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.

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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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LeRoy Downs hosts Winter Jazzfest at The New School in New York City!!!!!

by on Jan.09, 2018, under Events, Festivals, Jazzcat Hosting, News

Winter Jazzfest in New York City pops off Wednesday January 10th through January 17th in NYC and you don’t want to miss!!

Indeed it is a marothon of music with JAZZ as the focal point and some of the worlds most incredibly creative minds working their magic through the music! It’s a time to listen, learn, reflect, be grateful, share, come together and stand up for your brothers and lock arms against the mighty foes! Come on out New York and let’s inhale this Music Together!!!

Winter Jazzfest Artists

Click Map above for Specific Winter Jazzfest details!!



6:00pm   Doors Open (to Auditorium)
7:00pm   Adegoke Steve Colson and Iqua Colson / Music of Protest & Love – Dedicated to Muhal
8:20pm   Stefon Harris and Blackout with Casey Benjamin
9:40pm   Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance
11:00pm   Nicole Mitchell Art and Anthem For Gwendolyn Brooks with Jason Moran

Your host LeRoy Downs – Click the Waldo pic to find The Jazzcat in New York City!!!




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2018 New York City Winter JazzFest!! Jan 10-17, 2018

by on Jan.07, 2018, under Events, Festivals, News





Celebrating The 14th Annual Season
January 10-17, 2018,
Presenting The Full Spectrum of Jazz


NYC Winter Jazzfest Continues Focus on Social Justice,
Calling on Artists to Submit Projects Pertaining To 





Opening Night Wednesday January 10

Iconic DJ GILLES PETERSON To Host British Jazz Showcase,
Sponsored By PRS Foundation & BBC, 

Featuring Nubya Garcia, Oscar Jerome, Yazz Ahmed
+ The Comet is Coming

Thursday January 11
Jose James Plays Bill Withers,

Knower & My Brightest Diamond + More TBA


Friday January 12–Saturday January 13

Winter Jazziest Marathon – Festival Centerpiece Featuring Hundreds of Acts on Numerous Stages, All Over Downtown Manhattan


Sunday January 14, 2018

Ravi Coltrane Presents Universal Consciousness: Melodic Meditations of Alice Coltrane

Monday January 15, 2018

A Tribute To Geri Allen,

Music Direction by Terri Lyne Carrington

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• Angela Davis

• Esperanza Spalding
• Craig Taborn
• Dee Dee Bridgewater
• Dianne Reeves
• Farah Jasmine Griffin
• Ingrid Jensen
• Jack DeJohnette
• Jaimeo Brown
• Jeff Tain Watts
• Kassa Overall
• Kris Davis
• Linda May Han Oh
• Maurice Chestnut
• Mino Cinelu
• Ravi Coltrane
• S. Epatha Merkeson
• Terri Lyne Carrington
• Tia Fuller
• Vijay Iyer
+ more


Tuesday January 16

Artist-in-Residence Nicole Mitchell’s Afrofuturist
Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds;

Opener Tyshawn Sorey Performing Solo Percussion Set

Wednesday January 17

Acclaimed Indie Rockers DEERHOOF
Meet Trumpeter/Composer WADADA LEO SMITH,

For Unprecedented Collaboration

We Resist! Jazz and Justice Educational Series to be Launched

NYC Winter Jazzfest & The Town Hall Present


with Opener Camila Meza & The Nectar Orchestra

Revive Music & New York Hot Jazz Festival Stages Return



In 2017, Winter JazzFest artists addressed various themes of social justice in their music.  Now in its 14th annual season, Winter Jazzfest 2018 will span January 10-17, 2018, presenting cutting-edge programming.

Following the 2017 incarnation of the festival, inspired by the public’s response to our social justice focus, Winter Jazzfest founder and producer Brice Rosenbloom decided to continue presenting concerts focusing on matters of social justice with a concert series entitled, WE RESIST!  So far artists addressing social justice issues in their music have included Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence, Harriet Tubman, James Brandon Lewis, Samora Pinderhughes’ Transformations Suite, Shabaka and the Ancestors, La Frae Sci, Marc Ribot, M.A.K.U. Soundsystem and more. Each performance raises money for a charity of the musicians’ choice. This series will continue throughout the end of 2017 and beyond.

Fittingly, the 2018 Winter Jazz Fest will focus on five main themes pertaining to social justice (mass incarceration, sexual and gender equality, racial justice, immigration rights and environmental responsibility), in direct protest to the actions and legislative agenda of the current White House and Congress.  “We encourage musicians to submit projects for performance based on these themes for our 2018 festival,” says Rosenbloom.


Additionally this year, Winter Jazzfest is pleased to announce that our Artist-in-Residence is flutist, composer, bandleader and educator Nicole Mitchell. Her music celebrates African American culture while reaching across genres and integrating new ideas from gospel, experimentalism, pop and African percussion. In 2017, she relased a broadly acclaimed albumMandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE Records), which landed her on the cover of Wire Magazine. She is currently Professor of Music in Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology, (ICIT) at the University of California, Irvine. She will present Mandorla Awakening with her long-running Black Earth EnsembleMaroon Cloud, and two other ensembles.


For the first time, Winter Jazzfest will feature a UK jazz stage presented by PRS Foundation and BBC Music Introducing. Since 2015, BBC Music Introducing and PRS Foundation have been working together to support and create a platform for the UK’s most talented artists to showcase at overseas music industry events.

