Winter Jazzfest felt more like a rock festival than a showcase for the convention of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. No matter which club I entered, the band onstage was ablaze, and the brimming audience was fueling the fire. Over the two nights I saw 16 performances and a total of about 11 hours of varied and exhilarating music, and I didn't come close to seeing everyone on my list. See some snapshots of the festival at the Winter Jazzfest 2010 photo gallery.
The following is a chronicle of my experience:
Night #1: Friday, January 8th
6:51 pm at (le) Poisson Rouge
I caught the last piece by Secret Society, the big band led by Darcy James Argue. Darcy's music, with elements of rock and minimalism, is an electrified modern hybrid, and for that reason perfectly suited to kick off this year's festival.
7:05 pm at Zinc Bar
Drawing from influences ranging from Woody Shaw to Michael Jackson, bassist Ben Williams led his group through easy-going and hip-hop inspired modal jazz, topped with a dollop of bebop thanks to saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
8:23 pm at (le) Poisson Rouge
Pianist ELEW used to be known as Eric Lewis, but that was before he began to stand at the piano pounding out classic rock songs while head banging and drawing his face into fervid contortions.
8:57 pm at Kenny's Castaways
Saxophonist Jeremy Udden's performance was loosely tethered to folk music, and at times invoked Thelonious Monk. The pairing of Rhodes and banjo created a sweetly anachronistic timbre.
9:44 pm at Kenny's Castaways
At around this time, Kenny's Castaways became the only active stage of the festival. It was programmed by Search and Restore's Adam Schatz, and so it was no surprise that rock ensued. By "rock" I'm not necessarily referring to the style, but more the performance practice of playing loud, hard, and generally raucous music. Drummer Matt Wilson rocked the stage with his quartet, incorporating Balkan, Indian, and post-bop sounds into a jubilant mess.
Drummer Bobby Previte took over with his New Bump quartet, creating hard grooves surrounded by walls of digitally altered vibraphone sound.
Mark Giuliana's Beat Music laid spacey guitar riffs over murderous grooves, evoking guffaws and some good-natured heckling from drummers Kendrick Scott and Johnathan Blake who watched from the second floor.
Keyboardist Jamie Saft's Whoopie Pie, featuring drummer Mike Pride and saxophonist Bill McHenry, treated jazz as though it were metal. The elevated decibel levels, the aggression, and the aura of doom were all present, although so were some deconstructed elements of jazz: late in the set, Saft walked a bass line on a synthesizer, and Pride played something of a ride cymbal pattern to match.
That's it for night number one. Click here to read about the second night of NYC Winter Jazzfest 2010.