Arriving earlier than usual on Day One at RIJF, we had a nice walk through the streets as bands tuned up, vendors stocked up, and fans lined up. It was barely past 4 pm and the line was around the fence for Acoustic Alchemy scheduled to play Harro East Ballroom at 5:30.
There were also early lines for Karrin Allyson at Max, and the ill-fated Christian McBride show at Kilbourn, as the first high school band tuned up on the Jazz Street stage. Moms and Granddads had their cameras rolling. The Festival was re-emerging after a year’s hibernation.
Christian McBride couldn’t find a ride from New York City and had to cancel. Minor bump.
Acoustic Alchemy had played Rochester quite a few times, a few years back, at Milestones. Both Milestones clubs, as they noted the locations of each from memory, and delighted in recalling a band favorite, “the squeezy cheese on chips”. Before making a cultural adjustment to “squeezy cheese on fries”, in their best English accent.
Their music is a seamless interplay of improvisation upon the band’s rhythmic foundation. Trading solos mostly between the two guitars, and keys, it would have been easy to almost take for granted the solid rhythm section. The bass and drum solo came late in the set, as the other players looked on. A great trade-off of beats and bumps, conversations style. A highlight of the first night.
Tessa Souter smiled all through her show at Montage Friday. Great band; drums, bass, guitar, backing her understated vocals.
She was obviously as pleased as Acoustic Alchemy. The crowds are great - appreciative, resilient, and happy. From what, at one point, had the feel to a reunion of the old gang at Milestones, through each improvised line, it was nice to have everyone back again.