PRS Foundation and BBC Music Introducing have assembled a stellar lineup featuring emerging artists: tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia, vocalist, guitarist and composer Oscar Jerome and trumpeter/composer Yazz Ahmed.  Hosting the stage will be famed BBC DJ and Brownswood Records label founder Gilles Peterson.


Additionally, headliners The Comet Is Coming, a London-based band who incorporate elements of jazz, electronica, funk and psychedelic rock will close the showcase. The bandmembers go by pseudonyms “King Shabaka,” “Danalogue the Conquerer,” and “Betamax Killer,” who are saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, synth player Dan Leavers and drummer Max Hallett, respectively.


Night two features a triple-bill of neo-soul, funk, and art rock courtesy crooner Jose James singing the music of Bill WithersKnower, a project featuring hyper-precision drummer and showman Louis Cole andShara Worden as My Brightest Diamond.

The signature Winter Jazzfest Marathon is scheduled for Friday January 12th – Saturday January 13th. This two-night event straddles venues on the North and South ends of Greenwich Village, taking over numerous stages South, East and West of Washington Square Park.  Full lineup to be announced shortly.


As in past years, stages curated by New York concert impresarios Meghan Stabile of Revive Music GroupMichael Katsobashvili of the New York Hot Jazz Festival, while Adam Schatz adds his curatorial touch to several stages.


Following the marathon, on Sunday January 14th at (le) poisson rouge, the festival will honor Alice Coltrane in a program curated by her son Ravi Coltrane called Universal Consciousness: Melodic Meditations of Alice Coltrane.


On Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Monday January 15, the festival will honor the memory of the late pianist-composer-educator and innovator,Geri Allen, who passed in June 2017, weeks after celebrating her 60th birthday. Allen’s close collaborator and friend, Terri Lyne Carrington organized musicians in tribute to this saddening loss for the community. “The jazz community will never be the same with the loss of one of our geniuses, Geri Allen. Her virtuosity and musicality are unparalleled,” said Carrington upon learning of her passing. “I will miss my sister and friend, but I am thankful for all of the music she made and all of the incredible experiences we had together for over 35 years. She is a true original — one of a kind — never to be forgotten. My heart mourns, but my spirit is filled with the gift of having known and learned from Geri Allen.”


Thus far, confirmed participants include Angela Davis, S. Epatha Merkerson, Esperanza Spalding, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Jack DeJohnette, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Mino Cinelu, Linda May Han Oh, Jaimeo Brown, Ingrid Jensen, Tia Fuller, Kris Davis, Kassa Overall, and Maurice Chestnut.  Additional artists will be announced shortly. All proceeds from Monday’s concert will go to the Geri Allen Estate.


On Tuesday January 16, 2018 Winter Jazzfest Artist-in-Residence Nicole Mitchell, presents Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds, using a science fiction narrative she created to pose the question: “What would a truly egalitarian world look like, with advanced technology existing in harmony with nature?” Opening the night will be 2017 MacArthur Fellow, Dr. Tyshawn Sorey presenting a solo percussion and synthesizer set, in his own idiosyncratic display of sonic Zen koans, Dadaist gestures, and masterful displays of intensity and restraint that will surely captivate Winter Jazzfest audiences.


Finally on Wednesday January 17, Bay Area-based art rockers Deerhoofwill team up with the legendary AACM trumpeter, composer and 2015 Pulitzer prize finalist Wadada Leo Smith for a sure-to-be-unforgettable night of improvisation, exploration and song.


Pianist Geri Allen: Winter Jazzfest will present a tribute show
to Allen as a stand-alone event.



“”Winter Jazzfest…is now the city’s most renowned jazz festival; it includes artists from all over jazz’s spiritual spectrum, and has little time for conservatism.” – The New York Times


NYC Winter Jazzfest is a destination for avid jazz fans, industry professionals, and new listeners to come together and experience the exciting and vibrant contemporary jazz scene. Since its inaugural year in 2005, the festival has grown organically, with more artists performing and a continually increasing audience—proving the true vitality and urgency of this music. Winter Jazzfest’s programming is inclusive of a broad spectrum of musical styles under the banner of jazz. Inherent to the tradition of jazz as protest music, Winter Jazzfest strives to support and highlight artists who create music with relevant messages of social justice and positive change.


Praised by New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR and others, the festival year-on-year continues to grow at a rapid pace, from its original one-day single-location program, to a 2017 master plan that put over 150 groups comprising over 700 artists on 14 stages over five nights, in Downtown Manhattan. In 2015, the festival was voted “#1 Jazz Festival in North America” by JazzTimes Magazine, and has become a pivotal destination for arts leaders and cultural cognoscenti who visit the city early in the year.


The marathon that takes place during the festival’s Friday and Saturday nights has, in particular, become recognized as a crucial, unique New York nightlife offering, giving audiences full access to all participating venues from early evening, deep into the wee hours of the morning. Winter Jazzfest is an unparalleled experience for all consumers of jazz, experimental sound and global creative impulses – from hardcore fans to novices. In 2017, that meant welcoming over 9000 audience members. In 2018, the festival is expected to grow to an estimated 10,000 audience members in attendance.


