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Transcendence in Common: The Year in Gigs

Dancers Lil Buck (left) and Jared Grimes explore Spaces with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (photo by Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center
Dancers Lil Buck (left) and Jared Grimes explore “Spaces” with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (photo by Lawrence Sumulong/Jazz at Lincoln Center)

Maybe it was the sight of Cecil Taylor, resplendent in shiny fabrics, at one end of a cavernous gallery at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Maybe it was the pointed whimsy of another pianist, Jason Moran, as he led his trio in a sculptural reconstruction of the old Three Deuces stage. Or maybe it was the worldly parade of talent—from Chucho Valdés to Hugh Masekela to Wayne Shorter to Dianne Reeves—that graced a tent on the White House lawn.

Whatever it was that tipped my thinking, I look back on this Year in Gigs as a bonanza of standout jazz moments made possible by special circumstances. Much of this had to do with institutional buy-in, or the favor of commissioning bodies. But it was also often a function of artists simply willing themselves outside the standard protocols.

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