Winter Jazzfest offers a unique and exceptional showcase of established and emerging talents performing in various clubs around Washington Square Park and the New School in NYC. Musicians from all over the USA and throughout the world will perform to please, evoke and provoke. Nothing here to frown about: provocation is a form of civil education. The very essence of jazz, is indeed, an expression of resistance as its roots are preeminently in slave songs. “Jazz is freedom of expression,” said Duke Ellington.
This year, Winter Jazzfest is consciously curated with social criticism in mind. Many of us would certainly agree with Brice Rosenbloom, NYC Winter Jazzfest Founder/Producer, that one shouldn’t be absent-minded vis a’ vis the current political landscape.
The only positive outcome of the election may be that very few have remained silent in the face of our president elect’s utter deviousness. In ways large and small, actions are being taken to express disagreement with Trumpism. The Winter Jazzfest’s bold declaration to include social justice in this year’s programming reverberated in the quotes from festival musicians on the website. Conferences on the role of music today approached topics such as “Social Justice and the Role of Music” and “Social and Environmental Discussion.” These community dialogues encouraged artists to continue performing great music and speaking out! Several of the concerts throughout the week buzzed with questions of social responsibility and the possibility of social change.
Some of this year’s Winter Jazzfest musicians displayed a blatant verve for social criticism and activism. Darcy James Argue interjects poetical performances of his orchestra Secret Society with recordings by JFK. Terri Lyne Carrington performed accompanied by instrumentals and a DJ who remixed her otherwise standard performance with historical speeches by Angela Davis, Tupac Shakur’s mother Afeni and James Baldwin. Marc Ribot, who performed with The Young Philadelphians during a concert in which experimental funky jazz intermingled with classical music tones, has long been an outspoken member of the Creators Content Coalition, an independent action group mobilized to protect musician rights and copyrights, which boasts members like Melvin Gibbs, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, T Bone Burnett, Tom Waits, and John Zorn to name a few.
The Liberation Music Orchestra (LMO) was created in 1969 by Charlie Haden in response to the 1968 National Democratic Convention’s unrest in Chicago. The politically-situated Orchestra group used music as a vehicle to express opposition to societal repression and the war in Vietnam. Samples of the 4 albums Charlie Haden produced with LMO translating folk and pop into Jazz include David Bowie covers, “This is not America”, “Amazing Grace” and “America The Beautiful.” The collection also features a song dedicated to Che Guevara.
Amidst a larger industry determined to dumb music down to a formula befitting capitalist drives for escapist entertainment, Winter Jazzfest 2018 is certainly something we can genuinely look forward to knowing the political urgencies of our era will occupy center stage.