NYC Winter Jazzfest was conceived as an event to showcase the latest and most cutting edge of jazz acts during the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference. Founded by New York concert impresario Brice Rosenbloom, the festival has become the definitive jazz event of the Winter season, offering a “state of the union” for jazz and its many stylistic camps from hot jazz to Latin jazz to avant-garde to straight-ahead, post-bop, jazz-funk, fusion, hypermodern through-composed music and more. Hardcore fans, industry members, critics and novice listeners alike get a chance to sample virtually every flavor the jazz world has to offer. Attendees regularly travel from other states and countries to attend the festival. It’s truly a destination event. Many in the industry see it as jazz’s answer to SXSW.


About PRS Foundation & BBC Music Introducing


PRS Foundation is the UK’s leading funder of new music and talent development. Since 2000, PRS Foundation has given more than £26.5 million to over 5,750 new music initiatives by awarding grants and leading partnership programmes that support music sector development. Widely respected as an adventurous and proactive funding body, PRS Foundation supports an exceptional range of new music activity – from composer residencies and commissions to festivals and showcases in the UK and overseas.


With over 460,000 tracks uploaded to the BBC Music Introducing website and 170,000 artists registered since its launch in 2007, BBC Music Introducing supports unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar music, propelling emerging artists onto the national stage through BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, 6 Music, Radio 3, Asian Network and World Service. BBC Music Introducing also provides up-and-coming artists with broadcast opportunities on television and online as well as the chance to perform at major festivals and showcases. Big name artists including Florence and The Machine, The 1975, Jake Bugg, James Bay and many others all received BBC Music Introducing support at the start of their careers.

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Wadada Leo Smith Contextualizing America’s National Parks for Create Festival West

by on Dec.15, 2017, under Festivals, Interviews, News

Click Album Cover above to listen to Wadada Leo Smith

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The Jazzcat hosts The CREATE Festival West TONIGHT!! Presented by Legendary Composer and Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith December 15 & 16, 2017  at The Lab in San Francisco

by on Dec.11, 2017, under Events, Festivals, News

© Michael Jackson
Legendary composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith 
presents the CREATE Festival West, December 15 & 16, 2017 
at The Lab in San FranciscoThe festival, which debuted in New Haven in April 2017, goes west to showcase Smith’s visionary compositions   “A trumpeter and composer of penetrating insight.”– Nate Chinen, The New York Times

Iconic composer and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith presents the CREATE Festival West, a two-day celebration and exploration of his inventive and unclassifiable music that will feature classic works alongside world premiere performances. Taking place Friday, December 15 and Saturday, December 16, 2017 

at The Lab, 2948 16th Street, San Francisco, CA, the festival will include performances by seven separate ensembles over two evenings. In addition, Smith will host a workshop, open only to musicians, on his Ankhrasmation Symbolic Language Scores.  A full schedule of events is below. Concerts on Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; workshop on Saturday from 1-3 pm. Tickets are $35 per concert; $60 for both concerts.  Workshop is $50. For information, please go to

The festival debuted in April 2017 in New Haven, CT where it will continue each year. “This idea had been in a dream state for many, many years,” Smith says. That long-cherished dream is being realized with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which awarded Smith the Doris Duke Artist Award in 2016.

CREATE offers a thrilling, rare opportunity to delve deeply into the full scope of Smith’s sui generis compositional voice and approach, which – in their category-defying range and breadth – can only be classified using Smith’s preferred term, “Creative Music.”

The weekend opens with the premiere of South Central L.A by guitarist Lamar Smith (Wadada’s 22-year-old grandson) leading a trio featuring Hardedge and Pheeroan akLaff.  Friday’s program continues with Wadada Leo Smith’s Silence featuring Smith with David Leikam on Moog synthesizer and Davis on piano; and RedKoral Quartet, a string quartet specially assembled to perform Smith’s music, comprising longtime collaborators Shalini Vijayan and Mona Tian (violins), Andrew McIntosh (viola) and Ashley Walters (cello), joined by Smith and Hardedge.

Both evenings will culminate with a performance of music from “America’s National Parks,” a six-movement suite inspired by the scenic splendor, historic legacy, and political controversies of the country’s public landscapes, performed by Smith’s newly-expanded Golden Quintet: Smith, pianist Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg, drummer akLaff, and cellist Walters along with video artist Jesse Gilbert. Cuneiform’s 2016 2-CD recording of the work was widely acclaimed, taking its place at or near the top of most annual lists of the year’s best releases. JazzTimes wrote that the album “unites political engagement with a soul-deep connection to nature… rich with ineffable majesty, [the suite] fully engages with tensions at the heart of the American experience.” DownBeatnamed America’s National Parks as the Jazz Album of the Year in its 65thAnnual Critics Poll.

Saturday’s line-up includes a performance by the Bay Area’s Rova, a saxophone quartet featuring Larry Ochs, Bruce Ackley, Jon Raskin and Steve Adams.  Also on the program is Earth featuring Smith, pianist Motoko Honda, haegeum player Soo Yeon Lyuh, and percussionist William Winant; and Pacifica featuring Smith, guitarist Henry Kaiser and bassist Lindberg.

Several of the works will be supplemented by images provided by video artist Gilbert, who Smith says adds integral visual context to the aural elements. “The music and imagery don’t move in separate streams,” he says. “They’re actually intimately connected and responsible for each other, allowing us to create a narrative that transcends space and time. It’s twofold: there’s a technical and musical connection, and then there’s a psychological and historical connection that helps to provide for comprehension of the work.”

