Archives for category: Jazz Festivals

The annual Vision Fest returns his year for its 23rd edition and as usual provides a week full of avant garde jazz, dance, poetry, and visual art all under the same roof and available for the same admission fee. Single day passes are available and it’s probably a good idea to grab them in advance since the Wednesday night opening is already sold out.

The 2018 event is much earlier than usual: running from May 23-29, wrapping up on Memorial Day. It also features a return to Roulette in downtown Brooklyn after 3 years at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. Roulette’s extremely easy to access, though: it’s one long block from the Atlantic Avenue subways and LIRR station.

The festival officially started on Monday May 21 with films at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

As is Vision’s tradition, the opening night on Wednesday May 23 is centered around an artist that Vision bestows with a lifetime achievement award. This year’s honoree is pianist Dave Burrell. As is Vision’s tradition, Burrell will perform in multiple ensembles during the course of the evening.

Burrell’s Harlem Renaissance suite featuring drummer Andrew Cyrille should be worth a look, and emanates from the intersection of his family’s history with the era.

Next up is what promises to be a historic reunion of former bandmates when Burrell joins legendary saxophonist Archie Shepp along with drummer Hamid Drake and bassist William Parker; the latter two are both familiar names to the Vision crowd. Burrell appears on several of Shepp’s classic early 1970s albums, including Live at the Pan African Festival, Blasé, Kwanza, and Attica Blues. Additionally, he’s been a more recent collaborator with Drake and Parker. The set promises to be a memorable one, as Shepp doesn’t gig too often in the US now.

Wednesday night’s closing set promises to be an exceptionally exhilarating ride, with Burrell leading a quintet with dual tenor saxophonists in Kidd Jordan and James Brandon Lewis, bassist William Parker, and drummer Hamid Drake. Jordan and Lewis are at opposite ends of the age spectrum, but both have a free-flowing wide open playing style and with Jordan drawing from the deep wells of the southern Blues for much of his inspiration, the pairing with the rising star Lewis should be special for all involved.

Thursday night kicks off with a panel discussion on the topic of “Creating Safe(r) Spaces in the Performing Arts,” featuring members of the We Have a Voice Collective, who released an open letter on sexism in Jazz.

Electric guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl ensemble starts Thursday night, followed by Vision veteran Whit Dickey’s trio. The Women With an Axe to Grind ensemble is something not to be overlooked, though. Bassist Jöelle Léandre will be making a rare US appearance and is joined by flutist Nicole Mitchell and violist Melanie Dyer.

Friday night brings pianist Matthew Shipp in different ensembles. Shipp teams up with Daniel Carter on saxophone/trumpet/flute and ever-present bassist William Parker for “Seraphic Light” early in the evening and leads the “Acoustic Ensemble” for the closing set. In between that, drummer Nasheet Waits’s “Equality” ensemble has a set that will be worth catching.

On Saturday, vocalist Fay Victor’s “Mutations for Justice” hits early in the evening. Victor’s freeform vocals are nearly otherworldly at times, creating a sonic palette for improvisations reminiscent of reed instruments. Slightly later, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire joins pianist Kris Davis and drummer/percussionist Tyshawn Sorey for another highly anticipated experimental set. Drummer/percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett draws Saturday night’s cleanup slot with a variation of his long-running Afro-Horn ensemble with trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah as a special guest.

Sunday starts with an afternoon panel discussion moderated by writer Scott Currie, this time for part one on the topic of “The Ongoing Struggle for Cultural Equality in NYC Music Communities” with poet Steve Cannon, pianist Dave Burrell, bassist William Parker, trombonist Craig Harris, Bernadette Speach, and Adam Shatz. Later on, Harris closes out the evening with his “Brown Butterfly” suite.

Memorial Day Monday brings another afternoon panel discussion and continues Sunday’s theme. Mike Heller moderates a panel of bassist Reggie Workman, trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc, bassist Luke Stewart, drummer Warren Smith, and dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker.

Fly or Die, Trumpeter Jamie Branch’s first release as a leader, gained favorable reviews last year. You get a chance to see her ensemble live in the evening’s first set of music. Slightly later Cooper-Moore gets a solo piano set followed by saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc’s “New World Pygmies.”

Finally, saxophonist Oliver Lake’s big band closes out the entire festival on Monday night. The final festival set is traditionally a large affair and this year should be no different, especially for someone with the compositional skills of Lake. People unfamiliar with Vision might have different ideas of what a big band sounds like, but Lake’s effort here is likely to be one that swings hard while creating multiple spaces for free improvisation and pushes the boundaries.

One unique attribute of Vision is the atmosphere it intentionally creates be breaking down boundaries between audience and musicians and even musicians themselves: it’s not uncommon to see musicians attend on different days simply to watch the other sets as audience members. There’s also a vending area open every night that provides the opportunity to take home some of the music one hears and possibly even get it autographed on the spot.

Vision’s one of the most highly anticipated festivals on our calendar every year at Suga’ in My Bowl radio, and for good reason. It’s a festival of Jazz that intentionally brings one back to the roots of what the music should be about: improvisation, community, and creativity.

For a deeper dive into this year’s honoree Dave Burrell, check out our show that aired on May 13 on WBAI. Our May 27 show will focus on trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, who’ll be part of Oliver Lake’s big band on the same night. It will air on WBAI (and stream online) from 11 PM-1 AM on the 27th and be archived on our site afterwards.

We’ll also check back in with a review and photos after Vision wraps up.

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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

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bandstand_picPhoto Credit: Hank Williams

Welcome to Suga in My Bowl radio‘s weekly feature, On The Bandstand, where we collect upcoming NYC area shows from current and past Suga’ guests. We’re online weekly and on the air on NYC’s WBAI-FM radio alternate Sunday nights from 11 PM -1 AM. Keep up with us via Facebook, the blog here, or our main website, or Twitter and we’ll keep track of the schedule for you.

We’re off this week, but is you missed last week’s show with pianist Dave Burrell, head over to our archives where you can hear that and nearly a decade of archived shows.  Burrell’s getting a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Vision Fest and will be performing in three different combos on the opening night at Roulette in downtown Brooklyn on May 23. Drummer Andrew Cyrille joins Burrell for the Harlem Renaissance suite, later that night he reunites with saxophonist Archie Shepp, then leads a quartet in the closing set with James Brandon Lewis, Kidd Jordan, and William Parker. Vision’s the big story this week; scroll to the bottom for more Vision Fest info.

