Winter Jazzfest is New York City’s premiere showcase for improvised music, practically unrivaled in size and scope. Its 2019 edition, which is set to take place January 4-12 on a dozen stages around the city, features a roster of over 140 international performers. But the biggest numbers aren’t even stage-side; last year’s fest attracted more than 9,000 attendees.
They come in droves for the festival’s signature event, the Winter Jazzfest Marathon. These endurance-listening sessions offer up to six hours of continuous music by performers from across the jazz spectrum. This year’s marathons will take place on Jan. 11 and 12, with a half-marathon scheduled for Jan. 5. The lineups promise to be the festival’s largest yet. It will also be among its most diverse, as the festival organizers have made a commitment to emphasizing gender equity, beginning with the selection of the Winter Jazzfest 2019 artist-in-residence, Meshell Ndegeocello.
Ndegeocello will reside atop a roster that includes other leading female artists such as guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and saxophonists Melissa Aldana and Maria Grand. Additional headliners include Medeski, Martin & Wood with Alarm Will Sound and ’70s free-jazz pioneers Gary Bartz and Pharoah Sanders. Also special this year: a tribute to the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove, which will take place on Jan. 8. (If you live in the New York metro area and are curious about attending, there’s good news: Tickets for select events are still available on the Winter Jazzfest website.)
You’ll find all of those artists and more in our Winter Jazzfest Best of the Fest playlist. With almost 100 tracks, it presents a thrilling mix of genres: jazz, hip-hop, salsa, R&B, electronica, avant-garde, indie rock and more. But there are also plenty of artists here that use the structures of jazz to defy genre altogether. That, in the end, is what Winter Jazzfest does best, the secret formula that has kept it thriving for 15 years. Here’s to another 15 years of innovation — and many more.