Archives for posts with tag: Melvin Gibbs

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 every Tuesday night from 10 PM -12 midnight. 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’ve been pre-empted this week for special news programming. See you next week. Meanwhile, we have more listings for you this week.

Sophie Huber’s documentary film Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes has been extended at Metrograph in Manhattan through June 27.

Bassist Charnett Moffett is at Birdland on June 26.

Bassist Mimi Jones is at Smalls leading an after hours set on June 26.

Drummer Antonio Sanchez leads the Migration ensemble at Le Poisson Rouge on June 28.

Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix is at Smoke with Stanley Cowell’s Quintet from June 28-30.

Bassist Melvin Gibbs is at The Stone with Wadada Leo Smith on June 29.

Pianist Marc Cary’s Harlem Sessions series continues with weekly late Saturday night sets at Smoke on June 29 and July 6.

Trombonist/seashellist Steve Turre leads a quintet in an afternoon set at Zinc Bar as part of the VTY Jazz series on June 30.

Bassist Linda May Han Oh is at the Village Vanguard from July 2-7.

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is at the International African Arts Festival at Commodore Barry Park in downtown Brooklyn on July 4.

Saxophonist Billy Harper leads a quintet at Smoke with trumpeter Freddie Hendrix from July 4-6.

Saxophonist T.K. Blue leads a Randy Weston tribute band with bassist Alex Blake and percussionist Baba Neil Clarke at the International African Arts Festival at Commodore Barry Park in downtown Brooklyn on July 7.

Organist Dr. Lonnie Smith is at the Jazz Standard from July 2-7. He leads a trio on the first 3 nights and an octet on the final 3.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio at Smalls in a late set on July 17.

Check back this week for our review coverage of the 24th annual Vision Festival!

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl will be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on Tuesday July 2 in our new weekly 10 PM slot! We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

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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 Lehman College. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot

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Words by Hank Williams | Photos by Joyce Jones & Hank Williams

The annual Vision Fest returns his year for its 24th 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 individual evenings can sell out. It’s worth considering a full festival pass, which gets you entrance to all six nights.

The 2019 event moves back to a more traditional calendar slot, running from June 11-16 and returns to Roulette in downtown Brooklyn. 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 Sunday June 9 with film screenings at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan.

This post will highlight a few key performances to look forward to, but you can (and should) look at the full schedule since it’s not possible to focus on every performance there in a single post and one of the wonderful things about the festival are the sets that take you by surprise.

Andrew Cyrille | Joyce Jones/Sugabowl Photography

As is Vision’s tradition, the opening night on Tuesday June 11 is centered around an artist that Vision bestows with a lifetime achievement award. This year’s honoree is drummer Andrew Cyrille. As is Vision’s tradition, Cyrille will perform in multiple ensembles during the course of the evening with collaborators chosen by the honoree. Cyrille’s going for quantity this time and will be part of eight different ensembles throughout the evening.

Cyrille’s Haitian Fascination ensemble starts off the night, and here he’s joined by poet Quincy Troupe. Later on is a duet with saxophonist and frequent Vision participant saxophonist Kidd Jordan. Jordan’s wide-open, bluesy style should mesh well and will push the limits as both are consummate improvisors. Following that, drummer Milford Graves joins Cyrille for another duo that recalls the conversation between them in a live performance captured on their 1974 Dialogue of the Drums release.

In the second half of the evening, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and guitarist Brandon Ross join Cyrille for a trio. But one of the highlights of the night not to be missed is Cyrille’s duo with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. Again, it reunites collaborators from an old recording, this time recalling the 1982 Andrew Cyrille Meets Peter Brötzmann release. Brötzmann rarely plays in the US these days, so any opportunity to see him is worth it.

Henry Grimes (left) and Marc Ribot at the 2016 Vision Fest. | Joyce Jones/Sugabowl Photography

Wednesday night kicks off with the return of guitarist Marc Ribot, who leads a quartet here along with drummer Chad Taylor–a frequent collaborator who was part of Ribot’s trio with bassist Henry Grimes. Nick Dunston (b) and Jay Rodriguez (sax, flute) round out the ensemble. Ribot’s set should be an evolution of his work with the Spiritual Unity ensembles and be a highly experimental, energetic show.

Later on Wednesday night, the stage gets turned over to poetry as Edwin Torres and Fred Moten’s words are accompanied by Brandon Lopez (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). It should be on the more experimental, “out” end of the spectrum, but that’s one hallmark of Vision: not only does it give space to poets, but it gives them prime time slots, doesn’t relegate them to a secondary stage (which there hasn’t been for several years now), and doesn’t shy away from performances that may be conceptually difficult.

                                            (L-R) Kidd Jordan, Michael Bisio, Hamid Drake | Joyce Jones/Sugabowl Photography

Saxophonist Kidd Jordan earns the closing slot on Wednesday night. Here, he’s joined by frequent Vision collaborators in bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake along with pianist Joel Futterman in a tribute set dedicated to the late AACM member Alvin Fielder. This is another attribute of Vision: the constant reminders of those who’ve passed on and the commitment to continue their legacy through new and revisited work. Jordan’s set should be one of the highlights of the festival, though. While Jordan’s work fits in with the avant garde slant of the festival, it draws equally deeply from the blues and sacred music. One of the most impressive things is his ability to move seamlessly between points of inspiration and create improvised free-form narratives. Parker and Drake are perfect partners here as both have the flexibility to respond to whatever Jordan does and create moods of their own for Jordan to answer.

