JAZZ FEST 2012, Day 4: Jeff Lorber Fusion, Pedrito Martinez Group, Calle Uno


Jeff Lorber Fusion played Monday, June 25, at Harro East Ballroom as part of the 2012 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. PHOTO BY WILLIE CLARK

If Sunday night at the Jazz Festival was all about extremes, Monday was all about expectations. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Jeff Lorber Fusion at Harro East. I had written a preview on the group a few months back, and knew that Lorber has put music together for such wide-ranging projects as the Weather Channel and “Castlevania” video games, but that was about it. And that’s a pretty big field to walk around in.

Lorber, however, was quite sure of himself and the masterful musicians he brought with him. All smiles as he jammed along and tinkled the ivory, his group put on one of the most entertaining and enjoyable sets I’ve seen at the festival yet this year. Each member of the group had stunning solos, and it was a seemingly endless string of them, going from keys, to saxophone, to bass, and drums, and back again. I’ve always been a fan of jazz improv; I think it’s where the genre really shines and differentiates itself from other types of music. These were some top-notch musicians offering up great examples of the art.

Lorber himself even needed two pianos to contain his prowess. I’ve never seen somebody straddled between both a keyboard and traditional piano, easily going back and forth between them, sometimes playing both with different hands. It takes some smooth skill to pull it all off, and Lorber and crew had no problem bringing it in droves.

Next up I had back-to-back trips to the more Latin side of jazz. First was Pedrito Martinez Group at Montage Music Hall, and then Rochester-based Calle Uno on the Jazz Street stage. I was excited for both acts, as I’ve really started to take a liking to more Spanish and world-influenced groups.  So, my hopes were a little high.

The Pedrito Martinez Group focused around Martinez’s conga playing, joined by a keyboard, electric bass, and another percussion player. And I’m not sure what it was, but I just couldn’t get into the set. Perhaps with a mostly percussion-based band it can be hard to really show off. The sparse instrumentation leaves room for mostly rhythmic-based fluctuations, but I just couldn’t get behind the group’s Afro-Cuban beats.

I was also surprised when the band completely stopped in the middle of one song to have the sound guy turn the volume down. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a band complain that they were too loud, and even rarer still is a group stopping dead in the middle of a song for any reason. I’ll be the first person to complain when things are louder than they need to be, and even with Montage’s tight quarters this was by no means blaring.

On the other hand, I still think that the Jazz Street stage is often turned up too loud, and I was also unable to get into Calle Uno as much as I had hoped. The group played through a salsa-inspired set, and perhaps something was simply lost in the translation this time.

It’s not like either group was bad, or made any glaring mistakes. The groups might have been hot and spicy to some, but I guess I like my heat (and music) a little hotter than most. They were both examples of safe and standard Cuban percussion and salsa groups; I just wasn’t blown away like I was hoping to be.

Calle Uno played Monday, June 25, on the Jazz Street Stage as part of the 2012 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. PHOTO BY WILLIE CLARK

Tuesday night I’ve only got one Jazz Fest show, Tommy Smith & Karma, but I’ll also be checking out Motion City Soundtrack at Water Street Music Hall. I’ll have thoughts on both shows on the blog, and back in full swing with three Jazz Fest groups on Wednesday.

Where did you go Monday night? What shows are you most looking forward to on Tuesday?

Looking for more of City’s Jazz Fest coverage? Click here for City’s 2012 Jazz Fest Guide, click here for our Jazz Blog landing page, or Like City on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @roccitynews.



  1. Paul Goldberg · · Reply

    Your reference to Jazz Street Stage being too loud is an understatement. Last night, as we waited in line to get into Kilbourn to hear Terence Blanchard we were deafened by Calle Uno. Ear plugs were no help. There is no reason to play any music so loud it causes pain. I do not understand how the musicians have any hearing left. What did come through from Calle Uno was noise and much of it seemed out of tune as well. Ugh! It almost drove us out of line and we would not have wanted to have missed the performance by Blanchard even if Ron didn’t care for it.

  2. Ann Carol Goldberg · · Reply

    I appreciate your feedback on the jazz news. I am completely perplexed at the excessive noise level from the Jazz Street Stage last evening during Calle Uno’s sets. We waited in line for the Blanchard Quintet and several times came close to leaving without hearing this great performance. Ear plugs did nothing to lessen the noise–(not even musical, the loudness got in the way of any “art.” Have the musicians, vendors and audience members all lost their hearing already ? I am not sup-sensitive to sound but this was oppressive and dangerous. Please notify John Nugent or someone in charge to lower the volume. It will become a spoiler for many people (reference to comments by others on line with us.)
    Thanks and we look forward to your daily comments.
    Ann Carol

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