Dusted Reviews

V/A - VisionFest:VisionLive

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: VisionFest:VisionLive

Label: Thirsty Ear

Review date: May. 23, 2003

A Vision for Thirsty Ears

The Vision Festival, organized and produced by Arts for Art, Inc., a non-profit organization chaired by the dancer Patricia Nicholson Parker (wife of the bassist William Parker), is an annual creative explosion, celebrating art in all forms including dance, the visual arts, poetry and, most prominently, progressive improvisational music. Staged on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the week-long festival has become an institution in the New York music scene and is currently entering its eighth consecutive year. With its emphasis on artistic community and “free” music, it serves as welcome contrast to the more traditional, corporate-sponsored jazz festivals that take place throughout Manhattan during the summer.

Thirsty Ear’s recent release Visionfest: Visionlive compiles music recorded at the 2002 Vision Festival. It is the first such collection since AUM’s Vision One: Vision Festival 1997 Compiled, and for fans of the Festival, its arrival will surely be a long awaited pleasure. Thirsty Ear has done a wonderful job of approximating the spirit and the diversity of last year’s festival within the limitations of a package that is both commercially attractive and manageable for the listener. The album is by no means comprehensive. Although the festival was comprised of nearly 30 performances, the album only contains nine tracks, many of which are excerpts of longer performances. Thus, the album works like a scrapbook, in that it offers brief glimpses into the festival, just enough to arouse memories in the minds of those who attended and to entice newcomers to the music. In addition to the music, Visionfest: Visionlive also comes with an additional DVD that provides a number of visual images from the festival. Together, the two discs make Visionfest: Visionlive a package notable not only for its outstanding music but also for its importance as a historical document of an event that epitomizes all that is alive and exciting in contemporary jazz.

The album opens with Albert Ayler’s composition “Truth is Marching In” played by Muntu (Jemeel Moondoc, Roy Campbell, William Parker, Rashid Bakr). This opening is a fitting tribute to one of the new music’s spiritual fathers, Albert Ayler, and at the same time the quartet takes the piece into new dimensions, highlighting how the music has progressed since Ayler’s untimely death 30 years ago. All the tracks that follow are first-rate. However, two tracks stand out as particularly fascinating and unusual. The album’s third track, entitled “Bangart 100” features the Billy Bang Trio, composed of the unlikely mix of Billy Bang on violin, Jin Hi Kim on Komungo and Hamiett Bluiett on baritone saxophone. The combination works extremely well, and the three deliver a textured performance that travels through a number of moods, from pensive to furious. “Synchronicity”, performed by the Ellen Christi Quartet, which features Ellen Christi on vocals, Rolf Strum on guitar, William Parker on the African Harp and Hamid Drake on percussion, begins in a far more mellow mood. The delicate combination of Parker on the harp and Drake’s hand-drumming create a terrific atmosphere for Strum’s new-age guitar riffs and Christi’s passionate, soulful scatting. As the song progresses, the playing on all fronts becomes more inspired, building to a powerful crescendo.

Another highlight is the performance of the Kidd Jordan/ Fred Anderson quartet. Once again featuring Parker and Drake on rhythm, this is a four-minute excerpt of an hour-long performance that many considered the finest of the entire festival. The track is extraordinary. However, given the length of the original performance, one wonders why this excerpt wasn’t longer.

The most powerful track of all is the 10-minute bass solo by the late Peter Kowald, which concludes the project. Kowald’s involvement with the Vision Festival goes back many years. In the 1980’s he was instrumental in the creation of the Sound Unity Festival, which was a direct precursor to the Vision Festival. Entitled simply “Improvisation”, his solo displays the breadth of his genius – a testament to the man whose presence will be greatly missed at this year’s fest.

The Vision Festival is currently underway (May 21-26). For more information see www.visionfestival.org.

By Nick Sheets

Read More

View all articles by Nick Sheets

Find out more about Thirsty Ear

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.