Full Festival Dates: June 13 to 18
Location: Roulette Intermedium, 509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Arts for Art is proud to honor Joëlle Léandre, a master improviser and contrabassist with the Lifetime Achievement Award on June 13, 2023, opening night of the 27th Vision Festival at Roulette, in Brooklyn, NY.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually to artists who have attained preeminent status in the world of FreeJazz. Starting with the 10th Vision Festival in 2005, Arts for Art has awarded a total of twenty artists over the past seventeen years. This year’s festival will take place June 13 to 18.
It seems inevitable that Joëlle Léandre has become such an important figure in Free Jazz and Free Music. Her career as a musical thinker and bassist is in so many ways exceptional. From her early years, she performed with and composed for a range of highly acclaimed contemporary music ensembles, for theater, dance and voice. Much of her work is expressed in her highly developed and personal improvisational language. She encompasses all genres but remains her unique self, defiant and crafted with an intense discipline and drive, punctuated with her struggle for justice. Léandre has been paving a way that other powerfully creative women have followed.
Joëlle Léandre has performed nine times at Vision Festival since 1999. On this special occasion celebrating her Lifetime Achievement, Ms. Léandre will present new work for the opening night of the festival. Her performance at Vision 2023 will draw further attention to a career that has already encompassed several lifetimes’ worth of achievements.
About Joëlle Léandre
A progenitor of European improvisation, bassist Joëlle Léandre’s ongoing career is an integral story in 20th and 21st century music. Leandre has amassed over 200 recordings, including numerous collaborations with fellow improvising luminaries such as Marilyn Crispell, Anthony Braxton, Myra Melford, William Parker, Irène Schweizer, Derek Bailey, Nicole Mitchell, and many more. From early in her career, the caliber of her talent attracted attention. Leandre has performed with Leornard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Giacinto Scelsi, as well as with Merce Cunnigham and John Cage. The latter two composed “Ryoanji” for Leandre specifically. Over 40 composers have dedicated pieces for her.
Joëlle Léandre (born September 12, 1951) started playing music at age 8, initially playing the recorder before moving on to the piano. At 17, she studied at Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris. In Paris, Leandre encountered “the new thing,” musicians escaping America for fair compensation and proper recognition, including Roscoe Mitchell, Bill Dixon, Alan Silva, Art Ensemble of Chicago. In a 2020 interview with Ken Weiss in freejazzblog.org, she commented: “They gave me jubilation, everything was new. Everything was possible. This was my generation. They gave me the message to ‘be you.’”
Léandre became a self-described “worker bee”, meeting and working with John Cage in 1972, writing music for dance in 1974, and leaving France for Buffalo, New York in 1976 to work with Morton Feldman. She met William Parker in 1979, and performed in a bass quartet with him, Peter Kowald, and Paul Rodgers. The following year, she moved to Berlin and performed with the European improvisers associated with the FMP label. When returning to America later that year, she met British guitarist Derek Bailey at the end of a Company concert in New York City, a close friend she regularly collaborated with.
Léandre soon began organizing distinguished all women’s bands. These include European Women’s Improvising Group (EWIG), featuring herself, reedist Lindsay Cooper, vocalist Maggie Nicols, and pianist Irène Schweizer; Les Diaboliques, the trio with Irène Schweizer and Maggie Nicols, co-founded in 1990 and starting in 2016, The Tiger Trio with Nicole Mitchell and Myra Melford. These trailblazing groups played a vital role in the growing recognition and acclaim for women’s essential contributions to contemporary improvised music.
About the Vision Festival
In 1996 the First Annual Vision Festival took place at The Learning Alliance on Lafayette near Houston. The idea was to bring together luminaries from the different Avantgarde music scenes and, for the first time since the Sound Unity Festivals in the mid ‘80s, celebrate the important African American leaders of the music. Featuring artist Milford Graves, that first Vision Festival was unique in its multi-arts focus featuring poets such as Amiri Baraka, dancers such as Rod Rogers, and visual artists such as Jeff Schlanger, in collaboration with the music.
Each year the Vision Festival also brought attention to issues of social justice by curating panel discussions, such as “Decolonizing the Music: Reclaiming the Power of Creative Music in Communities of Color” or “How Funding Affects Creative Choices.”
In its totality the Vision Festival created and guaranteed a space for improvisation as a leading creative language, heralded as “one of New York’s most essential art events” (New York Times).
In the current political and cultural climate, Arts for Art’s credo is felt more strongly than ever – using powerful music and art as expressions of commitment to life and justice. Past festival titles have included A Vision Against Violence, Avant Jazz For Peace, Studies in Freedom, The Revolution Continues, The Creative Option and Take a Stand.
The Vision Festival continues to honor and amplify the careers of legendary artists that are too often under-appreciated, such as Fred Anderson, Kidd Jordan, Bill Dixon, Sam Rivers, Connie Crothers, and many others.
About Arts for Art
Founded in 1996, Arts for Art (AFA) is a New York City based tax exempt organization dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Black Multicultural Improvised Creative Arts -- an African American indigenous art form in which improvisation is principal. This art embodies music, dance, poetry and visual arts. It is recognized for its variety of highly developed and personalized improvisational languages. AFA works to preserve the legacy of FreeJazz, and to ensure a vital future through its re-imagination by new generations of artists. Spearheaded by the internationally renowned Vision Festival, AFA's programming brings together multiple generations of vibrant, diverse and highly skilled artists. To further our goals of diversity and accessibility, we foster education initiatives and produce events that build community amongst artists and audiences.
Arts for Art Mission
Arts for Art is dedicated to the exceptional creativity that originated in the African American multi-arts jazz culture that utilizes improvisation to express a larger, more positive dream of inclusion and freedom.
About Roulette Intermedium
Founded in 1978, Roulette’s mission is to support artists creating new and adventurous art in all disciplines by providing them with a venue and resources to realize their creative visions and to build an audience interested in the evolution of experimental art.
AFA is currently running its Artists & Friends year-end fundraising campaign. Donations support artist fees and programming including the Vision Festival and lifetime achievement award.
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Photo above: Luciano Rossetti/ PHOCUS