WBAI Radio’s Spring Fund Drive is underway and it needs your support to stay on the air and keep this show on the air. You You can pledge as little as $5 online and we encourage you to consider becoming a sustaining member with a monthly pledge. The proceeds support WBAI Radio–not us–and will help ensure the survival of listener supported non-commercial radio in New York! We’re grateful for any gift you can give the station.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller leads a quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club on May 22.

Saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin is at the Town Hall Theater for a Bob Dylan tribute concert on May 24.

Vocalist Rene Marie is at Birdland from May 24-26 and at The Side Door in Old Lyme CT on May 27.

Pianist Marc Cary’s Harlem Sessions returns as late night sets at Smoke on May 25 and June 1.

Drummer Will Calhoun leads a quartet at Dizzy’s Club on May 28.

The Sun Ra Arkestra led by saxophonist Marshall Allen returns to Earth on May 30 at Iridium to celebrate Allen’s 94th birthday.

Vocalist Lizz Wright is at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank NJ for the Basie Summer Jazz Fest on June 2.

The 23rd annual Vision Festival showcase of avant garde Jazz, poetry, dance and visual art returns to Roulete in Brooklyn from May 23-29 and starts with a film festival on May 21 at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan. Highlights include guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl project, vocalist Fay Victor’s Mutations for Justice, drummer Francisco Mora Catlett’s Afro Horn, trombonist Craig Harris’s Brown Butterfly suite, and saxophonist Oliver Lake’s Big Band on the final night. There are also afternoon panel discussions on the topic of the struggle for cultural equity in New York’s music communities on May 27 and 28. You can jump to the full schedule right now and we’ve got a preview coming this week and continuing event coverage after that.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl will be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on Sunday May 27. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

—-
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 and The City College of New York. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot

bandstand_picPhoto Credit: Hank Williams

Welcome to Suga in My Bowl radio‘s weekly feature, On The Bandstand, where we collect upcoming NYC area shows from current and past Suga’ guests. We’re online weekly and on the air on NYC’s WBAI-FM radio alternate Sunday nights from 11 PM -1 AM. Keep up with us via Facebook, the blog here, or our main website, or Twitter and we’ll keep track of the schedule for you.

This week’s guest is pianist Dave Burrell! He’s getting a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Vision Fest and will be performing in three different combos on the opening night at Roulette in downtown Brooklyn on May 23. Drummer Andrew Cyrille joins Burrell for the Harlem Renaissance suite, later that night he reunites with saxophonist Archie Shepp, then leads a quartet in the closing set with James Brandon Lewis, Kidd Jordan, and William Parker. Scroll to the bottom for more Vision Fest info.

WBAI Radio’s Spring Fund Drive is underway and it needs your support to stay on the air and keep this show on the air. You You can pledge as little as $5 online and we encourage you to consider becoming a sustaining member with a monthly pledge. The proceeds support WBAI Radio–not us–and will help ensure the survival of listener supported non-commercial radio in New York! We’re grateful for any gift you can give the station.

Bassist Ron Carter is at the Blue Note from May 14-16.

Pianist Vijay Iyer at the Village Vanguard from May 15-20.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio in a late set at Smalls on May 16.

Vocalist Thana Alexa is at the Jazz Gallery on May 17 and is joined by Antonio Sanchez on drums.

Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis leads a trio at Harlem’s Greater Calvary Baptist Church as part of the Harlem Jazz Boxx series on May 18.

Bassist Alex Blake leads an ensemble at Smalls on May 18.

Saxophonist Rene McLean is at The Side Door in Old Lyme CT for a Jackie McLean tribute on May 18.

Pianist Marc Cary’s Harlem Sessions returns as late night sets at Smoke on May 18 and 25.

Saxophonist David Murray leads the Class Struggle ensemble with trombonist Craig Harris at the Village Vanguard from May 19-24.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller leads a quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club on May 22.

Vocalist Rene Marie is at Birdland from May 24-26 and at The Side Door in Old Lyme CT on May 27.

Drummer Will Calhoun leads a quartet at Dizzy’s Club on May 28.

The Sun Ra Arkestra led by saxophonist Marshall Allen returns to Earth on May 30 at Iridium to celebrate Allen’s 94th birthday.

The 23rd annual Vision Festival showcase of avant garde Jazz, poetry, dance and visual art returns to Roulete in Brooklyn from May 23-29 and starts with a film festival on May 21 at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan. Highlights include guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl project, vocalist Fay Victor’s Mutations for Justice, drummer Francisco Mora Catlett’s Afro Horn, trombonist Craig Harris’s Brown Butterfly suite, and saxophonist Oliver Lake’s Big Band on the final night. There are also afternoon panel discussions on the topic of the struggle for cultural equity in New York’s music communities on May 27 and 28. You can jump to the full schedule right now and we’ve got a preview coming this week and continuing event coverage after that.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl will be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on Sunday May 27. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

—-
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 and The City College of New York. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot

bandstand_picPhoto Credit: Hank Williams

Welcome to Suga in My Bowl radio‘s weekly feature, On The Bandstand, where we collect upcoming NYC area shows from current and past Suga’ guests. We’re online weekly and on the air on NYC’s WBAI-FM radio alternate Sunday nights from 11 PM -1 AM. Keep up with us via Facebook, the blog here, or our main website, or Twitter and we’ll keep track of the schedule for you.

We’re off this week, but if you missed last week’s show with guitar maker Linda Manzer, hop on over to our archives, where you can hear that and nearly a decade of archived shows. And we have more listings for you this week.

Bassist Ron Carter is at the Blue Note from May 7-9 and 14-16.

Percussionist Adam Rudolph has a residency at The Stone from May 8-12 and will be joined by drummer Hamid Drake and guitarist Nels Cline on various nights.

Blues guitarist James Blood Ulmer is at City Winery on May 10.

Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah leads the Diaspora Ensemble at Sista’s Place on May 12.

Guitarist Julian Lage is at Le Poisson Rouge on May 12.

