NPR logo 5 Must-See Acts At The 2016 Winter Jazzfest

Take Five: A Jazz Sampler

5 Must-See Acts At The 2016 Winter Jazzfest

Guitarist and singer Camila Meza will release a new album, Traces, in February. Chris Drukker/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Chris Drukker/Courtesy of the artist

Guitarist and singer Camila Meza will release a new album, Traces, in February.

Chris Drukker/Courtesy of the artist

New York City's Winter Jazzfest kicks off its 12th edition tonight, launching five days of nearly nonstop music. This year's installment is the biggest yet, featuring more than 120 groups and 600-plus musicians in and around Greenwich Village. What started as a one-night festival to give greater exposure to the city's highly talented yet underrated artists has turned into one of the finest jazz happenings in North America.

How big has it grown? This year, the progressive jazz label ECM Records will showcase 13 different bands on a dedicated stage, and ECM founder Manfred Eicher is making a special trip from Germany for the concerts. This record-company showcase represents a fraction of the festival's signature event: a two-night music marathon across 12 stages happening this Friday and Saturday.

The festival's creator, Brice Rosenbloom, makes a point to showcase new projects to coincide with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference, where the world's premier talent scouts congregate each year. For the rest of us, Winter Jazzfest offers a chance to escape cabin fever and experience an astonishing mix of jazz from far and wide, in its most flexible definition.

Here are five bands to seek out.

5 Must-See Acts At The 2016 Winter Jazzfest

cover for Untold Stories

01Maya's Song

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462830340/462919865" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Maya's Song
    Album
    Untold Stories
    Artist
    Shai Maestro Trio
    Label
    Motéma Music
    Released
    2015

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Shai Maestro

  • Song: Maya's Song
  • from Untold Stories

As a boy, Shai Maestro was presented with an unusual option: become an elite fighter pilot for the Israeli Air Force, or become a virtuoso jazz pianist and composer. He chose the latter, and says his music — as heard on his new trio album, Untold Stories — can serve as an agent for peace in a world full of conflict, especially in his part of the globe.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Untold Stories
Album
Untold Stories
Artist
Shai Maestro Trio
Label
Motéma Music
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

cover to Supreme Sonacy

13Celebration Of Life Suite: Awakening

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462830340/462920096" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Celebration Of Life Suite: Awakening
    Album
    Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy
    Artist
    Various Artists
    Label
    Blue Note
    Released
    2015

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Ray Angry

  • Song: Celebration Of Life Suite: Awakening
  • from Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy

Don't count out Ray Angry becoming a famous hip-hop and R&B star. His talent earned him a place in Lauryn Hill's touring band and helped make him a regular contributor of rhythm for The Roots and an assortment of pop artists. However, the keyboardist proclaims his love affair for jazz on the compilation album Supreme Sonacy Vol. 1, in a track that features saxophonist Chris Potter and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, among other A-listers. This cut comes from his "Celebration Of Life Suite," inspired by John Coltrane's A Love Supreme and dedicated to his mother.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy
Album
Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Blue Note
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

cover to Traces

03Traces

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462830340/462920824" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Camila Meza

  • Song: Traces
  • from Traces

One of the best-kept secrets in New York City (but well-known among the cats who play there), Camila Meza is poised to step into a broader spotlight. The Chilean-born musician will soon issue Traces, a gorgeous album that features her beautiful, unorthodox compositions while showcasing her amazing vision and dexterity on voice and guitar.

This album can be pre-ordered at the Sunnyside Records Bandcamp page.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Traces
Album
Traces
Artist
Camila Meza
Released
2016

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

cover for In The Moment

02The Jaunt

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462830340/462921192" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    The Jaunt
    Album
    In The Moment
    Artist
    Makaya McCraven
    Label
    International Anthem Recording Co.
    Released
    1969

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Makaya McCraven

  • Song: The Jaunt
  • from In The Moment

Makaya McCraven may say he's always In The Moment — the name of his recording debut — though the recording itself paints a different picture. In addition to being a great drummer, McCraven also locked himself in his home recording studio, where he carefully spliced together hours and hours of tape to make the album. It's a compilation of his bands' finest "live" moments, as captured at The Bedford (a small club in Chicago's Ukrainian Village) and carefully edited afterward. The result is a sublime mix of electronica, jazz and groove music played by acoustic instruments.

Buy Featured Music

Song
In The Moment
Album
In The Moment
Artist
Makaya McCraven
Label
International Anthem Recording Co.

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

cover for Homes

03Keedee

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/462830340/462921629" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Buy Featured Music

    Song
    Keedee
    Album
    Homes
    Artist
    Gilad Hekselman
    Label
    Jazz Village
    Released
    2015

    Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Gilad Hekselman

  • Song: Keedee
  • from Homes

A quick way to evaluate the skill of a jazz musician is to eye the caliber of talent that surrounds him. Two of today's premier drummers — Marcus Gilmore and Jeff Ballard — appear together on this track from Gilad Hekselman's recent recording, Homes. The guitarist's fall 2015 release is a masterful collection of original songs, free improvisations and an homage to Israeli songwriting master Matti Caspi.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Homes
Album
Homes
Artist
Gilad Hekselman
Label
Jazz Village
Released
2015

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.