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Field Notes: Winter Jazz Fest, Winter NAMM

In preview of March issue event coverage, JT’s editor reflects on Winter Jazz Fest and the Winter NAMM tradeshow

Jerry Vivino and bassist Michael Valerio at Vandoren's 2012 Winter NAMM VandoJam
Larry Goldings (left) and Gregoire Maret at the Hammond Suzuki booth, Winter NAMM 2012
Dr. Lonnie Smith behind Hammond's SK2 combo organ at Winter NAMM 2012
Bernie Worrell at Winter Jazz Fest 2012
John Medeski at Winter Jazz Fest 2012
Steve Cardenas, Ben Allison and Jenny Scheinman (from left) at Winter Jazz Fest 2012
Julian Lage at Winter Jazz Fest 2012
Steven Bernstein (at right) and his Millennial Territory Orchestra, Winter Jazz Fest 2012

In going through notes for some upcoming print coverage of the recent Winter Jazz Fest, I found one scribbled word that stands out above the rest, a word I’ve thought about when trying to encapsulate past editions of the festival: “bodies.” Two sold-out nights (Jan. 6-7) in the West Village-4,000 heads over two nights-means hearing a lot of bands without seeing them, waiting on disheartening queues and getting used to the sense of personal space one is afforded in a rush-hour subway car.

But it also means vindication. Sure, a lot of the attention paid to the music at WJF is casual at best-the event has, for better or worse, become a hip night out-but there are many moments that indicate, thrillingly, how current jazz is not a tree falling in a vacant forest. I’m reminded of Julian Lage’s packed set at Sullivan Hall, where the guitarist seemed to have a gaggle of genuine fanboys hanging on his every virtuosic line. Or the David Murray Cuban Ensemble’s equally well attended performance at Le Poisson Rouge, where a diverse and youthful audience responded to unflagging Latin grooves and Murray’s beautifully manhandled solos with the sort of pointed enthusiasm most jam bands can only dream about.

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