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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Becca Stevens, an artist who at The Jazz Gallery needs no introduction, will be returning to the Gallery stage for the Commissions Revisited Series. Always pushing in some way against her own limitations and boundaries as a songwriter and musician, Stevens used the commissioning series to create Regina, a collection of music that eventually became her acclaimed album in 2017. Regina was the result of months of research, experimentation, and soul-searching, according to Stevens.

This weekend, Stevens will be revisiting the album at The Jazz Gallery with her band featuring herself on guitar, ukulele, charango, and voice, Michelle Willis on keyboards and voice, Jan Esbra on guitar, Chris Tordini on bass and voice, and Jordan Perlson on drums.

TJG: You just jumped straight over to Spain from Winter Jazz Fest to work on a project, correct?

Becca Stevens: That’s right, I’m in Spain doing a kind of writing retreat. Mike League and I are doing a record in about a week in New York with The Secret Trio, an amazing group of Turkish and Macedonian musicians. We’re getting the music together for that, writing it, pulling together arrangements.

TJG: How do you and Michael work together? What’s your process together for a situation like this?

BS: We’ve written together in a couple of different groups. With this one specifically, the songs started out with him sending me demos and ideas on oud and guitar. I would add melodies, harmonies, lyric ideas, things like that. Right now, I’m finishing that process. Once I get a song to a point where I think it’s pretty much finished, at least a draft, I’ll send it back to him. He adds more final touches, ways to bring in the trio. We’ll see how it goes! It’s a back-and-forth process. In the band we’re in with David Crosby, it’s more like we’re all writing together at the same time. All approaches work, this is just how we went about this one since we weren’t working in the same place.

TJG: Well, it’s a treat to be interviewing you, I’ve been a fan for years. The show at The Jazz Gallery is part of the Commissions Revisited Series, where you’ll be presenting music from Regina, correct?

BS: That’s right. The Gallery originally commissioned that music, so it’s the only place to do the reunion.

TJG: A lot of the album explores this childlike wonder, lost hope, dangers of love. Could you tell me about who Regina is, and how she sees the world?

BS: Regina began as a concept, the word ‘queen,’ and different things I could pull out of that word, everything and anything I associated with the word. Through the process of writing the record, Regina began to take on a life of her own. Maybe out of necessity, she became a writing partner, a voice in my own head that I would call upon for guidance, confidence, a clue from a muse. I found that assigning an entity to the muse behind the song helps with clarity. I get a stronger sense of whether I’m doing something that’s serving the song or serving myself, and when I’m writing, decisions that serve myself often don’t come across as poignantly or effectively.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

For the first time in over a decade, Massimo Biolcati is releasing a new record as a bandleader. Biolcati is known as a producer, composer, sideman, co-founder of Gilfema (a trio featuring Ferenc Nemeth and Lionel Loueke), and developer of the iReal Pro app. The Swedish/Italian bassist has lived in New York for quite some time, and has logged tours with Paquito D’Rivera, Terence Blanchard, Ravi Coltrane, Lizz Wright, and Luciana Souza. The new record, Incontre, is slated for release on January 24th, and features Dayna Stephens on saxophones, Sam Yahel on piano and organ, and Jongkuk Kim on drums. For our recent interview covering the new album and the iReal Pro app, read on.

TJG: Where and how does Incontre fit into your other projects? I know you’re busy with a lot of things, including your trio Gilfema with Ferenc Nemeth and Lionel Loueke.

MB: Yes, I’ve been playing a lot with Lionel, mostly in the Lionel Loueke trio configuration. We also have a more collaborative band, Gilfema, where I contribute compositions. This new band on the recording is my own band. I decided everything, took on all band-leading duties. Last year, I decided it was time to record another record as a bandleader. It had been about ten years, and as a bass player, one gets spoiled being called as a sideman on many projects: Sometimes it’s easy to get lazy and feel like you’re playing enough good music as it is, and I’ve been lucky to play with great people. But I felt it was time to record some music I’ve been writing throughout the years, so I decided to go into the studio. I looked to some musicians I’d played with in the past, as well as newer young musicians I’ve discovered recently. It was a nice combination.

