Photo: Francisco Mora Catlett, one of many performers at Justice is Compassion: Not a Police State.| Joyce Jones. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.
Words by Hank Williams
We’ve been spending lots of time lately covering the 2017 Winter Jazz Fest—with good reason, I’d argue, since it’s an annual blowout of experimental music. With WJF almost a wrap for this year, it’s time to turn to other venues to get your musical fix.
Fortunately, Arts for Art, best known for their annual Vision Fest which has become a mainstay of the avant garde music scene, is firing back with a series of their own. And–in true Arts for Art fashion—are operating on the principle that more is better (which in their case is usually true) and sponsoring a 3-week festival of their own. “Justice is Compassion: Not a Police State” is the latest incarnation of their long running Evolving music series that rolls around this time of year.
As with everything Arts for Art does, politics is front and center with the festival and deeply ingrained, not something tacked on at the last minute.

Justice is Compassion also stays true to another Arts for Art trait: while it centers the music, it gives time to dance, poetry, and visual art

Justice is Compassion also stays true to another Arts for Art trait: while it centers the music, it gives time to dance, poetry, and visual art as well. Jo Wood-Brown’s “Oasis Paintings” are on display throughout the festival and there are poetry sets on various days by Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Patricia Spears-Jones, David Mills, Yuko Otomo, and Steve Dalachinsky. Dance fans can look to Patricia Nicholson Parker and Miriam Parker, who’ll both be performing in separate sets.
All of this happens in Clemente Soto Velez Center, at 107 Suffolk St, just off Houston on the Lower East Side.
There are way too many musicians and sets to name here, with events nearly every night until January 22nd, but the personnel will be familiar to those who know Vision Fest. If you’re not, that’s fine, too, but expect a wide variety of artists–both young and old—and some who should be much better known than they are, like the incredibly prolific bassist William Parker, who’s a mainstay of the avant garde, and fellow bassist Henry Grimes, who’s been a key person on the scene since his reappearance on the avant garde jazz landscape a decade ago.
We’re looking forward to drummer/percussionist Francisco Mora- Catlett’s set on January 19, leading his AfroHORN ensemble.
The closing night on January 22nd features a finale helmed by Henry Grimes with what looks to be a wide assortment of artists from the fest and promises to be a freewheeling jam session and the type of blowout usually reserved for the last day of the summer’s Vision Fest. It’s titled “Heal and Resist”, which is an excellent note to go forward on in uncertain times.
See the entire schedule at the Arts for Art website.
Hank Williams is an associate producer for Suga’ in My Bowl on WBAI Radio and webmaster for the Suga’ and Behind the Mic sites. He is also a PhD candidate in English and Africana Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center and teaches at Hunter and Lehman Colleges and The City College of New York. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot