Day 5 at the Jazz Fest placed me in Montage Music Hall to see Glen David Andrews. A vocalist and trombonist from New Orleans, Andrews is one of the most electrifying and magnetic performers I have ever seen.
He started the show by walking out into the audience, belting out his first song without a mic, as the band awaited him on stage, looping the chord progression of the energetic rock-influenced blues song. Andrews has a powerful voice, and it’s even more powerful when he’s singing his heart out just a few feet away from you.
“I don’t play ‘sit-down’ shows,” he told the seated audience as he walked up on stage. A bit reluctantly at first, the crowd got to their feet, but there’s no way you can sit back down after seeing the raw energy and passion that Andrews exhibits while performing. The frequent call-and-response moments, and clapping prompts also did not make it easy to stay seated.
It was shortly after the show began that Andrews brought up the recent death of his cousin. He got the news on the morning of the show. Revell Andrews was killed on Monday, shortly after graduating high school. Andrews and his other cousin, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, will carry the heavy news as they perform in Rochester.
“I have so much to be grateful for, I have so much to celebrate,” Andrews explained, taking the tragedy in stride as he led up to his next deeply celebrational and energetic song.
Andrews’ music is thoroughly influenced by New Orleans musical tradition, and he took the crowd down to New Orleans multiple times throughout his set, just as promised. There was a point where he asked for a pile of napkins for the audience to twirl, which prompted us to take our RIJF club passes off and twirl them above our heads.
Andrews uses incredible dynamic ability in his voice, which moves from a whisper to a shout in an instant, packed full of character as the raspy, gravely tone echoes that of Louis Armstrong and Big Joe Turner. His trombone skills are also top-notch and full of emotion. He is full of surprises as well, jumping into the audience again for an extended whistling solo, and even hopping on the piano that was pushed to the back of the stage for a few moments.
“You have definitely lifted my spirits up,” he said before playing his last song of the night.
The trombonist then exited the same way he entered: through the audience. As he walked through the crowd of elated audience members, he held his hands together in prayer, muttering to himself as the band played him off. It was an affecting emotional moment, causing many to wipe away tears while applauding. This was Andrews’ first of four shows at the Jazz Fest. He performs twice today, at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Bonnie Raitt performed her headliner show at Kodak Hall, which was completely sold out and I did not have a ticket, but that meant that I was able to see the Tia Fuller Quintet instead. I walked into Fuller’s show in the middle of her talk about honoring your roots, respecting ancestry, and remembering where you come from. Her band vamped over her speech, giving it the feel of a spoken word poetry piece.
Fuller’s music is driven by inspiration and symbolic messaging. When talking to the audience, she used the process of diamond formation and diamond reflection as a metaphor for progress and personal growth, which reflects in her musicianship with the way she plays with form and melodic variance.
The show was seamless, with complete transitions between pieces, and flawless improvisations between each member of the band. They worked like a close-knit family, spotlighting each other, and supporting each other. I was not surprised to find out that Fuller’s sister was the pianist, and one of her longest and best friends was the bassist. There was a lot of strong chemistry between this group; you could feel how effortless it was for them to play together.
Joona Toivanen Jazz & Fly Fishing closed out my day, a group that I knew I just had to see after reading their name. A group of four jazz musicians who are also passionate fly fishers and filmmakers makes for a pretty exclusive group. With bass player Tapani Toivanen, pianist Joona Toivanen, Swedish drummer Fredrik Hamrå, and Norwegian guitarist Håvard Stubø, the four travel the world, playing jazz shows and fly fishing, while also making documentary films on the journey.
Joona Toivanen Jazz & Fly Fishing played a set of soothing smooth jazz with heavy emphasis on atmospheric mood setting and ambient textures. The band added reverb keys, kalimba, and a handpan drum into the mix to make the sonic texture of their performance light and dreamy. This was the last day of their U.S. tour, and hopefully they will make yet another film out of it, and got some good fly fishing out of it too.
Today’s lineup features more talented musicians, including the free headliner Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, and organist Akiko Tsuruga, one of my most anticipated performances of the year.
For the Beacon’s Jazz Fest coverage, click here.
Jess Williams is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and a student at Ithaca College. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].