Archives for posts with tag: Winter Jazz Fest

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 return to the air this week with our final preview of the 2016 Winter Jazz Fest featuring guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer!. You can see him on January 15 the New School University’s auditorium as part of the the Winter Jazz Festival. Now let’s take a look at some upcoming gigs.
 
Pianist Vijay Iyer is at The Stone on the 13th with Matana Roberts and also leads a trio at this year’s Winter Jazz Fest.
 
Guitarist Julian Lage is at Cornelia Street Café on the 13th and at the Winter Jazz Fest’s closing event on the 17th.
 
Saxophonist Tia Fuller leads a quartet at Smoke from January 13-14.
 
Also at Smoke is saxophonist Billy Harper, who leads a quintet from the 15-17.
 
Pianist Onaje Allen Gumbs leads a trio at BAM Café from January 13-15.
 
Vocalist Kurt Elling is at Birdland performing songs from his Passion World release from January 13-16.
 
Saxophonist Gary Bartz leads a quartet at the new Cassandra’s Jazz Club and Gallery in Harlem from January 13-16 and 22-23rd.
 
Vocalists Lizz Wright and Dee Dee Bridgewater are at BB King’s on January 15.
 
Low brass specialist on tuba Joe Daley is at Terra Blues with Hazmat Modine on the 16th.
 
The Harlem Jazz Parlor Festival hosts trombonist Craig Harris on January 16 and low brass specialist Joe Daley on the 18.
 
Saxophonist Ravi Coltrane will be at the John Coltrane House in Dix Hills, LI on the 20th.
 
Vocalist René Marie is at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club from January 21-24.
 
Saxophonist Gary Bartz is at the Blue Note on the 25 with legendary pianist McCoy Tyner. They’re also there on February 1, 15, and March 1. Tyner’s been less public lately, so it’s a good idea to catch one of these dates and see the last remaining member of Coltrane’s band in action.
 
Also at the Blue Note is legendary drummer Roy Haynes from January 26-27.
 
Drummer Craig Haynes has an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to support making a CD and DVD of his band’s performance at the 2016 Dakar Goree Jazz Festival.
 
We wrap this week with two jazz festivals:
 
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Annual Vision Fest producers Arts for Art’s nearly monthlong “Justice is Compassion” festival continues at Clemente Soto Velez Center until January 24 with drummer Hamid Drake, dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker, bassist William Parker and many more.
 
The annual Winter Jazz Fest blows back into town this week from the 13-17 with so many past, present (and future) Suga’ guests that it needs its own coverage. Head on over to our annual cheat sheet for a full preview.
 
That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is back on WBAI‘s airwaves on January 10th. 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.

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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.
 
Suga’ in My Bowl is off the air this week: we’re back on January 10th with our final preview of the 2016 Winter Jazz Fest with guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer! If you missed our last shows with promoter and WJF director Brice Rosenbloom or guitarist Julian Lage, then head on over to our our audio archives for that and much more. Now let’s take a look at some upcoming gigs.
 
banner_AFA_EvolvingJan_website
Arts for Art (producers of the annual Vision Fest) are sponsoring a nearly monthlong “Justice is Compassion” festival at Clemente Soto Velez Center from January 4-24 with dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker, bassist William Parker and many more.
 
Looking a little further ahead, the annual Winter Jazz Fest blows into town from January 13-17 with so many past, present (and future) Suga’ guests that it needs its own coverage, which we’ll get to this week. But for now, you can head on over to their site and check out the complete rundown for yourself. If that’s too overwhelming, don’t worry, we’ll have you covered with a cheat sheet like we did last year.
 
Bassist William Parker is at The Stone with Paal Nilssen on January 9.
 
Also at The Stone is pianist Vijay Iyer, who’s there on the 13th with Matana Roberts.
 
Guitarist Julian Lage is at Cornelia Street Café on the 13th and at the Winter Jazz Fest’s closing event on the 17th.
 
Saxophonist Tia Fuller leads a quartet at Smoke from January 13-14.
 
Also at Smoke is saxophonist Billy Harper, who leads a quintet from the 15-17.
 
Pianist Onaje Allen Gumbs leads a trio at BAM Café from January 13-15.
 
Vocalist Kurt Elling is at Birdland performing songs from his Passion World release from January 13-16.
 
Saxophonist Gary Bartz leads a quartet at the new Cassandra’s Jazz Club and Gallery in Harlem from January 13-16 and 22-23rd.
 
Vocalists Lizz Wright and Dee Dee Bridgewater are at BB King’s on January 15.
 
The Harlem Jazz Parlor Festival hosts trombonist Craig Harris on January 16 and low brass specialist Joe Daley on the 18.
 
That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is back on WBAI‘s airwaves on January 10th. 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.

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 guitarist Julian Lage. You can see him on December 31 at The Stone and in January at Cornelia Street Café on the 13th and at the Winter Jazz Fest’s closing event on the 17th. Now let’s take a look at some upcoming gigs.
 
Pianist and vocalist Diane Schuur is at Iridium for a Frank Sinatra centennial celebration until December 28th.
 
Guitarist Marc Ribot is at The Stone with John Zorn on the 29th.
 
Pianist Harold Mabern is at Smoke in a John Coltrane Festival from the until the 31st.
 
Trombonist Craig Harris is at Sistas’ Place on New Year’s Eve.
 
Saxophonist Lou Donaldson leads a quartet the Jazz Standard from January 1-3.
 
