Winter Jazzfest marks 15 years with a wide variety of music

Volume 119, No. 3March, 2019

The Meshell Ndegeocello band, with Local 802 member Chris Bruce on guitar. Musicians who perform for the festival are covered under a Local 802 union contract. Photo: Jonathan Chimene

Celebrating its 15th year, the NYC Winter Jazzfest extended its reputation for presenting a staggering variety of music, with performances spread out across nine days and numerous venues during the course of the festival. It all culminated in the festival’s signature two-day music marathon, which had musicians and concertgoers criss-crossing Greenwich Village and lower Manhattan, with 10 different venues presenting music until the wee hours of the morning. With so many different events happening throughout the festival, it’s impossible for one music fan to catch it all. A few of the numerous highlights of this year’s Winter Jazzfest included the multiple performances by artist-in-residence Meshell Ndegeocello; the “Jazz Talks” panel discussions; a collaborative concert of contemporary chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound and the jazz/funk trio Medeski Martin & Wood; and the “We Resist!” night of social and political protest music, featuring the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance, Toshi Reagon’s WORD*ROCK*SWORD, and Samora Pinderhughes’ Transformation Suite.

Local 802 member Mary Halvorson. Photo: John Rogers

Since 2012, musicians who perform in the festival have been covered by an agreement between Winter Jazzfest and Local 802 to guarantee minimum scale wages and some basic guidelines on working conditions. This year’s agreement brought the minimum wage up to $200 per musician, which was a mark that many festival musicians had been pushing for since the agreement’s inception. Committee members and union staff continue to do outreach to festival musicians, to ensure that the standards are being upheld and to get feedback on what musicians want to see in future agreements. The Winter Jazzfest Musicians’ Committee includes original members Jason Moran, Marc Ribot, Graham Haynes, Ben Perowsky and Jim Black, and is currently in the process of adding several new members. As with all organizing efforts, musician involvement is crucial to this agreement.

If you performed in this year’s Winter Jazzfest, please contact me with your feedback.

the Gary Bartz band featuring Pharaoh Sanders and Local 802 member Charles Tolliver on trumpet. Photo: Jati Lindsay