Vocalist Lisa Fischer leads Grand Baton at the Blue Note from May 10-13.

Pianist Marc Cary’s Harlem Sessions returns as late night sets at Smoke on May 11 and 18.

Pianist Vijay Iyer at the Village Vanguard from May 15-20.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio in a late set at Smalls on May 16.

Vocalist Thana Alexa is at the Jazz Gallery on May 17 and is joined by Antonio Sanchez on drums.

Bassist Alex Blake leads an ensemble at Smalls on May 18.

Saxophonist Rene McLean is at The Side Door in Old Lyme CT for a Jackie McLean tribute on May 18.

Saxophonist David Murray leads the Class Struggle ensemble with trombonist Craig Harris at the Village Vanguard from May 19-24.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller leads a quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club on May 22.

Finally, on the radar is the 23rd annual Vision Festival which returns to Roulete in Brooklyn from May 23-29 and a film festival on May 21 at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan. We’ll have more details in the next Bandstand and an upcoming preview online or you can jump to the full schedule.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl will be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on Sunday May 13. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

—-
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 and The City College of New York. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot

bandstand_picPhoto Credit: Hank Williams

Welcome to Suga in My Bowl radio‘s weekly feature, On The Bandstand, where we collect upcoming NYC area shows from current and past Suga’ guests. We’re online weekly and on the air on NYC’s WBAI-FM radio alternate Sunday nights from 11 PM -1 AM. Keep up with us via Facebook, the blog here, or our main website, or Twitter and we’ll keep track of the schedule for you.

This week’s guest is guitar maker Linda Manzer! And we have more listings for you this week.

Drummer Andrew Cyrille is at The Stone on May 1.

Blues vocalist Alexis P. Suter is at Iridium on May 2 and at Piermont’s Turning Point Café in on May 4.

Guitarist Mary Halvorson joins Ingrid Laubrock at the Jazz Gallery on April 24 and is at The Stone on May 3.

Bassist Dave Holland is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater with Zakir Hussain on May 4.

Harpist Brandee Younger is at Brooklyn’s Lafayette Ave Presbyterian Church on May 5 as part of the annual Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival.

Bassist Ron Carter is at the Blue Note from May 7-9 and 14-16.

Percussionist Adam Rudolph has a residency at The Stone from May 8-12 and will be joined by drummer Hamid Drake and guitarist Nels Cline on various nights.

Blues guitarist James Blood Ulmer is at City Winery on May 10.

Trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah leads the Diaspora Ensemble at Sista’s Place on May 12.

Guitarist Julian Lage is at Le Poisson Rouge on May 12.

Vocalist Lisa Fischer leads Grand Baton at the Blue Note from May 10-13.

Pianist Vijay Iyer at the Village Vanguard from May 15-20.

Finally, on the radar is the 23rd annual Vision Festival which returns to Roulete in Brooklyn from May 23-29 and a film festival on May 21 at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan. We’ll have more details in the next Bandstand and an upcoming preview online or you can jump to the full schedule.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl will be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on Sunday May 13. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

—-
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 and The City College of New York. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot

Words by Hank Williams

In New York City this week, it’s cold, wet, gets dark insanely early, and unending service changes lend a Chess-like complexity to late night or weekend subway trips. Such is the state of winter in the Big Apple, but just when we get close to peak Seasonal Affective Disorder, the annual Winter Jazz Fest blows in to give you a reason to rush out and brave the cold for a weekend. 130 reasons, in fact–the number of acts the festival boasts spread across its multi-day span—with some 600-odd musicians making things happen.

The 14th edition of the ever-expanding annual showcase follows a familiar format: two marathon nights of music in venues scattered around the heart of Greenwich Village, with a few standalone opening and closing events – some of which are already sold out—and we’re told that tickets for even the marathon nights are going fast.

As we’ve done for the past few years, we’ll go through a shows with a viewers’ guide to some of our preferred picks, with an admitted lean toward former guests on our Suga in My Bowl radio show.

I’ll point you toward the full schedule for Friday January 12 and Saturday January 13 marathon nights and artist lineup, but hopefully this will help wade through the myriad choices available each night. Obviously, there are several ways to experience the festival. You can either pick and choose key acts, take a more eclectic approach and see what you find, or some combination of the two. It’s all good.

FESTIVAL THEME AND FOCUS

Following the lead of last year’s event, the festival again tackles themes of social justice. This is most clearly addressed through three different talks during the course of the festival.

“Jazz on the Border” will highlight issues around US visa laws and their impact on musicians. Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington moderates the “Jazz and Gender” panel, which includes Angela Davis and pianist Vijay Iyer among the panelists.

“The Long March: a Conversation on Jazz and Protest” on Tuesday the 16th is the only one with an admission fee, but is easily worth the price. Saxophonist Ras Moshe, who’s becoming well known in free and avant garde jazz circles, moderates the talk among saxophonist Archie Shepp, flutist Nicole Mitchell, and pianist Samora Pinderhughes.

The above talk immediately precedes a concert by Nicole Mitchell, who is this year’s resident artist. Mitchell will present a new release, Mandorla Awakening II, a sci-fi themed Afrofuturist composition. She also fronts Maroon Cloud with vocalist Fay Victor on Wednesday the 17th at Le Poisson Rouge.

Mitchell has a couple of appearances during the Friday/Saturday marathon nights. “Art and Anthem for Gwendolyn Brooks” honors the late Chicago poet and features pianist Jason Moran.

If you (understandably) don’t want to wade through the wall of words here, you can just scroll to picks for the first marathon day on Friday or second day on Saturday.

TICKETS AND ADMISSION

WJF has several options available for the standalone shows, marathon nights (either one or both) or full festival passes for the hardcore enthusiasts. The one constant is that we strongly recommend tickets in advance, since even with the expanded venues at the New School, it’s possible to get closed out of nights–and you save some money over buying at the door. The “marathon” nights on Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th are sold for the entire night only: not for individual shows. They’re still a pretty good deal for how much music you get if you see more than a single show, and there’s likely something to suit almost everyone’s taste. 2-day passes and full festival passes get entrance to the marathon days as well. Separate tickets are available for the opening and closing events, with the exception of events that sell out.

Recommendation: Consider the 2-day marathon pass even if you can only make it for parts both evenings since that saves you even more.