Bassist William Parker is at The Stone with Paal Nilssen on January 9.
 
banner_AFA_EvolvingJan_website
Looking ahead, Arts for Art (producers of the annual Vision Fest) are sponsoring a nearly monthlong “Justice is Compassion” festival at Clemente Soto Velez Center from January 4-24 with dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker, bassist William Parker and many more.
 
Looking even further ahead, the annual Winter Jazz Fest blows into town from January 13-17 with so many past, present (and future) Suga’ guests that it needs its own coverage, which we’ll get to this week. But for now, you can head on over to their site and check out the complete rundown for yourself. If that’s too overwhelming, don’t worry, we’ll have you covered with a cheat sheet like we did last year.
 
That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is back on WBAI‘s airwaves on January 10th. 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.

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.
 
Suga’ in My Bowl is off the air this week: we’re back on December 27th with another preview of the 2016 Winter Jazz Fest. If you missed our last show with promoter and WJF director Brice Rosenbloom, then head on over to our our audio archives for that and much more. Now let’s take a look at some upcoming gigs.
 
Saxophonist Gary Bartz leads a quartet at Smoke until December 21st.
 
Also at Smoke is pianist Harold Mabern in a John Coltrane Festival from the 22nd to the 31st. He’s joined by trombonist Steve Turre on the 26-27th.
 
Pianist and vocalist Diane Schuur is at Iridium for a Frank Sinatra centennial celebration from the 26-28.
 
Guitarist Marc Ribot is at The Stone with John Zorn on the 29th.
 
Trombonist Craig Harris is at Sistas’ Place on New Year’s Eve.
 
Saxophonist Lou Donaldson leads a quartet the Jazz Standard from January 1-3.
 
banner_AFA_EvolvingJan_website
Looking ahead, Arts for Art (producers of the annual Vision Fest) are sponsoring a nearly monthlong “Justice is Compassion” festival at Clemente Soto Velez Center from January 4-24 with dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker, bassist William Parker and many more.
 
Looking even further ahead, the annual Winter Jazz Fest blows into town from January 13-17 with so many past, present (and future) Suga’ guests that it needs its own coverage, which we’ll get to this week. But for now, you can head on over to their site and check out the complete rundown for yourself. If that’s too overwhelming, don’t worry, we’ll have you covered with a cheat sheet like we did last year.
 
That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is back on WBAI‘s airwaves on December 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 Hunter and Lehman Colleges and The City College of New York.

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 is a preview of the upcoming Winter Jazz Fest and our guest is festival director Brice Rosenbloom. Now let’s take a look at some upcoming gigs.
 
Jeff Lieberman’s The Amazing Nina Simone documentary film is at Hartford CT’s Real Art Ways until December 17th.
 
Pianist Geri Allen is at the Village Vanguard from the 15-20.
 
Pianist Marc Cary hosts The Harlem Sessions at The Gin Fizz on the 17th.
 
Saxophonist Gary Bartz leads a quartet at Smoke from the 18-21.
 
Guitarist Marc Ribot has two dates at The Stone. He appears with a trio on the 20 and with John Zorn on the 29th.
 
Pianist and vocalist Diane Schuur is at Iridium for a Frank Sinatra centennial celebration from the 26-28.
 
That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is back on WBAI‘s airwaves on December 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 Hunter and Lehman Colleges and The City College of New York.

TRIO 3 at Minetta Lane

TRIO 3 at Minetta Lane

After the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest wrapped up Saturday night I was left with 2 thoughts: damn am I tired and I can’t wait until next year.

The WJF, now in its 11th year has settled into a groove of being a welcome outpost of music in an otherwise dark month. The shows are an insanely good deal for the amount of top-notch music to be had and it offers a jazz overload over the course of their two main “marathon” days on Saturday and Sunday nights: January 9th and 10th.

I covered some festival logistics in a First Look and a guide to a few highlights in a Cheat Sheet and more or less stuck to the plan. The cheat sheet has an outline of some key acts to look forward to – including some I knew I wouldn’t catch and aren’t reviewed here. The plan was to see a few key groups and minimize venue changes.

I suggested earlier that the WJF is a victim of its own success. It now has to balance support for clubs that feature jazz year-round with the need for larger venues for the more popular acts. Gaining the historic Judson Memorial Church–back this year and home of event registration—as a venue has helped immensely. It’s one of the larger spaces and an excellent event space. Indeed, Arts for Art’s annual Vision Festival moves to Judson this July as well.

Gone was the Groove Lounge, which was almost comically small for saxophonist Gary Bartz’s set last year, and added to the mix were a few new spaces, including Subculture, the Players Theater, and the Minetta Lane Theater. Zinc Bar is still on the program and was still pretty much a no-go unless you got there before daily events started and stayed there. Minetta provided a much-needed larger space, in addition to Judson and Le Poisson Rouge, which returned as a cornerstone venue.

WJF_15_Crowd_screenshot_cropThe WJF boosted the number of venues this year to 10 on both Friday and Saturday nights, which points to the event’s robust appeal. It wasn’t enough and tickets still sold out on Saturday. Festival organizers put the total headcount at 6,500 total over the 3 festival days (there were 2 standalone concerts on Thursday) with the bulk—5,500—split between Friday and Saturday nights. Also new this year was a very handy webapp that let you do a quick online check of crowds and space in a venue. Very cool! Unfortunately, it was sometimes the bearer of bad news and you often got the message you see below. Still, it’s a huge step forward and could be the deciding factor for someone trying to decide whether or not to leave and see an act in a different location.

Event registration/check-in still had its woes. Lines snaked down the block and around the corner to enter Judson’s basement where it was housed, but volunteers were cheerful and efficient once one got inside.

