New York Is Now!

Readers and industry types often mistakenly think JazzTimes has Manhattan offices. We don’t. Washington, D.C., where JT is published, offers plenty of jazz goings-on—Sonny Rollins in the august surroundings of the Kennedy Center is nothing to sneeze at. But in the spring the JVC Jazz Festival takes over New York, turning that city’s peerless club scene into an all-out paradise, and giving me the urge to go Greyhound. Flip through our 2008 JVC Jazz Festival - New York Guide and you’ll find a significantly revitalized program. To be frank, I’ve felt past editions to be overly reverential, but this year’s festival manages to celebrate both tradition and jazz’s contemporary definition with equal aplomb. The lineup is mouth-watering: The Bad Plus 1 featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel, the Charles Lloyd Quartet featuring Jason Moran, protean pianist Dick Hyman, Herbie Hancock with rising guitar star Lionel Loueke, and, among many others, the Tierney Sutton Band (whose reinvention of American Songbook repertory nicely parallels the festival’s doctrine for 2008). If you’re reading this in Utah, I feel your pain.

Of course, it’s not only this issue’s JVC guide that reminds us that jazz is to NYC as country is to Nashville and blues is to Chicago—the modern hub where young players move to make it. Jeff Tamarkin’s piece on producer Bob Belden’s new Miles From India double-disc, a heavyweight repertory project that offers a “Where Are They Now?” checkup on many ’70s-era Miles Davis sidemen, has stoked my anticipation for the historic companion concert that will have come and gone by the time you read this. (If you haven’t already guessed, it’s scheduled for Town Hall in Midtown.) In an excerpt from his biography, Delightfulee: The Life and Music of Lee Morgan, author Jeffery S. McMillan reports on one of New York’s stranger, sadder landmark jazz events, the shooting death of Lee Morgan at the now-defunct Lower East Side hangout Slugs’. Also in the jazz-history file this round is Geoffrey Himes’ cover story on Rahsaan Roland Kirk, whose widow Dorthaan imparts stories of Kirk’s record-shopping sojourns from the couple’s New Jersey home to downtown Manhattan. But even with the magnitude and scope of jazz in New York, the competition is fierce and the wages are low, forcing many masterful improvisers to make rent elsewhere. Laurel Gross contributes an investigative piece on jazz musicians playing in Broadway pit orchestras—probably the most popular alternative revenue stream for players in New York aside from teaching.

In September 2006 we published a collectable “Jazz in New York” special issue, but who are we kidding? Many subsequent issues, this one included, could just as easily bear that title. In features this issue, Bennie Maupin is something of an aberration. While he spent many important years gigging and recording in New York, today he’s a California resident and main attraction in the Crytogramophone roster—a label whose consideration of the avant-garde has done much to erase the stereotype of West Coast jazz as timidly polite. In support of his talismanic new Crypto release, Early Reflections, Maupin toured across the country earlier this spring. I didn’t manage to catch a gig, though. The closest Maupin came to D.C. was N.Y.C.

Originally published in June 2008

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