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New York Guitar Festival Goes Online

Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis featuring Bill Frisell and Brandon Ross runs from May 4 to May 15 on YouTube

Bill Frisell (photo by Monica Jane Frisell)
Bill Frisell (photo by Monica Jane Frisell)

Under normal circumstances, the New York Guitar Festival (NYGF) would be presenting a variety of live in-person performances this spring. But this being the age of COVID-19, plans have changed. Beginning today (May 4) and running until Friday, May 15, the fest will premiere 12 video performances—one each day at 4 p.m. EDT—on its YouTube channel.

Also on May 4, at 11 p.m. EDT, WNYC’s New Sounds program, hosted by John Schaefer, will debut audio recordings of the full 12-song collection. If you’re in the NYC area, tune your radio to 93.9 FM; if not, go to

The theme of this year’s NYGF is Reverend Gary Davis, the blind bluesman who performed on the streets of Harlem from the late 1940s until his death in 1972. Participants include Bill Frisell (May 7) and Brandon Ross (May 12), as well as notable non-jazz artists such as Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal (May 4), Jorma Kaukonen (May 10), Larry Campbell with Teresa Williams (May 13), and Warren Haynes (May 14).

Although access to the performance series—titled Reverend Gary Davis: In Search of the Harlem Street Singer—is free, the New York Guitar Festival and its performing artists are asking viewers to make donations to the Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund to help members of the music community affected by the coronavirus pandemic.