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Third Annual JazzFest at BRIC

by Steven Pisano and FoM

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Last weekend, BRIC hosted its third annual three-night JazzFest marathon, which back in 2015 instantly became a mecca for adventurous jazz fans looking to hear a wide-ranging array of jazz styles. This year's festival kept that tradition going, revisiting old faithfuls and discovering new talent on the rise. There were also new bands put together by veterans of the scene, such as drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's Social Science, featuring a singer and MC delivering emotional lyrics inspired by police brutality and our polarizing political climate. Upstarts included Sharel Cassity's forward-leaning Elektra and the elegant, ethereal singer Kavita Shah. Guitarist Binky Griptite (formerly of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings) led a swinging band that inspired more than a few dancers, while Mexico's Troker straddled the line between jazz and funk. The venerable Sun Ra Arkestra, now in it's 65th year, closed out the night. 

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Lincoln Center Festival: Bang on a Can All-Stars with Gong Linna and Ornette Coleman's Chamber Music

CLOUD_SBP4072Photo: Stephanie Berger

The 22nd edition of the Lincoln Center Festival kicked off last week, bringing it's usual surfeit of starry theater and ballet companies to the various houses of the Lincoln Center campus left otherwise vacant for the summer. Amidst these, there were a pair of musical offerings that straddled the worlds of jazz, contemporary classical, and world music. 

On Friday, I went to the John Jay Theater to see the Bang on a Can All Stars perform with Chinese vocalist Gong Linna, who's become something of a sensation in her home country for her charismatic stage presence and acrobatic singing. They met while the All-Stars were touring China a few years ago and, after after BOAC founders David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon sat down with Gong and her husband, composer Lao Luo, (a.k.a. Robert Zollitsch) they came up with the 12 part song cycle Cloud River Mountain. Collaboration is nothing new for the Bang on a Can trio - previous efforts include The Carbon Copy Building (1999), Lost Objects (2001), and Shelter (2005) - but it was Lao who was instrumental in integrating the unique harmonies and rhythms of Chinese music.

The songs were sung in a mix of English and Mandarin, with lyrics drawn mostly from the mythological poetry of Qu Yuan, written during the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). It was difficult to follow without supertitles or any kind of house lighting to read the translations in the program, but Gong's theatrical performance - matched by her flamboyant costumes - was captivating in its own way. As for the music, it ranged from Julia's "Into the Clouds", which raged with Patti Smith-like intensity, to Michael's persistent, heavy-handed "River", to David's quiet, haunting "Girl With Mountain." For an encore, Gong performed the wild, frenetic folk song "Tan Te", which first catapulted her to stardom.

Meanwhile, David, Julia, Michael and the All Stars have all decamped to North Adams, where they'll be ensconced at Mass MoCA for the next three weeks at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, culminating in the annual Summer Marathon on August 6 with guest composer Louis Andriessen. Details available on their website. More pics here.

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Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 with Roy Ayers at Central Park Summerstage

Seun Kuti - Summerstage - Feast of Music Jul 16  2017  5-46 PM Jul 16  2017  6-07 PM
It's been six years since I last saw Seun Kuti play Celebrate Brooklyn with Egypt 80, the backing band of his famous father, the late Afropop pioneer Fela Kuti. So, it was good to see him back at Central Park Summerstage on Sunday, strutting across the stage in a blue patterned jumpsuit that looked like it had been pulled straight from his father's old closet. Seun, now 34, has already been at this for more than 20 years, and now that he's the same age as his father was in is prime, there's really no separation between them. Jazz and funk legend Roy Ayers opened with his own sublime set, singing classics like "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" while accompanying himself on vibes.

More pics below and on the photo page

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Support Karikatura's Kickstarter for "Ghost Light"

KarikaturaTrombonist Dan Lehner, who has written some of our best jazz coverage over the years, is a member of local roots pop band Karikatura, which describes itself as "cumbia meets hip-hop, reggae meets klezmer, and indie-rock meets merengue." Over the years, the band has graduated from gigs in subway stations, to shows in Haiti, to a European tour this summer sponsored by the U.S. State Department. They're currently in the process of producing their second album, "Ghost Light" and have started an all-or-nothing Kickstarter to help pay for it. With less than a week to go, they're now more than halfway to their goal, but could use some help. Check out their music on Bandcamp, then throw them support here if you can.