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Archive for June, 2011

Live Performances Vision Festival XVI

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I’m back from the 16th installment of the Vision Festival in NYC.  I had a great time running around the city all day and photographing all night.  It was exhausting as usual.  I arrived in New York on Wednesday, grabbed something to eat and headed to the Abrons Art Center for the first of four nights. Wednesday night’s performances which were called “Peter Brotzmann: A Lifetime of Achievement”, included four shows, three of them featuring Brotzmann with different bands.  The first set was with his quartet including Joe McPhee on sax & trumpet and two bass players….Eric Revis and William Parker.   Following this set, Brotzmann returned to perform as part of a duo with Chicago vibist Jason Adasiewicz which I found to be my favorite performance of the evening.  The 3rd set of the night was called “Pulverize the Sound” and the name says it all!  Peter Evans on trumpet, Mike Pride on drums and Tim Dahl on electric bass.  The final performance of the night brought back Brotzmann, this time with his Quintet featuring Chicago based musicians Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, both on sax, an amazing Kent Kessler on double bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums.


Peter Brotzmann © 2011 Mark Sheldon


Thursday June 9th

I got up early and headed to the International Center of Photography (ICP) @ 43rd and Avenue of the Americas to see two exhibits.  The first was an amazing exhibit by Elliott Erwitt.  I have been a fan of his for many years and it was great to see his prints up close. The second was by a photojournalist I knew very little about…Ruth Gruber.  An amazing story, amazing photographs and an amazing person.  Read more about Ruth here.  Always a joy to spend some time in the ICP book store/gift shop.  Hundreds of books, in this case I picked up a book on Erwitt, featuring the prints from the exhibit.

Prior to the evening shows, I hooked up with tenor player & composer Ellery Eskelin for a photo-shoot.  I saw him performing from a distance last year and loved the look of the guy, couldn’t wait for the chance to photograph him.  Photos took place at his residence in mid-town.  We made some photographs inside and on a third floor roof of the building. Had a great time while I was there, talking about his music, his career, his mother, who was also a fine musician, photography, the great photographer Lee Friedlander and Ellery’s hat collection is amazing!!!  Check out his web site, including his very nice blog “musings from a saxophonist…”.  Picked up a couple copies of his new cd “Trio New York” with Gerald Cleaver/Gary Versace, very nice!!!  These one-on-one shoots/conversations with the musicians are generally  the highlights of being in NYC….this was no exception.

Ellery Eskelin ©2011 Mark Sheldon

I photographed four more shows on Thursday night, the first featuring a band called AFRAZZ who was originally scheduled to perform outdoors but was moved inside due to a big thunderstorm..   Next up on the Abron main stage was the Dick Griffin String Quartet “Moving Out”.  The music performed was actually commissioned by Max Roach.  I think this is the first time it had been performed publicly.  This was another performance that I really liked.  Dick Griffin on trombone, Mazz Swift & Charles Burnham on violin, Judith Insell on viola, Akua Dixon on Cello and Warren Smith on percussion.

Following Griffin was Kidd Jordan’s Quintet.  I’ve know Kidd for several years and always look forward to catching up on what’s going on back home in New Orleans and of course hearing him perform. Kidd’s quintet included the great Dave Burrell on piano, Hamiet Bluiett on sax/clarinet, William Parker on bass and William Hooker on drums.  The final performance of the night was a duo featuring pianist Matthew Shipp and Evan Parker on saxophone.

Friday June 10th

Friday night started off with Emily Coates’s Dancers, actually featuring one dancer and violinist Charles Burnham.  The next band was called “Paradoxical Frog”….strange name, very good performance showcasing front-person Ingrid Laubrock on tenor along with Kris Davis on piano, Mat Maneri on violin & viola and a very good Tyshawn Sorey on drums.  Next up…”Planetary Unknown” featuring the amazing David S. Ware on tenor, William Parker once again on bass, the multi, multi instrumentalist Cooper-Moore on piano and Muhammad Ali on Drum.  Amazing how much Muhammad looks like  his father, the late, great Rashied Ali.  Loved Mohammad’s playing, full of energy and joy!!!  The final performance of the night was a duo featuring master-bassist/violinist Henry Grimes and guitarist Marc Ribot.  Very nice performance, went back stage afterwards to photograph Henry and Marc.

Henry Grimes & Marc Ribot ©2011 Mark Sheldon

Saturday June 11th

The final night arrives with five  shows on tap.  First up was Reut Regev’s “R*Time Special Addition” with Reut on trombone, Burton Greene on piano, Adam Lane on bass and Igal Foni on drums. Pianist Connie Crothers Quartet with Richard Tabnik on alto, bassist Ken Filiano and Roger Mancuso on drums.  One show everyone in attendance was waiting for was the “All-Star-Mystery Collective” showcasing Cooper-Moore on piano, Rob Brown on alto, Roy Campbell on trumpet, violinist Jason Kao-Hwang, William Parker on bass, Gerald Cleaver on drums and Patricia Parker performing dance throughout.  The show I was waiting for was legendary saxophonist Sonny Simmons with pianist Francois Tusques.  I enjoyed this show but apparently Sonny didn’t as he apologized at the end, saying he was not at this best and promised to do better the next time.

The final performance of the night was “Mystery of Mekong” a tribute to violinist Billy Bang who passed away a short time before this year’s festival.  This was a big band under the leadership of William Parker and featured a 25 piece string section (Henry Grimes, Mazz Swift, Charles Burnham, Jason Hwang) as well as some special guests such as Roy Campbell and James Spaulding.

Sonny Simmons ©2011 Mark Sheldon


I was given the opportunity to show several photographs at this year’s Vision Fest in NYC.  I chose to feature five photographs of musicians that were born in Chicago or have long ties with the city.  First and foremost, I chose an image of the late, great Fred Anderson.  Fred was a wonderful person and musician.  As the owner of the famed Velvet Lounge on the near South side of Chicago, Fred spent a lot of time at the club either playing or tending bar.  Over the past several years of his life, I managed to see him play many times and had the chance to spend some time with him talking about music.  Fred passed away on the day he was scheduled to play at the 2010 Vision  Festival.  I thought it was only fitting to include an image of Fred in the exhibit.

Other musicians I included in the exhibit are Muhal Richard Abrams, the great bassist Harrison Bankhead,  AEC members Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell.

Hopefully some of you will have the chance to attend the festival….the organizers of the festival, led by Patricia Parker once again did a wonderful job pulling it together.  If you’re into avant music, the Vision Fest should be on your bucket list!