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January 2023

Winter JazzFest 2023 Returns to IRL Performance

by Dan Lehner, Mackenzie Horne and Pete Matthews

Avishai Cohen Quartet, LPR

Happy 2023, all. 

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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