January 2, 2016. Posted by Brandy Wood.
WBGO is once again partnering with The NYC Winter JazzFest in 2016. In the current issue of WBGO's program guide, Upbeat, there was a partial interview with one of the festival's producers, Brice Rosenbloom. The full interview plus artist interviews and more follow.
Manfred Eichner, founder and owner of ECM Records
Pianist Vijay Iyer talks with Simon Rentner about his latest ECM album and inspirations from Billy Strayhorn and Detroit techno producer DJ Robert Hood.
Guitarist Gilad Hekselman on The Checkout
Dr. Lonnie Smith recorded live at WBGO
The Winter Jazz Festival, which turns 12 this year, runs in various venues around Greenwich Village in Manhattan, January 13-17. WBGO will once again partner with the festival, and Simon Rentner, host of The Checkout (Tuesdays at 6:30PM on 88.3FM WBGO and wbgo.org), sat down with the festival’s creator, Brice Rosenbloom, to discuss this year’s event.
Simon: So how big can this festival really get?
Brice: The audience that comes out every year …and the amount of talent that’s out there tell us that we can continue to see it grow every year. This year will be five days long [with more than] a hundred and twenty groups, over 650 musicians performing [in] 14 different venues across the Village. Last year we were in a beautiful venue, the Minetta Theatre, which we don’t have access to this year. [That] propelled us to start a conversation with the New School, and we’ve been able to secure four different stages at the school this year, in what we hope will become a long standing partnership. On the Friday and Saturday ECM records will be showcasing thirteen different groups of homegrown talent at the Tishman auditorium on 14th street and 5th Avenue. That showcase will feature artists like Vijay Iyer and Avishai Cohen, David Torn, Craig Taborn, Michael Formanek, Chris Potter and many others.
Simon: I hear ECM records founder Manfred Eicher is making a special trip for this series.
Brice: Yes, we understand that as well. We’re thrilled that he’s going to be in the room.
Simon: It’s funny that you have all these venues in Greenwich Village which obviously holds great, storied history in jazz music in the United States where you’re presenting this festival. However, none of your acts are featured in any of these sort of jazz club mainstays in Greenwich Village itself like Smalls jazz club isn’t involved, Fat Cat isn’t involved or the Village Vanguard; all of these Greenwich Village jazz clubs. Was that calculated or it just didn’t work out that way?
Brice: You know it’s somewhat calculated, but not fully. We do include the Zinc Bar, we have included the Zinc Bar almost…every year but for the past seven or eight years of our twelve year history. We choose, though, to offer opportunities to experience the music in non-traditional jazz settings for audience and presenters who are in town for the Arts Presenters Conference. So yes, we will offer a couple jazz clubs, but a lot of the venues feel more like rock clubs or big open theatres; the kind of spaces that a presenter might come in and experience the music in a vibrant setting that might lend, or remind themselves of how they might want to present that artist. So we’re using Le Poisson Rouge as one of our central larger venues, right on Bleecker Street. [Other venues include] the Judson church, which is a historic space right near [the] NYU campus, and …Sub Culture, a little further east of the Village, which is kind of a basement smaller theatre space. So, the goal is to not just be in concert halls and jazz clubs but to offer a varied way to experience the music.
Simon: How would you say the Winter Jazz Festival is most unlike these other major jazz festivals that is now being compared to the Montreal Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, etc.
Brice: One of the unique things that we’re proud of is that we’re presenting so much young talent and new projects. [In] almost everything we present, the goal is that it’s a new project. It’s a project that we feel our colleagues, presenters from around the country, are going to be interested in booking. Partly it’s because we’re excited about the project and partly it’s because we are just proving the point that the future is in the youth and there [is] so much great young talent on the scene right now that we’re thrilled to be able to showcase.
Simon: Take off your promoter cap for a second. What are the acts, the musicians, the shows you are most looking forward to hearing?
Brice: It’s hard to take off the promoter hat because for me it’s one in the same - my passion for these artists and what I’m specifically interested in seeing - but we’ll …just start from the top. Artists; it’s no surprise that I’m always excited to see [Kamasi Washington]. I had a chance to see him three times within the past few months and we’re going to be presenting him at the Webster Hall on January 14th. Washington will be performing again with the same group of L.A. musicians plus special guests that we’ve not yet announced. Vijay Iyer is going to close out the night on the ECM stage with his trio. His record release earlier this year Break Stuff is one of my picks of the year. Chicago drummer McCaya McCraven is performing at the Bitter End as part of the Revive Stage. His record In the Moment is also one of my top picks of the year. [I’m] excited to see him. There’s a vocalist performing the music of Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson, Charanee Wade and her group, signed to Motema records; they are performing at the New School, [I’m] excited to see that group. I actually have not seen that group live I’ve only heard the music.
Simon: Shout out to Mark Ruffin who produced that record.
Brice: Nice. That’s right. Another group that I have not seen live yet, but I’ve heard the record and [I’m] excited to see them when they come over state side from Manchester: Go Go Penguin; newly signed to Blue Note Records. They’re going to be performing at Le Poisson Rouge on the Saturday night January 15 as a part of the Winter Jazz Fest Marathon. So there you have it.
Simon: Go Go Penguin received some great prize in Europe right? What did they win recently?
Brice: They’re nominated for the Mercury Prize.
Simon: Nominated for the Mercury Prize, which is like what-the Grammy of Europe?
Brice: Every year they give the Mercury Prize to the best up and coming UK artists. So they’re nominated, I think, among another eight or nine different groups. It’s special that for them, being nominated as a jazz group, [as] it’s mostly been given to a pop group.
Simon: And if you were to describe Go Go Penguin’s sound, I would say they’re sort of like a cross between EST and the Bad Plus; one of these sort of minimalist rock jazz enterprises.
Brice: Yea, power trio. Exactly. Lots of energy.
Simon: Power trio. Power jazz. Power to the people. The Winter Jazz Festival continues in its 12th year. I thank Brice Rosenbloom for joining us to talk about it. And we’ll see you this year in the winter time in Greenwich Village.
Brice: Thank you Simon.
© 2016 WBGO
January 15, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
With more than a hundred acts at Winter Jazz Fest, there was a lot to absorb. I got together to compare notes over coffee with Patrick Jarenwattananon from NPRMusic, Derrick Lucas from Rochester's Jazz 90.1 and David Adler from JazzTimes. Read on!
TIM: Welcome, folks! How was your Winter Jazz Fest 2015?
PATRICK: Cold. It brought a whole new meaning to the word “Winter.”
DERRICK: Yes, it felt like the Polar Bear Plunge at Coney Island…
TIM: But it was hot inside, no? There was even a showcase of vintage “hot” jazz for the first time. How was that?
DAVID: Festive as hell… people were dancing, even on the slow numbers!
PATRICK: Yea. Apparently the kids like the hot jazz now. The acts I saw – Bria Skonberg, the Ladybugs – were full of spirited energy. They sang well and swung nicely.
TIM: It’s a spirited scene, but is it a New York microculture? Are kids in Ohio dancing in spats and suspenders?
PATRICK: Hard to tell, but it’s popular here – at Bria’s show, a group of dudes a few drinks too deep were talking loudly about how stoked they were - this at a "hot jazz" gig the rest of us were straining to hear.
TIM: Shows were sold out, with spillover crowds – with more of the casually curious, it seemed. Has a “new audience” arrived for jazz?
DAVID: The audience was huge, it seems to me.
DERRICK: WJF unites the city’s four jazz factions: uptown neo-soul lovers, the hard bop clan, retro swingers and downtown avant-gardists, all digging in to the ultimate jazz buffet.
TIM: It was easier to “surf” long lines this year, with more and better venues – 10 in total - where you could actually hear the music: SubCulture, Minetta Lane, Players Theater…
PATRICK: More seats encouraged longer stays and deeper listens. This helped out crowd flow, and the festival gamely tried to update us on the fly about the lines. But I still felt bad for those outside on those ten-degree nights.
PATRICK: I might lodge a complaint about venues that made you buy a drink if you were to sit down (ahem Zinc Bar ahem). But maybe that's the cost of doing business in the West Village.
TIM: Yes, money never sleeps. One club – Carroll Place – delayed its WJF sets by several hours so they could squeeze more cash out of their “paying” customers. And Le Poisson Rouge shooed everyone out by ten to make way for a 90s revival band!
DAVID: I liked the deeper listens, but I also missed the more casual dipping in and out of past years. Though I managed to do some of that, too…
TIM I heard a lot of "reimagining tradition”... tributes to Benny Goodman, Miles, Coltrane, Ornette… is it time for jazz to come up with a better word for "reimagining?"
DAVID: Yes, spell-check doesn't recognize it! Oran Etkin’s take on Benny Goodman surprised me and was great, as was Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker project, “Bird Calls.”
