Gary Craig’s Top Picks for Every Day


Each day of the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival offers a multitude of choices for music lovers. Here are some options, although there are many more available. We try to appeal to eclectic tastes with these picks, and for a full lineup, head over

friday june 17

1. Lew Tabackin Trio

This being a jazz festival by title and by spirit, let’s start with pure jazz. Not only does Tabackin sing a tenor saxophone, but he is also a top flautist. In his seventh decade of professional music, he played with Cab Calloway and Doc Severinsen. The trio has a show at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Wilder Room.

2. Tessa Souter

One of the festival’s favorite jazz singers returns, with her magical reworkings of standards and lesser-known songs from eras past and recent. I’ll steal what my colleague Justin Murphy once wrote about Souter: “Souter’s singing is hard to describe, but her agility is remarkable. In the upper register she rises and extends, all the while retaining an almost conversational style at the bottom.” She will be at Glory House International at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Singing his truth:Jazz festival favorite Tessa Souter explores race and identity through music

3. Cowtown Hot Club

The Cowtown Hot Club plays a mix of swing, country, jazz and bluegrass.  They will perform at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday, June 17 in the big jazz festival tent and will also perform at 7:45 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom.

The fact that this band put their own spin on “Orange Blossom Special,” with strings ranging from bluegrass to near-psychedelic, should be enough on its own. The musicians mix jazz, swing and country in a delectable stew. They are at the Main Festival Tent at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. (Also at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom on Saturday June 18 at 7:45 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.)

Also on Friday, the usual batch of solid free shows, including popular songwriter-trumpeter Chris Botti at Parcel 5 at 9 p.m. and rock/soul/R&B singer Nikki Hill, a bundle of swagger and energy, at the Jazz Stage in the downtown at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

After:14 artists you need to know at Rochester Jazz Fest

After:Free shows at the Rochester Jazz Festival, listed by date

Saturday June 18

1. Ranky Tanky

ranky tanky

As I wrote about this quintet earlier, “this group focuses on the spiritual heritage of the Gullah culture – the music of West Africans who were sold as slaves in the southern coastal states” . This Grammy-winning band is perhaps the one that gets me most excited over the nine-day festival. They’ll be at Kilbourn Hall at 6 and 9 p.m. (also at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom at 7:45 and 9:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.)

2. NYChillharmonic


My years of prog-rock fandom are largely over, I admit, but this 18-piece band from Brooklyn intrigues me. Plus, it’s fronted by a woman, the ethereal Sara McDonald, something few progressive rock bands did during the genre’s peak years. (A quick Google search shows that that, thankfully, is no longer true, and that, admittedly unbeknownst to me, the genre is still thriving.) And, let’s face it, this band’s playful name is hard to top. The NYChillharmonic will be at Glory House International at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

3. Champian Fulton Trio

Champian Fulton

Fulton and his accompanists return to light up a festival stage once again. His piano playing and his voice are as effervescent as his smile. his enthusiasm and love for music is evident and contagious. She’s in the Theater at Innovation Square at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. (she’ll also be soloing at the Hatch Recital Hall on Sunday, June 19 at 5:45 and 7:45 p.m.)

Samantha Fish

Free shows on Saturday, June 18 should delight blues fans, with jammin’ guitar-womanship by Samantha Fish at 7 p.m. at Parcel 5 and the Devon Allman Project, led by Gregg Allman’s son, at 9 p.m. The Allman Brothers are in for a treat. And, at the Downtown Jazz Stage at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Dwayne Dopsie and Zydeco Hellraisers, a whirlwind of a band that’s an absolute blast.

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Sunday June 19

1. Bill Frisell Trio

Bill Frisell during a past performance at the Rochester Jazz Festival.

Every year, when the festival program comes out, I check to see if Bill Frisell is one of the artists. After the pandemic break, the return of this one-of-a-kind guitarist is a sign that the festival is well and truly back. I’ve probably heard a dozen versions of “Shenandoah” in my life, and found none with the delicate beauty of Frisell’s rendition. It might sound like a stretch, but I consider it a marvel (and the fact that many of the world’s top singer-songwriters seek it out adds argument to that belief). He and his band are at the Temple Theater at 7 and 9:15 p.m.

2. Dayna Kurtz

Dayna Kurtz.

The Little Theater will host roots-Americana music throughout the week, and fans of the genre – myself included – will surely enjoy this singer-songwriter. His ballads can be poetic and poignant. His song, “Venezuela,” was sculpted from a dream and beautifully and humorously captures the amorphous contours of a whimsical nocturnal narrative. She is at Le Petit at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.

