Mars Willams Maps the Way to an Ayler Xmas

Christmas music often comes with a strong undercurrent of nostalgia as the songs evoke times that seem simpler in retrospect. That isn’t an issue for Mars Williams’ Ayler Xmas project, which steers into the heart of the tensions and uncertainties of improvised music based on pieces of adventurous Black art from the early 1960s.

Jazz Fest: Catching Up with Helen Gillet

Helen Gillet’s Jazz Fest shows present a fascinating challenge. How does she represent the breadth of her musical interests in one solo 55-minute set? She succeeds largely by gesturing toward some parts of it—her improvised music side—while pulling her interests in pop music and art songs together in cello-based, loop-heavy compositions that build efficiently with a sense of drama. Before she’s finished, Gillet displays musical and artistic gravity, but her sense of humor and fun is also evident.

Jazz Fest: Catching Up with Aurora Nealand

[Updated We’ll see only part of what Aurora Nealand can do during Jazz Fest. Her trad jazz talents earned her five slots during the two weekends, including Calvin Johnson's Native Son--stories of Sidney Bechet featuring Nealand and Brian "Breeze" Cayolle. That takes place Friday at 2:10 p.m. in the NOLA 300 Cultural Exchange Pavilion and again at 4:20 in the Economy Hall Tent.

Helen Gillet Alone and With People

On her previous album, The Running of the Bells, Helen Gillet performed with collaborators Tim Green and Doug Garrison, both part of New Orleans' undervalued improvised music community along with Gillet, who brings classic training in the cello to the act of making music. Recently, she released her self-titled third album this time, it's a solo album. It's more pop-oriented, which isn't to say it's pop.

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