Rochester, Our Cooler Older Brother

Need another example of why Rochester just seems a little cooler than Syracuse? Look at our respective JazzFests.

The Rochester International Jazz Fest just announced their headliners: they include Smokey Robinson, Taj Mahal, Susan Tedeschi, Buckwheat Zydeco, Tower of Power etc. Now jazz purists may object to Motown, blues, zydeco and soul at a jazz festival. But Rochester truly is an exploration of improvisational based music–featuring over 200 bands.

Our festival is considered jazz. But, damn. Syracuse’s JazzFest is featuring the two most lame-ass pop-syrup , suburban faux jazz acts in the world: Kenny G and Spyro Gyra. As a city resident, I’m now glad they moved out of the city to O.C.C. Can they take our name off the concert, too?

Syracuse’s festival is dedicated to the late musician Hiram Bullock. This is how you remember a great musician, by hiring the lounge acts from every Holiday Inn up and down the east coast? Next year we’ll probably see Murph and the Magictones.

I notice two main differences between the festivals when it comes to money. Rochester has Xerox and M & T Bank as sponsors. Syracuse is still trying to hawk sponsor dollars. Also, Rochester charges admission for many of the acts, but has a much wider variety of free and low cost venues, including outdoor shows. The big name theatre shows subsidize the wide variety of smaller names.

Syracuse JazzFest bills itself as the Northeast’s largest free jazz festival. So what. It sucks. Fire Malfitano and start thinking about a different format, with multiple venues and cool acts. Use the festival to promote the area, not just put on a weekend event where rich folks from the suburbs can feel comfortable reclining on their plastic lawn chairs, swilling chablis.

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