The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival attracts record crowds every year, and club passes for this year’s event have been sold out for months. But don’t let that discourage you from coming downtown to take in the scene. With seven free stages at this year’s festival there are tons of great bands to check out on the cheap!
Here are my best bets for the free stages. Hopefully you’ll take my advice and check out a few of these great acts for yourself. See you on Jazz Street!
Friday, June 10
5:15 pm Newark Sr. High Jazz Band – Jazz Street Stage
While seeing a high school jazz band may not sound like the coolest way to kick off a Friday night, the local school bands are a great way to hear some of the jazz standards and show some support our local kids! There are two school bands scheduled to start things off on the Jazz Street stage each night of the festival. Newark just happens to be my alma matter, so you can guarantee I’ll be there cheering them on!
7:15 pm Mingo Fishtrap – Jazz Street Stage
If you like a little funk, soul and horns in your Motown you may dig Mingo Fishtrap. This Mississippi based band blends those styles for a high energy R&B pop sound. Also consider the fact that this band is playing one of the paid venues later in the week. (Video)
9:00 pm Filthy Funk – RG&E-Xerox Stage
Filthy Funk is a Rochester based band that “builds on a classic organ-trio template by pouring-on heavy layers of soul, funk, hip hop, rock, and reggae.” They play around town all the time but you’d be smart to take advantage of the chance to see them for free at this year’s festival. (Video)
Saturday, June 11
2:00 pm Smugtown Stompers – Mary Jemison Boat on the Genesee River
The Smugtown Stompers offer you a chance do something truly unique at this year’s festival. Their set of dixieland/ragtime jazz is performed on board the Mary Jemison as it takes riders on a tour of the Genesee River. C’mon, how cool is that?!? (Video)
5:15 pm Buffalo Academy of the Performing Arts – Jazz Street Stage
The Buffalo Academy of the Arts is a high school band out of Buffalo, NY. Kind of the Buffalo equivalent of Rochester’s School of the Arts. You’ll definitely hear some classics, as well as see the “best of the best” high school instrumentalists.
6:00 pm ECMS Jazz Combo (led by Bob Sneider) – Jazz Street Stage
Every night during the festival guitarist Bob Sneider leads a jam session in which a variety of musicians in town for the festival drop in to play a few songs. (More on that later.) Here’s your chance to see Bob do his thing at a reasonable hour. Definitely worth a look.
7:15 pm Hadden Sayers Band – East Ave. & Chestnut St. Stage
A straight up blues band with a ton of talent. They do a pretty sweet cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” which should be cool if it makes it into their setlist. (Video)
9:15 pm Blues Caravan “Girls with Guitars” – Jazz Street Stage
Like Joss Stone? This is kind of an “all-star” act that is touring various festivals this year to showcase each artist in the lineup. But really the name says it all. It’s chicks with guitars, and they wail! This is another act those suckers will be paying top dollar to see later in the week. (Video)
Sunday, June 12
7:00 pm Tussey Mountain Moonshiners – RG&E-Xerox Stage
If you like bluegrass you’ll love the Tussey Mountain Moonshiners. Their set is made up of originals as well as the classics. Bass, guitar, banjo and fiddle. It doesn’t get any better than that! (Video)
9:00 pm Stephane Wremble Trio – Jazz Street Stage
The dude’s a gypsy. Nuff said. He plays a sort of ambient acoustic jazz with strong Classical, Spanish and Middle Eastern influences. Chalk this one up as a cultural experience. (Video)
Monday, June 13
12:00 pm Herb Smith – Central Library
Every weekday at noon the Central branch of the library plays host to an intimate show outdoors in the courtyard. Cool vibe. Grab a Zweigle’s form a street vendor on the way in and enjoy your lunch break! Herb Smith is the third chair trumpeter for the Rochester Philharmonic Jazz Festival, so you know he’s got chops. Come watch him do his jazz thing.
5:15 pm School of the Arts – Jazz Street Stage
The city’s best high school musicians.Give them your support!
7:15 pm Rick Holland Uptown Society Jazz Orchestra – Jazz Street Stage
It wouldn’t be a jazz festival with out a little big band. Monday’s a slow day, so the crowds should be small. Should be a real laid back performance. (Audio)
10:30 pm Bob Sneider & Friends – Rochester Plaza Hotel
Every night during the festival Bob Sneider invites other festival musicians for a little jam session in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel. A great way to cap off a nice evening of great jazz. You never know who’s going to show up, so it’s definitely worth checking out at least once or twice.
Tuesday, June 14
12:00 pm Mambo Kings – Central Library
The Mambo Kings are Rochester’s best Latin-jazz group. Another great way to spend a lunch break!
7:00 pm Jon Seiger and the All-Stars – RG&E-Xerox Stage
Notable because this trumpet player/band leader is deaf. There will no doubt be a strong showing of support from Rochester’s deaf community at this performance. Could be a very unique experience.
9:15 pm CNY Jazz Orchestra – Jazz Street Stage
A real solid big-band. You can never have enough big-band. (Video)
Wednesday, June 15
12:00 pm Chris Ziemba – Central Library
This classical/jazz pianist is also an Eastman student. I’ve seen him perform before and definitely recommend him for another great break to your workday.
7:00 pm Babik Jazz – RG&E-Xerox Stage
A very cool, all-strings take on classic dixieland style. This band features a bass, two guitars and a violin. Fantastic picking skills on the guitarists and the violin adds a sharp supplemental tone. (Video)
Thursday, June 16
7:15 pm & 9:15 pm Soul Stew – Jazz Street Stage
I have to be honest, I’m not that crazy about any of the free stage lineups this night. But Soul Stew is a solid blues/R&B band. You’ll hear some Marvin Gaye covers, that sort of thing. Definitely worth a listen if you’re going out that night. (Video)
Friday, June 17
7:15 pm Prime Time Funk – Jazz Street Stage
A ten-piece horn driven band. Soul, blues. Great musicians. The perfect warmup for what I think will be one of the best shows of the entire festival. (Video)
9:00 pm Trombone Shorty – East Ave. & Chestnut St. Stage
Do not, I repeat, do not miss Trombone Shorty. There is a lot of buzz around this guy right now. A good looking brother with a strong silky voice. Oh yeah, and he plays a filthy trombone! Highly acclaimed. DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW! (Video)
Saturday, June 18
7:00 pm Chris Beard Band – East Ave. & Chestnut St. Stage
I’m going to have a very hard time deciding between the Chris Beard Band and Po Boys. I just may have to take in both a little bit. Beard’s a Rochestarian whose dad is a prominent guitarist from New Orleans. He’s a blues monster. (Video)
7:15 pm Po Boys Brass Band – Jazz Street Stage
Another Rochester group. Four trombones, a tuba, guitar and drums. They cover Zeppelin, they cover Michael Jackson. Is that enough for ya? (Video)
9:00 pm G Love & Special Sauce – East Ave. & Alexander St. Stage
Let’s end this party with a party shall we? I’ve seen G Love several times and can tell you that his live performances go way beyond the hits from his first album. Blues, hiphop a little funk here and there. Those expecting an hour of “Cold Beverages” won’t get that at all, but they also won’t be disappointed! (Video)