Contrary to the belt tightening going on all around, the Fifteenth Annual Vision Festival sprawled even more languorously this year, with events spread liberally over eleven days in diverse downtown New York City venues. That a festival presenting "avant jazz," as they like to term it, has survived and even thrived for so long without big business sponsorship is a stunning achievement, and one that organizer Patricia Nicholson Parker and her Arts for Arts board can be justly proud of. While the core beneficiaries remain the musical community of the Lower East Side loosely centered around bassist William Parker
, each year's schedule shows incremental adjustments and improvements, particularly in seeking to reach out to the wider community.
As ever, the Vision Festival is about more than just music, though that remains the primary focus for the vast majority of festival-goers, with time and space given over to poetry, visual art, and dance. There was a tinge of sadness this year, in that a program which already billed tributes to greats who had passed away in the preceding 12 months, such as the legendary drummer Rashied Ali
One feature of the Vision Festival, perhaps necessitated by the lack of commercial support, is the down-home nature of the event with musicians and volunteers pitching in alongside the small paid staff to run the show. It all begets a relaxed and friendly attitude that sees regulars returning each year from across the U.S. and indeed the globe, drawn back by the chance to see so much fantastic music in a short time without having to dart between venues.
As a prelude to the centerpiece of the Festival at the well-appointed Abrons Arts Center (for the second year), a series of shows were sequenced at various clubs and bars, with two free outdoor performances by trumpeter Roy Campbell
's trio and William Parker's Little Huey Sextet, providing opportunities for participation by children. My flight was delayed so I missed the outdoor concert but was able to catch three sets at the Local 269, a funky little bar at Houston and Suffolk (see video at end of article).
First up was the bright, loosely swinging Bradley Farberman sextet, which navigated six foot-tapping originals by the leader. Chris DiMeglio, an exuberant trumpet talent, threaded his fanfares around the riffs, alongside the masterful Jason Kao Hwang
, in a pleasing front-line blend of brass and violin. Hwang alternated wah wah-ed violin with singing bowing, and fashioned some tender sighing glissandos in his spot on "See You Soon Baboon," while Farberman proved himself a neat guitarist, embroidering the rhythm with distinction.
emerged on the scene in 2007 seemingly from nowhere, almost the finished article, with an impassioned delivery accentuated by the unalloyed melodicism of his writing, with the sweetness tempered by a propensity for harsh discord. Jones brought in the trio which contributed the final bonus track to his acclaimed debut Man'ish Boy (Aum Fidelity, 2009) for one of the early highlights of the Festival. Adam Lane
led off in hypnotic fashion with a cascade of resonant plucked notes, shadowed by Jones' alto, starting incrementally but rapidly building up a head of steam. Drummer Jason Nazary erected a wall of sound, rumbling mightily before Jones came in for the kill as Mr. Soul personified. Throughout, Jones indulged in all sorts of tonal variations matching Lane and Nazary's liberties with time.
Jones was unapologetic: "It's hot in here. I'm sorry, I'm just gonna make it hotter." He straightaway delivered on his promise, erupting into multiphonic squeals, backed by Lane's deep abrasions, extracted with bow in one hand and a stick in the other pressed on the fretboard. Lane's diminutive figure belied his full strong tone. A composer and bandleader in his own right, Lane brings a rich conception and chops aplenty to whatever he's involved in. His nimble fingering, pitched midway between riffing and walking, propelled Jones' charts, but then he would start toying with a riff, stretching it, interpolating out-of-time passages, and leaving it altogether briefly, sufficient to give even Jones pause.