Lucid Culture


How to Do Winter Jazzfest 2016

A decade ago, Winter Jazzfest first spun off of the annual APAP booking agents’ convention by turning a bunch of cheesy Bleecker Street clubs into jazz venues for a couple of nights. This year’s marathon weekend festival on January 15 and 16 has a couple of exciting new developments: for one, it’s expanded further than ever beyond those clubs’ cramped confines, with a more expanded lineup than ever. Which promises to make this year’s arguably the best ever, considering that the number of venues involved now make up a grand total of eleven, most likely eliminating the lines that would often make it impossible to get into the most popular shows later in the evening as crowds reached critical mass.

Perhaps in order to drive attendance at the related bills at the Poisson Rouge (whose management also program the festival) on on the 13th and 17th, the best deal for tix is the five-day, $145 full-festival pass. That’s an even steeper commitment timewise than moneywise, but it not only gets you into any show you’d like to see Friday and Saturday night, but also to the January 13, 7:30 PM show with the rampaging low-register duo of whirlwind bass saxophonist Colin Stetson and bassman Bill Laswell and Dutch no wave rock legends the Ex (the latter of whom are also at the Greene Space at 11 on Friday night), as well as the 6 PM concert on the 17th with purist guitarist Julian Lage‘s trio followed by sax quartet Rova teaming up with guitarist Nels Cline, playing Coltrane material.  There are other options, but the cost is intimidating. Getting tickets in advance at the Poisson Rouge box office is your best bet; otherwise you can pick them up starting at 5 at Judson Church at 55 Washington Square Park South, each day.

On Friday night, you could start the evening by checking out a solo guitar set by downtown stalwart David Torn at the New School’s first-floor auditorium at 63 5th Ave., or irrepressible sax improviser Matana Roberts at the same time at Subcultlure, or hit the Poisson Rouge at 6:20 for what could be a mind-blowing trio show with drag queen Joey Arias – who is hilarious, and does a mean Lady Day impersonation – backed by guitar shredmeister Brandon Seabrook and pyrotechnic drummer Allison Miller.

Otherwise, the big New School auditorium at 66 W 12th St. just east of 6th Ave. is where the festival is hiding all the big names (in order: Roy Hargrove; James “Blood” Ulmer; Christian McBride; Forro in the Dark playing their duskily enchanting versions of Spy vs. Spy-era John Zorn material, and then at 1 AM Ilhan Ersahin and the Nublu Jazz Orchestra improvising their way through a Butch Morris tribute). Hot jazz is relegated both nights to Greenwich House Music School over on Barrow St. (charming oldtimey swing crew the Bumper Jacksons are on at 7:20 on Friday)  Other day one highlights are back at the Poisson Rouge at 7:40 with downtown trumpet fixture Steven Bernstein and Sexmob and then thunderingly funky live bhangra outfit Red Baraat;  piano icon Vijay Iyer and his trio at the first-floor theatre at the New School at 11:20 (not 11:30, ostensibly), and you might actually be able to get into Zinc Bar to see the perennially adrenalizing, soulful Yosvany Terry leading his quintet followed by chanteuse Rene Marie and her combo and then the mighty, accordion-spiced Gregorio Uribe Big Band.

Saturday night, the 63 5th Ave auditorium progarm opens auspiciously with bassist Michael Formanek’s huge improvisational ensemble (conducted by another four-string guy, Michael Attias). Other enticing early choices are indie classical adventurers the Mivos Quartet with Dan Blake at the Poisson Rouge, or a solo set by dazzling pianist Christian Sands at Greenwich House at 6. Good bets for later on include haunting Franco-Lebanese trumpeter Ibraham Maalouf at the W 12th St. hall at 7:40; another darkly virtuosic trumpeter of Middle Eastern descent, Amir ElSaffar with his epic, breathtaking Two Rivers ensemble at Subculture at 9:40; Jamaican piano legend Monty Alexander and his reggae-jazz orchestra the Harlem-Kingston Express back on 12th Street, a show you probably should get to earlier than the 11:40 scheduled start time if you want to get in, considering how packed the Poisson Rouge was when he last played there; and ageless EWI shredder Marshall Allen leading the Sun Ra Arkestra at Judson Church at midnight.

Previous years’ festivals have featured many non-jazz acts as well. This year, there are fewer than usual, scattered throughout the evening at a few spots. Friday night at 9:40 at the fifth-floor theatre at the New School at 55 W 13th St., chanteuse Charenee Wade puts a more purist jazz spin on Gil Scott-Heron, followed by pianist Marc Cary in funkmeister mode and then saxophonist Sharel Cassity and Elektra taking the night back in a more trad direction. On Saturday, hypnotic postrock trio Dawn of Midi are at WNYC’s tiny Greene Space, 44 Charlton St. just east of Varick, at 11, another show that might be worth getting to early if a live dancefloor thump is your thing.

Be sure to check the schedule for updates: as with any festival of this magnitude, there are bound to be tweaks.


January 7, 2016 Posted by | concert, jazz, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Jazzfest 2015, Night One: More and Less Transcendent Moments

What’s the likelihood of seeing both the ICP Orchestra and Dave Douglas on the same night? If you’re at the Rotterdam Jazz Festival, that’s hardly out of the question. And that’s why, despite its many issues, Winter Jazzfest is always worth coming out for.

“We’re the Instant Composers Pool, from Amsterdam,” bassist Ernst Glerum almost gleefully told the crowd who’d gathered close to the stage yesterday evening at le Poisson Rouge for a rare US appearance by the ten-piece surrealistic swing unit. That pun is intentional: their closest US counterpart is the Microscopic Septet, although where the two groups share an irrepressible wit, the Instant Composers are heftier and a lot trippier, given to absurdist call-and-response, round robin hijinks that can either be deadpan or completely over the top, and long dissociative interludes. There was plenty of that in their all-too-brief, roughly 45-minute set, but there was also a lingering, disquieted, crepuscular quality as well.

