Winter Jazzfest in NY Starts Thursday

It's cold in New York City, but don't expect that to keep jazz fans from dashing through the streets of Greenwich Village this weekend, darting in out of various clubs and theaters, to see a dozen or more topflight musicians playing in the 2015 Winter Jazzfest.

An annual event now for 11 years, Winter Jazzfest has evolved into a more-than-worthy successor to the festival sponsored in the 1990s by the now-defunct TriBeCa club called the Knitting Factory as a downtown-laced alternative to the staid morass into which the uptown Kool Jazz Festival had degenerated at the time.

This year's roster looks particularly promising. On opening night, Thursday, January 8, there's a benefit concert at the Quaker Friends Meeting Hall on Rutherford Place, featuring such stellar lights as Ron Carter, Brad Mehldau, Renee Rosnes, Benny Golson, Jimmy Cobb, Harold Mabern, Bill Charlap, among others.

I suspect I'll be spending most of Friday night's marathon at the Minetta Lane Theater. At 7:30pm, there's the David Murray Clarinet Summit—a quasi-30th anniversary concert of the one-off ensemble called Clarinet Summit, which played in 1984 at the Public Theater. The band back then combined Murray on bass clarinet along with Ellington alum Jimmy Hamilton and avant-gardists Alvin Batiste and John Carter. It was an amazing concert (captured on two superb-sounding LPs, on the India Navigation label), and this incarnation—Murray with Don Byron, David Krakauer, and Hamit Bluiett (Murray's erstwhile colleague on the long-lamented World Saxophone Quartet)—seems no less intriguing.

It's always good to see Murray, who played in New York City almost every week until he moved to Paris some time ago (and now comes back maybe once a year), so it's a double treat to see him returning later that evening in a trio with the great pianist Geri Allen and dynamic drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. I don't think they've ever played together, so who knows what they'll do.

Then comes another trio reminiscent of the Knitting Factory's heyday—Trio 3, with Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, and Andrew Cyrille—augmented by Vijay Iyer, one of the most inventive pianists on today's adventurous jazz scene.

After that comes Marc Ribot, maybe the most inventive (certainly the most versatile) jazz guitarist, playing with what the program notes call "The Young Philadephians with Strings."

While all this is going on, Le Poisson Rouge, the crossover music hall on Bleecker Street, will feature Donald Byrd, followed by the ICP Orchestra—while Judson Church, on Washington Square Park South, hosts the Dave Douglas Quintet (his best band in several years), among others. The piano-drum duet of Uri Caine and Hans Bennink, as well as the phenomenal bassist Linda Oh and her group Sun Pictures, play at Subculture in Bleecker Street. Marcus Strickland's new band plays at the Bitter End, also on Bleecker. There are five other venues sporting other bands the same time, the same night.

Saturday night, David Murray's Infinity Quartet plays at Le Poisson Rouge, Rudresh Manhanthappa's Charlie Parker-influenced Bird Calls plays at Minetta Lane, as does trumpeter Nicholas Payton's trio. The sensational trumpeter, Ambrose Akinmusire, and his quartet play at Judson Church. Oliver Lake's Organ Quartet plays at the Bitter End. Bands led by pianist Myra Melford and saxophonist Mark Turner head the schedule at the Zinc Bar on West 3rd Street, and I could go on. (For a full schedule, click here.)

I've sometimes been skeptical of jazz festivals in New York City. Every week in New York City is a jazz festival, I've said. But this is a festival that deserves the name. This is a crazy explosion of riches.

lo fi's picture

I envy you New Yorkers.