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Jazz festival offers daytime concerts, workshops

Jun 19, 2019
Originally published on June 18, 2019 12:33 pm

Mike Kaupa remembers the good old days of the Jimmy Carter administration, "when there was a lot more money for the arts," he says. "I got a CETA Grant to play jazz in Rochester. That's how I ended up here."

CETA, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, brought Kaupa from Buffalo to Rochester. He remains a significant player on the local scene, and is a teacher at The Harley School, Finger Lakes Community College and the Eastman Community Music School.

But government subsidies of the arts have been drying up in recent years, as are opportunities for musicians to play and teach. Alternate sources must be considered. Kaupa recalls one highly regarded New York City jazzman who borrowed tenor saxophones from three of his students, ostensibly for his European tour, then pawned all three instruments while on his way to the airport.

Fortunately for musicians and their audiences alike, that's not a likely scenario for the early-afternoon, weekday events, from Monday, June 24, through Friday, June 28, at the CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Kaupa is playing the noontime concerts at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County for the third time. Those shows are followed at 1 p.m. by the Jazz Workshops in the Ray Wright Room at the Eastman School of Music.

Free music, free lessons. These are two of the community outreach offerings that are a part of the jazz fest, along with programs such as the Monday, June 24 "Jazz Scholarship Concert" at Eastman Theatre's Kodak Hall.

Bob Sneider, an Eastman guitar professor who hosts the festival's late-night jam sessions with Karl Stabnau at the Hyatt Regency Rochester, sets up the Jazz Workshops. There's a lot of cross-pollination at the fest; Sneider's also joining drummer Mike Melito's Thursday, June 27, show at the library in a high-powered quartet that includes New York City saxophonist Walt Weiskopf and Rochester bassist Danny Ziemann.    

The Jazz Workshops draw students of all ages, including older adults. "Life-long learners" is the operative phrase. Festival Executive Director Marc Iacona isn't a professional musician, but he's played trumpet since he was a teenager. "I take it seriously, right?" he says. "You and I shouldn't be intimidated to go. It's a chance to rub shoulders with some really great musicians."

For the Friday, June 28, show at the library -- outdoors beneath the gazebo if the day is sunny, indoors if it rains -- Kaupa will be joined by drummer Richard Felice and bassist Dave Arenius. Kaupa plays trumpet, although he says he often models his sets after saxophonists such as the late Rochester icon Joe Romano.

"It can get pretty intense," Kaupa says. "We'll play standards, probably, an original or two by me. It can be pretty adventurous."

These afternoon shows don't usually draw a big crowd, he admits, but sometimes a musician or two from the fest will show up. A few years ago, members of the Woody Herman Big Band wandered in for Kaupa's show.

"There's nothing like playing an evening in a club," Kaupa says. "But we do what we do, we tell our stories. You never know when the magic's gonna happen."

Free concerts at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (all shows start at noon):

  • Monday, June 24: Escape Terrain, a Rochester funk-rock quartet of guitarist Ryan Johnson, keyboardist Dylon Walbridge, bassist Scotty Dupes and drummer Dan Knorr.
  • Tuesday, June 25: Billy Petito, a recent Eastman School of Music alum. The guitarist has been composing music for various ensembles as well as film and commercials.
  • Wednesday, June 26: Drummer Ryan Barski, from Honeoye Falls-Lima, and an Eastman student, will be joined by New York City saxophonist C.J. Ziarniak (originally from Brockport, and an Eastman grad) and Ithaca bassist Rafael Enciso.
  • Thursday, June 27: Mike Melito, a familiar drummer on the Rochester scene -- including jazz fest gigs with James Moody and Benny Golson -- has released four albums.
  • Friday, June 28: Mike Kaupa, who has played with an international array of bands, is a frequent sideman at the jazz fest.

Jazz Workshops, Ray Wright Room, Eastman School of Music (All classes start at 1 p.m. and are free):

  • Monday, June 24: Jazz flutist Ali Ryerson, a native of New York City, is an internationally renowned musician and teacher who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and with Wynton Marsalis and Luciano Pavarotti. Her jazz fest gig is Sunday, June 23, on the Jazz Street Stage with the Russell Scarborough Soul Jazz Big Band.
  • Tuesday, June 25: Saxophonist Dave Glasser -- a native of New York City and an Eastman School of Music graduate who was mentored by the late Rochester saxophonist Joe Romano -- has played with Clark Terry, Illinois Jacquet and Dizzy Gillespie. Glasser is the guest soloist at Monday's RIJF-ESM Scholarship Concert at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, and also performs Tuesday, June 25, at The Wilder Room.
  • Wednesday, June 26: Trombonist John Fedchock, another Eastman product now writing, playing, arranging and producing in New York City, has released a handful of albums, with a resume that includes playing with the Woody Herman Orchestra, Gerry Mulligan and Louie Bellson. The John Fedchock NY Sextet plays the fest Thursday, June 27, at Max of Eastman Place.
  • Thursday, June 27: Percussionist and drummer Jamey Haddad, a longtime member of Paul Simon's band, has appeared on more than 170 recordings. His jazz fest show is Wednesday, June 26, with Under One Sun at The Wilder Room.
  • Friday, June 28: Bassist Gene Perla has performed with Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan, Elvin Jones, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra. The Gene Perla Quartet's jazz fest gig is at The Wilder Room on Saturday, June 29, the final night of the jazz fest.

Spevak, a cultural arts contributor to WXXI, is a Rochester-based writer. His website is jeffspevak.com.

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