Friday-Saturday, January 6-7
Better than: Summer Zydeco Fest (assuming such a terror exists).
After a discordant, twisted reimagining of Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" by his trio Ceramic Dog, guitarist Marc Ribot slyly reminded the audience at Sullivan Hall Friday what they should be encountering. He then followed with a gut-punching interpretation of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," leaving the springy melody intact enough to be ravaged by the chugging furor of a runaway train from hell. It was anything but expected.
The hardly discernable rendition of that classic jazz favorite was one of the few examples of looking back at a festival devoted to new ideas and the performers preoccupied with furthering them. At one point, the biggest names in jazz were obsessed with the future, trying to engender new sounds, techniques, and cascades of cross-cultural movement one session at a time. Festival organizers Brice Rosenbloom and Adam Schatz have, for years, put a curatorial emphasis on spotlighting the best musicians still enraptured by such a mind-set, and without the looming, prehistoric shadow of the genre's most discernable legends and venues, the programming had endless room to breathe. Much more than the concertgoers4,000 of them gladly crammed into and shuffled between the festival's five venues (Le Poisson Rouge, The Bitter End, Kenny's Castaways, Zinc Bar, and Sullivan Hall), which were always bustling, often beyond capacity. Heads and feet dangled off balconies and stools became risers for audience members desperate for a glimpse.More »