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Louis Cato, JIJI, Steve Gunn, and Sessa

New York Guitar Festival

Originally Aired: Monday, June 12, 2023


The New York Guitar Festival returns to The Greene Space for an action-packed two-part series! Kicking off the first night is The Late Show with Stephan Colbert bandleader Louis Cato, classical Korean guitarist JIJI, alt-folk artist Steve Gunn, and guitarist Sessa presents the sounds of his native Brazil, but with a lean quality reminiscent of Leonard Cohen.

New Sounds host John Schaefer will speak with the musicians onstage. 


Since its founding in 1999 by David Spelman, the Artistic Director of the festival, and WNYC’s John Schaefer, host of the New Sounds radio series, the NYGF has taken advantage of the instrument’s unique ability to find a way into almost every kind of music we make. For over twenty years, the NYGF has presented creative programs that feature some of the best-known guitar heroes of our time, as well as extraordinary talents that the festival’s producers, David Spelman and WNYC’s John Schaefer, have uncovered. Over the course of two evenings, the NYGF will present 7 acts reflecting the guitar’s incredible diversity.

Louis Cato

Credit: Photo provided by Artist

Louis Cato is a GRAMMY Award-nominated and internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter. He has worked with an array of artists including Bobby McFerrin, Snarky Puppy, Jon Batiste, Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest.

His love of music started at age 2 when the purchase of his first drum set evolved into an appreciation of the southern gospel from his native North Carolina and continued into his education at the Berklee College of Music.

Cato has an undeniable ability to craft sonic landscapes into timeless masterpieces. After two decades of lending his talents to other projects, Cato released his first solo record STARTING NOW (2017), which he also mixed and produced entirely by himself. He is currently in post production on his newest album which is due out in the coming year.

After playing in the house band for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert since the show’s 2015 inception, Cato was recently named bandleader for the newly renamed “The Late Show Band.”


Credit: Photo by Marty Bra

Selected by The Washington Post as “one of the 21 composers/performers who sound like tomorrow,” JIJI is renowned for her virtuosic performances that encompass a wide variety of musical styles, ranging from traditional and contemporary classical to free improvisation, played on both acoustic and electric guitars.

In 2016, she won First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild competition, becoming the first guitarist to be awarded this honor in thirty years. She recently signed on with Kirshbaum Associates in New York City to be represented by the agency worldwide.

JIJI’s performances have been featured on PBS (WHYY’s On Stage at Curtis series), NPR’s From the Top, WHYY-TV, FOX 4-TV, Munchies (the Vice Channel), The Not So Late Show (Channel 6, Kansas), and Hong Kong broadcast station RTHK’s The Works.

Spotted in a store window at this year’s Big Ears Festival: a sign reading “Steve Gunn marry me.”  Perhaps the writer was a fan of Steve Gunn’s solo acoustic work, influenced by the drones of Eastern music and the Western avant-garde; or the unbridled improvising freedom of his duo work with drummer John Truscinski; or his work with psych-folk band Hiss Golden Messenger or indie rocker Kurt Vile.  Gunn’s appearance at Big Ears playing trad folk songs with Jake Xerxes Fussell was just one side of this multifaceted guitarslinger.


Credit: Photo by Helena Wolfenson

Brazilian singer/songwriter Sessa (born Sergio Sayeg in Sao Paolo) is heir to the great tradition of MPB – Brazilian popular music, in the vein of Gilberto Gil or Caetano Veloso.  But he favors a stripped down approach that reflects his own love of the German minimalist group Cluster, and his lyrics – often about love, heartbreak, and the power of music – echo themes in Leonard Cohen’s songs and Sun Ra’s cosmic jazz.  His latest album is Estrela Acesa, or “Burning Star.”

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