New York Guitar Festival

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Country and Region United StatesNew York
Type of Festival Music
Location of Festival New York, New York USA
Festival Contact Information

The New York Guitar Festival
Attn: David Spelman
1185 Park Avenue, Suite 9-H
New York, NY 10128-1311 USA

Festival Description

No instrument has spoken in more voices to more people than the guitar, and no festival has sought out the modulations in those voices and the range of the guitar’s cultural expressions than the New York Guitar Festival.

The festival boasts over 35 exceptional guitarists of jazz, classical, rock, traditional, and avant-garde styles. Participating venues include The World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, Merkin Concert Hall, The 92nd Street Y, and Rockwood Music Hall. Concerts range from an all-day Guitar Marathon interpreting classical guitar music of Italian composers (featuring, among other internationally-famous musicians, Eliot Fisk, Bill Kanengiser, Jason Vieaux, Nigel North, and Hopkinson Smith) to tributes to the legendary jazz guitarist/composer Jim Hall and the influential musician/producer/visual artist Brian Eno.

A new addition to the festival includes an Alternative Guitar Summit, curated by the guitarist/bandleader/composer Joel Harrison, and taking place at Rockwood Music Hall. Featured artists include Nels Cline (Wilco), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mark Stewart, Liberty Elman, Dave Tronzo, and Ben Monder. Joel Harrison’s curatorial goals are “to present master improvisers, free-thinkers, those who reject category and style and are radically imaginative. Ideally they are under-appreciated and have not won any polls. I wish to present these players in unusual contexts, outside of their normal trio or quartet settings, mixing generations and approaches.”

The festival also has a history of commissioning remarkable original works, and the 2012 season breaks yet more new ground by presenting 11 classic silent films by Buster Keaton accompanied by original scores performed live by a spectacularly rich and varied coterie of guitarists including Kaki King, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Keller Williams and Gyan Riley.

The New York Guitar Festival was founded in 1999 by musician/producer David Spelman, who serves as its Artistic Director. The Festival’s goal is to broaden the public’s appreciation for the guitar by fostering emerging talent, supporting innovative collaborations among outstanding artists, and commissioning new works. In addition to producing concerts and radio broadcasts, its Guitar Harvest series of recordings supports outreach programs in New York City public schools. The festival has taken place biennially on even numbered years.

Festival Dates January 10 - 30, 2014
Festival Links

Festival Events:

  • OPENING NIGHT: Free Concert — Pepe Romero plays J.S. Bach
    Pepe Romero’s distinguished career, both as a solo performer and charter member of the “Royal Family of the Guitar,” encompasses some 60 albums, multiple White House invitations, Carnegie Hall concerts, and world premieres by Rodrigo and Moreno Torroba, in addition to receiving a Knighthood by King Juan Carlos I of Spain. This Festival appearance marks Romero’s first ever all-Bach recital in NYC. Touring the world in celebration of his 70th year, Romero will give his only NYC concert this season at the NYGF.
    Venue — January 10, 8:00pm, Brookfield Place Winter Garden, 220 Vesey Street
    Presented in association with Arts Brookfield
    For more information: (212) 417-2414,
    • Prelude in c minor, BWV 999 (transcribed by Celedonio Romero)
    • Two Bourrées (transcribed by Celedonio Romero)
    • Gavotte en Rondeau, from Lute Suite No. 4 in E Major, BWV 1006a (transcribed by Celedonio Romero)
    • Gavottes 1 and 2 from Cello Suite No. 6 in D Major, BWV 1012 (transcribed by Celedonio Romero)
    • Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009 (transcribed by Pepe Romero)
    • Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Bourrée I-II, Gigue Violin Partita No. 2 in d minor, BWV 1004 (transcribed by Pepe Romero) Allemanda, Corrente, Sarabanda, Giga, Ciaccona
  • Guest curator Joel Harrison
    • Harrison returns with a posse of cutting-edge jazz/new music improvisers who emphasize unusual approaches to the guitar. Fourteen supremely creative musicians will demonstrate in myriad ways just how many mysterious and enthralling sounds a guitar can make. The featured set this year will be a first-time ever meeting between Fred Frith, a founding father of modern guitar improvisation, and avant-garde doyen Nels Cline of the alt-rock band Wilco.
    • Venue — SubCulture
      45 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012
      For tickets and information: (212) 533-5470
  • January 17, 8:00pm, SubCulture
    • An evening of trios that explore evolving concepts of rhythm: Jazz/funk electronica with Will Bernard and the Pleasure Drones. Miles Okazaki with James Hurt (percussion) and Sergio Krakowski, pandeiro (Brazilian frame drum). Liberty Ellman, master of contrapuntal rhythms, with Matt Brewer, bass, and Damion Reid, drums. David Gilmore with Gene Lake (drums), Brad Jones (bass).
  • January 18, two shows: 7:30pm and 10:00pm, SubCulture
    • “Feel the Noise!”
      Dave Tronzo with Stomu Takeishi, electric bass, and Ben Perowsky, percussion. Fred Frith meets Nels Cline
  • January 19, 8:00pm, SubCulture
    • “The Music of Paul Motian”
      When drummer, bandleader, and composer Paul Motian died at age 80 in the autumn of 2011, it was, for jazz critic Steve Futterman writing in The New Yorker, “like waking to find that your favorite neighborhood bookstore—the one that stocked the edgy stuff that no one else would touch—had closed overnight.” Motian’s music lives on in duo performances led by Steve Cardenas, Ben Monder (both Motian band alums) Gilad Hekselman, Brandon Ross, Vic Juris, Mary Halvorsen, the Nels Cline & Julian Lage Duo, Joel Harrison.
  • January 18: An afternoon with Nels Cline
    • Nels Cline will demonstrate how he achieves his unique sound world where all conceivable musical roads converge. This is Cline’s first such class in New York City. All levels invited. Full information on tickets and location to be announced on the NYGF website,
  • January 19: Five guitarists discuss new approaches to jazz guitar through the lens of Paul Motian’s music
    • Ben Monder, Steve Cardenas (both Motian alumni), Vic Juris, Liberty Ellman, and Joel Harrison will talk about comping, ensemble playing, linear improvisation, band-leading, electronics, philosophy, and more, using Paul Motian’s singular opus as a starting point. All levels invited. Full information on tickets and location to be announced on the New York Guitar Festival website, Full information on tickets and location to be announced on the NYGF website,
      Ben Monder “continually takes us into uncharted realms,” say Guitar Player Magazine. He is a guitarist’s guitarist and has performed with Maria Schneider, Lee Konitz, Tim Berne, and more. Steve Cardenas has graced CDs by Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden, and Joey Baron, and is consistently one of the most in-demand guitarists in NYC. Vic Juris is equally adept at nylon string and electric, and his lyrical virtuosity has led him towards alliances with Dave Liebman, Larry Coryell, and countless East Coast groups. He has written two modern guitar books. West Coast native Liberty Ellman has developed a unique voice based on a strong jazz/rock/funk background and alliances with Henry Threadgill, Greg Osby, and Vijay Iyer. Joel Harrison has released 15 CDs as a leader since 1994 debut (with Cline) 3+3=7, including arrangements of Paul Motian’s music for string quartet and two guitars.
    Co-curated by William Kanengiser and Badi Assad
    • FREE for the first time in Festival’s history, this six-hour Marathon celebrates the classical guitar in North and South America, contrasting rich traditions with bold experimentation.
    • About the curators: A founding member of the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Kanengiser displays his multi-varied musical interests in solo performances ranging from Mozart to Bartok, and his recordings showcase his love of Jazz, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean styles. Assad hails from a well-known musical family of guitarists-composers; a guitarist as well as a singer and percussionist, she fuses pop-jazz with worldbeat in a sensuously Brazilian, lacily feminine sensibility.
    • Class schedule
      January 20, MLK day
      2-5:00pm — Las Americas, part I: North America
      7-10:00pm — Las Americas, part II: South America
      Venue — Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center
      129 West 67th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam) For more information: (212) 501-3330
  • Las Americas, part I: North America
    • William Kanengiser has invited four brilliant guest artists to help celebrate the guitar of North America. David Mozqueda, a young virtuoso from Gaudalaja, Mexico, will present masterworks by Ponce and Olivas, as well as arrangements of popular Mexican folksongs. Colin Davin, prizewinner in the GFA competition and modern-music specialist, will present compelling works by Joan Tower, and with flutist Daniel James, a new piece by Alaska-based composer Conrad Wilson. Connie Shue, an emerging artist specializing in women composers, will play works by Canadian composer Dale Kavanaugh, Brazilian Clarice Assad (Badi’s niece), and John Anthony Lennon. The phenomenal Naumburg Award-winner Jorge Cabellero will play the first of his two sets in the Marathon, presenting some of the most important American guitar compositions by Elliot Carter and John Major, as well as the stunning Sonata No. 1 by Cuban master Léo Brouwer. William Kanengiser will close out the afternoon by presenting an eclectic mix of Mexican, Cuban, and American works, ranging from folkloric to contemporary to jazz-inspired.
  • Las Americas, part II: South America
    • For the second half of the Marathon, Badi Assad has crafted an evening of propulsive rhythm and evocative melody from South America. The award-winning Brazil Guitar Duo will open with selections by Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla, Gismonti, and more. Samba master Romero Lubambo will bring his technical fireworks and serious Brazilian groove to a set of popular pieces by Jobim, Garoto, and others. Jorge Caballero then returns to the stage to present some of the most important South American compositions for guitar, including works by Barrios, Antonio Lauro, and the seminal Sonata by Ginastera. Making their NY debut, the incredible Duo Siquiera/Lima will present fiery duets by Brazilian, Argentine, and Ecuadorian composers. The grand finale of the Marathon will be the inimitable Badi Assad herself.
Additional programming 2014:


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