Nine consecutive years of presenting cutting edge improvised music, poetry, dance, and visual arts –that’s the honor New York’s Vision Festival holds. This year’s seven-day event, overseen once again by bassist William Parker and dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker, offered 31 performances of consistently uplifting artistry. It all took place at the acoustically friendly Mulberry Street Center in Downtown Manhattan, where the sound team did a fantastic job of balancing and distributing the music to overflow crowds each night. And if 31 shows were not enough, a concurrent afternoon festival of six performances, curated by trombonist Steve Swell and poet Steve Dalachinsky, took place on the Memorial Day weekend at the nearby Fusion Arts Museum. The concerts hit amazing highs, consistently challenging the audience with diverse forms of creativity. Captured below in 25 photographs is a flavoring of the exciting festival that was rated superb by a large majority of this year’s attendees.
Chinese guzheng player Xu Feng Xia chanted and plucked the 2500-year-old forerunner to the Japanese koto on a cross-cultural program with German violinist Gunda Gottschalk.
Pianist Fred Van Hove, together with trombonist Johannes Bauer, integrated European and American aesthetics into a robust session of demanding and at times raucous music.
Fully rejuvenated by his year back in the performance spotlight, Henry Grimes, together with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Andrew Cyrille, delved into inner mysteries and dark concepts on this emotional and inspired set.
Grand percussion master Andrew Cyrille reaffirmed his supremacy as a power drummer with the stellar Henry Grimes trio.
Joe McPhee and Dominic Duval were interlocked in ardent communication during their gripping set that featured feisty violinist Rosie Hertlein.
The reedy didgeridoo and exotic gongs played by Harold E. Smith added a unique flavor to the music of the Joe McPhee quartet.
Young alto saxophonist and rapper John Beaty showed poise and great talent as the reed player opposite J.D. Parran with the outstanding Reggie Workman Ashanti’s Message ensemble.
Buddhist priest and original Art Ensemble of Chicago member Joseph Jarman cast a spell through his mystical flute and alto playing, setting the stage for Equal Interest associates Leroy Jenkins and Myra Melford to sustain the hypnotic mood.
Myra Melford articulately wove dense piano sequences and spell-inducing harmonium passages into the fabric of Equal Interest by spinning shimmering threads of love and peace.
The New Orleans – New York vector proved again to be the source of some of the most powerful music of the festival as Kidd Jordan unleashed his potent message on the Downtown crowd.
Clyde Kerr, long term stalwart in the bands of Kidd Jordan, used awesome high-end blowing to spur the Jordan quintet to volatile rounds of improvised intensity.
The supercharged large orchestra Burnt Sugar, conducted by Greg Tate and propelled by the new-century vocalizing of Justice Dilla-X and Omega Moon, was further ignited by the fiery blowing of saxophonist Matana Roberts.
Indigenous American and African roots of Mixashawn (a.k.a. Lee Rozie) were assimilated into his passionate saxophone playing, enthusiastic vocalizing, and descriptive story telling.
Multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore displayed his inventive freeform talents during an abbreviated set with his trio Triptych Myth.
European vocalist Moo Lohkenn, performing as a guest with the Cooper-Moore trio, introduced yodel-like singing and high-pitched scatting into the musical equation in her attempt to expand creative boundaries.
Resonant bassist Tom Abbs injected didgeridoo passages to stimulate the action with Cooper-Moore’s Triptych Myth.
Oriental ethereality and Occidental combustibility abounded when the spiraling improvisations from Ned Rothenberg’s shakuhachi, clarinet, and saxophone coalesced with the vibrant strings of bassist Mark Dresser and koto player Michiyo Yagi.
Alto saxophonist Rob Brown blew with demanding eloquence and Joe Morris matched him with complex bass runs during their quartet set with trombonist Steve Swell and drummer Luther Gray.
Roy Campbell Jr was compelling on muted and open trumpet with his band Tazz, but he especially shined on his haunting composition “Oh Where Has My Father Gone.”
Gunter Baby Sommer, the epitome of creative rhythmic energy, listened astutely to the circulating vibrations of co-European musicians Connie Bauer and Barre Philips as he punctuated every sentence with emphatic exclamation marks.
The tumultuous assault of multi-instrumentalist Sabir Mateen and the exhaustive bass playing of William Parker combined to make the Dave Burrell Echo/Peace Continuum quintet’s set the most forceful and exuberant of the festival.
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