Winter Jazzfest 2011: The five best sets

Photograph: Johnny Miller

Judging by my Twitter feed, there were plenty of diehards who outlasted me at this past weekend's Winter Jazzfest—I tapped out around 2am each night, exhausted and giddy with music overload. By my count I managed to catch 19 full or partial sets over the two nights. Not everything was to my liking, and intense overcrowding dampened WJF's roam-if-you-want-to multivenue set-up, but the good stuff made it all worthwhile. Here are five sets that stood out:

J.D. Allen VISIONFUGITIVE conducted by Lawrence D. "Butch" Morris
(Le) Poisson Rouge, Friday

"Butch" Morris lectured the crowd on his trademark (literally) Conduction method, and then demonstrated the system's bewitching possibilities with the help of magisterial saxist J.D. Allen, pictured, whose trio functioned as an independent cell within a deeply committed midsize ensemble.

Mike Pride's From Bacteria to Boys
Kenny's Castaways, Friday
Drummer Mike Pride's quartet offered cool, collected readings of his funk-tinged postbop pieces, doused with pure molten lava courtesy of saxist Darius Jones and keyboardist Alexis Marcelo.

Orrin Evans's Captain Black Big Band
Sullivan Hall, Saturday
The very definition of a class act, Philly pianist Orrin Evans's superbly polished organization married 21st-century sleekness and Swing Era glitz. Veteran trombonist Frank Lacy marshalled the troops with fiery exhortations, like those of a hypercharismatic politician.

Bad Touch
Kenny's Castaways, Saturday
Loren Stillman dripped honey-toned alto lines over the smartly skewed organ jazz of guitarist Nate Radley, keyboardist Gary Versace and drummer Ted Poor.

Chico Hamilton & Euphoria
(Le) Poisson Rouge, Friday
"I'm happy to be here.... At my age, I'm happy to be anywhere," joked 89-year-old drummer Chico Hamilton from the stage, before offering a textbook demonstration of how swinging propulsion can coexist with whisper-level dynamics.