TIM: Bird Calls was the most oblique of these tributes – kind of “contrefact”-ish, in the way Lennie Tristano used to rewrite existing compositions.
DAVID: Yes, it's original music based on fragments of things, “reimagined” through Rudresh’s own angular rhythmic language. There’s that word again! He’s worked that way before, on his album Mother Tongue, for instance.
TIM: It’s also a great band, with twenty-year-old Adam O’Farrill on trumpet.
Any other broader trends you heard?
PATRICK: I'm glad the festival has embraced "fun" music like "hot jazz" that isn't just dance-funk or avant-rock-driven.
TIM: Yes, I heard a lot of bands aiming to create a more fun, less solo-based experience of jazz for the audience... in a variety of ways - dipping into "hot" and gypsy jazz, as well as the seventies, electronica, and hip-hop,…
Some of these efforts were clearly experiments, or works in progress… my overall impression of the festival was “Welcome to the toolshed, watch us build!”
PATRICK: WJF is always about bands working stuff out, right? Jay Rodriguez had to direct and cue his Ornette tribute band, SEVEN, in a way that didn't seem planned. But the strength of his tenor and flute playing, and the solid grooves he was running, and the string section, carried the day.
TIM: Yes, Jay had to redo his arrangements on the fly because of the Carroll Place debacle, but it sounded good in the end! That’s jazz.
What were your most memorable moments this year?
DERRICK: My A-hah! moment was singer Jean Baylor, who performed with her husband Marcus on drums and then with drummer Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life band. Her vocal style is a nice blend of Jill Scott and the late Phyllis Hyman.
DAVID: And Strickland’s rhythm section, with Kyle Miles on bass and Charles Haynes on drums – my Lord!
TIM: I liked Uri Caine with the Dutch madman, drummer Hans Bennink...
TIM: There was a Mexican band called Troker, who impressed me in their impromptu after-set at Ilhan Ersahin’s club Nublu… they got a non-jazz crowd dancing with a high-energy, insanely virtuosic jam band vibe… Is it jazz? Who knows. But it's proof to me a band can still show up in New York out of nowhere and excite audiences who know nothing about them, as long as they’ve got fresh ideas.
PATRICK: I saw lots of music that was like "this is jazz?" That's not an important question of course -- that's just a knee-jerk reaction I have when something ambitious doesn't quite square with me.
What sticks most with me is a set by trumpeter Marquis Hill, best known as the winner of this year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz. Competition.
TIM: Tell me more…
PATRICK: He brought his quintet from Chicago, and their rapport was obvious. They all knew all the music. They had this young vibraphonist (Justin Thomas) who tore it up, a drummer (Makaya McCraven) who was entirely committed, a two-horn rapport with alto saxophonist Christopher McBride that was clearly the work of a lot of work together.
PATRICK: Reminded me of other Chicago trumpeters in recent memory who can swing like the Dickens but have deeper roots and 21st century upbringings too -- guys like Corey Wilkes and Maurice Brown.
TIM: Truly, a great working band can make all the difference! We were happy to have them perform at WBGO while they were in town.
PATRICK: They could swing, man. And among all the elegaic, noisy, dance-y, arty, cute, heavy, and complex stuff I go to WJF for, that was a welcome palette cleanser for sure.
TIM: And at the end of the day, that's why we keep coming back!
© 2015 WBGO
January 8, 2015. Posted by Tim Wilkins.Eddie Henderson performs three times at the 2015 Winter Jazzfest. (Image Credit: Jimmy Katz/Courtesy of the artist)
New York's Winter Jazzfest seems to grow like kudzu: fast and far. This year's installment, the 11th annual, features 500 musicians in styles ranging from gypsy swing to electronic.
The festival's signature event is a two-day marathon, this Friday and Saturday, of overlapping performances at 10 clubs around Greenwich Village. Friday's highlights include celebrations of the music of David Murray and John Lurie. Saturday's concerts include showcases inspired by hot jazz from the 1920s and hip-hop. A single ticket offers admission to any and all of these concerts, more than 100 in all. All of Winter Jazzfest's groups are streaming around the clock on WBGO's HD2 channel.
WJF now features artists from around the world, but its main attraction is still the chance to hear new projects by New York music makers. For this profile, I've chosen five surprising turns by stalwarts of the city's improvised-music scene.Copyright 2015 Newark Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.wbgo.org.Read more
© 2015 WBGO