When I reached Raul Midon by phone he had just returned from a tour of Europe. With a vocalist, lead guitarist, rhythm guitarist, bassist, percussionist, and trumpet player in tow, it could have been a complicated tour. Luckily, all of those musician are the one-man band that is Raul Midon.

Midon plays bass, chords, and flamenco-like riffs simultaneously on the guitar, which he also taps for percussion. His Stevie Wonder-like voice is nicely unleashed. And then there's that mouth trumpet.

Stylistically, it's tough to pin him down.

"When I moved to New York, the first three weeks I was there I realized I was never going to be the best guitar player, I was never going to be the best singer and I was never going to be the best songwriter," Midon says. "But maybe, if I put them all together, I could be something different."

Midon, who grew up in New Mexico, was very close to his twin brother who is now a NASA engineer. Blind since birth, both were high achievers.

"We always had a mantra in our family about being good at what we did," Midon says. "There was a lot of reading out loud; we read Shakespeare when we were kids. I think it engendered a thirst for learning. We always used to say: To be average as a blind person, you have to work twice as hard, and to be better than average you have to work even harder. We had an eclectic musical atmosphere. I took it all in."

He began taking lessons at six years old with a flamenco guitarist. Meanwhile, he absorbed Santana, Led Zeppelin and other popular music. Then came classical training, learning pieces by Villa-Lobos, and lute pieces. In college he studied jazz guitar.

"I went through a period in my early 20's where I just transcribed [played or sang] jazz solos," Midon says. "Louis Armstrong, Lester young, Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Miles [Davis], Clifford Brown..."

Midon has no shortage of role models when it comes to singing.

"There's a big soul influence," Midon says. "Stevie Wonder, Aretha [Franklin], Donny Hathaway, Al Green — the whole style captured me as a kid. I remember being fascinated by the turns and swoops and the way somebody could do a run and end up smack dab on pitch."

While he has studied songwriting and has written many "AABA" songs, Midon's tunes tend to go unusual places with stream-of-conscious lyrics.

"The reason I started writing my own music was there was music I wanted to play that I didn't hear happening anywhere else," Midon says. "I had no preconceived notions about what I should play. I went through a period where I'd pick up a guitar and just make up stuff.

"As I got into it I realized that I have to write from the perspective of a blind person, to see the world through your imagination. Even in terms of metaphors, I'm very conscious of not just taking the first thing that comes into my mind because it rhymes. How can I say what I'm trying to say in a way that rings true for me? To find my voice as a writer is something I'm still working on."

One of Midon's most unique talents is the mouth trumpet. While others mimic the brassy sound, he includes trills, a mute, and even flat notes reminiscent of Miles Davis.

"Miles is a huge inflence, the way he phrases and takes a note and slides it, it's almost like a sad mournful sound," Midon says. "It started as a way of having another instrument that I could use. At first people thought it was a gimmick but it was purely a musical exploration. When I was transcribing [trumpeter] Clifford Brown I thought, 'I wonder if I could make the sound and do the solo that way.'"

If that's not enough, Midon has added bongos to his act.

"That actually came out of a tour with Richard Bona," he says. "He's the only solo performer that has ever scared me out of my wits that I had to go on after him. Like, oh my god, what am I gonna do? I figured out how to play bongos and guitar and sing at the same time."

Midon rejects the common notion that blindness gave him any extra sensitivity to music. But, he says, it's definitely had an effect on his career.

"Blindness, like any disability, focuses the mind. I realized that I had this gift for music and this was a way that I could maybe have a job. If I wanted to do it I had to be really good at it. Also, being blind closes a lot of other paths so it helps to focus your will and your work ethic. That's what it did for me."

Raul Midon will perform Sunday, June 21, 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., at Xerox Auditorium, 100 South Clinton Avenue. Midon will perform again on Monday, June 22, at Lyric Theatre, 440 East Avenue. Tickets for all shows are $20, or you can use your Club Pass. raulmidon.com

In This Guide...

  • Jazz Festival Guide 2015

    City Newspaper's guide to Rochester's biggest music festival. For more reviews, blogs, photos, and the latest news, check our website every day of the festival.

  • Festival Information

    Tickets, Venues, Parking and Additional Information

  • Friday, June 19 - Schedule

    Friday, June 19 3:45 p.m.: Buckman Heights Elementary School Jazz Street Stage (FREE)

  • Friday, June 19 - Musician Bios

    Friday, June 19 - Musician Bios Anthony Strong Fortified with an acclaimed live show, a tailored suit, and a grand piano, the Anthony Strong wears the "English Gentleman" role well.