In order to further that comprehension, Smith (aided again by Gilbert’s images) will offer an afternoon workshop for musicians on his Ankhrasmation Symbolic Language Scores.

In the end, Smith hopes that audiences who attend the festival will come away “with a deeper understanding of how I make my art. I expect that they’ll be more informed about what my music is and therefore they can create a deeper level of appreciation for what I do. Ultimately I wish to create a dialogue about issues of liberty, democracy, art and the connection between human beings.”

About Wadada Leo Smith

Trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and improviser Wadada Leo Smithis one of the most boldly original and influential artists of his time. Transcending the bounds of genre or idiom, he distinctly defines his music, tirelessly inventive in both sound and approach, as “Creative Music.”

For the last five decades, Smith has been a member of the legendary AACM collective, pivotal in its wide-open perspectives on music and art in general. He has carried those all-embracing concepts into his own work, expanding upon them in myriad ways.

Throughout his career, Smith has been recognized for his groundbreaking work.  A finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Music, he received the 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and earned an honorary doctorate from CalArts, where he was also celebrated as Faculty Emeritus. In addition, he received the Hammer Museum’s 2016 Mohn Award for Career Achievement “honoring brilliance and resilience.”

In 2017 Smith topped three categories in DownBeat Magazine’s 65th Annual Critics Poll: Best Jazz Artist, Trumpeter of the Year and Jazz Album of the Year, and was featured as the subject of a cover story in August 2017. The Jazz Journalists Association also honored Smith as their 2017 Musician of the Year as well as 2017 Duo of the Year for his work with Vijay Iyer. The JJA named him their 2016 Trumpeter of the Year, 2015 Composer of the Year, and 2013 Musician of the Year, and he earned top billing in two categories in the JazzTimes 2016 Critics Poll: Artist of the Year and Composer of the Year.

In October 2015 The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago presented the first comprehensive exhibition of Smith’s Ankhrasmation scores, which use non-standard visual directions, making them works of art in themselves as well as igniting creative sparks in the musicians who perform them. In 2016, these scores were also featured in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and Kadist in San Francisco.

Born December 18, 1941 in Leland, Mississippi, Smith’s early musical life began at age thirteen when he became involved with the Delta blues and jazz traditions performing with his stepfather, bluesman Alex Wallace. He received his formal musical education from the U.S. Military band program (1963), the Sherwood School of Music (1967-69), and Wesleyan University (1975-76).

Smith has released more than 50 albums as a leader on labels including ECM, Moers, Black Saint, Tzadik, Pi Recordings, TUM, Leo and Cuneiform. His diverse discography reveals a recorded history centered around important issues that have impacted his world, exploring the social, natural and political environment of his times with passion and fierce intelligence. His 2016 recording, America’s National Parks earned a place on numerous best of the year lists including the New York Times, NPR Music and many others. Smith’s landmark 2012 civil rights opus Ten Freedom Summers was called “A staggering achievement [that] merits comparison to Coltrane’s A Love Supremein sobriety and reach.”

Wadada Leo Smith

CREATE Festival West 2017

Hosted by The Jazzcat LeRoy Downs

December 15 & 16
The Lab, 2948 16th St., San Francisco

Friday, December 15: 8:00 p.m.

Lamar Smith / Hardedge / Pheeroan akLaff: 
New Piece / South Central L.A.
Lamar Smith: guitar
Hardedge: soundesign
Pheeroan akLaff: drums




Wadada Leo Smith’s Silence: 
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet
David Leikam: Moog synthesizer 
Anthony Davis: piano



RedKoral Quartet: 
Pacifica, String Quartet No. 12B   
RedKoral Quartet:
Shalini Vijayan: violin
Mona Tian: violin
Andrew McIntosh: viola
Ashley Walters: cello
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet
Hardedge: soundesign


Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quintet:
America’s National Parks   
(New Orleans The National Culture Park USA 1718; 
Eileen Jackson Southern, 1920-2002 A Literary National Park; Yellowstone The First National Park and the Spirit of America – The Mountains, Super-Volcano Caldera and Its Ecosystem 1872)

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet
Anthony Davis: piano
Ashley Walters: cello
John Lindberg: bass
Pheeroan akLaff: drums
Jesse Gilbert – video artist

Saturday, December 16: 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Workshop for Musicians: Ankhrasmation Symbolic Language Scores

8:00 p.m.

Wadada Leo Smith’s Earth: 
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet
Motoko Honda: piano
Soo Yeon Lyuh: haegeum 
William Winant: percussion


Saxophone Quartet No. 1 
Ma’d-Din, in memory of Sufi Master, Cerno Bokar Saalif Taal
Bruce Ackley: soprano & tenor saxophones
Larry Ochs: tenor & sopranino saxophones
Jon Raskin: baritone, alto & sopranino saxophones
Steve Adams: alto & sopranino saxophones

Wadada Leo Smith’s Pacifica:
Koral Reef
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet
Henry Kaiser: guitar
John Lindberg: bass


Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quintet: 
America’s National Parks 
(The Mississippi River Dark and Deep Dreams Flow the River – a National Memorial Park c. 5000 BC; Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks The Giant Forest, Great Canyon, Cliffs, Peaks, Waterfalls and Cave Systems 1890; Yosemite The Glaciers, the Falls, the Wells and the Valley of Goodwill 1890)

Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet
Anthony Davis: piano
Ashley Walters: cello
John Lindberg: bass
Pheeroan akLaff: drums
Jesse Gilbert – video artist

CREATE Festival is made possible with generous support from the Doris Duke Foundation in partnership with Creative Capital. Smith received a Doris Duke Artist Award in 2016.

