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.  



Bill Frisell

The truly magical thing about Bill Frisell isn’t the many forms of music he makes (jazz, country, classical, West African, film music, avant-rock), or the way he often blurs the distinction between those different styles.  The real magic is that whatever he’s playing, on acoustic or electric guitar, sounds like no one other than Bill Frisell. Over a four decade career, he’s made more than 40 albums as a leader. Add in his collaborations, with John Zorn, Elvis Costello, Gavin Bryars, and dozens of others, and you have one of the most impressive discographies in all of Guitarland.

Luke Bergman

Luke Bergman is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. He’s worked with Andrew Bird, Bill Frisell, and others, and while his solo guitar album, called Solo Guitar, might not have the most unexpected title, it showcases his extraordinary range, from traditional folk to classic jazz, from classical composer Olivier Messiaen to indie rocker Joanna Newsom. 

“For Living Lovers” featuring Brandon Ross & Stomu Takeishi

Brandon Ross plays acoustic, electric, and soprano guitars - a reflection of the many musical situations he plays in.  Adept at using African-American spirituals or electronic sound design, Ross is probably best known for this long-time work with jazz luminaries like Cassandra Wilson, Wadada Leo Smith, and Henry Threadgill. He plays acoustic improvised chamber music with bassist Stomu Takeishi in the duo For Living Lovers, co-leads the “avant power trio” Harriet Tubman, and delves into abstract, mostly acoustic soundscapes with his quartet Blazing Beauty. 

Yasmin Williams

In the space of a few years Yasmin Williams has become a need-to-know figure in guitar circles.  She has developed a method of playing where the guitar lies in her lap while she rains the fingers of both hands down from above onto the strings.  Far from being a cool visual, or even sonic effect, her technique offers lyrical and melodic possibilities that draw on her love of fingerstyle guitar, classic rock, jazz, West African music, and more.  Several of her compositions have been arranged for chamber orchestra and played by her and the New York group Contemporaneous. 


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.”