The Jazz Gallery is a hub of creativity, a home to jazz musicians/composers, many of them from all over the world but now permanently settled in the United States. The Jazz Gallery serves an ethnically diverse, international audience that represents a cross section of New York City residents and travelers to New York.
Pianist Theo Walentiny will present his Theo Walentiny Group at The Jazz Gallery this week, alongside a series of abstract paintings created his father, painter Joe Walentiny. The paintings, collectively entitled “Soundscapes,” reflect and explore the impressionistic and improvisatory nature of Theo Walentiny’s compositions. Theo’s septet will include Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, Jasper Dutz on woodwinds, Kalia Vandever on trombone, and Lee Meadvin on guitar, in addition to Nick Dunston on bass and Connor Parks on drums who, with Walentiny, constitute the Aurelia Trio. We spoke with Walentiny, who gave us a sense of his compositional style, his affinity for thinking visually, and his thoughts on the New York scene from a childhood across the Hudson.
The Jazz Gallery: Could you tell me a little about the new group?
Theo Walentiny: Absolutely. It’s a mix of new and old music. We’ll play some older pieces, orchestrated for this newer instrumentation, as well as a few new things. In addition, my dad is an abstract painter, and he did a series of paintings in collaboration with a group of my compositions. We’re going to have the physical canvasses on display at The Gallery. When I’d visit home throughout the project, he would show me his progress. The work took a long time to develop and complete, so I was able to really see them grow.
TJG: How did this concept for the paired paintings come about?
TW: He proposed the idea after one of my shows. He took my recordings and spent a few months just painting and listening to the music. Each painting corresponds to a specific composition. It wasn’t a literal thing, where you might have certain brushstrokes corresponding to certain notes: It wasn’t systematic like that. Instead, he took the overall aura of the piece and allowed it to emerge visually. There’s one piece called “Short Story,” which is a tribute to Ravel, who’s been an important figure to me. The finished painting goes really well with the piece, with a very impressionistic atmosphere. “Short Story” is probably the most extended work we’ll be playing, with different sections and layers, which also translates well in the painting.
TJG: It’s great that the painting process is as impressionistic and improvisatory as your music. Talk to me about your compositions, and how improvisation comes into play.
TW: My music is definitely improvisation-driven, and much of how it sounds truly depends on the people playing it. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about this date at The Gallery. I love how passionate everyone in the group is, and I don’t like to be too restrictive or possessive, because everyone has such a voice. I’ve worked with this specific group of people in different capacities, and it’ll be really special to have everyone together like this.
In my music, I’m often not trying to simply have a melody, changes, solos, and a recap of the melody. It’s more like there are points where the music opens up, and improvisation becomes something people bring to the table. There’s this piece “Apprehension,” which starts out with a piano riff, or a duo with guitar, then a melody, and a form for soloing which can go almost anywhere. It’s not limited by the page. I’m focused on transitions between songs as well, and strive for a continuous set of music. I try to bridge the pieces with pairs of duos within the group. Horns might do a cadenza, there might be a short chorale, nothing too strict. Overall, we have a full sound where guitar and piano add a lot of warmth, and especially with bass clarinet, we have a lot of great options in terms of timbre.
TJG: I see the Aurelia Trio, with you, Connor Parks, and Nick Dunston, is nestled into the larger ensemble here. Is there any shared repertoire, and are the dynamics different with you as the leader?
TW: The trio was born of an octet project I used to have: We tried some of that music with Aurelia, and a few things worked, but it’s mostly a different book of repertoire, especially having the horns. With Nick and Connor in the group, it feels totally comfortable. Between the three of us, there’s so much trust, which comes from a lot of serious playing together. It makes whatever might happen automatically feel very comfortable.
TJG: You do some film scoring as well. What inspires you about composing for film?
TW: I enjoy looking at music visually, as I was talking about earlier with my dad’s paintings. When composing, I see scenes or colors in my head, that type of thing. It feels very intuitive to look at things visually. Sometimes, working with the ensemble, it’s about creating lush landscapes, harsh edges, distant vistas. I try to orchestrate spaciousness into the group. Everyone can imagine something different, which is valid. I’ve often received comments that my music feels visual, especially from listeners at shows, and those visuals are often different from what I see in my head.
TJG: I see you’ve been on the road a lot, from Israel to Switzerland. What foreign musical experience has made the biggest impact on you?
TW: The different range of audiences made an impact on me, compared to the New York audience. People really show up, and they listen with such enthusiasm. I felt an acceptance for whatever we wanted to play, especially in Switzerland at the Montreux festival. We don’t change our playing for our audiences, and I think they really appreciate it.
TJG: As a New York musician now, how did growing up in New Jersey shape your perspective of the scene?
TW: Being so close growing up, I would go in every weekend to see music. I got an early view of what it is to be a working musician in the city. I was able to see that everyone does a huge variety of things, even if they’re known for one thing in particular. For example, I did a precollege program run by Christian McBride, who most people think of as a straight-ahead jazz bass player. But he does everything. For example, I saw with him at the Vanguard with John Zorn, Tyshawn Sorey, and Steve Coleman. I’m glad I was able to see at a young age. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have realized the depth of what a lot of people do to work as musicians in the city.
The Theo Walentiny Group plays The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, February 22, 2018. The group features Mr. Walentiny on piano, Adam O’Farrill on trumpet, Jasper Dutz on woodwinds, Kalia Vandever on trombone, Lee Meadvin on guitar, Nick Dunston on bass, and Connor Parks on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission (FREE for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($10 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
This Wednesday, February 21, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome bassist Chris Morrissey and his band Standard Candle back to our stage. The group has grown out of a 2015 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission, continuously building a unique repertoire of what Morrissey calls “singing, kind of asymmetrical, through-composed stuff with improvising.” We caught up with Chris to talk about the group’s development, his musical lineages, and his love of American musical theater.
The Jazz Gallery: What are you working on these days?
Chris Morrissey: I have a record coming out March 9th. It’s been done for a long time, so I’m happy to finally be able to share it. We’ve also been working on editing a music video for the first single that comes out next week, so that’s been occupying some of my creative brain. I have been writing a lot—this has been a strikingly slow few months, so I’ve been trying to navigate space that has no borders—no demands on my time. I’m normally pretty good at creating my own schedule—like incorporating time to practice, time to do yoga and run and everything, but this has been a longer than normal period for that. I’m happy with the writing and the music video I’ve been working on, but there’s also been a lot of looking out of windows, wondering what to do.
TJG: If another period like this comes up, would you approach it differently?
