December 7: Hospital Fest 2019 at Saint Vitus. For over two decades, Dominick Fernow’s outside-the-box Hospital Productions label has long been the preeminent destination for mind-expanding and face-melting experimental music that runs the gamut of electronics, metal, and noise. The Prurient mastermind and East Village record store proprietor once again presents this classification-obliterating bacchanal. Configured into day and evening shows, the 2019 edition features Pain Jerk, Tomb Mold, Andy Stott, Sternal Champion, Orphx, Akitsa, and more noisemakers.
December 7: A Fundraiser Reading for VOCAL-NY: Poets Speak Out 1 at Bullet Space. On the heels of an appearance at Forward Festival 2019, No Land—a stalwart of both the poetry and free jazz scenes and a ubiquitous presence at Arts For Arts events—is one of many taking part in a worthy cause: a fundraiser reading for Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY). A statewide grassroots membership organization that “builds power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, mass incarceration, and homelessness, in order to create healthy and just communities,” No Land will be joined by such spoken wordsmiths, musicians, and improvisers as AFA’s Patricia Nicholson, Melanie Dyer, Miriam Parker, Coco Gordon Moore, and many more. Visual Art by No Land, Suzanne Goldenberg, Heather Frise, and Jim Dawson will be on display.
December 8: Stander, Greg Fox, Dan Friel, and Canal Street Electronics at The Kingsland. Fresh off contributing a blistering track to the metal, punk, and hardcore compilation, Riffs for Reproductive Justice—released by anti-fascist, anti-racist extreme metal festival organizers, Black Flags Over Brooklyn—the Chicago-based quartet Stander makes its New York debut. Taking cues from the dizzying and cerebral math-metal and prog-rock pummel and intricacies of Pelican and Russian Circles, and the lurching doom of SUMAC, Stander’s time signature-laden instru-metal is a cutthroat, precise beast. Their self-released 2019 debut, The Slow Bark, is well worth seeking out. Rounding out this incredible bill is ex-Liturgy drummer Greg Fox, electro-pop noisemaker Dan Friel, and Canal Street Electronics, the solo electronics project of Michael Berdan of Uniform.
December 8: Kevin Hufnagel, Ryan A. Miller, Desertion Trio, and Harvey Valdes at Union Pool. Tonight’s bill will be a stone-cold clinic in virtuosity on the six-string as four boundary-pushing guitarists take the stage at Union Pool. On a slew of solo and entirely disparate recordings, Dysrhythmia’s Kevin Hufnagel has taken his solo guitar sonics to brain-bending extremes in his heady deconstruction of technical metal, via influences such as Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy, Mercyful Fate, and Fates Warning. Brooklyn’s own Harvey Valdes leans into more spaced-out meditations drawn from jazz and free-improv on 2019’s Solitude Intones Its Echo (Destiny Records), a set that should appeal to fans of Marc Ribot’s solo work. Portland-based guitarist Ryan A. Miller (of the excellent trio U Sco) and Philadelphia’s Desertion Trio are certain to provide loud fireworks as they shred though the King Crimson-proggy punk-jazz of 2018’s Atrophy Torque Fly (Ambition Sound) and the surf-punk of this year’s Twilight Time (Long Song Records), respectively.
December 8: The (Fifth!) Landlady Holiday Spectacular at The Bell House. Brooklyn’s Landlady are a DIY art-pop juggernaut who are part Talking Heads funky and part jam-band exploratory under the influence of Sly and the Family Stone and Nina Simone. On 2017’s The World Is A Loud Place (Home Tapes / Landladyland), singer and Farfisa tickler Adam Schatz and crew spread positive vibes and infectious hooks via their elastic electro-R & B touch. It’s high time Landlady returned with a new batch of songs so here’s hoping they test out new material during their fifth holiday spectacular. Expect fun covers and special guests.