Melvin Gibbs at the 2016 Vision Fest | Joyce Jones/Sugabowl Photography

Thursday night again features a full night of performances, bookended by two particularly worth paying attention to. The God Particle ensemble brings together Melvin Gibbs (electric bass), Stephon Alexander (sax, laptop, EWI), James Brandon Lewis (sax), Luke Stewart (bass), Marc Cary (piano, synth), Graham Haynes (tpt), Will Calhoun (d), and David Pleasant (d, body perc). Gibbs’s ensemble builds on his interest in physics and collaborative work with Alexander, who’s a theoretical physicist and author of The Jazz of Physics. Their description probably sums up the set best: “God Particle will premiere a new work, Ogodo, the Cosmic Fabric, which examines the similarities between theoretical physics and African cosmology in relation to the concept of the “cosmic fabric” of space-time.”

To close Thursday evening, saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc leads Alto Gladness, featuring a trio of saxophonists along with William Parker (b) and Gerald Cleaver (d) in a tribute to Cecil Taylor that looks to be loud, boisterous fun.

Friday begins the first of a trio of afternoon panel discussions, held at 3 PM before the evening’s main performances start. This afternoon’s focus will be on Race and Gender in music and how it reflects economics and available resources for artists.

Later on Friday night, the duo of bassist William Parker and pianist Matthew Shipp hits, in what they say is their first duo appearance in the US in a decade. Expect intense and nuanced conversation between the two from this intimate set.

Saturday starts off with another rountable discussion (this time at 1 PM) on Practical Concerns of FreeJazz Artists). A large panel takes on a range of issues including housing, funding opportunities, education, and performance opportunities.

James Brandon Lewis at the 2016 Vision Festival | Hank Williams

Saturday night features a solid lineup as well, with several acts worth seeing. Saxophonist James Brandon Lewis’s Unruly Quintet takes the stage at 9:30 PM. The lineup is the same one as the critically acclaimed Unruly Manifesto released earlier this year: Luke Stewart (b), Warren “Trae” Crudup (d), Anthony Pirog (elec guitar), and Jaimie Branch (tpt). Pirog and Branch add depth to the already tight, hard-hitting trio that played Vision in 2016 and made a big impression with their raw energy and Lewis’s incredible honesty. Lewis brings the same raw power and finesse to the stage and the colors and textures Pirog and Branch add to the mix promise an extremely enjoyable and challenging set of music.

Douglas R. Ewart closes out Saturday night with a set that should be a little less high energy than the previous one, but still extremely satisfying as well, with bassist Luke Stewart returning and guitarist Brandon Ross joining the cast to pay tribute to Joseph Jarman.

Sunday starts with the final afternoon panel discussion on Understanding and Achieving Cultural Equity at 3 PM followed by several strong closing night sets. Heroes are Gang Leaders, led by James Brandon Lewis and poet Thomas Sayers Ellis, takes the work of the late poet, writer, music critic, and Vision performer Amiri Baraka as a starting point for their own combination of words and music that serves as a fitting follow-up to Baraka’s own Blue Ark ensembles that graced the Vision stage many times in the past.

Pianist D.D. Jackson draws the honor of closing out the entire festival on Sunday night with a band formed in tribute to the late saxophonist Hamiett Bluiett.

That’s a lot–and it still just scratches the surface of what’s on offer at Vision. Again, it’s worth jumping to the full schedule to see everyone scheduled to perform.

For a deeper dive into this year’s honoree Andrew Cyrille, check out our show that aired on June 4 on WBAI, which was actually the first of two parts. We’ve also previously profiled several of the artists highlighted in this piece.

Constants of the festival are the open atmosphere, where artists mingle before and after sets and outside the venue and the vending area with releases from the artists you’ve just heard–often on small or obscure labels–that you can likely have autographed on the spot to taker home and all sorts of other related things.

With as much change as there is every year in the arts scene and the continuing reports of either the resurgence or death of jazz (depending who you read), the Vision Festival endures as a reassuring institution that’s seemed to survive by keeping true to its roots and taking real ethical and artistic principles that it sticks to no matter what. For an impressive 24 years, that’s been the secret to success, if only by sheer force of will, lots of community support, and tons of behind-the-scenes and often donated labor that substitutes for corporate underwriting. But the above is simply an embodiment of the festival’s name: it creates one vision of what we might want the artistic world to look like and a template for bringing it closer to fruition.

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

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 Olé.

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.
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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 Lehman College.

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

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 show features saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa! He’ll be at the BRIC Jazz Fest on October 21 with the Indo Pak Coalition. Before we get to our listings, a quick reminder that WBAI’s Fall Fund drive starts tomorrow and the station needs your help to stay on the air. See WBAI’s pledge site for ways to support the station. And we have many more listings for you this week.