CM: Well these periods have come before. The last time something of this length happened was probably 9 years ago when I wrote most of what was my 2nd record, which is a rock record. I look back very fondly on that time even as stressed out as I was, and I try to apply that perspective to this time, even though this time is very different in a lot of ways because I have touring periods peppered throughout the next 18 months. Back then the feeling was more, “What am I going to do in New York?” And now I have a pretty firm grasp on what I do in New York, so it doesn’t have the same sense of freefall. These days, if things are just not moving, I try to let that be, knowing that it’s bound to change. January and February are notoriously like that—I’ve always felt immune to that, or have had some sense of entitlement to work but I’m learning that that’s not always the case.
TJG: Your approach sounds very Taoist. I know from other interviews you’re very into Buddhism and yoga.
CM: I love many Buddhist authors and speakers like Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron and a lot of others. What I was sort of paraphrasing, which I think got you to think that it was Taoist, was a Murakami quote from Wind Up Bird Chronicle. In the book, the main character has a spiritual advisor, and he references this one session where the advisor said something like “You are either moving upwards or you are moving downwards, or you are staying perfectly still. Your job is to assess which of those things is happening and then not resist. If you’re going down, go all the way down. And if you’re going up, go all the way up. And if you’re still, stay as still as you can be.”
TJG: Let inertia take you.
CM: Yeah, I think so. Knowing the influence that you have over your ability to enjoy your moment or be driven mad by your moment—even if it’s an unpleasant thing, knowing that it will shift at some point. That your state of being is the sum of controllable factors interacting with uncontrollable factors.
TJG: It seems like a lot of musicians are practitioners of or are at least “into” Eastern Religion. Where do you think that connection lies? Does your interest in Eastern tradition play into your music directly or is that more a mindset that occurs independently?
CM: There are parallels. I have a progressive family—from a line of progressive artist-type people, but we were in a suburban, Midwestern, not very diverse community, where religion was just Catholic or Lutheran. Our church was Catholic and very progressive. Our priest, who is no longer with us, went on to fight for women to be able to be in the priesthood, and fought for some things that you don’t normally associate with Catholicism and priests. But it was still Catholic, and never really resonated with me the way some of Buddhism has.
So as I got older I had the desire for some sort of spiritual community that felt like music did. Celebratory, current, honest…I’m fishing around a little bit, because I don’t know exactly where that spiritual desire came from. I just know that if you’re pursuing music, you have this sense that you aren’t creating by yourself, that there is some sort of mystical community in this pursuit. I think some religion, Buddhism specifically, in its celebration of inter-being parallels musical creativity’s dependence on the community and the social.
TJG: Do you think music inherently seeks to touch that divine or transcend? Coltrane seems like a prime example.
CM: He’s certainly the spiritual liaison to the genre—at least the most well-known. I think for me music is where I experience the most joy and freedom from the things that present problems in other areas, and again I think that’s something people look to religion for also, whether devoting your life to a contemplative, prayerful, peaceful existence, or a severe devotion to your expression of humanity through music. The effects are similar and maybe that’s why there’s a kinship between them. To me, spirituality is the pursuit of the discovery that we’re all made of the same stuff—these divine energies having human experiences where this battle is taking place between the natural law of interconnectedness and the ego’s lie of your existence as separate from anything. I think violence comes from a belief in a separate self and peace comes from the acceptance that your happiness is my happiness. Improvising and playing jazz music is a space where you can experience some of those spiritual truths.
TJG: Do you think there’s a strong connection between the bass particularly and spirituality? The bass is such an earthy instrument. It seems like players really go get it.
CM: It’s funny, I’ve always said my personality type isn’t necessarily suited to what you think of when you think of the role of the instrument. I’m more loquacious than the stereotypical bassist. I like fronting bands, I like leading bands, but what did you mean about “going and getting it”?
TJG: It’s just such a visceral instrument—the tone. You’ve got your creamy-toned bassists like Christian McBride—his phrasing and tone are like butter, and then you have someone like Harish Raghavan whose tone is just so calming but aggressive at the same time.
CM: Yeah, Harish has some blinding technical prowess.
TJG: He really seems to grab and drive the music.
CM: It’s interesting. It’s definitely the instrument that gets noticed the least and here we are naming bassists and so that’s already a step into the spotlight from where bass normally exists in pop music.
In the context of jazz, I grew up loving Jaco—you know, flashy, virtuosic bassists, but I think for the music I write now and how I play Mark [Guiliana’s] music or Jim’s music for instance, I’m striving to be as supportive as I can be while still looking for moments to scream to the heavens. The bass is my ticket to keep trying to do that. To soar. To have my heart revealed to me. I feel like I understand a little more every year.
TJG: What are you seeking to understand?
CM: How music works and how to play music in a way that is sustainable for your sense of joy and your sense of increasing possibilities.
TJG: You mentioned you feel differently with upright vs. electric. Do you feel like a different musician on each of them? How do you decide which to bring to a gig?
CM: I feel the more and more I play both of them, the more I feel like the same musician on both instruments. The upright is a harder instrument to navigate physically, and that’s true for everybody that plays both. But I think I’ve gotten to somewhere where the two exist in a similar place in my mind. I definitely think there are differences to them. But some of the decisions regarding which bass I’ll bring to the gig are, “Is the band I’m going to play with really loud?” And if it is, I’ll bring the electric. But these days I play so few sideman gigs, that’s it’s been years since I’ve had to make that conscious decision. I play in the Mark Guiliana Band, I play in the Jim Campilongo Trio, and I play in my band and in Standard Candle, and there have been songwriters in pop and rock that I’ve done 2 year stints with over the last 8 years. And those tend to be electric, so I just don’t have to make that decision very often. But if I did, the questions would be, “Is it a loud band or is it not a loud band?”
TJG: I expected it to be more rooted in feeling but it sounds like it’s rooted in logic.
CM: Yeah, it’s like “how many transfers between my apartment and the gig am I going to have to make on the train?” If it’s a 3-transfer gig, I’m probably going to bring my electric. HA!
TJG: Is that what happened at The Jazz Gallery for Standard Candle?
CM: No, Standard Candle was always going to be electric. When I was writing that music I was really just feeling electric; I had been playing improvised music on electric through the Jim band and the Rich Hinman band. I knew there was going to be a lot of singing in Standard Candle, and I felt that number one, I wanted to be able to take it to rock band volume levels, and also singing in that environment, upright would have been inappropriate for the peak or the ceiling of where I wanted to go. I wanted to be able to play big, loud rock rooms with this band, and the electric felt more appropriate.
