Jazz Stars Unite Across Generations in Rochester


Joey Alexander (left) and Chick Corea play a duet at the Rochester International Jazz Festival in Rochester, New York, on June 28.

(Photo: Jim Dolan)

The sensitivity and rapport between these three artists was in a state of perfect balance, creeping between near-silence and delicate exploration.

Fellow Norwegians Cortex had played in the same church on the previous night, and the quartet operated at faster, harder, louder and more complicated extremes. Here, the church’s fine acoustics embraced a different range of sonics. The two-horn freedom-scrabble set-up was reminiscent of the Old & New Dreams band, if not the original Ornette Coleman quartet itself.

The foursome decided to preview tunes from its forthcoming album. Early in the set, Kristoffer Berre Alberts issued a staggering tenor saxophone solo, setting the level for the raging battles to come. Drummer Gard Nilssen maintained a constant blur of detailed activity, with another blowtorch tenor outburst following, as the second number refused to let up the pace.

On the same evening, drummer John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet was in particularly fine form, in the much less atmospheric Xerox Auditorium. The leader’s compositions are now attaining a mastery that allows fleet spontaneity within an exceedingly disciplined structure.

“Peterborough” featured a speedy interlacing of vibraphone, accordion, reeds, bass and percussion. “Nightbreak” stole a four-bar Charlie Parker solo from “A Night In Tunisia” and decelerated it to the point of ambiguity. Its translucent nature led into “September 9th Wayne Phases,” dedicated to Wayne Shorter. The song steadily trundled toward a frantic outbreak of activity before working through a series of threesome permutations.

Ever the jester, Hollenbeck dedicated a pair of works to the drug-sniffer beagles of Newark and JFK airports, each given their own portrait. The JFK tribute involved spectral vibes, with the leader laying out his own set of chimes around his skins, enhancing Matt Moran’s vibraphone glow.

In the same venue, another drummer led an entirely different quartet. Dan Brubeck concentrated on the music of his iconic father, Dave, and in particular the vocal numbers composed in tandem with his mother Iola. This involved the inclusion of several songs from The Real Ambassadors album, released in 1962, the vocals tackled in smoothie fashion by bassist Adam Thomas.

Not surprisingly, the set was topped with potent versions of “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo A La Turk.” Brubeck delivered a quality encapsulation of his father’s repertoire, even if the emphasis was unusually song-based.

In the clubby atmosphere of the Montage Music Hall, guitarist John Abercrombie led his Organ Trio. The band’s late set on the festival’s third night revealed a leader in relaxed, humorous and slightly caustic frame of mind.

Drummer Adam Nussbaum was in attacking mode during “How Deep Is The Ocean,” and organist Gary Versace skated smoothly through “Ralph’s Piano Waltz.” The threesome hadn’t played together for a while, which heightened their exploratory nature, but this was a positive advantage, taking the tunes on an unpredictable excursion.

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