Trombone Shorty, Christian McBride set to perform at Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

06:08 PM, Mar 26, 2013

Left, pianist Harold Danko and festival co-producer John Nugent perform at a press conference on this summer's Jazz Festival. (CARLOS ORTIZ/staff photographer)/

Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff writer

New Orleans, which itself plays host to a jazz festival of some note, figures prominently in the 12th annual Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival schedule.

Iconic Crescent City pianist Dr. John and Trombone Shorty, a relative newcomer from New Orleans who has quickly become a favorite at this event, bookend an impressive lineup of free shows on the festival’s outdoor stages.

Dr. John plays June 21 at the festival at the East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage, the first time that opening night has featured a free, headlining main stage. Shorty and his high-energy show close out the festival on June 29 on the East and Alexander Stage.

They are two of the five main free shows announced on Tuesday, along with more than 200 club shows at 12 venues.

It’s where the music comes from in this country,” John Nugent, co-producer and artistic director, says of New Orleans. “You can’t have a festival in the U.S. without New Orleans. You’re committing a crime if you do.”

If so, helping keep Nugent on the street is The Louis Armstrong Society Jazz Band (June 23, Kilbourn Hall), Mendon native bluesman John Mooney (Abilene Bar and Lounge, June 22), Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers (June 28, Montage), Beauseil Avec Michael Doucet (June 23, Harro East Ballroom), the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (June 27, Harro East Ballroom; and June 28, Big Tent) and Mingo Fishtrap (June 29, Big Tent; and opening for Trombone Shorty June 29).

The outdoor stages are free of the long-in-the-tooth, beer-party rock bands such as The Outlaws and the Marshall Tucker Band, who have played the festival in the past. That doesn’t mean the street parties, which last year helped the XRIJF attract a record 187,000 people to the nine-day event, will be any less chaotic.

Besides Dr. John and Trombone Shorty, this year’s outdoor stages feature the roadhouse blues rock of Delbert McClinton (June 22), the new soul and R&B of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (June 28) and a project by Jamaican-born, New York City jazz pianist Monty Alexander, the Harlem-Kingston Express.

New this year: the opening night street show, which features Dr. John; a shuttle service to different downtown garages; and a new club venue in The Little Theatre.

With the addition of The Little, the festival is offering more club passes this year, but the expanded number are close to selling out.

Nugent did not once utter his familiar catch phrase for the event — “It’s not who you know, but who you don’t know.” But many of the speakers at Tuesday morning’s press conference in the Eastman School of Music’s Hatch Hall covered for him on that account. And once again, the eclectic nature of the lineup speaks for itself.

Perhaps chief among the musicians who this year’s festival will get to know is Canadian singer Nikki Yanofsky, who headlined her own show at the Montreal Jazz Festival at age 14, and is now a 19-year-old veteran of festivals, recording, TV and theater.

She is managed by the same Quincy Jones team that broke Norah Jones, who was just emerging as a star when she played the Rochester festival more than a decade ago. Yanofsky performs opening night at Harro East Ballroom.

Bassist Christian McBride and his band, Inside Straight, was to play Kilbourn Hall on opening night last year, but his flight was canceled and he missed the show. He will book an earlier flight this time, and again try for opening night at Kilbourn. Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band (June 26, Big Tent) is a side project by Allman Brothers Band drummer Jai Johanny Johanson.

Howard Levy, here in 2011 with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, displays his harmonica prowess in two formats: Trio Globo (June 26, Xerox Auditorium) and in a solo show (June 27, Hatch Recital Hall).

Musicians from more than 15 countries will be in Rochester, with the award for musicians traveling the furthest appearing to go to the return of guitarists The Two Siberians (June 21, The Little). Among the biggest acts, the Stretch Orchestra (June 23, Montage) features no band member under 6 feet, 5 inches tall.

Famous progeny: Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, son of John Coltrane (June 27, Kilbourn), singer Viktoria Tolstoy, great-great-granddaughter of the novelist, with Jacob Karlzon (June 27, Lutheran Church of the Reformation) and singer-songwriter Ben Taylor, son of James Taylor and Carly Simon (June 28, The Little).

Tributes to musicians past include Bill Dobbins and the music of Bill Evans (June 21, Hatch Recital Hall), “Shine On: The Universe of John Lennon” (June 25, Montage) and Rocky Lawrence Plays Robert Johnson (June 26, The Little).

The separately ticketed Eastman Theatre shows had been previously announced. Willlie Nelson & Family (June 22), with Nugent promising that Nelson will be singing some jazz standards, is sold out.

A second show, David Byrne & St. Vincent (June 25), is close to selling out. That leaves the elegant cocktail combo Pink Martini (June 21); a Supertramp show by the band’s lead singer, Roger Hodgson (June 26); jazzmen Bob James and David Sanborn with Rochester native Steve Gadd on drums (June 27); and Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus, in which the veteran rocker plays with selected bluesmen, in this case, Robert Cray (June 28).

Free shows on the closed-off Gibbs Street will include 21 local high school jazz bands, among other acts. The Central Public Library’s Gleason Auditorium also will feature free shows.

Some of the festival’s musicians will be conducting student workshops at the Eastman School of Music.