TJG: Do you have new music for Standard Candle?
CM: Yeah, we’ve been doing a couple of new things lately. It’s similar sort of through-composed stuff where a section happens three minutes in where there’s singing, kind of asymmetrical, through-composed stuff with improvising.
TJG: I find the music is cinematic.
CM: Yeah, I had a lot of musical theatre in my life growing up. I know that’s a genre that causes a lot of people concern if you cite that as an influence because it’s got some stereotypes like cheesy associated with it, but I’m referring to some of the best music of the genre like the overture to Candide—
TJG: Sure, or West Side Story.
CM: Yeah, all of Bernstein and Sondheim’s music.
TJG: I had a really boring New Year’s. The New York Philharmonic was playing West Side Story on TV and people were just crying to that music.
CM: I’ve had recent experiences like that. Margaret Glaspy, a singer-songwriter I play with, is really into the theater too, and in her van we would put on Jesus Christ Superstar and some other ‘70s Andrew Lloyd Webber stuff and just weep. Like the word “Broadway”, people use jazz as a derogatory term these days too; jazz means lame in a lot of ill-informed jive-ass rock circles. They’ll say, “Let’s do it again but not so jazzy.” And they don’t know what they are saying. It drives me crazy.
TJG: What do they mean?
CM: They mean noodly, overplayed. Not simple. And I get what they mean but I bring that up because I think Broadway and musical theatre has similar prejudices toward it, like I think if a pop person hears the word jazz, it’s like, “Oh, that means bad.” Or if a jazz person hears musical theatre, they’ll say it’s cheesy. But like anything else, you examine the pinnacles of each and you realize they’re just people making incredibly beautiful and effective art. Basically, I just want to advise caution before damning an entire genre.
And I think I straddle those two worlds because my dad was a pit orchestra music director in a Broadway-style place in Minnesota and I grew up in musical theatre listening to all of that music. The cinematic quality that you hear in Standard Candle is because I was listening to theatrical, cinematic music growing up and hearing JC Superstar and West Side Story and Candide and Sondheim, and walking around my house that was the subconscious soundtrack.
TJG: Given all of these influences, do you try to play different styles of music with a different mindset? You had said that upright and electric are beginning to feel more and more the same.
CM: It used to be different. I used to try to fit into the environment and be as adaptable as possible—which I still think is an important trait, but I think in rock and pop, sometimes the level of replaceability or importance of you as a bassist to the music is different from jazz. I think now, in all of the musical environments that I occupy, I try to only do sideman stuff that really challenges me or lights me up. I did the Dave Binney gig a few times—one night with Dan Weiss and Nate Wood and one with Nate and Matt Mitchell, and then the Wayne Krantz gig. Those are the sideman moments where I can comment on whether my approach is different. Dave and Wayne are brilliant musicians and I think one thing that a lot of brilliant improvisers or jazz musicians have in common is they try to instill a sense of openness in those who are guests in their bands. They’ll encourage you to “do the thing that you do” in their music. As I get older and move out of pop and rock, it feels like my approach hasn’t really changed but I am in environments that celebrate and exploit that freedom, which is much more sustainable and a much more enjoyable musical experience. I feel integral to the bands that I’m in, and just as integral when I have played with Dave and Wayne. And not that I wasn’t integral to the other pop and rock bands, but it’s just a different kind of mindset—your sense of the importance of your role in some of these bands that I mentioned, with Mark and Jim and Dave King and Wayne and Binney—
TJG: It’s a nice list of musicians to be playing with.
CM: Man, trust me, it makes me really happy to make music with all of those people. I feel like jazz was my first love, and I look at the natural way I feel in those environments compared to the way I feel in other environments. I fucking love playing rock and pop music, but the sideman culture in rock and pop is a little bit thankless. I was lucky to work with some great, generous artists, like Sara Bareilles, who’s an incredibly generous human. But there’s just these inescapable qualities of the pop sideman world that I don’t care to ever have to deal with again. And in the jazz world I feel integral, heard, like a teammate.
TJG: And when you’re playing your own music in a rock sense, is what’s integral to the music the whole Chris Morrissey experience vs. Chris Morrissey on bass?
CM: That’s almost more fertile ground for difference in approach—my bands vs. bands that aren’t mine. I listen very differently in my own bands. I have a little bit of a microscope on everyone and I’m learning how to not be that way and just trust. A lot of that is personnel. You try to surround yourself with the people who surprise you and inspire—I was just saying that Jim and Mark and Wayne give you the keys to their luxury car for the evening, and say “I trust you.” I’m trying to learn to be more like that.
TJG: When you said a microscope, you mean from a judging point of view?
CM: Yeah, in Jim’s band I’m, on a good night, nowhere near my brain. I’m totally in my body in the best way, and it’s much harder to do that when it’s my gig. You put so many hours into crafting your thing. And the things that go differently than how you imagined it jump out to you and take you out of the body experience and put you into more of a brain experience. I’m learning how to not do that. A lot of that is personnel or being able to give clear direction, like saying, “This is how I want this section to be. This section you can explore but this section has to be very stated and very supported.”
TJG: This one’s a little off-topic, but why do you think intelligent people hate their brains?
CM: That’s an awesome question. It makes me think of Lenny Dykstra, the baseball player. In Moneyball, the Mike Lewis book—(the author not the saxophonist), he talks about how Billy Beane was a brain guy. He knew the probability of on the third pitch of an at-bat, if you were going to get a curveball or not based on what inning it was and when was the last time the pitcher started was, and if you should bat left or right. Billy struggled as a hitter, but he was a hitting stats genius, and his roommate was Lenny Dykstra. Now Lenny would be eating potato chips or something on the bench and then he’d go hit a double down the line without knowing a thing about the pitcher. Meanwhile, Billy’s thinking, “I wish I could turn this off.”
The more intelligent you are, the more you will probably try to access your brain as something that makes your world go around, trying to make it your fixer and your feeler. That’s not sustainable. If you get into the meditation world, they suggest keeping your thoughts and your emotions in your heart and your body. As your thoughts bubble up in your head, physically move them down to this infinite space. Your brain gives birth to these things but it can’t raise them. Some people with gifted intellects try to keep everything in their mind, but that just ends up making you hate your brain. You can’t do it. You have to move all that shit down or you’re going to be miserable.
TJG: When playing the bass, don’t you have to use your brain to some degree? It controls the mechanics of the body, right?