© Michael Jackson


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Angel City Jazz Festival: Celebrating the Monk Centennial Oct 1st – 15th

by on Oct.13, 2017, under Festivals, Jazzcat Hosting, News

10 Years for Angel City Jazz Festival, a BUCK for Monk, what could be better!

The Onlyous 100 Years

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The Angel City Jazz Festival presenting the BEST in open mind Jazz experiences! Yes, it has been a DECADE of outstanding music presented by Angel City Arts and the only answer to the equation of Angel City + Superb Music = YES! This is one of the premier jazz festivals here in Los Angles and if you have been, you know this to be true. If you have not been, well you have your opportunity and we greet you with open arms!

The Angel City Jazz Festival takes place over several weeks at a variety of venues here in Los Angeles. You have so many options to check out the most outstanding music!




Come on out and enjoy all of this SUPER Fantastic Music! 2 weeks of Dynamic Sound!
To kick things off  “The Jazzcat” LeRoy Downs will be hosting at the John Ansen Ford Theater on October 1st with  The Monk Centennial Celebration featuring  the phenomenal Dee Dee Bridgewater, Brian Lynch, Conrad Herwig, Manuel Valera, Reuben Rodriguez, Richie Flores and Robby Ameen with Monk’s Afro Cuban Dream!




Followed by the great composer, arranger, pianist and leader of the Monkestra, John Beasley who will be cutting’ it up with DJ Logic, Mark De Clive Lowe, Dentoni Parks and Steve Lehman sampling along with John’s arrangements!


And at LACMA: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on  Friday October 6th with the Jeff Parker Quartet and Angel City Young Artists Competition Winners !

Come and get this MUSIC!

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LeRoy Downs hosts the 60th Anniversary of the Monterey Jazz Festival Sept 15 – 17th!

by on Sep.01, 2017, under Events, Festivals, Jazzcat Hosting, News

60th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival

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This can be the best experience of your life! Celebrating 60 years of the Monterey Jazz Festival! An impeccable line-up to commemorate one of the worlds Greatest Jazz Festivals! The Place to be here in the West where it all comes together like “Effortless Mastery”. Several stages of the world’s masterful jazz musicians all together in one location, the stunning Monterey Peninsula where the beauty of location meets the brilliance of 60 years of jazz! From those you know to those you will come to know, expand your mind and experience a magical weekend of sound! By an means necessary, this is your life so live it. Moments in life you will always remember!

Come by Dizzy’s Den,  let’s hang out and do the music right!!!!


LD on Stage in Monterey

It has been such a pleasure to be your host for the last 15 years at Monterey so, let’s do it again and continue for a lifetime!!!!


 Clip from years past stream with Lou Donaldson

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See you here!!!!!

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The Ojai Music Festival with Music Director Vijay Iyer

by on Jul.01, 2017, under Events, Festivals, News

For many decades, the Ojai Music festival has been presenting music to a well seasoned community of listeners. One of the most vital elements of experiencing sound is not so much hearing but, listening is key. So many take music and artists for granted and fill venues, stadiums and amphitheaters with an energy that says, “I want to hear THIS”. From my short few days with the Ojai Music Experience, I witnessed such exuberant openness. Ready to hear and experience a world of work, familiar or unfamiliar to the ear did not matter. Openness, the ability to seek, discover new sounds, tones, cultures and be ready to let these vibrations sink into your being and embrace them is a truly respectful the art.

I’m sure each artist who performed has felt this overwhelming generous canvas on which to perform and in actuality, that generosity created a more richer, rewarding experience for the artist and the audience, an energy of one! Vijay Iyer has just been extraordinary in amassing this global community of culturally diverse, like minded creatives who not only share and perform their compositions but, enrich lives allowing people to hear instruments, music and expand consciousness. When hear you something different, you learn something new about life and you experience a new awakening inside yourself as well. As adults, it’s almost impossible to experience that childlike wonder once again. This festival, with these artists in particular, laid the pathway for new journeys and old dreams!

I missed the first day of performance which included opening afternoon talks with Vijay, Wadada Leo Smith and Steve Schick. Hearing from the artist is so instrumental in learning and understanding their being, their path, their personality, and the secret that makes them thrive. All of this blossoms inside the music and you begin to travel along the lines of their story while being spectator to a soundtrack that provides new prospectives to yours! I also missed the sound of my dear friend Wadada who gave his last breath to dehydration while on stage.


Ojai Music Festival took great care of him, got him checked out and made sure he rested well the next day. You have to take notice of the kind of loving soul that gives their everything to the audience ,not just for the sake of the music but, for the spirit of the moment. In music and in life there are moments, these are the special times that we relish as they happen and look back on as they are etched into the fabric of our being. That is the passion Wadada plays with, the relentless way in which he lives his life and all based on love and compassion for humanity. If you were there, you were the recipient of that overwhelming benevolence.