When he wasn’t dancing around the stage and directing split-second bursts from the horns and the reeeds, cellist Tristan Honsinger traded incisively airy lines with violinist Mary Oliver. Pianist Uri Caine, subbing for octogenarian legend Misha Mengelberg – chilling back in Holland – stayed pretty much within himself while the horns pulsed and sputtered and then pulled together with a wistfully ambered gleam. Extrovert drummer Han Bennink – who has more than a little Mel Taylor in him – threw elbows and jabs on his toms to keep the audience on their toes, especially in the most trad moments. What distinguishes this crew from the other satirical acts out there is their command of swing, and the gravitas that was in as full effect as the comedic bits. The audience screamed for an encore and were treated to a tantalizingly austere, string-driven miniature.

Douglas is another guy who infuses his music with plenty of wit, if it’s more on the dry side. On a night where a lot of the best acts were off limits, interminable lines stretching down the sidewalk outside several venues, what a treat it was to go up the stairs into Judson Church to see the trumpeter doing his usual mix of melodic splendor along with the pastoral soul that’s become part and parcel for him lately. Pianist Matt Mitchell colored both the Americana and the spiritual-based material with an upper-register, reflecting-pool gleam as Douglas and tenor saxophonist Troy Roberts ranged from homespun reflection to judiciously placed flurries of bop. Both bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston kept their cards close to the vest as the rhythms would stray outside and then return to within the lines. And how cool was it to watch Royston feel the room, letting its natural reverb do the heavy lifting throughout his shuffles and spirals? Extremely. The highlight of the set was JFK: The Airport – “Not an endorsement,” Douglas said emphatically – a bristling, hypercaffeinated clave-cinema theme whose understated exasperation, channeled by Douglas and guest trumpeter Avishai Cohen, was characteristically spot-on.

Because Winter Jazzfest has such an embarrasment of riches to choose from, it’s hard not to be greedy: when an enticing set is sold out, as many tend to be, you have to be resourceful and willing to roll with the punches. Marc Ribot’s set with a string section at one of the off-Broadway theatres had a ridiculously long line of hopefuls waiting in vain to get in. But back at the church, Battle Trance were more than an impromptu Plan B: what a revelation the tenor sax quartet – Travis Laplante, Matthew Nelson, Jeremy Viner and Patrick Breiner – turned out to be. Beginning with barely a whisper, negotiating their way calmly and envelopingly through a baroque-tinged, cleverly polyrhythmic, interlocking minimalist sonic lattice, they rose to a mighty exchange of glisses (Coltrane would call them arpeggios), an understated display of extended technique and circular breathing. Throughout their set, they literally breathed as a single entity. In its most vigorous moments, their performance had the same raw power and chops that bass saxophonist Colin Stetson showed off at last year’s festival.

As for the rest of the night, there seemed to be more non-jazz acts than usual on the bill. An ensemble playing a Donald Byrd tribute opened for the ICPs, vamping on a chord or two, one of the jams sounding like a bluesier take on Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky. Which wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t jazz either. Up the block, Brandee Younger – who’s made a lot of waves at her recent slate of shows at Minton’s uptown, being heralded as the next Dorothy Ashby – shared the stage with a tightly swinging if generic funk band whose own vamps subsumed the jazz harpist’s tersely ringing, starkly blues-drenched phrasing. There was no small irony in the fact that even such a stereotypically Bleecker Street band would have probably had a hard time getting a gig there under usual circumstances, considering their slightly unorthodox instrumentation. Perish the thought that the Jersey tourists would have to contend with something they’d never heard before. “Is that a hwawp?”

Winter Jazzfest continues tonight, Saturday, Jan 10 starting a little after six PM: ticket pickup starts a half-hour beforehand at Judson Church. If you’re going you’d best get there on time.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Jazzfest 2014: The Best One Yet, At Least From a Saturday Perspective

The lure of Winter Jazzfest over the last decade or so has been the potential for serious bang for the buck: a marathon of jazz festival stars, cult heroes and heroines jammed into two nights on the Bleecker Street strip. Like the best jazz improvisation, Winter Jazzfest can be transcendent. By the same token, recent years have had many maddening moments, lines outside the clubs gowing to ridiculous proportions, especially as crowds armed with ostensibly all-access passes reached critical mass during the Saturday portion of the festival.

Solution: move the bigger draws to bigger venues. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society sure to sell out a Saturday night gig (which they did, no surprise)? Move ‘em to the expansive, sonically exquisite confines of Subculture. Henry Threadgill leading a new ensemble through an American premiere? No problem. Stick ’em in Judson Church, a comfortable stone’s throw from the West 4th Street subway. This may have been a long overdue move on the part of the festival’s producers, but it couldn’t have been more successful. By midnight, a couple of venues were filled to capacity, but although crowds at the other spaces were strong, there was plenty of room for everybody who was still up for more music.

Argue’s big band threatened to upstage everything else on Saturday’s bill.  How does the composer/conductor keep so much suspense and intensity going when his changes tend to be so static and often so far between? With endlessly surprising, constantly shifting voices, subtle rhythmic variations and a voracious approach to blending genres: the foundations of his songs may go on for what seems forever, but there are a million tunes wafting overhead. They opened with All In, a steadily strolling, spicily brassy homage to the late trumpeter Laurie Frink, its centerpiece being a thoughtfully energetic Nadje Noordhuis trumpet solo. From there they dove into the opening suite from the ensemble’s latest album Brooklyn Babylon (rated #1 for the year at this blog‘s Best Albums of 2013 page). The whole group reminded how much fun, not to mention aptitude, they have for Balkan music, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen wowing the crowd with her blazing chromatics. From there, Adam Birnbaum’s creepy music box piano kicked off the jackhammer optimism of The Neighborhood, roaring boisterousness juxtaposed with uneasily flitting motives from the reeds. Argue brought that disquiet front and center by fast-forwarding to the brooding Coney Island; they closed with a pastoral Levon Helm dedication, Last Waltz for Levon, featuring a moody, wistful Ryan Keberle trombone solo and a similarly bittersweet duet for Sebastian Noelle’s strummed acoustic guitar and Matt Clohesy’s bass..