CM: It’s funny, but whenever I’m referring to a night that was transcendent, I use the phrase “I was nowhere near my head.” It’s glorious. It’s this thing where your body can react in real time, but your brain needs time to digest. If you’re thinking about responding or reacting, you’re not reacting. If you’re reacting, you’re not thinking. And that’s the goal. Another tactic in accessing that in playing is just focusing all of your energy on listening, and trusting your body knows what to do.
TJG: Well you’ve certainly trained your body to react musically.
CM: Yeah, and the training is very cerebral. But the training is to use the tool of organization that is your intellect and your brain and learn how to stock your toolshed up and then observe the body when you’ve gotten to a place where you feel the music is becoming more than you thought it could be—the mystical place where you’re free from the thoughts. How does my body feel when I get there, and what did I do to facilitate that? How can I maintain that without clenching up? It’s like when you realize that you don’t have training wheels on your bike and you fall but you were fine till you noticed you weren’t using them. Use that and study how your body feels in that moment and divert all resources into making that the way that you approach music.
TJG: Can we talk a little bit more about your musical upbringing and original inspirations? You had said in a previous interview that jazz was your first love. Forgive me for stereotyping, but that’s not what I’d expect to hear out of someone from Minnesota.
CM: The jazz lineage in Minnesota is deep and the music lineage in Minnesota is deep. I specifically, was drawing from my family. My dad, before he was in the theatre, was a big band trumpet player and my mom’s dad was a piano player. My mom is a great flute player and music educator. Both parents were professional musicians so there was a record collection that had Kind of Blue and Mingus Dynasty and all this other great stuff sitting around available to me growing up. And then I had some really good teachers starting from elementary school who were really jazz-centered.
The other thing that is a necessary component to that falling in love is having a scene and a community and a city near you that has inspiring art and music. The twin cities had Anthony Cox and Happy Apple and Fat Kid Wednesdays, and these are bands to me which don’t have equals. What they did was totally rare and totally unique and I still don’t think I’ve heard anything better than Happy Apple. I say that knowing that it would make some people from New York argue with me, but I was in the front row for 100 of those shows where they were drawing 500 people to see an avant-garde saxophone trio instrumental band with an electric bass and saxophone in a Midwestern state. For me that can’t be overstated. I got to fall in love with jazz as a kid around my house putting Miles Davis on, but when I got a driver’s license I could go hear a band whose improvising and writing were world class and I was absorbed into their scene. Invaluable. If there is anything that I stand proudly next to in my bands or in my writing, it’s because I grew up around a really good record collection and I had Happy Apple and Anthony Cox 20 minutes from me whenever I wanted it.
TJG: Was there something specific that drew you to the music or to the record collection?
CM: Well, it was your parents’ record collection, you know? It was just the one that I had access to. Sure, I had cassettes and CDs of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, which I fucking love, but when I put on Kind of Blue, it was like falling in love. It felt like just the right time—15 years old and you’ve put a couple of things together in your mind about what music can be and then you hear THAT with curious ears. “Wait it can be like THIS?!” I get chills even just talking about it, and I love that the jazz community can share that experience, and I love being able to tell that story and have people go “Yeah.”
TJG: You were a very aware 15 year-old.
CM: Well I grew up with professional musician parents. There was always that caliber of music being played on the record player. And I have some disadvantages from their specific tastes too —like I didn’t know who Bob Dylan was until I was 23, and I love Dylan. He’s my shit. But I feel really lucky; I was born into a house with two really good musician parents with really good taste and then had some really amazing bands to go and see. And what specifically was the draw of Happy Apple? It’s the same thing, it’s indescribable. It was just profound to absorb that as a teenager. The punk rock energy that they play with. This wasn’t some gig, man. This wasn’t going to the Tea Lounge and watching dudes read some charts. This was vital, communal, familial, strange, avant-garde but accessible, euphoric punk jazz. And it was hyper melodic and hyper folkloric; it had all of the intellect as well as having the earthy feel of where I..
In 1998, Fabian Almazan fell and injured his right wrist. He was 14. For weeks after his surgery, the young right-handed pianist was in full recovery mode, and couldn’t play the way he was used to playing. But what could have been a long and debilitating recovery period turned out to be an artistic awakening.
Not wanting his student to lose inspiration—or practice hours—Almazan’s piano teacher recommended he check out Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. But the album Almazan wound up purchasing included more than the left hand concerto and, after playing the record in its entirety, he found himself digging into the G-Major Piano Concerto and a number of suites Ravel composed for piano, then orchestrated—an experience that set Almazan on the path toward exploring orchestral concepts in his own music.
“It made an instant impression on me,” he says. “It kind of opened up my mind. And in terms of how it’s affected me as a pianist, I really try to be more aware of my left hand, as well as inner voices, in general.”
Years after his wrist mended, Almazan continued working through arrangements of original music, paying what he considered close attention to voice leading and other fundamentals of orchestral arranging. But a commission by The Jazz Gallery would transform his relationship to orchestration, once again. “When I was commissioned a couple years ago, I decided to write a song for a choir,” he says.
“As musicians, we study voice leading all the time, but we kind of forget where that comes from. It’s literally ‘voice leading.’ So, writing for the choir was ear-opening, I would say, because there’s a lot of—not rules, but music theory that you try to apply as a composer, but when you actually do it for a choir, it really hits home. You have an immediate impression of why there are certain things—that in the Baroque era they used to do, and they still do—that really click when you have a choir singing what you wrote. It’s the human voice. You really can tell when something’s working, and when it’s not.”
At a point in his career when he had a strong working concept of each instrument’s strengths and limitations, Almazan found arranging for the choir to broaden his understanding of how to develop those strengths and limitations in a way that serves the arc of the composition.
“There are just very specific things about range—the dynamic range of, just, volume, as well as timbre—that’s just the blending of altos versus tenors, or sopranos,” says Almazan. “It was just very enlightening for me to have had the opportunity at the Gallery to write for a choir. And I’ve kind of held on to all those things I’ve learned and I try to apply them to everything I do now.”
Experiences playing and collaborating with a range of different artists over the years—from Gretchen Parlato to Terence Blanchard—as well as studying with masters like Kenny Barron and Giampaolo Bracali, have compelled Almazan to focus on the idea of preparation as a way to access spontaneity.
“I’ve worked really hard over the years to be able to kind of deal with whatever situation comes up in an improvised music setting, so I’ve studied different cultures and their music,” he says. “Being from Cuba, I did grow up surrounded by—just—all sorts of music, ranging from Rumba, which is what they play in the streets, to classical Cuban music and Cuban rock. I guess since I grew up around that, it’s kind of in my blood, but I still like to study it just out of curiosity and respect I have toward the tradition.”