An early morning start, leading the pathways and piercing the veil of typical Friday morning Los Angeles traffic, I arrive. Yes a day late but, in quite enough time to inhale the sounds and capture the Day Break concert of the Seven Breaths of the mighty Jen Shyu. An artist that can not quite be described in any of the boxes where mere humans find their comfort. The only way to indulge this fine delicatessen is to silence your mind, bathe in the sound and story and as the darkness turns to light, become a spectator in your immobile shell and let your your active conscious be whisked away by operatic jazz dramatics painted by dance and song. As you enter, the screen above shows footage of a Timorese woman singing and villagers dancing. We are soul watchers as we peek into the past voyeuristically treading upon ancient sound that suddenly comes to life in this dimension. Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, intrigue at its finest always prevails through the pinnacle of cultural experiences all wrapped in one! Art on high meets truth, past, present and future and you can now consider yourself closer to enlightenment. Just the true natural harmonies of Mandarin language has its genuine Bolero properties and Jen layers and intertwines each plane with seven languages cultivating a unique palette visual sonics derived from real life global journeys back in time. Watch, live, learn and listen to the stories. Language is no barrier to our many senses and through the sonics, you will discover that humanity is the answer. You start with the question and the journey always leads back to the answers within.
Here is one of those stories…

A poor, young, hungry, village girl, whose mother died while giving birth to her, takes care of her blind father Mr. Shim who falls in the river and is saved by a Monk who makes a proposition for daughter to become virgin sacrifice for band of sailors in order to restore father’s sight, doesn’t work. Sailor’s ravish and toss naked body into the sea as she sings to her death, dragon kings-men hear and save her. King falls in love, marries and new Empress send out invitation and invites all blind men to banquet to reunite with her father who thinks daughter is dead and does not believe Empress but, his desire brings back his sight as well as sight of all the blind people and animals in the land. Now that’s an opera!

Hop in your mode of transportation and travel on down the curves of Ojai Road to the center of town and you will arrive at Libbey park which encompasses the Libbey Bowl outdoor amphitheater, where most of the performances take place. In the park you will also find the Libbey Park Gazebo where a few of the Pop-up concerts (short 30 minute performances) are performed, well as a sonic installation of fine natural art made of rainsticks, rocks, wood and metal masks composed by Douglas Ewart and George Lewis, members in fine standing with the Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians, called the Rio Negro.


Clair Chase, flute master and founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble performed unconventional solo flute expressions. Loose lips normally sink ships but, in this case they are used as just one of the many colorful ways that Clair expresses her art of sound. Purring, sonic tone matches, voice and long wind articulations are just a few ways Clair communicates her compositions.
Solo yes but look! Amassed behind his kit of brass, silent at first, but shortly ringing the air with echoes of vibrations is Mr. Tyshawn Sorry. I say Mr. Out of respect to a man of youth with a world-wind of percussive wisdom!

Ojai Music Festival – 6/9/20167 Libbey BowlOjai Music Festival – 6/9/20167 Libbey Bowl

Claire is playing a flute that is bigger than thou! It’s called a contra bass flute and the two instruments together create a big story on the corner where genres become life long friends in pursuit of open invention and intervention. The audience is listening. No pre-conceived notions, only a willingness to ingest the nutrients of sound until the moment when sound is all that is on the stage. Clair and Tyshawn have left and we are experiencing the stimulus perpetual vibrations.

From silver shorts to a skirt of 3 dimensional proportions, Claire returns with a voice and breath on the ethereal side. From the rear of the audience, her partner Pauchi Sasaki approaches as the two cross each other on stage and combine skill sets flute and violin! Thunder storms and tumultuous weather is the sound while we bask in the warmth of the sun. In a moments notice, 20 people are on the stage with Clair at the center playing various flutes and then its the dynamic International Contemporary Ensemble in full effect.

Ojai Music Festival – “Autoschediasms for Creative Orchestra” by Tyshawn Sorey 6/10/2017 Libbey Bowl

Brother, Master, musician, composer, conductor Tyshawn is in the house conducting and performing movements for his double trio strings and piano, bass and drums. So many wonderful sounds from Rubin Codheli on cello and Chris Tordini on double bass arco. Their duo combined with all four string instruments dropping such deep, deep luscious harmony and infectious love mixed with the sun and cool breeze make for a setting of perfection! Tyshawn seen composing out front one second with the lightest footprint, a quick sneak off to interject percussive mastery, then back to the podium. After a string section, Tordini drops down into that special place! The music is low resonating peaceful mastery and the counter balance between Corey Smythe on piano and Fung Chern Hwei on violin is playful and creates just the right texture. The most peaceful prelude in the most troubled of times only shows that LOVE prevails! This proves that all good music deserves great listeners and not confines of a box.

A Power Stronger Than Itself”, A force, not necessarily to be reckoned with but, one that is undeniably united in a way of thought, a way of being. It’s mere existence begs the question of where YOU stand. It’s not a challenge or a threat it’s just a simple little fact that can only be determined through truth and honesty; fear plays no factor. And it’s okay if you don’t know, the fact that you question or even contemplate says that your mind is open to the experience, to the sound. AACM! “What is the AACM?” Well, if you know, then you are rich with wonderful echoes of sound, if you don’t and you asked the question, then you are welcome with open arms to experience a foray into new creative plateaus, freedom of expression, a discovery of self through sound, a whole new way to look at the same situations life presents and now have the ability to choose new outcomes!

