I initially got into jazz because, frankly, it didn't always make a lot of sense to me. And I liked that. It was a soulful respite from the day-in day-out cacophony of rock 'n' roll. It soothed, it swung, it eluded.
The second annual Rochester International Jazz Fest offered more than I could eat, but I scarfed whatever I could wherever I could. This year's highlight was clearly the Dave Brubeck Quartet, which bopped and swung at the Eastman Theatre with class and elegance. The group offered honeyed glimpses of pure melody before launching into parts unknown.
The U Street All Stars played shows at Max Of Eastman Place and Milestones with a twin sax attack that was dizzying and fun. The rollicking notes seemed to excitedly scale the stairs two at a time. The Finnish band's horns were harmonious and cooperative one moment, combative the next. They swam experimental while still dangling one foot in more accessible, hard-bop waters.
Tony Bennett offered nothing new. But honestly, he doesn't need to. He is a cool and genuine talent. And what a gentleman. Toward the end of the show, Bennett had all the microphones shut off so he could fly the sold-out audience to the moon with the Eastman Theatre's acoustics as the only amplification.
Jazz fans from all over flooded the downtown streets, eagerly bouncing from one venue to the next like pinballs. Not all were jazz fans, and not all had manners. At vocalist Claudia Acuna's sold-out Max Of Eastman Place show, wine-sipping yuppie-scum had to be invited to shut up by Acuna's fed-up bassist.
I hadn't seen X in 18 years --- exactly half my life ago. Funny, I still dress the same. Los Angeles' X was one of American rock music's last successful experiments. Sure, musicians have always mixed odd since then, but X, in the midst of the LA punk era, took rockabilly, jazz, country, soul, and rock, cranking it out with a female poet-singer who sang off-key, a bass player who successfully harmonized with her, a slick guitarist culled from the late Gene Vincent's band, and a drummer who could pound out separate rhythms with each limb.
The Tuesday-night show was full of nothing but the hits, as X rocked for close to two hours at Buffalo's Continental. Singer Exene came off as both enigmatic and annoyed as guitarist Billy Zoom picked and grinned. He smiled and winked so much that many of the young ladies in front grew uncomfortable. Bassist John Doe was on fire, dancing all over the stage and falling approximately 10 feet off a PA speaker without missing a note. My ears are still ringing.
--- Frank De Blase