Coming to New York from a country with its own artistic identity, Almazan immediately identified with myriad other musicians who traveled to New York to play and develop, working through their own perceived weaknesses and facilitating the cultural exchange unique to the city’s music scene.
“I feel like I’m just lucky to live in New York because the majority of the people that are here are here because they want to be. They’re really trying to be the best musicians that they can be, and it rubs off on you. I feel very inspired when I’m in a musical situation where I hear all the creativity coming out of these musicians, and it’s the result of them really, really working hard at trying to grow as musicians.”
Inspired by his own experiences and what might be the collective spirit of every New York artist, Almazan recently recorded Alcanza (Biophilia Records, 2017), a project that focuses on resilience and conviction.
“Alcanza is a word in Spanish that means ‘to reach,’ says Almazan. “And the idea behind that is that everybody should absolutely try to reach for everything that makes them happy, and try to live fulfilling lives. For me, growing up as a Cuban American in Miami, I felt like sometimes teachers didn’t really understand how I could be Cuban and also be interested in classical music and ecology and jazz—and all these things. So, at its root, the message behind this album is to encourage people who don’t expect society to expect much of them to actually reach for whatever it is that makes them happy.”
The result of the Chamber Music America: New Jazz Works grant Almazan received in 2014, and in conjunction with the Chamber Music America’s Presenter Consortium for Jazz that The Jazz Gallery secured for the event, Alcanza’s upcoming performance at the Gallery will feature Linda May Han Oh, Dan Weiss, Sara Serpa, Megan Gould, Tomoko Omura, Karen Waltuch and Noah Hoffeld, many of whose contributions have been part of Alcanza’s live sound for the past two years, before Almazan brought the project into the studio this past June.
Composing for Alcanza, Almazan sought to disengage from all the prep work he’s completed over the years as a musician, and challenge himself to connect with the music on a human level, as an artist.
“I really tried to wash away any sort of self-criticism while I was composing the music, and I tried to detach myself from any sort of stereotypes,” he says. “My goal was just to fulfill whatever emotional, abstract feeling I had as a human being, not as a musician. I was trying to guide myself through the emotional content rather than the craft or the tradition or anything like that. I was trying to get at the ‘most pure’ artistic expression that I could get at, and that required for me not to necessarily think of myself as Cuban or as a jazz musician or anything like that. I was trying to start from scratch—from a blank canvas, completely.”
But in music and art, self-criticism is ubiquitous. And for Almazan, quieting inner discouraging words throughout the creative process proved an experience all its own.
“As an artist, I have a lot of peers whose work I really admire and respect, and I don’t know about them but for me, sometimes, it can be challenging to sort of stop caring about what anybody else thinks and just be true to the music I’m hearing inside my head.”
While Almazan develops new projects from his own perspective as an artist, he continues to avail himself to his peers as a player. Of the fundamental skills he’s focused on sharpening over the course of his career, keeping time remains the most critical.
“At its core, having basic good time, being able to keep a pulse, which is literally just sitting down and playing a quarter note in time, that’s the building blocks of rhythm, and it’s something that’s often overlooked,” says Almazan. “So I literally do that sometimes. And I talk to Mark Guiliana about this a lot—everybody’s thinking about all these complex things that you can do with rhythm, that we often overlook the very foundation of it, which is the heartbeat. So I try to work on pulse a lot. There’s a lot of different groupings that you could do; it’s limitless, the amount of combinations that you could do, rhythmically. But I think, in the end, the most important thing is your psychology.”
The great psychological—and physical—challenge, according to Almazan, is a question of balance.
“It’s really challenging as an artist because you want to have that intensity in the sound, but not in your body,” he says. “You want your body to be relaxed and calm, but the music you’re creating to have tension and release. So I think, as human beings, when we want to covey that, our bodies sometimes can go along and also get tense then relax. And that’s human nature. That’s just how we’re wired. But I think, in order to have good time, and to be able to stay in the beat and not rush or drag, it’s a very challenging balance of being internally relaxed but externally [intense]. It’s a very Zen thing you have to work on which, honestly, has very little to do with the music. It’s more your emotional-psychological approach to it.”
Stretching together with peers on an existing project, or piecing together a new one, Almazan strives to continue developing his artistry in a truthful way, as he has done with Alcanza.
“As abstract as it may be,” he says, “I felt like the way that I would determine the success of the endeavor was if I felt like it was genuine and honest, not whether I thought people would think it’s good or bad. It’s a little challenging sometimes to just step out there, but at a certain point I had to just trust that I had studied music to such a degree where I could depend on my own gut and write the music that I’m imagining.”
Fabian Almazan’s shows at The Jazz Gallery this Friday, February 16, and Saturday, February 17, is made possible by the Chamber Music America Presenter Consortium for Jazz grant and will feature Sara Serpa on voice, Megan Gould and Tomoko Omura on violin, Karen Waltuch on viola, Noah Hoffeld on cello, Linda May Han Oh on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $25 general admission ($10 for members), $35 reserved cabaret seating ($20 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
When three professional jazz musicians, composers, and friends in New York get together to take musical risks and strengthen their voices, you end up with something like Aurelia Trio. Co-lead by Theo Walentiny on piano, Connor Parks on drums, and Nick Dunston on bass, each member provides a strong individual voice, both in the written ink and while performing. In a previous interview with the group, each member told The Jazz Gallery a bit about their perspective on what fuels the trio. The trio will return to The Jazz Gallery, with Colin Avery Hinton subbing for parks on drums. We caught up with bassist Nick Dunston about his take on the group’s growth and development, as well as his own compositional contributions to the group.
The Jazz Gallery: I’m really enjoying the last Aurelia Trio recording, and am looking forward to the next one this spring. Will the upcoming gig at The Jazz Gallery feature the trio’s original personnel?
Nick Dunston: For this gig we’ll have Colin Avery Hinton on drums instead of Connor Parks. Connor is a founding member of Aurelia, which is a complete collective, just to be clear. We all co-lead and write for the group. A conflict came up that Connor couldn’t get out of, so we called Colin Hinton. Theo met Colin at Banff, and I’ve played in a couple of his bands. We’re really excited; Colin is a great musician and composer. It’ll be good, and intense. We’ll likely feature his compositions as well.
TJG: In your previous group interview with The Gallery, you discussed how your rhythmic concept and group energy have been strong from the start, but your goals have continuously evolved. How have things changed as the group has matured?
