While New York can’t claim to be the birthplace of jazz — that honor belongs to New Orleans — the city has always been influential in its development, with legends from Thelonious Monk to Charlie Parker to Miles Davis calling it home at various times.
Twelve years ago, the Winter Jazzfest was started to highlight the newest iteration of New York’s jazz scene. Since then it has grown from a one-night festival to a five-night affair featuring 120 different acts on 12 stages downtown.
This year’s edition runs Wednesday through Sunday and features artists including Vijay Iyer Trio, Roy Hargrove and Sun Ra Arkestra.
amNewYork spoke with producer Brice Rosenbloom.
What’s your vision as you put together the lineup for Winter Jazzfest?
I see a lot of jazz festivals that really try to define or take a somewhat more narrow approach of what jazz should be, or some that are a little too broad where jazz is used as a marketing tool to attract folks to other genres. For me, I like the one drop approach, where if a performer or composer is creating music that is influenced with one drop of jazz, and I can hear that and understand what they’re doing in the music and how it is relevant to jazz, it’s something I’d consider including.
How do you find the right balance between the big names and the unknowns?
In that first year it was mostly groups that were not A-list jazz artists. We rarely present people like Wynton Marsalis or Wayne Shorter or Sonny Rollins. But we present artists who have been on the scene for a while, plus a crop of up-and-coming artists. ... The idea is to show the scene is fresh and there’s new ideas. We’re looking for new projects from artists, whether they’re right out of school or someone 30 to 40 years into their career.
What do you see as the state of jazz today compared with when you started?
I think it’s richer. It’s more exciting. There’s a lot of different stories. We’ve seen how jazz is really relevant in areas beyond just at a standard jazz club. We see the influence of jazz directly in hip-hop with Kendrick Lamar’s album, which Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper played on and Terrace Martin played on and produced. ... Look at a group like Snarky Puppy that has a groove and R&B feel to it. It’s not too far off from what a group like Medeski Martin & Wood had in the ’90s bringing people from the jam band scene into the music. In my mind, any opportunity to attract someone not so familiar with jazz is a great thing for the music.