TJG: Talk to me about the band.

MB: I’ve been playing with Sam on and off through the years. I love his playing. He also plays organ, and he’s gone deep with it, so he knows all about it. I like the idea of having that option as another color. Sam plays organ on several tracks. I’ve known Dayna since back in the day. We went to Berklee College together, then went to the Monk Institute together in 2001. He’s got such an earthy, soulful sound. He’s a beautiful person as well, which is so important when you’re making music with other people. JK is a young drummer who also went to Berklee, he’s in his mid-twenties. We started playing a few gigs here and there. I love his playing, he’s great. His groove is incredible, his listening skills are something I look for in a drummer. He’s truly in the moment, reactive, listens carefully.

TJG: How did Jongkuk Kim get on your radar?

MB: I host regular sessions at my house, and I always encourage people to bring their friends. I try to always meet the new young musicians that come to town. He’s one of the people I’ve met in this way. I like to keep a balance between playing with people of my own generation that I’ve grown up with musically, and I also want to be in the know, see what the young kids are doing, and get inspiration and motivation from that. I like the sharing between musical generations like that, it’s inspiring.

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Artwork courtesy of Monica Jane Frisell and Carole d'Inverno.This Tuesday evening, January 21, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to open a new art exhibition featuring paintings by Carole d’Inverno and photographs by Monica Jane Frisell. Despite the contrast in medium—whimsically abstract canvases versus stark photographs—both artists’ work is rooted in a sense of American place. For d’Inverno, that means researching particular historical events and translating them into a pattern of specific visual motifs. Frisell, on the other hand, uses a 4×5 large format camera, slowing down her process and creating a unique sense of intimacy between artist and subject.

To celebrate the exhibition opening at 6 P.M. this Tuesday, guitarist David Torn will perform a special set of improvisations. And if you can’t make this week’s opening, be sure to check out d’Inverno and Frisell’s work the next time you catch a Gallery show. (more…)

Photos from the band’s August recording session. Photos and design by Tracy Yang.

This Saturday, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome the Erica Seguine & Shan Baker Jazz Orchestra back to our stage for two sets of performances. The band has built a sturdy presence in the New York area over the past decade, developing a substantial book of tunes that reflects the composer/bandleaders multifaceted personalities. This summer, the band went into the studio to record their debut album—the album is currently in the editing & mixing phase, so stay tuned for news about its release.

In a previous interview with Jazz Speaks, Seguine & Baker talked about how they go about developing each composition. Seguine offered this perspective:

When composing, I try to tell a story. Things often need to take time to develop. If you try to introduce a theme and suddenly say “We’re going this way instead, or we’re going to do this whole arc in three minutes,” it doesn’t feel like enough time to develop. Even in a small group, soloists take their time developing ideas. Rarely do you hear someone jump in, then jump right back out. As a composer, regardless of the size of the group, I want to develop the progression of the story by giving each section the time it needs.

This patient sense of gesture comes across clearly in Seguine’s composition, “Leaves Swirling Through the Dusk Sky,” which you can check out below.

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Grégoire Maret and Romain Collin. Photo courtesy of the artists.

This Friday, The Jazz Gallery is thrilled to welcome Americana, a brand new project from harmonica player Grégoire Maret and pianist Romain Collin. The project celebrates the many strains of American roots music, filtered through the co-leaders’ contemporary sensibilities. So far, the duo has been joined in performance by guitarists Marvin Sewell and Ben Monder. Check out Monder’s performance with the project from last week’s Winter Jazz Festival, below.

For this followup performance at the Gallery, Maret and Collin will be joined by guitarist Nir Felder. Don’t miss this opportunity to see three top-notch musicians from diverse backgrounds dig through the gnarled and hardy roots of American music. (more…)