The CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival hit the FDArecommended sidestream smoke level midway through the Devon Allman Project show on Saturday. Discreet yes but definitely present. Or maybe it was the burrito truck.Half of the guys in the Allman Brothers Band are now gone. Duane Allman a few decades ago Gregg Allman five years ago. All thats left for those folks who had gathered on Plot 5 the grassy downtown square here we go again with the drug references are their old albums and Greggs son Devon.Backed by two drummers Dads old band had three and a hardworking smoke machine Allman and his band cried in the slightly chilly June air guitars echoing in the surrounding buildings all lit up as if we were celebrating.
With “Dreams” by the Allman Brothers Band it was like the good old days. And as the band worked on an extended version of The Spinners “Ill Be There” complete with extended guitar and saxophone solos a drone with green and red flashing lights hovered eerie overhead. Allman asked for beer and shots “to show our humanity”.He had also done extensive research on the ancient history of Rochester condiments. French mustard. We are he reminded us “the city of mustard”.
I came for the NYChillharmonic Tshirt. There werent any. So I stayed for the music.I know it sounds like a big band” 18piece band creator Sara McDonald told Glory House International audiences at the bands first gig on Saturday night. “But its just a really big group.”It doesnt just share hair with grammarians. Theres nothing Glenn Miller about in Brooklynbased NYChillharmonic. Its a sprawling band idea ranging from Philip Glasss opening drone of “Easy Comes the Ghost” to dramatic rock arrangements that sound like a Led Zeppelin deconstruction. Bubbling rhythms punctuated by guitar strokes. Lush arrangements. McDonalds hitting a synth button on her keyboard for a Sputnik effect Each of the 18 players had their own unique sense of style. McDonalds in a black sequined jacket. A trumpet player in suit.
The founder singer and songwriter of the band McDonald is a busy presence at the front of this group his hands keeping time with the chatter of a cello then he holds his arms wide open to accommodate the brass.Dont miss a beat. As McDonald suggested “You can throw money at us.”Some people left early complaining it was too loud. But when the crowd left the venue at the end of the show the prevailing feeling seemed to be Spectacular.
As a couple of women mature women who probably celebrated with vinyl copies of Zeppelins Physical Graffiti when they were middle school students I might add called it incredible. It is unlike anything they have ever heard.The source of all this dramatic music? Dramatic perhaps. “I dont usually write songs about men” McDonald said recalling an exboyfriend. “Because I didnt really want to break up with him. And then I did it. And it was great.This taking over of who he is and his music was McDonalds introduction to a song called “To Covet a Quiet Moment”. More drama of Zeppelin proportions.