If there’s one lesson to be learned, that’s that you have to stay up (relatively) late to catch some of the good stuff.

If there’s one lesson to be learned, that’s that you have to stay up (relatively) late to catch some of the good stuff. That was my experience last year and I expected the same this year and was not disappointed.

Friday Highlights

I made the decision early on to focus on the acts at Minetta Lane: to get a close look at a few specific artists and catch all of David Murray’s shows, as our Suga’ in My Bowl radio show did a show on him. It’s one of the wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) decisions to be made: who do I see? Of course it is a dilemma because there are often overlapping shows that are appealing, which is the type of problem a lot of festivals would dream of having.

Saxophonist David Murray was all over the festival this year and anchored back-to-back sets at Minetta Lane, first with his Clarinet Summit and then what they dubbed the “Geri, David, and Terri” show with drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and pianist Geri Allen.

Murray’s Clarinet Summit featured Murray himself and Don Byron on sax and clarinet, veteran sax player Hamiet Bluiett on baritone, David Krakauer on clarinet, bassist Jaribu Shahid, and drummer Nasheet Waits. Waits and Shahid would also join Murray the next day as part of his Infinity Quartet.

Murray dedicated a new composition titled ” The Long March to Freedom” to the late Amiri Baraka

Murray dedicated a new composition titled ” The Long March to Freedom” to the late Amiri Baraka, who he described as “a great leader of our people”, noting the one year anniversary of Baraka’s death and that it’s also the title of Nelson Mandela’s book, which Murray said he “read 3 times until it fell apart”.

Baraka’s absence will still be felt in a lot of spaces on the avant-garde New York jazz scene this year. Murray and Baraka collaborated on the New Music-New Poetry (1982, India) release as well as Baraka’s play Primitive World. More to the point, Baraka, in addition to being a writer and critic of the music, could often be seen at performances even if he wasn’t scheduled to read himself, hanging out in the background and digging the music.

The Clarinet Summit also performed a song composed by the late Butch Morris (another figure whose absence is notable), punctuated by Krakauer hitting–and holding–an impossibility high note for an incredibly long time. Nasheet Waits ably held down the rhythm section with a smoking performance on the drums.

Murray’s second set of the evening was a trio with Allen and Carrington. Allen and Carrington have collaborated a fair amount and some of the most satisfying parts of the set came from their interplay, which often developed into long improvisational grooves with Allen starting a theme and Carrington responding on the drums or vice-versa. Allen’s delicate touch on the piano perfectly complemented Carrington’s drumming.

Displaying the confidence that comes from experience, Murray was content to watch the magic unfold as he listened, waiting for the right space to add his voice to the mixture.

Murray displayed another side of his personality and ability as a leader. Displaying the confidence that comes from experience, Murray was content to watch the magic unfold as he listened, waiting for the right space to add his voice to the mixture.

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Saxophonist Oliver Lake, drummer Andrew Cyrille, and bassist Reggie Workman have been performing together as TRIO 3 for 2 decades now. The amazing thing is that they manage to return to the format with the numerous other projects that they all have going on. Nevertheless, they do and that’s a good thing.

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Vijay Iyer joined the veteran trio on piano for the set, reprising his guest role on their 2014 Wiring release. Iyer was in the odd spot of being the junior member of an ensemble. It’s a role he easily slipped into, however, adding color with his staccato and slightly angular style, which complemented the work of the main trio well. It was also an interesting counterpoint to Geri Allen–who has also held the TRIO 3 guest spot—but has a much different style on the piano.


Friday evening’s highlight of was arguably guitarist Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians with strings. Ribot’s a familiar face on the NYC jazz scene and on the WJF stage: indeed, his collaboration with guitarist Mary Halvorson a memorable moment at last year’s festival. The Young Philadelphians ensemble also played the WJF in 2012 with a slightly different line-up: a performance that can be seen on YouTube.

This time they were back in a set in a main venue to cap off the evening. The 400-seat Minetta Lane Theater, which had largely emptied after the David Murray and TRIO 3 sets, had again filled and was taken on a quick tour of 1970s soul, funk, and even—gasp—disco by the blistering set.

Ribot, bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma, and drummer G. Calvin Weston, and frequent Ribot co-conspirator guitarist Mary Halvorson were joined by a string section of Christina Courtin on viola, Christopher Hoffman on cello, and Dana Lyn on violin.

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While they don’t have any official releases, they’ve been touring and performing for a few years now in slightly different lineups. The group describes itself as melding “[t]he mind-blowing harmolodic punk-funk of Ornette Coleman’s first Prime Time band and the sweet, optimistic pulse of 1970s Philly Soul”. The task is helped along by PrimeTime alumni Tacuma and Weston, both steeped in the groundbreaking saxophonist’s harmolodic tradition – one Ribot is a serious fan of himself, as witnessed by his recent City Winery show with fellow Harmolodic guitar disciple and Coleman alum, James Blood Ulmer.

The Young Philadelphians dug deep into the 1970s funk, soul, and disco crates with covers of People’s Choice’s “Do it Any Way You Wanna”, Silver Convention’s “Fly Robin Fly”, Gamble and Huff’s “TSOP” (better known as the theme to Soul Train), Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster”, and Van McCoy’s “The Hustle”.

The songs would start with slow intros, then build into a frenzy as the melody kicked in and Ribot and Halvorson spit fire from their instruments, shredding whatever fatigue might’ve been in your body. Tacuma’s bass held the center, allowing Ribot and Halvorson to go on their various excursions. The strings generally mirrored the string lines in the original songs while Weston’s drumming anchored the entire affair.

