winter jazzfest 2016 - nyc, jan 16

  • photography by Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas
  • This article was also published in Portuguese on Magazine

Day 4 - Second Marathon

The versatile clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer, Don Byron, opened the fourth day of the festival. In his very own style and driven by a cathartic, loose language, Byron started with a dedication to Ornette Coleman, playing one of his tunes. Along the way, he still had time for another tribute, a beautiful ballad, this time in honor of the recently deceased Allen Toussaint. For this freewheeling gathering, he brought the Cuban-born pianist Aruan Ortiz, the veteran bassist Cameron Brown, and the unpretentious drummer Bruce Cox. The performance occurred at the New School Auditorium.

Later on, we returned to the Tishman Auditorium for the next three concerts. Owner of a magnificent and original voice, Theo Bleckmann, created his own ethereal, breathable spaces thanks to the fabulous accompaniment by Ben Monder, a familiar collaborator and one of the most accomplished guitarists of our times. Monder’s sound waves, adorned with notable solos, combined perfectly with the voice of Bleckmann, who also found a powerful consistency in the basis formed by Shai Maestro on piano, Chris Tordini on double bass, and the always-impressive John Hollenbeck on drums. 

The one who captivated me most was Chris Potter, whether on the tenor and soprano saxophones or on the bass clarinet. His precise, incisive, and exciting sound touched my soul deeply. The clarity and musicality of his compositions, in addition to the triumphant improvisations, were simply breathtaking. The constant and seamless ambience fluctuations, performed with an incredibly good taste, maintained the concert in high levels, always carrying the desired articulation with the other members of the quartet. By making use of an efficient, rich sound that comprehends elegant patterns and harmonic progressions, he immersed us in his stories with grace and objectivity while keep on driving us throughout far off landscapes. Potter opted to bring the pianist David Virelles, who shone this time, and the same rhythm section that had accompanied Mark Turner the day before - Joe Martin and Marcus Gilmore on the double bass and drums, respectively.

Probably, one of the most expected concerts of the night was Tim Berne’s. The prolific 61-year-old sax player, who recorded more than 40 albums both as a leader and co-leader, performs a modern creative jazz that frequently lives of intricate melodic lines, and constant interactions and polyrhythms, which may embrace serene atmospheres that can be transformed into a fulminating chaos in the next minute. Berne, who recently saw the third album of his Snakeoil being released by the ECM, introduced his new band, baptized of Sideshow. By presenting three long tunes, he let us anticipate an album release for this fresh project in a near future. The compositions are not far from what was described above, but the illustrious band that followed him here – the crystalline trumpet player Ralph Alessi, the imaginative and intuitive pianist Matt Mitchell, the ingenious bassist John Hébert, and the solid drummer Dan Weiss – assures the intense sound he's constantly searching for.

The night couldn’t have been more splendorous in its finale without a mighty performance by the Sun Ra Arkestra conducted by the maestro and alto sax player, Marshall Allen, a stimulating wizard of 91 years old that carries the band on his shoulders. The show took place at the resounding Judson Church in Washington Square and started with a delay of more than 30 minutes due to the complicated organization on the stage, too small for all the band members. Wearing colorful garments as usual, and performing stirring, danceable tunes, the Arkestra continues to spread its fascination for the cosmic space, always conveying a dazzling enthusiasm while throwing in flaming improvisations. The super well-disposed singer, Tara Middleton, brought some soul to the rollicking and untamed rhythms of the orchestra. The exuberance ended with some of the musicians dancing among the audience.

In New York, the feverish jazz scene feels livelier than ever!