Two Nights, 11 Bands at NYC Winter JazzFest (Part 2: Saturday)

I’m finally starting to recover from my weekend of extreme jazz consumption at the 2010 NYC Winter JazzFest.  For some initial thoughts and a recap of my Day One experience on Friday, click here.  For some other excellent Winter JazzFest recaps, check out Ben Ratliff, Nate Chinen, Ben Allison, Jacob Teichroew and Hank Shteamer.

Having attended Winter JazzFest last year, Friday had pretty much been in line with my expectations.  Great music, solid crowds, high energy, good times.  But I also knew that this was the first year that the festival had expanded to a second day, and was going to feature five venues rather than Friday’s three.  It was clear that they were upping the ante — especially with such top-notch groups as Ben Allison, The Claudia Quintet, Gretchen Parlato and Vijay Iyer in the lineup.

Still, I had no idea what I was in for.  The NYC Jazz Scene flat-out kicked ass on Saturday, and everyone — promoters, musicians, arts presenters, and especially jazz fans — played a part in making it happen.  Congratulations to everyone for making it go over as well as it did!

Click through for the play-by-play of my Saturday night at NYC Winter JazzFest:

Saturday was even more ridiculous — I was continuously blown away by the size, enthusiasm and energy of the crowds that came out to hear jazz.  It certainly raised the stakes for the musicians onstage, and they certainly delivered.  I decided to stake out a seat early at Kenny’s Castaways, where I caught the first four acts before moving over to the Bitter End and Le Poisson Rouge.

Oran Etkin played saxophone and clarinet over African grooves, and Rez Abbasi brought his quartet to do his tricky jazz thing (featuring fellow Amherst College alum Stephan Crump on bass — represent!)  Linda Oh had a new project that she brought out afterward, one of the few ensembles that had clearly not worked together much.  These three groups all featured some fantastic individual performances; however, they didn’t grab me the way some of the other bands did in terms of their overall ensemble impact.  Part of that, too, was another subpar performance from the club’s sound engineer — Linda Oh and Oran Etkin both had to grapple with feedback and other sound gaffes throughout their respective sets.

The JD Allen Trio closed out my stint at Kenny’s Castaways — I’ve raved about these guys before, and it was great to get a chance to hear them live for the first time.  Great stuff.  Unfortunately, Gregg August‘s bass amp was distorting like crazy, but that’s what it is I guess.

I scooted out of there mid-set to get over to the Bitter End for John Hollenbeck‘s Claudia Quintet.  This is where the “holy crap” moments started happening — I had never heard them before, and was just blown away.  So were the approximately five million people crammed into the club to hear them.  The crowd was digging it, too: offering much more than the polite, obligatory applause that many jazz musicians have come to expect at their shows, the audience cheered and rumbled along with the music itself.

My night ended with Vijay Iyer‘s set at Le Poisson Rouge, where the buzz was perhaps more palpable than anywhere else at the festival.  Building off of his recent success with his latest album Historicity, Iyer took his cues mostly from that playbook — he even played his cover of M.I.A.’s Galang live for the first time.  Like the Claudia Quintet’s crowd, the audience was totally digging it in a way that jazz audiences rarely seem to do; this clearly fed the trio’s already-plentiful energy.

By the end of that set, though, I was completely wiped out.  I had planned on returning to The Bitter End to check out Todd Sickafoose, but by the time I arrived the club was completely full.  So I called it a night, exhausted, exhilarated and extremely optimistic about the prospects for jazz in New York in 2010.  As Nate Chinen points out: this music is still happening next week, and the week after that!  I know that I’m going to do my part to get out and check it out, because after this weekend it is abundantly clear how much there is to hear.  And maybe next time they’ll bring a decent sound guy.

Were you at the NYC Winter JazzFest on Saturday?  If so, tell me what I missed!  I managed to catch 11 bands over the two nights, but that’s only 20% of the music that went down…

About Alex Rodríguez

Writer, Organizer, Trombonist
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2 Responses to Two Nights, 11 Bands at NYC Winter JazzFest (Part 2: Saturday)

  1. Claudia Quintet is so sick. I’m glad you caught them.

  2. Pingback: Winter JazzFest and the White Jazz Narrative « Lubricity

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