The original lyrics were similarly disembodied and re-assembled – themselves stripped down to the bare essentials and brilliantly re-imagined as chants inside the Philadelphians’ postmodern reconstruction.

If you were a Ribot fan, you might have left wondering if there is anything the guy can’t do on the guitar

If you were a Ribot fan, you might have left wondering if there is anything the guy can’t do on the guitar, especially with the collaborators his keen ear draws toward his orbit. If you somehow entered expecting traditional jazz—whatever that might mean—you might be sorely disappointed unless you just surrendered to the Young Philadelphians’ commands: “Let’s get it on / it’s time to get down!”

Toward the end of the set, a small breeze came from somewhere. Inside what was a comfortably warm theater before the set—and on the coldest night of the year outside–it felt good.


Saturday Night Highlights

Saturday’s strategy was a similarly targeted one: to see a few specific artists. On the list was the sets of Oliver Lake’s Organ Quartet, David Murray’s Infinity Quartet, and Harriet Tubman.

Lake’s Organ Quartet took the stage at around 6:15 at The Bitter End, returning again as a WJF venue. The venerable spot is still a great place to catch music and, while space in front is at a premium, one can usually squeeze in in the back of the club.

For this date, Lake was joined by Jared Gold on the organ, Josh Evans on the trumpet and Gene Lake on the drums. The quartet had no problem keeping the attention of the near-capacity crowd engaged.

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As with Murray, the different ensemble offered a more expansive view of Oliver Lake’s talent and creative process. While his approach to the instrument itself doesn’t change much, the interplay with other members is obviously different, especially as Lake is the leader and senior member of the group. It also allows him to play off of Gold’s contributions on organ and the brightness of the trumpet adds to the different sound. Lake’s voice is also much more prominent in the compositions.

Lake, whose restlessly creative mind extends beyond different ensembles to visual art and poetry, again did not disappoint.

Later on the evening, David Murray got on stage for his final performance of the festival, this time with the Infinity Quartet, which featured spoken word artist and actor Saul Williams (no relation to this writer) along with bassist Jaribu Shahid, drummer Nasheet Waits, and pianist Orrin Evans.

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Murray mentioned at the beginning of the set that the material the ensemble presented is still in somewhat of a workshop mode. They had premiered it on a European tour and were still fine-tuning the concept.

Williams is well known for his spoken word prowess in the poetry Slam world, appearance on the Broadway run of Def Poetry Jam, and leading role in the recently closed Broadway musical loosely based on Tupac Shakur Holler if You Hear Me. As mentioned earlier, Murray has some experience adding spoken word to his pieces thanks to his Baraka collaborations.

Williams’s strength is richly complex wordplay, delivered in a smooth, nearly effortless flow and timed to a staccato beat. While there was still some tinkering going on, Murray comfortably slipped in and out of the flow with his angular playing punctuating Williams’s words in key places or driving the pace of pieces with his solos while Williams stood on the side.

Harriet Tubman took the stage on Saturday evening at Subculture, a new WJF venue. Tubman consists of guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer J.T. Lewis. They got a little extra exposure last year with a set in Prospect Park’s “Celebrate Brooklyn” Festival and at the Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors Festival, the latter done with vocalist Cassandra Wilson, whom Tubman has been collaborating with recently.

Tubman’s set started out blazing. Ross took the duties of group intro usually handled by Gibbs, playfully warning anyone “in need of a defibrillator to please call out” for assistance. It wasn’t far from the truth and the audience was hit with the full force of Tubman’s assault from the beginning song, “Wayne’s Worldwide”, dedicated to Wayne Shorter.

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Tubman’s set and sound is far from chaos, though: it’s a supremely well-oiled machine, with members intensely listening to each other and responding with the type of give and take that only a band truly comfortable with itself can achieve. With a trio consisting of a lead electric guitar and bass and players unafraid to push the limits of their instruments and add just a little distortion to the mix, the machine operates at high volume. The group, which pulls from influences as diverse as blues, free jazz, fusion, and heavy metal exemplifies the type of experimental, expansive, and indeed fearless definition of jazz that the festival fosters.

Tubman’s set and sound is far from chaos, though: it’s a supremely well-oiled machine, with members intensely listening to each other and responding with the type of give and take that only a band truly comfortable with itself can achieve.

Tubman’s name functions as a metaphor for how they approach music, as they dip deep into the recesses of the jazz and blues tradition for their ideas which are given a modern spin and unique sound.

The Gibbs-composed “Wadmala”, for example, takes its name from a South Carolina island in the area famous for the Gullah language and Black cultural traditions.

The bluesy “Can’t Tarry”–the only composition performed with vocals (by Ross)—was appropriately dedicated to the late blues legend R.L. Burnside and began with a long Gibbs bass solo setting the tone for the piece.

The set ended—all too soon for this listener—with “Where We Stand”, dedicated to the late Alice Coltrane.

Through it all, drummer J.T. Lewis is very much the center of things, providing the propulsive heartbeat of the group and visibly listening intently, ready to react (even if subtly) to any change in the dynamic or new musical idea introduced by other members of the band.

In the middle of the set, Gibbs approached the mic during a pause to get a few things straight for the audience. The name Harriet Tubman, he pointed out, was “even more resonant than it was” when they founded the group. Indeed his point seems relevant in the wake of continuing protests over police killings of unarmed Black people.

