New York's Jazzfest and globalFEST Cross-Pollinate, Make Beautiful Music Together

Fatoumata Diawara jazzfest split L
Kevin Yatarola

Artists showcased at both Manhattan gatherings could end up taking the stage at Bonnaroo, Coachella, Pitchfork or infiltrating other festivals across North America this year.

Wondering which music artists will populate festival bills this summer? If so, a pair of semi-related gatherings in Manhattan this past weekend featuring jazz and world music artists hinted at who you’re likely to encounter in the coming year.

As the 2013 NYC Winter Jazzfest celebrated its ninth go-round and globalFEST 2013 entered its 10th season, the two New York niche-fests again accomplished their common goal of showcasing notable musical talent. Another commonality is that neither fest likely would exist if it weren’t for the Association For Performing Arts Presenters, whose marketplace conference draws more than 3,000 industry stalwarts from all over the world to the Hilton in Midtown every January.

Conveniently, the annual APAP convention has provided some entrepreneurial promoters with a built-in audience of professional tastemakers. That list would include talent buyers: representatives of universities, museums, cultural institutions, music festivals, radio programmers, journalists and academics as well as bookers for everything from small box theaters to major amphitheaters. And with managers, publicists and booking agents on the constant hunt for new artists, the industry has found relative depth in the flexible genres of world music and jazz, both of which rely heavily on live performance as the major part and parcel of their trade. 

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This year the Winter Jazzfest -- organized by promoters Brice Rosenbloom and Adam Schatz -- used six downtown music venues to present more than 70 different artists over two nights. With more than 5,000 attendees, the reasonably priced admission (one day pass for $35, two days for $45) led to long lines and packed clubs as industry professionals and informed consumers filtered in and out of West Village clubs like Le Poisson Rouge, The Bitter End, The Zinc Bar and Sullivan Hall.

The similarly intentioned globalFEST followed on Sunday evening, with more than 1,500 attendees taking in a dozen different groups on all three floors of Webster Hall and staggering performances between stages in The Studio, The Marlin Room and The Ballroom, all night long. 

According to Bill Bragin, a globalFEST organizer (along with Shanta Thake and Isabel Soffer) and director of public programming for Lincoln Center, “The original idea was inspired by WOMEX [the international World Music Expo] -- to put on events with high production values and combine industry showcases with public shows. This helps the programmers see how these groups connect with real audiences and better understand what concert possibilities there are.” Bragin maintains that the annual collision of Jazzfest, globalFEST, APAP and other showcase consortiums coalesce into one massive arts festival in Manhattan that serves the profession, arts communities and the general public in a truly profound way.

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The cross-pollination of world music and jazz is clearly a positive -- as the tastes and sensibilities of many promoters easily overlap. As a result, artists showcased at either festival could end up onstage at Bonnaroo, Coachella or Pitchfork, infiltrate jazz festivals across North America, or simply play at the local community arts center near you. Attendee Carlos Tortolero, program coordinator in the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago, appreciates the combined utility of the two fests. “They coexist side by side and mirror one another beautifully and conveniently for promoters like myself. These two festivals alone are reason enough to come to NYC, with or without APAP, which basically spawned them both.”

Highlights of the Jazzfest included Red Baraat, a dance band from Brooklyn that plays North Indian Bhangra music and has performed at globalFEST in the past. Chilean singer Claudia Acuña entranced her audience with a melodic set at The Bitter End.  Astounding solo reedist Colin Stetson put on quite a show -- he’s already known for his affiliation with Arcade Fire and is sure to make a splash nationally quite soon. The Fringe is a powerful post-bop trio from Boston featuring tenor titan George Garzone and well worth seeing. Drummer Nasheet Waits led his impressive band EQUALITY (with star pianist Vijay Iyer as one of his equals) through a burning late night set at the Culture Project Theater.

The globalFEST 2013 also moved from strength to strength, as Zimbabwe guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits played some irresistible Afropop on the large Ballroom stage. Mali singer Fatoumata Diawara gave another physical performance of dance and song and was even more enchanting than usual. Chicago’s Mucca Pazza brought the premise of marching bands to a whole new level with an uninhibited army of energetic performers, and the Stooges Brass Band from New Orleans represented a quality brass tradition in authentic transition. In short, everybody was moving and grooving at Webster Hall, especially the promoters.

Twitter: @THRMusic