The BRIC Arts Media Jazz Fest runs until October 21 at their downtown Brooklyn location and ends with 3 marathon nights of music from the 19-21. Bassist Melvin Gibbs is part of a panel discussion on jazz and justice on the 17 and performs with Harriet Tubman along with drummer JT Lewis on the 21. The Sun Ra Arkestra led by Marshall Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington’s Social Science appear on the 19. Pianist Viyay Iyer leads a sextet on the 20 and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo Pak Coalition is on the 21. All sets take place at BRIC Arts Media’s downtown Brooklyn location. Stay tuned for a preview of next weekend’s marathon events in the coming days.

Bassist Ron Carter leads a trio at Birdland from the 17-21.

Saxophonist Gary Bartz is at the Blue Note on October 17 with McCoy Tyner.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio at Smalls on October 18.

Drummer and percussionist Bobby Sanabria’s class on the Roots and Rhythms of Latin Jazz at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Swing University continues on Wednesday nights until November 8.

Trumpeter Marcus Printup is at Kitano on October 19 with Audrey Silver’s quintet and at Dizzy’s Club from October 27-29 with the Georgia Horns.

 

Vibraphonist Roy Ayers is at the Blue Note on October 19-20.

Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington is at the Jazz Standard with Chico Freeman’s Plus+Tet quartet from October 19-22.

Saxophonists Billy Harper and Howard Johnson are at the Jazz Standard from October 19-22 with Charles Tolliver’s Tentet.

Master drummer Michael Carvin leads a trio at Kitano from October 20-21.

Drummer JT Lewis, vocalist Lisa Fischer, pianist Marc Cary, and saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin are all at the Town Hall Theater on October 22 for City Suite.

Trombonist Steve Turre is at the Jazz Standard with Azar Lawrence from October 24-25.

Guitarist Julian Lage is at the Lower East Side’s Russ and Daughters Café on October 26.

Pianist  David Virelles is at the Jazz Gallery on October 27-28 with Marcus Gilmore.

Saxophonist Ahmed Abdullah leads the Diaspora ensemble at Sistas’ Place on October 28.

Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane is at the Blue Note with Odean Pope’s Sax Choir on October 30 and leads a quartet at the Village Vanguard from November 7-12.

Drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts is at Dizzy’s Club on October 31 with Mokoto Ozone’s trio.

Flutist Nicole Mitchell is at The Stone’s space at the New School from November 3-4.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is scheduled to be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on Sunday October 29. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

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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

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 the air this week, but check out our audio archives for last week’s show with vocalist Lisa Fischer or nearly 7 years of archived shows to get your fix until next week. Now let’s get to our music listings.

Vocalist Lisa Fischer is at the Blue Note with Grand Baton from February 14-19th.

Vocalist Catherine Russell leads a sextet at Birdland from February 14-18th singing love songs.

Blues vocalist Alexis P. Suter is at The Falcon in Marlboro NY with Ministers of Sound on the 15th and 26th and Daryl’s House in Pawling NY on the 18th.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio in the late set at Smalls on the 15th.

Pianists Randy Weston and Monty Alexander are at Medgar Evers College’s Founders Auditorium in Brooklyn for “A Spiritual Awakening” on February 15th. Tickets are free!

Drummer Andrew Cyrille leads a quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club on February 16th.

Bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer/percussionist Will Calhoun are at Brooklyn’s Shapeshifter Lab on February 16th.

Melvin Gibbs drummer JT Lewis are at The Stone on February 18th with Harriet Tubman.

JT Lewis returns to the The Stone with the Phantom Station ensemble on the 19th.

Low brass specialist Joe Daley will be at Terra Blues with Hazmat Modine on February 18th.

Bassist Christian McBride is at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to talk about his recording career for part 2 of the Session Stories on February 20th.

Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane leads a quartet at the Jazz Standard from February 21st-26th.

Flutist Bobbi Humphrey presents “Harlem River Drive” at Ginny’s Supper Club on February 21st for two sets.

Pianist Vijay Iyer is at the Jazz Gallery as part of Threadgill + Iyer + Prieto with Henry Threadgill and Dafnis Preito on February 22 & 23

Guitarist Marc Ribot is at Sunny’s in Red Hook Brooklyn on February 23rd.

Hammond B3 Organ master Dr. Lonnie Smith leads a trio at Long Island University Brooklyn’s Kumble Theater on February 25th.

Vocalist Carol Maillard is with Sweet Honey in the Rock at Kean University’s Enlow Recital Hall in Hillside NJ on February 26th.

Harpist Brandee Younger is at the Schomburg Center on March 6th for the annual Women in Jazz Festival.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is scheduled to be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on February 19th. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

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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

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.

Our guest this week is vocalist Lisa Fischer! You can catch her at the Blue Note with Grand Baton from February 14-19th. Now let’s get to our music listings.

Saxophonist Gary Bartz is at The Blue Note from February 6-7 with pianist McCoy Tyner.

Guitarist Marc Ribot is at Sunny’s in Red Hook Brooklyn on February 9th and 23rd.

