This week in Rochester, New York we are enjoying the 17th year of The International Jazz Festival. It’s a nine-day music festival with 13 indoor venues and four outdoor. The outdoor stages provide free music from 4pm to 11pm. The indoor venues are mostly $30.00 shows and each night there is a headliner that tickets are normal concert prices. My husband and I have a nine day pass for the first time this year which means we can walk into and out of any show except the headliners, depending on the lines of course. This event is taking place downtown among our high-rises on blocked off streets. Not all the music is jazz, but a good portion of it is. And there are food trucks and open restaurants and lots of people and even more beer. I don’t know why, but walking on a public street with a glass of beer in hand, past one of the many police officers keeping watch, gives me the feeling of getting away with something. It’s fun.
The very first night we saw the Joey Alexander trio. Joey is the piano prodigy that taught himself jazz at the age of six. He played his original tunes with a stand up bass and drummer for accompaniment. All I can say is, Wow and double Wow! The bass player and drummer were as high quality musicians as Joey and they made their instruments “sing” not just play along. I was sitting where I couldn’t see Joey unless I leaned forward quite a bit. The music was fantastic, but when I saw this small-sized Indonesian teenager on the bench I said to myself, “He’s my grandson’s age!” and it made it even more remarkable. He set the tone for what we expected of the other acts over the next days and I can honestly say no one has come close to his talent, but then he set the bar up off the charts. I wonder what it’s like for the other musicians to have a 15-year-old boss.
There are three days of music left. Today is my job to go through all the artists web sites to decide who we want to see as we don’t know most of the names. They come from all over the world and all have their own special sound. I should also mention that some of the venues are churches and it’s a treat to sit in their inner beauty and feel the peace. I’ve talked to a lot of strangers over the past few days, learned how to get around downtown, haven’t had to cook dinner and have enjoyed some wonderful music. I thought maybe nine days would be a bit much, but now I know it isn’t. I will definitely look forward to next year when I can once again enjoy the cream of the crop when it comes to jazz.