Highly Selective Listings
A thoughtful, discerning, and carefully compiled list of the most notable, promising and unique musical events for the month of March in New York City.
It’s the first night of the Winter Jazzfest and a sold-out show. I’m looking forward to Colin Stetson who I’ve heard twice before and want more of, also the Ex, whom I haven’t heard in years. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fan, just curious.
Arriving at (le) poisson rouge a half-hour after doors for the opening night of the Winter Jazzfest, I sat in the bar area watching the venue fill up and waiting for feeling to return to my fingertips. Next to me, a pair of young Chinese women with Xs on their hands and braces on their teeth, across the room a British couple with a whole bottle of wineso an international crowd, both sober and festive. There was the familiar opening-night buzz in the air that made my pre-show impatience more bearable.
I began my night on Saturday, January 16, with a legal PEDa double espressoin anticipation of my first Winter Jazzfest marathon: twelve venues, seven hours, and 100-plus groups. By morning, instead of a 26.2 decal for the butt of my jeans, I had a knotty hangover and a move-the-decimal-one-to-the-right-size credit card bill. Notes on some damn good jazz performances, too.
Winter Jazzfest concluded with the New York City premiere of Rova Saxophone Quartet’s Electric Ascension, a 21st-century reincarnation of John Coltrane’s AscensionTrane’s 1965 paean to freedom and expression. Electric Ascension brought together an all-star cast of improvisers to channel the spirit of Coltrane’s seminal album, which Coltrane himself never performed live.
I want to get the facts out of the way first: the New York City Winter Jazzfest is one of the finest festivals of its kind. It’s the jazz event that this citythe center of the jazz universedeserves: it expands across the history of the music, from trad to free to fusion, and when it reaches outside of jazz it ignores smooth pop and diluted rock, blues, and folk in favor of musicians who work with improvisation: Colin Stetson, Bill Laswell, the Ex, Dither, Kaki King. Jazz is not commercial music, and the non-jazz in the festival is in no way commercial filler.