the new languages festival

New Languages grew out of numerous concerts and concert series produced by Aaron Ali Shaikh and Jackson Moore from 2000 onward. From 2003-2005 we presented weekly improvised music concerts in Brooklyn. In 2005, the Anthology Film Archives, a film house in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, invited us to produce an event in their venue, and the result was the inaugural New Languages festival, a two-night festival that took place over the first weekend in June of 2005.

At the time, New York City was dominated by two major jazz festivals, occurring annually in June: one devoted to the most famous elder statesmen of the jazz world, and another devoted to the avant-garde music that come of age in the late sixties and seventies. Meanwhile, a new generation, raised in the crucible of neo-classicism, had alighted upon the city. We reasoned that a third annual jazz festival featuring this new generation would complement the other two festivals, creating a fuller panorama of the jazz world and encouraging the appreciation of jazz as a living art form.

Our colleagues in the jazz community responded with tremendous alacrity and good faith, allowing us to increase the scale and density of the event each year, providing an increasingly panoramic view of the state of the art and maximizing dialogue and cross-fertilization among the artists and their audiences.

In 2006, we embarked on a partnership with with Rose Live Music, a venue that had just opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This collaboration allowed both nascent institutions to blossom. In our second festival at Rose we expanded to three consecutive nights over a single weekend and received our first reviews in major newspapers and magazines. We continued to present monthly shows at Rose for the remainder of 2006 and became a fixture in the New York City jazz community.

Our third festival in 2007 expanded to five nights over the course of two weekends and featured 15 ensembles. Our expanding breadth allowed us to cast a wide stylistic net, bringing in more diverse audiences and allowing them to discover the common threads that tie it all together.

In our fourth year, we continued to present special events at Rose Live Music and staged our fourth annual festival at the Living Theatre in the Lower East Side. By this point we had become a major player in New York's jazz festival season and were sometimes considered the most forward-thinking. Time Out New York opined that “free jazz is really a music of the '60s, whereas many performers featured here are offering something more futuristic.”

Despite a challenging fiscal environment, New Languages staged their biggest festival ever in September 2009, at a new home base in Williamsburg. It was a shining example of how a DIY approach to music-making can push the envelope through good times and bad.