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Jazz Fest: Day Two - a return engagement for Jack Broadbent

Jun 24, 2018

Jack Broadbent
Credit Fred SanFilipo / for WXXI News

The crowd in front of Brian Setzer’s rockabilly trio at the closed-off intersection of Chestnut Street and East Avenue was shoulder to shoulder for nearly two blocks, thousands of thousands of them, the tight, impressive rockabilly sound pristine in the gorgeous evening air.

In Max of Eastman Place, a complete contrast, with Quebec City’s Des Sourcils playing sprightly Gypsy jazz.

In the Big Tent, another contrast, the Hip Spanic All Stars, playing what they call “JazzyAfroLatinFunk” at astonishing decibels.

On Gibbs Street, after Boz Scaggs’ sold-out show in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre let out, you couldn’t spit a watermelon seed through the tight crowd in front of rocker Scott Sharrard, a one-time guitarist with the Gregg Allman Band..

This was Saturday, Day Two of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. Co-producers John Nugent, with his tenor sax, and Marc Iacona with his trumpet, had already been onstage playing with Rochester’s Significant Other. They might as well, there’s nothing they can do with this monster now. It’s rolling.  

A flask of Broadbent: Full of promise

Jack Broadbent was a jazz fest revelation last year, playing twice at Montage Music Hall. Two packed shows, with a line out the door, but no one was giving up their seat. Broadbent’s dad was onstage playing bass, his mother and girlfriend were in the audience. At the second show that night, he was having so much fun he went past the 60-minute mark, playing an extra half hour.

Boz Scaggs
Credit Fred SanFilipo / for WXXI News

Broadbent has the dry, self-deprecating wit of the English, and that island’s musicians’ reverence for American blues. That part was still intact when he returned to the festival Saturday. But this was a slightly different Broadbent for his first show at the Harro East Ballroom. Less gruff bluesman, more singer-songwriter. My friends were suggesting Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, or Nick Drake.

Broadbent plays slide guitar, with the instrument on his lap, and when he wants to crank the muse he theatrically whips his arm across the strings. Instead of the usual glass or metal tube as a slide, he uses a hip flask, or slaps the strings when he needs a chugging rhythm.

The soundcheck had been an issue, he admitted, remarking on it throughout the show. “Positive feedback,” he said when his guitar squealed loudly between songs. “At least you’re all smiling. That’s encouraging.”

He presented a mix of very good originals and cover songs, a lot of the same stuff from last year, opening with Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again.” He did Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack” and Little Feat’s “Willin’,” opening it as gentle spoken word rather than singing the lines. Broadbent’s Hendrix choice was not one of the raving guitar pieces, but the subtler “The Wind Cries Mary.”

Credit Fred SanFilipo / for WXXI News

It was good. People were raving. Yet it wasn’t the wreckless Broadbent of last year. What was the difference?

Midway through the show, he asked for water. Apparently someone offstage offered him a beer. “I’m trying not to drink,” he said with a shake of his head. Then had second thoughts. “Actually… yeah, give me the beer.”

Cheers erupted from the audience.

“It’s not drugs,” he said, defensively. “It’s a drink.” He looked offstage again, hopefully. “And… a cigar? Cuban?”

Out in the lobby, official Jack Broadbent hip flasks were for sale; he isn’t missing a good marketing opportunity. “They’re full…,” Broadbent insisted, “of promise.”

Today’s jazz haiku

Cuban cigars, beer

a wire haunted by gremlins

provoking the muse

The Bad Plus, well done

Early on in The Bad Plus’ first set at Temple Theater, Reid Anderson was stumbling over an old CB radio phrase about, “Keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your (insert coarse expletive for butt).” Anderson was getting his bugs and bears mixed up when Dave King got up from behind his drum kit, walked over to the bassist and announced, “I’m younger than Joey Alexander.”

That non-sequitur is most assuredly not the case. King has been with The Bad Plus for 18 years. Alexander, the young pianist who played the venue the night before, is just a few days short of 15.

Was it a desperate plea for attention from King? Sure, we’re all amazed by the 14-year-old jazz wonderkid. But there is still plenty of wonder to go around. In the world of avant-garde jazz, The Bad Plus is firmly entrenched as a master of the unentrenched.

The unentrenched melody, the unentrenched rhythm.

The band has undergone a major change, with pianist Ethan Iverson leaving and Orrin Evans taking his place alongside Anderson and King. With Iverson, The Bad Plus was known for its occasional interpretations of pop and rock hits, most notably Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But with Evans in the lineup, the band’s latest album, Never Stop II, has no curious covers. And there were none in Saturday’s first show at Temple Theater. Perhaps The Bad Plus has grown weary of playing second bass to someone else’s music.

Yet it remains The Bad Plus. Music with the yin and yang of shifting musical landscapes. Melodies spiraling into extremely aggressive behavior by the musicians, rhythms that are the uncertain syncopation of clocks incapable of settling on a time zone. Quirkiness, or perhaps it is misbehavior, as when King takes the edge of his drumstick and draws it along his cymbal for a fingernails on chalkboard effect. Or simply rubbing his hands on a drum head, the whispering of the wind, a sound drums are not typically known for. Misleading the listener with a sing title, “Safe Passage,” propulsive rhythms that are hardly comforting.

It is pensive beauty, on to chaos, and back.

Sunday: Jazz Fest Day Three

Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater is silent, the big stage at Chestnut Street and East Avenue has been stashed away until next weekend. In what has traditionally been one of the jazz fest’s less-consuming evenings, the clubs are generally a little more accessible. Which means all of you – see above – should be at Jack Broadbent’s 6:30 and 9 p.m. shows at Xerox Auditorium.

Moon Hooch, 8:30 and 10 p.m., Big Tent. The Brooklyn trio starts with two saxophones and percussion and builds from there. A contrabass clarinet, a Moog analog synthesizer, an orange traffic cone, and a lot of energy. “The music is a little more primitive, a little more raw, than house music,” the band’s Mike Wilbur told WXXI. They call it “cave music.” Moon Hooch also plays Monday at Montage Music Hall.

Jeff Spevak

Kuara Trio, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation. A contemplative Finnish-Norwegian exploration of the region’s deep forests and the creatures within, done through piano, drums and a trumpeter/vocalist. This is another chance to hear the international in the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival: The music is supposedly built on Russian psalms and the folk music of the region. It’s the kind of ghostly thing you’ll experience only at the Nordic Now series.

Bits and Pieces, 6:45 and 8:45 p.m., Christ Church. Filling this massive building with sound is a challenge. This English band of 14 musicians might be up to it. It’s rock, jazz, pop and groove music from the “Made in the UK” series.

Jeff Spevak is a Rochester-based writer. His web site is jeffspevak.com. He will be reporting for WXXI throughout the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.