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Vision Festival Coverage 2012

The Thing featuring Joe McPhee, plus Kidd Jordan and Hamid Drake at this year's avant-garde celebration at Vision Festival 17

The Thing with Joe McPhee
The Thing with Joe McPhee

Like few other jazz events, the Vision Festival in New York can evoke a golden age. The annual fete, whose 17th edition ran June 11-17 in Brooklyn, with one free day of programming in the East Village, deals in the avant-garde, and does so with more versatility than it’s often given credit. In 2012, for instance, the schedule included Kneebody, a terrific electric-jazz group of taut collectivity and formal precision, and Ingrid Laubrock, whose very postmillennial sort of experimentalism can feel thoroughly composed.

But Vision’s best moments are those that reach back to the ’60s and ’70s-the days of Fire Music and ESP-Disk’, when free jazz seemed to belong to the larger multi-disciplined tradition of the avant-garde more than to jazz proper. Taken out of that decades-old context and placed in the current one, the music of Kidd Jordan, Joe McPhee and others points up the lyrical, intuitive emotionality that sometimes gets lost in the deep accomplishment that defines jazz’s left wing today. Vision argues that adventurous jazz should be a transcendental proposition rather than an academic one. This year, it took over Brooklyn’s stately Roulette venue, and the music was better for it: A band like Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar, which I’ve only seen in small venues, where its density and sheer sonic force obscure the nuance of all its moving parts, received the sound engineering it deserves.

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