BRIC’s Ninth Annual JazzFest Keeps Brooklyn Grooving

By Oona Milliken |

Jazz lovers flocked to Downtown Brooklyn for BRIC’s ninth annual “JazzFest” this Thursday Oct. 19 through Saturday Oct. 21 at their Fulton Street BRIC House. The three-day festival kicked off with a hip-hop & jazz panel on Thursday alongside performances from artists such as Isiah Collier, Terrace Martin and Endea Owens and the Cookout.

Musician Miki Yamanaka during her performance. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

The festival had performances in both the ballroom space of BRIC House as well as their main gallery stage. On Friday, the band Strings n Skins started off the evening in the gallery and finished off Georgia Ann Muldrow in the ballroom. Saturday rounded off the festival starting with Nite Bjuti feat. Candice Hoyes, Val Jeanty, and Mimi Jones alongside performances from B. Kool Aid and the Claudine Myers Trio. On the last night, attendees from all walks of life mingled at BRIC House to watch the various acts perform their sets.

Attendee Roxanne Young, a professional dancer, could be found in the ballroom dancing to Sarah Elizabeth Charles. Young said she loved the JazzFest because it allowed her to discover new artists.

“This is my third time coming to BRIC JazzFest, I find it very interesting the artists that they bring into this program, it’s all different every single time,” Young said. “It’s like a cuisine, cuisines of jazz, you get different flavors and you taste it and you’re like ‘Oh man, I didn’t know it could taste that way.’”

Beuford Smith, a prominent photographer in his early 80s, said he has been listening to jazz since he was 15 or 16 and has been photographing jazz musicians for decades. Smith, who is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio but came to New York 50 or 60 years ago, said BRIC was important to both the community and the world, because of their cultural events. Smith’s work, notorious for chronicling Black life in NYC during the 1960s, has been shown in MoMA and the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. When asked if he liked jazz, Smith was offended by the question.

Photographer and jazz lover Beuford Smith. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

“Yes! You insulted me by asking me about that, I wasn’t kidding about that one,” Smith said. “The rhythm and truthfulness of it, the improvisation and the camaraderie of the musicians. I could go on and on.”

Much like Young, Sage Oss, a music producer, also came to JazzFest to discover new artists, but for a more professional reason. Oss, a music producer, said he was in an artistic rut and appreciated BRIC’s event because they showcased artists that he might not have heard of before.

“I’m a music producer, and I came today for some inspiration to get out of a writer’s block phase that I’m in,” Osse said. “[Jazz] pushes boundaries, it doesn’t have any rules, and it communicates emotion very effectively.”

The crowd in the gallery space at BRIC House. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

John Legum, swaying to the music of Miki Yamanaka’s “Origami Project” said he loved coming to BRIC because the music at the event was cutting edge.

“I like the improvisation aspect of it, the intuition, the in time being present and connecting in real-time,” Legum said. “[At BRIC] they’ll see the new talent, they won’t see the old. They’ll see the avant-garde, the cutting edge.”

Musician Nite Bjuti during her Saturday performance. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

Others just wanted to try something new. When asked why she was attending the event, Winnie Nelson, taking a break from dancing and standing by leaning up against a wall, said she came to the festival on a whim.

“[I came] because I get the emails and it sounded interesting,” Nelson said.