Over at Judson Church, the crowd gathered slowly in anticipation of Threadgill’s set and was treated to a magically crepuscular one from pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman, the duo alternating compositions. He built to a bracing series of glissandos and trills on his opening number over her hypnotic, harplike inside-the-piano brushings; she followed with a resonant, lingering piece that rose to a creepy altered boogie of sorts. They gave a Feldman suite based on the Orpheus/Eurydice myth a dynamic intensity, brooding sostenuto up against angst-fueled swells and ebbs and ended on a quieter, more suspenseful note with a Courvoisier work.

Threadgill was on the bill to conduct the American premiere of his Butch Morris tribute Old Locks and Irregular Verbs with his new Ensemble Double Up. This turned out to be very much like Morris at the top of his game. Rather than playing purely improvised music, Morris’ larger ensembles would develop variations on a theme or two, sometimes utilizing a couple of pages of composition, and this suite had that kind of ring. Pianist Jason Moran opened with a mournfully elegaic, spaciously funereal, bell-like introduction that rose from stygian depths toward the kind of blues/gospel allusions that Morris liked to employ. From there Threadgill introduced a classically-tinged, anticipatory theme that Jose Davila’s tuba propelled upward in methodical stairstepping waves in tandem with Craig Weinrib‘s trap drums, Curtis Macdonald and Roman Filiu’s alto saxes blustery and atmospheric in turn over cellist Christopher Hoffman’s uneasy ambience. The group followed the long first movement with two shorter variations, the first opening with dancing, bubbly reeds and fluid upper-register piano, the second kicking off with glimmering resonance from pianist David Virelles, moving toward a distant overture of sorts and a bittersweetly triumphant if somewhat muted coda. It made for an aptly elegant sendoff for a guy who did so much, so elegantly, for largescale improvisation.

Over in the boomy sonics of Vanderbilt Hall at NYU Law School, Mostly Other People Do The Killing had some of the crowd doubled over laughing and some of the older attendees scratching their heads. New York’s funniest, most entertaining band in any style of music, never mind jazz, have a new album out, Red Hot, which parodies every 20s hot jazz trope ever ground into shellac, and the group aired out several of those tunes with characteristically unstoppable verve. What makes MOPDtK so funny is that they really know their source material. For fifteen-second intervals, it was easy to get into toe-tapping mood…but then the band would do something wry or droll or ridiculous and throw a wrench in the works. Trumpeter Peter Evans built an echoey, reverb-infused vortex with endless swirls of circular breathing early on, which bass trombonist David Taylor took to vastly greater deep-space extremes later in the set.

Pianist Ron Stabinsky got plenty of laughs out of a solo that was mostly pregnant pauses, then got people howling with a medley of licks that began in the jazz pantheon but then spanned from Billy Joel to Foreigner…and then to Bach and Beethoven. Bassist/bandleader Moppa Elliott, drummer Kevin Shea and guest guitarist Jon Lundbom seemed preoccupied with getting the brief period-perfect bits back on track while Evans and alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon (who’d just played tenor and bass clarinet for Argue) engaged in characteristically snide, mealymouthed banter. It wouldn’t be fair to give away the rest of the jokes that continued throughout compositions with titles like Seabrook. Power. Plant. (named after frequent MOPDtK guest Brandon Seabrook’s band as well as three towns in Pennsylvania), the Shickshinny Shimmy, Turkey Foot Corner and King of Prussia.

Eyebone, guitarist Nels Cline’s eclectically assaultive, swirling power trio with drummer Jim Black and pianist Teddy Klausner was next and made a similarly energetic alternative to Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, who were scheduled to hit around the same time at the church up the block. They opened with jarringly percolating, fleetingly leaping phrases from Cline’s loop pedals and then hit a deep-water ominousness, went into atmospherics and then a riff-driven, metalish interlude. Klausner followed a Cline descent into messy, muddy terrain with one of his own, then the band brought it up with a roar, ending their set with an aggressiveness that made a great segue with Elliott Sharp’s Orchestra Carbon.

E-Sharp didn’t even play guitar in this set, but his tenor sax work mirrors what he does on the frets. It was cool to see the man of a million notes and ideas leading the group through a defly animated workout on minimalist chamber themes. His vigorous, emphatic direction and playing were mirrored by the ensemble, heavy on the low end with twin basses and trombones, Jessica Pavone and Judith Insell on violas plus Jenny Lin on piano and Danny Tunick nimbly negotiating between drums, various percussion and vibraphone. They kicked off with a mighty, Zarathustra-ish theme punctured by the occasional squall or shriek, blustery diversion or Braxton-esque atmospheric swell. Sharp carved out lots of pairings: Pavone an anchor to Lin’s rapidfire knuckle-busting octave attack, the trombones channeling a stormy orchestral bustle, filling the sonic picture from bottom to top, the basses doing the same later on. Sharp filled the brief spaces between movements with fleeting, supersonic upper-register passages and frantic flurries of bop, eventually bringing everything full circle with a series of long, suspenseful, almost imperceptibly crescendoing waves upward.

And that’s where the night ended on this end. There was still plenty going on – fusiony funk downstairs at le Poisson Rouge, and was that Craig Handy coincidentally leading that organ groove outfit at Groove? The place was packed; it was hard to see. And the line for the Marc Cary Focus Trio at Zinc Bar stretched around the block – good for him. Matthew Shipp’s trio set back at Judson Church wasn’t scheduled to start yet, but by this time, the prospect of a third consecutive marathon evening of music looming on the horizon and the rain having finally let up, it was time to take advantage of a grace period from the skies and call it an evening. Here’s looking forward to Winter Jazzfest 2015.

