(2-CD set) On November 20 and 21, 2010, maverick record label Abstract Logix hosted a series of spectacular performances, featuring an array of artists who handily defy genre categorization in favor of unbridled expression. The first New Universe Festival was a die-hard music lover's dream, defined by artists who seamlessly mingle compositional ingenuity and improvisational grace and fervor. This coming September, Abstract Logix will also release a 2 DVD set, featuring a generous selection of festival performances and bonus material (additional performances, interviews, and more), filmed in high-definition throughout the event.
Among the featured musicians were pioneering guitarist John McLaughlin and his current band the 4th Dimension with special guest, world music legend tabla maestro Zakir Hussain; Widespread Panic guitar hero Jimmy Herring with his electric band; Return to Forever Drummer Lenny White; the all-star quartet Human Element (keyboardist Scott Kinsey, bassist Matt Garrison, percussionist Arto Tunçboyaciyan; fearless guitarist and improviser Wayne Krantz appearing with the amazing Anthony Jackson on bass; visionary Indian composer and drummer Ranjit Barot; and emerging guitar visionary Alex Machacek.
''I feel honored to participate,'' says festival headliner John McLaughlin, while on tour promoting his Grammy-nominated album To the One. ''My life has been dedicated to my instrument and music, and I continue to devote myself to music in order to be worthy of such a privilege. You will hear the kind of complicity that exists between us all this is a very special element, and frankly essential for making good music.''
Jimmy Herring very succinctly put it, ''This is real music played by real people, happening in real time. We're up there listening and reacting to one another, and people genuinely respond to the risks we take. This is human music in a mechanized age.''
It was a veritable smorgasbord of fusion, with many of the top-notch artists in the genre coming together for a series of performances. Jazz-rock fans attending the inaugural event heard legends like John McLaughlin and Lenny White, established names such as Wayne Krantz, Human Element and Jimmy Herring, as well as up-and-comers like Alex Machacek and Ranjit Barot. From start to finish, the music was electric, even when it was being played acoustically. There was also a palpable sense of community as artists generously participated in listening sessions and sat in with each other throughout the event. I highly recommend this festival and look forward to seeing and hearing its second incarnation in 2012. --Lee Mergner, JazzTimes
The New Universe Music Festival brought together an astonishing roster of legendary and upcoming jazz-fusion musicians - especially guitarists - in an intimate setting charged with excitement. As might be expected, the music was superb, culminating in a heartfelt tribute to fusion and world music pioneer John McLaughlin. I look forward to attending the next NUMF, though the first one will be very tough to top. --Barry Cleveland, Guitar Player