JAZZ FEST 2012, Day 1: Tessa Souter, Get the Blessing, Karrin Allyson

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You might say that Tessa Souter chooses her collaborators wisely. We're talking guys like Beethoven, Fauré, and Chopin. Her new album, "Beyond The Blue," features her lyrics set to some of the greatest melodies ever written, and she sang a lot of them Friday night during her first set at Montage Grill. Even though they were not familiar to the audience the way jazz standards would have been, she got strong responses.

My favorite song of the night was "Prelude To The Sun," based on the second (slow) movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. The arrangement (by Rochester's Joe Locke, who plays on the album but was not at the show) beautifully accents the tune's wonderful counterpoint.

Souter's voice was gorgeous on the classical/jazz fusion pieces and on the few standards she performed. The audience seemed absolutely entranced by her rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "The Look Of Love," which featured a mesmerizing guitar solo by Tom Guarna.

Get The Blessing couldn't have been more of a contrast over at ChristChurch. The four members of the group (including a substitute drummer; theirs is on tour with Radiohead) wore suits without ties but played it anything but straight. The group members used the stage visually in a dramatic way with the two horn players (saxophone and trumpet) on the far right and far left, and the drummer and bassist in the middle.

Conceptually, Get The Blessing is fascinating. In every tune band members went right to the edge and sometimes over. But, in every tune they came back and suddenly there was a theme so catchy, it was tough to shake. Few groups can pull off this sort of balancing act, not to mention raise questions about the yin yang of dissonance and harmony.

I was hoping to end the night with the great bassist Christian McBride's Inside Straight at Kilbourn Hall. The four other musicians in his band were in Rochester and at the afternoon sound check. But McBride himself was stuck at NewarkAirport with storms preventing his plane from taking off. He went all the way across New York to LaGuardiaAirport to try to get a flight from there but they couldn't get him here before 10:45 p.m. So, for the first time I can ever recall in XRIJF history, two shows had to be cancelled.

Karrin Allyson performed Friday, June 22, at Max of Eastman Place as part of the 2012 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE
  • Karrin Allyson performed Friday, June 22, at Max of Eastman Place as part of the 2012 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. PHOTO BY FRANK DE BLASE

Instead, I decided to hear singer/pianist Karrin Allyson at Max at Eastman Place. On my favorite of her albums, "From Paris to Rio," Allyson demonstrates her ability to sing beautifully in French and Portuguese. Even thought the album came out in 1999, she still often ventures to both places in concert.

She sang a beautiful version of "Sous le Ciel de Paris" ("Under the Sky of Paris") and a wonderful "O Pato" ("The Duck"). And, when she interpreted Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Double Rainbow," she sang in English and Portuguese. Allyson had a natural rapport with the audience throughout the show. Her guitarist, who she said was playing only his second show with her, was especially strong.

Saturday night I can't wait to hear Tom Harrell's Debussy & Ravel Project at Kilbourn Hall. I love Debussy but I love Ravel even more. And I can't think of a more sensitive trumpet player to explore their music than Harrell. I'll also check out the excellent pianist Bill Cunliffe at Hatch Hall and see how ethereal it can get with Yggdrasil & Eivor at the LutheranChurch.

Looking for more of City's Jazz Fest coverage? Click here for City's 2012 Jazz Fest Guide, click here for our Jazz Blog landing page, or Like City on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @roccitynews.

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