January 12, 2014 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Do Winter Jazzfest 2014

Winter Jazzfest takes over the West Village Friday night, Jan 10 and then Saturday, Jan 11. Tickets (available in advance at the Poisson Rouge box office) are not cheap, but considering what you get, it’s still quite the bargain. The best deal is the $55 two-day pass for Friday and Saturday, which if you choose your spots wisely, will get you in to see $200 or more worth of talent, at jazz club prices anyway. More on that a little later.

Your second-best deal is the one-night $35 pass. At the top end, there’s a $95 package available that gets you Friday and Saturday plus a show on Jan 7 at the Poisson Rouge with Bobby Previte’s Terminals featuring So Percussion, John Medeski and Nels Cline; an orchestra seat for the Blue Note 75th anniversary show at the Town Hall the following night, Jan 8 with Jason Moran and a bunch of others; plus another show at the Poisson Rouge on Jan 9. And even at over ninety bucks, the total comes to less than $20 a ticket. Admittedly, not many of us have the means or the time to go out five nights in a row like that, but if you do, it’s not a bad deal.

If you have to choose between Friday or Saturday night, go Friday. This patch of bad weather isn’t supposed to let up until Jazzfest weekend, so by then people will be stir-crazy and the lines to get into the Bleecker Street area venues willl be longer than they were last year, especially on Saturday night. Friday night, if you get where you’re going early, you stand a good chance of seeing who you want to see. Saturday night, if you don’t pick a venue and settle in for the duration, you may get shut out: last year, the lines outside were pretty bad by 8 and pretty much stopped moving by 9. Plus, the quality of the acts on the bill is even stronger this year than last year, and last year’s lineup was pretty great: For example, Henry Threadgill is playing a Butch Morris tribute at Judson Church on Washington Square South on Saturday at 8 and 10 PM and you know lines for that will be insane.

The full lineup is at the bottom of the page (check the festival schedule for the latest updates). Some suggestions: Friday night, you might want to start at LPR with Melissa Aldana, who’s probably gassed since she won that competition, and then head over to the Bitter End for an explosive threepeat of Jon Irabagon and whatever trio he has, then the Jazz Passengers, then Burnt Sugar Arkestra with hilarious, ageless sage Melvin Van Peebles. After that, Ben Goldberg’s Unfold Ordinary Mind – hopefully with Nels Cline in the lineup – have a twistedly amazing album out and should be able to outdo that live over at NYU Law, a new and untested venue for this sort of thing. Or just stick around for trumpeter Ben Holmes and his Balkan-influenced quartet, who also have a very strong album out.

Saturday night the obvious draw is Threadgill. If you’re going, get to the church as close to six as you can. Doors should be at around 6:30, and the opening 7 PM duo of Sylvie Courvoisier and Mark Feldman is very much worth seeing as well. Otherwise, your best bet, pound for pound, is to settle in when the doors open at NYU Law and get psyched to be blasted by Mostly Other People Do the Killing and then eventually Elliott Sharp’s Orchestra Carbon. Or, on a slightly less jazz-oriented tip, the Bowery Electric trifecta of Slavic Soul Party doing Ellington’s Far East Suite, Wicked Knee with Billy Martin, Curtis Fowlkes, Marcus Rojas and Steven Bernstein  and then the No BS Brass should be lots of fun. Or even take a chance and catch Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society at Subculture at 6 PM and then sprint over to Bowery, which is just four short blocks away. What you DON’T want to do Saturday night is more around a lot because the later it gets, the slimmer the odds that you’ll be able to get in anywhere.

Friday January 10th, 2014

Le Poisson Rouge:
6:00pm            Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio
7:15pm            Keren Ann
8:30pm            Dawn of Midi
9:45pm            Jeff “Tain” Watts & Lionel Loueke
11:00pm          Roy Hargrove Quintet

Judson Church:
6:15pm            TBA
7:30pm            Otto Hauser etc.
8:45pm            Roomful of Teeth
10:00pm          Mary Halvorson Septet
11:15pm          Peter Brötzmann w/ Hamid Drake and Jason Adasiewicz
12:30pm          Improvised Round Robin Duets w/ artists TBA

6:30pm            Sharel Cassity Quintet
7:45pm            Gary Bartz Quartet
9:00pm            Takuya Kurada
10:15pm          Otis Brown III f. Jimmy Greene
11:30pm          Kris Bowers Group
12:45am          Gizmo w/ special guest Casey Benjamin
2:00am            Big Yuki

NYU Law:
6:45pm            Ben Wendel Quartet
8:00pm            Ches Smith Trio
9:15pm            Nate Wooley’s Seven Storey Mountain
10:30pm          Chris Lightcap & Bigmouth
11:45pm          Ben Goldberg’s Unfold Ordinary Mind
1:00am            Aruan Ortiz Orbiting Quartet

The Bitter End:
6:15pm            Blue Cranes
7:30pm            Matt Ulery’s Loom
8:45pm            Jon Irabagon Trio
10:00pm          The Jazz Passengers
11:15pm          Burnt Sugar Arkestra Review with Melvin Van Peebles, Vernon Reid etc.
12:30am          Ben Holmes Quartet
1:45am            Thiefs

Zinc Bar:
6:30pm            Antoine Roney Trio featuring Kojo
7:45pm            Zee Avi
9:00pm            Rene Marie
10:15pm          Gregoire Maret w/ Terri Lyne Carrington
11:30pm          3rd Eye 4tet: McPherson, Waits, Burton, Hurt
12:45am          Roman Diaz & Midnight Rumba

Saturday January 11th 2014

Le Poisson Rouge:
6:00pm            Tillery featuring Rebecca Martin, Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens
7:15pm            Rudy Royston 303
8:30pm            Mother Falcon
9:45pm            Gretchen Parlato
11:00pm          Big Chief Donald Harrison & Congo Square Nation
12:15am          Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