ND: At first, we were playing “original jazz tunes” in the way a piano trio would approach them. That was our basis for becoming comfortable interacting, rhythmically and texturally. Now, we’re trying to compose in ways that give us opportunities to explore our improvisational and rhythmic comfort levels. Connor writes a lot of beautiful, simple songs that invoke a gentle attitude that we can feel free to disobey. It can be both wholesome and sarcastic, just like our normal conversations. Theo’s compositions push against the idea of the ‘piano trio’ as a piano-centric thing. He uses orchestration concepts that I think are still mostly unexplored in the context of piano trios.
TJG: Since you write with such different styles, does that put limitations on your own compositional voice? For example, “Oh, I won’t write this, that’s more something Theo would write.”
ND: I can only speak for myself. But whether we’re talking about established artists, legends who have passed, or my musical friends, they all influence me a great deal. I’m not afraid to be influenced by Theo and Connor, or anyone for that matter. Since we’re all composers in our own rights, with strong senses of self, we don’t reject the influence we get. Rather, we cherish it and make it our own, especially when writing music. I’ve never felt self-conscious that I’m ‘trespassing’ on someone else’s compositional style. When you have a compositional voice, your music is never really going to sound like someone else. For example, I mentioned that Connor writes more song-type compositions. I have a tune called “Motian Sickness” with a simple, singable melody, kind of folksy in a way. On paper, it’s pretty similar to how Connor writes for this group. But every time we’ve played the tune, it sounds nothing like how Connor’s music is ever performed. We’re great friends, so we’re naturally going to have things in common, but we’re all very independent, and we respect each other for the differences we have.
TJG: Regarding that ever-so-slippery balance between composition and improvisation, how notated and premeditated does your music tend to be?
ND: I believe that some of the most interesting improvisations happen under the most specific constraints. I study classical composition privately with Missy Mazzoli, so I’ve gotten used to having a position on everything that I write. In the trio, we vary in terms of how specific we want our compositions to be interpreted, but we’re writing for each others’ skills, and there’s so much we don’t have to say. We’re all open to the music being played differently every single time, and have the trust to support it. I’m probably the most compositionally specific of the three of us, regarding details and “instructions,” so to speak. But we’re open to surprising each other [laughs].
TJG: What’s an example of one of your pieces that had specific rules at the outset, but has changed over time?
ND: I have a piece called “Dunsterlude,” it’s short, kind of ballad-like, with a short melody and a countermelody. I wrote it a few years ago as part of a suite. At this point, I don’t think of it as my own composition anymore, because ever since we recorded it, it’s always new, and it’s always refreshing. By playing it a lot, we’ve exposed and explored parts of our improvisations that we might not have without this framework that once was very specific. It was initially kind of a kind-of-straight-eighths feel, softcore, brushes, you know. Like stratus clouds, low and floating. Now, Connor will change the feel or the underlying rhythms, which is tongue-in-cheek but also sounds great. We have a relationship where playfulness is so essential to our rapport. The trust is there, and I’m down with wherever it goes.
TJG: You spoke earlier about orchestration in the realm of the trio: Are there any trios that you guys use as models, that really inspire and influence you, especially regarding orchestration?
ND: We’ve individually all spent a lot of time with the recording of Keith Jarrett Trio Hamburg ’72 with Paul Motian and Charlie Haden. It’s obviously Keith’s group, but there’s so much sonic space on that record for each of the musicians. You can zone in on each instrument and have a clear idea of what they’re doing, but they’re not necessarily playing less to leave space for each other. They’re supporting each other and checking in on each other, except for when they’re not, and that’s cool too. There’s a huge cohesion, regardless of what they’re doing. There’s one part where Motian plays auxiliary percussion while Jarrett plays soprano sax. Anything. They’re turning the idea of being a “piano-centric” trio inside out. The actual sound of the piano takes on different shapes depending on how they approach it. It goes beyond “the piano is the bandleader, and the rhythm section is playing in service of the bandleader.” If you were to separate them and add up all the parts, it would be so convoluted. But when you look at their orchestration in sum, it doesn’t feel dense or confused. That’s a huge inspiration to us.
TJG: I imagine that thinking about texture and space, Tyshawn Sorey must be a big influence. Connor mentioned Tyshawn was a big personal influence in the last interview as well. You’ve been playing a lot with Tyshawn these days: What about playing with him do you bring with you to the Aurelia trio?
ND: I first played with Tyshawn while studying with him at The New School a few years ago. We met again at Banff, and this past September was my first professional private work with him. He’s one of my heroes, so I was surprised at how comfortable I felt at the first gig we played together. I was simply in awe at his musicality, but I felt a big sense of his trust in me as a musician, and that empowered me to let go of any insecurities I might have had. I just did my thing, took care of business. That reinforcement, that trust from Tyshawn, along with how he’s completely redoing the piano trio in a new way, is giving me a lot of emotional energy. That’s given me a maturity that can I bring to Aurelia as well. Tyshawn really appreciates hiring musicians who are composers, who thinking on their own terms, and when you get independent improvising composers together, it always leads to cool new music. That’s been a big lesson for Auralia as well.
TJG: You’re a super busy guy. With such a busy schedule, what does Aurelia Trio personally do for you?
ND: It feels like home, really. Our connection is always there. When I’m going through some serious depression, I don’t have to be concerned about it negatively affecting the music, because the emotional support that these guys bring is always there, on and off the stage. It’s a constant in a way that it’s a safe space where we can always try new stuff. There’s always enthusiasm, and we can incubate as artists and really work things out. It’s important. We need more bands, because that’s where growth really happens. That kind of incubation isn’t too common anymore.
Aurelia Trio plays The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, February 15, 2018. The group features Theo Walentiny on piano, Nick Dunston on bass, and Colin Hinton on drums/percussion. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission (FREE for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($10 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
This Wednesday, February 14, The Jazz Gallery is thrilled to welcome vocalist Gema Corredera to our stage for a special Valentine’s Day concert. Corredera is one of the most renowned and accomplished Cuban vocalists of her generation, having forged a unique style from influences as diverse as Nueva Trova, jazz, Bossa Nova, and Flamenco. For many years, Corredera was one half of the acclaimed duo Gema y Pavel, but has recently focused on her solo work. Check out the exuberant song “Chévere” from her 2013 album Derramando Luz, featuring many Gallery regulars, including saxophonist Yosvanny Terry, pianist Osmany Paredes, and drummer Obed Calvaire.
Gema Corredera - Chévere - YouTube
For Corredera’s performance on Wednesday, she will be joined by Mr. Paredes on piano. Don’t miss song-filled evening of nostalgia and romance.
