Images – Jeff Day
Words – Brandon Peckman
To find refuge from the blustering winds of 2017’s first snowstorm, one could escape into the electrifying world of the 13th Annual Winter Jazzfest, which boasted over 100 bands across 13 different stages over this past weekend.
Honoring late jazz pioneer Thelonious Monk’s centennial and artist-in-residence drummer Andrew Cyrille, the festival’s inspired sounds resonated with a social justice theme.
Steven Bernstein conducting his Universal Melody Brass Band.
Johnathan Finlayson; Steven Bernstein’s Universal Melody Brass Band
Matt Darriau/saxophone; Arthur Baron/trombone; Steven Bernstein’s Universal Melody Brass Band
One could spend the marathons on Friday and Saturday night hopping between iconic downtown NYC venues such as the Bitter End, Subculture, and Le Poisson Rouge to sample the modern scene’s vibrant youth. Or, for those wanting to experience rare duos, there was the celebrated record label ECM’s stage at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium.
Joe Fonda; Joe Fonda Quintet
Mike Rabinowitz; Joe Fonda Quintet
Ralph Peterson/ Ralph Peterson & Aggregate Prime
Mark Whitfield/ Ralph Peterson & Aggregate Prime
Bridging the echoes of the Monk generation’s legacy with the innovations of their musical progeny, the night’s first extraordinary duo featured saxophone virtuoso Ravi Coltrane and piano phenom David Virelles.
Minutes before the show, Coltrane played every single note perfectly along with a recording of his father’s “Giant Steps.”
Ravi Coltrane; Ravi Coltrane/ David Virelles Duo
Throughout the performance, which featured recreations of his father’s most idyllic recordings like Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” Coltrane channeled his father’s spirit while breathing new life into the music. Virelles’ impassioned accompaniment roused the spirits of jazz legends and coated Coltrane’s melodic explorations with an otherworldly brilliance. You could hear a pin drop as the two resolved on their final saccharine chord, leaving the audience stunned in ecstasy.
Ravi Coltrane/ David Virelles Duo
To follow, guitarist Bill Frisell — an innovator on every style from bebop to Americana to surf rock — wove an intricate web of sound along with young bassist Thomas Morgan, who got his first ECM session with another revered guitarist: John Abercrombie.
Frisell led energetic Morgan through a diverse labyrinth of sound, which included everything from a meditative improvisation constructed by outrè loops and effects, to variations on Kristofferson and Foster’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”
The dynamic duo built off each other’s ideas, creating a unique vibe which was accessible yet ethereal.
Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan Duo
Once both sets had completed, the gentleman to my left remarked, “Nothing can top that tonight.” My friend to the right was so astonished, he couldn’t even utter “wow.”
Andrew Cyrille; Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination
Alix “Tit” Pascal; Andrew Cyrille & Haitian Fascination
Charlie Burnham performing at the Thelonius Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show.
Marc Ribot performing at the Thelonius Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show.
Linda Oh performing at the Thelonius Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show.
Shabaka Hutchings performing at the Thelonius Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show.
Deva Mahal performing at the Thelonius Monk 100th Birthday Improv Show.