1:30am            Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Judson Church:
7:00pm            Sylvie Courvoisier – Mark Feldman Duo
8/10 PM            Henry Threadgill’s ‘Ensemble Double-Up’ In Remembrance of Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris
11:45pm         Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog w/ Mary Halvorson
1:00am            Matthew Shipp Trio

6:30pm            James Brandon Lewis
7:40pm            Theo Croker
8:50pm            Jeff Ballard Trio
10:00pm          Nir Felder
11:10pm          Somi
12:20am          Craig Handy
1:00am            Okeh Records Jam

NYU Law:
6:45pm            Miles Okazaki Quartet
8:00pm            Endangered Blood
9:15pm            Mostly Other People Do The Killing
10:30pm          EYEBONE: Nels / Jim Black
11:45pm          Elliott Sharp’s Orchestra Carbon
1:00am            Chris Morrissey Quartet

The Bitter End:
6:15pm            Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba
7:30pm            Howard Johnson & Gravity
8:45pm            Angelika Niescier
10:00pm          Raul Midon
11:15pm          Meklit
12:30am          Jamie Baum Septet +
1:45am            Trees in Tongues w/ Samita Sinha, Grey McMurray, and Sunny Jain

Zinc Bar:
6:30pm            Ted Poor Quartet
7:45pm            Morgan James
9:00pm            Don Byron’s Six Musician Group
10:15pm          Trio Feral
11:30pm          Lakecia Benjamin & Soul Squad
12:45am          Marc Cary Focus Trio
2:00am            Matt Wilson, Ted Nash, Jesse Lewis

6:00pm            Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
7:15pm            Ralph Alessi Baida Quartet
8:30pm            Mark Helias Open Loose
9:45pm            Tim Berne Snakeoil
11:00pm          Tony Malaby’s Tamarindo
12:15am          Erik Friedlander’s Bonebridge
1:30am            ABRAXAS – John Zorn’s Book of Angels by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz

Bowery Electric:
6:30pm            Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music
7:45pm            Slavic Soul Party! plays Ellington: the Far East Suite
9:00pm            Wicked Knee w/ Billy Martin, Curtis Fowlkes, Marcus Rojas, and Steven Bernstein
10:15pm          No BS! Brass

The Blue Note:
12:30am          The NEXT Collective

January 2, 2014 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Jazzfest 2013: A Marathon Account

The narrative for Winter Jazzfest 2013 wrote itself. “The festival began and ended with two extraordinary trumpeters from Middle Eastern backgrounds, Ibrahim Maalouf early on Friday evening and then Amir ElSaffar in the wee hours of Sunday morning.” Except that it didn’t happen like that. Maalouf – whose new album Wind is a chillingly spot-on homage to Miles Davis’ noir soundtrack to the film Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud – was conspicuously absent, with visa issues. And by quarter to one Sunday morning, the line of hopefuls outside Zinc Bar, where ElSaffar was scheduled, made a mockery of any hope of getting in to see him play. But a bitingly bluesy, full-bore cadenza earlier in the evening from another trumpeter – Hazmat Modine’s Pam Fleming – had already redeemed the night many times over. In more than fourteen hours of jazz spread across the West Village (and into the East) over two nights, moments of transcendence like that outnumbered disappointments a thousand to one.

A spinoff of the annual APAP booking agents’ convention, the festival has caught on with tourists (the French and Japanese were especially well-represented) along with a young, scruffy, overwhelmingly white crowd like what you might see at Brooklyn spots like Shapeshifter Lab or I-Beam. Those crowds came to listen. Another tourist crowd, this one from New Jersey and Long Island, ponied up the $35 cover for an all-night pass and then did their best to drink like this was any old night on the Bleecker Street strip, oblivious to the music. It was amusing to see them out of their element and clearly nervous about it.

That contingent was largely absent on Friday – and probably because of the rain, attendance was strong but not as overwhelming as it would be the following night. Over at Bowery Electric, drummer Bobby Previte led a trio with baritone saxophonist Fabian Rucker and guitarist Mike Gamble to open the festival on a richly murky, noir note, raising the bar to an impossibly high level that few other acts would be able to match, at least from this perspective (wth scores of groups on the bill, triage is necessary, often a cruel choice between several artists). Watching Rucker build his way matter-of-factly from a minimalistically smoky stripper vamp to fire-and-brimstone clusters of hard bop was like being teleported to the jazz club scene from David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Over at le Poisson Rouge, chanteuse Catherine Russell delivered a mix of alternately jaunty, devious and poignant swing tunes, none of them from later than 1953, the most recent one a lively drinking song from the Wynonie Harris book. Guitarist and music director Matt Munisteri added his signature purist wit and an expectedly offhand intensity on both guitar and six-stirng banjo as the group – with Ehud Asherie on piano, Lee Hudson on bass and Mark McLean on drums – swung  through the early Ella Fitzgerald catalog as well as on blues by Lil Green and Bessie Smith, riding an arc that finally hit an unselfconsciously joyous note as they wound it up.

Jamaican jazz piano legend Monty Alexander followed, leading his Harlem-Kingston Express as they turned on a dime from pristine swing to a deep and dark roots reggae pulse. Alexander has been having fun with this project – utilizing what are essentially two discrete groups on a single stage, one an acoustic foursome, the other a fullscale reggae band with electric bass, keys and guitar – for a few years now. This was as entertaining as usual, mashing up Uptown and Jamdown and ending with a singalong on Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry. In between, Alexander romped through jump blues and then added biting minor-key riffage to Marley classics like Slave Driver and The Heathen. Alexander was at the top of his game as master of ceremonies  – he even sang a little, making it up as he went along. It’s hard to think of a more likeable ambassador for the Irie Island.

