A voice that carries from Iceland to Rochester

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Those who have tickets to see Laufey—the show is sold out—are in for a treat. The Icelandic-Chinese singer-songwriter is expected to mesmerize audiences with her signature mix of cultural heritage and musical influences at the Rochester International Jazz Festival on Day 6.

Laufey released her first single while studying at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “Street by Street” quickly became a hit in Iceland. A classically-trained musician, her songs are modern and share her life experiences. Her debut, for example, tells of her desire to connect with the city of Boston again, which was marred by memories of a painful breakup.

Laufey (pronounced lay-vay) channels her gentle voice into R&B riddims and jazz melodies—garnering an audience following that crosses generations. Lucky ticket holders: Laufey plays at Kodak Hall.

The Levin Brothers, a jazz quartet, formed in 2014. Siblings Tony and Pete Levin—each known for their own musical prowess—hadn’t worked in a band together before that. The quartet focuses on ’50s cool jazz, a throwback to the Levins’ childhood.

Tony Levin, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, is the bass and Chapman Stick player for Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. His jazz work includes collaborations with Buddy Rich, Steps Ahead, L’Image, Gary Burton, Chuck Mangione, and Herbie Mann. 

Pete Levin plays the keyboards and has many jazz and pop recordings and performances to his name. Known as a synthesizer specialist, his recent release is “Mobius,” with a seven-piece band that features Alex Foster, Tony Levin, and Lenny White.

The brothers are joined by Jeff “Seige” Seigel, a New York jazz scene veteran; and Pat Labarbera, saxophonist, who has performed in groups led by Woody Herman, Louie Bellson, and Carlos Santana. The Levin Brothers perform at Montage Music Hall.

Ekep Nkwelle’s voice is said to bring passion and soul. The 24-year-old Cameroonian-American jazz vocalist has collaborated with many greats and she has performed in iconic venues like Radio City Music Hall, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center and Blues Alley.

Last year, Nkwelle was nominated by Wynton Marsalis for the Juilliard Career Advancement Grant, adding to her meteoric rise. Nkwelle will play for Rochester at Max of Eastman Place.

Boston’s Bermuda Search Party is known for its energy and vibrance. With smooth sounds combined with rock, R&B and funk, the band tends to bring audiences to their feet. In 2022, Bermuda Search Party released a self-produced LP titled “Melancholy Flowers.” The album showcases vocals and songwriting of guitarist Leo Son and bassist Claire Davis, trumpet and trombone from Maclin Tucker and Hoyt Parquet. Bermuda Search Party will perform at the Rochester Regional Big Tent.

Folk music is Little Misty’s thing. As is storytelling. The indie progressive folk band from Montreal is led by Kathryn Samman (vocals) and François Jalbert (guitar). They compose stories weaving in folk and indie rock, creating sounds that transport listeners. Little Misty plays at the Little Theatre.

G.E. Smith needs no introduction. His blond ponytail is recognizable—from his tenure as frontman for the Saturday NIght Live Band. A guitarist, composer, singer and bandleader, Smith has enjoyed an illustrious career—sought by artists like Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Roger Waters. Smith will be at the Theater at Innovation Square.

For show times and ticket prices, see the full Jazz Fest schedule. For the Beacon’s Jazz Fest coverage, click here.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. 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]

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