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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Angela Morris, Drew Williams, and Hye Seon Hong. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This Thursday, January 17, The Jazz Gallery is proud to present the latest volume of our large ensemble Jazz Composers’ Showcase. This long-running series has given emerging composers the opportunity to work with a top-flight New York big band, many of whom have gone onto lead acclaimed ensembles of their own. This week’s show will feature work by composers Angela Morris, Drew Williams, and Hye Seon Hong.

Morris is a saxophonist originally from Toronto and an alumna of the BMI Jazz Composer’s Workshop. She performs with a number of aesthetically omnivorous groups, including her quintet Rallidae and co-leads “a jagged-edged [big] band,” with saxophonist Anna Webber, “that has begun to turn musicians’ heads,” according to Giovanni Russonello of the New York Times. Check out Morris’s composition “Both Are True” performed by that ensemble, below.

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Photo by John Watson

This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society back to our stage for two sets. The group has been playing at the Gallery for over eleven years now, helping pave the way for a new generation of distinctive, independent big bands. In a recent articleon contemporary big bands in The New York Times, Argue notes, “It seems like no matter what, the possibilities of writing for big band are so musically irresistible that people keep finding a way to make it work,” much like Secret Society has.

For this performance at the Gallery, Secret Society will perform a mix of old favorites from their records Infernal Machines, Brooklyn Babylon, and Real Enemies, as well as less-frequently heard pieces such as Argue’s Duke Ellington tribute “Tensile Curves” and the New England Conservatory-commissioned “Wingèd Beasts.” The group also welcomes a few first-time co-conspirators to the fold—trumpeters Rachel Therrien and Riley Mulhekar, and trombonist Natalie Cressman.

Before checking out the band at the Gallery this weekend, take a listen to some of the group’s rarer repertoire performed live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2014, below:

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Photo by Aljosa Videtic, courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, January 10, The Jazz Gallery welcomes saxophonist Jure Pukl and his band Doubtless back to our stage for two sets. The quartet, featuring Pukl’s fellow acclaimed tenor saxophonist (and wife) Melissa Aldana, released their eponymous debut album last May. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Pukl told of the band’s origins:

We were teaching and playing at the clinic in different settings. The band started as a friendship, a family thing. Joe [Sanders] 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 our annual 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.

For this Gallery performance, Pukl and Aldana will be joined by some new faces—bassist Harish Raghavan, drummer Kush Abadey, and special guest pianist Kris Davis. Before hearing the group’s repertoire evolve in new ways, give the record a listen below.
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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Tuesday, January 8, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Lex Korten to our stage for two sets with his Quartet+. Korten made his Gallery debut in 2018, presenting new music for his working quartet, plus his more fantastical Make/Believe project. This week, Korten will showcase an expanded version of his quartet, featuring trombonist Kalia Vandever, saxophonist Alex Hitchcock, and vocalist Olivia Chindamo alongside regulars Ben Tiberio on bass and Morgan Guerin on drums.

A major thread of Korten’s music for the quartet is highlighting social issues and the work of contemporary activists. In a previous interview with Jazz Speaks, Korten spoke about his approach to dealing with these ideas musically:

Over the last two years, there have been many moments when I’ve wanted to express things about activist figures in American society today. But I’ve been careful to try to find an appropriate way to reflect that desire in my music which doesn’t claim any of their attention, or detract from what they’ve done and try to apply it to myself. There’s a suite of music that I wrote in response to many recent incidents in which the rights of Americans have been grossly infringed upon by law enforcement. As part of what I said before, I prefer not to name anyone in my song titles. One song of mine was previously named after a person I greatly admired, and I decided I needed to change that song’s name, because the implication of my having any ownership of that person’s actions was ridiculous. I’m trying to find different ways to express admiration.

Come out to The Jazz Gallery to hear Korten and his peers explore their place in the world through their collective music-making. (more…)

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Instantly recognizable for her soaring voice and multi-instrumental virtuosity, Jen Shyu is a category-defying performer. Ben Ratliff wrote in The New York Times that Shyu’s concerts are “the most arresting performances I’ve seen over the past five years.” Her accolades include a Doris Duke Artist award, Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Star award, a Fulbright, and support from organizations from New Music USA to Chamber Music America, as well as The Jazz Gallery. Shyu has produced and recorded seven acclaimed albums as a leader, and her solo performances, such as Nine Doors and Solo Rites: Seven Breaths have been toured and performed extensively, pushing the limitations of what a solo performance can be.

For her new project, In Healing | Zero Grasses, Shyu has assembled her Jade Tongue ensemble, featuring Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Mat Maneri on viola, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums. This brand new Jade Tongue project “offers new poetic narratives addressing and aiming to heal the loss of communication between humanity and nature and to restore the bonds between one human being and another.” Shyu herself will be singing and playing piano, as well as Taiwanese moon lute, Korean gayageum, and Japanese biwa. We spoke with Shyu about her vision for the project in this early creative stage.

The Jazz Gallery: I’d like to start by asking about the new Jade Tongue project. Let’s start with the name, In Healing | Zero Grasses.

Jen Shyu: Like many jazz projects, it’s still in progress, and likely will be right up to the performance. The name was given to me by an Indonesian director named Garin Nugroho. We’ve worked together a lot, most recently on Solo Rites: Seven Breaths, my solo piece before Nine Doors. In talking about doing a new work, he ‘assigned’ me the number zero, in something of a sequence from Seven Breaths and Nine Doors. He said, “Let’s work with zero,” and had this idea for a premise for the piece. He said, “Let’s do a piece that deals with the loss of human ability to communicate with nature.” I thought that was beautiful, and manifests in so many ways. We can’t, for example, really predict or prevent tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires. We can track them, but ultimately can’t prevent tens of thousands of people from dying. Despite our advances in technology, we are still at the mercy of an environment that we are not helping to take care of.

I have also gone through some personal changes as well, including the recent ending of an important relationship, which has been significant while working on this piece about the disconnect between humanity and nature. Now, I see parallels between these two things. How can we, as a species, not predict environmental destruction with all of our advanced technology, and similarly, how can we, as individuals, not predict the ending of important relationships? We have so many new ways of communicating, so much new technology, yet things aren’t necessarily becoming more clear. There are potent parallels.

TJG: So what’s an example of how In Healing | Zero Grasses looks at these parallels?

JS: It’s about relationships, in many ways. We need relationships: It’s part of being human. When people are interviewed near the end of their lives, there are so many accounts of people saying, “What really mattered to me were my relationships, after all… I wish I had spent more time with this person, I wish I didn’t take this person for granted,” that kind of thing, wishing they had reached out, worked through grudges, talked to people with whom they’d had a falling out. It’s all centered around relationships. So the piece is both an exploration of how we need each other, and how we navigate relationships, both personal and environmental.

One aspect I’ll be working, singing, music-ing about is what I saw while I was recently in Florida for a month. They have this thing in the gulf, and in many parts of the word, called “red tide,” where algal blooms release toxins and deplete the oxygen in the water, due to factors including global warming and pollution. So many fish, manatees, turtles, are dying and washing up on the shore. When I was in Florida, at all of these supposedly beautiful beaches, there were so many dead fish along on the shore. And there were still people out there, in the ocean, sunbathing, walking among the dead fish! There are lots of stories of locals going swimming and feeling things bump up against them, or finding piles of things under water, and it’s so disturbing to find that it’s actually dead fish. How many dead animals does it take to make a human uncomfortable enough to really consider what’s happening? While they’re just strolling or wading, how many dead fish does it take? That’s just one example of something that may come out in the show.

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