Born and founded in Chicago, the AACM is an organization of creative musicians whose mission it is to nurture, perform, record and procure original music. Some of the dynamics that a composition is based on my at times be of a serious nature but, the intent is not specifically to create serious music. Trombonist and composer George Lewis is one of the original members and he is the author of “A Power Stronger Than Itself: And America Experimental Music”. Before the performance there was a panel discussion that included George, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell along with Tyshawn Sorey and Claire Chase discussing the continued impact of such creative music. Dynamic insight from the creators themselves gives you a look inside-out into their views of freedom, complexity and relevance.

Ojai Music Festival – “Afterword” by George Lewis 6/9/2017 Libbey Bowl

George wrote “Afterword, an Opera” and we had a chance to witness it’s West Coast Premier. “Originality self determination all of these things are in the opera. Some things based on tapes of old AACM meetings. Ethnographic sampling, it’s all in there. The opera is not a tragedy the AACM wins.” We were soon to discover quite a fascinating display of work. Conductor Steven Schick lead members of the International Contemporary Ensemble through two acts of incredible works that supported the powerful voices of soprano Joelle Lamarre, contralto Gwendolyn Brown and tenor Julian Terrell Otis. The work is based on the conception of the AACM, how the ancestors migrated to the windy city from the south, struggles with daily life and the yearning for better, the desire to establish a meaningful future, the ideals of the first AACM Meeting and other scenes based of old recordings of the members, the death of visionaries and realizing the world is the audience. Yes, there were many dynamics going on that split my mind into about four parts, each trying to figure out the symbiotic relationships. A true engagement in logics, sonics and search for resolve. It’s like life, if you had all the answers, it would already be over! As Muhal said, “it’s important to get involved in the dialogue of the music. With the labels and things as such, the music needs acceptance more than cataloging.”

 We begin the Saturday morning daybreak concert began with the American premier of “Engraved in the Wind”, a peaceful entrance as Nicole Mitchell comes in the back door playing solo alto flute. The audience here in Ojai really love and appreciate music. The lure of the solo flute is captivating and the way Nicole incorporates voice intermingled with her tone has indigenous implications. Always taking the instrument to new heights by stretching the imagination of sound. I would imagine being apart of the principled AACM organization instilled strong values of self creation. George Lewis is here on hand after success with his smashing operatic premier last night.

While the members of ICE are exuding celestial sounds, a slithering entity makes its way on the floor, dancing and slowly incorporating its presence into the fabric of the sonic and visual tapestry. Suddenly the tall elegant dancer reveals himself discarding his vail of red. Movement and sound stimulate multiple regions of brain activity. An exercise in thought and conclusion which has subjective interpretations of meaning. Life is not just a series answers to questions. I see, you see, we see differently and those differences teach us the things that we know we don’t know about ourselves and others. The World Premier of “They Witnessed and Unfolding”.

Inescapable Spiral”, the sphere of sound, bold and adventurous, rich with vast diversity and common in the language of love and music. A sound the world can learn from as we see and hear our tones represented, speaking freely in conversation and admiring our individual sonics as well as the strength of our unity! The poet Lord Byron Scot speaks as he lifts, twists contrasts and draws attention to the message. What is it, do you know? Are you perplexed? Do you need answers? What is it? Perhaps it is an exercise to make you see and hear outside of your own perspective; smelling and feeling the world with other optics. Tapping into other human universes deep inside yourself synonymously formulating and answering thoughts instantaneously! Brain activity is registering on higher artistic frequencies and all are enlightened! The ebb to your flow, the call to your answer, the dawn to your new day!

The afternoon performance in Libbey Park Gazebo was a quick ICE Pop-up concert featuring the World Premier pieces “Labrys” and “Mysterium” performed by Claire Chase, Josh Rubin, Rebekah Heller and Levy Lorenzo and an education workshop at the Ojai Art Center with elementary school students learning through music and enticing their audience to participate in movement and song. At Libbey Bowl, classical pieces by Kurta’g and Motzart were performed before hearing Vijay’s composition “Motzart Effects”.

Ojai Music Festival – “Autoschediasms for Creative Orchestra” by Tyshawn Sorey 6/10/2017 Libbey Bowl

Low frequency Electro magnetic energy with flute, violin, viola, french horn, oboe, bass, trombone, piano and percussion. A sound orchestration with no melody, no harmony, no rhythm but, loaded with improvisations and implications. Tyshawn Sorey’s Autoschediasms for Creative Chamber Orchestra is a story slowly unfolding the sum of its parts revealing the mystery of its magic in a secession notes, mathematically arranged to produce emotional algorithms. The desired effect has relative implications, peaking intrigue in an audience that leans typically towards more traditional classical frequencies. As the piece enters the uncharted waters of the abyss, tone individuality unifies as land approaches. The father of the avant guard Muhal Richard Abhrams watches on from the audience witnessing and contemplating what I gather must be inner joy, to see and hear visions of individual truth and sound manifest in a blossoming new generation!

