Your Summer Live-Jazz Cheat Sheet


Big-shot galas . . . heartstring-tugging tributes . . . cozy Americana evenings . . . wild improv jam sessions . . . the next few months offer something for everybody. Here, a small sampling of your options: Plan your schedule (and your budget) accordingly.

CareFusion Jazz Festival
Various venues,

CareFusion is a staggering new player in the summer jazz circuit; actually, it will largely become the circuit for 10 days, with 45 concerts at some of the most glamorous venues in the city. The latest offering from mega-promoter George Wein (the brain behind the Newport Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) spans Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, appealing to jazz lovers of all genres and tax brackets. Glamour-seekers, snare tix to the Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette opening-night gala at Carnegie Hall (7/17); intergalactic travelers, zonk out to the Sun Ra Arkestra directed by Marshall Allen at the Studio Museum in Harlem (6/17); Satchmo purists, sprawl out to Howard Alden, Anat Cohen, Randy Sandke, and Marion Felder at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Flushing (6/19); new-guard experimentalists, enjoy that proffered student discount to Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (6/21); bluesy jazz fans, cross some names off the bucket list with Herbie Hancock, India.Arie, Bill Cosby, Joe Lovano, and more at Carnegie (6/24); Sidney Bechet trad-horn lovers, get transported by NoLa clarinetist Evan Christopher at Peter Norton Symphony Space (6/23). We could go on—instead, we’ll just see you there, wherever your “there” happens to be.

Vision Festival
Various venues,

Art for Art’s nonprofit, multicultural ethos comes to very loud, very experimental fruition every summer in their annual Vision Festival, and this year’s downtown slate is predictably daring. This 15th anniversary season honors Muhal Richard Abrams, the modern multi-instrumentalist—his open-hearted postbop passages are astonishing folds in time, the kind of intellectual grace that is nonetheless all soul. Emerging artists will celebrate Abrams and the festival theme, “The Creative Option,” over 60 events and seven venues, including Drom and (le) poisson rouge; the latter is still, in our opinion, the finest club in town, and a fine match for this year’s star attraction.

Jazz in July
92nd Street Y, |

Once directed by scopic jazz pianist and film arranger Dick Hyman, 92nd Street Y’s sprawling Jazz in July series is now in the capable hands of Bill Charlap, another ivories master. He has lined up some wonderfully educational fare this year—”Prez & Lady Day: The Legendary Partnership of Lester Young & Billie Holiday” sounded fascinating even before we knew guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli was on the bill (along with vocalist Mary Stallings, tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, Charlap, and more, 7/22), and the tribute night to NEA composer Jimmy Heath should tug at some heartstrings (7/21).

8/3–8/8, 8/10–8/15
Cedar Walton Quintet With Steve Turre
Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola,

This former Art Blakey Jazz Messenger has plenty of stories left to impart. Walton, the renowned hardbop pianist formerly of Mobius and Soundscape, airs out his style at Dizzy’s now and then, but rarely for such a long residency. This should allow his crazy funk flourishes to really reach the rafters; his accompanists will see to it. The first stretch features saxman Vincent Herring (known for O’Henry-worthy surprises at the end of his solos), effortlessly classy bassist David Williams, and drummer Willie Jones III; the second week replaces Jones with Lewis Nash and brings in trombonist Steve Turre.

John Zorn Improv Night
The Stone,

Since its 2005 opening, the Stone in Alphabet City has quietly, steadily become one of the best-curated avant-garde spaces in the city. But squiggly electroblips and balloon animals set to lo-fi don’t pay a below-14th rent anymore; founder John Zorn, the prolific NYC free jazz saxophonist/composer and head of the righteous Tzadik Records, keeps the landlord happy with now-monthly John Zorn Improv Nights. These freewheeling events are once-a-century (well, not anymore) combustions of famed and upstart experimentalists, and seem to get more electric each session; this month, Zorn will wail alongside Stone favorite Ikue Mori (laptop) as well as Shanir Blumenkranz (bass), Annie Gosfield (keyboards), and Roger Kleier (guitar).

Warwick Valley Jazz Festival
Warwick, New York,

Fancy a long weekend away from the panting tourists? Try not to resign yourself to another $19 Caesar salad in Montauk; up in the wonderfully temperate Hudson Valley, near Albany and West Point, the Warwick Valley Jazz Festival offers a solid lineup nuanced enough for most jazz appreciators. The thrice-daily offerings include electronic, salsa, and trad artists—the opening-night “Music in the Courtyard” gala, in rustic downtown Warwick Village, promises the Skye Jazz Quartet, and should be an especially cozy Americana evening.

The Charlie Parker Festival, Day Two
Tompkins Square Park,

Charlie Parker was the titan of ’40s jazz virtuosity because he kept his audience in his art; he invigorated bebop through astounding new techniques but kept his melodies accessible to his listeners. Vijay Iyer is a self-taught pianist earning damn-near Birdlike praise; his wonderfully jigsaw-like Historicity, an engrossing approach to trio banter, topped the Voice‘s 2009 jazz poll. He’s certainly one of the sanest people you’ll meet in Tompkins all week, and he’s just one part of today’s unstoppable bill: improv sax stalwart James Moody, smooth octogenarian vocalist Jimmy Scott, and bluesy belter Catherine Russell. (Day One, at Marcus Garvey Park: McCoy Tyner, Jason Moran & the Bandwagon, and more.)