Harpist Brandee Younger is at the CUNY Graduate Center on the 10th and at the Schomburg Center on March 6th for the annual Women in Jazz Festival.

Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater is at The Met Museum of Art on February 10th.

Vocalist Thana Alexa is at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College singing Ella Fitzgerald songs on February 10th.

Pianist David Virelles is at the Jazz Gallery on February 10-11th.

Vocalist Dianne Reeves is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater on February 10-11th.

Vocalist Catherine Russell leads a sextet at Birdland from February 14-18th singing love songs.

Blues vocalist Alexis P. Suter is at The Falcon in Marlboro NY with Ministers of Sound on the 15th and 26th and Daryl’s House in Pawling NY on the 18th.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio in the late set at Smalls on the 15th.

Pianists Randy Weston and Monty Alexander are at Medgar Evers College’s Founders Auditorium in Brooklyn for “A Spiritual Awakening” on February 15th. Tickets are free!

Drummer Andrew Cyrille leads a quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club on February 16th.

Bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer/percussionist Will Calhoun are at Brooklyn’s Shapeshifter Lab on February 16th.

Melvin Gibbs drummer JT Lewis are at The Stone on February 18th with Harriet Tubman.

JT Lewis is at The Stone with the Phantom Station ensemble on the 19th.

Low brass specialist Joe Daley will be at Terra Blues with Hazmat Modine on February 18th.

Bassist Christian McBride is at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to talk about his recording career for part 2 of the Session Stories on February 20th.

Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane leads a quartet at the Jazz Standard from February 21st-26th.

Flutist Bobbi Humphrey presents “Harlem River Drive” at Ginny’s Supper Club on February 21st for two sets.

Pianist Vijay Iyer is at the Jazz Gallery as part of Threadgill + Iyer + Prieto with Henry Threadgill and Dafnis Preito on February 22 & 23

Finally, It’s last call for the Aza, gallery exhibit of drummer and percussionist Will Calhoun’s visual art collaboration on view at the Bronx Music Heritage Center. It closes on February 11. We reviewed the show last year.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is scheduled to be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on February 19th. We’ll also have another edition of “On the Bandstand” online next Sunday with a fresh set of listings.

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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

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 the air this week, but check out our audio archives for last week’s show with bassist Melvin Gibbs or nearly 7 years of archived shows to get your fix until next week. Now let’s get to our music listings.

Bassist Mimi Jones hosts a jam session in the late set at Smoke on January 30th. You can also catch her leading her own sextet at Monmouth University in New Jersey on February 4th.

Bassist Christian McBride is also at the Jazz Museum to talk about his recording career for part 1 of the Session Stories on January 31st.

Vocalist Carmen Lundy is at Birdland from January 31-February 4 2017.
Organist

John Medeski has a residency at The Stone from January 31-February 5 2017.

Vocalist Catherine Russell is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre on February 4 as part of the Family Concert series: Who is Louis Armstrong?

Guitarist Marc Ribot is at Sunny’s in Red Hook Brooklyn on February 9th.

Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater is at The Met Museum of Art on February 10th.

Vocalist Thana Alexa is at Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College singing Ella Fitzgerald songs on February 10th.

Pianist David Virelles is at the Jazz Gallery on February 10-11th.

Vocalist Dianne Reeves is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater on February 10-11th.

Vocalist Catherine Russell leads a sextet at Birdland from February 14-18th singing love songs.

Pianist Harold Mabern leads a trio in the late set at Smalls on the 15th.

Pianists Randy Weston and Monty Alexander are at Medgar Evers College’s Founders Auditorium in Brooklyn for “A Spiritual Awakening” on February 15th. Tickets are free!

Drummer Andrew Cyrille leads a quartet at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club on February 16th.

Bassist Melvin Gibbs and drummer/percussionist Will Calhoun are at Brooklyn’s Shapeshifter Lab on February 16th.

Melvin Gibbs drummer JT Lewis are at The Stone on February 18th with Harriet Tubman.

Drummer and percussionist Will Calhoun’s gallery exhibit of his visual art collaboration Aza is on view at the Bronx Music Heritage Center through February 11. We reviewed the show last year.

That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is scheduled to be back on WBAI‘s airwaves on February 5th. 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 Hunter and Lehman Colleges and The City College of New York. Find him on Twitter @streetgriot

DSC_0136Words by Hank Williams. Photos by Joyce Jones/SugaBowl Photography. | MAIN PHOTO: Jamaladeen Tacuma of the Young Philadelphians. Used with Permission. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons CC-NC-BY-ND.

The 13th edition of the annual Winter Jazz Fest officially wrapped up Tuesday night, bringing to an end a six-day extravaganza of music with a performance by the Liberation Music Orchestra closing the year’s festivities.

The festival clustered, as usual, around several different venues scattered throughout Greenwich Village. The historic center has been near Le Poisson Rouge and Zinc Bar on Bleecker Street. For the second year in a row, The New School provided several performance spaces, which are a welcome addition to the ever-expanding event. Smaller clusters of venues in both the East and West Village rounded out the list and had festival goers crawling between the different spots, adding somewhat of a logistical challenge to festival goers intent on seeing multiple acts.

