The Dissident Arts Festival- Day 1

Dissident Art Festival -1As reported by John Pietaro… 

The Dissident Arts Festival, the annual gathering of revolutionary creativity, feted its 10th anniversary with a special weekend-long event on Saturday August 15 and Sunday August 16 at El Taller Latino Americano (Manhattan) and ShapeShifter Lab (Brooklyn), respectively.

The event was sponsored by the Len Ragozin Foundation and the Rosenberg Fund for Children and endorsed by the National Writers Union-New York UAW Local 1981 and DooBeeDooBeeDoo world music magazine; it was dedicated to the struggle for unity and the memory of Ornette Coleman. The amalgam of the performances and addresses to the audience by guest speakers amounted to a very successful event. Festival performers offered a wide variety of progressive socio-political statements that ranged from stirring to prideful to sad and humorous. From an artistic perspective, the expanse of our reach into various arts genres with more than one truly multi-media presentation, only exemplifies the goal of breaking down barriers and forging new ground I envisioned 10 years ago.

Raymond Nat Turner

Raymond Nat Turner

We opened on August 15 at the brand new space occupied by El Taller Latino American–now a part of ArtSpace PS 109. An absolutely beautiful place for any performance with expert sound engineering. The enthusiasm of the Taller staff–was deeply welcoming, especially as they had barely completed the official move to the new space. After my opening remarks, the audience was treated to the  stirring spoken word by  Raymond Nat Turner, a jazz poet I have had the pleasure of working with several times over the course of a few years. The Festival’s dedication was toward the struggle for unity; this in the face of a divided nation and a series of ongoing, brutal police murders by area police departments. Raymond’s pieces addressed this vision and encountered the evening news head-on, but done so in the jazz tradition with his vocalized basslines and riffs filling space around his poetry: 


After Raymond’s set was a presentation of the “other-world art music” of Sumari: Matt Lavelle, Jack DeSalvo and Tom Cabrera. These guys had a four-star review in this month’s ‘Downbeat’ and were also positively reviewed in “NYC Jazz Record” and “DooBeeDooBeeDoo” all at the same time. Anyone present for this gig knows why the media is becoming terribly aware of this wonderful trio.

Poet/author Sana Shabazz next took the stage with several pieces which examined contemporary mores, particularly the stealing of homes in these times of gentrification.

My own band the Red Microphone‘s set was a special one for me. The only people in the house who knew how anxious I was about playing vibes again after months of being caught up in both my day job and writing were Ras Moshe, Rocco John Iacovone and Phil Sirois. But there is something magical in this band and my concerns were quelled as soon as we began the first phrase!

Steve Dalachinsky is one of the best known and most beloved jazz poets on the scene today. He was accompanied by Rocco John Iacovone (alto saxophone) and Adam Cadell, a violinist who traveled all the way up from Brisbane Australia. The set boiled over, flowed into a hush and then took off all over again. Steve is haunted by the ghost of Kerouac, Hughes, Dolphy and Henry Gibson, of this I am sure.

Bernardo Palombo presente! Another beautiful, all-encompassing set of what I call nueva nueva cancione by this man and his new ensemble. Compelling music, regardless of the language it’s sang in, will pull you in–and this set surely did.

The 12 Houses closed off the evening with an explosive set of largely improvised music threaded through the compositions of leader Matt Lavelle. The pieces were largely dedicated to the fight for social justice, offering commentary on the preponderance of firearms in this nation and the violence that grows from this. There was also a piece written for the recently deceased jazz legend Ornette Coleman.

In the spirit of any other movement cultural event, we also had some wonderful guest speakers on both days of the Festival. On Day 1 it was Peter from the National Writers Union-NY, Local 1981 of UAW, and Sohrab of Musicians for Musicians.


Click here to read the recap of The Dissent Arts Festival- Day 2.