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NYC Winter Jazzfest 2016

Dan Bilawsky By

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A midwinter's dream of an event that understands and emphasizes the hip factor in jazz of all shapes, colors, and sizes.
NYC Winter Jazzfest
New York, NY
January 13-17, 2016

If you make the rounds in New York City on any night of the week, during any week of the year, there's always an abundance of quality jazz to hear. But when NYC Winter Jazzfest takes hold, the cup truly runneth over. This massive annual event amplifies this already-vibrant scene, bringing it to critical mass while drawing in jazz fans, musicians, and industry members from near and far. Over the course of its existence, NYC Winter Jazzfest has grown in status, changing and evolving from insider's affair to institution, and, ultimately, becoming what it is today: A midwinter's dream of an event that understands and emphasizes the hip factor in jazz of all shapes, colors, and sizes.

The twelfth edition of this festival made that point just as well, if not better, than previous versions, appealing to catholic tastes and curious ears. With well over a hundred acts on the bill over the course of five days, attendees had the opportunity to create individualized listening itineraries that suited their interests and needs. There were notable stand-alone shows dotting the landscape—a triple bill kickoff at (Le) Poisson Rouge on Wednesday, January 13, featuring The Ex, the duo of bassist Bill Laswell and saxophonist Colin Stetson, and Happy Apple; the Jazz Concert for Disability Pride at The Quaker Friends Meeting Hall on Thursday, January 14, bringing a slew of legends together for a worthy cause; and the fest-ending Channeling Coltrane, also at (Le) Poisson Rouge, with Rova's Electric Ascension featuring Nels Cline and an opening set from guitarist Julian Lage—and the ever-popular Friday and Saturday marathons, with music filling a multitude of venues from 6pm until the wee small hours of the morning. There was also one unfortunate postponement—the highly anticipated concert from saxophonist Kamasi Washington, originally scheduled at Webster Hall on Thursday, January 14, had to be moved back to a late February date, as he was unable to travel due to an injury. But that notable snag couldn't dampen the spirit of NYC Winter Jazzfest. The show must go on, and boy, did it ever. Here's the scoop on one man's experiences over the course of the two marathon evenings:

Friday Marathon (January 15, 2016): "The Northbound Odyssey"

Those who've attended a NYC Winter Jazzfest marathon know that choice and opportunity become a double-edged sword. The one-ticket-covers-all-venues approach for the marathon event(s) allows for easy access to a tremendous amount of music, but there are far too many shows that deserve attention going on at the same time. Hard decisions have to be made as a route is sketched out, leaving some shows behind. It's a good problem, as this remains a pick-your-passion event with no wrong choices, but it's a problem nonetheless. For this writer, the ones that got away at the Friday Marathon were many and varied—drummer Makaya McCraven, vocalist Rene Marie, Evan Christopher's Clarinet Road featuring vocalist Hilary Gardner, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, bassist Christian McBride, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, saxophonist Mark Turner, and drummer Mark Guiliana, to name just a few. With over sixty acts performing on a single night, you're guaranteed to miss a lot more than you see. But it's far better to appreciate and recap what was caught than lament what was missed.

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