From Bill's Desk

Jazz in June Festival

Welcome to McCarter’s second Jazz in June Festival, a series of concerts which I hope will become a annual fixture of our year-end programming. These days, across the nation from coast to coast, the summer has become one continuous jazz festival, of which we are now part.

This year’s schedule of five concerts comes hard on the heel of the historic concert by Ahmad Jamal, the last living legend of America’s fabled Jazz history.  What made this evening especially memorable was that it marked his McCarter debut—at the age of 89!  In fact, since McCarter opened its doors in 1930, virtually all of our nation’s jazz icons  have graced its stage—Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, and Keith Jarrett, continuing right down to the superstars of today like Wynton Marsalis and Herbie Hancock. My first jazz presentation at McCarter was Errol Garner over fifty years ago!

Jazz has always been a uniquely eclectic musical idiom, and it has often been called “America’s classical music.” Everybody takes credit for the phrase, but Ahmad Jamal said it first. Jazz has flourished and evolved through the years and its various eras from the big-band days to swing to be-pop to cool jazz to hip-hop and today’s electronic styles. At the same time, its audiences have also migrated from the concert halls to college campuses and jazz clubs, which provide the foundation for today’s artists to  nurture and expand their craft, including those represented in our Festival this year;  I view the intimate Berlind Theatre as  McCarter’s very own  “jazz club.”

Last June, our Festival focus was on perhaps the genre’s basic structure: the piano jazz trio. This year, we have expanded the universe to include not only today’s reigning vocalist (Cécile McLorin Salvant) but other instrumental formats, recognizing both the role of the guitar (Bill Frisell) and the bass (Christian McBride) as well as the ever-present piano trio (Bill Charlap). But jazz in today’s generation of innovators is moving in thousand different directions at once, a prime example being Vijay Iyer, whose shape-shifting protean career as leader, composer and pianist defies easy categorization.

In terms of what American Jazz today is all about and where it is going, no one has said it better than the author and critic Nate Chinen (whose book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century, is a must-read primer): “Jazz has always been a frontier of inquiry, with experimentation in multiple registers. But to a striking degree, avant-garde practice and formal invention have now insinuated themselves into the mainstream, shifting the music’s aesthetic center. Instead of a push for definition and one prevailing style, we have boundless permutations without fixed parameters. That multiplicity lies precisely at the heart of the new aesthetic—and is the engine of its greatest promise.”

W.W. Lockwood, Jr.  

FRIDAY, JUNE 7, 2019

Cécile McLorin Salvant

with Fred Hersch, piano

Cecile McLorin Salvant returns to McCarter after picking up her third Grammy this year for The Window. Joining her will be the indispensable pianist Fred Hersch, who has re-invented the jazz standard repertoire with 14 Grammy nominations and over 50 recordings as composer, bandleader, and innovator of individualistic jazz.



Christian McBride & Tip City

with Emmet Cohen, piano
Dan Wilson, guitar

Bassist extraordinaire, composer, arranger, educator, curator and administrator, Christian McBride, has been one of the most important and most omnipresent figures in the jazz world for 20 years.


FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 2019

Bill Frisell Trio

with Tony Scherr, bass
Kenny Wollesen, drums

There are lots of jazz guitarists, but only one Bill Frisell, a pioneer whose influence on several generations of guitarists is incalculable. His luminous vision of Americana folk-jazz fusion has made him a brand unto himself.



Bill Charlap Trio

with Peter Washington, bass
Kenny Washington, drums

For twenty years, Bill Charlap’s name has been synonymous with the Great American Songbook—you might even say he owns it. Whereas other jazzmen of his generation play the harmonies and the tune, this mainstream master plays the song—the whole song—with his innate sense of time, place, and melody.



Vijay Iyer Sextet

with Graham Haynes, cornet, fluegelhorn & electronica
Mark Shim, tenor sax
Steve Lehman, alto sax
Stephan Crump, bass
Tyshawn Sorey, drums

If jazz today has a Renaissance man, it is Vijay Iyer—pianist, bandleader, composer, educator, Harvard professor, MacArthur Award fellow, and regular winner of every jazz poll under the sun.