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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Pianist Aaron Parks is bringing two trios to The Jazz Gallery this week. On Thursday, August 21st, he will be joined by bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey and on Friday the 22nd by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer RJ Miller. Parks is perhaps best known for his much-lauded 2008 Blue Note release, Invisible Cinema, for his work with Kurt Rosenwinkel, and for his prodigious beginnings. At age 13, he entered the University of Washington as a triple major in math, computer science, and music before settling on music. 

However impressive these accomplishments are, they fail to cover his complexity as an artist. Parks is a pianist of boundless curiosity. His fondness for indie rock has been noted elsewhere, but less commented on is the breadth of his listening. In an interview given last year, Parks lists what he had been checking out recently: Lester Young, Bud Powell, Art Tatum, Grizzly Bear, Talk Talk, Scriabin, Prokofiev, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes. One imagines the directions a more thorough examination of his music library might take.

Parks’s only available trio album, a “bootleg” recorded on his iPhone in Japan in 2012 and released for free on Bandcamp, is a testament to his wide-ranging interests. At times, Parks brings joy, openness, and humor to standard repertoire. Elsewhere, he displays his continued interest in the kind of mood-driven pieces that fill Invisible Cinema, beneath which lives a diverse ecosystem of influences. Throughout we hear an artist glad to share his knowledge with his audience, expanding himself at the edges while keeping his core dense and mysterious.

In the interview mentioned above, Parks also said:

I used to care so much about the art that I had convinced myself that style could be a prison, and that I didn’t want to learn the craft of different styles, because I didn’t want to be held captive. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the value of playing something good, not playing something just because it’s supposedly “new.”  As long as you play those things with feeling…play something that’s authentic. Even if you know where something is going…there is such a sense of satisfaction as a listener when you hear someone play a phrase and you know exactly where they’re going to go, and then they go there. I used to be so concerned with always being new, it was so obfuscated for the sake of being “original.”

There is a quiet strength to his recent playing that reflects this musical ethos. He still pushes himself emotionally and intellectually, as all improvisors must. But his playing shows a new confidence, a surety in his ideas and a comfort in tradition. He is beginning to address his masters with his own voice—the sign of a mature artist. 

The two bands he will bring to the Gallery, made of such different—even opposing—personalities, promise to show a considerable spectrum of Parks’s abilities.

Aaron Parks Trios will perform at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday & Friday, August 21st & 22nd, 2014. Both nights feature Parks on piano, with Matt Brewer on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums on Thursday and Larry Grenadier and RJ Miller on drums on Friday. Sets are at 9 and 11 pm. $22 general admission, $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.

Pascal (l) and Remy (r) Le Boeuf (Photo: Zlata Kolomoyskaya, John Davydov)

Remy (l) and Pascal (r) Le Boeuf (Photo: Zlata Kolomoyskaya, John Davydov)

Pianist Pascal and saxophonist Remy, the Le Boeuf Brothers, return to The Jazz Gallery this week to perform new music from their upcoming release that features the JACK Quartet, a leading new-music string quartet that has been acclaimed for its “explosive virtuosity” (Boston Globe) and “viscerally exciting performances” (The New York Times). The brothers have performed at the Gallery numerous times over the years—including a premiere performance of a Franz-Kafka inspired, Chamber Music America-commissioned work in November 2012—so we’re excited to welcome  back to our stage the brothers, who will be performing quintet minus strings.

Here’s our conversation with the Le Boeuf brothers about their upcoming show on Wednesday:

The Jazz Gallery: According to Remy’s website, you’ve just recorded a new album, which features strings. Can you tell us a bit more about what’s to come on this album, and how you’ve adapted it for live performance—in this case, without strings?

Pascal Le Boeuf: We don’t want to give out too much about the concept of the album, but we can say that it is a collaboration with JACK Quartet. It’s going to feature JACK Quartet, Ben Wendel plays tenor and bassoon on it, and the rhythm sections will alternate between Justin Brown and Ben Street, and Peter Kronreif and Martin Nevin. Justin and Martin will be playing at the Gallery, so it’ll be the band from the CD.

Remy Le Boeuf: It’s also going to be my oboe debut, as far as jazz recordings go, which I’ve been excited about for a long time. Ben and I are going to do a little oboe-bassoon duet, but the project is basically based around music inspired by literature. I’ve got a piece that we originally premiered at The Jazz Gallery last time we played there: A Dream: The Beautiful Imagination of Franz Kafka. That’s a twenty-minute narrated piece, and we’ve got this excellent narrator, Paul Whitworth, who really gives a strong character to the piece.

Pascal’s written a bunch of amazing new works and after our last album, which was a remix album, we were hoping to explore another area, which was more contemporary classical influences. That comes out in our collaboration with JACK Quartet, and they’re just one of the most solid string quartets in New York right now, I feel. They were amazing to work with and we tried our best to give them a vehicle to be who they are, compositionally at least.

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The Star Initiative

The Star Initiative

We’re pleased to announce that The Jazz Gallery is now a participant of WNYC and WQXR’s Salute The ARts (STAR) Initiative:

“a free program that profiles 36 small cultural non-profit organizations in the New York Metropolitan area over a 12-month period, through on-air promotional announcements and free website support.”

Keep your ears open through August 27th for mentions of The Jazz Gallery on WNYC 93.9 FM/AM 820 and WQXR 105.9 FM, and be sure to check out the events pages at WNYC and WQXR.

Also, if you already regularly listen to WNYC, you’ve probably noticed the hourly station identification music, a repeating figure played on the vibraphone. What you might not have known is that this song, entitled “Clear the Rain,” was composed and performed by Chris Dingman, a Gallery alumnus who’s been checking out shows here since 2002 as well as performing on our stage since 2004. Chris has appeared here both with his own groups and as a sideman; most recently, he was back in the fall with the Steve Lehman Octet.

Click here to read our interview with Chris from 2012.

Camila Meza (l) via www.camilameza.com; Fabian Almazan (r) by Vincent Soyez

Camila Meza (l) via www.camilameza.com; Fabian Almazan (r) by Vincent Soyez

It was not a surprise when guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza & pianist Fabian Almazan decided to perform as a duo for their upcoming show on Friday, August 8th, 2014. Both artists have been frequent presences at the Gallery: Meza appeared with Ryan Keberle and Catharsis this past Saturday, as well as with her own quartet back in February; Almazan appeared as part of The Jazz Gallery’s 2012-13 Residency Commission series last September, as well as with Linda Oh in February.

More importantly, the pair has worked in close collaboration in the past: Almazan wrote duets for Meza and himself as part of his Residency Commission and also features Meza in his new Rhizome project, which released its self-titled album in March on Blue Note/ArtistShare (the band performs at the Village Vanguard later this month). The duo just performed this past weekend at The Falcon in Marlboro, New York, and we’re looking forward to hearing them as they continue to explore the possibilities of the duo format.

Camila Meza & Fabian Almazan perform this Friday, August 8th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The performance features Meza on vocals, electric & acoustic guitars and Almazan on piano and keyboards. Sets are at 9 and 11 pm. $22 general admission, $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass Holders. Purchase tickets here.