Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jazz Fest 2018, Day 4: Daniel reviews Teagan and the Tweeds, Cold Chocolate, and Zara McFarlane (and catches Moon Hooch again)

Posted By on Tue, Jun 26, 2018 at 12:14 AM

click to enlarge Zara McFarlane performed with her band at Christ Church on Monday as part of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. - PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • Zara McFarlane performed with her band at Christ Church on Monday as part of the 2018 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.
At the festival Sunday, I had gotten a taste of magic, and the following day, I couldn't shake it. I was having cravings, and I had to give in: I needed more Moon Hooch. So I crept into The Montage Music Hall for the infectious trio's first set of Monday night. This time, the room was more intimate and the night club vibes were in full force. Moon Hooch delivered the welcome elixir to other festival attendees who made their way to the front of the stage, and like me, just needed to get their dance on.

At the Fusion Stage, local heroes Teagan and the Tweeds did what they do best: delight a capacity crowd with sweet and smoky rock ‘n’ roll, complete with a bluesy glaze. Teagan Ward's commanding, soulful voice drove the music forward, but it was the blue-collar work ethic of the band behind her that kept things on course.

It's almost shocking that Teagan and the Tweeds have yet to receive more widespread notoriety outside of the region. For now, the band continues to be one of Western New York's best-kept secrets.

The Boston-based trio Cold Chocolate specializes in dusty-road, down-home country and Americana. At times, the band's laid-back sound was a bit underwhelming to my ears. But that was no fault of the musicians on the stage; I was still keyed up from Moon Hooch.

That said, the cozy, three-part harmonies of upright bassist Kirsten Lamb, guitarist Ethan Robbins, and drummer Ariel Bernstein made me melt a little inside. From the beautifully folksy original “Drawing a Blank” — sung with a silky shot of blue by Lamb — to a charming rendition of Bob Dylan's “I'll Be Staying Here With You,” it was impossible not to enjoy Cold Chocolate.

I closed the evening with the second set of London singer Zara McFarlane and her band, whose music was like a heaven-sent breeze on a hot night. This brand of jazz was decidedly postmodern and impressionistic, with a covert infusion of soul.

McFarlane’s vocal presence was sultry, with an ethereal timbre that was half-R&B croon, half-jazzy serenade. In more effusive passages, her notes were bright and bold. In subtler moments, her voice turned lush and mellow.

The instrumentation of McFarlane’s backing band was seductive: the mellow keyboards of Peter Edwards; Max Luthert’s deep bass tones; the intricate drum flow of Sam Jones; and Binker Golding’s blistering tenor saxophone. The net effect was the most romantically evocative performance I’ve heard at the festival so far. The highlight of the set was the utterly enchanting “Allies or Enemies.”

My Day 5 is sure to be eccentric — the London band Partikel (which includes Max Luthert on upright bass) at Christ Church, the hammered dulcimer-led House of Waters at Max of Eastman Place, and not least of all, headliners Béla Fleck & the Flecktones at Eastman Theatre’s Kodak Hall.

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