Five Splendid Pairings For the Adventurous Winter Jazzfest 2013 Attendee

Don Byron
In her autobiography I Put a Spell on You, Nina Simone recalled the Greenwich Village of the '50s and '60s as a scene where beboppers, folkies, blues devotees and bohemians of all stripes would seek out their music in close proximity. Decades later, Winter Jazzfest takes stock of a new historical moment, presenting several dozen bands in six venues located in or near the very area Simone described. By now it's become an inspiring ritual to kick off the year: a marathon display of monster talent, with players spanning several generations and sounding absolutely nothing alike.

Is it all "jazz"? The term itself is enough to spark heated debate among the initiated, but this festival seems to say: never mind all that. Just listen. What you'll hear is new, experimental, global in scope. Catching every act over the two nights is a tall order, so here are five suggested pairings to get you started.

See also:
- The Ten Best Jazz Shows in NYC This Month
- Charles Mingus' Secret Eggnog Recipe Will Knock You on Your Ass
- In Praise of David S. Ware: Remembering the Saxophone Pioneer

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Live: Winter Jazzfest Breaks Down Boundaries And Confounds Expectations

See more photos at the 2012 Winter Jazzfest slideshow.
Winter Jazzfest
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 concertgoers—4,000 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.

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Top 10 Must-See Acts At Winter Jazzfest 2011

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Vernon Reid, up to something
Without a guide, Winter Jazzfest can make you pretty crazy. On Friday and Saturday night, five venues -- Le Poisson Rouge, Zinc Bar, Kenny's Castaways, Sullivan Hall, and the Bitter End -- will feature a total of 68 short sets (new performers take the stage every hour) by long-running groups, brand-new ensembles, and even a solo set or two, all for the low all-access ticket price of $25 per day or $35 for a two-day pass. The music can kick off as early as 5:45 p.m., and the closing performance, by trumpeter David Weiss's Point of Departure quintet, will end after 3 a.m. Here are ten groups you should try to catch.

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The 2011 NYC Winter Jazzfest Announces Dates, Venues, Several Dozen Artists

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Robert Glasper, bringing along his continuing Experiment
As we have previously opined, January's annual two-day Winter Jazzfest is one of the season's signature live-music events, packing an ever-expanding number of downtown clubs (five this year) with an ever-expanding cabal of folks inexplicably angling to hear tough, ambitious downtown jazz. 2011's slate is set for January 7-8 at Le Poisson Rouge, Kenny's Castaways, Zinc Bar, Sullivan Hall, and Bitter End; tickets are on sale Friday, $25 per day, $35 for the both of 'em. As with globalFEST, you are guaranteed to encounter something you haven't heard before but will be very glad you did -- maybe this year it'll be, uh, Mike Pride's From Bacteria To Boys. To that end, here's the early lineup:

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