Brooklyn Comes Alive: 6 Sets We Won’t Soon Forget

[Words by Jordan Rapaport]

[Photos by Scott Harris]

In its third edition, Brooklyn Comes Alive Festival featured two days of eclectic music performed by collaborative groups of artists such as Bernard Purdie, Eric Krasno, John Scofield, Reed Mathis, Roosevelt Collier, Dave Harrington and many more. Focusing on unique musical configurations, the festival brought healthy doses of jam, jazz, and world music to Williamsburg’s finest venues.   

Future Folklore

In one of the weekends most unique sets, Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe and Weedie Braimah brought together a stacked group of musicians from Mali, Senegal, Ghana to perform a traditional Mandé folklore set.

Inspired by West African culture, Weedie on lead djembe led the band through a rapid and organic selection, fueled by percussive energy. While escaping western music’s norms, Future Folklore explored polyrhythmic and polymetric structures even trained musicians would have difficulty counting. The audience was graced with their offerings, featuring Quaranta on dunun & kenkeni, Themba Mkhatshwa on sangban, Magatte Fall on the Senegalese sabar drum and tamani, Nate Werth on congas and percussion, and MonoNeon—the final bassist for the late legend Prince.

George Porter Jr., Mike Dillon, & Skerik

Ushering the festival into the night with a set equal parts dark and danceable was a trio featuring Mike Dillon and Skerik of “The Dead Kenny G’s” alongside George Porter Jr., who is often considered one of progenitors of funk due to his work on bass with The Meters.

Both Porter and Dillon served as a heavy rhythmic vehicle for Skerik to ride with his sharp-tongued sax licks. Bouncing his unique sense of melody with syncopation and conviction, Skerik only paused his playing to yell indiscernible verses into the bell of his horn. His fascinating approach to the instrument in combination with Porter Jr. and Dillon’s rigidity provided for a visceral and human performance. Perhaps most incredibly, the simple trio filled the room with an indisputable energy only these three could conjure. Throughout the set, the band would blur the lines between evil and enchanting, drawing the crowd in with their raw and unparalleled sound.

The Road Goes Forever: Celebrating the Music of the Allman Brothers Band

Honoring the legacy of the Allman Brothers with a two hour tribute set, some of jam music’s heaviest hitters shared the stage for a special Saturday night. Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico (moe.), Brett Bass and Scott Sharrard (Gregg Allman Band), along with Nate Werth (Snarky Puppy) and more all ripped through the Allman Brothers Band catalog with ease and excellence.

As the crowd cheered along, the band brought out guests including Eric Krasno, Roosevelt Collier, Dave Harrington, and 14 year-old prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer. In true Allman Brothers style, classic songs opened up to lengthy guitar duels, building the energy in Brooklyn Bowl to a weekend high. Boasting with some of the festival’s most talented musicians, the band put on a show that would make the late Gregg Allman proud.

Dave Harrington’s Merry Pranksters

Dave Harrington’s band guided listeners through a transformative and psychedelic experience as Saturday’s crowd into the late hours of the night. The band’s latest iteration –  featuring Skerik, Yuka Honda, Spencer Zahn, Mauro Refosco, and Ian Chang – centered themselves around electronic textures, layered in a way that melded soundscape and avant-garde. For the duration of the set, Chang ceaselessly backed the band with his Sensory Percussion equipped drum kit that allowed for live experimentation with electronic drum sounds.

Meanwhile, Harrington was layering tones drenched in reverb and delay, playing with the sound like a sculptor with clay. As the band delved deeper into the set, the musical air continuously shifted back and forth from curious bliss to brooding darkness. Dave’s band once again provided for a set powered by cacophony, innovation, and musical impressionism. Stay on the look out for their upcoming shows, as they’re certainly ones you don’t want to miss.

Octave Cat

Late in the afternoon Sunday, Octave Cat, a side project from Jesse Miller (Lotus), Eli Winderman (Dopapod) and Charlie Patierno graced the Music Hall of Williamsburg with their dashingly modern, synth-based approach to jazz-funk fusion. From start to finish, the band entertained their audience with highly danceable songs filled with meticulous attention to songwriting and craftsmanship. Miller, whose bass playing in Lotus has earned his rank as a force to be reckoned with, kept the set moving with pep-filled grooves that made the crowd move much earlier in their day than usual.

Halfway through the set, Miller also took to modular synthesis creating a soundscape ranging from sub-bass to articulated bits of harmony. However, the real star of the show was Winderman, a keys player with a virtuosic level knack for melody. Alternating between his Moog Prodigy synth and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Winderman danced across the keys with ease, finding plenty of opportunity to experiment with filters, delays, and other effects that provided for a truly incredible performance. Octave Cat has the charisma and listenability to make them one of their genre’s artists to look out for, just as they’ve done with Lotus and Dopapod.

John Scofield + Jon Cleary Duo

In entirely appropriate early evening fashion, music legend John Scofield alongside the acclaimed Jon Cleary educated the festival goers with their unanimously impressive take on the classics. Scofield, who’s performed amongst a number of luminaries (including Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, and Medeski Martin & Wood), carried himself with the dignity and fragility of a man who recognizes his age, but refuses to allow it to limit his guitar playing ability.

Accompanied by Cleary on the piano and vocals, the duo riddled off a selection of jazz standards with fluidity that comes with decades of performing. Each track would begin with Cleary masterfully laying down the song, opening up towards the end for Scofield to paint a delicate and moving sonic picture with his guitar solos. Seemingly stirring up a history of emotions with each take, Scofield and Cleary brought the festival back to its roots, proving that even at its most refined, jazz music can take the listener on a nostalgic trip through musical history.