Winter JazzFest 2023 Returns to IRL Performance
by Dan Lehner, Mackenzie Horne and Pete Matthews
After two years of cancellations and virtual performances, Winter JazzFest - the annual smörgåsbord of jazz and other forward-thinking music that kicks off the NYC music calendar each year, triumphantly returned to in-person performance last week. With a full week of shows stretched out across 15 stages, the lineup was characteristically impressive, giving warhorses and new ensembles alike a chance to play before attentive, enthusiastic crowds. Suffice to say: despite all of the bullshit from the past three years, jazz is alive and well.
Here's a rundown of what we managed to see:
Thursday, Jan. 12: Avishai Cohen Quartet at Le Poisson Rouge
Not to be confused with the bassist by the same name (no relation), the NYC-based trumpeter performed his new album Naked Truth (ECM) straight through. Recorded in the south of France during the pandemic, the 9-part suite veered from hypnotic to jarring, erupting in a cascade of arpeggios before ending with a quiet meditation on death by Israeli poet Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky.
Cohen's set was part of a showcase primarily dedicated to French jazz musicians, produced by Paris Jazz Club and Paris radio station TSF Jazz.
Friday, Jan. 13: Manhattan Marathon
There was an understated but palpable sense of enthusiasm Friday night as the Marathon - WJF's signature event - kicked off across lower Manhattan. Fewer venues and a wider spread of locations - from Nublu on Ave. C to Jazz Gallery on 27th St. - meant that crowding was even more of an issue than in the past. (We never made it inside The Bitter End or Zinc Bar.) But, despite the long lines -- in seasonably-cold weather -- people seemed to take it in stride, just happy to have WJF back.
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