Gibbs expanded the point, however, and tied it back to the music and the dual nature of free jazz, which has generally functioned not just as freedom of musical form but also had secondary meanings of general freedom. “If Duke Ellington were alive today”, Gibbs suggested, “he’d be using electronics and synthesizers” too, pointedly making the connection between the roots of the music and looking toward the future.

Lewis said via email that the WJF “was enjoyable [and] we were happy to present our music to a new crowd”, adding “we love the look on peoples faces when they hear what we’re doing”. Tubman has a (still untitled) new recording that they’re putting the finishing touches on for a spring 2015 Sunnyside Records release with Wadada Leo Smith as guest artist.

I opted to skip the after-hours sets (the festival’s last scheduled set was a bleary-eyed 2 AM performance at Zinc Bar), confident that even though there was still good music to be had, I’d ended the festival on a high note.

Although predictions of jazz’s demise still abound, the festival proves that there is indeed still a strong creative impulse and no shortage of people woodshedding and willing to both explore the traditions and push the boundaries.

While the finances of promoting jazz are always an exercise in dexterity, audience participation and enthusiasm clearly remains strong for the right mix of artists presented in an appealing setting. Another encouraging trend (although admittedly an anecdotal one) is that the festival seems to succeed at attracting younger audiences, even for the less party-oriented acts.

There was quite a lot of risk-taking and jazz that didn’t sound like jazz—or maybe just not the jazz we’re used to—over the weekend. That’s a good thing.

Harriet Tubman’s set and their Shorter reference, however, seemed well timed. In a round of interviews for his 2013 Without a Net release, Shorter embraced an expansive definition of the music called jazz, telling National Public Radio that it “shouldn’t have any mandates”, and “is not supposed to be something that’s required to sound like jazz.” In an frequently referenced quote, Shorter argued that for him “the word ‘jazz’ means ‘I dare you’”. And there was quite a lot of risk-taking and jazz that didn’t sound like jazz—or maybe just not the jazz we’re used to—over the weekend. That’s a good thing. With the diversity of ages in the audience and on the bandstand, the WJF proves that it’s definitely an exciting time in the music.

With a brisk walk to the subway in the chilly night air ahead, it was a warming and comforting thought.

Text and all photos by Hank Williams. Embedded videos courtesy of BBB Sound and Vision via YouTube. Photos are Creative Commmons Licensed, Non-commercial, some rights reserved.

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. Follow/find him on Twitter: @streetgriot

WJF_15_CheatSheet_header

If you’re a jazz fan in NYC (or just very curious about the music), then the 11th annual Winter Jazz Fest should be squarely on your radar. If it is, good! You’re likely gearing up to push through the cold snap that’s hit us.

So far, I’ve done a first look with some basic logistics of the festival. In this post, I’ll dive into a few of the acts that you should keep an eye out for. Full disclosure, it’s weighted toward past guests from our Suga’ in My Bowl radio show, but I’ll also mention a few others at the end.

There are a lot of acts to choose from over the festival’s 2 main evenings (Friday and Saturday: Thursday has a lighter schedule), so hopefully this will give you a head start on who to see.

Friday January 9th

WJF_15_Friday

If the festival gave out an MVP award, saxophonist David Murray would certainly be in the running. He’s at the Minetta Lane Theater with his Clarinet Summit at 7:30 and with drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and pianist Geri Allen at 8:45.

We just profiled Murray in December, so I’ll point you to that show for more details. But, needless to say, Murray’s a standout artist and incredibly versatile player. He’s capable of playing as far out as anyone, yet has the skill to drop back into more introspective playing that leans as much on finesse as sheer technical virtuosity. While Suga’ host Joyce Jones won’t (yet) get her wish of a reunion of the World Saxophone Summit, catching the “Clarinet Summit”, his collaboration with Carrington and Allen, or his Saturday set leading his own Infinity Quartet ought to give you as rounded a view of Murray as you’ll ever get.

We’re looking to see a highly charged set with some experimental stuff thrown in with the Clarinet Summit, which has Don Byron and Hamiett Bluiett providing backup. Count on a more straight-ahead set with Carrington and Allen.

Terri Lyne Carrington has developed into a solid presence in jazz drumming. Her all-female Mosaic Project (which featured WJF collaborator Geri Allen) was much more than just a concept album to showcase women in jazz: it was a solid release in its own right. Her 2013 remake of the classic Money Jungle deservedly got high praise as well. Head to our audio archives for a deeper look at her work.

Similarly, pianist Geri Allen is sought after as both a leader and in side projects. Whether she’s heading up her own Timeline group or in collaboration with others (she’s also worked with TRIO 3, though won’t be at this year’s WJF), her percussive style is a joy to listen to. It won’t be the first Allen-Carrington collaboration and their comfort working together should translate into a solid rhythm section for the set with David Murray.

See both of them in this 2013 clip of “Unconditional Love” along with bassist Esperanza Spaulding.

Harpist Brandee Younger has seemingly taken the task of upholding the work of the late, underappreciated harpist Dorothy Ashby as her mission. You’ll likely get fully up to speed on where she is with this project at her “Afro Harping” Ashby tribute to the latter’s classic album of the same name at the Bitter End on Bleecker Street at 8:45. See Younger’s take on Ashby’s “Respected Destroyer”, recorded live in 2014.

