Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Visit to New York, Part One

Right now I'm sitting in my hotel room in Manhattan, where I've been, off and on, since Sunday night. January means it's time for the annual trek to the Big Apple for both the Jazz Congress conference and Winter Jazz Fest. This year, however I was a couple days late and beaucoup dollars short.

Last year, the festival kicked into full marathon gear - with two nights of shows happening throughout Manhattan - a few days after Jazz Congress. There were a few stand-alone shows in between. This year, though, the Manhattan marathon started last week, preceding the conference. I realized this only after the Megabus ticket and hotel room had been booked and after the days off from work had been requested. The silver lining is there is another marathon night happening tomorrow in Brooklyn, and I'll be there for that.

But I was here in plenty of time for the Jazz Congress, from which the badge up above came from. Not sure why they didn't put "JazzTimes/Pittsburgh Current" on the badge. Maybe press is press. Maybe I should've done what Curly did in the one Three Stooges film where he, Moe and Larry pretend they're members of the press to get into an event: Moe and Larry get "Press" buttons from the men's room. Curly, ever the resourceful one, has a badge that says, "Pull."

Is this thing on?

One of the panels at Jazz Congress saluted Charlie Parker: "Bird at Beyond: Celebrating Charlie Parker at 100." The panelists included drummers Will Calhoun and Terri Lyne Carrington, saxophonists Rudresh Mahanthappa and (pictured above) Charles McPherson. Rather than rehashing stories about Bird, they helped get to the essence of why Charlie Parker is still relevant and inspirational all these years later. The one thing that the panelists really pondered but I don't think anyone could really answer was what Parker might have accomplished had he lived longer. It's nice to imagine that, but you never really know. He could have turned more pop or he could have gone more experimental. He could have invented Third Stream. But who can really say? Not me, so I'll stop there. (I'm going to write at length about the Congress in the next week. So a full report is forthcoming.)

The Bushwick Public House's weekly Monday Night Improvised Music Series was not part of the Winter Jazz Fest, but it was on my list of shows to check out. Hosted by tenor saxophonist Stephen Gauci, the event features six bands (!) every week. 

Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter (seen above) played with two groups on Monday. One included bassist Francesco Marcocci, saxophonist Dan Blake and drummer Francisco Mela. The other featured him together with baritone saxophonist Dave Sewelson and a second baritone player, Josh Sinton, who also doubled on bass clarinet. I like all these guys anyway but hearing them together was really great. Sinton initiated a couple of ideas, Sewelson picked up on them and Carter added great textures to them.

Gauci's trio with drummer Kevin Shea and bassist Adam Lane was just setting up when I got there, They unleashed some intense, sometimes brutal free jazz, but it had a lot of momentum to carry it forward. Or should I say, the delivery shoved the music forward. Following that group, before Marcocci's group, drummer Jeremy Carlstadt and guitarist Anders Nillson offered a spacey respite from the squonk.

To be continued...

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