Text by Dawoud Kringle
Several weeks before this writing, guitar master Bern Nix passed away. He was an elder master with astonishing musical abilities, and an impressive resume behind him. Yet he was in poverty, living in dire straits for years. His is an old story that seems to keep repeating itself.
This myth of the inevitability of the “starving artist” is self perpetuating. It seems that people on all sides of the equation have it so ingrained into their subconscious that it’s almost expected that musicians be impoverished, ignored, and mistreated.
Text by Dawoud Kringle
The world of improvised music was shocked to learn of the passing of master guitarist Bern Nix.
Born in 1950, Nix moved to New York City, and made a living for a while as a guitar teacher. He succeeded James Blood Ulmer in Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band, and in 1985 formed his own band. In 1993, the band released the album Alarms and Excursions. Nix released solo recordings such as Low Barometer (an acoustic recording), Less is More, and Negative Capability. Nix also performed with Jayne Cortez, John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Elliot Sharp, Jemeel Moondoc, James Chance, Kip Hanrahan, and Roland Shannon Jackson. In recent years, Nix performed regularly at the Vision Festival, and at smaller local venues. He worked with his quartet The Bern Nix Quartet (featuring Matt Lavelle, François Grillot and Reggie Sylvester), Cheryl Pyle’s Beyond Group, and with ensembles led by Ras Moshe Burnett.
Date: June 14, 2013
Venue: the Roulette (NY)
Concert review by John Pietaro
While the Vision Festival stands out as perhaps the preeminent vehicle for experimental, improvisation-based musics in the nation, it has also been controversial in its dogged pursuit of star-status performers that are can draw large audiences. Sad that the scheduling continues to make lesser-known performers feel closed out but one cannot deny that the organizers know how to program concerts that never fail to blow the roof off of the house. This year’s Festival was packed with brilliance but time constraints allowed me to choose but part of one evening and so, as legendary harmolodic guitarist Bern Nix has finally been called to the Vision stage, I couldn’t miss this one. Happily, the noted poet Steve Dalachinsky, a welcome mainstay of Vision from the start, had the opening set of the evening, one he performed with long-time jazz pianist Connie Crothers. This pairing of spoken word/piano and guitar-based combo appeared to be opposing forces initially but the evidence was in quickly, proclaiming that this was another Vision Festival bit of programming genius…