Drummer Will Calhoun has come a long way since his days with Living Colour – a trip that’s come full circle, as the group reunited for a world tour in 2014 to support their Synesthesia release and even took a few days off to put the finishing touches on another release, Shade, scheduled for spring 2015. In the middle of all that, he’s grown into a respected leader in the jazz world as well, with a style that pulls equally from his prowess as a rock drummer and the finesse he’s gained at jazz styles and African percussion. Expect a meeting of all those worlds as he joins forces with Living Colour bandmate, bassist Doug Wimbish, and Vinx, who lends vocals and electronic loops and samples for the “Jungle Funk” collaboration at Bowery Electric at 9 PM. Jungle Funk leans more toward Living Colour’s end of the spectrum than Calhoun’s more standard jazz work. Here’s a sample of what you might hear, recorded live in Poland in 2013. For a longer listen, you can check out our 2013 Calhoun profile.

Saxophonist Oliver Lake and bassist Reggie Workman join forces with drummer Andrew Cyrille and special guest Vijay Iyer for TRIO 3 at Minetta Lane at 10 PM. All are incredibly accomplished players and Workman has nearly legendary status. TRIO 3’s shows are always extremely satisfying. Lake is as comfortable playing “out” and pushing the limits of the saxophone as he is using finesse honed from many years on the instrument. Iyer is scarily talented and adapts well to almost any setting. Below is a clip from the 2012 Vision Fest and for a much deeper dive into Lake, you can check out our December 2014 profile of him or our 2009 Workman and 2010 Iyer profiles, which live on in our audio archives, too.

Saturday January 10th

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Saxophonist Oliver Lake returns with a show at The Bitter End on Bleecker Street with his Organ Quartet at 6:15 PM. Here they are performing at the Jazz Standard. Hammond B3 fans will be in for a treat with organist Jared Gold shoring up the rhythm section.

Saxophonist Billy Harper is at Minetta Lane Theater with The Cookers at 8:45 PM. Last year, The Cookers were one of the WJF highlights for me. Harper’s comfortable in the “free jazz” end of the sax spectrum (which I’ll admit I’m partial to), but as part of the collective he contributes to a hard driving straight ahead sound that’s accessible yet adventurous. Expect them to live up to their name. Here they are at the 2014 Nisville Jazz Festival. For a closer look at Harper, see our 2011 show on him.

Saxophonist David Murray makes a final appearance at Le Poisson Rouge with his Infinity Quartet at 9 PM. Keep an eye out for the spoken word of Saul Williams with Saturday night’s Infinity Quartet show. Here they are in a 2014 show.

Vocalist Catherine Russell, who’s been getting solid reviews for her 2014 Bring it Back release, is at the Greenwich House Music School on Barrow St. at 10 PM. Fans of the more traditional jazz vocals should be sure to catch Russell’s set. Her exposure on the popular Boardwalk Empire series has gained her some additional notoriety and her work is fresh and innovative, while still connecting to the jazz tradition. See her perform live in 2013 below or check out our 2014 show for a deeper dive into her work.

Drummer J.T. Lewis will be at Subculture on Bleecker Street with Harriet Tubman at 10 PM. I missed Tubman a few years ago when they were on at an ungodly late hour: not so this time! Tubman describes itself as an “avant metal jazz band” which is a description that I’d be hard pressed to improve upon. If you’re open to electronics in jazz, crossovers into fusion, and aren’t afraid of electric guitars, then this is your set. This clip from a 2010 show at NYC’s The Stone gives a good sense of the type of long, funky, ambient grooves they specialize in. For a longer look at Lewis, see our 2014 show focused on him.

Honorable Mentions

I’ll be honest: that’s an unfair header for this section, since there are so many fantastic acts to choose from. But you have to start somewhere, so here’s who else I’d catch in an ideal world—and just might in this one if I can manage to finagle the schedule just right.

I’ve never seen vibraphonist Joe Locke perform live, but I’d really like to. He’s at the Players Theater at 7 PM on Friday.

I’m a sucker for the electric guitar. Chalk it up to 1980s heavy metal. Still, Marc Ribot’s playing is always fantastic. Team him up with frequent collaborator and fellow guitarist Mary Halvorson for the “Young Philadelphians”? Yes, please! Halvorson’s an up-and-coming name on the scene and she played the WJF last year with both her own ensemble and as a guest with Ribot’s group and the result was a blistering set that I still remember and want to see again and again. Strong incentive to stick around for an 11:15 PM Friday set at Minetta Lane.

Suga’ host Joyce Jones and I were just talking about how Wallace Roney seemed to be the go-to person older trumpeters looked to for backup very early in his career. Both Miles Davis (whose influence is clear) and Freddie Hubbard tapped Roney’s talents. You can’t ask for a better pedigree than that. But he’s taken those lessons and developed his own unique voice on the trumpet. Hmm, 6:15 Saturday at the Bitter End? I just might make it.

Lionel Loueke’s Trio is 8:30 on Saturday at Subculture. Guitar and African rhythms? It makes me really wish I could be in two places at the same time. But you can catch them! And you should!

Lastly, I’ll point you to the full performance schedule. They also have a handy guide to full group line-ups, which you can check to see if a favorite musician is on the list somewhere. Finally, there’s a map of the various venues, but you will get all that at the check-in site at Judson Memorial Church.

So that’s it. That’s a lot of acts! But they’re all really good. Find who’s to your liking and take some time to see someone you haven’t—you might become a fan of a new group. I’ll likely be wiped out after it’s wrapped up, but it’s good training for the week-long Vision Fest, which has moved to July this year. We’ll have some coverage of that, but before then, I’ll check in with a WJF wrap-up.

