Last year's Vision festival was one of the brightest musical moments of a year spent in the despair of the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.
This festival celebrates music that broke away from traditional contours of melody and harmony 40 years ago and now constitutes its own history, with departed heroes, sage figures and a new wave looking to establish its own place in the canon of works.
The music is avant-garde but it is no longer strange and new -- in fact it is its own tradition. It is, however, just as spiritually searching, just as challenging physically and emotionally to perform, and just as much a keening personal expression as it was when Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, John Coltrane and their contemporaries introduced it in the 1960s.
The festival opened with a set from the Lifetimes Vision Orchestra, a 12-piece group led by Joseph Jarman, on a bill that ended with a set from Shadows & Light, a group consisting of Joe Giardullo on reeds and shenai, Joe McPhee on trumpet and saxophone, Mike Bisio on bass and Tani Tabbal on djembe and drums.
The second night featured the pianist Matthew Shipp accompanied by poet Steve Dalachinsky; the Billy Bang project, with the master of avant-garde violin joined by Hamiet Bluiett on baritone saxophone and Jin Hi Kim on Komungo for a transcendent set of world music; guitarist Joe Morris' Quartet; Muntu, a stellar collaboration of Jemeel Moondoc on alto, William Parker on bass, Roy Campbell on trumpet and Rashid Baker on drums; and the Karen Borca quartet, with the bassoonist joined by Reggie Workman on bass, Rob Brown on alto and Newman Taylor-Baker on drums.
The following night featured two of the living giants of avant-garde tenor saxophone, Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, who led a trio with Jesse Dulman on tuba and Ravish Momin on percussion; and Kidd Jordan, accompanied by the phenomenal drummer Milford Graves and bassist William Parker.
At the beginning of each piece Graves sang African-inspired chants, which led to the tumbling, searching yet sure-footed interchange between the players. At the end of this magnificent set Parker, who co-founded the festival, was introducing the musicians when he pulled out his cell phone.
"Excuse me, I have a call," Parker told the audience. "It's John Coltrane. He says 'Thanks'."
Now, in a world gone mad with war and destruction, with all sides invoking God's name to destroy the enemy, the Vision festival's prayer for hope is at a greater premium than ever. Operating within a vast ocean of mediocrity, a culture of sameness and tired conventions, Arts for Art presents the Eighth Annual Vision Festival over the Memorial Day Weekend from Wednesday, May 21 through Monday, May 26, at the Center at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral. The festival will feature approximately 150 artists in 30 different performing groups over the six days. The program also will encompass a two-day film festival at Anthology Film Archives.
This year's festival is taking place in an altered socio-political landscape, at a time when a sense of community, shared experience and a celebration of humanity are of the utmost necessity. This year's theme is "Avantjazz For Peace." The organizers' intent is to present an international arts festival dedicated to non-violence that makes a statement that has impact upon performers, speakers, organizers and audiences alike.
Highlights of the festival will include: Amina Claudine Myers, Fred Anderson and Harrison Bankhead, the David S. Ware Quartet, the Jemeel Moondoc and Connie Crothers Quintet, Andrew Cyrille and Kidd Jordan, Roy Campbell and Joe McPhee Quartet, Milford Graves and Peter Brotzmann, John Zorn Masada String Trio and the Matthew Shipp Quartet.
The festival will wrap up with a Jeanne Lee Memorial program featuring Steve Dalachinsky; the Gunther Hampel Galaxy Dream Band; Perry Robinson, Lou Grassi, Mark Whitecage with Ruomi Lee Hampel, Herscel Silverman, Prince Alegs; Archie Shepp/Roswell Rudd Quartet with Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille; and the William Parker-led Jeanne Lee Project.
Advance tickets for performances at the Center are available at Downtown Music Gallery, 342 Bowery, NY, NY 10012. Call (212) 473-0043 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $25 per night or you can buy a six-day pass at the Center for $110. For all other inquiries, call (212) 946-2110 or send e-mail to email@example.com.