A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

Photo by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

Bassist Matt Brewer is a frequent presence on The Jazz Gallery stage, both as a bandleader and a sideman. In 2012 he was one of four bassists selected for the Gallery’s “Leading from the Bass” Residency Commission series, where he premiered pieces written for sextet. (You can read our posts about Brewer’s 2012 residency, and his unique approach to composition, here.) He last appeared at the Gallery as recently as July 18th, playing with Roman Filiu, one of this year’s resident composers/saxophonists, and on Thursday, August 21st, he will be featured in the first of two trios that pianist Aaron Parks is bringing to the Gallery. But first, Brewer will lead his own quintet this Friday, August 1st.

Brewer is one of the most in-demand modern jazz bassists in New York City. Since moving to New York in 2001, he’s built an impressive and enviable body of work. His recording credits include critically acclaimed albums by Shane Endsley, John Escreet, Steve Lehman, Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Antonio Sanchez, and he has performed with Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, and David Sánchez, among many others. He serves as a faculty member at The New School and at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. In a respectable addition to an already packed resume, he placed third in the Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition in 2009.

Though he does not have a recording credit as a bandleader, Brewer can frequently be heard headlining his own quintet (he’s downsized his group since 2012), and we’re hoping that he’s planning on cutting an album soon. On Friday, he will be joined by Greg Osby on alto saxophone, Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Though he often changes his supporting cast, Brewer always chooses musicians with whom he has deep roots. As well as being veterans of his quintet, Stephens and Weinrib played last month alongside Brewer in Filiu’s band. Lund and Brewer are regular presences in each other’s groups. And the much-lauded Osby was one of Brewer’s first employers after the young bassist left Julliard, having completed only two years there. This last connection should make for an especially exciting rapport.

It’s possible that on Friday we’ll hear some of the sextet pieces written during Brewer’s 2012 residency, adapted for this ensemble. Regardless of the provenance of the compositions, the music will undoubtedly be fresh, as Brewer’s driving intellect and keen judgment are among his most valued assets.

The Matt Brewer Quintet performs this Friday, August 1st, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The band features Brewer on bass, Greg Osby on alto saxophone, Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 pm. $22 general admission, $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.

Photo via

Photo via

On Wednesday, July 30th, 2014, The Jazz Gallery is proud to present legendary singer Jon Hendricks for a very special performance. Hendricks is one of the most influential vocalists in the history of jazz and has been duly recognized with an NEA Jazz Master honor, multiple Grammys, an Emmy, a Peabody, and even a French Legion of Honor award.

Hendricks is perhaps best known for popularizing the technique known as vocalese, which is the setting of lyrics to an established jazz instrumental. Vocalese comes in many forms, and Hendricks explored all of them. With partners Dave Lambert and Annie Ross in the pioneering vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Hendricks would write lyrics to whole big band compositions, including those of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. On their 1957 album Sing a Song of Basie, the group used overdubbing to turn the Count’s tunes into choral numbers both virtuosic and witty.


Photo by Jason Fulford, via

Photo by Jason Fulford, via

When asked about her motivations to create art, Chicago-born alto saxophonist Matana Roberts said:

My belief in the unbelievable, my desire to make sense of the non-sensical, and my urge to give voice to the voiceless through the type of work I make…. The positive wave of change/hope/faith I continue to see art give to the world deeply drives me as well. There is so much astounding possibility in creativity. 

Matana has appeared on our stage numerous times over the years, most recently in October to celebrate the release of the second installment in her COIN COIN project, an ongoing music cycle suffused with “Americana research, ancestral memory, imaginative storytelling, instrumental improvisation and vocal performance, which includes opera alternating with screams of joy.”

In April, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced that Matana would be part of the inaugural class of Doris Duke Impact Award recipients, each of whom will be awarded $80,000 to pursue creative work. Other members of this inaugural class of Impact Award recipients included Muhal Richard Abrams, Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Coleman, Ben Monder, Aruán Ortiz, and Jen Shyu.

We’re pleased to welcome Matana back to our stage as she convenes ANTHEM, a quartet featuring guitarist Liberty Ellman, Kevin Tkacz on bass, and Ches Smith on drums. Hear more of her music on her SoundCloud page and on YouTube, including her most recent performance at The Jazz Gallery for Coin Coin.

Matana Roberts’s ANTHEM performs this Saturday, July 26th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. ANTHEM features Roberts on alto saxophone, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Kevin Tkacz on bass, and Ches Smith on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. $22 general admission and $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.

