5th Rochester International Jazz Festival, Part 2-3
Roberto Occhipinti Quintet
Roberto Occhipinti-bass; Kevin Turcotte-trumpet; Kelly Jefferson-tenor saxophone; Manuel Valera-piano; Dafnis Prieto-drums.
Canadian bassist Occhipinti is one of those utility bass players who can play with virtually anyone. But with his quintet he seems to favor a robust style of hard bop with Latin underpinnings courtesy of Cuban pianist Valera and superb drummer Dafnis Prieto. At the early show in Montage, the opener, "Plena by the pianist was a hard bop flag waver that set the tone for the rest of the set. The group performed mostly tunes from Occhipinti's recent "Yemaya , a wonderful and diverse record. Trumpeter Turcotte seemed particularly inspired. The entire proceedings were driven by Occhipinti and amazing drummer Prieto spurring the soloists with vigorous accompaniment. It was enjoyable set, well-appreciated by the almost sold out crowd.
Joel Harrison Quartet: Harrison Plays Harrison
Joel Harrison-guitar; David Binney-tenor saxophone; Dave Ambrosio-bass; Dan Weiss-drums.
This was the surprise set of the festival for me. I was familiar with guitarist Harrison's work and have enjoyed his records. But it seemed the concept for this show (playing the music of George Harrison) was a bit of a joke. Having not heard the record, hearing only sound samples didn't help since they really didn't begin to show the scope of this band. But my curiosity got the better of me. I walked in and the band had already begun. The song was in mid performance and I thought I'd walked into the wrong place. The music was free and beautiful with saxophonist Binney reaching the upper registers of his tenor (great sound on this guy) and the rhythm section pushing him along with washes of sound. What Harrison song was it? Couldn't tell. But then as the solo reached its conclusion a misshapen riff appeared that gradually came into focus and then I realized it was "Here Comes The Sun . Very, very nice. They performed an original, "You Bring The Rain that allowed the group to splinter off into various combinations with an especially effective sequence between Harrison's fuzzed guitar and Ambrosio's acoustic bass. On "All Things Must Pass the theme was played but soon it was left behind and the group opened up into a section of hovering, shimmering psychedelic beauty. They concluded with a driving version of "Love You Too by the Raga Beatle. All in all, a surprisingly creative concept that not only made me appreciate Joel Harrison's arranging abilities but also made me hear the original music with different ears. Great show!
John Hollenbeck-drums; Chris Speed-tenor saxophone, clarinet; Ted Reichman-accordion; Matt Moran-vibes; John Hebert-bass.
The Little Theatre was the perfect venue in which to hear this terrific band and the place was about 80% full. They had performed an earlier set in the Festival Tent, the least attractive venue of the festival and it was probably the worst place to hear this group's intricate music. Hollenbeck's group is a unique blend of elements from minimalism, avant-garde jazz and prog rock from the Henry Cow side of the spectrum. It's blended into a unique seamless whole. Although the instrumentation would scream effete, that is far from the case. This band can cook when they want to and get as loud and chaotic as the best of them. This set provided a couple of older pieces including "Opening , from their first LP(always a good beginning). "Drewslate from the band's current disc Semi-Formal was given a far more energetic reading than on the recording. They introduced some new material as well. A slow, hypnotic piece, "This Too Shall Pass had some remarkable moments of hovering group stasis. It was contrasted with the rowdy "Be Happy which had a kicking tenor solo by Chris Speed. But the Claudia Quintet's music isn't necessarily about solos, it's as much about group textures and rhythmic energy. The blending of the frontline instruments takes care of the former and Hebert and Hollenbeck took care of the latter, giving the music the energetic charge it needed. The band turned in a great set that was one of the festival's highlights.
Billy Bang Quintet
Billy Bang-violin; James Zollar-trumpet; Andrew Bemkey-piano; Todd Nicholson-bass; Newman Taylor Baker-drums.