EARS WIDE OPEN

As far as the JVC Jazz Festival goes, frustration is good. The more you wring your hands over which must-see shows to take in, the more you know it’s a strong year for programming. The annual bash doesn’t always rock the house—several ho-hum installments come to mind—but this time ’round, everything looks rather sweet. Cecil Taylor and Hank Jones?! Now you’re talkin’. Breadth can define a fest as much as focus can, and during the two-week stretch that started with Kenny Barron’s dynamo trio and extends to Charles Lloyd’s mercurial quartet, impressive mainstream swing (Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden’s Quartet West) is entwined with smart funky-jammy stuff (MM&W, Soulive), skronky grooves (Ceramic Dog) are balanced by ethereal rumination (EST), and singers (Dee Dee Bridgewater, Tierney Sutton) and superstars (Herbie Hancock) both receive invites. Sometimes it’s all about location, location, location: The relatively new (Le) Poisson Rouge might be this year’s chicest venue; trios led there by Bill Frisell and Marco Benevento are a must. Don’t forget to shop local after the shows—it’s a strong two weeks in clubland, too.
June 19-28, 2008


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