New York's 24th Annual Vision Festival

Frank Rubolino By

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Although Europe has a plethora of creative improvised music festivals throughout the year, drawing on a large audience base of appreciative fans, one festival in the USA stands out as the beacon of hope and encouragement for this music in its native land. Now in its 24th year, New York's Vision Festival, presented by Arts for Art, is a rarity on this side of the Atlantic in its scope and artistry. The superstars of the music are honored and respected for the significant contributions made over a multitude of decades, while the emerging younger generation is offered an opportunity to make its presence known. The festival is a celebration of challenging music, dance, poetry, and the visual arts, all performed by innovative artists at the peak of their creative talents.

And what a celebration this year's event was, honoring Andrew Cyrille for his lifetime achievements, while also paying respect to four recently deceased giants in Hamiet Bluiett, Alvin Fielder, Cecil Taylor, and Joseph Jarman—most of whom performed at many previous Vision Festivals since its start in 1996. Cyrille worked his drum magic as a soloist, in six duets, and in one trio set with luminaries associated with him over the years. D.D. Jackson, Kidd Jordan, Jemeel Moondoc, and Douglas Ewart each mounted a tribute band to keep the musical accomplishments of the four departed legends ever present.

In addition, perennial favorites such as William Parker, Hamid Drake, Jason Kao Hwang, Whit Dickey, Matthew Shipp, Rob Brown, Cooper-Moore, Milford Graves, Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Swell, Peter Brötzmann, Michael Bisio, and many, many other well established heroes were featured, as were a host of younger enthusiasts such as Luke Stewart, James Brandon Lewis, Ava Mendoza, Tomas Fujiwara, Jaimie Branch, Tomeka Reid, Kris Davis—the list goes on and on as around 150 performers took the stage. For six nights, an enthusiastic audience was treated to performance after performance. When the last of 35 offerings concluded, all in attendance at the acoustically friendly Roulette in downtown Brooklyn had fully absorbed the warmth and community spirit this festival evokes.

Executive Director Todd Nicholson and Artistic Director Patricia Nicholson Parker are to be commended for once again showcasing this vital music in its country of origin being performed by its most prestigious advocates.
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