LOCATIONS AND LOGISTICS

The WJF’s heart is still in the center of the Village: with venerable institutions Zinc Bar, The Bitter End, and Le Poisson Rouge returning. The New School continues as a festival sponsor and provides several spaces for the festival in its campus clustered around 13th Street off Fifth Avenue, including some much needed larger venues. All of these are close enough to comfortably (though maybe briskly) walk between for sets. Zinc Bar is small and popular, so be warned that seeing an act scheduled there means getting there very early, and possibly skipping something else in the process. Quite frankly, last year I opined that it needed to be dropped. WJF has simply outgrown the venerable space and it’s unfair to stick artists in there.

On the western frontier of the Village and Tribeca are SOB’s and the Django at the Roxy Hotel.

Nublu’s new(ish) second location at 151 Avenue C, between 9-10 Streets returns this year. It’s a brisk walk or quick bus or L train ride away from the action clustered near the center.

Subculture and Bowery Ballroom are clustered together on the Lower East Side and round out this year’s venues.

Obviously, figuring out what one wants to see also means taking into account the logistics of who’s playing where and getting between venues.

 

 

Photo credit: Winter Jazz Fest (screenshot)

FRIDAY JANUARY 12 HIGHLIGHTS

Adegoke Steve Colson and Iqua Colson 7 PM at New School Tishman Auditorium 63 5th Ave

The Colsons have been playing together since the 70s, with Steve’s piano and Iqua’s vocals taking an innovative look at nearly everything they’ve done. Trombonist Craig Harris joins them this evening in a tribute to the late pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, a co-collaborator in the New York chapter of AACM. It’s a rare opportunity to see them.

Sons of Kemet 7:40 PM at Le Poisson Rouge

Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings may not be a household name on the US—yet—but he’s been steadily making a name for himself on the UK jazz scene with various groups. He returns following a successful US debut last year with Shabaka and the Ancestors. Sons of Kemet has a bass-heavy sound with a tuba prominently featured in the front line with Hutchings’s free-form playing flying above it. For a deep dive, see our show on him last month.

Fay Victor SoundNoiseFUNK 9 PM New School Jazz Building 5th Floor Theater (55 W 13 St)

Vocalist Fay Victor is another name that you might not know, but you should. Victor came to my attention through the NYC avant garde jazz scene and Vision Festival, where she’s been a staple for years. However, that’s selling her short. Her prodigious vocal talent, songwriting ability, and commitment to the music only became completely clear to me during out recent show with her. In this set, expect a broad approach to the jazz tradition drawing deeply from the Blues. It won’t be a straight ahead set, and that’s a good thing.

James Brandon Lewis’s Unruly Notes 11 PM Zinc Bar

Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis has been steadily woodshedding and the fruits of his labor are becoming clear. His regular trio including bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Warren Trae Crudup have expanded to include electric guitarist Anthony Pirog, who featured prominently on their last release. Here, the concept expands even further with trumpeter Jamie Branch. The band plays hard—though with increasing finesse—buoyed by Crudup’s steady backbeat. Lewis’s style leans toward the avant garde end of the spectrum, but that’s just one of many lenses he uses to approach nearly everything from hip hop to Anton Dvorzak compositions and feed them through the jazz tradition. The most unfortunate thing about this set is the location, which has been way too small for WJF for years now. You’ll have to come very early and probably wait on line for a while, but the set will be so very worth it.

Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition 11:20 PM at Bowery Ballroom

Meanwhile, over on the east side, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition takes the Bowery stage. True to their name, expect an eastern-inflected take on jazz. It’s a late start time, but a solid backup if you decide that the wait to enter Zinc Bar is too daunting.

SATURDAY JANUARY 13 HIGHLIGHTS

Jazzmeia Horn 7 PM at New School Tishman Auditorium 63 5th Ave

Vocalist Jazzmeia Horn’s fortunes have been rising recently with a Grammy nomination for her debut release A Social Call. Horn’s already moved past where she was at the time of the recording, however. Horn is scarily talented, and enthusiasm to push the limits of her instrument will see her scatting, rapping, and marshalling a range of vocalizations in the space of a single performance. Horn’s an example of a young talent showing a different and fresh approach to jazz that attempts to join standards and the jazz tradition with younger audiences and the pop influence. Commendably, though, she does this without resorting to gimmicks and a refusal to sacrifice the jazz tradition. We’ve got an interview with her cued up for a future show, so stay tuned!

Antonio Sanchez and Migration 7:40 PM at Le Poisson Rouge

Drummer Antonio Sanchez is a busy man. In addition to heading his own migration ensemble, he’s been touring with guitarist Pat Metheny and the occasional gig with vocalist Thana Alexa, who’ll be with him here.

Harriet Tubman Plays Free Jazz 9 PM at New School Tishman Auditorium 63 5th Ave

In what has to be one of the most daring sets of the festival, Harriet Tubman will be taking a crack at riffing off of Ornette Coleman’s masterpiece Free Jazz. Here, the Tubman power trio of electric guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer JT Lewis will be joined by the lineup from saxophonist James Brandon Lewis’s Unruly Notes (see above) and saxophonist Darius Jones. It promises to be a wild ride. Gibbs deserves credit for the idea, which will be less a note-for-note recreation of the original than using it as a springboard for Coleman’s harmolodic approach and a modern take at what would happen if two different groups played together at the same time, improvising among themselves and riffing off each other.

Nicholas Peyton’s Afro Caribbean Mixtape 9:20 PM at SOB’s

Trumpeter Peyton’s Mixtape builds on snippets of speeches by Dr. Greg Kimathi Carr, who heads Howard University’s Afro American Studies Department. The recording blends Peyton’s ethereal trumpet lines with remixed snippets of sound. Peyton’s set should lean toward the pop/ electronic end of the spectrum. It’ll be a completely different approach from the maelstrom of the Tubman set. They’ll both be good in different ways.

Rene Marie 10:20 PM at Subculture

On a much different note than much of what I’ve presented, vocalist Rene Marie promises an intense, straight ahead set. Marie’s focus on technique, straight singing, and ballads provide a quieter, more contemplative experience than some of the more raucous acts at WJF. If that’s your speed, then you know where to go.

