Legendary jazz saxophonist David Murray performs at the Knitting Factorys Winter Jazzfest this Saturday.
Winter Jazzfest heats up again
By Andrey Henkin
Traditionally, American jazz festival season happens during the balmier months, the better to attract short-wearing listeners to cities like New Orleans and Los Angeles. But every January since 2005, a one-day event in New York packs the festival punch, with warmer clothing definitely required. The brainchild of self-proclaimed curatorial consultant for different venues around the city Brice Rosenbloom, the annual NYC Winter Jazzfest draws an international crowd to Downtowns Knitting Factory.
Rosenbloom was an employee at the three-floor music venue when it still had a reputation for adventurous jazz spawned from the Downtown scene of the 80s. He was interested in a full club jazz event which in my mind satisfied several different goals one was to make the Knit once again a destination for jazz fans and another was to utilize, what I think is the genius of the building, having three different stages. In 2005 the first Winter Jazzfest was held using the prototype still followed today: 18-plus bands on three stages playing short sets with minimal time in between, a sort of high school talent show but one with decidedly more accomplished performers like Dave Douglas, Vijay Iyer and The Bad Plus.
The short sets and wintry scheduling were calculated moves. Every January, though most in the city may not know it, is APAP month in New York. The Association for Performing Arts Presenters rolls into town for a week, attracting artist managers, press, label heads and venue bookers from all over the world to a variety of showcase and industry events, determining much of what gets seen in clubs and concert halls around the country and world during the next year. Its a showcase opportunity mainly for the groups in front of industry, presenters, press and the avid jazz fan, explains Rosenbloom. But if you look at numbers from the past four years, about 30-40% of the people at the Knit have been comped because theyre APAP conference attendees or theyre press or record labels, part of the artist management or agency, other industry people, and then the rest are ticket buyers and other fans. So the Winter Jazzfest is different than most jazz festivals in that it is designed both for the ardent supporter and jaded business type, a challenge Rosenbloom embraces when booking the acts.
I dont want to just paint one picture of jazz. Its such a broad genre; people define jazz in a lot of different ways and I hope that the festival can touch upon as broad a definition as can be, Rosenbloom says. Ive always tried to keep it not New York-centric so having groups from different states, different cities, different countries just show the breadth, that jazz is active and alive and there are new things happening all over.
This years festival, now in its fourth year, is becoming something for jazz fans to look forward to during the dark months when even New York Citys nightlife seems to slow down. Artists performing represent a dizzying cross-section of jazz, mutually inclusive and exclusive. Legendary saxophonist David Murray will be there as will Dave Douglas; World jazz will be represented by Amir ElSaffar, Omer Avital, the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble, Iva Bittova and Zim Ngqawana; young musicians representing the future of adventurous jazz also take part, players like Donny McCaslin, Ben Allison and Matana Roberts. Says Rosenbloom, Ive certainly been able to be a bit more picky this year and last year but the vision sort of remains the same, with the goal of showcasing new projects to show that jazz is very much vibrant, that theres really interesting new projects coming out.
For more information, visit www.winterjazzfest.com