NYS Music Guide: Rochester International Jazz Festival 2019

June 21 is just around the corner, which means summer is almost here and, more importantly, the 18th edition of Rochester International Jazz Festival is about to begin.

Jazz Fest is a comforting tradition on the Rochester scene, but that embraces great change with each year. It is continually being modified to adjust to forces out of the producers control and in an effort to create a perfected festival experience.

This year sees some big changes. For one, the title sponsor is now CGI taking over for longtime sponsor Xerox. The footprint of the festival is also changing quite a bit. Harro East and Anthology are no longer venues. They are replaced by Geva: two venues in one place, Fielding Stage and Wilson Stage. Also, M&T Pavilion Squeezers Stage is housed in a new tent on Parcel 5.

What hasn’t changed is nine straight days of world-spanning A-class music. We don’t really think you can go wrong with this year’s lineup, but here are some suggestions to help guide you on your way.

Jam-adjacent

Some musicians, better known for their involvement in jam bands, will be performing at the fest. Percussion master Cyro Baptista and singer Jennifer Hartswick, both members of the Trey Anastasio Band, are bringing their equally compelling solo bands. Hartswick will be joined by Nick Cassarino on guitar. Aron Magner, of the trance fusion Disco Biscuits, has a brand new jazz trio called Spaga, who will be playing one of their first shows together.

Cyro Baptista

Mon, June 24
5:30 PM & 7:30 PM
Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage

Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino

Fri, June 21
6:00 PM & 10:00 PM
Montage Music Hall

Spaga

Fri, June 28
6:00 PM & 10:00 PM
The Wilder Room


Americana

While not exclusively held at the new Geva Theater Fielding Stage, this venue will be home to a slew of excellent Americana artists: Acoustic guitar phenom, Jon Stickley, will be with his well-travelled trio; One-man wonder, The Suitcase Junket, will wow with his bag of tricks; and Circus No. 9 brings their unique blend of progressive bluegrass sounds.

Jon Stickley Trio

Sat, June 29
6:30 PM & 8:30 PM
Geva Theatre Center – Fielding Stage

The Suitcase Junket

Fri, June 28
7:00 PM
City of Rochester Midtown Stage
Presented by Rochester Regional Health
FREE

Circus No. 9

Sun, June 23
6:30 PM & 8:30 PM
Geva Theatre Center – Fielding Stage


Instrumentalists

It isn’t easy for an artist to make an instrument you’ve heard countless times seem new again, but these groups are each defying that on their respective tools of the trade. Adam Ben Ezra on bass, Stefon Harris on vibes, and, newcomer from across the pond, Nubya Garcia on sax . All are can’t miss players playing at this year’s festival.

Adam Ben Ezra

Mon, June 24
5:45 PM & 7:45 PM
Hatch Recital Hall

Tue, Jun 25
6:30 PM & 8:30 PM
Geva Theatre Center – Fielding Stage

Stefon Harris and Blackout

Sun, June 23
6:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Kilbourn Hall

Nubya Garcia

Fri, Jun 28
7:30 PM & 9:30 PM
City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage
FREE


Party Time

It’s summer, it’s a festival and sometimes you’re just going to want to get up and dance. These bands will offer that opportunity. Another brilliant young product of the UK, Kansas Smitty’s House Band, sounds decidedly American covering a wide range of styles. Empire Strikes Brass appropriately strikes a balance between evil, spacey and horn-y, while Aquaducks get a bit more down and dirty with their funky output.

Kansas Smitty’s House Band

Fri, June 28
5:30 PM & 7:30 PM
Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage

Sat, June 29
6:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Kilbourn Hall

Empire Strikes Brass

Sat, June 22
8:30 PM & 10:00 PM
Rochester Regional Health Big Tent

The Aquaducks

Mon, June 24
7:30 PM & 9:30 PM
City of Rochester Jazz Street Stage
FREE

Tue, June 25
7:00 PM & 9:00 PM
Fusion Stage
FREE


Adventurous

The Nordic and Euro Jazz Now Series at the Lutheran Church is our go-to spot for musicians painting outside of the lines, challenging our sensibilities. When in doubt, you can go there blind and there’s a good chance you’ll catch something mystifying. Although, it isn’t the only place to seek adventure. These three artists will definitely take you there, so don’t miss ’em!

Ozmosys

Tue, June 25
7:00 PM & 9:15 PM
Temple Building Theater

Thomas Backman

Wed, June 26
7:30 PM & 9:30 PM
Lutheran Church of the Reformation – Nordic & Euro Jazz Now Series

Enemy

Mon, June 24
6:45 PM & 9:45 PM
Christ Church


Must See Again

“It’s not who you know, it’s who you don’t know” has been the festival’s mantra from the beginning. Though after 18 years, there will be plenty of returnees who you definitely know. This year, three guitarists are standing out on our list of must-see-agains. Bill Frisell, who has brought a number of different bands to his seven festival appearances, returns with his trio. Ron Artis II and the Truth was a “wow” discovery last year, and Scott Sharrard is always a sure bet for some hot jams.

Bill Frisell Trio

Sat, June 22
7:00 PM & 9:15 PM
Temple Building Theater

Ron Artis II and the Truth

Thu, June 27
7:00 PM & 8:45 PM
M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage

Fri, June 28
8:30 PM & 10:00 PM
Rochester Regional Health Big Tent

Scott Sharrard

Fri, Jun 21
8:30 PM & 10:00 PM
Rochester Regional Health Big Tent

Sat, June 22
7:00 PM & 8:45 PM
M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage


Local Flavor

At a festival with some of best from across the globe, there’s still plenty of space carved out for the incredible amount of talent we have right here in Rochester. Proceedings on the Jazz Street Stage get started daily by younger sets from local schools and bands. They get the Big Tent and Squeezers Stage moving with free early sets and keep the Fusion Stage grooving throughout midweek. Plenty more regional artists get sprinkled in throughout. Here are three Rochestarians you definitely don’t want to miss.

The Campbell Brothers

Sun, June 23
7:00 PM & 8:45 PM
M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage

Herb Smith Freedom Trio

Wed, June 26
4:30 PM
M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage
FREE

Dawn Thomson’s Imagine That

Sat, Jun 22
6:00 PM & 10:00 PM
The Wilder Room

More so than ever before, we’re just scratching the surface here. There is nary a wrong turn to make, so get out there and try something new. See the full lineup and all the details at the highly informative Rochester Jazz Fest web site, and stay tuned to our twitter feed for daily updates.