Sun Ra Arkestra Plays Live Score to Space is the Place 11 PM at New School Tishman Auditorium 63 5th Ave  

You could do much worse than just camp out the entire evening in the cavernous Tishman Auditorium. Like the previous Harriet Tubman set, we find the Arkestra digging back into the archives for inspiration. In this case, it’s a take on the 1974 film starring Sun Ra himself and directed by John Coney with substantial input from Ra. In a nutshell, Ra and the Arkestra return to Earth in their music-powered spaceship to take Black people with them from the decaying planet with “sounds of guns, anger, and frustration” and “see what they can do on a planet all of their own.” With touches of sci-fi, soul, and a hint of Blaxploitation, it’s the expected wild ride, with music and appearances from the Arkestra weaved through several scenes. It’s not clear how the current Arkestra will approach the task, though Arkestra veterans Marshall Allen and Danny Ray Thompson were part of the original production and will be in the house along with newer members. Whatever happens, it’ll be a way-out adventure.

Jamaladeen Tacuma Brotherzone 1 AM at Subculture

You’ll have to stay up really late for this set, but if you do, you’ll be treated to a funky set from the alum of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band that, in his words draws on the “sounds of soul, funk, jazz, rock, ambient poetics and the vibrations of life.” As a special treat, Abiodun Oyewole from The Last Poets will lay down some of his poetry.

SUNDAY JANUARY 14 HIGHLIGHT

Ravi Coltrane Presents Universal Consciousness: Melodic Meditations of Alice Coltrane 7 PM at Le Poisson Rouge

If you haven’t had enough already–or skip one of the marathon days–then there’s a single concert on offer Sunday night, but it’s a good one. In this separate ticketed event, saxophonist Coltrane presents some of his mother Alice’s music. Coltrane will build on the Indian-influenced sound of Alice’s later work, especially Translinear Light (2004).

MONDAY JANUARY 15 HIGHLIGHT

A Tribute to Geri Allen 8 PM at New School Tishman Auditorium 63 5th Ave  

Drummer Geri Allen has assembled a stunning cast to pay tribute to the late Geri Allen, who died last year. The concert is a fundraiser for the Geri Allen estate, so tickets are separate, but it’ll be a memorable event for a pianist who left a big mark on the music and left us way too soon.

That’s just scratching the surface of the festival, but hopefully there are a few ideas here for starters. I’ll be at many of the shows highlighted, though admit to still making up my mind. The good news is that there’s enough here that it’s hard to go wrong and even if a set doesn’t live up to expectations, there’s another one that’s bound to more than make up for it. See you on the other side. I’ll be back with a festival review.

If you missed them, see our preview shows with saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, vocalist Fay Victor, and a tribute to late pianist Geri Allen.

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

Words by Hank Williams. Photos © Joyce Jones/SugaBowl Photography. | MAIN PHOTO: The Sun Ra Arkestra’s Marshall Allen @ Vision Fest. Used with Permission. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.

Over here in Suga in My Bowl headquarters, we’re gearing up for the 2018 Winter Jazz Festival (preview coming!), an annual gathering that brings an enormous amount of music to New York in January, with the centerpiece being two “Marathon” nights of music—this year on the 12 and 13.

This post, however, is about two scrappy festivals that might get lost in the shuffle, which would be a shame because you’d miss lots of good music.

The Nublu Jazz Festival’s been running since 2009 with an impressive roster of artists—originally in their postage stamp-sized East Village space at 62 Avenue C, which has been supplemented by a new, larger spot on the second floor of 151 Ave C, where this year’s activity will happen while the former space closes temporarily for a makeover.

The festival runs until December 17th. The selection of acts is strong and thoughtfully chosen. As with many festivals, it leans more toward the free/avant garde/ experimental (choose your preferred adjective) end of the scale, though it can be argued that that’s the corner of jazz that needs this sort of exposure.

With that out of the way, here are a few highlights of particular interest to listeners of our radio show. You can also just jump directly to the full schedule.

Trombonist Craig Harris makes an appearance on the 16th. Later that night, The Sun Ra Arkestra led by saxophonist Marshall Allen returns to Earth with two sets. They’ve also just been added to the bill at the Winter Jazzfest in January after a satisfying set at this year’s BRIC Arts Jazz Festival. To make what could be a long discussion short: go see the Arkestra if you can. Yes, there are some kitschy aspects to their shows, but it’s all in good fun. The 93-year-old Allen still has serious chops and no problems hitting the upper register of the sax or pulling out the EVI (which he’s become a master at as well) to liven things up. The setlists are a fascinating blend of favorites from the Sun Ra songbook, standards, and even the occasional Blues tune thrown in for good measure. Additionally, vocalist Tara Middleton has embraced her role as the Arkestra’s main vocalist and, along with other younger members, are invigorating the ensemble while carrying on the important traditions.

Meanwhile, slightly further downtown at the Clemente Soto Velez Center at 107 Suffolk St, Arts for Art, the nonprofit artist-centered organization responsible for the annual late spring Vision Fest, comes roaring back with a series spanning more than a month.

“Justice is Compassion: Action is Power” runs from December 7- January 12 in Clemente’s Abrazo Interno Gallery and features a surprisingly strong lineup of musicians working primarily in the free/avant grade mode, including many familiar names from Vision.

With sets nearly every night, there’s too much to mention here, but you can browse the full schedule and here are a few highlights.

The incredibly prolific bassist William Parker is part of several sets in the show. On December 21, he’s there with saxophonist Dave Sewelson and drummer Marvin Bugalu Smith. The next night, he’s back with saxophonist Andrew Lamb and joined by trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah. If you missed Parker’s “Songs for a Free World” suite earlier this year, there’s a chance to catch a version of it on January 10.

Drummer Francisco Mora Catlett brings a version of his AfroHorn ensemble for the early set on December 16 and has trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah joining him. It will be a rare chance to catch a very solid group that got stuck in a comically small space at last year’s Winter Jazz Fest.

One nice thing about Arts for Art is that they remember those who’ve passed on. Pianist Connie Crothers and poet Amiri Baraka will both be honored as part of the series. December 19-20 will feature several different sets dedicated to Crothers, while Baraka gets the focus on January 2-3.

