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Winter Jazzfest 2014: Tips Of The Iceberg

fromWBGO

  • Vocalist Rene Marie presented a tribute to Eartha Kitt.
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    Vocalist Rene Marie presented a tribute to Eartha Kitt.
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  • Henry Threadgill's tribute to improvising conductor Butch Morris was the only act to play two sets at Winter Jazzfest. Jason Moran was one of two pianists, opposite David Virelles.
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    Henry Threadgill's tribute to improvising conductor Butch Morris was the only act to play two sets at Winter Jazzfest. Jason Moran was one of two pianists, opposite David Virelles.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Drummer Kojo Odu Roney, 9, was a full-fledged member of the band led by his father, saxophonist Antoine Roney.
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    Drummer Kojo Odu Roney, 9, was a full-fledged member of the band led by his father, saxophonist Antoine Roney.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Roman Diaz, backed by an ensemble called Midnight Rhumba, led a set of Afro-Cuban percussion and chanting.
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    Roman Diaz, backed by an ensemble called Midnight Rhumba, led a set of Afro-Cuban percussion and chanting.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Bassist Dezron Douglas played with saxophonist Sharel Cassity on Friday night.
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    Bassist Dezron Douglas played with saxophonist Sharel Cassity on Friday night.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Trumpeter Takuya Kuroda previewed his forthcoming album, Rising Son.
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    Trumpeter Takuya Kuroda previewed his forthcoming album, Rising Son.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Ben Goldberg played the contra-alto clarinet as a bass instrument in his Unfold Ordinary Mind band, with Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth on saxophones, Nels Cline on guitar and Ches Smith on drums.
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    Ben Goldberg played the contra-alto clarinet as a bass instrument in his Unfold Ordinary Mind band, with Ellery Eskelin and Rob Sudduth on saxophones, Nels Cline on guitar and Ches Smith on drums.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Mat Maneri played viola in the trio led by drummer Ches Smith.
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    Mat Maneri played viola in the trio led by drummer Ches Smith.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Qasim Naqvi plays drums in the trio Dawn of Midi.
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    Qasim Naqvi plays drums in the trio Dawn of Midi.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Dawn of Midi.
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    Dawn of Midi.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts performed alongside guitarist Lionel Loueke.
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    Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts performed alongside guitarist Lionel Loueke.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Guitarist Mary Halvorson presented her septet in concert, including bassist John Hebert.
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    Guitarist Mary Halvorson presented her septet in concert, including bassist John Hebert.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Trumpeter Roy Hargrove's working quintet played a prime Friday-night time slot at Winter Jazzfest.
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    Trumpeter Roy Hargrove's working quintet played a prime Friday-night time slot at Winter Jazzfest.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Pianist Michele Rosewoman led a 12-person edition of her New Yor-Uba band at the start of Saturday night.
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    Pianist Michele Rosewoman led a 12-person edition of her New Yor-Uba band at the start of Saturday night.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Drummer Rudy Royston, pictured backstage at Le Poisson Rouge, presented his 303 band for the first time in concert.
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    Drummer Rudy Royston, pictured backstage at Le Poisson Rouge, presented his 303 band for the first time in concert.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Mimi Jones was one of two bassists in Rudy Royston's 303.
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    Mimi Jones was one of two bassists in Rudy Royston's 303.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • The Jazz Passengers, founded by trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and saxophonist Roy Nathanson, started out in 1987.
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    The Jazz Passengers, founded by trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and saxophonist Roy Nathanson, started out in 1987.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Rebecca Sanborn plays keyboards in the Portland, Ore., band Blue Cranes, whose East Coast tour stopped at Winter Jazzfest.
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    Rebecca Sanborn plays keyboards in the Portland, Ore., band Blue Cranes, whose East Coast tour stopped at Winter Jazzfest.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • The band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, featuring trumpeter Peter Evans, expanded its lineup from four to seven musicians for Winter Jazzfest.
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    The band Mostly Other People Do The Killing, featuring trumpeter Peter Evans, expanded its lineup from four to seven musicians for Winter Jazzfest.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Saxophonist Tim Berne led his band Snakeoil, a critical favorite of 2013.
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    Saxophonist Tim Berne led his band Snakeoil, a critical favorite of 2013.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Gretchen Parlato led her quartet in one of the marquee bookings of Winter Jazzfest's two-night marathon.
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    Gretchen Parlato led her quartet in one of the marquee bookings of Winter Jazzfest's two-night marathon.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Donald Harrison's funky bebop was a crowd-pleaser on Saturday night.
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    Donald Harrison's funky bebop was a crowd-pleaser on Saturday night.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • Mardi Gras Indians Shaka Zulu (left) and Leander Evans joined Big Chief Donald Harrison for his final songs.
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    Mardi Gras Indians Shaka Zulu (left) and Leander Evans joined Big Chief Donald Harrison for his final songs.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • The trio led by Jeff Ballard, with saxophonist Miguel Zenón and guitarist Lionel Loueke, will soon release an album called Time's Tales.
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    The trio led by Jeff Ballard, with saxophonist Miguel Zenón and guitarist Lionel Loueke, will soon release an album called Time's Tales.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com
  • The Hypnotic Brass Band, whose horn players are all siblings, closed the festival on Saturday night with a raucous set.
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    The Hypnotic Brass Band, whose horn players are all siblings, closed the festival on Saturday night with a raucous set.
    John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

