Day 7 brings new favorites

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Big Lazy
(Photo by Aaron Winters/All photos courtesy of Rochester International Jazz Festival)

Tonight I was introduced to my new favorite band: New York City’s instrumental Big Lazy, a trio of endless noir delivered by this sinister three.

If Tom Waits could surf, this is what he’d hang ten to. It was monstrously vociferous, all reet and all gone. The guitar’s tone set atop the drums’ ragged shag and, what can I say? Infinite cool? It led to a few suburbanite squalls and shove as the band stuffed the place to the ceiling before getting started. Yup, my new favorite band. Yours, too. We’ve got room.

You have to wonder what kind of deal Booker T Jones made with the Devil to look as young as he did taking the stage in front of what seemed like 1 million happy souls at the Parcel 5 soul showdown shakedown. Jones’ review included stacks of Stax wax, starting off with the theme to “Hang Em High,” moving into excellent, carved-in-stone soul from Aretha Franklin to the Staple Singers, Sam & Dave and Sam Cooke. Some even cut some asphalt rug in front of the stage while Booker and the crew played their classic “Green Onions.” It was a raucously rocking set from my new favorite band. Wait a minute…

-Frank De Blase

Booker T Jones (Photo by Aaron Winters)

Contagious emotions

A full week of Jazz Fest has passed, and things seem to be settling down. I finally got the hang of things, able to find each venue without a map, and schedule my day of concerts as efficiently as possible. 

RINA (Photo by Aaron Winters)

I’ve been looking forward to seeing pianist RINA for a while now, and her show was all I could have asked for, and more. RINA has a quiet presence on stage, but when she starts playing, all that changes. RINA has a special ability to convey potent emotions with a solo piano performance. Her compositions fuse the sounds of jazz, classical, and Japanese folk, creating an unforgettable experience. 

RINA plays with genuine feeling – it is easy to get lost in the performance with her. Frequently I marveled at her songwriting as the recital hall around her dissolved, leaving only her and the audience. RINA’s musicianship is clear the moment she starts playing. She’s one of those pianists who have the ability to envelop their instrument as an extension of themselves. This is pretty commonplace with most professional musicians, but not for pianists. It is hard to achieve this with such an intimidating instrument. 

RINA’s compositional style frequently evokes nostalgia. Her performances are dynamic and they vary in genre, but RINA’s personality always shines through. Her style is very cinematic, which makes it so easy to get engrossed in her music

The standout of the set for me was a piece called “Memories,” which she wrote about her time in Boston at Berklee, and her time in New York City afterwards. After the pandemic hit, she had to go back to Japan, where she wrote this song reflecting on those memories. The composition is a heartfelt, touching ballad that takes as much from classical tradition as it does jazz. Her performance paints such a detailed picture that it got me reflecting on my own memories. There have been a few performances this year to give me chills, and this is one of them. 

After RINA I went to the new Theater at Innovation Square to see Lioness, an all-female jazz sextet. Lioness is an ensemble composed of guitar, bass, drums, and three saxophones, a bari, tenor and alto. I’ve never seen a bari sax used in a jazz combo, and honestly I don’t know why it isn’t more common. 

“Etilletas the Elitist” was a fun number full of climactic saxophone solos, and an off-the-walls improv duet between the bari-sax and drums. Lioness put on an exciting show; it was cool to see this group perform, especially with the array of different saxophones playing in it. 

Emmaline (Photo by Aaron Winters)

Next was singer/songwriter Emmaline, who played a tight set of jazz-infused vocally driven pop songs that soothed the audience at the Big Tent. Emmaline’s controlled vocal runs and surprising violin instrumental breaks made for a compelling performance.

Emmaline is passionate about songwriting, divulging her songwriting process while introducing songs, or expressing her love for the songs she covers. Her passion is contagious. During her set I started paying more and more attention to her songwriting style, which made her set very engaging for me. I’m excited to see where Emmaline goes from here as she gears up for a debut album release hopefully sometime soon. 

I ended my night with the Itamar Borochov Quartet, which was a perfect close to the day, as the trio played some spiritual-sounding modal jazz that fit the evening perfectly. Itamar Borochov is a great trumpet player, setting the mood perfectly with natural-sounding solos that draw from sacred Sephardic music tradition to create a meditative sound. For one of the pieces, Borochov even showed off his excellent vocal abilities. I’m not familiar with the vocal style he was singing in, or the language he was singing in, but regardless it was a powerful addition to his set. 

Itmar Borochov (Photo by Mark Druziak)

Borochov plays in a trance-like state: “Sometimes when you are playing music, you disappear somewhere,” he says after forgetting which song he just finished playing. It’s the act of losing yourself in the music that can make Borochov’s sound so transcendent. Borochov closes out his set with the aptly named “Farewell,” a bittersweet tune dedicated to the audience as Day 7 came to a close, and we were sent off. 

-Jess Williams

Frank De Blase is Rochester Beacon music writer.  Jess Williams is a Rochester Beacon intern and a student at Ithaca College. All Rochester Beacon Jazz Fest articles are collected here.

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