Poet/vocalist (and Baraka’s widow—and frequent collaborator) Amina Baraka fronts drummer John Pietaro’s Red Microphone ensemble on the 2nd. Baraka will read several of her own poems with accompaniment by the group which includes saxophonist Ras Moshe. On January 3, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis brings a version of his Heroes are Gang Leaders ensemble for what promises to be a high energy set.

Both festivals showcase the type of innovative music that’s on offer beyond the jazz mainstream and do so in low-key settings and with affordable admission prices. So bundle up and see some live music this winter: once you get inside the vibe will keep you warm.

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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

Words by Hank Williams. Photos © Joyce Jones/SugaBowl Photography. | MAIN PHOTO: Odean Pope Saxophone Choir @ 2017 Vision Fest. Used with Permission. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.

The 22nd annual Vision Fest started its six-day run on Memorial Day Judson Memorial Church’s expansive main hall with a tribute to pianist and multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore, who was featured in several ensembles and received their lifetime achievement award. We reviewed the opening night in a previous post.

Tuesday night featured another evening of music and poetry capped by the ensemble called TRIO3 plus two. The core TRIO3 members—bassist Reggie Workman, saxophonist Oliver Lake, and drummer Andrew Cyrille—have been playing together for 27 years: a phenomenally long time for any combo.

Guests, particularly pianists, are an occasional part of the ensemble and Marc Cary get the invite for tonight’s show. Cary joined the trio near the end of the set along with Ayana Workman, who read some poetry.

Workman explained that for Vision they went through their extensive catalog of music and tried to select songs that were illustrative of Vision’s perennial theme of social justice.

Bassist Reggie Workman showed a little-known talent by starting off on the digeridoo on one piece: a surprising development.

Marc Cary and Ayana Workman joined the trio for the final piece of the night’s set. Cary’s work added welcome colors to a relatively sedate set of music and he also brought electronics into the mix, as the ensemble created textures complementing Workman’s spoken words. Ayana Workman’s words fit Vision’s theme of social justice well, but didn’t feel particularly inspired and the reading of names of police violence seemed rote at times.

The set did provided a glimpse at the variety of music collectively produced by these three master musicians who are frequent Vision performers, especially considering the substantial back catalogs of their own work.

Thursday night featured saxophonist Odean Pope, who started the night off leading the “Saxophone Choir”, an expansive ensemble that brought a swinging big band sound to the Vision stage. Pope’s artistic statement mined his own past as inspiration: “Ever since I heard the big sound and lush harmonies of the gospel choirs of my youth,” he wrote, “I imagined a choir of saxophones that would have the same power and more.”

Pope brought the above and more to the stage with a band that swung hard through several pieces with a precision that would make most big bands envious and with pieces that moved briskly and left the listener wishing for more each time as Pope did double duty of playing and conducting the ensemble. Pope originally assembled the group in 1977 and most of the members included in the Vision set have been playing together for a long time.

The first song, titled “Dedication to Max Roach”, was a brightly swinging number and in the third piece, saxophones took the lead and produced the sort of power one would expect from an ensemble with with 7 saxophones–3 tenors (including Pope), 3 altos, and a baritone–joined by a pianist, bassist, and drummer.

The fourth piece shifted pace for a ballad, “Cis,” dedicated to his late wife who Pope described as an “incredible Black lady.”

The tempo picked up significantly for their next song, dedicated to a musician Pope knew in San Francisco that sent Pope into the upper register with a few squeals thrown in.

The set closed with an uptempo rendition of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” that benefited from the richness of the ensemble as the horns powered through the familiar melody and ended way too soon.

Slightly later on Thursday night, saxophonist Darius Jones’s “Farmers By Nature” began with a frenetic attack by all of the members from the start of the set that set the tone for their time on stage. Bassist William Parker returned to the Vision stage again to anchor the effort that included an angular Cecil Taylor-esque piano solo by Craig Taborn. Later in the set the interaction evolved into a call-and-response between Taborn’s shimmering piano lines and Jones’s plaintive sax bleats while Gerald Cleaver worked away on the drums before it ended on a quiet note and tapered to a close.

Poet Jesus Paopleto Melendez followed and read a short set of poetry capped off by a poem dedicated to the recently freed Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera that was printed on a long continuous scroll that Melendez unwound while he read.

Nicole Mitchell’s Artifacts Trio. (L-R) Mitchell, Mike Reed, Tomeka Reed.

Flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Artifacts Trio had Thursday night’s final set.  Staying true to her promise to celebrate the ongoing legacy of the AACM, Mitchell broke into a sung chant of “have mercy upon us” in an adaptation of a piece written by pianist/vocalist Amina Claudine Meyers. That was Mitchell’s take on Vision’s social justice theme. “I look at the human race as one organism which means that we’re suicidal” because of all the war and strife in the world, Mitchell said from the stage.

In an adaptation of Anthony Braxton’s “23B,” Mitchell set a blistering pace on the flute, which, fortunately, was matched by Tomeka Reid on the cello and finished abruptly with a high-pitched flute flourish.  Reid’s warm, sonorous sound on the cello nicely complemented the flute’s brightness throughout the set.

The last two nights will be covered in the next post.

Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot.

Joyce Jones is the executive producer and host of Suga’ in My Bowl. She is a graphic designer and her photos have been published in Black Renaissance Noir.

Words by Hank Williams. Photos © Joyce Jones/SugaBowl Photography. | MAIN PHOTO: Cooper-Moore @ the 2017 Vision Fest. Used with Permission. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.

The 22nd annual Vision Fest opened to a nearly full house on Memorial Day in Judson Memorial Church’s expansive main hall. The festival’s starting earlier than usual this year, though spanning its traditional week.

Pianist and multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore was the recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award, given annually by Vision to highlight artists working within the avant garde jazz framework. As is the custom with awardees, Cooper-Moore appeared in three different ensembles over the course of the evening, which allowed a view into his richly expansive range of work.

Poet/ playwright/ spoken word artist Carl Hancock Rux had a set interspersed with Cooper-Moore’s and provided a bluesy, soulful set of works accompanied by a DJ. Rux sang/read several pieces including one appropriately dedicated to the late avant garde vocalist Jeanne Lee.