Singer Gema Corredera plays The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, February 14, 2018. Ms. Corredera will be joined by Osmany Paredes on piano. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $30 general admission ($20 for members), $45 reserved cabaret seating ($35 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is proud to present vibraphonist Joel Ross’s newest project, Parables. The project reflects Ross’s growth as a composer and arranger, featuring an octet of both peers and experienced heavy hitters including trumpeter Marquis Hill, saxophonist Darius Jones, and bassist Matt Brewer. Ross describes the group’s concept through an etymology of the word parable:
The word parable is from the root word “paraballo” or in the Greek “parabole.” This compound word comes from “para” which means “to come along side or compare” and “ballo” which literally means “to throw” or “see” with //
The parables are used in giving one or more instructional lessons or principles and can be an allegory and may include inanimate objects (like trees, plants, or things) or people in various societal positions. There is often a tension between good and evil or sinful and holy meaning that they can proclaim what is good versus what is bad and what is evil in contrast to what is holy or God-like //
A parable is often a significant comparison between two objects that may be used as a mirror image of a comparable object to teach a single concept or teaching //
Before coming out to see this exciting new group, check out Ross and Marquis Hill going at it at Duc de Lombards in Paris.
Marquis Hill Blacktet - Black Harvest live - YouTube
Joel Ross’s Parables plays The Jazz Gallery on Friday, February 9, and Saturday, February 10, 2018. The group features Mr. Ross on vibraphone, Marquis Hill on trumpet, Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Maria Grand on tenor saxophone, Kalia Vandever on trombone, David Bryant on piano, Matt Brewer on bass, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. each night. $25 general admission ($10 for members), $35 reserved cabaret seating ($20 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
This Thursday, February 8, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome vibraphonist Sasha Berliner to our stage for her Gallery debut as a bandleader. A student at the New School, Berliner has received positive notice from the likes of Ambrose Akinmusire, Vijay Iyer, and Andrew Cyrille, and is an in-demand collaborator, working with peers like Morgan Guerin and Maria Grand, as well as established leaders like Miles Okazaki. Berliner released her debut EP in 2015, and is working on a followup to be released later this year.
Berliner’s working quintet has developed a strong rapport and musical identity, and turned a lot of heads at this year’s Winter Jazz Festival. Before checking out the group at the Gallery this week, take a listen to their performance at the festival, below.
Sasha Berliner Quintet - Winter Jazzfest 2018 - YouTube
The Sasha Berliner Quintet plays The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, February 8, 2018. The group features Ms. Berliner on vibraphone, Maria Grand on tenor saxophone, Chris McCarthy on piano, Ben Tiberio on bass, and Mareike Wiening on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission (FREE for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($10 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
Ryan Keberle is a New York-based trombonist, composer, and bandleader whose dynamic improvising style has become indispensable for ensembles led by the likes of Maria Schneider and Wynton Marsalis. Keberle leads and composes for the group Catharsis, an pianoless indie-jazz collective, and is the director of Hunter College’s jazz studies program, where he directs big bands, teaches classes, and mentors young jazz musicians.
Keberle’s latest group, Reverso, was conceived in tandem with the French pianist Frank Woeste. Their forthcoming album, Suite Ravel, features the talents of Vincent Courtois on Cello and Jeff Ballard on drums. The compositions are inspired by the Maurice Ravel piece, “Le Tombeau de Couperin”, and seek to illuminate the porous boundaries between classical and jazz.
Keberle and Woeste bring Reverso to the Jazz Gallery on February 7th, where they will be joined by Erik Friedlander on cello and Adam Cruz on drums. We caught up with Keberle to talk about the project; excerpts of the conversation are below.
The Jazz Gallery: How did you decide to put together this specific group of musicians with this specific instrumentation? Why no bass? Or sax? What about the relatively low register of these melodic instruments seemed appropriate for approaching Ravelian melodic content?
Ryan Keberle: When Frank [Woeste] and I set out to create this project, we were starting from scratch. We knew that we wanted to work in a quartet setting, and thought that it could be nice to have an instrument that might help up straddle the jazz and chamber worlds. Frank happened to know this extraordinary cellist in Paris, which is where we recorded the album, named Vincent Courtois. We both knew we wanted drums, and much of the project wound up being tailored around the inclusion of Jeff Ballard. It was really a process of attrition, whittling things down. Vincent really added a layer of versatility, as he’s comfortable playing traditional jazz, super avant-garde jazz…His knowledge of extended techniques is amazing and he does lots of solo work. And he also plays in classical worlds as well. So he was really a force on this record.
TJG: When I think of Ravel’s music, I think of impressionism, air, clouds. It follows (in the most banal way) that a more “impressionistic” drummer would be the choice for this kind of music (particularly in a band without bass). While Jeff Ballard certainly plays beautifully in these more rubato moments, his style on Suite Ravel seems a bit more boisterous, Latin-inspired, and groove-oriented. What about this music called for Ballard’s particular rhythmic approach?
RK: Jeff is such a diverse and well-informed musician. He’s one of those people who has listened to more music than most human beings, and all of it filters into his playing. The compositions called for the groovy and subdivided approach that you hear on the record. Generally, with impressionism, you think rubato tempos, and a push and pull. But that’s not really where the music wound up going. And a big part of that is the fact that the Ravel piece that inspired us initially, “Le Tombeau du Couperin”, does have quite a bit of subdivision and tempo-based material.
With all that taken into account, I think that Jeff was really just responding to what the music needed. We didn’t give him much instruction at all! We just wanted him to come in and be him. And the minute you start giving him instructions, you squash some of the potential. He came with bags full of auxiliary percussion. I mean, he brought a whole bag of Chinese gongs with eight different pitches!
There are a few tracks on the record that are a bit more “impressionistic” so to speak, and by that, I mean tracks where Jeff is creating colors and floating over the beat, but the seminal tracks on the recording are those with a pretty serious groove. So that’s also right up his alley. He’s a master of groovey folk music, and he’s studied so much of that outside of the jazz world, whether it’s Latin or North African.
TJG: How did the name Reverso come about?
RK: Well, that was Frank’s idea, but it was born from our hope to reference the fact that there is this long history of the very disparate worlds of jazz and classical music informing one another in important ways. And also, what I find interesting is that today, in 2018, you’re in a time where these two worlds of jazz and classical music are overlapping in such a way that you even have the same musicians straddling worlds. And for me that’s a very new and exciting state of being, because, like in so much of the music world, these boundaries are being broken down. I mean, that’s what jazz music and really all beautiful culture is; it’s really a product of compromise, and shared ideas, and diversity.
