Various Artists: VisionFest:VisionLive (2003)
The Vision Festival has little in common with its more visible New York City brethren. Small and independently organized, it functions as an umbrella under which progressive New York musicians can come together in front of sympathetic audiences.
During the 2001 incarnation, an ambitious series of recordings was undertaken to capture some of the many memorable moments. The intitial fruits of that project have been released as part of Thirsty Ear’s Blue Series. The double disc set includes an audio CD of 9 selections from last year’s festival and a bonus DVD which presents the music in Dolby 5.1 surround sound with accompanying stills taken during the performances.
Compilations are all about what and why. Name value, compelling music and historical value can lift one selection over another. Vision mixes all three and should appeal on some level to anyone who was or wished they were there.
The CD cannot be judged as a whole; one’s personal preferences will determine which tracks are played more often. That said, the trio of Billy Bang, Hamiet Bluiett and Jin Hi Kim are raucously inspired. Dave Burrell and Tyrone Brown’s duo belongs in a slinky avant-garde cabaret. The Fred Anderson/Kidd Jordan group, with festival co- organizer William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on drums was the highlight of the festival, lasting over an hour; this cut is four minutes plus. How do you choose those four minutes? Hopefully, the whole performance will be released as its own CD. The record's closing track, a solo bass recital by the late Peter Kowald, serves lamentably as his requiem, the throat singing and violent bowing a stirring reminder of his premature passing.
Note: this review originally appeared in All About Jazz: New York .