winter jazzfest 2019: gary bartz 50-year anniversary of another earth featuring pharoah sanders plus nubya garcia, le poisson rouge, nyc, jan 10

  • photography by © Clara Pereira / text by Filipe Freitas

In its 15th edition, the NYC Winter JazzFest was extended to nine nights, with its concerts being distributed to twelve venues in lower Manhattan. The festival has been fundamental in a city that breathes and lives jazz music like no place else. Besides offering a large number of live performances in its marathons, the program encompasses exceptional concerts and didactic jazz talks. Unparalleled for its dimension, diversity, and quality, this jazz celebration is where artists and fans want to hang around.


On Thursday, January 10th, we headed to Le Poisson Rouge to attend a special event, an extraordinary concert that put a new stamp in the history of jazz.

In an excellent mood and interacting with the audience multiple times, the legendary saxophonist Gary Bartz, 78, started by introducing the old and new friends that completed his quartet that night - former Sun Ra’s guitarist Bruce Edwards, bassist James King, who has been the ‘glue’ of his music since the 90s, and drummer Nasheet Waits, whose late father, Freddie Waits, played on the original recording, dated from 1968.

As expected, the tunes of Another Earth, his very first outing, were tackled with courage and intensity, still feeling very vivid despite have not been played for 50 years.
Overflowing with rich melody, “Dark Nebula” showed Bartz feeling every note and phrase he plays; “Perihelion and Aphelion” had exactly the same growling saxophone lines as part of its spiritual section, routinely interrupted by up-tempo swing runs loaded with bop facility; and the cheerful swinging blues “UFO”, which featured Edwards patterning awesome bluesy riffs. Bartz has summoned his nephew, actor Eric Berryman, to recite the lyrics of the incredibly melodious “Lost In The Stars” by Kurt Weill.

The second half of the concert was mind-blowing. It featured the unmatchable Pharoah Sanders on tenor and the great Charles Tolliver on trumpet, important associates in the original album, who, here, got hold of the extended title track (the A-side of the album) with impetuous force, following Bartz’s command: ‘chaos’! This piece had never been played live before.
The bandleader explained that the album was inspired by his studies of astrology at that time, and said goodbye with a wish: ‘we want you to take care of yourselves and each other’. Exceptionally inspiring.

nubya garcia

Prior to the jazz giants, people could enjoy different kinds of pulsations and grooves with the London-based saxophonist Nubya Garcia. Her quartet includes keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, bassist Daniel Casimir, and drummer Sam Jones.

Supplementing the spiritual modal jazz with a bit of nu-soul, “Fly Free” revealed a tenorist with a fondness for shifting rhythmic phrases. Constantly responding to her motivic inflections, Armon-Jones also proved to be a daring improviser as he kept interweaving dissonant chords and brisk single-note phrasing, sometimes playing piano and synth simultaneously. That’s what happened on “Source”, a piece marked by a strong ska/reggae feel and populated by offbeat electro vibes.

Undesirable feedback perturbed Nubya, who admitted a little nervousness for having some of her jazz idols playing next. She ended the concert with a brand new piece called “Pace”, sufficiently explanatory of the jazz style she brandishes. In certain occasions, the music took spiritual avant-jazz directions, leaving everyone galvanized.