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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 9 June 2012

Straight, No Chaser: New York’s Vision Festival, Year 17

by Phil Ehrensaft / June 1, 2012

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Flash version here.

The travel budget for organizing New York’s landmark avant jazz Vision Festival is modest indeed: a few dozen local telephone calls, subway tokens, and scraping up money for a select number of airplane tickets for fellow spirits from Europe and Chicago. The biggest challenge is putting together a program that the Big Apple’s deep talent pool perceives as fairly representative of its diverse spectrum of avant jazz aesthetics and jazz generations.
The Vision fest runs counter-current to many events these days in that it is straight jazz with no chaser. Yet it mixes itself with other straight no chaser experiments involving poets, dancers, and visual artists. Vision 2012 leads off its six day run on June 11 with video artist Phyllis Buhlkin-Leher, together with Dangerous Women and Knock/Knock dancing, Peace Poets and Tribe Poets.
This year’s main festival venue will be Roulette, a venerable intermedia arts venue, relocated last autumn to a renovated former YWCA building in Brooklyn, the “new Greenwich Village.” William Parker, the driving force of the Vision Festival, happens to sit on the Roulette board of directors. Though its 400-seat hall with all the acoustic technology trimmings may not meet the expectations of a rock promoter, it fits the bill for both musicians and audiences into musical experimentation.
This year’s star studded cast includes such luminaries as veteran drummers Andrew Cyrille and Hamid Drake, bassists Mark Dresser and Henry Grimes, trombonist George Lewis, William Parker, of course, and even vocalist Sheila Jordan, still going strong at 83. Invited to the event as well are French bassist Joëlle Léandre, British saxophonist Paul Dunmall and Japanese trumpeter Yun Miyake.
Each Vison Fest honours a musician for his lifetime contribution. This year’s designee is multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee. A 40-year veteran of the scene, McPhee still blows up a storm on his varied horns, both brass and reeds. Vision’s showcase concert for McPhee will be an expanded chapter two of the Angels Devils & Haints concerts which were recorded live in France by Cadence. This new installmment will be add three horns, violin and two percussionists to the original double-bass quartet. That concert is worth the price of a festival pass, and I plan to report on it for this magazine’s jazz blog.


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