Jazz Fest ends on a bright note

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Pouring rain greeted the final day of the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival. All Street Stage shows from 3 p.m. to 7 p. m. were canceled. This included the Brighton High School Jazz Band, which I was excited to see, since that’s my alma mater, and I still know some of the people that play in the band. Luckily, the rain cleared up pretty quickly, and all other shows continued as scheduled.

As skies cleared and the night approached, the Jazz Fest streets drew more people. The free shows at the Jazz Street Stage, the Wegmans Pavilion and Parcel 5 swarmed with people dancing, socializing, and ending their Saturday with some great music. 

Chien Chien Lu (Photo by Marcie Ver Ploeg/ via RIJF)

I began with bassist Richie Goods and vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu, whose skills finally gave me the vibraphone fix I’ve been looking for at this year’s Jazz Fest. An amazing vibraphonist, Lu’s swift runs and melodic choices are expressive. Equally talented is Goods on the bass, who shreds on his 5-string electric, and on his upright.

The two of them played with their band Connected, a group formed over the pandemic with the goal of using music to emphasize the connections we all have with each other. Conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and the continued hate crimes against Asian people spurred the idea of creating a group that focuses on music as a force to spread connectivity and peace. The group is hard to pin down, with their jazz being influenced by many genres, including rock, funk, and classical music. 

“We are all connected, we’re all brothers and sisters,” Goods said while guitarist Akira Ishiguro started vamping chords that led into the next piece. 

They started the set with two songs, the groovy “Treasure Mountain,” and the peaceful, explorative “Water.” There was no stopping in between the songs, and they connected perfectly. Both songs land on the band’s album “Connected,” which dropped in January and yesterday won “Best Instrumental Album” at the Golden Melody Awards. A video of Goods’ and Lu’s reaction to winning this award was taken while they were on the road to Rochester yesterday morning. 

Connected ended with “Gorée” written by Marcus Miller, a song inspired by the island it is named after. Miller wrote the song after visiting the island, which is known as the “Door of No Return” for the African slave trade. Goods said they weren’t playing this song to end the show on a somber note, but instead as a celebration of life, within the remembrance of tragedy. Their rendition was breathtaking, especially pianist Matt Wong’s opening solo. 

Vincent Peirani (Photo by Mark Druziak/ via RIJF)

Next, I saw the last couple moments of accordionist Vincent Peirani’s group as they finished up their last song. Peirani’s accordion abilities are wild; his fingers flourished across each side of the instrument, treating the audience to wondrous melodies. Peirani is careful to not let the sound of the accordion fall into the expected. He blends genres, using the accordion in creative ways, expanding on the instrument’s usual sounds. 

While I regrettably only saw the final moments of the performance, they were a stunning 10 minutes. The trio played some solid contemporary jazz before dipping into an accordion break where Peirani slowed things down for a contemplative solo with beautiful chords and a deconstructed form. After letting this moment marinate, he established tempo again, while the rest of the trio joined in to end the song with an explosive extended drum solo. I hope Peirani returns to Rochester sooner than later so I can see a full performance.

The crowd at Parcel 5 (Photo by Mark Druziak/ via RIJF)

Trombone Shorty closed out the Jazz Fest with a free show at Parcel 5, and it was a party. Trombonist and natural performer Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews played some energetic and celebrational brass-led tunes while a full crowd danced, clapped their hands, and cheered. 

Trombone Shorty’s entrance was dramatic. He and his band walked out to Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” which is better known as the theme to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” He then immediately launched into his infectious tune “Backatown,” which remains my favorite song by him. Its catchy horn melody and unrelenting groove really drive home what Trombone Shorty is all about: danceable jazz-funk jams with some blaring horns and energetic solos. 

“Rochester, we meet again,” he shouted to the crowd, ushering a wave of cheers.

Trombone Shorty brought on his backing band Orleans Avenue, which brought a tasteful New Orleans brass feel to the show, a sound that influences the New Orleans native’s music. The band carried the same raw energy that Trombone Shorty had, and the flashy lights and equally flashy songs expelled any chance of a dull moment.

Andrews and his cousin Glen David Andrews both performed at the Jazz Fest this year despite the tragic death of a family member, Revell Andrews. Both artists kept spirits incredibly high, a testament to their belief in the healing power of music and community. 

Trombone Shorty (Photo by Peter Parts/ via RIJF)

With a youthful flair, Trombone Shorty led the audience in call-and-response segments, walking out into the crowd, trombone in hand, and blasting the speakers with hooky solos that are perfect for a festival stage. There was one moment where he indulged in a super-long trumpet solo that included him playing the same rapid pattern over and over, seemingly without breathing. Trombone Shorty was a crowd-favorite, and a great way to bring the 20th annual Rochester International Jazz Festival to a close. 

It’ll be another year before we get this much jazz in downtown Rochester, but there is jazz all around if you know where to look. Community radio station Jazz 90.1 and the blog JazzRochester are great places to start. 

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]

One thought on “Jazz Fest ends on a bright note

  1. Jess- thank you for really good reporting! You were spot on with the performances, many of which we were at! Glad The Rochester Beacon gave you the assignment! Enjoyed the reads. Thanks! Howie

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