Building a house of jazz: Q&A with Jack Walsh of BRIC

One of this year’s new additions to CMJ is the BRIC JazzFest, which is produced by the same organization that …

One of this year’s new additions to CMJ is the BRIC JazzFest, which is produced by the same organization that runs Prospect Park’s heralded Celebrate Brooklyn! concert series each summer.

Highlights of the festival include legendary bassist Ron Carter, who played in the early ’60s incarnation of the Miles Davis Quintet, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Evolution and tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, who has performed with everyone from Wayne Shorter to Kendrick Lamar. Smith and Washington will play as part of a two-night jazz marathon with 18 ensembles performing overlapping sets in multiple spaces.

amNewYork spoke with Jack Walsh, BRIC’s vice president of performing arts, about the festival.

What inspired the BRIC JazzFest?

J.W.: I had been thinking about it for a while. We love jazz. . . . Jazz is not necessarily the most popular form of music but there are so many talented young musicians diving into it. They don’t have a tremendous platform. We wanted to shine a spotlight on it and really add something to the cultural calendar in the fall in Brooklyn.

What makes this festival unique?

J.W.: There are a lot of jazz festivals spread out across different venues in the city. This is the first year — and I want it to have a larger footprint next year — but this year the structure of the festival is that all of our performances are in BRIC House. There are three venues in the space. . . . It’s a really intimate festival. You can go to one place and catch a large number of artists.

Who are you most excited to see?

J.W.: I’m totally thrilled about Ron Carter and Danny Simmons. Danny is a visual artist, painter and poet. He wrote a book of poems called “The Brown Beatnik Tomes” that is being set to music by Ron and his trio. There will be live projections of Danny’s paintings. Each poem is juxtaposed to a painting. We’re bringing the book to life in this performance. It’s an amazing, one-of-a-kind performance.

What will the jazz marathon be like?

J.W.: The idea is to have a real social mashup in an intimate way. If you’ve been to a big multistage festival like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, you can sample a lot of music by running between stages. . . . [Here,] within a few steps, you’ll see a performance on the Stoop overlooking an art gallery, you’ll see something else in our artists’ studio — which is more of a jazz club setting — and we’ll have something in the ballroom, which is more like a traditional concert hall. We hope it will be a really dynamic event where people jump between spaces and sets to catch a little bit of everything.


IF YOU GO: BRIC JazzFest runs Oct. 11 through Oct. 16 at BRIC House | 647 Fulton St., Fort Greene | full schedule at

HAL BIENSTOCK. Special to amNewYork