That opening night of the 24th edition of the New York City-born and bred Vision Festival—the premier left-field summit where avant-garde jazz, dance, poetry, and visual art gloriously intersect—fell on June 11, the day Ornette Coleman passed, was serendipitous. The revolutionary free-jazz aesthetic that Coleman exemplified is alive and well, thanks in large degree to Vision Fest’s chief architect, Arts for Art founder and director Patricia Nicholson. Both downtown NYC force and multidisciplinary miracle worker whose résumé includes dancer, poet, and organizer of movement, music, and causes, Nicholson once again embraced her role as master of ceremonies for this year’s bacchanal before a sold-out crowd that packed the downtown Brooklyn venue Roulette for the first of a six-night run.
Nicholson’s mission of building a community of artists and audiences has been front and center since she founded Vision Festival in 1996, and on this Tuesday evening that ethos was echoed via a whopping eight sets curated by the festival’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement honoree, drummer Andrew Cyrille. The 79-year-old Cyrille—a polyrhythmic free spirit who made an indelible mark across the jazz spectrum playing on touchstone recordings by the late great Cecil Taylor (including 1966’s seminal Unit Structures), working as Carla Bley’s sideman, and compiling a vast catalog as leader—embodied Nicholson’s artist-driven community spirit with a handpicked program that showcased the nature of collaboration and improvised music in all its glory.