The 2017 edition ran from January 5-10, with most the performances scheduled on the “marathon nights” Friday and Saturday the 7th and 8th.

This year also saw the addition of a festival theme: social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. According to festival organizer Brice Rosenbloom, inspiration for the theme came from the musicians themselves since so many sent proposals for performances that addressed the topic in one way or another. A festival-related Tumblr feed collected artists’ statements on contemporary political issues and an official festival statement explicitly staked out the political turf in the program guide, affirming that it “explicitly supports social and racial justice by presenting socially engaged artists who have urgent and beautiful messages to share.” In a nod to history, the statement also noted that “[p]rotest and resistance are central to jazz’s existence from its beginnings as the music of marginalized black Americans.”

Other touchstones were the celebration of pianist Thelonious Monk’s 100th birthday, which was officially acknowledged with an event on Sunday the 9th, with a dozen musicians, including guitarist Marc Ribot, pianist David Virelles, and drummers Hamid Drake and Andrew Cyrille interpreting Monk’s Solo Monk album in a variety of combos.

Lastly, Andrew Cyrille was this year’s artist in residence and the subject of an interview by a former student of his: fellow drummer Jonathan Blake. Cyrille also had several performances, including leading Haitian Fascination; a duo with saxophonist Bill McHenry; and a solo performance.

The official festival kickoff on Thursday evening started with two events in different venues. For the third year in a row, the festival hosted a Disability Pride benefit concert featuring several musicians raising funds to support the organization that works to instill a sense of pride in disabled people and create wider awareness for the issues they face. The brainchild of pianist Mike LeDonne, the organization’s key event is a summertime parade.

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Shabaka and the Ancestors

Thursday night also featured a concert at Le Poisson Rouge linking two generations of saxophonists: London-based Shabaka Hutchings, who opened the evening with his new group Shabaka and the Ancestors; followed by the legendary Pharaoh Sanders. The concert sold out early and left potential attendees scrambling for tickets; a sign that it should have been held in one of the festival’s larger venues, which is something that the organizers need to consider in the future since space concerns have dogged the festival as its popularity has risen.

The show was Hutchings’s first US appearance and the first of two performances, as they had a repeat appearance on Saturday night in the same space.

Hutchings’s Saturday performance was a fiery one before a crowd that again filled the space. Buoyed by Siyabonga Mthembu’s ethereal poetic vocals and Ariel Zomonsky’s frenetic, expressive bass, the group got the audience dancing—at least those who had enough space to do so. At the end of the set, Hutchings expressed gratitude for their embrace by the US audience. Hopefully we won’t need to wait long for their return.

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Pharaoh Sanders

In Sanders’s set, he again showed why he’s rightfully earned a solid place in jazz history and is still worth seeing, as he’s capable of playing with an astonishing combination of finesse and sheer, room-clearing power when he sees fit. Sanders’s current shows can involve a wide range of material and vary according to his mood and who accompanies him. A 2016 appearance at Dizzy’s saw a somewhat subdued, contemplative Sanders, while a spring set at the Red Bull Music Academy’s “Night of Spiritual Jazz” featuring the impressive lineup of Sanders, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and Kamasi Washington (another show that, frustratingly, sold out quickly, though was simulcast online) brought a Sanders who seemed inspired by the occasion and performed a stunning cover of John Coltrane’s “Olé”. Which one would appear at the festival?

It was the latter Sanders who took the stage. Sanders, buoyed by longtime pianist William Henderson, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer Jonathan Blake, had the backup he needed for an inspiring set and he delivered. Vocalist Tony Hewitt came onstage for a pleasantly mellow take of “The Creator Has a Master Plan”, though one without some of the edge and soul of the Leon Thomas original.

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Ravi Coltrane (left) and Pharaoh Sanders

The highlight of the set, however, was the performance of “Olé”, which had the touching addition of Ravi Coltrane, who Sanders spotted in the audience and called to the stage. Coltrane, prepared with soprano saxophone brilliantly played off Sanders’s sax while Henderson and Douglas’s rhythm section dutifully kept things in check as the dueling saxes explored. It was indeed a performance for the ages and a fittingly symbolic closing of the circle as they expertly worked through a composition of one of Sanders’s key mentors with the addition of Coltrane’s son, now a leader in his own right who’s also found his own voice as a player. It was the aural equivalent of seeing three generations of sax masters.

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Craig Harris

On Saturday night, trombonist Craig Harris found himself at the front of the stage and armed with sheet music and conducting duties instead of his instrument. His role was melding a cohesive sound from a collection of the roughly 3 dozen musicians and artists who answered his call last fall to “make[e] a sonic statement in response to current injustices inflicted on African American people”.

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Craig Harris’ Breathe fills the stage

“Breathe” had its premiere in October, 2015 and is a stunning multidisciplinary work of art. An expansive big band was accompanied by performance poet and multi-instrumentalist Ngoma Hill and a slide show by Bill Toles projected on a screen above the stage.