Ojai Music Festival – “The Trio” f- Muhal Richard Abrams – piano, Roscoe Mitchell – reeds, George Lewis – trombone & electronics 6/11/2017 Libbey Bowl

The adventurous are all In attendance to witness the original sounds of the AACM! For decades these musicians have built their entire careers on approaching music on their own terms. Developing powerful sounds that reflect their ideology, philosophy, mores and life’s experiences; those of their own and of the global human experience. Yes, theses are different sounds indeed. Look at Roscoe playing two horns at once. One of course because he can but, more likely because these are the sounds that are necessary to convey this moments message. Muhal Richard Abrams with his cascading chords of truth and dear brother George Lewis poignantly delivers vocal tones of clear determination .Life is full of beauty, pleasure, pain and suffering. This is the musical language that speaks for those who could not, cannot as well as for those who can. Bold statements that spin, politically corrected or watered down, however you want to put it, it’s Black music plain and simple. You don’t have to understand it, like it or fear it but listen and learn, open your minds and don’t concede. This is culture at its finest and within the walls of these extraordinary sounds three are stories, messages, healing and love. Vibrations to and from our ancestors, respect for those who have suffered injustices brought to life in a world creativity expressed at a moments notice.

Ojai Music Festival – “The Trio” f- Muhal Richard Abrams – piano, Roscoe Mitchell – reeds, George Lewis – trombone & electronics 6/11/2017 Libbey Bowl

As they go through life, their journey has certainly not been to create one composition and continue to make a career out of playing that same composition for their entire lives. You don’t sit on your laurels for the rest of your life after one success. Everyday has many gems and jewels that present themselves. These gentleman have been spreading these jewels their entire lives. And once discovered, many other musical lives have been built on these principles. At the core are some pretty basic foundations; freedom, respect, kindness, love and human dignity. Only these Founding Fathers want this for everyone and not just the chosen few. In this beautiful outdoor amphitheater, you can hear the birds reply as part of the ensemble and the soundtrack could not be more perfect. Universal love!! This is not just his-story, it’s yours too!

Tonight marks the first public performance for this incomparable quartet of Vijay Iyer, Zakir Hussain, Rudresh Mahanthappa and the brilliant Arina Sirham. The world never made so much sense or felt so infectious. These four cast a love spell with such encompassing vibrations. One drink from this sonic potion and you have visions of a harmonious world where give, receive, share, honor and happiness are the virtue and sonnets by which we live.

Rudresh has an ancient sound that calls the spirits from the heavens down and connects us through this vibration he calls, “Eeeeeeeee’. Zakir is the thunder, the sound of magnificence literally right at his finger tips. Arina, I am not sure what her name actually means but, it should be, “The Goddess of Sound”! Talk about incredible music in the world, this is happening right now, and it has all descended upon us this weekend.

Culture rich, incredible rhythms and Arina’s heavenly blessings making the sound is so much more intensely beautiful. Her transcendent aura is breathtakingly mesmerizing as she sculpts the sound into expanding rings of illumination; she is the drop of water, mother music herself! 
Dancing on a plane of possibilities is where the music lives and breathes. Vijay’s “City of Sand”, spectacular ragas simultaneously meditative and majestic. Arina’s rhythm and sense heavenly articulation is angelically unmatched. The birds sing in syncopation!

Ojai Music Festival – “Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi” by Vijay Iyer & Prashant Bhargava 6/10/2017 Libbey BowlOjai Music Festival – “Yet Unheard” by Courtney Bryan 6/10/2017 Libbey Bowl

The Story – Lord Krishna, the Hindu God lived by the banks of the river Yamuna. Kaliya, the five headed snake killed all of the fish, trees and birds with its poisonous venom. They engage in a playful battle like dance where Krishna stamps out the serpent and restores life to the village. Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring adapted from dark to light in Prashant Bhargava’s film RADHE RADHE: the Rites of Holi. Vijay scored this film of happiness and brilliant color symbolizing the union of Lord Krishna with the Godess Radha, an explosion into spring through joy, dance, color and seductive passion! Prashant was a great friend of Vijay who recently transitioned at an all too early age and this work will forever mark an emotional milestone in collaborative creativity and true friendship.

After a short break the quartet inject their brilliance once again on one of Rudresh’s compositions as he employs his staccato style articulations, Zakir with deep non stop rhythm on “Snap” and Vijay’s tune “Abundance” all with timely natural improvisations by our singing, flying friends in the trees above. The low resonating melodies layered with tablas and topped with Arina’s mystical vocal magic is just the thing and with space for Rudresh embellishments makes for some Bad Ass music here in Ojai.

Ojai Music Festival – Vijay Iyer Sextet 6/11/17 Ojai Libbey Bowl

We end the festival with a group of cats that Vijay has played with for the last six years Graham Haynes, Steve Lehman, Mark Shim, Stephen Crump and the man who has made a significant mark of the people here in Ojai Tyshawn Sorey. They have a new album coming out in the fall called, “Far From Over” and you better believe that is guaranteed to be another incredible work of art. Tyshawn is a monster on drums; at times moving the entire drum kit with his exuding energy. Brilliant and hard core execution laying down a bed of sound together with Vijay in the trenches. Stephan Crumpt is amazing on bass as usual with his empirical bowing providing saturating texture and neutralizing all body and brain waves to match his frequency.

The most talented cats to have your back when it comes to sensational explorations and transendant experiences! Super strong front line with Graham tearin’ it up on coronet, Mark Shim throwin’ down those sweet melodic lines on tenor, and new school alto mad science from Steve Lehman turning out the close of the festival with a heavy dose of J A double ZZ! Watch out, these cats dissect a groove like a one handed Rubix Cube wizard! One truly outstanding weekend of synapse firing beauty.

Forever Changed!

LeRoy Downs

All Libbey Bowl Photography by David Bazemore

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