A joyful evening on Day 8

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Samara Joy is back to thrill a Rochester audience with her velvet voice on Day 8 of the Rochester International Jazz Festival. 

Joy, who has won two Grammy Awards—for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best New Artist—is known for her vocal range and control, and her ability to convey emotion with grace. This is her third straight year at the Jazz Fest.

A newcomer to jazz, Joy is an ardent fan of musical history. Her performances honor the greats. She has performed with Bill Charlap (who also performed at the Jazz Fest this year), Christian McBride and the late pianist Barry Harris, an influence and mentor.

Joy keeps it real and sings like she means it, sometimes evoking emotion in herself, reviewers say. 

For the Jazz Fest, she will be at Kodak Hall.

Another vocalist ready to captivate crowds is Alicia Olatuja with the Olatuja Project. Also a composer and arranger, Olatuja had a global audience when she sang a solo at Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony as the nation’s first Black president. 

The event brought her much attention and praise, resulting in more fans and opportunities for collaboration. Olatuja has performed with names like Chaka Khan, BeBe Winans, Billy Childs and Dr. Lonnie Smith. Her collaborations with jazz ensembles at the Juilliard School are many.

The Olatuja Project includes Michael Olatuja, a renowned and in-demand bassist who is also her husband. Together, they are said to create magic. The Olatuja Project plays at the Temple Theater.

Jim Rotondi’s mastery with the trumpet will be on display at Kilbourn Hall with the Rotondi Quintet. He is often sought as a must-have leader and sideman worldwide.

Rotondi, who started playing the piano at age 8, switched to the brass wind instrument at 12. A graduate of the music program at the University of North Texas, Rotondi took home the coveted prize at the International Trumpet Guild’s Jazz Trumpet Competition in 1984. 

Rotondi currently leads two groups, the quintet with vibraphonist Joe Locke, and an electric group, Full House, with pianist David Hazeltine. 

Rachel Sumner and her string band Traveling Light give roots in bluegrass and traditional folk music a new meaning. Sumner, who sang and wrote with the group Twisted Pine (also at RIJF this year), is very familiar with the stage and a notable name in Boston’s roots music world.

The band is known for showcasing Kat Wallace’s (fiddle/harmonies) and Mike Siegel’s (upright bass) wizardry with strings. Add Sumner’s lyrics and vocals and the music pushes past conventional ideas of folk and bluegrass.

A band of French musicians—The Django Festival All-Stars—are in town to intoxicate and bring their listeners to their feet. Grown out of the Django Reinhardt Festival at Birdland in New York City, the band’s compositions are a nod to the legacy and traditions of Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz style.

Lead guitarist Samson Schmitt plays with accordionist Ludovic Beier, violinist Pierre Blanchard, bassist Antonio Licusati and gypsy rhythm guitarist Francko Mehrstein.

The Django Festival All-Stars play at Kilbourn Hall.

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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