Celebrations of Miles Davis, Vision Festival, 'Blue Monday'

Ron Scott | 6/20/2013, 12:50 p.m.
When it comes to creativity, Miles Davis took his music and listeners to higher ground....
American jazz musician and composer Miles Davis (1926 - 1991) playing the trumpet. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

The Vision Festival is about "vision." It is avant-garde, free music; it is the creativity of musicians who follow their own boundless flight of musical freedom.

The June 12 opening will include the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to the drummer Milford Graves. The free jazz pioneer will perform in various configurations including Transition TRIO with pianist D.D. Jackson and tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan; and the NY HeART ensemble with poet Amiri Baraka, trombonist Roswell Rudd, bassist William Parker and tenor saxophonist Charles Gayle. It begins at 7 p.m.

On June 13, the festival will honor visual artist Robert Janz. Janz was part of the "Zen Generation" led by Pacific Coast Beat artists. His art has been somewhat overlooked, but it has still influenced generations of artists all over the world.

The evening will also feature the Roscoe Mitchell Trio with bassist Henry Grimes, pianist Connie Crothers and Mitchell on reeds. This is a dynamic trio that rarely plays in New York City. The show starts at 7 p.m., and Mitchell will perform at 10 p.m.

In 1965, Mitchell was one of the first members of the nonprofit organization Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians along with pianist Jodie Christian, drummer Steve McCall and composer Phil Cohran.

He later formed one of the most important avant-garde groups in jazz history, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (1967-71).

On June 15, Reggie Workman will perform, featuring pianist Marilyn Crispell, tenor saxophonist Odean Pope, tablas player Tapan Modak and drummer Pheeroan akLaff. The legendary bassist Workman and his ensemble will perform at 10:45 p.m.

June 16 will close with an array of great music and events, including Hamiet Bluiett with his Bluiett Bio-Electric Ensemble and a panel discussion at 2 p.m. called "Decolonizing the Music" with panelists Baraka, William Parker, Juma Sultan, Darius Jones, Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Hetty Fox and moderated by Basir McHawi.

Festival passes are $140 online, and daily admission is $30 per day, $20 for students and seniors. For a complete listing and more information, go to artsforart.org or call 212-254-5420.

On June 18-19, the On Site Opera & Harlem Opera Theater will present the jazz opera "Blue Monday" at the Cotton Club (626 W. 125th St.). "Blue Monday," written by composer George Gershwin, takes a stroll through the 1920s and makes a stop in a Harlem jazz club, where a love triangle goes wrong.

The cast features Alyson Cambridge, Chase Taylor, Lawrence Craig, Clayton Mathews and Alvin Crawford. The accompaniment will include members of the Harlem Chamber Players and the Cotton Club All Stars.

Each evening, the doors will open at 7 p.m. with an hour of cocktails and dancing before the opera at 8 p.m. The dance floor will be open and cocktails will flow as a prelude to Gershwin's jazz-infused murder romance.

"Blue Monday" will be conducted by Gregory Hopkins (Harlem Opera Theater) and directed by Eric Einhorn (On Site Opera) with choreography by Tony Award winner George Faison and costumes by Candida K. Nichols. For more information, visit www.osopera.org or call 917-243-8340.