Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Writer Greg Tate

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber honors its founder at Lincoln Center.


Besides being one of the most influential and admired music writers of his generation, longtime Voice critic Greg Tate, who died last December at 64, founded the experimental band Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, and co-led it for two decades. This Sunday, at Lincoln Center, the often changing cast of the 12-to-20-piece ensemble, along with Tate’s family, will celebrate Greg and his dedicated vision of jazz, funk, R&B, rock ’n’ roll, and hip-hop—no hybridizing here, just voices in a choir where individual sensibilities work for the common good.  

Among those Burnt Sugar voices on hand at Lincoln Center will be co-leader, bassist, and original member Jared Michael Nickerson; vocalists Lisala Beatty and Abby Dobson; Satch Hoyt on flute; Lewis “Flip” Barnes on trumpet; and Marque Gilmore tha’ Inna•Most on trap drums and electronics. Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid (with whom Tate co-founded the Black Rock Coalition, a nonprofit counterweight to the genre’s prejudices) heads up the “conduction,” meaning that he will call upon particular members to improvise at particular times—in pursuit of what, they don’t yet know. Or, as Nickerson describes it, the musical moment that “becomes legendary, because it will only be heard that one time.” (As for uploaded videos, well, you have to be there to “feel the air move around you,” Nickerson elaborates.) 

The songs themselves tell a story of evaporating contradictions: from a Hendrix cover that’s both contemporary R&B and—lovingly distended by a foul-weather groove—not, to a recent drum-and-bass take on an Electric Miles–inspired original. Like Tate’s writing, it’s the beautiful sound of ideas at play. Come early for the pop-up art exhibition In Praise of Shadow Boxers, Dissonance & Dissidents, curated by Tate’s brother, Brian, and daughter, Chinara, featuring six-foot mounted prints accompanied by tributes to Tate by 24 artists, including Carrie Mae Weems, Ellen Gallagher, and Fab 5 Freddy.  ❖

Celebrating Greg Tate
“More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Burnt Sugar Arkestra Mojosexual Cotillion”

Sunday, July 17
Free admission
Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for the exhibition viewing at Damrosch Park
West 62nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Lincoln Square
Show starts at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center Plaza

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