Cooper-Moore’s first set was with bassist William Parker’s “In Order to Survive.” Parker explained from the bandstand that the ensemble has been together since about 1992 and that all the music for the night’s set was written by Cooper-Moore.

As one might expect with two longtime collaborators, the two musicians’ relationship extends beyond the bandstand. “When I got back to New York I was [living] out on the street” Cooper-Moore recalled, adding that when he finally got an apartment he put a picture of William Parker on the wall.

Photo: In Order to Survive at Vision 22’s Opening Night

Cooper-Moore was on piano for the set, with drummer Hamid Drake and saxophonist Rob Brown. The first composition titled “Welcome” began melodically with all members swinging hard before a frenetic angular piano attack by Cooper-Moore.

An interconnected series of pieces (titled “Vision #1, #2, and #3,” we were told) left plenty of space for a long exploration by Parker on the bass using the bow. Cooper-Moore re-entered with a melodic, contemplative piano solo and ended somewhat abruptly on a quiet note.

A piece titled “Jack Spratt” began with a jaunty sax line by Brown, then settled into the interaction between Cooper-Moore and Parker.

The Cooper-Moore-led ensemble “Digital Primitives” began the second set with a dramatic reading of an excerpt of Kurt Gottschalk’s story “Ellington and Gerald” (PDF available on his website) accompanied by Chad Taylor’s light brush work on the drum kit.

The second piece was a duo between Taylor on mbira and Cooper-Moore on one of his custom, handmade instruments: a long bow held and played like a violin.

Photo: Digital Primitives at Vision 22’s Opening Night

The third song changed tone again. Cooper-Moore said, “we’ll let Chad start it off with some funky stuff,” vowing to catch up later on when he got his preferred instrument for the set connected to the amplifier: an electrified device resembling the offspring of a bass guitar and a banjo. Taylor dutifully launched into a sturdy backbeat accompanied by saxophonists Assif Tsahar and Brian Price until Cooper-Moore joined them to rock out for the rest of the piece.

The set ended abruptly with Cooper-Moore leading the ensemble singing “It’s a great day to be alive.”

Photo: Digital Primitives at Vision 22’s Opening Night

There’s no other way to say it than to resort to an overused and often undeserved phrase: Cooper-Moore is simply a musical genius. I struggled for a while with wording because calling his instruments handmade (although they are) doesn’t fully convey the level of mastery and craftsmanship involved in creating the instruments, have them actually work, and achieve the level of proficiency he has playing all of them. Add to that his equal proficiency on the piano and the range of textures he’s able to create and the adjective seems to fit.

If you hear Cooper-Moore on anything he plays or in most any combo, it is indeed a great day (or evening) to be alive.

The fest continues until Saturday June 3 at Judson, with afterhours sets at Nublu on selected nights and a conference on Thursday at Columbia University. See our in-depth cheat sheet preview or just head to Vision’s site for details. I’ll be reporting daily throughout the festival as well, so keep an eye out for updates. For a deeper dive into Cooper-Moore, see the Suga’ in My Bowl episode with an interview on him in our archives.

Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman and Hunter colleges in the City University of New York system. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot.

Joyce Jones is the executive producer and host of Suga’ in My Bowl. She is a graphic designer and her photos have been published in Black Renaissance Noir.

It’s that time of year again: time for New York’s weeklong avantjazz blowout run by the scrappy nonprofit Arts for Art organization. While larger, bigger festivals have crashed and burned over the years,  the Vision Festival just keeps rolling on, getting better every year and setting a high bar for improvised music.

For 2017, the festival returns to the historic Judson Memorial Church with nightly concerts from May 29-June 3, with an all-day conference at Columbia University on Thursday June 1 and a new series of after-hours midnight sets  at the cozy Nublu on Ave C. This is all in addition to the usual well-managed mayhem at the Judson mothership where you can casually run into visual artists like Jeff Schlanger, furiously sketching and translating the sound to lines, shapes, and color or the musicians themselves, who often hang out to see other sets. There’s also the marketplace in Judson’s basement, where you can grab a drink, or buy some music (and probably get it signed by at least one of the musicians).

Although Vision’s focus is avant garde jazz and poetry, the scope and variety shows how broad a spectrum there is even within that category. There are acoustic acts, ones that experiment with various electronic instruments and other electronics, duos, trios, big bands, the occasional solo act, with the most common thread being a fierce allegiance to Wayne Shorter’s definition of jazz as challenge– “I dare you”–to which Vision’s artists respond “challenge accepted.”

With that said, I’ll walk through a few highlights (with an admitted slight bias to former Suga’ in My Bowl guests) of acts I’m looking forward to. With those caveats admitted up front, I’ll say that one of the great pleasures of Vision is learning about someone new or getting blown away by the set of someone you’d heard or seen before and not appreciated. So while this guide is meant to point to a few highlights, leave yourself open to listening to a few new things. Some might hit; others might not, but that’s the way it goes with challenges and taking risks. When they pay off, however, they pay off big time.

Monday May 29

Pianist and multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore is the focus of tonight’s sets and recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award from Vision. Cooper-Moore is featured in three ensembles over the course of the evening: In Order to Survive, Digital Primitives, and Black Host. Sandwiched between the sets is poet Carl Hancock Rux, who takes the stage at 9 PM with DJ Hamilton Kirby. Rux’s storytelling skills are phenomenal, as is his grasp of music. Expect a highly lyrical, deeply captivating set.

William Parker’s “In Order to Survive” is appearing in just one of its numerous permutations this evening, but here the quartet of bassist Parker, saxophonist Rob Brown, drummer Hamid Drake, and Cooper-Moore on piano joins some of the most frequent collaborators in the ensemble. It also fuses a quartet that thoroughly embraces the philosophy of free improvisation, which makes it somewhat difficult to predict exactly where things will go, but it’s sure to be one of the highlights of the evening and the festival itself. See the video on the Vision page for an idea of that to expect.

“Digital Primitives”, on the other hand, joins Cooper-Moore with Assif Tsahar (tenor sax), Chad Taylor (drums, m’bira), and Brian Price (tenor sax). Here, Cooper-Moore’s weapons of choice will be his hand-crafted instruments, which promises a much different interpretation of free jazz. Check out the video on the Vision page for a sample of their work.

