Far downtown weekend adventures

Far out improv, high concept contemporary composition, new jazz scholarship and “cut loose” music from Guadeloupe flood Lowest Manhattan (all the way to Staten Island) this weekend. The folks who bring us the Vision Festival stage 28 hours of multidisciplinary improvisation starting tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. at Clemente Soso Velez Cultural Center; Mode Records throws itself a benefit marathon concert featuring Philip Glass, John Zorn and Robert Ashley, among many others on Saturday at Abrons Art Center; jazz scholars convene for The Louis Armstrong Symposium at College of Staten Island also Saturday starting at 9 a.m., keynote by Dan Morgenstern) and the Destination Guadeloupe Festival climaxes with Gwo-ka drumming, “gwanda jazz” and zouk at S.O.B.’s on Sunday (bands from Guadeloupe are also there and at Zinc Bar tonight and tomorrow).The possibilities show again the breadth and depth of music made and presented in NYC.

Arts for Art, Vision Fest principals and producers of the 28 hours, have two spaces in Clemente Soso Velez running simultaneously. I can recommend Sex Mob, the Taylor Ho Bynum-Tomas Fujiwara duo, George Lewis on trombone with Sam Pluta deploying electronics, John Zorn solo, vocalist Shelley Hirsch with accompaniment, Connie Crothers Quartet, Trio X featuring multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee and bassist Dominic Duval, dancer Sally Silvers, guitarist Bern Nix backing up poet Bob Holman and leading his own trio, oudist Brahem Fribgane with violinist Jason Kao Hwang and trumpeter Lewis “Flip” Barnes, solo reedist Ned Rothenberg, a two-clarinet quintet with Perry Robinson, pianist John Blum with drummer Jackson Krall, solo percussionist Guillermo E. Brown, trombonist Ray Anderson with saxophonist Charles Gayle and guitarist Dom Minasi, trumpeter Roy Campbell with reedist Daniel Carter et al, tenor man J.D. Allen, drummer Milford Graves with Sun Ra stalwart Marshall Allen, trombonist Craig Harris, singer Fay Victor, pianist Borah Bergman — actually too much music to absorb, even in 28 hours, and there are acts I haven’t mentioned, scheduled for 10 minutes to half an hour. There will be no music from 4 a.m. Saturday morn ’til 10 a.m., but otherwise, sound sound sound.

The Mode program (in support of an esteemed new music label) is no less impressive — starting at 6 p.m. with Glass playing his solo piano works and Zorn’s game piece Cobra with Z-man himself conducting, then a second show at 7:30 featuring John Cage’s “Concert for Piano and Orchestra” and “Aria.” Isabelle Ganz will sing, and the orchestra will comprise artists performing throughout the night, including pianist Margaret Leng Tan, violinist Tom Chiu, Joe (two-places-at-once) McPhee, percussionist-sculptor John Heward, and maybe composers David Behrman and Roger Reynolds, quite an impressive cast, probably never again in one place at one time.
What can be new about Louis Armstrong? I’m game to hear John Szwed talk about Pops’ involvement in Orson Welles’ uncompleted 1941 film The Story of Jazz. Michael Cogswell of the Armstrong House Museum and Archives in Queens will present, along with scholars James Leach, William R. Bauer and Jeffrey Taylor — focusing respectively on “Stardust,” Armstrong’s early vocal techniques and the impact of pianists (including no doubt Lil Hardin Armstrong) on Louis’ music in Chicago in the 1920s. These are not arcane issues to those who fascinated with the enduring American art form and its original favorite son.
French Caribbean culture is a different thing entirely — or is it? Guadeloupe’s Gwo-Kwa drummers have collaborated closely with American ex-pat saxophonist David Murray (check out their just-released The Devil Tried to Kill Me, but I don’t think he’ll be at this Destination Guadeloupe Festival, though) and the island seems eager to embrace jazz (as well as welcome tourists) in very indigenous ways. At S.O.B.’s Luc Leandry, “the King of Zouk” headlines with the Divas of Zouk, Joëlle Ursull, Jocylene Labylle — names new to me, but I’m curious and it’s cheaper to hear this gang by subwaying to Varick Street than flying to Gustavia (though wouldn’t that be nice?). 
There’s more than this of everything jazzy, bluesy, new and unusual this weekend — for instance, Enrico Granafei is performing a solo concert of his simultaneous “hands-free chromatic harmonica and guitar” tonight (Friday) at the Italian Cultural Institute (call 212 879 4242 for details), altoist Tim Berne got a new ensemble at Roulette (Saturday), the East Village club Nublu is promoting its “first annual jazz festival” tonight through Sunday with bands led by Avram Fefer, Kenny Wollesen and Teodross Avery; Pharoah Sandders and Ravi Coltrane are together at Iridium, and saxophonist Myron Walden is making a move behind the release of three albums at Smalls tonight and Saturday. As always, too much to do, too many decisions, it’s easier to stay home, watch tv, play video games, snuggle — but what is one here for if not music all night long?

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