TJG: I’d love to hear about the influence of jazz music on Ravel. How do you hear jazz music coming into his compositions? Is it in the harmonies and rhythms, or something more indirect about the ethos of the music?
RK: I think that Ravel’s harmony probably influenced jazz musicians more than the other way around. I think that for Ravel, what he found interesting about jazz, is its sense of rhythm, groove, and syncopation. I also think Ravel was attracted to jazz’s blending of musical cultures, the way that it drew from disparate worlds and found ways for them to coexist in one setting. Jazz, at that time, was seen as more of a folk music, and Ravel was part of a community of others like Bartok and Debussy who were very interested in incorporating folk music into this very codified and stratified classical music world. So they saw jazz as this very succesful example of how folk music could exist in different settings.
TJG: What was your composition process for this record like? How did you draw inspiration from the music of Ravel?
RK: When Frank and I decided on the piece “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” we decided that we would approach it in our own personal ways. So we composed on our own, but we would regularly connect over Skype and Email to share what we had written to try to ensure that there would be musical continuity.
Frank was more literal in his approach, and you’ll actually hear some of the themes from the original Ravel piece in his own compositions. And my approach was more “impressionistic”, for lack of a better word. However, we also tried to find aesthetic continuity. It was a unique instance of separate processes with a shared goal.
TJG: Your last work from Catharsis, Find the Common, Shine a Light took a decidedly activist stance. Reverso is a collection of works inspired by Maurice Ravel, a Western composer whose works are well represented in the Western canon. Is there something under the surface of this music that can still take on an activist bent in spite of this? What about Ravel’s music rings true today?
RK: In terms of Ravel and what he represented then and what he represents now, I’m not sure that I can say that there’s any activism at play. However, for me, having been forced to think of ways of using music as a platform for social change, I have come to realize that jazz is inherently a form of protest. Jazz represents so many things that the current administration is opposed to: creativity, diversity, indvidual thought, and personal expression. All of these things make jazz what it is. And there are so many things that are under fire at the moment. My activism has changed the way that I approach the performance process, how I relate with an audience, and also how we relate to each other on the bandstand.
Ravel was a really complicated person. He was notoriously unhappy, cynical, and dark, but he was always pushing the envelope of musical and compositional techniques in terms of what was accepted by the establishment. So in his day, he was a bit of a renegade, and he was generally not as celebrated as his peers like Debussy and Bartok. So I think this stance of nonconformity resonates today, and a lot of the jazz musicians who I look up to who are doing things that are musically and socially relevant, are the ones who are willing to take chances and disregard boundaries. So, I see Ravel as someone who was willing to take those chances.
TJG: Aside from Reverso, what’s on the horizon for you musically?
RK: I have a problem: I’m a bit of a workaholic! So at the moment, aside from these tours, we have a pretty busy spring with Catharsis. We’re still playing the music from our past record, Find the Common. I’ve also begun recording for songs that will be on the next Catharsis record. Some of these compositions were inspired by a life-changing trip that I took to Brazil, and there’s also music that I was commissioned to write by Chamber Music America that was inspired by a really powerful Langston Hughes poem called “Let America Be America Again”.
There’s also a new branch of Catharsis called the Catharsis Trio that debuted in Japan last month. The trio features Camila Meza on vocals and guitar, Jorge Roeder on bass, and myself on Trombone and keys. So it’s a very intimate chamber version of the band, and over the tour in Japan, we developed our own unique repertoire, playing originals by Camila and Jorge. We played some Latin American folk music and some Jaco [Pastorius] tunes. It was really fun! We just recorded an EP that I’m currently mixing.
I’m also developing a solo project for electronics, laptop, trombone, pedals, and keyboard! That was born out of a collaboration with a sculptor who creates these crazy paper maiche objects on projected slides.
Finally have a big band project called Living Legacy, that features some of the last surviving members of Basie and Ellington’s bands. These guys speak a unique language that is in danger of becoming extinct because it’s such a specific thing, and it can really only be passed on through live presentation. I was fortunate enough to play with a lot of these musicians early in my career, so I learned from them on the bandstand, hearing them play this language live. And I’ve learned since then that a lot of those things that I picked up are really hard to hear on a recording: the specific articulations that brass players use, phrasing, swinging together as a group. It’s really a special thing.
Reverso celebrates the release of their album Suite Ravel at The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. The group features Ryan Keberle on trombone, Franke Woeste on piano, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Adam Cruz on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission (FREE for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($10 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist John Escreet’s group to our stage with special guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton. A composer and improviser of myriad interests, Escreet’s music this weekend will have a distinctly funky and electronic flavor—Escreet is bringing his full synth rig, and will be supported by the crack rhythm team of bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Justin Brown.
Before coming out to the show, check out Escreet’s group working through one of the leader’s knotty and unrelenting originals at the 55Bar this past fall.
John Escreet Group - The Water Is Tasting Worse - YouTube
The John Escreet group plays The Jazz Gallery on Friday, February 2, and Saturday, February 3, 2018. The group features Mr. Escreet on piano, Fender Rhodes, Prophet 6, and Roland TR-8; Nicholas Payton on trumpet; Matt Brewer on bass; and Justin Brown on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. each night. $25 general admission ($10 for members), $35 reserved cabaret seating ($20 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
This Thursday, February 1, The Jazz Gallery is proud to present the debut of the band Ba Akhu on our stage. The group is led by young trombonist Abdulrahman Amer, and features slew of talented peers—saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, pianist Matt Malnowski, bassist Hwansu Kang, and drummer Savannah Harris. Amer describes the inspiration for the group and its music thusly:
In the ancient Egyptian language, the term “Ba” represents the container for our spirit/souls (which the Egyptians named to be our “ka”).
The term “Akhu” represents the existence of our ka when removing the ba, which is the container that limits our power (in our case, we are limited to 5 senses through our current containers). To reach Akhu is a metaphysical thought in which we can exist along with everything and escape from our self to be a part of a bigger picture.
The music I will be presenting is original music (both sets will contain different music) and are attempts to connect to a higher spirit by growing through experiences or by practicing empathy. I hope to help open and connect people through this artistic experience.
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear this young band’s already-well-honed interplay with two sets of new music.
Ba Akhu plays The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, February 1, 2018. The group features Abdulrahman Amer on trombone, Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Matt Malnowski on piano, Hwansu Kang on bass, and Savannah Harris on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission (FREE for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($10 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here.
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