Tom Harrell slowly walked from stage right. Standing just off center stage in Kilbourn Hall. One movement wove into the next in short, deliberate steps. Long, crumpled coat, raised, and lowered, arms guiding the seven piece chamber ensemble through jazz interpretations of works by Debussy and Ravel. Some familiar moments, some familiar instruments in an unknown song. Like ghosts in the trees.
Early on in his first performance at Harro East, Saturday in the Rochester Jazz Festival, multi-instrumentalist Lucky Peterson took to the keys, alternating between Hammond B-3, the Yamaha, vocal accents, actual vocals, and the art of facial expression. Sometimes doing a combination of them at the same time. A most captivating performance.
Mark Murphy took the stage at the Harro East Ballroom in a broad shouldered black suit, blazing red shirt and tie, and the 2011 Rochester International Jazz Fest officially began. It encapsulated the festival experience. Little voyages into cultures and musical neighborhoods as the unfamiliar becomes revealed. Scatting the forgotten word.
In reviewing the music of 2009, I was struck by how good it actually was. My first thought was that no one recording knocked me out as the run away best of the year, but there were so many exceptional ones, it was hard to pick just ten.