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The logo for the 2014 Winter Jazzfest, marking the festival's 10th anniversary, is a giant iceberg floating into New York harbor. Like the iceberg, this year's edition was both big — 90-plus groups over five nights, representing just a small portion of a larger scene — and cold and wet, in that it rained both nights of the music marathon last Friday and Saturday evening. But Winter Jazzfest was hot on the inside, as we soaked up great music like a sponge.

It's a lot to process. So on Sunday, after some strong coffee and sleep — more coffee than sleep — we compared notes via online chat with WBGO colleague Alex Ariff and fellow travelers David Adler, Derrick Lucas and Brad Farberman — who covered the fest for the Village Voice, Jazz 90.1 FM in Rochester, N.Y., and Time Out New York, respectively.


Tim Wilkins: How was your WJF 2014 experience?

Derrick Lucas: I nearly drowned in a monsoon waiting to hear Michelle Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba ensemble!

David Adler: The Ches Smith Trio was the very first thing I heard at WJF — I was walking in from the rain and feeling rushed, but Ches' drum solo pounded away all my worries. That was the prevailing feeling for me this year.

Tim: Was that a "peak musical moment" for you? Mine was the Jeff Ballard Trio with Lionel Loueke and Miguel Zenon, on a tiny stage at Groove. Three superb improvisers at the height of their powers, having so much fun!

Derrick: My favorite was the dance party that erupted at LPR when The Revive Big Band added Dr. Lonnie Smith for "Play It Back." I'm still trying to come to terms with what I heard with the Burnt Sugar Arkestra featuring Melvin "Sweetback" Van Peebles.

Brad Farberman: Ben Goldberg's Unfold Ordinary Mind was excellent.

Patrick Jarenwattananon: I really liked Ben's band, too. He plays contra-alto clarinet (lower than a bass clarinet) as a bass instrument, with two saxes and Nels Cline on guitar. Ches Smith on drums, too, who was ubiquitous this year.

David: I loved Henry Threadgill's tribute to the late conductor and WJF mainstay Butch Morris. Henry didn't play at all, but his conducting was a performance — a physical, dancing connection to the music throughout. He summoned huge blocks of harmony with his hands, chord by swelling, thundering chord.

