A jazz festival doesn’t celebrate its twentieth anniversary without a vital aesthetic that perpetually dazzles its audience. Cheers to the VISION Festival, which reaches the big 2-0 this year by staying the course — its week-long program highlights the musicians who helped fuel the event during its first two decades, improvisers who forgo established rules whenever it seems wise and forge a personalized trajectory. From Amina Myers/Henry Grimes to Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway, an array of duos seems fetching this year. Saxophonists are a mainstay as well. The gnarled verities of Joe McPhee, the fierce arias of David Murray, the lyrical roar of Tony Malaby — each, repping a lineage that reaches from (participants) Marshall Allen to Ingrid Laubrock, holds forth at Washington Square’s Judson Church. With dance and poetry weaving between the instrumental shows, Vision’s multidiscipline interests are sated as well. And if you need two words to put your butt in a seat, here they are. Roscoe. Mitchell.
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VISION FEST 2015
Jazz is all about imagination, so the when fierce percussionist Pride morphs the speed blast of MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) into jaunty swing and graceful forward motion, there’s plenty of resourcefulness in the air. Pride has previously sat in the hardcore heroes’ drummer’s chair, and improv-wise he’s expert at the dynamics of calibrated assault. With pianist Jaime Saft and bassist Brad Jones on the case in I Hate Work, spewed broadsides like “Corporate Deathburger” (SoundCloud below) and “Business On Parade” are not only refracted, they’re reborn.
Sound It Out Series – Greenwich House
Kisses to everyone who keeps it going. Thanks to everyone who bolsters the vibe. Hats off to everyone who appreciates art music. Here is some of the music that’s gone down on stage. Bet Joe and company have a blast tonight.
Ever heard Uri Caine gilde through “Hazy Lazy Crazy” with bassist John Hébert and drummer Ben Perowsky? You need to, and the chance arrives as the virtuoso pianist unpacks his multiplicity during this six-night run. With two discrete shows an evening, The Stone stints allow artists to get kaleidoscopic and underscore variety. Caine, heralded for bringing an improviser’s vision to the classical canon, is never lacking for novel ideas. From the chamber refinement of cello and violin to the “chamber refinement” of sax and drums, he’s an expert at both following and flouting rules. His Wintereise duo with Theo Bleckmann should be as evocative as his Dragnet trio with cellist Eric Friedlander and drummer Clarence Penn – what kind of swing will they concoct? Options abound, and don’t forget the solo night. When the stars align he’s a one-man orchestra.
Sometimes ruckus carries the day. It certainly juices the action on percussionist Drury‘s mildly ornery and occasionally overwhelming new album, Content Provider. Using everything from trance motifs to prog patterns, the drummer drives his two-sax and guitar outfit into frenzied elation. Reed players Ingrid Laubrock and Briggan Krauss lock horns with a nail-biting fervor and Brandon Seabrook’s six-string hubbub sparks all sorts of explosions. This is a visceral bunch, and their instinctual chemistry should be obvious on stage. The gig will also feature a set of solo floor tom pieces (divorced from the instrument’s trad sound to say the least) from Drury‘s other new disc, The Drum, as well as a visit by special guests.
It should be wearing thin by now. But the shtick is so comfy and the muscianship is so deep that David Johansen’s Buster Poindexter character just keeps getting more and more engaging. Charisma has poured from the iconic rocker ever since he fronted the New York Dolls. A flick of the wrist, a hand on a hip, an exaggerated roll of the eye – the minor details add up to big fun with Poindexter, a natty veteran of lounges and bars with the savvy and skills to bond rumba nuggets, English music hall ditties and doo-wop jewels into one of the most entertaining rock ‘n’ roll shows around. “We play allll the genres,” he said in a sweetly ironic voice at the Cafe Carlyle on Tuesday night. Diverse on paper, they all sound related in Buster’s hands.
The kick-off show for his current Carlyle run was a typical hoot, loaded with swing, guided by mischief and driven by the storm of a voice Johansen still has at the age of 65 (looks pretty damn sharp in that six-inch pompadour and those tailored threads, too). Summoning the vitality of H-Bomb Ferguson’s R&B growl and Illinois Jacquet’s sax roar, the singer bounced through Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” and anticipated next week’s Fat Tuesday parties with Prof. Longhair’s “Her Mind Is Gone.” The band cooked without getting overly rowdy and the music brimmed with an addictive verve.
The between-song patter and jokes have always been a Poindexter forte, and both were sublime thanks to Johansen’s natural theatricality. The show had a little Valentine’s Day resonance as well, and after a several tunes about heartbreak and lust, he dropped into “Don’t Mess With Cupid” and quipped “the last time I played that I was wearing a dress.” Mercer Street ain’t exactly next door to the Carlyle, but Johansen’s a longstanding musical polyglot whose varied interests always seem part of a rather profound whole. And, hey, anyone who drops “South American Joe” on a Tuesday night knows what life’s all about.
He’s there through Feb 21. You need to be there, too.