The Jazzcat

Winter Jazzfest 2018

by on Jan.29, 2018, under Events, Festivals, Jazzcat Hosting, News


In a
cloud of red dust, poof, Winter Jazzfest is gone. I can’t believe that just yesterday that I had so many nights of fantastic music ahead of me to indulge in and in the blink of an eye, it is now be-lovingly referred to in the past tense. But just because life tends to move at the speed of sound, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take that time to relish and revel in the miraculous sound and experience of the extraordinary jazz music. 

Winter Jazzfest is done, and all the cats have taken flight, off to other gigs and receiving ovation from audiences in other places across the globe. It feels like something so beautiful and incredibly significant should have the power to stop time and allow us to embrace the pendulum shift before it begins to start swinging over there!

 

West Coast, Mid-West, East Coast Love. Winter Jazzfest is a culmination of the best in jazz creativity, from all over the planet steeped in a message of love, strength and the power of the people. The power that lies within us as we listen, learn and unite sonically and socially for a cause that many have been fighting for our entire lives; freedom of equality, freedom of expression and the right to be seen and respected as beautiful, multicultural, individually intelligent emoting beings.

Throughout the ages, music has been our avenue and outlet to bite back, fight back and stand up against the stench of widespread injustice. And now more than ever, have those underlying themes have made their way into the systematic conscious mainframe that unites us. So much so, that to not speak on it as an artist is a missed opportunity to advance the cause of universal love through the music.

I arrived in New York two nights after this festival had begun so missed Jose James and an evening with Giles Peterson. Having hosted many Jazz Festivals on the left coast, it was an honor to grace the stage on the right at New York’s Tishman Auditorium at the New School. Introducing performances from not only some of the premiere talent in the game but, opening up the first of two marathon nights of music. Yes, Winter Jazzfest was in several place at once around the city and although impossible to catch everything, with a little planning, some diligence, and a tenacious determination to take on the cold, you were guaranteed to get your jazz on!

Iqua and Adegoke Steve Colson started the evening off and as astounding as they sound on record, their live performance was even more enhanced by the addition of Craig Harris on Trombone, Marlene Rice on violin and Santi Debriano on bass and Reggie Nicholson on drums. Iqua, with her acrobatic upper register melodics and Steve back and forth between piano and saxophone was the proper way to lay the foundation for a night of creativity.

Stefon Harris brought his Blackout band and of course they turn it up with Casey Benjamin out front on saxophone and king of the rhythm Terryon Gully lighting up the drum kit! Stefon, composer, educator, Dean and Artistic Director of the Manhattan School of Music, and creator of “Harmony Cloud” an app to train you ears! Always bringing precision and supreme tone quality to a performance but, also levity! Stefon has truly got to be one of the happiest humans I know and this is always displayed by the irreverent positivity that emanates from each strike of the vibraphone. His verbal message to us is to be careful in these times because Love and Hate amass the same power. So stand strong and let love get us through!

Mark Ribot’s Song’s of Resistance says all of that in the name. An amalgamation of cross cultures blending sounds of folk, jazz, guitar and vocal truth spoken from and for the perspective of the people. A call against the mighty foes of Government and power whose number one interest is not blood red but money green.

Closing the evening at the Tishman but, not the night is the Artist in Residence Nicole Mitchell. The New York Times says, “Ms. Mitchell is probably the most inventive flutist in the past 30 years of jazz” and I would tend to agree. Nicole has been putting in work for decades and creating music out of necessity. Music vibrating on a frequency of truth, emanating from stories of heroes that must be told, battles that need to be fought, and a strong reverence toward making the unity of love and inclusion be the overwhelming source to move and inspire the world out of the darkness. Joined onstage tonight by Jason Moran holding down melody, thought and adventurous vision, Shana Tucker and Erica Hunt on vocalese and spoken word, Brad Jones on Bass, bling booted Shirazette Tinnin on drums and shakin’ it up on plantar percussion dancing in her own sweet way into our hearts Rashida Brumbray!

For the second night of the Winter Jazzfest marathon, we start right back at the Tishman auditorium with to witness an incredible performance by Jazzmeia Horn. After she won the Thelonious Monk vocal jazz competition in 2015, we were fortunate enough to fly Jazzmeia to Los Angeles for a special episode of “Christmas Jazz with LeRoy Downs”

featuring her spectacular vernacular but, tonight was different. She was here, in her own town, with her own band and just had such control of her performance and the audience. They were mesmerized, and Jazzmeia’s combination of youth and wisdom along with a full on array of vocal acrobatics really took fresh perspective excitement to another level. I saw her after the performance and I got the impression of an old soul who has been knocking out performances for decades. More to come for sure!

