Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Continuity is theme at JVC Jazz NY

By kindofblue

What to make of the recently announced JVC Jazz Festival New York schedule, the first under the aegis of Festival Network?

It’s worth studying carefully, if only because, while George Wein clearly had a hand in planning this year’s festival, he also clearly won’t be around that much longer, and this lineup presumably offers some clues at to how Festival Network is going to be running things.

At first glance (and second, and third), the lineup looks pretty much like more of the same, with maybe a little more of a pop crossover slant (Chris Botti, Al Green, Mos Def) and a little less nostalgia (only one tribute concert to a dead person, Alice Coltrane, and no 70th or 80th birthday celebrations).

The former is a shoulder-shrugger — festivals have to make money, you need pop acts to sell tickets, and blah blah blah. The latter is either encouraging (more focus on the present, less on the past) or saddening (they’re running out of old and/or dead people to honor), depending on your point of view.

On the positive side, there are some new venues (most intriguingly a new nightclub on the site of the old Village Gate) and some unfamiliar acts: I’m psyched to see Charles Lloyd’s new quartet with Jason Moran on piano, and the Bad Plus augmented by Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar sounds like a good idea.

And it’s always good to see any festival take a chance on Cecil Taylor, probably the most polarizing artist in jazz. (I’ll never forget, many years ago, seeing a JVC double bill at Carnegie Hall of Oscar Peterson and Taylor. Peterson played first. About half the audience left at intermission, and about half of the remaining audience walked out in a steady stream during Taylor’s set. Me, I can’t wait to see him again.)

My overall take? It looks like business as usual, more or less — which isn’t really so bad. I’m just glad, in the face of all the
economic gloom and all the radical changes in the music business, that there are still enough artists promoters feel comfortable booking for a two-week jazz festival. And that most of them are actual jazz artists.

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