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Saxophonist Ras Moshe (left) and Ngoma Hill.

Hill read excerpts from his works “Blacktastik Funk Suite,” “Keep Calm,” “Cerebral Calisthenics,” and “I Need a Poem.” The words, images, and swirling sounds created an immersive experience that the audience into the interconnected suite.

Later, in the New School’s 12th Street auditorium, saxophonist David Murray’s set directly engaged the festival theme. Leading a version of his Class Struggle ensemble, Murray’s expressive sax playing was outstanding. Murray closed the set with a nod to the late Amiri Baraka, who he collaborated with on album releases and plays. “Class Struggle in Music” titled after one of Baraka’s famous poems, began with riffs of “Amazing Grace,” a fitting homage to the longtime activist writer.

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Zig Zag Trio.

Over in the West Village, the Zig Zag Trio of electric guitarist Vernon Reid, electric bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer Will Calhoun closed out the evening at SOB’s and provided one of the festival’s highlights. With two members drawn from the rock group Living Colour (Reid and Calhoun) and their common background in the Brooklyn based Black Rock Coalition, an electrifying set was a foregone conclusion.

According to Gibbs, Zig Zag resuscitates a combination that hadn’t played together since the 1990s and grew out of Reid’s curation of a series at the Iridium club. Reid thought it would be good for the three friends to play together again, thus the birth of the current trio roughly two years ago.

The vibe was similar to what it’s been in the previous shows: more like a jam session than an actual set. But with musicians like these who have been playing together for so long, the communication between them makes the process seem fluid and organic.

While the obvious connection is their rock heritage, ties to various musical forms are just as deep, which is reflected in their playing and the song selection. The late drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson is a major influence, as is the Blues, and the late avant garde jazz guitar mad scientist Sonny Sharrock. Reid and Gibbs are both alumni of Jackson’s band. Reid explained from the stage that they “always play a couple of Jackson’s pieces because Ronald changed our lives.”

The set started with a cover of bluesman Junior Kimbrough’s “I Love Ya’ Baby”.

That was followed one of the hardest rocking covers of Pharaoh Sanders’ “Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt” ever done. The infectious melody of the original soon fell away to Reid’s virtuosic improvisations on guitar, backed by Calhoun’s wide-open hard-hitting drumming. Gibbs, meanwhile was somehow able to resist the allure of going totally out with his band mates in the mayhem and kept a steady bass line that formed the heart of the piece. The trio created space for one of Calhoun’s stage-rattling drum solos near the end before the final statement of the theme.

There was a deeper meaning behind nearly every song in the set and that was true of “Upper Egypt.” It was one of the songs in Sonny Sharrock’s setlist and Gibbs played it several times with Sharrock’s band before he had deeply listened to the original. The song’s choice was both a tribute to Sharrock and a nod to Sanders, whose set opened the festival.

The trio gave a nod to Monk’s centennial with a cover of “Epistrophy” which was subjected to a similar treatment after a slight false start.

Gibbs was tasked with starting off the next piece: a cover of “King Tut Strut” that was the contribution of Will Calhoun. Again, his steadying rhythm at the center held things together for Reid to explore. Halfway through, the roles switched and Gibbs’s steady hand was rewarded with time to explore on his own while Reid temporarily assumed the rhythm duties. When Calhoun’s turn to solo came, the master drummer showed why his latest release as a leader is a tribute to the late drum great Elvin Jones. Like Jones, Calhoun plays with volume — but also impeccable finesse — and has the uncanny ability to create solos with narratives that can go on seemingly forever and still sound fresh.

Elements of the blues, jazz, rock, rhythm and blues, and West African traditions all comfortably fit—and peacefully coexist—within the framework of the Zig Zag Trio.

The set was easily one of the hardest rocking ones of the festival, yet, if one looks closer, underscores the range of the players and the Black musical tradition that they draw from. Elements of the blues, jazz, rock, rhythm and blues, and West African traditions all comfortably fit—and peacefully coexist—within the framework of the Zig Zag Trio. It’s the type of project that could only succeed with players this proficient and with the level of comfort and trust they have in each other, which is clear on stage.

A live recording session is planned sometime for the spring at Woodstock Studios, though has to be shoehorned between Reid and Calhoun’s busy Living Colour tour schedule and Calhoun’s own dates as a leader for his Elvin Jones tribute. Additional live dates are probably on hold until fall 2017, but they’re well worth looking out for.

Saturday night tested the stamina of festival goers with persistent snowfall extending halfway through the evening. While it didn’t pile up too much, it was enough to make things slippery, walking slow going, and shuttling between locations a bit of a slog.

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Jaimeo Brown and Transcendence

Fortunately, Jaimeo Brown and Transcendence braved the weather and took the stage at SOB’s for their early set with a stunning multimedia collage.

Brown’s released two thematically similar CDs: Transcendence and Work Songs.

Work Songs is an audio collage combining actual sampled work songs that was a very successful release and critically acclaimed. While the samples form the base of the audio collage, they function as a vehicle for Brown and his collaborators to improvise around, not a crutch as they might elsewhere.