Shameless self-promotion time: if you’re not already a listener, check out our show that airs alternate Sunday nights from 11 PM – 1 AM on WBAI Radio and streams online. This week, we’ll feature an interview with Geri Allen on January 11th, which should be a good way to wrap up the weekend.

Are you going? Anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comments.

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

Suga in My Bowl radio presents a new weekly feature, On The Bandstand where we collect upcoming NYC area shows from current and past Suga’ guests.

Program note: Suga’ in My Bowl has changed to a biweekly schedule on WBAI Radio and now alternates Sunday nights with Sports Qualified at our usual 11 PM -1 AM time period. You’ll get the same great show; just every other week! So mark your calendars or just keep up with us via our Facebook page, the blog here, or our main website and we’ll keep track of the schedule for you.

Suga’ in My Bowl is off the air this week. Join us on air next Sunday. To get your fix until then, check out our our audio archives, especially if you missed our recent shows with saxophonists David Murray and Oliver Lake, who are both appearing at the upcoming Winter Jazz Fest, along with other former Suga’ in My Bowl guests. This week’s focus is on the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest. Scroll down the page for details and check out our first look. Tomorrow, we’ll publish a cheat sheet of acts we’re looking forward to seeing. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at some upcoming gigs.

Drummer Bobby Sanabria leads a discussion of the music of World War I era composer James Reese Europe at the Jazz Museum in Harlem as part of their “Jazz for Curious Listeners” series on January 6th. The event is free.

Low Brass specialist on tuba and trombone Joe Daley will be at Terra Blues with Hazmat Modine on January 9th

Pianist Marc Cary returns to the Cell Theatre with his Focus trio on January 10th and 17th.

WJF_200x200The big news coming up is the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest on January 8th through 10th. Details are at their website and you can see our own preview and ongoing festival coverage right here. On Monday, we’ll post a cheat sheet for the festival, but here’s a quick overview right now:

Thursday January 8th

  • Pianist Harold Mabern will appear in the WJF’s Disability Pride benefit concert at the Friends’ meeting House on E 15th Street in Manhattan.
  • Friday January 9th

  • Saxophonist David Murray has a busy evening. Catch him at the Minetta Lane Theater with his Clarinet Summit at 7:30 and with drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and pianist Geri Allen at 8:45.
  • Harpist Brandee Younger takes the stage at the Bitter End on Bleecker Street at 8:45 with her “Afro Harping” Tribute to the late Dorothy Ashby.
  • Drummer Will Calhoun with “Jungle Funk” at Bowery Electric at 9 PM.
  • Saxophonist Oliver Lake and bassist Reggie Workman are at Minetta Lane with TRIO 3 at 10 PM.
  • Saturday January 10th

  • Saxophonist Oliver Lake is at The Bitter End on Bleecker Street with his Organ Quartet at 6:15 PM.
  • Saxophonist Billy Harper is at Minetta Lane Theater with The Cookers at 8:45 PM.
  • Saxophonist David Murray appears at Le Poisson Rouge with his Infinity Quartet at 9 PM.
  • Vocalist Catherine Russell is at the Greenwich House Music School on Barrow St. at 10 PM.
  • Drummer J.T. Lewis is at Subculture on Bleecker Street with Harriet Tubman at 10 PM.
  • Looking ahead, there’s a free memorial and celebration of the life of the late bassist Charlie Haden; at the Town Hall on January 13th with Ruth Cameron-Haden, Pat Metheny, Brandee Younger, and many more.

    Looking further ahead, it’s the last call for reservations to see vocalist Catherine Russell and master drummer Michael Carvin at Mohonk Mountain House’s Jazz on the Mountain from January 16-19th.

    That’s all for now. Suga’ in My Bowl is back on WBAI next week, January 11th. We’ll have another edition of “On the Bandstand” on air and 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.

    bandstand_picPhoto Credit: Hank Williams

    Suga in My Bowl radio presents a new weekly feature, On The Bandstand where we collect upcoming NYC area shows from current and past Suga’ guests.

    Program note: Suga’ in My Bowl has changed to a biweekly schedule on WBAI Radio and now alternates Sunday nights with Sports Qualified at our usual 11 PM -1 AM time period. You’ll get the same great show; just every other week! So mark your calendars or just keep up with us via our Facebook page, the blog here, or our main website and we’ll keep track of the schedule for you.

    This week’s guest is saxophonist David Murray. You can see him live at the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest on January 9th and 10th. Scroll down the page for details and check out our first look on the fest. We have the usual line-up of live music this week, including New Year’s Eve listings, so you can plan festivities ahead.

    Pianist Harold Mabern co-leads a sextet through January 1st at Smoke as part of their Coltrane Festival, including a New Year’s Eve show.

    You can ring in the new year with trombonist Craig Harris at Sista’s Place in Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve.

    Vocalist Dianne Reeves will be at Avery Fisher Hall on New Year’s Eve.

    Vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater will be at Iridium from the 31st to January 2nd.

    Bassist Christian McBride joins Peter Bernstein’s Quartet on stage at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s club on January 2nd to 4th.

    Drummer Bobby Sanabria leads a discussion of the music of World War I era composer James Reese Europe at the Jazz Museum in Harlem as part of their “Jazz for Curious Listeners” series on January 6th. The event is free.

    Low Brass specialist on tuba and trombone Joe Daley will be at Terra Blues with Hazmat Modine on January 9th

    Pianist Marc Cary returns to the Cell Theatre with his Focus trio on January 10th and 17th.

