They say it all started with a bang — and that it did on the Revive Stage at NYC’s 2016 Winter Jazzfest. By only 7 p.m., the Bitter End was already swarming with people weaving in and out around tables and chairs, each seeking an unoccupied nook or cranny with a good view of the stage. Makaya McCraven – whose In the Moment mixtape has been drumming up considerable attention since its release last February – kicked the weekend off strong, setting the tone for the two-night jazz extravaganza.

The 12 sets, broken up across Friday and Saturday nights, showcased some of the forerunners in the world of boundary-breaking jazz, instrumental & electronic, and next wave soul/R&B. Ranging from the electronic space-prog sound of Terry Slingbaum’s Ravel Re-Imagined to the more straight jazz of trumpeter Al Strong, audiences could find something suited to every jazz fan’s taste. East Coast musicians certainly brought their distinctive flavor, while artists like KING and Terrace Martin injected a bit of West Coast sound into NYC’s most renowned jazz festival. Sitting side-by-side, fans and musicians alike watched as performers such as Lakecia Benjamin and Maurice “MoBetta” Brown knocked socks off left and right or as vocalists Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith and Latonya Geneva Givens dropped jaws. Littered across the 12 sets, audiences repeatedly saw scene-staples such as keyboardist BIGYUKI, bassist Burniss Earl Travis III, and drummer Bendji Allonce, to name a few. Across the way, at Subculture, Keyon Harrold wowed a whole new audience with his highly-acclaimed sound and all-star band. DJs Mark de Clive-Lowe and Raydar Ellis spun the nights away, flawlessly weaving the sets together. Each show brought a new set of faces, sounds, and ideas to a festival widely known for being on the forefront of jazz.

The stage went out with as much of a bang as it began with: Mark de Clive-Lowe’s CHURCH set, which featured the likes of Jaleel Shaw on sax, Igmar Thomas on trumpet, Burniss Earl Travis III on bass, Nate Smith on drums, rapper John Robinson, and de Clive-Lowe himself on keys, kept the venue packed into the early hours of morning. By 3:30 a.m., the crowd was just as invigorated and engaged as they’d been so many hours before. After all was played and done, audience members wandered into the cold New York night, buzzing with the energy one only finds in the aftermath of truly great music and already eagerly awaiting what next year’s festival has in store.

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Audience members schmoozing and boozing, excited to kick off the weekend’s festivities. From start to finish, the Revive Stage’s 12 acts drew crowds out of the cold and into the Bitter End.

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Producer-performer Terrace Martin drew in capacity crowds for his NYC debut as a bandleader. Well-known for his role alongside rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, Martin and his cast of (mostly) Harlem musicians ripped through “For Free?” and “Mortal Man” off Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly,’ along with a few tracks from Martin’s forthcoming LP, ‘Velvet Portraits.’ Featured here: Martin taking a break from keys & lead vocals to take his sax for a spin while vocalist Latonya “Tone” Geneva Givens and drummer Jonathan Barber rile up the already exuberant audience.

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A revival of their original Washington DC show, vocalists Christie Dashiell and Kennedy lent their voices to pianist Ray Angry‘s ‘Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown Re-Imagined.’ Also featured in the set: bassist Burniss Earl Travis III, Nasheet Waits on drums, and trumpeters Josh Evans and Keyon Herrold. A new spin of the classic album, Angry bent, flipped, and stretched well-known tunes such as “Lullaby of Birdland” and “Embraceable You” into creations with a touch of something old, something new, and something wickedly cool.

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Low lights and early morning hours couldn’t dampen the natural energy of Theo Croker‘s six-piece band. Croker may be the grandson of New Orleans jazz great Doc Cheatham, but he has been paving his own path since he picked up the trumpet at age 12. His latest EP, DVRK FUNK – which was recorded with his band of the same name – has been attracting widespread acclaim since its October release.

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The waterfalls of Smithsoneon‘s vocals, along with David Ginyard’s funky, bumping bass line, and some seriously jazzy rock grooves, Freelance easily drew in curious listeners off the street. Like Makaya McCraven, an early time-slot did not deter audiences from filling the venue wall-to-wall for this young, Berklee-based band.

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The peals of Maurice “MoBetta” Brown‘s trumpet meld with the roof-shaking power of his bandmates, which included Chelsea Baratz on saxophone, bassist Solomon Dorsey, guitarist Josh Connelly, Yuki Hirano on piano, and drummer Joe Blaxx. Unafraid of the full-capability of his instrument, Brown’s set comfortably oscillated between balladry and fiery straight jazz, touching on everything else along the way.

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A listener caught in the throes of Marcus Strickland‘s soprano sax solo during ‘Ben Williams & Sound Effect’ on Saturday evening. The band’s impressive line-up also featured Ben Williams on bass, guitarist Matt Stevens, Christian Sands on piano/keys, Bendji Allonce on percussion, and drummer John Davis.

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Ben Williams, who alternated between electric and upright bass, curated a set that tickled the toes of jazz, funk, soul, and even a sprinkle of rock. Much to the delight of the audience, an extended double-bass solo flawlessly melted into his own rendition of Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before returning to the delicacy with which the solo started.

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Trumpeter Igmar Thomas preps for Mark de Clive-Lowe‘s ‘CHURCH,’ a set which also featured the likes of saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist Burniss Earl Travis III, and drummer Nate Smith, as well as special guest-MC John Robinson.

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De Clive-Lowe swims amidst a sea of cables while setting up for the Revive Stage finale. ‘CHURCH‘ is the title of his latest album in addition to his live show, which the New Zealander tours in, around, and beyond his homebase of L.A.
 

Photos by Jati Lindsay, words by Andie Neff and Chris Tart

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