  • Saturday, June 20 - Schedule

    Saturday, June 20 3:45 p.m.: Gates-Chili High School Jazz Band Jazz Street Stage (FREE)

  • Saturday, June 20 - Musician Bios

    Saturday, June 20 - Musician Bios 78 RPM Big Band A 16-piece band based out of Dansville, 78 RPM brings big band music all through Western New York.

  • Sunday, June 21 - Schedule

    Sunday, June 21 3:45 p.m.: MCC Jazz Band Jazz Street Stage (FREE)

  • Sunday, June 21 - Musician Bios

    Sunday, June 21 - Musician Bios Benny Green Solo See listing for Saturday, June 20.

  • Herb Alpert

    It's 9 a.m., Pacific Time when Herb Alpert gave us a jingle-jangle a few weeks ago. He'd been up for hours recording "Whatever pops into my head," the 80-year-old jazz and pop trumpeter says.

  • Monday, June 22 - Schedule

    Monday, June 22 - Musician Bios 12:00 p.m.: Jazz Starts at the Library with Mike Kaupa Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (FREE)

  • Monday, June 22 - Musician Bios

    Monday, June 22 - Musician Bios Blue Highway With more than 20 years together and 11 albums to show for it, Blue Highway is at the top of the bluegrass heap.

  • Jane Bunnett

    What is it about Afro-Cuban music that makes it the very embodiment of joy? Is it the dance of the exuberant polyrhythms as they weave in and out of one another?

  • Tuesday, June 23 - Schedule

    Tuesday, June 23 12:00 p.m.: Jazz Starts at the Library with Danny Ziemann Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (FREE)

  • Tuesday, June 23 - Musician Bios

    Tuesday, June 23 - Musician Bios Aaron Diehl Aaron Diehl turned more than a few heads with his gorgeous keyboard work when he played last year's XRIJF with Cecile Mclorin Salvant.

  • Wednesday, June 24 - Schedule

    Wednesday, June 24 12:00 p.m.: Jazz Starts at the Library with Mel Henderson Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (FREE)

  • Wednesday, June 24 - Musician Bios

    Wednesday, June 24 - Musician Bios Aaron Diehl Solo See listing for Tuesday, June 23.

  • Fred Hersch

    Growing up in Cincinnati, Fred Hersch noticed that there was a piano in his house, so, at the age of 4, he sat down and started to pick out tunes. That precocious beginning led Hersch to a career as a sideman with greats like Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, and Art Farmer; as a leader on more than 40 albums; and an innovator who has expanded jazz into multimedia and the classical realm.

  • Thursday, June 25 - Schedule

    Thursday, June 25 12:00 p.m.: Jazz Starts at the Library with Doug Stone Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (FREE)

  • Thursday, June 25 - Musician Bios

    Thursday, June 25 - Musician Bios Ali Jackson Trio The son of bassist Ali Jackson Sr., drummer Ali Jackson had strong encouragement at an early age from stars like Max Roach, Milt Hinton, and Aretha Franklin.

  • Sharon Jones

    Sharon Jones was scheduled to sing at the 2013 Rochester International Jazz Festival when her career was abruptly put on hold due to a bout with cancer. Consequently, the following feature article was also put on hold.

  • Friday, June 26 - Schedule

    Friday, June 26 12:00 p.m.: Jazz Starts at the Library with Mike Melito Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County (FREE)

  • Friday, June 26 - Musician Bios

    Friday, June 26 - Musician Bios Arstidir Iceland's Arstidir has spent the last six years touring in more than 30 countries.

  • Ingrid Jensen

    If instruments have personalities, trumpet has to be the most audacious and in your face. Maybe that's why not many budding female musicians are handed one.

  • Saturday, June 27 - Schedule

    Saturday, June 27 3:00 p.m.: Bill Tiberio Band East Ave. & Chestnut St. Stage (FREE)

  • Saturday, June 27 - Musician Bios

    Saturday, June 27 - Musician Bios Alex Pangman Regarded as Canada's "sweetheart of swing," Alex Pangman has proven herself a talented and learned student of the classic jazz singers.

  • Steep Canyon Rangers

    To the untrained ear, bluegrass tunes tend to run into each other, the patterns and loops of notes both picked and plucked can be a confusing barrage. That's not to say bands like this aren't accessible, you've just gotta be on your toes.