The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space
44 Charlton Street New York, NY 10014
(646) 829-4000
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The New York Guitar Festival returns to The Greene Space, WNYC’s ground floor performance venue, for an action-packed two-part series on Monday and Tuesday, June 12 and 13. For over twenty years, the NYGF has presented creative programs that feature some of the best-known guitar heroes of our time, as well as extraordinary talents that the festival’s producers, David Spelman and WNYC’s John Schaefer, have uncovered. 

This year those producers readily acknowledge poaching someone else’s eye for talent - in this case, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, as guitarist Louis Cato and drummer Joe Saylor of the Late Show Band will headline the first night. And they’ll cop to recycling an idea from last year as well, when the plan was to present Bill Frisell and Luke Bergman in a duo setting. But the coronavirus had other ideas and while Frisell ended up doing a memorable solo set, the festival this year will finally (hopefully) feature the two of them together, headlining the last night of the festival. 

Over the course of two evenings, the NYGF will present 7 acts reflecting the guitar’s incredible diversity.  The Korean guitarist Jiji made her reputation as a classical player; Steve Gunn is known for a kind of alt-folk sound; and Brandon Ross is a familiar name in jazz circles. But all three refuse to stay in their presumed lanes and will play sets that could go in any number of surprising directions. Sessa will bring the sounds of his native Brazil, but with a lean quality reminiscent of Leonard Cohen. And Yasmin Williams will upend your ideas of what a guitar is - and even how it’s held - when she plays her uniquely melodic inventions. 

All of the performances will be recorded for later broadcast as well, on WNYC’s long-running “New Sounds” program.  



Louis Cato with Joe Saylor

“Give him an afternoon,” Stephen Colbert once said, “he’ll learn how to play Mozart on a shoehorn.”  Best known as the longtime guitarist and now the leader of The Late Show band, Louis Cato also plays drums, trombone, sings, and produces his own solo recordings; he is also a serial collaborator, playing with everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to the Dave Matthews Band.  In his spare time he plays still more music in his Instagram series #catocovers. 


Steve Gunn

Spotted in a store window at this year’s Big Ears Festival: a sign reading “Steve Gunn marry me.”  Perhaps the writer was a fan of Gunn’s solo acoustic work, influenced by the drones of Eastern music and the Western avant-garde; or the unbridled improvising freedom of his duo work with drummer John Truscinski; or his work with psych-folk band Hiss Golden Messenger or indie rocker Kurt Vile.  Gunn’s appearance at Big Ears playing trad folk songs with Jake Xerxes Fussell was just one side of this multifaceted guitarslinger.


Jiyeon Kim, the South Korean guitarist known professionally as Jiji, first gained acclaim as a classical guitarist.  But she is also a virtuoso electric guitarist, and has commissioned and premiered works by numerous contemporary composers for both forms of the instrument.  She is also a composer herself, and a self-professed fan of “weird sounds on Ableton,” the music software program.  The Washington Post called her “one of the 21 composers/performers who sound like tomorrow.”



Brazilian singer/songwriter Sessa (born Sergio Sayeg in Sao Paolo) is heir to the great tradition of MPB – Brazilian popular music, in the vein of Gilberto Gil or Caetano Veloso.  But he favors a stripped down approach that reflects his own love of the German minimalist group Cluster, and his lyrics – often about love, heartbreak, and the power of music – echo themes in Leonard Cohen’s songs and Sun Ra’s cosmic jazz.  His latest album is Estrela Acesa, or “Burning Star.”