Jazz Feed

Winter Jazzfest 2024 - Manhattan Marathon

Winter Jazzfest 2024 Lineup

by Dan Lehner

Editors Note: Both Dan and I were originally supposed to cover this year's Winter Jazzzfest, but your's truly got COVID on Wednesday, so I've been self-isolating all weekend. I'm still hoping to make it out to Wednesday (1/17) night's Ryuichi Sakomoto tribute at Roulette with DJ Spooky, Yuka C. Honda; tickets available here.

In 2004, Winter Jazzfest’s first roster counted a total of 20 bands claiming the three floors of the Knitting Factory’s old Manhattan location on Leonard Street, occurring as a one-night-only event. Twenty years later, the festival now boasts 700 artists over 9 days over several miles of both Manhattan and Brooklyn real estate, with two evening-length marathons and a kaleidoscope of one-night presentations and talks that span subgenres, historical tributes, artist-in-residence curations - and all the work by artists young and old that’s worthy of showcase under the broad banner of “jazz”. For financial and spatial reasons, it behooves festival-goers to be selective about where they spend their time, but Friday's Manhattan Marathon gave audiences a chance to slice through a concentration of clubs in the East and West Villages to sample some of the best new sounds to check out in 2024.

Kicking off a three-set 70th birthday celebration at Bowery Ballroom, veteran guitarist Marc Ribot was ripping through melodies at a searing intensity with his “New Trio”, featuring bassist Hilliard Greene, long-time collaborator Chad Taylor on drums and special guest James Brandon Lewis on saxophone. Though separated by about 30 years in age, Ribot and Lewis’s compatibility was extremely obvious; both men favored the radical simplicity of melodies more related to folk music (which is to say, touching on gospel, blues, Woody Guthrie and punk rock) than contemporary harmonic constructions. Songs were free in form and time but with dynamic contours; a Led Zeppelin-ish rock tune would burst into free jazz flames before settling into spoken word. Taylor worked as both catcher and instigator, moving from restless jazz to stadium rock as the music necessitated, and Greene complemented Ribot’s musicality with both Mingusian bowed bass and rock n’ roll bombs he literally bent the bass forward to drop. (After I left, Ribot played in a duo with fellow guitarist Mary Halvorson, followed by a set with his longtime band Ceramic Dog.)

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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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Summer 2022 Live Music Preview: Out of Town

Tanglewood Shed(all photos by Pete Matthews)
In addition to all of the summer music happenings in NYC, things are finally getting back to normal at the festivals and amphitheaters out of town, many of which have been dormant - or half-baked - for the past two years. Here are some of the things worth a trip:

Tanglewood (July 1-Aug. 28) Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons spends four full weeks in the Berkshires this summer, performing everything from Brahms' German Requiem to a concert performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Other highlights include Garrick Ohlsson performing Brahms' complete piano music (Aug. 16-25), a John Williams 90th birthday celebration (Aug. 20), and a new opera by George Benjamin (Aug. 8) performed by the TMC fellows - who also gave the U.S. premiere of his Written on Skin in 2013.

Caramoor (June 30-Aug. 19) The elegant Westchester estate offers one of the most diverse festivals in the northeast - and only an hour's drive north of NYC. Spanning classical, jazz, opera, and new music, highlights include the world premiere of Michael Gordon's “Field of Vision” (July 24), a day-long jazz festival (July 30), Handel's rarely performed opera Theodora (July 31), and appearances by Brian Stokes Mitchell (July 9), Shemekia Copeland (July 29) and Angelique Kidjo (Aug 6).

Bard SummerScape (June 24-Aug. 14) Among this year's offerings at Bard's Fisher Center is Richard Strauss' rarely performed comic opera The Silent Woman (July 22-31) and the 32nd annual Bard Music Festival (Aug. 5-14), dedicated to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff. In the Spiegeltent, which is back open for the first time since 2019, offerings include Nona Hendryx (July 1), the George Gee Swing Orchestra (July 10) and roots rocker Martha Redbone (July 30).

Glimmerglass Festival (July 8-Aug. 21) The northeast's leading summer opera festival presents both the tried and true (CarmenThe Sound of Music) and the new (The Jungle Book, Taking Up Serpents/Holy GroundThe Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson) on the shores of Lake Otsego, just down the road from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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