Yes, Marc Iacona admits, with the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival a mere three weeks away, there is an element of “craziness” in the air. The organizers’ response: Let’s party.
The jazz fest, which opens its 17th season on June 22 in and around Rochester’s East End District, introduces its first-ever Launch Party Wednesday at Record Archive, 33 1/3 Rockwood St. The evening piggybacks on the Archive’s usual hump day Happy Hour in its eclectic Backroom Lounge. Along with the essential wine- and beer-stocked bar, the Lounge is one of the most-intriguing live-music venues in the city with its vintage furniture, lava lamps and replica of a giant Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton looming over the stage.
“Alayna’s got a good thing going,” Iacona says of Archive co-owner Alayna Alderman. “It’s one of the nicest venues around.”
The free event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. In anticipation of a large crowd, the Archive will draw back the curtains to expand the Backroom Lounge into the store’s extensive retail area, making room for beer tastings and promotions that will include the awarding of two jazz fest Club Passes. And, a sure sign of a big event in this city, a pair of food trucks will be parked outside.
Iacona and his jazz fest co-producer partner, John Nugent, will take the celebration one note further, when they join the evening’s band, the Rochester blues-rockers Significant Other, for a few songs. Iacona plays trumpet, Nugent sax.
“John Nugent is one of my best friends,” says Glenn William, the bassist, songwriter and founder of Significant Other. He’s also a partner and general manager of Midtown Athletic Club, one of the Launch Party’s sponsors; a shuttle bus will move Midtown members to and from the record store and the athletic club, just a short drive from each other on the city’s south side, near the intersection of I-590 and I-490.
“We just thought,” William says, “why don’t we weave in a party, make this a real event?”
Significant Other not only plays Wednesday, but landed a jazz fest gig on June 23, opening for rockabilly guitar slinger Brian Setzer on the big free outdoor East Avenue and Chestnut Street Stage. Significant Other has done the local barbecue tour of Sticky Lips and Dinosaur, played the Food Truck Rodeo as well as clubs such as Flower City Station. It has also toured a bit throughout New York and the Midwest, with an impressive six-piece lineup that includes electric violinist Perrin Yang, the fourth violin chair with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and guitarist Brother Wilson, who’s played with Sly Stone, Chaka Kahn and Teddy Pendergrass.
“His band is good, we’re not going up there screwing around,” says Iacona, who has a cautious regard for his own playing. “My partner is at a whole different level, John can sit in with anyone.”
William has been taking in the jazz fest for 15 years, generally six or seven nights. “I like the street music,” he says. “I think the outdoor shows, on Gibbs Street in particular, are fun and social.”
At jazz fest events such as the Launch Party, social and business are a potent economic cocktail. “Over 85 percent of who we sequester for services are locally based,” Iacona says of the stage hands, lighting experts and caterers scurrying behind the scenes. “These local businesses are highlighting themselves. I can use a golf outing, with business being discussed, as an example. Not everybody’s into golf. But very few people aren’t into music, and different genres of music. It’s a way for businesses to say thank you to their clients. We’ve been seeing businesses at the festival buying blocks of tickets and doing corporate events.”
So the festival’s not simply the music, it’s the connections. “A feel-good thing,” Iacona says. “The overall support we get from sponsors and community makes the craziness go away. The craziness seems to be, I don’t want to say erased, but you just go with it.”
Jeff Spevak is a Rochester-based writer.
His web site is jeffspevak.com.