shows such as this, Flores carries on the tradition of artists such as friend and mentor Wanda Jackson and is certainly an inspiration for newer artists such as Eilen Jewell and others.
By Scott Gudell
When arranger/composer Gil Evans and trumpeter Miles Davis teamed up over a half-century ago to create Sketches of Spain, they paid homage to Spanish composers such as Rodrigo and de Falla. Fast forward to 2012 as Tom Harrell (trumpeter) and Tom Harrell (composer/arranger), plus his chamber ensemble, move north a few hundred miles and capture the music of France’s Debussy and Ravel.
The two most melodic and impressionist French composers of the 20th century, Debussy and Ravel offer Harrell and his ensemble (bass, cello, violin, flute, drums, saxophone and piano) a dramatic opportunity in interpreting several select pieces by these composers.
Harrell “conducts” his cast of characters in a laid-back manner, but the veteran jazz artist is electrifying when he picks up his flugelhorn or trumpet. The tones are crystal clear and dramatic, while the ensemble stays true to the atmospheric elements of the French composers.
Harrell is known for his nearly catatonic presence on stage and by wearing all black from head to toe, he truly was the mysterious “jazzman in black.”
If the warm, inviting walls of Kilbourn Hall are used to hearing classical music 51 weeks a year, Jazz Week in Rochester provided an evening where the beauty of classical and jazz music co-existed in perfect harmony.
By Scott Cordaro
Esperanza Spalding has taken the spotlight by storm, since winning the “Best New Artist” Grammy in 2011 this young lady has earned the respect of the Jazz world.
On Saturday night at the Kodak Hall, Spalding offered up some inspired takes from her latest effort “Radio City Music Society”.
In a dazzling display of musicianship that melded jazz, R&B, pop and classical, Spalding led her Radio Music Society Band on a thrilling tour through her own imagination.
Unlike her last appearance at the RIJF back in 2007, Spalding concentrated on the telling musical stories of Love.
For nearly two hours, Spalding and her 11 piece band gave us a musical conversation with spotlight solo’s and the beauty of listing to Spalding scat and finger pick on the Acoustic and Electric bass.
The standout moments of the show were great versions of her hit single “Radio Song” and a cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Endangered Animals”.
By Scott Cordaro
With the release of their seventh album “King & Queens” Blackie & the Rodeo Kings made an appearance at Abilene for the 11th Edition of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
Wearing the embroidered suits that the band has made part of their trademark, the boys kicked off a live set that showcased serious Canadian talent.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings lit the stage on fire, Tom Wilson let out his amazing baritone with more richness than thought possible, Stephen Fearing’s brilliant alto shot through the foggy air like a yellow jacket and Colin Linden’s astounding tenor brightened the faces of onlookers as he belted out lyrics with his signature bravado.
The set list ranged from a calm, smooth song about making problems fade away to vibrant, frolicking numbers to a melodic, mellow piece that urged a stand against abusing women.
It was a thrill to watch an audience of presumably middle-aged parent types come to life on numerous occasions to give the band a standing ovation throughout the performance.
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings blend of blues, folk and rock surely has its way with the older crowd, but I would expect a younger audience to resonate with their music when they tear into the harder honky-tonk vibes and guitar solos.