A quick jaunt down the street to the New School with an audience flowing literally out of the doors listening to the music of Marquis Hill. Chitown always makes good joined by Los Angeles transplant Josh Johnson on alto, the young Joel Ross on vibes, Jeremiah Hunt on bass and Makaya McCraven on drums. A night of soulfully expressive originals shaped with a beauty and melodic wave with all heads bowed, all bodies rockin’, allowing everyone to be locked in to that MH groove.

Now it is really a touch of LA in NYC as we are off from 5th Avenue down to the Bowery Bowl for Cameron Graves, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Ronald Bruner Jr. West Coast getting’ down in the East and although we got the left on lock, individually the music could not be more different. Cameron has always had a bit of metal running through his veins as he rocks originals from his latest on the Mack Avenue jazz label, Planetary Prince! Just as excited as we are to see Miguel, he is happy and honored to be presenting his original music for the first time outside of Los Angeles. Big in so many ways for NYC to get a real taste of the enormous diverse compositions of one of our genius composer-arrangers and viola masters. In this generation, whether it’s classical, hi-hop, soul/ R&B or jazz, Miguel’s sound and composition style is a staple in the fabric of the sound. Ronald Bruner Jr. combines his dynamic out front drums style with vocals to take the music in his own direction. Never missing a beat and switching up the grooves at a moment’s notice, Brother Bruner’s got the groove and the audience in the pocket!

The late night hit at Sub Culture featured a former college of Ornette Colman Jamaaladeen Tacuma’s Brotherzone along with Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets. Spoken word artist Wadud Ahmad could not say enough about how The Last Poets changed, molded and guided his life. They performed spoken word pieces solo and together while Jamaaladeen layed down the funkiest non-stop bassline grooves. He and Ornette must have had many conversations on fashion back in the day!It is now Sunday however, with a constant source of music happening every night, all you know is that whatever day it is, this is New York City and the music never seems to end. As a visitor I have the feeling that you can see and hear jazz whenever the wind blows. Tonight it is blowing at Le Poison Rouge with Ravi Coltrane’s tribute to his beautiful mother Alice with Universal Consciousness!

There is no better person on the planet to represent and recreate a vibrations filled with the color of love.
The electric piano and Wurlitzer organ are a mesmerizing experience in this setting. The harp has all the heavenly resonance and spirit of a woman and man who express life’s lessons through peace and love. A love that leaves a sonic legacy carried on through their children. The spirit of Alice within us has re-emerged as the sound rises up and rains down to coat our souls. Universal Consciousness indeed. From the album “Eternity”, they perform “Los Caballos” which has never been performed live and music from an album recorded in the 70’s called, “Transformation”.


It is a true tragedy when we lose a life. A soul that no longer radiates on this frequency. When that soul is a musician, music, thought, color, imagination and expression stops beaming outward and onward and like a prism, we refract back on recreated sound waves that once were. Still able to get a sense of feeling and meaning. We are so lucky to have recordings that represent the brilliance that once was. Geri Allen was certainly one of our shinning stars. So many many many are present and all to refract those colors and that extremely creative beautiful spirit. An angel that left us all to soon. Mount Allen, Geri’s brother speaks about family, friends and lots of blood.

And while the music will last forever, we will miss dancing on this plane with that soul whose vibration embraced us, lifted us up, took us to distant places, and delivered us time and time again to a place of serenity and happiness that lies within us. New York has the Tishman filled to the rim and Love is ever present. Special cannot describe the amount of inspired talent and love that grace this stage tonight. Each member of this collective ensemble has been influenced by some part of Geri’s spirit. Either her compositions, playing, her intellect or perhaps the way the feeling exudes from her tone. Whatever the case, musician and audience a like, we are all here to bond our energy and connect with the spirit on the other side.
Angela Davis and S. Epatha Merkerson co-host the evening providing some words about Geri and a few introductions between sets.
The concert opens with a video of Geri on a Fazoli. Craig Taborn is playing along with the images. On the side towards the back of the stage are the WJF All-stars. Kind of like the NBA All-stars except they sub after each play, and the game strategy here is not to win, but to reflect. One by one, variations of incredible performers grace the stage to emote and allow us to share in it. Kris Davis with Terri Lynn Carington, Tia Fuller, Linda May Han Oh; Vijay Iyer with Kassa Overall, Linda, Tia and Mino Cinelu; Jeff “Tain’ Watts, James Genus, Paul Bollenbeck; Lizz Wright, Kenny Davis, Ingrid Jensen, Terri Lynn, Helen Sung; Nicolas Payton, Esperanza Spaulding, Terri Lynn; Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, James Genus,Tain; Jack Dejohnette and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Maruice Chestnut with Kenny and Kassa for Timeline Liveare you starting to get the picture? And then, Wallace Roney Jr., son, family, a direct descendant whose talents as a trumpet player are on the rise. A grand finale ending with Dee Dee, Esperanza and Liz holding down the vocal melody on a Marvin groove and if you don’t know what’s going on by now, you better ask a whole lot of somebodies!