December 9: The Anagram Ensemble at Roulette. Bassist and composer James Ilgenfritz is a versatile force with a command over a wide-ranging gamut of musical forms. From new music, improvisation, minimalism, and jazz, Ilgenfritz has toed just about every line. This evening, he showcases his prolific nature with presentations of a pair of new endeavors. Ilgenfritz’s mammoth Anagram Ensemble presents a new multi-disciplinary work titled I Looked At The Eclipse (he calls it a “semi-staged operatic creation”) before performing the world premiere of Pittsburgh-based Colombian-American composer Federico Garcia De Castro’s Themuru for two guitars, two percussionists, clarinet, saxophone, viola, cello, and bass. Tonight also celebrates the release of You Scream A Rapid Language (Infrequent Seams), a set of stunningly crafted and gripping experimental and metal-informed chamber works featuring performances by Pauline Kim Harris, Alex Cohen, String Noise, William Winant, James Moore, Kathleen Supove, Jennifer Choi, Thomas Buckner, Joseph Kubera, Conrad Harris, Margaret Lancaster, and Ilgenfritz. Notably, the program takes inspiration from influential literary giants including, the sorely-missed Steve Dalachinsky, whose poetry about Cecil Taylor and Muhal Richard Abrams appears in both the title of the album and the composition, Apophenia IV: A Bell In Every Finger.
December 12: Pre-Hanukkah Smackdown with Golem, ZION80, and Sharabi at DROM. It’s been a minute since either Golem or ZION80 released new records but at least we have what has become an annual event: their Hanukkah Smackdown spectacular. As two of the premier ‘out’-jazz groups blurring the lines of joyous traditional Jewish music and raging punk-jazz, there might not be a better way to ring in Hanukkah, downtown jazz style. Klezmer punks Golem—led by vocalist and accordionist Annette Ezekiel Kogan—unleash a rollicking hybrid of Yiddish and Eastern European music with the ethos of punk while Jon Madof’s ten-piece collective ZION80 mash up Jewish music through the lens of the Afrobeat funk master Fela Anikulapo Kuti. With Sharabi.
December 13: LIVE@365 Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Orchestra with Brooklyn Raga Massive at Elebash Recital Hall. World music trailblazer Adam Rudolph is no stranger to tackling sprawling projects with his Go: Organic Orchestra. His large-scale undertakings continues with Ragmala - A Garden of Ragas (Meta), a recording with Brooklyn Raga Massive. This evening, the two join forces for the album’s release show, with music composed and spontaneously conducted by Rudolph. Expect a cosmic cross-cultural fusion of jazz, Indian classical music, and West African polyrhythms.
December 14: Jandek at ISSUE Project Room. After a decade, infamously reclusive mystery musician and cult figure Jandek makes a momentous return to. As the musical project of the Houston, Texas-based Corwood Industries, Jandek helped birth the DIY movement, independently releasing hundreds of records that explored lo-fi-grade blues, rock, and folk weirdness. It’s not to be missed.
December 15: J.R. Bohannon and Sondra Sun-Odeon at The Sultan Room. J.R. Bohannon is a way-out guitarist who hops effortlessly from style to style. As Ancient Ocean, Bohannon mastered an effects-driven ambient country and now on Dusk (figureight), just released under his own name, he’s taking fingerstyle guitar to sublime heights. Using an earthy blend of jazz and the American primitive style, Bohannon, with some help from bassist Luke Stewart and drummer Greg Fox, mines similar terrain as John Fahey, Glenn Jones, David Grubbs, and Alan Licht. Tonight, he’s joined on a bill by singer and composer Sondra Sun-Odeon whose dreamy new record, Desyre (Graveface), features Bohannon as a guest.
December 15: Arts For Arts Presents Free Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon. The final performance of AFA’s Free Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon series features a voice/drums duo for the avant-jazz ages. Vocal wonder Fay Victor has been wowing and confounding the jazz and improvised music underground with her transcendent pipes in leading groups such as SoundNoiseFUNK. Victor’s spine-tingling and soulful free-improvisational delivery is full-force on the just-dropped Barn Songs, her Northern Spy Records debut with cellist Marika Hughes and alto saxophonist, Darius Jones. Cleaver also has his own ace record to celebrate: the relentlessly hard-bopping Live At Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside) with Violet Hour. This afternoon at 3 P.M., Victor and Cleaver join forces for what promises to be a magical all-improvised set.
December 16: False Harmonics #6: Jaimie Branch Fly or Die and Irreversible Entanglements at Pioneer Works. Pioneer Works’ stellar False Harmonics series continues with yet another fantastic show where cosmic jazz and improvised protest music meet. Since storming the Brooklyn scene with her group Fly Or Die, rising star trumpeter and composer Jaimie Branch has staked her claim as a revelatory game-changer in transforming the avant landscape with her sonic assault of post-jazz righteousness. With the recently-released Fly or Die II: bird dogs of paradise (International Anthem), Branch has homed in on an in-your-face and sublime sound and vision that is blazing new trails. Irreversible Entanglements, featuring Camae Ayewa (a/k/a Moor Mother), are a no-holds-barred collective whose poetry-meets-free jazz fire music is exactly the tonic this world needs right now.
