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Wild Weekend: Winter Jazz Festival hits New York

by John Swenson

john_swensonNew York’s Winter Jazz Fest has quickly established itself as one of the best jazz festivals in the world. Daringly placed as the first big event of the new year, during a period when New York is usually cold, windy and devoid of tourists, the festival takes advantage of the city’s many Manhattan jazz venues, particularly its thriving club scene, to present some of the most creative and adventurous music being made today.

This year’s festival, which runs from Thursday January 8 to Saturday January 10, boasts an impressive lineup. Opening night features Blue Note Now! at Poisson Rouge, a showcase for the legendary label’s roster including the Robert Glasper Trio, drummer Kendrick Scott’s band Oracle, singer Jose James and bassist Derrick Hodge. Meanwhile at the Quaker Friends Hall an all star jam session includes Ron Carter, Renee Rosnes, Russell Malone, Brad Mehldau, George Coleman, Benny Golson, Jimmy CobbPeter Bernstein, Buster Williams, Mike LeDonne, Harold Mabern, John Webber, Joe Farnsworth, Bill CharlapKenny Washington and others.

Friday and Saturday night offer enough highlights to make for some difficult choices. On Friday, Subculture on Bleecker Street presents  Arturo O’Farrill‘s “Boss Level” Septet, Linda Oh’s Sun Pictures, Taylor Eigsti’s Free Agency, the Tyshawn Sorey Piano Trio, Kris Davis Infrasound, Uri Caine/Han Bennink and Aaron Parks. Meanwhile down the block at Le Poisson Rouge it’s the Donald Byrd Acoustic Electric Sessions, the ICP Orchestra, and Kneebody + Daedelus. Just around the corner the Minetta Lane Theatre has the blockbuster lineup of the David Murray Clarinet Summit w/ Don Byron, David Krakauer, and Hamiet Bluiett; David Murray w/ Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington; TRIO 3 w/ Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and special guest TBA; Marc Ribot & The Young Philadelphians with Strings; and Strange and Beautiful: The Music of John Lurie and The Lounge Lizards.

Saturday’s show at the Minetta Lane Theatre is a mind-boggling lineup including the Amina Claudine Myers Trio; The Cookers; Rudresh Mahanthappa‘s Bird Calls (The Charlie Parker Project); Henry, Hampton and Low: Levon Henry, Alan HamptonMeshell Ndegeocello; and the Nicholas Payton Trio. At the same time Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9 and the David Murray Infinity Quartet play Le Poisson Rouge; the Campbell Brothers perform their sacred steel A Love Supreme at Judson Church; Lionel Loueke, Harriett Tubman and JD Allen Trio w/ Gregg August & Rudy Royston at Subculture; the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet is at The Bitter End; and Darius Jones is on a bill at the Players Theater.

If you’re a jazz fan who wants to visit New York and check out the vibrant scene there you owe it to yourself to make this weekend. It would serve you well to stick around a few more days and take in the free concert 7 p.m. Tuesday night in memory of the great bassist Charlie Haden at Town Hall. The lineup of great musicians planning on paying tribute to Haden include Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Carla Bley, Jack DeJohnette, Denardo Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Fain, Bill Frisell, Ethan Iverson, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Steve Swallow.

Recommended listening:

Arturo O’Farrill and the Latin Jazz Orchestra – The Offense of the Drum

Linda Oh – Sun Pictures

ICP Orchestra – ICP Orchestra

David Murray – Be My Monster Love

Darius Jones Trio – Man’Ish Boy (Dig)

The Cookers – Time and Time Again

Rudresh Mahanthappa – Bird Calls

Henry Butler/Steve Bernstein – Viper’s Drag


John Swenson has been writing about popular music since 1967. He edited the award-winning website for Knit Media and has worked as an editor at Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone, Circus, Rock World, OffBeat magazine and been published in virtually every popular music magazine of note over that time. He was a syndicated music columnist for more than 20 years at United Press International and Reuters. Swenson has written 14 published books including biographies of Bill Haley, The Who, Stevie Wonder and The Eagles and co-edited the original Rolling Stone Record Guide with Dave Marsh. He is also the editor of The Rolling Stone Jazz and Blues Album Guide. His most recent book on New Orleans music after Katrina is called New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Future of New Orleans. In another role Swenson is a veteran sports writer who covered the New York Rangers for 30 years, writing pieces for outlets from Rolling Stone to the Associated Press. Swenson is also a veteran horseracing columnist and handicapper who covered the New York racing scene as a columnist for the New York Post and the New Orleans Fair Grounds meet for The Daily Racing Form. His profile on jockey Steve Cauthen: Rise To Stardom, Fall From Grace in Spur Magazine was nominated for an Eclipse Award.

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