Winter JazzFest's Weekend Marathon: A Survival Guide

Ludovico Granvassu By

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With each passing year, Winter JazzFest—New York's premiere jazz festival—has expanded the number of venues presenting an increasingly diverse array of musicians. There are several ways to approach a programme as dense and exciting as the 2019 edition of the two-day Marathon spanning January 11th and 12th. Thanks to an embarrassment of riches, festival goers face some difficult choices but your friends at All About Jazz are here to help ensure you have the best possible experience. Our suggestions reflect personal preferences, but we do our best to break down the festival's extensive schedule. If you have a different approach than those suggested here, please share it in the comments section below.

The most important tip for a festival as expansive as Winter JazzFest is to never dwell on the concerts you'll miss. Rather, bask in the awareness that you will catch a bunch of incredible concerts over a mere 48 hours, and there's no other place on earth where one can start the jazz year better. And, before you make a move, check the JazzFest's website for any changes in programme, which are always a concrete possibility in a festival so large, and for its neat crowd watch to make sure you're not going to a venue that is packed to the rafters.

Logistical Approaches

The stationary pragmatist's approach

If you don't like to wait in line, especially if it's cold, raining or snowing, your best bet is to identify the venue that offers the highest number of appealing concerts. Sit once and get comfy for a long evening of musical rewards. If there are no good seats upon arrival, count on crowd's thinning after sets with opportunities to move up as folks make their way to the exits. Below are our favorites options, in order of preference.

Friday 11th: Best alternative: go for a combo by splitting the evening across two venues, a good compromise between not having to move too much and getting more flexibility. To accomplish that, in addition to mixing the concerts from two of the venues listed above, consider: Saturday 12th: Best alternative: do the combo. In addition to mixing the concerts from two of the venues listed above, consider the ECM Record Stage/Sheen Center Combo. Le Poisson Rouge, 6:20PM-8:10PM. Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn; Mathias Eick; then a dash down Bleecker Street to the Sheen Center, 8.20PM-midnight: Pocket Science with Gary Bartz, Kahil El'Zabar, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Robert Irving III; Impressions of Pepper Round Robin (Mark Guiliana, Liberty Ellman, Makaya McCraven, Brian Jackson, David Virelles, Keyon Harrold, Brandee Younger, Clark Gayton, Matthew Whitaker, Nate Wood, JD Allen, The JuJu Exchange); Amina Claudine Myers.

The maximalist's approach

You do not accept compromises and intend to catch as many highlight shows as possible since you are undaunted by the thought of running from venue to venue and you've mastered the art of making your way through lines and crowds. If that's you, then these might represent a few ways to match very promising performances with the realities imposed by the festival's schedule as well as the distances between venues (speaking of which, check the festival's map at the end of this article):
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