JAZZ FEST 2013, Day 6: Frank reviews Lee Fields and The Expressions, Soweto Kinch, Rocky Lawrence


Lee Fields and The Expressions performed Wednesday, June 26, at Harro East as part of the 2013 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest. - PHOTO BY FRANK DEBLASE
  • Lee Fields and The Expressions performed Wednesday, June 26, at Harro East as part of the 2013 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Fest.

Alright youse guys, let’s talk about life and the quartet of want, expect, need, and get. Tonight’s foray into our beloved downtown — a city resurrected to look like a city we want, expect, and need, but only get one time a year — brought me and the Tin Man, riding shotgun in a blue cloud of exhaust thanks to the Gray Ghost, to the scene of the Jazz Fest. Good day, and welcome to day six (I thought John Nugent would appreciate this salute to his fatherland via a dusty Bob and Doug McKenzie reference).

Anywhen…we first darkened the door at Harro East Wednesday night for a greasy fist full of salacious and sexy, mid-tempo soul grind ala Lee Fields & The Expressions. In a lilac-colored sport coat he borrowed from the Easter Bunny, Fields worked the room relentlessly, emphasizing what he wanted and expected us to hear. The audience needed it (I know I did) and we got it, baby! Fields is one hell of a soul shouter and soul sender. His voice was powerful and urgent, and his band stayed in the pocket coming on strong and period correct in tempo and equipment, right down to the old telephone-style coil patch cords. I needed that.

Soweto Kinch’s switch between hip-hop militant and exploratory jazz astronaut was just the kind of secular juice I needed to get me into a church – Christ Church specifically. However, something I didn’t expect was Kinch’s theme for the night; sin. The seven deadly ones, to be exact. I’ve mastered them all, how about you? Alas the sound was entirely too boomy to catch the tight punch of his rap — which included invited shouts from the audience — but served his saxophone well as it bounced and careened about looking for a way out. It turns out it’s what I needed…and what I got.

After leaving the air conditioned tundra of the lounge we headed to the Little Theatre to catch Rocky Lawrence do Robert Johnson and related masters. I love this kind of blues, and I remember telling the Tin Man, “I really want his to be good…need it to be good.” I got one look at Lawrence in his natty duds and expected it to be good, but I gotta tell you, it fell flat. His patter was banal, his playing — though proficient — wasn’t that varied, and it was essentially mediocre and underwhelming. In his defense, I only stayed for about half the set, but really didn’t see it going anywhere. Lawrence sang of the devil, but for those who saw John Mooney a few nights ago, they saw the devil himself with sharp teeth and a six-foot hard-on. That’s what we wanted from Lawrence, what we expected, and what we needed, but not what we got. But if you try sometimes…