By Andrew Frisicano
Jenny Scheinman & Jason Moran @ Winter Jazz Fest @ LPR
Winter Jazz Fest 2010 brought a diverse lineup of contemporary jazz to six Greenwich Village venues on Friday, January 8th and Saturday, Jan. 9th. The sheer number of compelling acts in one place made the fest a great primer for anyone interested the current state of the scene (a topic many of the reviews have addressed). By all accounts it was a big success, with an engaged and diverse crowd turning out. The gigs I went to were all well-attended, mostly-standing affairs (NY Times reports 2,500 attendees at the fest's sold-out Saturday night). The tight schedule (short 40-minute sets) and the closeness of the venues gave a definite festival atmosphere to the shows (like the LES during CMJ). Though some venues had lines waiting to get in (like the cozy Zinc Bar), it was still totally possible to see who you wanted to with a little planning. At each show I managed to find spots close to the stage as the previous crowd shuffled to their next destination.
On Saturday I got a late start and still caught six sets: Jenny Scheinman & Jason Moran at LPR, Claudia Quintet with Gary Versace at the Bitter End, Vijay Iyer Trio at LPR, and Mary Halvorson, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Tyshawn Sorey's bands, all trios, at Kenny's Castaways.
Tonight (1/19) you can catch Vijay Iyer and some of the other Winter Jazz Fest names (Lionel Loueke, Dr. Lonnie Smith) at (Le) Poisson Rouge's jazz-based Haiti benefit concert. The lineup (with special guests TBA) includes organizers Groove Collective, DJ Logic, Bernie Worrell, Roy Hargrove, Yatande Bwakaiman Vodou Drums and Swiss Chris, plus Loueke with Richard Bona, Smith and Iyer. Tickets are on sale. Proceeds go to Haiti Action, Hands Together, The Lambi Fund of Haiti and Grassroots International.
Pictures of the above-mentioned WJF acts, videos and more words about the music are below...
At the center the fest was (Le) Poisson Rouge, a pulsating heart with an active bar. Vijay Iyer Trio, who "headlined" at LPR with a prime 11pm set, was near the top of the fest's must-see list for its widely acclaimed Historicity (the top jazz LP of the year on most lists). Iyer performed to a full house, and rewarded the audience with the first concert performance of his "Galang," an improbably successful M.I.A. cover on the new record. Other tracks included Stevie Wonder's bluesy "Big Brother" and Historicity's title track. Acknowledging the hype, Iyer announced, "We've had a very intense year, and were going to try to live up to it." And they did. Iyer was meticulous, and bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore both dug into their instruments' primal textures while staying telepathically in sync. The background bar chatter added ambience and gave the sense of being somewhere without intruding. Towards the end... was that the smell of weed in the air?
An hour prior, the stage had been graced by violinist Jenny Scheinman and pianist Jason Moran. Their songs incorporated pop and folk melodies ("Norwegian Wood" at one point in their song "Bray") with jazz harmonies and easy tempos. The outdoor Americana sounds brought warmth to the wind-bitten crowd.
Between those two sets, the Claudia Quintet played to a totally packed, elbow-to-elbow Bitter End, which turned even more away at the door (that said, showing up ten minutes before any of the performances mentioned here was sufficient lead time). The group, with pianist Gary Versace, amazed me with their ability to continually crank up the rhythmic energy of their songs, finding newer, stranger tension-filled avenues before cresting over the final release. To start off, band leader and drummer John Hollenback joined Matt Moran behind the vibes; for me, Moran was the star of the performance, taking the lead with his virtuosic playing on the (in lesser hands, very lame) vibraphone.
Kenny's Castaways was still fairly full when guitarist Mary Halvorson's set of sinewy chord work came around midnight. Good vantage points were scarce. Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition highlighted the saxist's full tone and the pattering, hypnotic tabla of Dan Weiss, with guitar from Rez Abbasi. Last up, Tyshawn Sorey slowed the tempo to a simmering crawl, with guitarist Todd Neufeld and the band squeezing each note to the point of exhaustion. At that point, it was approaching 3am. (Tyshawn plays with the JD Allen Trio at Village Vanguard Feb 2-7.)
Joel Harrison Sextet... (Jan 8)
Jenny Scheinman & Jason Moran... (Jan 9, as are the rest, in chronological order)
Claudia Quintet with Gary Versace...
Vijay Iyer Trio...
Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition...
Tyshawn Sorey: Koan...
Marcus Gilmore Solo - Vijay Iyer Trio, Jan 9 2010
Mark Guiliana's Beat Music | NYC @ Kenny's Castaways | 08 Jan 2010
Dr. Lonnie Smith New York Jazz Sullivan Hall, NYC, NY 1/9/2010
Dr Lonnie Smith Trio 1/9/10 live clip