Most Rochesterians find the Little Theatre quickly in their first expeditions into the heart of downtown Rochester. Movies at “The Little” frequently open to packed houses, who come in droves for the art house, foreign, and independent films that are impossible to find in the large, National-chain theaters. The Little Theatre also owes some of its popularity to its prime location in Rochester’s East End, a district that spans from the origin of East Avenue, where it intersects with Main Street, to the heavily trafficked club district at East & Alexander Avenues.
When the Little Theatre expanded from the original 1920′s single-cinema theater, to the five-cinema theater that it is today, they added the Little Cafe, a wise move, considering movie theaters make nearly all of their revenue on concession sales. When you’re wandering around the East End and suddenly decide to catch whichever independent film is playing next, and you find yourself with an extra half hour before the show, you can settle in to a cup of coffee, one of the Custom Brewcrafters beers on tap, and a slice of quiche or a slice of chocolate cake.
Surrounded by seasonally-rotated locally-made artwork, your Little Cafe experience will come paired with live jazzy music most evenings. This June, musical acts will range from a crooning a capella group, a five-piece blues band, and a classic piano-drums-and bass jazz trio, to a sassy Fionaesque import from Long Island.
Here’s the full June schedule:
The Uptown Groove, a five member blues group from Rochester, is playing at the Little Cafe every Monday throughout June. Led by female vocalist, Amanda Montone, the Uptown Groove plays a variety of R&B, rock, motown, and blues. Here’s a sample of The Uptown Grooves playing ‘Just the Two of Us.’
The Bowties also consist of five members, but rather than the standard bass, drums, and guitar, everyone in the Bowties performs with one of the most challenging instruments of all, the human voice, a capella. Playing Wednesdays from 7:30pm – 9:30pm throughout June, except for June 8th, the Bowties will serenade you with their unique a capella blend of contemporary numbers, and time-tested classics. The Bowties’ most recent addition to their nearly 13-year-old a capella group, Madeline Forster, is the first woman to perform with the Bowties. Her renditions of two classics, ‘Broken Hearted Melody,’ and ‘Twisted,’ will fill the Little Cafe’s java-scented air this June. Alan Wertheimer, of The Bowties tells me that the set list planned for June 1st includes The Bowties’ own version of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and a cool jazz version of ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.’ He let me in on some other tricks they have up their sleeve for later this June, including a 4-part harmonized version of True Colors, and selections from The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and Annie Lennox. One ballad in store is about Laika, the Russian dog who was the first to fly in space. Another, is about a fisherman’s view of heaven, called ‘The Fisherman’s Green.’ As though those examples coupled with beloved PBS theme songs and Queen aren’t proof enough of the unique angle that The Bowties takes on perfoming a capella, they have arranged a version of the Jonathan Coulter cult classic, ‘Your Brains,’ about a zombie who knows proper office protocol.
Thursdays at the Little Cafe, sip your chai to melodic jazz classics performed by the Jim Nugent Trio, a quintessential jazz trio with Jim Nugent on piano, Mike Montelbano on drums, and Elliot Kirby on bass. As the Jim Nugent Trio plays, you’ll instantly recognize selections from the Great American Songbook, but you’ll hear them take on a new energy as the Jim Nugent Trio expertly maneuvers them. Here’s a sampling of The Jim Nugent Trio, that I’m especially fond of, ‘How Insensitive.’
On Fridays this June, Amanda Ashley will growl her sultry, romantic originals. This Long Island native, educated in Fredonia, will demonstrate her lifelong passion for music by publicly seducing her keyboard, with her snarling powerhouse of a voice, and then soothing it in her lilting, gentle pianissimo. Amanda’s performances blend her unique take on Top 40 tunes with her sexy original jazz compositions.
On Saturday evenings, Connie Deming will perform her original folk music, calling your Joni Mitchell days to mind. Accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar, Connie Deming sings songs songs that often have a deep personal connection. I’ll admit that Connie Deming once brought me to tears, as I recalled my grandfather during her performance of “Pass It On,” a song she wrote for her recently passed father. She was performing, as she often does, at an autism awareness benefit (that particular benefit was a couple years ago at Calvary St. Andrews, in the South Wedge.) Connie is passionate about autism awareness, having dealt with the ups and downs of having an autistic son herself.