Previewing…Winter Jazz Fest 2015

I’ll be in New York City this week for the JazzConnect conference and Winter Jazz Fest. Tickets for the marathon of concerts on Friday and Saturday are only $55 each, which is less than the price of two sets by some of these artists. But WJF is also a unique opportunity to listen to some of the rising stars of the jazz world and local fixtures of the NYC scene. Here are some of the shows worth special mention…

Friday, January 9th

6:15-7:15pm: Wallace Roney Quintet at The Bitter End (147 Bleecker Street, Revive Music Stage)

7:30-9:45pm: David Murray at the Minetta Lane Theatre (18-22 Minetta Lane). Two sets with: first a “clarinet summit” with Don Byron, David Krakauer, Hamiet Bluiett, Jaribu Shahid, and Nasheet Waits; then with Geri Allen and Teri Lyne Carrington.

7:45-8:45pm: Alicia Olatuja at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street). This vocalist, whose performance at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration caught the nation’s attention, is an underrated jazz artist worth checking out.

8:15-9:15pm: Oran Etkin Reimagines Benny Goodman at The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street). Etkin’s 2014 album Gathering Light
 on Motema earned well deserved praise. Here he previews a new project and his next release, which is due out in September.

8:45-9:45pm: AFRO HARPING – Brandee Younger’s Tribute to Dorothy Ashby featuring Mark Whitfield at The Bitter End (147 Bleecker Street, Revive Music Stage).

10:00-11:00pm: TRIO 3 with Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and special guest Vijay Iyer at the Minetta Lane Theatre (18-22 Minetta Lane). This group of legendary musicians whose most recent recording, Wiring (Intakt Records), also features Iyer, who was just announced as special guest for this show.

10:00-11:00pm: Gordon Webster Sextet featuring Brianna Thomas at the Greenwich House Music School (46 Barrow Street, Hot Jazz Festival Night). Thomas is one of NYC’s most impressive young vocalists. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear her live!

10:15-11:15pm: Dafnis Prieto Sextet at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street). Drummer Prieto will preview his upcoming April 2015 release, featuring pianist Manuel Valera and trumpeter Mike Rodríguez.

12:45am-1:45: Anthony Pirog at Carroll Place (157 Bleecker Street). Guitarist Pirog’s debut album, Palo Colorado Dream (Cuneiform Records), has landed on many best-of-2014 lists. For those who haven’t heard the music yet, here’s your chance to catch it live with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Ches Smith.

Saturday, January 10th

6:00-10:00pm: at Subculture (45 Bleecker Street) successive hour-long sets by Ryan Kerberle & Catharsis, Alfredo Rodríguez, Lionel Loueke, and the SF Jazz Collective (performing the music of Michael Jackson) is what WJF is all about—hearing some of the best new music by forward-thinking artists performing at their best. Find a seat and just stay there.

6:30-7:30pm: Edmar Castaneda Trio with Andrea Tierra at Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker Street). Colombian harpist Castaneda performs with some of the personnel from his release Entre Cuerdas, including powerhouse trombonist Marshall Gilkes.

6:30-7:30pm: Myra Melford‘s Snowy Egret at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street). Pianist and Guggenheim fellow Melford’s adventurous quintet features Tyshawn Sorey on drums and Liberty Ellman on guitar.

6:30-7:30pm – Jaimeo Brown Transcendence Part 2: Work Songs at Bowery Electric (327 Bowery). Composer and percussionist Brown’s first album, Transcendence (Motema), made waves for its visionary take on jazz and African American traditional music. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

7:00-8:00pm: Dan Weiss Large Ensemble at The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street). I learned this lesson a long time ago: if Dan Weiss is playing with anyone, go check it out. His Large Ensemble just recorded in December, so you can expect to hear a preview of their upcoming album. Stick around at Players for more ear-opening and adventurous sets by saxophonist Darius Jones at 8:15, drummer Tomas Fujiwara at 9:30, and bassist Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas at midnight.

7:45-8:45: Mark Turner Quartet at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street). Lathe of Heaven (ECM) was surely one of 2014’s best jazz records. The only reason you should miss this show is because you’re waiting in line to get in.

9:00-10:00pm: Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions at Bowery Electric (327 Bowery). Saxophonist Ersahin’s music may draw the attention of world jazz fans first, but anyone interested in crossovers with ethnic fusion, dance, and even Europop should drop in for a listen to this well-established group.

9:15-10:15pm: Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet at Judson Church (55 Washington Square Park South). Another best-of-2014 record—imagined savior is far easier to paint (Blue Note)—belongs to young trumpeter Akinmusire, who’ll be performing with his quartet. Come early if you want to get in.

12:45-1:45am: Nasheet Waits Equality Quartet at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street), featuring Mark Helias, Darius Jones and Aruán Ortiz.

12:45-1:45am: Chris Washburne SYOTOS plays Acid Mambo at Carroll Place (157 Bleecker Street). Composer, trombonist, scholar, and Columbia University professor Washburne leads his group SYOTOS in a preview of their upcoming April 2015 release that features latin jazz covers of some of psychedelic rock’s most iconic songs.

1:45-2:45am: Walter Smith III at The Bitter End (147 Bleecker Street, Revive Music Stage). Saxophonist Smith closes out the festival playing music from his recent release Still Casual with Taylor Eigsti, Matt Stevens, Harish Raghavan, and Kendrick Scott.

The Stationary Plan

If you’re not up for traipsing through the frigid, wintry streets of NYC (although Mamoun’s is definitely worth the trip outside), try this:

On Friday, go to Subculture (45 Bleecker Street) where the program features artists whose 2014 albums were some of the most celebrated jazz recordings of the year. You’ll hear Linda Oh (7:15pm), Tyshawn Sorey (9:45pm), Uri Caine (12:15am), and Aaron Parks (1:30am), among others. Also don’t miss pianist Taylor Eigsti‘s set at 8:30pm.

And on Saturday, go to the Minetta Lane Theater (18-22 Minetta Lane) for Kavita Shah (6:15pm), The Cookers (8:45pm), Rudresh Mahanthappa‘s Bird Calls (The Charlie Parker Project) (10pm), Henry, Hampton and Low: Levon Henry, Alan Hampton & Meshell Ndegeocello (11:15pm), and the Nicholas Payton Trio (12:30am).

*    *    *

WJF2015 actually begins on Thursday night with two concerts that require additional admission: “Blue Note Now!” features Robert Glasper, Jose James, Derrick Hodge, and Kendrick Scott; and a benefit concert for pianist Mike LeDonne’s non-profit organization, Disability Pride NYC, featuring a host of jazz legends headlined by Ron Carter, Harold Mabern, Jimmy Cobb, George Coleman, Benny Golson, and many more.

Head over to the WJF2015 website to purchase tickets and check out the whole schedule. Rule one of WJF—and the NYC jazz scene in general—is “be prepared to miss some great music”; but, don’t worry, because with such superb programming, while you won’t be able to hear everyone, you won’t have any problem filling up both nights with as much excellent music as you can handle.

Lastly, while you’re enjoying the music, be sure to support one of the festival’s key sponsors—and friend of TRoS—Sixpoint Brewery, which will be taking over the taps of all the venue’s bars, serving brews from their Mad Scientist line, including Spontaneous Construction. Check out this link for more info!

And stay tuned to TRoS for concert reviews and Twitter updates throughout the week!

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