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Morgan Guerin and Orrin Evans. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This week, The Jazz Gallery continues our latest Mentorship Series with the pair of mentor-pianist Orrin Evans and mentee-multi-instrumentalist Morgan Guerin. A native and resident of Philadelphia, Evans is one hard-to-classify pianist, playing hard-swinging music with his working trio, aggressive and exploratory music with the avant collective Tarbaby, and will soon be adding his inimitable personality to The Bad Plus. Guerin recently started his second year studying jazz at The New School, but already has an active presence performing across New York and elsewhere, whether with his peers or Grammy-winning drummer Terri Lynne Carrington.

For these shows, Guerin will be sliding into the saxophone chair of Evans’ band, learning from the group’s long-honed chemistry. Before checking out the group at The Jazz Museum in Harlem or Roxborough United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, or on November 2nd at The Jazz Gallery, check out Jazz Speaks’s previous interviews with both Evans and Guerin. (more…)

From L to R: Joe Sanders, Jure Pukl, Melissa Aldana, Greg Hutchinson. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tenor saxophonist Jure Pukl returns to The Jazz Gallery this week to celebrate the release of Doubtless. The new record, released on Inner Circle, highlights the remarkable musical synergy between Pukl and his wife, saxophonist Melissa Aldana. The record also features Greg Hutchinson (drums) and Joe Sanders (bass), and was recorded in Pukl’s home country of Slovenia. We spoke with Pukl for the second time this year to discuss the inspiration, development, and message behind the new release.

TJG: Between our previous interview and now, I was actually on tour with an orchestra in Slovenia, and was amazed by both the magnificence of the country and the generosity of everyone I met. We played in a festival at a huge castle called Grad Snežnik.

JP: Man! I know the place. I probably was there twenty years ago, for a school trip or something. Slovenia is so small, but there are still these places hidden away [laughs]. I’ve heard of that festival at Snežnik. Right now, I’m trying to establish a festival too. It’s currently a one-week clinic at the end of February, using the clubs and music school in my hometown of Velenje. But we have lakes, a camping area, restaurants, lots of space, so it would be a perfect festival site in the future.

TJG: You recorded the new album in Slovenia. Do you return often to perform?

JP: I go back every time I go to Europe, usually twice a year. I love playing in Slovenia, especially now that I’m doing this workshop in my hometown. We have around eighty students from all around Europe, from age 12 to 25, even some older musicians who want to learn new things. I bring Joe Sanders, Greg Hutchinson, Melissa of course. This year we have Shai Maestro. Last year we had Kurt Rosenwinkel in residence. And there are always European cats too. We perform for the students, make spontaneous groups, and end with a three-night festival, so the students get the real thing. It gets bigger every year, and it’s amazing that I get to play in my own hometown with such great musicians.

TJG: That’s what happens when you create your own festival: You attract students and fans to learn and socialize, and then when you want to perform and try new things, there’s an audience.

JP: Exactly. That’s how this band on Doubtless got started. We were teaching and playing at the clinic in different settings. The band started as a friendship, a family thing. Joe was at my wedding to Melissa, for example. Our first gig was at Porgy And Bess in Vienna, and our second gig was in my hometown at the workshop. After the clinic week, we did a few more gigs, then went to a studio in Slovenia and tracked all the music. We made the record in three hours. We know each other so well, we were hungry for music, and it just poured out.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

If you haven’t heard Roman Filiú’s name, you certainly know the people he’s worked with, including Chucho Valdés, Omara Portuondo, Steve Coleman, Pablo Milanés, Michael Mossman, Roy Hargrove, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and the Buena Vista Social Club. Filiú has released two albums under his own name, including Blowin Reflections (2006) and Musae (2012), the more recent of which featured David Virelles, Adam Rogers, Reinier Elizarde, Marcus Gilmore, and Dafnis Prieto.

With support from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Filiú returns to The Jazz Gallery this week, leading his band Musae in new project titled Okàn: El Libro de Las Almas. The lineup will again include Adam Rogers and David Virelles, with additions of Maria Grand on saxophone, Matt Brewer on bass, Craig Weinrib on drums, and Mauricio Herrera on percussion. We’ve spoken with Filiú before, about his influences and upbringing. This time, we spoke further on his compositional techniques and the thematic underpinnings of his work.

TJG: At The Jazz Gallery, you’ll be premiering a new work, funded by the Doris Duke Foundation and Chamber Music America. Can you talk a little about the work?

RF: I always try to work on a theme. This project is based on an imaginary book, written by a fictional writer, on the people who have helped me in my life. Important people pass on or leave your life, you don’t see them anymore, and when you’re a kid, you say, “Well, that’s life.” But when you have a kid, you start to think about the people who supported you and never asked anything of you in return. I imagine a book where all the people who have helped me have their stories there. I love science fiction, and have been reading a lot this year, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, books by Orson Scott Card and Ursula K. Le Guin. I similarly try to link my music to something unreal, to create something different. I’ve been trying to imagine an alternate universe where all these people who helped me still live. Sometimes you never had the opportunity to say thank you. So this is a kind of tribute, in a way.

TJG: I think I understand the concept of the theme. Could you talk about how, for you, it translates into the music?

RF: It depends on the personality of the person on my mind, the specific things they did, our ages, our relationship, or where we met. I build the music around those ideas. For example, when I was a kid, there was an old man, eighty-something years old, from Haiti. He never said a word, but when I was little, with my big saxophone, he would always help me carry it. He was slower than me, man: To walk a block with him was like one hour. But he saw my saxophone and he came by my side to help me. That happened for two years straight. I was thinking of him, of the specific slow walking pace that he had, almost like an invalid. Something like that is how I link the music and the form with the personality.

TJG: Do you know what happened to that man?

RF: Never found out. I moved when I was fourteen, to go to boarding school, and I think he moved to another part of the country around that time, or right before. I didn’t see him any more.

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This Thursday, October 12th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome drummer Dan Weiss back to our stage for a performance showcasing his study of Indian Classical music, presented with Brooklyn Raga Massive. Weiss is both an in-demand collaborator and acclaimed bandleader, bringing his extraordinarily wide musical experiences to bare in any situation.

In addition to his work as a drummer and composer, Weiss has been a longtime student of Indian Classical music, working with guru Pandit Samir Chatterjee for twenty years. Weiss has recorded a solo tabla record, 3D CD, as well as two records with guitarist Miles Okazaki that translate rhythms from the tabla to the drum set. Check out Weiss and Okazaki play a piece based on the ten-beat rhythmic cycle, jhaptal, at The Jazz Gallery.

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Photo by Cisza Nie Istnieje.

This Thursday, October 12th, The Jazz Gallery is excited to kick off a new series in partnership with the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) in Queens. For one Thursday a month from October through May, the Gallery and JCAL will present shows featuring some of the Gallery’s favorite young groups—a true kaleidoscope of jazz in New York right now.

For the first show of this new series, John Escreet will take the stage at JCAL with his trio. Since his arrival in New York, Escreet has established himself as one of the city’s most versatile pianists, working within a variety of idioms and with diverse performers, from David Binney to Antonio Sanchez to Tyshawn Sorey to Evan Parker. Before heading out to Queens for Thursday’s performance, check out Escreet’s riveting set with Sorey and bassist John Hébert, below.

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