Four Days in the Jazz Capital

By , Columnist
In point of fact, any day in New York City is a jazz festival. That said, the second Undead Jazzfest, in which, between June 23 and June 26, 50 groups representing the musical genre's cutting edge  will perform in 11 venues in Manhattan, represents a distinction with a difference. The prices are recession-friendly - $25 buys a single-night pass to all events, while $50 confers access to the entire four-day proceedings.

It's an extraordinary mashup, reflecting the multiplicity of approaches to organizing rhythm and harmony and timbre that define the playing field of jazz circa 2011. Everyone will have their own must-sees, and you won't be able to hear it all, but have a good time trying.

New York being what it is, there are other places to catch a host of world-class artists over this remarkable weekend of sound. At Brooklyn's Prospect Park bandshell on Friday, The Bad Plus and the Bandwagon, known for highly curated genre-tweaking, merge as a double trio,  a meeting that, as one of the participants says, "could be a hit or a disaster." It's a double bill with trumpet master Roy Hargrove and his crackling quintet.

On Thursday, experimentally oriented pianist Vijay Iyer, known for coalescing intoxicating South Indian rhythms with jazz structures, introduces a new sextet at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, while on Friday, guitarist Rez Abbasi, a kindred spirit, brings an acoustic band into the Cornelia Street Cafe. Tenor master Ravi Coltrane is in residence at Birdland with his long--standing quartet, while another tenor hero, Mark Turner presents a new quartet with veteran drum shaman Paul Motian at the Village Vanguard. Representing high craft in the mainstream are iconic singer-pianist Barbara Carroll with a trio of swing masters at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and by guitarist Peter Bernstein, most recently with Sonny Rollins, playing solo at Smalls.

On Saturday, trumpeter Shane Endsley presents a strong band, and alto saxophonist John Zorn. Then there are the singers Little Jimmy Scott, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nancy Wilson, Roberta Flack, and Kathleen Battle. Then, too, the Afro-diasporic brilliance of Eddie Palmieri and La Perfecta, Youssou N'Dour, and Milton Nascimento.

There are no excuses.

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Ted Panken writes about jazz and creative music for DownBeat, Jazziz, and many other outlets; he broadcast it from 1985 to 2008 on WKCR. He recently launched a blog called Today Is The Question.

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