For the first time ever, a major jazz festival is presenting only new jazz - encompassing the avant-garde, fusion, and experimental forms of the music.
Entitled ''Exploring New Directions in Sound & Rhythm,'' the five-day event taking place here includes programs that range from the bop-to-classical eclecticism of reed man Anthony Braxton to the multimedia offerings of Laurie Anderson, to the Africa-to-outer-space music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, who will share the evening with the Nikolais Dance Theater.
The festival (ending Nov. 10) is being presented by George Wein, grandmaster of jazz-festival entrepreneurs. In the past, Wein has combined the new music with the more mainstream forms, and the approach was always less than successful. Concertgoers who had a choice seemed to prefer the tried and true.
Does Wein feel he is going out on a limb with an exclusively new-jazz festival? In a recent conversation he remarked that there is a ''crying need, if not from the public, then from the critics, musicians, and other people involved in the new music.''