Live, the content was even more powerful than expected. Brown and company presented a multimedia spectacle, with video and some of the sampled sounds from both releases accompanied by Jaleel Shaw’s sax solos, Brown’s drumming, and Chris Sholar’s electric guitar work.

“Be So Glad” from Work Songs started the set. Shaw’s soaring sax solos that melted into the audio collage and seemed to float at times with the addition of a touch of reverb while a continuously shifting photo stream played in the background.

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D.C. Focus and Transcendence

The addition of D.C. Focus’s dancing halfway through the set complemented the larger narrative in Transcendence of the African American experience as a complex journey of grit, struggle, pain and joy: sometimes juxtaposed or simultaneous. While popping, locking, and even crawling as a counterpoint to the music in front of the band, Focus seemed to amplify the intensity of the performance.

Musically, Brown’s work defies simple categorization (as if those were even simple to begin with) between hip hop, blues, work songs, electric blues, and jazz as they all blurred together. The result though was–as promised—a set that felt truly transcendental.

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The Young Philadelphians

Saturday night also marked the return of Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians to the festival. 2017 was their third appearance and showed how far the ensemble has come, as this time they came to the stage with a world tour under their belts and a CD release culled from live shows in Tokyo.

The Young Philadelphians could only be the brainchild of someone like Ribot. The group reworks classic 1970s disco and soul tunes through the lens of electric guitar leads Ribot and Mary Halvorson with backing from two alums of late saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time bands: electric bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma and drummer G. Calvin Weston. The entire cast of characters is then melded with a string section—Joanna Mattley (viola), Amy Bateman (violin), and Jeremy Harmon (cello)—in this case. As I said in my preview, it’s an idea that seems too crazy to work, but indeed it does.

Ribot, Tacuma, and Weston are steeped in Coleman’s signature Harmolodic musical approach while Halvorson adds coloring touches and density and the strings replicate their role in the original songs while their lushness acts in counterpoint to the sharpness of the guitars.

The Philly soul classic “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)”–known to many as the theme song from the TV show Soul Train –exemplifies the Young Philadelphians’ approach. The song began with a long introduction before the statement of the familiar melody. A signal from Ribot marked the spot for a Weston drum solo followed by a string section solo before the mayhem resumed.

Ribot strips the lyrics to their bare essence, delivering them like chants. “Let’s get it on! It’s time to get down” takes on a different meaning in the current climate and given the festival theme. Instead of the joyous invitation to party, they seem more like marching orders for the audience.

The Ohio Players’ high octane “Love Rollercoaster” followed immediately and provided ample space for a string solo in the middle followed by a Tacuma bass solo and a call-response section between bass and drums.

The disco hit “Fly Robin Fly” from the unlikely German group Silver Convention was next. Like most tunes in their repertoire, it took a sweet, innocuous pop song exploded it, then re-assembled into a full tapestry. The chant-like lyrics “Fly, robin, fly/ Way up to the sky!” were treated as a call and response by the band members and the sparse lyrics of the original are the perfect platform the Young Philadelphians’ treatment. Halfway though, the song broke down into a free-for-all with strings and guitars all improvising before re-assembling for the end.

“Love TKO” began as an antidote to the above, and remains a ballad with funked – up bass lines, though eventually that even succumbed at the end of the song to Ribot and Halvorson’s excursions.

An extended, melodious intro to “Do the Hustle” emphasized the lushness of the strings before Ribot’s angular interpretation of the theme, reliably set off, as usual, by Halvorson’s looping improvisation. The song ended with a majestic-sounding restatement of the intro theme, closing with a final cymbal clash by Weston.

“Love Epidemic” read as yet another command for the times. If there was ever a time it was needed the time is right now. Almost deliberately, the song preserved more of the original lyrics than others: “There won’t be no need for medication /There won’t be no discrimination/ All we need is your participation / Then we’ll be united as a nation!” sent out a corresponding call to “It’s time to get down”: if indeed it’s time to fight, then the love epidemic might be what we want to fight for.

Much of the Young Philadelphians’ appeal comes from their successful reworking of bygone hits, but with a sense of the larger than life, nearly epic scope of the 1970s soul era

If you were old enough to remember the original songs, they had one meaning that reached back to the memory bank. If not, it didn’t matter to the nearly packed crowd of various ages because they rock hard enough to move the crowd. Much of the Young Philadelphians’ appeal comes from their successful reworking of bygone hits, but with a sense of the larger than life, nearly epic scope of the 1970s soul era; one that’s best captured by live instrumentation and embrace of the outrageous, sometimes over-the-top performance style of the originals. Here, that’s transformed into avant garde improvisation.

The one disappointment of the festival was missing the performance of the AfroHORN Superband, led by drummer/ percussionist Francisco Mora Catlett. While a press pass got me into Zinc Bar ahead of a few others on line, I gave up and walked out. Packed to the gills, Zinc made an inhospitable place to hear the music: assuming you could even get close enough to the back room to do so. Actually seeing the performance was out of the question, as was taking any sort of notes.