    WJF_200x200The big news coming up is the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest on January 8th through 10th. Details are at their website and you can see our own preview and ongoing festival coverage right here. Pianist Harold Mabern will appear in the WJF’s Disability Pride benefit concert on the 8th. Other Suga’ guests on the lineup so far are: saxophonist Oliver Lake with Trio 3 and his Organ Quartet, drummer Will Calhoun with Jungle Funk, harpist Brandee Younger, vocalist Catherine Russell, saxophonist David Murray with drummer Teri Lyne Carrington and pianist Geri Allen, drummer J.T. Lewis with Harriet Tubman, saxophonist Billy Harper with The Cookers, and possibly more to come. Look for a more in-depth cheat sheet here next week.

    Looking ahead, there’s a free memorial and celebration of the life of the late bassist Charlie Haden; at the Town Hall on January 13th with Ruth Cameron-Haden, Pat Metheny, Brandee Younger, and many more.

    Looking much further ahead, vocalist Catherine Russell and master drummer Michael Carvin will both be appearing at Mohonk Mountain House’s Jazz on the Mountain from January 16-19th, but you need to reserve space now.

    That’s all for now. With our new biweekly schedule, Suga’ in My Bowl is off the airwaves next week, but back on WBAI January 11th. We’ll 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.

    WJF_2015_poster-crop

    Winter is finally settling in to New York City, which means a lot of things. It’s getting dark earlier, we’ve already been hit with one cold snap with more definitely on the way, and snow is inevitable sooner or later. But one of the bright spots in the otherwise dark days of January is the Winter Jazz Fest, which is returning for the 11th year in 2015 from the 8th to the 10th. We profiled Suga’ guests (and a few others) appearing at the fest last year and will do the same as we get closer, but the preliminary line-up has been announced, so it’s worth taking a quick look at what’s going on and a preliminary peek at who’s there, although they’re promising more additions to the line-up and it will probably take even longer to get a full sense of all the side players in the groups.

    Schedule and Tickets

    The schedule kicks off with two different concerts on Thursday, January 8th. The Robert Glasper Trio, Jose James, Derrick Hodge, and Kendrick Scott are the headliners in a celebration of the legendary Blue Note Records label at Le Poisson Rouge. Single event tickets are $25 in advance ($30 at the door) or a $75 pass for admission to the entire festival. Meanwhile, a fundraiser concert for the Disability Pride organization will take place at the Friends Meeting Hall in Manhattan. It features a sizable list of performers and tickets go for $100 or $145 with a 3-day WJF pass. There are a variety of different ticket combos, ranging from $35 for Friday or Saturday night, to $55 for both, and up for packages with the Thursday night events. It’s a reasonable cost considering the vast array of top performers who will be there. Sets generally run from 6 PM until 2 AM (at Zinc Bar) on Friday and Saturday nights, so it’s entirely reasonable to catch 3-4 full sets of music per night if one wants to, even with overlaps.

    Locations

    Winter_Jazzfest_15_map

    The WJF continues around several locations in Greenwich Village and the East Village, with Judson Memorial Church again serving as the epicenter (and the festival’s box office and check-in site) and one of the larger venues. Zinc Bar and Le Poisson Rouge return as venues, joined by the Greenwich House Music School, Minetta Lane Theater, Players Theater, Bitter End, Carroll Place, Subculture, and Bowery Electric. Subculture and Bowery Electric are further away from most of the venues, which are clustered around Washington Square Park. Keep this in mind as you scan the schedule: you may be walking fast to shuttle between venues if one place you want to hit is on the east side.

    The festival has become almost a victim of its own success over the years: two years ago it sold out and there have been regular problems with space in the smaller venues on the list. It’s virtually impossible to get into Zinc Bar after the early evening, for example, especially when festival goers combine with the usual Zinc crowd. Securing Minetta Lane and Players Theatre should help immensely in this regard, since both are larger spaces. Still, if one of the acts you want to catch is at one of the smaller spaces on the list, there isn’t much recourse other than to get there very early — and perhaps be prepared to wait. It likely reflects a compromise between supporting some of the smaller venues that program jazz throughout the year in more intimate spaces and the reality that the festival is drawing more people — a good thing — to see the more popular acts. There’s probably not a better fix for the issue.

    Lineup

    We’ll do a follow-up with a “cheat sheet” of picks on our radar, but rather than post their extensive list (WJF claims over 100 acts and counting), I’ll point you toward the artist line-up and the list of personnel, the latter of which gives a fuller sense of who’s behind some of the groups. It’s an impressive list that leans toward the experimental end of the jazz spectrum — indeed, some of the acts will probably push the boundaries of jazz — but with the variety of performers there should be something for a broad spectrum of fans. There’s a pretty thoughtful mix of vocalists and instrumental groups and there’s a diversity of styles. If you have favorites (which is likely if you’ve been following the music scene for a while), then dive in and check for people you want to see. If not, you could do worse than to just sample a few different acts that look interesting and explore. Indeed, that’s advice that goes for anyone since there are quite a few composite groups that pop up for the event and give a chance to see players that don’t always perform together try new things. There are a few ways to get a handle on what you’re likely to hear and who to catch:

  • The Winter Jazz Fest organizers have set up a channel on Apple’s iTunes Radio with music from festival artists.
  • Check the ever-helpful YouTube for performance videos (often live) and sample tracks from an artist or combo.
  • Soundcloud is catching on as a listening platform: do a search for artists there.
  • Next week, we’ll take a look at a few of the artists profiled on the Suga’ in My Bowl show who’ll be there and some others we’re looking forward to seeing. Are you heading to the WJF? What are some of the acts you’re looking forward to seeing? Let us know in the comments.

    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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