The evening’s closing set promises that “Black Host”  will “bring forth original compositions that blend modern jazz, free music, psych, post-punk and electrified noise with painstaking detail and heady abandon. A reverb-drenched and incisive stew of rhapsodic piano, searing alto and fractured guitar over rhythms that are alternately chunky and airy, rendered with a tremendous live energy.” Cooper-Moore returns to piano for this set and one can expect a high energy climax to end the evening. Again, Vision’s page has a video.

For a much deeper dive into Cooper-Moore, check out Suga in My Bowl’s show focused on his career.

Tuesday May 30

Yoshiko Chuma’s “School of Hard Knocks” shows a different end of the Vision spectrum, combining dancers, visual projections and music to kick off the evening’s festivities. The “Jazz and Poetry Choir Collective,” on the other hand, fulfills Vision’s longstanding practice of centering experimental poetry and music collaborations.

Drummer Tomas Fujiwara’s ‘Double Trio” teams him up with frequent collaborator, guitarist Mary Halvorson. Halvorson’s own career is starting to take off and her work with fellow electric guitarist Marc Ribot always produces brilliant exchanges of exciting improvised work.

Closing out the evening are “TRIO3,” who make a welcome return to the Vision Fest. This time, the core veteran trio of saxophonist Oliver Lake, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Andrew Cyrille are joined by Marc Cary on piano and Ayana Workman, who’ll read text from “Suite for Courage.” TRIO3 is always worth catching and will likely be playing some music from their just-released Visiting Texture album. See Vision’s page for a video of them in action.

Wednesday May 31

The trio of Whit Dickey (drums), Mat Maneri (viola), and Matthew Shipp (piano) combines three Vision regulars, but for the first time in this specific combination, according to Vision organizer Patricia Nicholson Parker. In a later set, violinist Jason Kao Hwang’s “Burning Bridge” brings tuba player Joe Daley back in a medium-sized ensemble. Poet Tracie Morris returns to Vision after a long hiatus accompanied by guitarist Marvin Sewell for a short set that promises a set rooted in Morris’s bluesy spoken word.

Saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Charles Gayle also makes a return, joined by Vision stalwart William Parker on bass and
Michael TA Thompson on drums for the closing set. It’s a rare treat to get to see Gayle, and you should do so. Vision’s page has a video from 3 years ago, when he received a lifetime achievement award. For a much deeper dive into Gayle, I’ll send you to the Suga’ archives again, where we discussed Gayle’s career in a Vision preview.

Thursday June 1

If you’re a hardcore Vision fan and attending several (all?) nights, you might be running a little ragged by now, but Thursday’s not a night to skip.

First, however, if you’re on vacation or can manage a day off from work, then head to Columbia University for a free Vision Fest-focused conference titled “The Sound of Resistance.” Academics, including Ingrid Monson (Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call out to Jazz and Africa; Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction) and Fred Moten (In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition) will be joined by Cooper-Moore, Patricia Nicholson Parker, and many others to go deeper into the state of improvised music, politics, and culture.

Head back to Judson in the evening for Odean Pope’s “Saxophone Choir”, which starts things off at Judson with a 7 PM set. Poet Jesus Papoleto Melendez follows with a short set (which will hopefully include his poem for Oscar Lopez Rivera).

Flutist Nicole Mitchell’s “Artifacts Trio” gets tasked with batting cleanup this evening and will be easily up to the task. Mitchell had a memorable part in last year’s ensemble with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor and this year helms her own trio with two other members of the legendary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians collective: cellist Tomeka Reid and drummer Mike Reed. Vision’s page has an audio sample and you can listen to our March 2017 show with Mitchell for a deeper dive into her work.

Friday June 2

“Dream Book” joins Vision veterans Joe McPhee (sax, trumpet) and Daniel Carter (sax, trumpet, flute) with a capable ensemble in tribute to late bassist Dominic Duval and saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

Later in the evening, pianist Dave Burrell leads a quartet that should provide lots of fireworks and interesting interaction. William Parker joins in on bass with drummer William Hooker and the first appearance this year of saxophonist Kidd Jordan. Jordan’s saxophone style has evolved into an impressive mix of free-form eclecticism, as he seamlessly moves between upper register squeals  and more open free-form blowing. But for Jordan, it always seems to revert to the roots of the music in the Blues and what he referred to as the “Holy ghost” in Joyce Jones’s interview in our last show.

Saturday June 3

Vision has a tradition of closing with big blowout performances and this year looks to hold true to form. “Postitive Knowledge” with Oluyemi Thomas (bass clarinet, soprano sax) and Ijeoma Thomas (voice poetry, percussion) should provide a spiritually grounded (and spirited) opening set–especially when accompanied by special Guest Andrew Cyrille on drums.

Later in the evening, David Murray (tenor sax, bass clarinet) leads a unique trio with percussionist Kahil El’Zabar and
Gerry Eastman on bass and guitar. Murray’s well known for his “Class Struggle” ensembles, but Murray promises an experience different from any of his previous Vision appearances. He writes in introduction that “Kahil and I have broken ground by composing extremely memorable songs which he leads and I answer vocally, which is something I rarely do. His infectious enthusiastic spirit always takes my horns to another level.” For a deeper dive into Murray, I’ll point you to our 2014 show with him.

William Parker and saxophonist Oliver Lake are tasked with co-leading the closing set with “Songs for a Free World,” featuring choreography by Patricia Nicholson Parker and a vast assemblage of vocalists and musicians marshalled to bring their swirling vision (pun unintentional) to life. It promises to be an incredibly moving set to end the festival.

If you can stay up late, head over to the postage-stamp sized Nublu for the midnight set with “Heroes are Gang Leaders,” featuring an expanded version of saxophonist James Brandon Lewis’s trio with vocalists and spoken word artists (including the incomparable Thomas Sayers Ellis) joining JBL’s normal collaborators Luke Stewart on electric bass and  Warren Trae Crudup on drums. Last year, Lewis’s trio was one of the revelations of the festival for me and put his work squarely on my radar with their hard-hitting style and inspired energetic playing.

I’ll be reporting daily dispatches throughout the festival including photos from Suga’ in My Bowl host and executive producer Joyce Jones. We also have tentative plans to try some video shorts this year during the festival. Check back for all of it.

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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

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