3. Ravi Coltrane Freedom Trio

Ravi Coltrane

With genes like his, Ravi Coltrane was destined for music. He is the child of saxophone legend John Coltrane and pianist-bandleader Alice Coltrane. He mixes his own stellar musicality with another job: he oversees the reissue of his parents’ recordings. Ravi Coltrane’s saxophone solos can soothe and simmer, then burst – and his fellow musicians always have time to shine. The trio is at the Théâtre de l’Innovation Square at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Bill Frisell isn’t the only option for guitar aficionados on Sunday, June 19. Tommy Emmanuel is the free 9 p.m. show at Parcel 5, and there’s no musical genre unfamiliar to him. “Eric Clapton and Chet Atkins both said he was the greatest guitarist they had ever seen,” according to Nashville Arts Magazine. Oh, by the way, Martin Taylor, yet another renowned guitarist and also a former collaborator of Emmanuel, is at the Montage Music Hall tonight at 6 and 10 p.m. (Taylor is also at the Max of Eastman Place on Saturday, June 18, at 6:15 p.m. and 10 p.m.)

Tom Emanuel.

Monday, June 20

1. Sammy Miller and the Congregation

This name is captivating enough because, let’s face it, the best music hits a spiritual nerve and the venue – indoors, outdoors, intimate or the size of an arena – becomes a chapel when that nerve is touched. . The band has a 5 minute youtube video that compresses jazz history into something accessible and irresistible. This video proves that this group is both a scholar and a connoisseur of the genre, and their performances are further proof of that. The Congregation is at Kilbourn Hall at 6 and 9 p.m.

2. Mike Cottone and Friends

Mike Cottone, originally from Rochesterian and graduated from Eastman.

Mike Cottone of Rochester, a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, built quite a career as a jazz trumpeter, but he was always ready to come back and share his talents with the crowds of his hometown. “Rochester has an incredibly supportive music community,” he told the Democrat and Chronicle in 2018. “Coming back to Rochester for the festival is like coming home for the holidays to see family. look forward like Christmas Day.” Cottone and Friends will perform at the Innovation Square Theater at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

3. Ms. Lisa Fischer

Ms. Lisa Fischer

Fischer’s voice can rumble, rock, roll, and soar to heights that sound otherworldly. If Marvel decided to create a singing superhero, she would be natural. his voice seems to come from a place beyond the earthly realms. You would have to be catatonic not to be moved by his artistic talent. As I wrote in a previous story, she was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” the story of the background singers. Roger Ebert’s film page called her a “delicate dynamo” in the film’s 2013 review, and The New York Times wrote that she was a “singer of truly prodigious range and delicacy”. . She’s at the Temple Theater at 7 and 9:15 p.m.

Spyro Gyra.

While Parcel 5 will host nationally acclaimed headliners, including longtime jazz ensemble Spyro Gyra that night, let’s throw some love to our local musicians, especially Ryan Johnson and Escape Terrain. This mix of local musicians blends into a singularly impressive mix of jazz and soul. The band will be at the Avangrid Foundation/RG&E Fusion Stage at 7 and 9 p.m.

Tuesday, June 21

1. Connie Han

Connie Han

Connie Han’s jazz piano has been called cheeky, raw and fiery. These descriptions surely apply, as do many others. She’s not wedded to a single tempo or style or bound by tradition, but her music still resonates with the lessons of many of her musical ancestors. She’s a reminder—yes, cheeky, raw, and fiery—that jazz is always evolving. She’s at Hatch Recital Hall at 5:45 and 7:45 p.m. (and she and her trio are at Montage Music Hall on Wednesday, June 22.)

2. Adam Melchor

Adam Melchor’s songs can sometimes have a musical disconnect – pop-like beats that are pleasing to the ear but bound together by more soulful lyrics. In the hands of other people, maybe a line like “If there’s life on Mars, are they going to have to learn to wonder if there’s still life on earth” would be haunting . But with Melchor, this call for environmental action is in the skin and is more about hope than despair. Melchor is at the Temple Theater at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.

3. The Nabaté Islands

Island of Nabaté

Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Nabaté Isles is a huge sports fan and has previously compared music and athletics, telling arts website Occhimag that both require “a lot of discipline, diligence, repetition”. Like great athletes, Isles looks more natural than practiced – a result of the very diligence he preaches. Isles is at Max of Eastman Place at 6:15 p.m. and 10 p.m.

The free headlining show this evening will be Robin Thicke at 9 p.m. However, I think the band just before Thicke — Seattle’s seven-piece set The Dip at 7 p.m. — has a wonderful R&B spirit that complements the outdoors perfectly. field adjustment 5.

Your guide to free stuff:Free shows at the Rochester Jazz Festival, listed by date

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Rochester History: Before Jazz Fest, this club regularly featured the biggest names in jazz music

Check back for Gary’s picks for later dates.

Contact Gary Craig at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at gcraig1.


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