• 2015 Winter Jazz Fest: The Hot, The Cold and The Bold

    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.

    Photo by johnrogersnyc.com

    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.

    Photo by johnrogersnyc.com

    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...

    photo by johnrogersnyc.com
    photo by johnrogersnyc.com

    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!

  • 5 Locally Grown Projects At Winter Jazzfest 2015

    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.

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  • WBGO's Best Of Winter Jazz Fest 2015: Listen Now

    December 31, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    WBGO brings you the best of the 2015 New York Winter Jazz Fest. Listen to this year's artists around the clock on WBGO HD2, and read previews and profiles of groups at WBGO.ORG/WJF.  Click here for a full schedule of the festival's more than one hundred concerts.

    Winter Jazz Fest turns Greenwich Village into a jazz mecca every January. Now in its eleventh year, the festival holds two marquee concerts on Jan. 8.

    The first, at 7 p.m. at the Quaker Meeting House, features Ron Carter, Benny Golson, Brad Mehldau, Jimmy Cobb, Harold Mabern, and other top-flight musicians to celebrate 25 years of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    The second, at 8 p.m., features Blue Note Now! at (le) Poisson Rouge with the Robert Glasper Trio, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Kendrick Scott and singer José James. All are rising stars of the iconic jazz label, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014.

    The festival's signature event is a two-day marathon, Jan. 9 and 10, of simultaneous concerts by more than five hundred musicians in hour-long sets at ten clubs around Greenwich Village. Friday highlights include celebrations of the music of David Murray and John Lurie. Saturday's concerts include showcases inspired by hot jazz from the 1920s, hip-hop and electronica, and much, much more. A single ticket offers admission to these concerts, more than a hundred in all.

    WBGO is on the scene and behind the scenes, talking with this year's artists and organizers, to bring you the festival's best. Bookmark WBGO.ORG/WJF for our latest updates, and listen on WBGO HD2 starting Jan. 1. Enjoy the best of WJF 2014 with WBGO!