Patrick: The end of Chris Lightcap's set was another highlight. It was a pumped crowd at 10:30, so peak audience levels and energy. A fair amount of #jazzbro "woo" and cheering. He called Lou Reed/Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties," with the two tenor saxes punch-drunkenly wailing the NYC icon's melody, and its repetitive wildness seemed cathartic.

Alex Ariff: A peak for me was the Ralph Alessi Baida Quartet with Gary Versace on piano. Gary's ability to comp behind Alessi and utilize the entire piano ... it felt like there was nothing he didn't hear.

Brad: I'm going to go outside the marathon and pick the Robert Glasper/Jason Moran two-piano set. Casual, funny, deep and revealing.

Tim: I agree. Robert and Jason — as well as saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, singer Bilal, bassist Alan Hampton and drummer Eric Harland, who joined them for their second set at Town Hall — were brimming with virtuosity, but also pleasure for both the players and the audience. Smiles all around.

Alex: The Revive Music showcase at Groove wasn't just a concert — it was an ultimate hang. All the artists stuck around for the sets following their own, and Glasper, Bilal and others jumped on stage. Jose James' trumpeter Takuya Kuroda brought a great band that focused on groove, with not a ton of solos. It was all feeling, and the band sounded tight.

Patrick: One of my favorite things was seeing Glasper cheer/jeer his buddies on stage. "Stand up so your fans can see you!" he shouted at fellow pianist Kris Bowers.

Tim: Part of the appeal of the Revive scene is that not only jazz nerds can dig it. There was also a lot of melody in the air this year.

David: Yes, Tim. Threadgill's big closing section, for example, was extraordinarily melodic.

Tim: There were singer-songwriters like Tillery and Meklit, and "beyond-jazz" like a cappella singers Roomful of Teeth and the 17-piece chamber-pop ensemble Mother Falcon — which someone in the audience, who loved it, described to me as "Arcade Fire meets Riverdance."

Brad: My WJF had a lot of rock in it. I heard it in sets from Bobby Previte, Ben Wendel, Abraxas and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Even if those bands weren't playing "rock music," the feel was there.

Patrick: I sense that the WJF this year picked up slightly more acts that were not even jazz-rock or jazz-hip-hop hybrids, but clearly not-jazz.

Tim: Does this suggest an opening of the jazz tent, or just the open-mindedness of the WJF organizers, who could cast a wider net as the festival has grown?

Brad: I think jazz is getting bigger all the time.

Patrick: I'm all for new hybrids and musicians following their various muses, and it needs to be stressed to a lot of presenters and industry types who attend this thing that NYC is chock-full of all these mutated strains.

But there remains a sense, at least for me, that for jazz to be meaningful as an umbrella, there needs to be some sort of main stem, something which emphasizes legacy and propulsive swing and dancing with a melody and African-American/Afro-Western folklore. And WJF tends to lean on the "new" half of the equation more heavily ... which isn't bad, just something I've always thought about with respect to this event.

Tim: New Orleans was well represented — Donald Harrison (with cameos from two fellow Mardi Gras Indians) raised the roof for a crowd of hipsters at LPR.

Patrick: Donald was cheered on to the only encore I've ever seen at this festival. The NPR Music video crew, who are not particularly jazz fans, definitely got into everything they heard at LPR, from relative traditionalists (ha!) like Harrison to party-rockers Hypnotic Brass Band. Really, WJF remains one of the few festivals which foster an atmosphere that makes certain bits of this stuff approachable for the layman.

Alex: And it's the mission of the organizers to open up ears.

Tim: Did they succeed?

Alex: Definitely, they showcased a lot of heavy musicians in this cross-section.

David: Outreach to new audience is vital, but I also loved how WJF connects the jazz "community" or plural communities. A lot of my original listening plans were undone by constant interaction with people I was so happy to see. That revitalized me as much as a lot of the music.

Patrick: +1 to that, David. WJF can foster those moments that restore your faith in the occasional nexus of these subcommunities to actually reach folks. That, and being the best deal in town, is why I hope to be back next year.

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