December 17: Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows at Roulette. Composer and saxophonist Remy Le Boeuf is known for taking creative risks and Assembly of Shadows (released in November via his own imprint, SoundSpore Records) is quite the feat in terms of large-ensemble composition. With inspiration culled from Charles Mingus, Darcy James Argue, Leonard Bernstein, and Maria Schneider, Le Boeuf more than shows his bandleader chops as he leads an all-star twenty-piece orchestra. Tonight, he and his big band will bring this cinematic majesty to Roulette along with arrangements of works by Ornette Coleman and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
December 20–21: Terry Riley Live at 85 at Pioneer Works. Contemporary music is unimaginable without Terry Riley. What his In C did for classical forms, albums like Persian Surgery Dervishes did for world music as new music. In celebration of his 85th year, the tirelessly creative Riley will both perform career touchstones and improvise with longtime collaborators, while special guests will play groundbreaking pieces from his catalog. Don’t bother to pick a night, this is a special event.
December 21: The Mars Williams Ayler Xmas Project at Eric’s House of Improv. Fresh off a tour with The Psychedelic Furs, saxophonist Mars Williams—an avant-garde jazz linchpin who has played with Massacre, Fred Frith, and Bill Laswell—rings in the Christmas season with his long-running Ayler Xmas Project. Williams has just released the third volume in this series, Live In Krakow (NotTwo Records), accompanied by a group that includes trumpeter Jaimie Branch. Christmas cheer will be in the air tonight as Williams and company tackle the holiday classics as only free jazz can.
December 21: Martin Bisi at Saint Vitus. Longtime Gowanus staple and activist Martin Bisi is best known as a super-producer with a legendary list of credits that have played a crucial role in cementing the raw and primal downtown noise-rock sound into the history books. From Sonic Youth, Swans, Unsane, and Cop Shoot Cop to John Zorn and Herbie Hancock, Bisi has presiding over the boards at his storied BC Studio. Meanwhile. Bisi’s own sinister avant-pop wizardry has flown under the radar. A criminally underrated tunesmith in the vein of Michael Gira, Bitches Brew-era Miles, and SST-period Sonic Youth (Bisi famously produced 1986’s EVOL), his mind-meld of dark post-punk and shapeshifting jazz fusion manifests gloriously on Solstice (Bronson Recordings), his first new album in five years and sixth full-length overall. A lethal and cathartic blend of demonic and warped soundscapes with The Body-like operatic wails, Solstice is like nothing you’ve heard before.NB this is a matinee show with a 2 P.M. start time.
December 22: Thollem at El Barrio’s Artspace PS 109. Thollem, the shamanistic pianist colossus, master improviser, and activist, soldiers on. A freewheeler whose worlds-ahead style invokes Cecil Taylor, the comedian Andy Kaufman (a hero of Thollem’s), minimalist pioneer Pauline Oliveros, and punk rock icons the Minutemen, Thollem embodies the protean free-spirit. He’s in town to celebrate the release of three new albums that are the crystallization of his entirely unique aesthetic: Reality and Other Imaginary Places (ESP-Disk’) with Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and drummer Michael Wimberly, Gowanus Session II (ESP-Disk’) with bassist William Parker, and Cline, and Dire Warning (Relative Pitch) by Estamos Trio (Thollem, Carmina Escobar, and Milo Tamez).
December 28: Kwanzaa Fest featuring KEEBS, Shauntay Cherry, Kudo NYC, Corey Wallace DUBTET, Jermaine Holmes, STOUT, and DJ P.U.D.G.E at National Sawdust. Described as “a safe space for people of color of all ages to celebrate the rich history and culture of African people”, this year’s edition of Kwanzaa Fest, its fifth overall, showcases world-class musicians, filmmakers, and artisans in Brooklyn. Tonight features a program headed by KEEBS, Shauntay Cherry, Kudo NYC, Corey Wallace DUBTET, Jermaine Holmes, STOUT, and DJ P.U.D.G.E.