Brooklyn saxophonist Ras Moshe leads a panel discussion at Le Poison Rouge that features our artist in residence, Nicole Mitchell, legendary composer, activist for social justice and saxophonist extraordinaire Archie Shepp, Samora Pinderhughes, and Adegoke Steve Colson. These are extremely conscious musicians who stand up against all odds so that you can wake up and walk amongst the living. No blue pill fantasies my friend, real life through real music. And as you see, several generations of artists who lay down life through their compositions to reach and teach humanity knowing you will get on board and hoping those across the line will see and feel the error in their ways. Everyone on the panel takes a moment to give proper respect to Archie Shepp for being the bold one to lead the way. And of course credit to Bob Thiele for allowing Shepp to record controversial music. Shepp was instrumental in the Loft Jazz scene back in the day where in an apartment where he lived, they had parties to raise $$ for the political social music. Shepp makes several mentions of Rubin Stacy and suggest we look up his picture. It depicts a festive lynching with all white men, women and children enjoying themselves in the presence of a black man who hangs there by a tree lynched and beaten for their enjoyment.

Nicole says Music can be transformational. Celebrating resilience and resistance, creating a space for freedom, creates a space for possibility in the music! Nicole and Adeogoke are prominent members of the AACM (The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) who make a nurturing space for the musicians to experiment with the sound that lurks within. She worked for many years for with Haki Madhubuti and the Free World Press in Chicago “Don’t Cry, Scream”. She did it for free because she believed in his mission, a service to the community, a poet and member of the Black Arts Movement of the 60’s. He himself was influenced by Gwendolyn Brooks, author, poet, Pulitzer Prize winner and the woman who this evenings music is dedicated to.

Samora Pinderhughes is actively involved in interdisciplinary poetry with his Transformation Suite put out through his own efforts in order to keep the sound pure and free from any label influence or interference. He does not want to finish his performances and let the audience leave without activating their feelings and giving them them things to do to be active and proactive. Presenting ideas in the music for change is hearing, feeling and being responsible for what is happening in the world.

Tyshawn Sorey, playing with sunglasses on a dark stage diminishing sight opens up vision into a mystic world of REM sound possibilities; where ideas are changing at lightning speed in a complex sound vortex. Molecules evaporate and active listening opens a world that emerges where dreams, concepts, thoughts, algorhythms and all mathematical equations make sense. As perplexed as many may be, the illuminating force pulls them inside themselves discovering parallel worlds of love and understanding. No more in a series questions, healing and togetherness exist. Once consciousness returns, these lessons will emerge and humanity will once again begin to realize the real reason for existence and bbb towards the truth, leaving behind, greed, selfishness, and finding a new space in the Place. Earthlings, the message is communication, community and love.

Mandorla Emerging WorldsA clash of pregnant thoughts and ideas born into imaginary worlds. What if we hear and took the voices of all the people, let them be heard and the harma-humanized love and compassion for one another? The vibration would be a culmination of all people, all colors, all sounds. The East, The Mid-West and sonics in all directions coming together. The concept has been addressed but, as advanced as we are human tragedy still persists. The bull kicks its forelegs ready to charge it’s target, injustice. It is time to “Make a change”! Contemplation implications spark the imagination and creativity births more possibilities.


LISTEN!! The sound is calling, the birds are singing and commitment is life. Another fresh clean start is brought in with the eyes to a mind that holds no judgement. What are the odds.
Nicole’s ensemble bathes us, caresses us, feeds us from its sonic bosom and points us toward the vitamin D! 

This is the performance to close the Festival. Eight days of non-stop creativity. Nicole in her final performance with Fay Victor, Arun Ortiz and Tomeka Reid at Le Poison Rouge with the theme, “No One Can Stop Us”

Wadada with Dearhoof- another dimension in the idiom of cross cultural, cross genre, freedom touching on and pushing forward pristine notions of the sound and it works! Smashing, not clashing and space allows for voices to dance and express themselves in a manner that may be new for some, but allows for growth; a larger ear makes for and expanding audience! With mantra rhythms the question is, what will you do with your space? It is an opportunity to take the music to new plateaus! Changing sound is mind expanding! Riffing on mastery, Wadada embellishes on top, through, and in the middle of groove while Deerhoof rocks it out! And We OUT!

 

 


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