Now that the dust has settled on the holiday and New Year’s festivities, it’s time to refocus on music and what’s become a refreshingly busy season in New York for jazz and improvised/creative music.

The Winter Jazz Fest returns for its 15th year in 2019 with the usual staggering array of sets, stages, and ancillary events. Not to be outdone, however, Arts for Art–the scrappy organizers best known for the annual Vision Fest (already scheduled for June 11-16 2019: save the dates)–have fired back with a week of events of their own from the 16-21 at Nublu, which will be covered in a later post. Right now’s a good time to look at WJF’s first “mini marathon” day and a few of the standalone events next week. Look for a deep dive into the marathon days on the 11-12th in our annual Cheat Sheet early next week.

Winter Jazz runs from January 4-12 2019 at a series of venues scattered around its traditional nucleus of Greenwich Village. The traditional “marathon nights” are on the 11th and 12th and it’s best to reserve tickets for them early since they might sell out due to festival’s popularity.

WJF dubs Saturday January 5th as a “mini marathon” with a range of acts in multiple venues. Me’shell Ndegeocello’s this year’s artist-in-residence and has multiple appearances at the fest, including at 7:50 on Saturday at Le Poisson Rouge. I’m particularly looking forward to the Zig Zag Power Trio, which has a 12:20 AM (technically Sunday morning) show at the Bitter End. The trio of Living Colour alums Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun teamed up with bassist Melvin Gibbs put out a fantastic release last year that got nowhere near the attention it should have, but will certainly have a high energy mix of free improvisation pulled from their various influences of jazz, blues, and rock on offer. I’ve written about them here and here, so I’ll send you to those write-ups.

Zinc Bar’s Saturday line-up features the Dave Liebman Group at 8 PM and saxophonist Tia Fuller presents work from her 2018 Diamond Cut album at 10:40 PM. One word of caution, though: Zinc’s a very small venue and gets packed quickly, so be prepared to get there very early.

This is just a sample of all the Saturday night shows; head over to the full schedule for the rest.

With Winter Jazz Fest’s continued popularity and expansion, they’ve also introduced several smaller standalone shows during the week.

Sunday January 6th features several acts at Le Poission Rouge with a return by festival regular guitarist Marc Ribot, who presents work from his 2018 Songs of Resistance release; pianist Samora Pinderhughes’s Transformations Suite; and Toshi Reagon’s annual Word*Rock*Sword event, dedicated to women’s lives.

Monday January 7th features several more sets at Le Poission Rouge, with The Bad Plus, Terri Lyne Carrington‘s Social Science, and Terrence Blanchard’s E-Collective taking the stage. Here, Blanchard does a follow-up to his performance at last fall’s BRIC Jazz Fest, which was one of the best shows I saw all year. Blanchard’s sweeping cinematic arrangements meld together almost seamlessly with nods to late career Miles Davis. Charles Altura’s stirring electric guitar work helps bind the collage together.

On Wednesday January 9th, you’ll have to head to Brooklyn Steel, but will be rewarded by a performance by Medeski, Martin, and Wood, who routinely sell out shows when they appear in New York nowadays and sound as good as they ever have.

On Thursday January 10th, you have a choice between Ndegeocello, who graces the stage of Nublu’s larger space at 151 Avenue C and Gary Bartz, who’s doing a 50th anniversary tribute of his Another Earth album at Le Poisson Rouge with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders.

Here, Sanders and Bartz get the chance to recreate some of the magic of a half-century ago. Both are still strong players and still in good form, if shaped by long careers. Sanders last graced the WJF stage two years ago in a phenomenal performance that saw Sanders call fellow saxophonist Ravi Coltrane to the stage for a stirring rendition of John Coltrane’s OlĂ©.

Trumpeter Charles Tolliver–who celebrated a milestone of his own last year with the 50th anniversary of Paperman–also rejoins Bartz for the performance.

It promises to be an inspired performance and one not to be missed. Be sure to tune in to our show this Sunday for more Wintter Jazz coverage when Joyce Jones interviews saxophonist Marcus Strickland on Suga’ in My Bowl at 11 PM on WBAI Radio and streaming online.
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 Lehman College.