Across the street at the Bitter End, Nels Cline and Julian Lage teamed up for a duo guitar show that was intimate to the extent that you had to watch their fingers to figure out who was playing what. Both guitarists played with clean tones and no effects, meticulous harmonies intertwining over seamless dynamic shifts as the two negotiated blue-sky themes with a distant nod to Bill Friselll…and also to Jerry Garcia, whose goodnaturedly expansive style Lage evoked throughout a handful of bluegrass-tinged explorations. On a couple of tunes, Cline switched to twelve-string and played pointillistic rhythm behind Lage, who was rather graciously given the lion’s share of lead lines and handled them with a refreshing directness – no wasted notes here. The two beefed up a Jim Hall tune and closed with a trickily rhythmic, energetic Chris Potter number.

The Culture Project Theatre, just off Lafayette Street, is where the most improvisationally-inclined, adventurous acts were hidden away – and by the time Boston free jazz legends the Fringe took the stage for a rare New York gig, the place was packed. The trio of tenor saxophonist George Garzone, drummer Bob Gullotti and bassist John Lockwood gave a clinic in friendly interplay, leaving plenty of space for the others’ contributions, each giving the other a long launching pad for adding individual ideas. Gullotti was in a shuffle mood, Lockwood a chordal one, Garzone flirting playfully with familiar themes that he’d take into the bop-osophere in a split second, the rhythm section leaving him to figure out what was happening way out there until he’d give the signal that he was coming back to earth.

Nasheet Waits’ Equality was next on the bill there and was one example of a band that could have used more than the barely forty minutes they got onstage. It wasn’t that they rushed the songs, it was simply that this band is obviously used to stretching out more than they got the oppportunity to do, shifting shape rhythmically as much as melodically, through compositions by both the drummer/bandleader and alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. Warmly lyrical sax found a murky anchor in Vijay Iyer’s insistently hypnotic pedalpoint and block chords, Mark Helias propelling their third tune with careful permutations on a tireless bass loop. They danced out on a biting, latin-tinged vibe.

Seabrook Power Plant, somewhat less lethal and toxic than their name implies, closed out Friday night with a pummelling yet often surprisingly melodic set for the diehards who’d stuck around. Brandon Seabrook – the Dick Dale of the banjo – teamed up with bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Jared Seabrook for a hard-hitting, heavily syncopated, mathrock-tinged couple of tunes, the bandleader’s right hand a blur as he tremolopicked lightning flurries of chords that were more dreampop than full frontal attack. Then he picked up the guitar, started tapping and suddenly the shadow of Yngwie Malmsteen began to materialize, signaling that it was time to get some rest and get ready for day two.

Word on the street has been that the best strategy for the Saturday portion of the festival is to pick a single venue out of the total of six and camp out there, as one of the organizers sheepishly alluded as the evening got underway. This year that turned out to be gospel truth, validating the decision to become possibly the only person not employed by the Bitter End to spend six consecutive hours there. That choice wasn’t just an easy way out. Right through the witching hour, there were no lulls: the bill was that strong.

Percussionist Pedrito Martinez opened with his group: the sensational, charismatic Araicne Trujillo on piano and vocals, Jhair Sala on cowbell and Alvaro Benavides on five-string bass. Playing congas, Martinez took on the rare role of groovemeister with a subtle sense of dynamics, through a swaying set that was as electrically suspenseful as it was fever-pitched and diverse, slinking through Cuban rhythms from across the waves and the ages. Trujillo was a force of nature, showing off a wistful, bittersweet mezzo-soprano voice in quieter moments and adding fiery harmonies as the music rose. Given a long piano solo, she quoted vigorously and meticulously from Beethoven, Chopin and West Side Story without losing the slinky beat, matching rapidfire precision to an occasionally wild, noisy edge, notably on a long, call-and-response-driven take of Que Palo.

Chilean-American chanteuse Claudia Acuna was next, leading her six-piece band through a raputurous, hypnotic set that drew equally on folk music and classic American soul as well as jazz. Her voice radiates resilience and awareness: one early number broodingly contemplated ecological disaster and other global concerns. Chords and ripples rang from the electric piano, ornamented elegantly by guitarist Mike Moreno over grooves that rose and fell. After sultry tango inflections, a moody departure anthem and a surprisingly succesful shot at jazzing up You Are My Sunshine, they closed with an understated take on Victor Jara’s Adios Mundo Indino.

Of all of these acts, saxophonist Colin Stetson was the most spectacular. Playing solo is the hardest gig of all, notwithstanding that Stetson has made a career out of being a one-man band, one that sounds like he’s using a million effects and loops even though what he’s playing is 100% live. Tapping out a groove on the keys of his bass sax, sustaining a stunning mix of lows and keening overtones via circular breathing, some of what he played might be termed live techno. Holding fast to a rhythm that managed to be motorik and swinging at once, he evoked the angst of screaming in the wilderness – metaphorically speaking. Or being the last (or first) in a line of whales whose pitch is just a hair off from being understandable to others of the species, explaining how he felt a kinship with the “Cryptowhale” recently discovered on US Navy underwater recordings. Switching to alto sax, he delivered his most haunting number, spiked with sometimes menacing, sometimes plaintive chromatics and closed with a slowly and methodically crescendoing piece that built from dusky, otherworldly ambience to a firestorm of overtones and insistent, raw explosiveness. Of all the acts witnessed at this year’s festival, he drew the most applause.

In a smart bit of programming, trumpeter Brian Carpenter’s nine-peice Ghost Train Orchestra was next on the bill. Carpenter’s previous album collected jaunty, pioneering, surprisingly modern-sounding hot 20s proto-swing from the catalogs of bandleaders like Fess Williams and Charlie Johnson, and the band played some of those tunes, adding an unexpected anachronistic edge via biting, aggressive solos from tenor saxophonist Andy Laster and Brandon Seabrook, wailing away on banjo again. As the set went on, a positively noir Cab Calloway hi-de-ho energy set in, apprehensive chromatics pushing bouncy blues to the side, Mazz Swift’s gracefully edgy violin contrasting with Curtis Hasselbring’s terse but forceful trombone lines.

In addition to innumerable jazz flavors, this year’s festival featured a trio of acts who don’t really play jazz at all and the most tantalizing of them, Hazmat Modine, happened to be next on the bill. Frontman Wade Schuman played his chromatic harmonica through a series of effects that made him sound like a hurdy-gurdy on acid…or helium, depending on the song. Lively handoffs and conversations, notably between tuba player Joseph Daly and trombonist Reut Regev but also guitarists Pete Smith and Michael Gomez, Rachelle Garniez on claviola and accordion, Steve Elson on tenor sax, Pam Fleming on trumpet, and Rich Huntley on drums burst out of everywhere. Huntley took an antique field holler rhythm and made a hypnotic mid-70s disco-soul vamp out of it, as well as romping through samba swing, Diddleybeat, calypso or reggae, as on the minor-key but ecstatic opening tune, So Glad. The French have anointed the Hazmats as a blues band (their album Bahamut was the #1 blues album of the year there) even though they interpolate so many different styles into the genre and then jam them into unrecognizability. It was just as well that this set proved to be the final one of the festival – at least from this point of view – because after they’d vamped through a wryly surreal but ecstatic take of the carnivalesque tropicalia of the album’s title track, there was nowhere to go but down.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Jazzfest Calendar 2013

Winter Jazzfest is just around the corner: it’s the time of year when for a couple of days, all the cheesy Bleecker Street venues turn into a mecca for good jazz. This year, the shows on the Bleecker Street strip are supplemented by the inclusion of a slate of artists at comfortable Bowery Electric at 327 Bowery, a couple of blocks north of where CBGB used to be.

The best deal on tickets is the $45 two-day pass, available at the Poisson Rouge box office; $35 single-day passes are also available. Even by comparison to last year’s formidable lineup, this is an insanely good bunch of acts, from the oldest oldschool to the new: Hazmat Modine, the Cookers, Amir ElSaffar, Catherine Russell, Marc Cary, Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra, the James Carter organ trio, Ibrahim Malouf, Roy Nathanson’s Sotto Voce, Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence and more. As usual, most of the bigger names are at the Poisson Rouge, while another new venue, Culture Project Theatre at 45 Bleecker has the most improvisationally-inclined, avant garde acts.

Another new feature this year is the inclusion of a trio of headline-quality acts who don’t play jazz in any usual sense of the word but are all worth seeing:  fiery Ethiopian funksters Debo Band at Bowery Electric at 10 on Friday; slyly witty minor-key klezmer/reggae/New Orleans jamband Hazmat Modine at the Bitter End at 11ish on Saturday, and ecstatic live bhangra orchestra Red Baraat at Bowery Electric at 10 on Saturday. The complete schedule is below:

Friday January 11th

Le Poisson Rouge:
6:00pm – Ibrahim Malouf
7:15pm – Catherine Russell
8:30pm – Monty Alexander “Harlem – Kingston Express”
9:45pm – Don Byron
11:00pm – Evolutionary Minded! – ‘The music of Gil-Scott Heron re-visioned w/ Kentyah, M1 (Dead Prez), Brian Jackson and the New Midnight Band’
12:00am – Freedom Party

Sullivan Hall
7:45pm – Marcus Strickland Twi-Life
9:00pm – Revive Big Band led by Igmar Thomas
10:15pm – Dorothy Ashby Tribute feat. Brandee Younger
11:30pm – Corey King Band
12:45am – CHURCH feat. Mark de Clive-Lowe

Zinc Bar
6:45pm – Music of Ryuichi Sakamoto by Meg Okura’s Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble
8:00pm – Dan Tepfer & Lee Konitz
9:15pm – Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence w/ JD Allen and Chris Sholar
10:30pm – Eric Revis, Kris Davis, Andrew Cyrille
11:45pm – Felix Pastorious
1:00am – AfroHORN: The 3rd Incarnation
2:15am – Ernest Dawkins Afro-Straight

The Bitter End
6:15pm – Maria Neckam
7:30pm – Yosvany Terry Quintet
8:45pm – Krystle Warren and The Faculty
10:00pm – Julian Lage & Nels Cline
11:15pm – Roy Nathanson Sotto Voce
12:30am – Charnett Moffett, Marc Cary, Will Calhoun
1:45am – Jason Stein Quartet

Culture Project Theater (45 Bleecker St.)
7:00pm – Bryan & The Aardvarks
8:15pm – Michael Attias
9:30pm – Sunny Kim’s Painter’s Eye
10:45pm – The Fringe
12:00am – Nasheet Waits EQUALITY with Vijay Iyer, Mark Helias, Logan Richardson 1:15am – Seabrook Power Plant

Bowery Electric
6:15pm – Bobby Previte Bari Trio
7:30pm – Erik Deutsch
8:45pm – Jacob Garchik The Heavens
10:00pm – Debo Band

Saturday January 12th

Le Poisson Rouge
6:00pm – Celebrate The Great Women of Blues & Jazz w/ Toshi Reagon & Allison Miller +Friends
7:15pm – The Big Picture featuring David Krakauer (A Sneak Preview)
8:30pm – The Cookers
9:45pm – Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak
11:00pm – James Carter Organ Trio
12:15am – Gregory Porter
1:30am – Bugge ‘n Friends with Erik Truffaz, Ilhan Ersahin, Joaquin ‘Joe’ Claussell

Sullivan Hall
7:45pm – Ari Hoenig Group
9:00pm – Dezron Douglas’ Jazz Workshop
10:15pm – Somi
11:30pm – Otis Brown III
12:45am – George Burton Group
2:00am – John Raymond Project

Zinc Bar
6:45pm – Tigran
8:00pm – Donny McCaslin
9:15pm – Alexis Cuadrado Group ‘A Lorca Soundscape’
10:30pm – Omer Avital & His Band of The East
11:45pm – Rez Abbasi Trio
1:00am – Amir Elsafar Quintet
2:15am – JC Hopkins