Quite frankly, the festival needs to drop Zinc as a venue and has needed to for several years since lines outside the small space are routine. One can understand the possible reluctance: after all, Zinc presents jazz several nights a week throughout the year, not just when the big crowds are out, which is an ongoing commitment to the music. Unfortunately, Winter Jazz has simply gotten too big for it, and it’s time to move on.

The 2017 Winter Jazz Fest still must be looked at as a resounding success. The quality and variety of acts it attracts is top notch, the audience support is enthusiastic, as evidenced by the sold-out events and solid crowds even on the second marathon night with sketchy weather, and organization has improved every year.

How deeply the festival ingests and repeats this year’s commitment to social justice remains to be seen–the late spring-summer Vision Fest has that as an embedded part of its DNA—but the willingness to read and react to artists’ own messages says quite a lot. Nevertheless the Winter Jazz Fest still boldly forges ahead artistically and creatively year after year with a finely curated collection of artists who push and stretch the boundaries of jazz while staying firmly rooted in the musical traditions.
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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

IMG_2052Guitarist Vernon Reid clarified one thing at the beginning of the night’s set: he wanted the group everyone was about to experience to be known as WMV: the first initials of the members’ names, rather than the “Vernon Reid Power Trio” that had drawn people to the Iridium. This decision was in deference to a more egalitarian vision of the collaboration between three longtime friends and musical accomplices. Or, he said, you could call them the Zig Zag Power Trio.

The name may have to be settled later on, but all of that seemed less important than the music, which certainly is starting to gel between Reid, drummer/percussionist Will Calhoun, and electric bassist Melvin Gibbs in their raucous, high-energy ensemble.

I reviewed their last appearance at Iridium back in the spring, and was impressed enough to be eagerly anticipating a return appearance–which Reid promised was forthcoming – and finally happened last Friday for two sets.

The trio has to be a difficult project to pull together, especially since all of the members have such busy and diverse schedules: Reid and Calhoun are Living Colour bandmates in the middle of a tour. Calhoun is stepping into the role of a leader in his own right in the jazz world and has just wrapped up an album in tribute to the late drum legend Elvin Jones, and Gibbs plays with Harriet Tubman, which is also putting finishing touches on a release (due at the end of 2016 I’m told). These are only highlights of the artists’ main projects: to list all of their work would take way more space and research than there’s time for right now. The point is that these folks are seriously busy, and that’s part of what makes this collaboration so special.

This set felt slightly tighter than the Iridium date in the spring, which was not necessarily a bad thing. The spring set had more of the feel of sitting in on a dress rehearsal. To be clear, the music itself was at a high level both times. In the latest date, there were fewer inside jokes flowing, but the essence of what makes this group fantastic was intact, which is the high level of musical (and personal) respect between the musicians involved, trust, and sense of timing that’s the sign of a collective that’s working. That’s no small thing. The music industry is rife with stories of people who hate each other off the bandstand, but somehow manage to make things work long enough to get paid for the gig. That’s definitely not the case here. These musicians like and trust each other a lot and that’s expressed in the music.

The set started with a nod to the Blues (a recurring theme for this group) via their cover of guitarist Junior Kimbrough’s “Sad Days”. Here, Kimbrough’s work, transplanted from its Mississippi Hill Country juke joint roots, was turned up a notch (and rendered in a different key, according to Reid) into a searing electric rocker.

This was followed by a reverb-heavy soulful ballad that had Calhoun switching between drumsticks and mallets that referenced another key influence on the group: the late drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. Reid simply said that “none of the things that have happened [to them as a collective], would’ve happened without him.” He explained in slightly greater detail in an interview on the Iridium’s blog that Jackson “was a real connection” between Gibbs and himself, as both of whom were bandmates in Jackson’s groups and drew his lessons firsthand, while Calhoun was heavily influenced by his musical ideas as a young player.

Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” seamlessly fit into the set, with Reid purposefully bending the original’s plaintive saxophone melody and using it as a launchpad for the the group’s high energy collective improvisation.

The Jazz standard “King Tut Strut” had a brief call-and-answer between Reid and Calhoun and climaxed with a cymbal-crashing flourish by Calhoun that even a broken drumstick couldn’t interrupt. Reid wrapped the infectious repeated phrase at the center of the the song around his guitar and turned it to perfection.

The set ended, appropriately enough, with Ronald Shannon Jackson’s “Street Priest” and space was created for one of Calhoun’s trademark thundering drum solos that started on electronics before being finished on the drum set. While some drum solos are a formality, Calhoun’s are narratives in themselves, with clear progression and the type of engagement that showcases just one of his talents on the instrument. I’ve written about his incredible versatility on the drum kit before (and he’s equally adept on a range of percussion instruments), but Calhoun is an artist who can say a lot with percussion instruments.

Reid says that more shows are in the offing and added that there are thoughts of recording a release when prompted. Both of those things—like the exact name of the group—are works in progress. Stay tuned. The end result will be well worth your attention.
 
Will Calhoun is at Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park for a free outdoor performance as part of the Jazzmobile series on August 12th. He also appears with Living Colour on the 17th in a special acoustic set at City Winery or, at the Afropunk Fest in Brooklyn on the 28th.
 
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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.

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