Porkslap Fever

In his introduction, Jack Garner noted the irony of having a band from Finland perform in the hottest venue at the festival – hot temperature-wise, that is. The Lutheran Church of the Reformation was sweltering last night as the Timo Lassy Band took the stage, or the altar. They began with African Rumble and Early Move, tunes I featured on What’s New a few weeks back. From there they continued with more soulful, rhythmic numbers pushed along by a percussionist who banged on all kinds of stuff, including the box he was sitting on. Conspiratorial grins flashed between him and the drummer several times. Timo was smiling at everyone in between his impassioned sax solos, which came through despite being too quiet in the mix. The bassist and piano player were mostly supportive but they both had scene-stealing, crowd-revving moments.

It was a satisfying set but as we walked out into the light rain, we didn’t know that something better was around the corner, literally.

Abilene is a new bar, where Tara’s used to be, on Liberty Pole Way. It’s a very comfortable and inviting space, decked out with paint-by-numbers art and concert posters of Willie Nelson and Sharon Jones. The beer menu promises cheap cans “always and forever,” including one I was helpless to resist: Butternut’s Porkslap Pale Ale. Last night the bar played host to a quartet led by bassist Michael Kujawski, a SUNY Purchase student who’s home for the summer. They aren’t on the official RIJF schedule. They’re just some guys that got together to play. As they worked through Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and Bouncin’ With Bud, it dawned on me that the pros from Finland weren’t really all that tight. Kujawski and company (Mike Frederick III on guitar, Tyler Gauldin on tenor sax and Chris Teal on drums) were like the proverbial well-oiled machine, but I think they were using KY. It was difficult to focus on pool as the band built up solo after solo, catching the attention of more and more Abileneians.

It was a good reminder, on day 1 of the Rochester International Jazz Festival, that great music can be found beyond just the Club Pass venues.