Jazz Notes: Vision Festival, Day 4

charlesgayle400iThis week, MAGNET’s Mitch Myers reports from the Vision Festival, the avant-garde jazz event in New York City.

As the week wears on, I’ve noticed one thing about the (14th) Vision Festival—that is, it’s a lot of the same people. Every night, it’s the same staff, the same vendors, as well as much the same audience and, often, the same musicians. Not that there is anything wrong with that—a number of music fans came from points abroad (Germany, Japan, etc.) just to see William Parker and company stroll out the representative best of their free-jazz subculture.

Things seemed a little off-kilter on Friday, and although the music started late and was subsequently rushed throughout the evening, there were still plenty of fascinating musical moments. Miriam Parker’s Corridor combined her interpretative dance routine with the atmospheric sounds of Jason Kao Hwang’s violin and Joseph Daley’s tuba. Parker was elegant, agile and lovely, while Hwang and Daley provided the perfect avant-garde ambience to compliment her performance.

The Charles Gayle Trio was an appropriate choice for the Vision Festival, and Gayle (pictured) was absolutely commanding on alto and tenor saxophone. He is a humble, expressive musician who has overcome some imposing obstacles in his life (including homelessness), and although his noted saxophone style is still intense, his overall sound is kinder and gentler these days. With bassist Lisle Ellis and drummer Michael Wimberly, Gayle gave an amazing performance and finished up the set on piano. Let’s all pay more attention to Charles Gayle!

The Ayler Project is a quartet devoted to the music and memory of late saxophonist Albert Ayler, who provided a guiding light to many during the free-jazz explosion of the 1960s. Trumpeter Roy Campbell is the leader here, but saxophonist Joe McPhee, drummer Warren Smith and bassist William Parker all contribute equally. The band’s first performance in America was all it could be with a spoken invocation from “Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe” followed by hymns, marches, meditative chants and expressive blaring. Those familiar with the Ayler songbook were thrilled, except for certain nitpickers (i.e., me) who wanted to hear the composition “Ghosts.” Maybe next time.

The evening concluded with a segment featuring critically acclaimed saxophonist Zim Ngqawana, who hails from South Africa, supported by Vision Fest all-stars such as pianist Matthew Shipp, drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Parker. I missed the show, but it was supposed to be a big deal and the place was packed when I left. Maybe I can ask some of those same people about it when I return to the Vision Festival tomorrow.

—Mitch Myers

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