Over 200,000 Attend 9-Day Rochester International Jazz Festival: Danielle Ponder Shines!


by George Radney

The promoters for the 19th Annual Rochester International Jazz Festival, John Nugent and Marc Iacona, estimated over 210,000 people attended the 9-day event. That’s also attributed to people wanting to be outside and listen to live music once again.

Let’s get right to the very best of the 2022 festival. Sheila E was outstanding with her P- Funk, R&B, and Latin fusion show. It was very high energy with tributes to James Brown, Sly Stone, George Clinton and her closing tribute to Prince was very moving and on point. She captured the true essence of Prince and how he really was as a performer and artist. She was also able to perform the various dances of Prince’s artist including Morris Day skip hip hop crossover moves were on point. Sheila E truly loved Prince and it shows in her musical style.

Robin Thicke also performed to over 10,000 people at Parcel 5 in the heart of downtown Rochester. Robin had a high energy performance that included his hit songs along with several Motown classics. The New Power Generation (NPG) was playing the music of Prince and you could tell from the start they were not the original band that toured with him. Their performance was disjointed and not precise at all. As a matter of fact, several Buffalo and Rochester bands could have done a better job. Once again, the real tribute to Prince was done by Sheila E.

Rochester’s Danielle Ponder who wowed another packed Parcel 5 audience on Saturday evening with her dramatic deep rooted soulful sounds. Danielle Ponder is now getting national attention and will soon become a household name as a rising powerful vocalist that brings the heat and passion in her music.

Booker T and a Soul Stax revenue was very good and memorable. Stax refers to the record label based out of Memphis Tennessee which had artist like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and B.B. King just to name a few. Booker T still sounds good like the record on his hits such as the MG’s “Green Onions.”

The people you may have never heard of also put on memorable and outstanding performances.

These artists included: Tivon Pennicott Tenor Sax player who took us to a higher level of consciousness; Connie Han ,a 23-year-old pianist played the piano like her hair was on fire with a very edgy blend of modern and traditional jazz; Nabate Isles a Grammy award winning trumpeter that mesmerized his audience at Max of Eastman Place with his tribute to the jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Cheatham, Louis Armstrong and Wynton Marsalis; Samara Joy, vocalist made you feel like Sarah Vaugh reincarnated with that smooth as velvet sound.

Also: The Wayne Escoffrey Quartet at Kilbourn Hall was a straight-ahead jazz session that reminded me why I love jazz so much with its improvisational style and hard driven sound. Jonathan Scales Fourchestra at Montage was very good with his innovative steel panmist. Rochester native and Jefferson High School alum Joe Locke once again gave us some powerful playing on the Vibraphone and his band was up for the challenge. Last but not least, the legendary Blues Hall of Famer and Grammy award winning Bobby Rush gave his history and told the audience a story about 1951 when he had to perform from behind the curtain in order for the white audience would not know a black man was singing those songs. He’s well past 80 years of age but Mr. Rush has a high energy show.

The 19th Rochester Jazz Festival was quite memorable indoors and outside hopefully next year they will be able to have free shows at Parcel 5. It was truly a very nice kickoff to the summer season.