The Bitter End
6:15pm – Pedrito Martinez
7:30pm – Claudia Acuña
8:45pm – Colin Stetson
10:00pm – Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra
11:15pm – Hazmat Modine
12:30am – Rafiq Bhatia
1:45am – Oran Etkin

Culture Project Theater
7:00pm – Michael Formanek
8:15pm – Leo Genovese Trio
9:30pm – Tony Malaby Tuba Trio
10:45pm – Kneebody
12:00am – Jason Lindner Breeding Ground
1:15am – Merger w/ Andrew D’Angelo, Kirk Knuffke, Ben Street, Nasheet Waits

Bowery Electric
6:15pm – Frank Lacy’s ’10 32k’
7:30pm – Mario Pavone Trio
8:45pm – Vinnie Sperazza 40Twenty
10:00pm – Red Baraat

January 3, 2013 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2012 Winter Jazzfest Schedule

[repost from Lucid Culture’s sister blog New York Music Daily]

Here’s the 2012 Winter Jazzfest schedule, where the cheesy Bleecker Street strip suddenly turns into heaven for jazz fans. You best bet is the $45 two-day pass for Friday and Saturday, currently onsale at le Poisson Rouge; $35 single-day tix are also available. So many good bills here it’s outrageous – and even the segues are good. Friday night Jenny Scheinman followed by Steven Bernstein and his crew playing Sly Stone? Outta sight! Julian Lage followed by the NY Gypsy All-Stars? Think about that one for a minute…and just go. Saturday night Bernie Worrell followed by Bill Laswell is going to pull both the oldschool crowd and the new jacks so show up early; and all the night owls will be rewarded for sticking around when Soul Cycle and then Marc Cary do their funky stuff in the wee hours at Sullivan Hall.  

Friday January 6th

(Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street btw Sullivan/Thompson

6:00pm – Curtis Hasselbring’s New Mellow Edwards; 7:15pm – John Medeski solo; 8:30pm – Nels Cline Singers; 9:45pm – Jenny Scheinman’s Mischief & Mayhem; 11:00pm – midnight – Steven Bernstein’s MTO plays Sly

Sullivan Hall, 214 Sullivan St. btw Bleecker & West 3rd

7:45pm – Julian Lage Group; 9:00pm – New York Gypsy All Stars; 10:15pm – Marco Benevento solo; 11:30pm – Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog; 12:45am – Jerseyband; 2:00am – Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Kenny’s Castaways, 157 Bleecker Street btw Sullivan/Thompson

7:00pm – Ben Allison Trio w/ Jenny Scheinman, Steve Cardenas; 8:15pm – John Hollenbeck w/Pete Robbins, Simon Jermyn, Oscar Noriega, Ches Smith; 9:30pm – Michael Blake’s Hellbent; 10:45pm – Marika Hughes & Bottom Heavy; 12:00am – Rudresh Mahanthappa; 1:15am – Mark Guiliana / Zach Danziger

Zinc Bar, 82 West 3rd Street btw Sullivan/Thompson

6:15pm – Dominick Farinacci; 7:30pm – Malika Zarra; 8:45pm – Miguel Zenon; 10:00pm – Sketchy Black Dog; 11:15pm – Gilad Hekselman 4tet w/ Mark Turner, Joe Martin, Marcus Gilmore; 12:30am – Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures; 1:45am – JD Walter

The Bitter End, 147 Bleecker Street btw Thompson/Laguardia

7:15pm – Joel Harrison String Choir:  The Music of Paul Motian; 8:30pm – Lucy Woodward; 9:45pm – Chris Morrissey w/ Aaron Parks, Mark Guiliana, Ben Wendel, Nir Felder; 11:00pm – Amanda Monaco’s Deathblow12:15am – Burnt Sugar Arkestra Chamber; 1:30am – ERIMAJ

Saturday January 7th

(Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street btw Sullivan/Thompson

6:45pm – Laurence Hobgood; 8:00pm – Bernie Worrell Orchestra; 9:15pm – Bill Laswell solo; 10:30pm – Vijay Iyer Trio; 11:45pm – David Murray Cuban Ensemble; 1:00am – 2:00am Cindy Blackman’s Another Lifetime w/ Marc Cary, Felix Pastorius, Aurelien Budynek

Sullivan Hall, 214 Sullivan St. btw Bleecker & West 3rd

7:45pm – Lakecia Benjamin & Soul Squad; 9:00pm – Fabian Almazan & Strings; 10:15pm – Justin Brown Group; 11:30pm – Wallace Roney Band; 12:45am – Ben Williams & Sound Effect; 2:00am – Jesse Fischer’s Soul Cycle f. Casey Benjamin; 3:15am – Marc Cary’s Cosmic Indigenous w/ special guest Igmar Thomas 

Kenny’s Castaways, 157 Bleecker Street btw Sullivan/Thompson

7:00pm – Jason Ajemian’s Highlife; 8:15pm – Herculaneum; 9:30pm – Mostly Other People Do The Killing; 10:45pm – Shahzad Ismaily, Ches Smith, Mat Maneri; 12:00am – SIFTER w/ Matt WIlson, Kirk Knuffke, Mary Halvorson; 1:15am – Steve Lehman Trio

Zinc Bar, 82 West 3rd Street btw Sullivan/Thompson

7:15pm – Gregoire Maret; 8:30pm – Lionel Loueke; 9:45pm – Will Calhoun Ensemble w/ Donald Harrison; 11:00pm – Sofia Rei; 12:15am – Ayelet Rose Gottlieb w/ Ethel and Satoshi Takeishi; 1:30am – Sharel Cassity

The Bitter End, 147 Bleecker Street btw Thompson/Laguardia

7:30pm – Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio; 8:45pm – Andy Milne’s Dapp Theory; 10:00pm – Matt Wilson Quartet +Strings; 11:15pm – Allison Miller’s BOOM TIC BOOM; 12:30am – Taylor Eigsti Trio; 1:45am – Tyshawn Sorey Oblique

January 3, 2012 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment