Review: From femme fatale to avant garde on jazz fest Day 2
05:00 AM, Jun 22, 2013
Big attendance numbers aside, it can be argued that the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival is actually all about the intimate club experience. Jazz that’s a femme fatale of song in a black cocktail dress and red spiked heels, singing “The Danger of Loving You.” That would be Halie Loren at The Rochester Club Saturday night. Her elegant piano-and-bass Oregon trio melodically swaying through “Blue Skies,” “My Funny Valentine” and Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” in French. And more-unusual fare such as Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale” and Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” as if they had been written in Tin-Pan Alley.
But with Oregon you also get the weather, reflected in a hopeful original ditty playing off gloomy weather and moods, “Gray to Grand,” to which bassist Mark Schneider contributed the forgotten art of whistling.
Right around the corner from Loren, Rochester native Robin McKelle and her black-and-white polka dot pants had Gibbs Street jumping to her aerobics soul. So in different ways, as Loren and McKelle would likely both attest, we always take comfort in home.
Today’s jazz haiku
build your nest in that big town
but always come home
Mendon native John Mooney returned to the turf where he learned the ways of Son House, making it a night of slide blues boogie for a properly sweaty, packed tent at Abilene Bar & Lounge.
Mooney paid frequent visits to the Corn Hill home of the blues legend Son House, and he’s carrying on that Delta sound with a sledgehammer’s delight. Sitting at the front of the stage, a stomp board at his feet, Mooney put a special energy into everything, including a jumping version of “Sun’s Gonna Shine in My Back Door Some Day.”
And he made it a night of nostalgia by recruiting his band from back in the day: Electric pianist Robert Cooper came in from Westport, Conn., harmonica player Nick Langan from Philadephia and double bassist Brian Williams you’ve seen him most recently in the Djangoners from, um, Ionia, out in Ontario County.
Mooney’s old fans also came out for this one. Some even danced, in that old blues fans’ way. A couple of times, the front of the stage looked like a tai chi class.
Spike Jones on acid
We know jazz is really getting somewhere when the band brings its own clowns. After playing the festival’s opening night at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra continued its experiment in Dada jazz at Xerox Auditorium.
The nine musicians entered from the stage wings to the hypnotic whine of Tibetan prayer bowls and the three saxophonists and one trombonist breathing contemplatively into their instruments. With a drummer, organist, vibraphonist, double bassist and female singer, this was a unique band, exuding a 1930s aura, slowly easing into a swing-jazz session. Throughout the hour-long set, the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra deftly handled thoughtful landscapes of the avant-garde and unusual time signatures. This collection of Norwegian and Swedish musicians was clearly up to the game.
Quirky physical comedy broke out. The drummer put on a bathrobe and jumped off the front of the stage, as though he were diving onto a pool, and pretended to do a few laps. The trombonist recited an odd poem about a world where light was dark and squares were triangles.
Yet the show was nearly stolen by the clowns, some kind of Franciscan religious figures in wide-brimmed hats, as might have been depicted by Salvador Dali. The clowns appeared regularly, hanging neon-colored fabric from poles on the stage, sporting red balls on their noses or wearing white masks as they went about their mysterious tasks. This was the Spike Jones Band on acid. I was certainly happy that I hadn’t ingested any hallucenogenic drugs myself before this show. Unnecessarily redundant.
One song concluded with the band, looking as though it was succumbing to a stage-wide dose of ether, falling to the ground, with the clowns returning he in a monkey mask, she in some kind of Copernicus face to silently poke around the collection of prostrate musicians. Then they began to slow dance, with the band slowly regaining consciousness in time to play “When I Fall in Love.” No explanation was offered for any of this. None was expected.