The tagline for this year’s Vision Festival was “The Revolution Continues”-a reference to the October Revolution in Jazz, spearheaded by trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon back in 1964. If you walked just two blocks down Norfolk Street, however, you could see the forlorn little building that used to be Tonic, New York’s avant-garde hub until just a few weeks ago. Marc Ribot, in his much-discussed essay “The Care and Feeding of a Musical Margin”, angrily pressed the point: it’s not an easy time for avant-garde jazz and improvised music, and it never was. (Dixon was scheduled to perform at Tonic on the night of the 2003 blackout, an eerie hint of things to come.)
One thing is certain: The Vision Festival, if not the revolution, continues. This year the 81-year-old Dixon was a Lifetime Recognition honoree; he marked the occasion with an eagerly anticipated large ensemble premiere. On a sadder note, the death of violinist Leroy Jenkins was a major theme as well. Billy Bang and Jason Kao Hwang, two of the best-known violinists on the scene, coordinated “50 Violins for Leroy Jenkins” as a memorial tribute, and Myra Melford led a Jenkins-dedicated project called Spindrift, featuring guitarist Brandon Ross.