Winter Jazzfest 2015 at Judson Memorial Hall: day two with Theo Bleckmann Quartet and Akinmusire
On the final day of New York City’s Winter Jazzfest, Greenwich Village’s Judson Church was host to some new talent in the jazz circuit as well as staples within the genre.
The first act of the evening was the Theo Bleckmann Quartet. Bleckmann, clearly a crowd favorite, had the dimly lit church at capacity with fans, a word that seems almost too excitable, if not completely out of context for the quietly captivated audience. Theo Bleckmann and his quartet are without a doubt, of superior musical skill, however if you’re more accustomed to mainstream soundscapes and energies, then this especially niche musical sub-culture may take some getting used to. Bleckmann’s vocal style is an inventive hybrid of wordless chant and throat singing. Although, without a doubt, Bleckmann was performing with stylistic precision with a unique creative intention.
The church itself couldn’t have been a better selected venue for any instrumentally driven lineup and the acoustics provided by its structure felt organic and audibly nuanced. In an open room with no seating, jazz devotees didn’t hesitate to settle in, lowering to their knees and leaning against their company, all of which seemed fitting as the musicians assembled on an elevated platform at the rooms center, directly beneath the churches illuminated stain glass focal point.
Some acts drew larger crowds than others. Among the most popular was the Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet, with a style that is more straightforwardly jazz while also being uniquely accessible to new listeners. Ambrose Akinmusire is an incredible talent in jazz, but he also has a rare kind of stage presence that makes an artist not only a pleasure to listen to but especially fascinating to watch. When the trumpeter wasn’t mesmerizing the crowd while playing, he was still difficult to break away from, standing to the side of the musicians during their solos, listening intently to every note as though he were playing through the fellow musicians in his quartet, from keys to strings to brass, he seemed to be isolating each and every sound that reverberated in the church. It was obvious that Akinmusire could simply hear things in a way that most others cannot, and it was a pleasure to observe that level of mastery within an artist’s craft.
The event was finished after an exhaustive six hours. As the crowd began to collect their belongings, there were still a few familiar faces that I had spotted at the beginning of the night, appearing just as elated as before, still ruminating and whispering about the nights performances. Regardless of whether you’ve already decided that jazz is or is not for you, anyone with an appreciation for music to attend a jazz show with an open mind and an appreciation for creativity in all its many forms.
Photos: Bogdan Seredyak
For further information about the NYC Winter Jazzfest visit here.