Ingrid Laubrock (Wikimedia Commons)

Ingrid Laubrock (Wikimedia Commons)

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has forged an unpredictable path to her place in the New York jazz scene. After growing up in a small town in Germany, Laubrock only picked up the saxophone at age 19 after moving to London. She supported herself by busking and playing in Cuban and Brazilian bands, and eventually completed a jazz performance degree at the Guildhall School. Laubrock became a prominent member of London’s forward-thinking musical community known as the F-IRE Collective, as her music began taking on new, abstract dimensions. Laubrock then met renowned drummer Tom Rainey as he passed through London, and the two began a musical and personal relationship that brought her to New York (they are both partners in bands and in marriage).

Laubrock plays with a host of groups throughout the city, from the collaborative trio “Paradoxical Frog” with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey to guitarist Mary Halvorson’s septet to Anthony Braxton’s groups to her own quintet “Anti-House.” Recently, however, Laubrock has put together a new group called “Nor’easter,” her take on the classic brass band, which features Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, and Tom Rainey on drums. This Friday, July 25th, 2014, Laubrock will bring this band to The Jazz Gallery for the second time with a host of fresh and wide-ranging original compositions. We caught up with Ingrid by phone this week to talk about her motivation for putting this group together, and how the group’s music works.

The Jazz Gallery: When you played at The Jazz Gallery last summer, this group was brand new and nameless. How did you come up with the name “Nor’easter?”

Ingrid Laubrock: I actually might get rid of the name again! I’m not completely happy with it. I kind of had to have a name for a grant application that I was writing—“quintet” sounded too lame. I wanted something that had to do with wind gusts and blowing air. But at this point, I think I’m going to scrap the name.

TJG: What drew you to putting together a group of almost all wind instruments?

IL: It was always interesting for me to hear brass bands. I grew up in a small town in Germany, and that was always a big tradition, but it didn’t necessarily interest me at the time. I have been to Brazil and heard brass bands—maracatu bands—and I played a bit in maracatu bands when I lived in England. And being in New York I hear a lot of Mexican brass bands and New Orleans brass bands. I’m fascinated by the sound of these groups, but I didn’t want to write music for a brass group in a traditional way. I wanted to explore all the textures that you can get out of these instruments.

This is a major reason why I chose the musicians I chose for the group. All of them are really great improvisors and interested in figuring out everything you can do with their instruments that isn’t traditional. I can write extended techniques, I can write interesting rhythmic things, I can write with microtones and other weird things; the musicians can play everything that I can think of. I also consciously didn’t want a harmony instrument, so the writing is very linear, very contrapuntal. I’d always composed at the piano because you have everything at your fingertips, but for this group I wanted to try and write just in my head and on my instrument. It was good to have a different approach for this music. (more…)

Photo by Jimmy Katz, courtesy of the artist

Photo by Jimmy Katz, courtesy of the artist

The only chance to see the Miles Okazaki Quartet perform this summer is coming up this Thursday, July 24th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The show received a Critics’ Pick in The New York Times, and we’re pleased to welcome Miles back to our stage as he leads the same quartet that embarked on a European tour last fall, featuring Donny McCaslin on saxophone, Francois Moutin on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums. For those who have never heard the band before, Miles has shared two full sets from that tour on YouTube: one set recorded at Birdseye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland, and another set recorded at Jamboree Jazz Club in Barcelona, Spain. When he mentioned these recordings to us, he added, “It’s much more different from the way the music was played on the previous record…for lack of a better term, it’s a high-energy thing. It’s pretty wild.”

We caught up with Miles via Skype when he was in Brazil last week to talk about practicing, rehearsing, and inspiration. Here’s our conversation:

The Jazz Gallery: What brings you to Brazil?

Miles Okazaki: I’m down here with Steve Coleman and a group of musicians, and we’re doing a work retreat, basically playing all day everyday and working on stuff. It’s kind of a substitute for extended periods of work that people don’t really have that much anymore, like long club engagements or long tours. It’s hard to get music to a high level with one hit here and there, so this is sort of an extended work trip. Steve does these things every once in a while.

TJG: Speaking of rehearsing, how do you go about rehearsing your own quartet?

MO: I’ve been getting more and more into having less and less material. Personally, I don’t like to read charts onstage, and I also like to see what people come up with and not be controlling all the information. Rehearsal is really just getting a couple of small bits of material together and the rest of it is dealing with improvising together. I’m not a big fan of rehearsals where it’s, “Here’s all my material, learn all my material, and play it the way I want you to play it.” I’m more into, “Here’s some ideas I have and let’s see what you come up with, also.”