Those who think the Vision Fest's aesthetic worn and its community anachronistic need spend just one night under its power to disavow such notions. While there may no longer be anything experimental about playing free, the ongoing experiments of these musicians remain vital and yield fresh satisfactions. Butch Morris used hand signals and body English to guide a chorus of poets, shaping music from chopped-up verses via his science of "conduction." Saxophonist and trumpeter Joe McPhee slid in and out of tonality to a place delineated solely by emotion. Parker ended the whole event playing late into last Monday night, augmenting his working quartet with violinist Billy Bang, alto saxophonist James Spaulding, and cornetist Bobby Bradford: Building and then morphing one sturdy groove into another, he and Drake fueled something like an old-school bebop cutting session conducted in avant-garde dialect.

Marshall Allen, visiting Earth
Alan Nahigian
Marshall Allen, visiting Earth

George Wein may lament the absence of giants walking the earth, but the Vision Festival's orbit is filled with musicians who play larger than life: from Parker to Jordan to, say, trumpeter Roy Campbell. This year, even Sun Ra, who died in 1993 and claimed Saturn as his birthplace, made the scene.

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