The Best Jazz Shows in NYC This Month

Categories: Jazz

Krzysztof Machowina
Henry Threadgill

Winter Jazzfest
It grows and grows. The 10th anniversary Winter Jazzfest spans five nights (Jan. 7-11), nine venues and over 90 bands. There'll be three standalone concerts and two back-to-back marathons (6pm-4am) with hugely impressive lineups. A quick glimpse reveals the names Gary Bartz, Darcy James Argue, Chris Lightcap, Matthew Shipp, Tim Berne, Aruán Ortiz, Town Hall headliners Robert Glasper and Jason Moran (plus guests), on and on. By now the vast aesthetic range is a given, but the particulars come as a surprise every year. Forced to choose a definitive set, we'd go with Henry Threadgill in his WJF debut. The great alto saxophonist/flutist/composer leads his Ensemble Double-Up in the premiere of "Old Locks and Irregular Verbs," honoring the late Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris (Jan. 11).

Samuel Blaser Quartet with Ravi Coltrane
Swiss-born, Berlin-based trombonist Samuel Blaser can move from swinging and mellifluous lines to growling multiphonics and abstraction in one solo and make it sound entirely logical. He's drawn from medieval and Renaissance music on two recent discs, offering improvisational readings of Monteverdi and Machaut. At ShapeShifter Lab (Jan. 2) Blaser turns his attention to clarinet/saxophone master Jimmy Giuffre, who passed in 2008. With renowned saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, pianist Russ Lossing, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Gerald Cleaver on hand to interpret Giuffre's unclassifiable works, the gig's a sure bet. SPOKE plus Brass Quintet follows at 9:30pm.

Marcus Strickland, Wayne Escoffery
Two fierce tenor/soprano saxophonists in their 30s are bringing their respective quartets to Smoke for two nights each. Miami native Marcus Strickland (Jan. 2-3), who has lit up bandstands with Roy Haynes, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Dave Douglas and others, has no problem backing up the bravado of his recent album title Triumph of the Heavy, Volume 1 & 2 (Strick Muzik). London-born, New Haven-raised Wayne Escoffery (Jan. 4-5), prized for his work in the Tom Harrell Quintet, Ben Riley's Monk Legacy Septet and the Mingus Big Band, is readying the spring release of Live at Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside). At Smoke he'll have some of the very best: pianist David Kikoski, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Lewis Nash.

Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet
That he came up as a legit bebopper in the '80s and '90s is something guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, 43, reminded us with Reflections (Wommusic), his Standards Trio release of 2009. But there've always been stirrings of sublimity in Rosenwinkel's original music. On Star of Jupiter in 2012 he reached an apex of clear and futuristic expression, leading a quartet with formidable pianist Aaron Parks, Standards Trio bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner (the bass-drums engine of the Branford Marsalis Quartet). At Jazz Standard from January 8-12, Rosenwinkel has Parks and Revis in place, with Kendrick Scott (Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard) in Faulkner's stead.

Frank Kimbrough Trio
Pianist Frank Kimbrough has had a notable impact over the last two decades: as cofounder of the (now-dormant) Jazz Composers Collective, as the longtime harmonic anchor of the Maria Schneider Orchestra, and as a leader of the marvelous trio sessions Play, Lullabyeblue and Live at Kitano (Palmetto), among others. At Greenwich House's Sound It Out series on January 9, when Kimbrough assembles with bassist Masa Kamaguchi and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, it'll be Play that comes quickest to mind. Kamaguchi and the late Paul Motian were superbly matched on that fine recording, and there'll likely be echoes of Motian's sphinxlike aesthetic in what Kimbrough has to offer. Other idiosyncratic masters, such as Herbie Nichols and Andrew Hill, continue to inform Kimbrough's piano conception and compositional voice. And still there's that loose and lyrical feel, almost a folk influence, seeping in from his native North Carolina.

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