New York's annual summertime celebration of the avant garde is always one of the top draws on the city's formidable jazz calendar. But if you can't make it, don't fret: Artists don't usually get invited there without having a solid body of recorded work -- one we can celebrate here, during any season.
The lifetime achievement award this year is going to drummer Milford Graves, a pioneering percussionist who cut albums (including a solo drums one!) for the ESP-Disk label in the 1960s. He was also a member of the short-lived but legendary New York Art Quartet (all its surviving members are reuniting at the festival this year to play with Graves). The drummer will also be featured in two bands with excellent pianists: there's an Afro-Cuban group with young gun David Virelles, and a free-jazz group with DD Jackson (you might have heard the latter's piano attack on The Roots' undun, but if not, go straight to tracks like "Camiliano," from So Far).
The mix of young and old is a winning feature of this year's bill: Nights alternate between grand old eminences like Henry Grimes and Roscoe Mitchell (who are playing together!), and new-school leaders like Tomas Fujiwara and Kris Davis. While you hope for some record company to release live sets from the festival, check all these artists' best tracks in the appended playlist.