A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo by Evan Shay, courtesy of the artist

Canadian-born Chet Doxas, praised by The New York Times for his “soulful and rhythmically assertive style on tenor saxophone and a warm, woodsy tone on clarinet,” makes his debut as a leader at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, September 29th, 2016, with a band of close friends and peers: guitarist Matthew Stevens, bassist Zack Lober, and drummer Eric Doob. Stevens and Doob are both rehearsal space co-habitants with Doxas, while Lober and Doxas grew up together in Montreal’s richly diverse music scene. The project he’ll be presenting on Thursday, “Rich in Symbols: Pieces for Art – NYC 1975- 85,” has already been recorded and is set for release on Ropeadope Records in September, 2017. We spoke with Doxas about this new project and its inspiration: ’80s “No Wave” bands and artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, Keith Haring and Futura.

Read below for excerpts from the conversation as well as a trailer for this debut performance: (more…)

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

For four decades, Judi Silvano has been one of the most prominent and forward-thinking jazz vocalists in New York. With her unparalleled scat agility and wide aesthetic range (from avant-garde experimentation to straight-ahead standards), she cleared a path for many of the shapeshifting jazz vocalists of today.

This Tuesday, September 27th, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome Ms. Silvano to our stage with her band Zephyr. The group takes its name from a tune that Silvano wrote for a recording session with piano legend Mal Waldron and features many longtime associates—guitarists Kenny Wessel and Bruce Arnold, bassist Ratzo Harris, and drummer Bob Meyer. Wessel and Arnold work as a sort of yin and yang, coloring Silvano’s original compositions with a wide range of contrasting sounds. Just check out Arnold’s use of digital effects in the groups performance of their namesake tune.

We caught up with Silvano over the phone and discussed her recent tour and performance schedule, as well as her upbringing in a world of sonic and visual beauty.

The Jazz Gallery: You recently returned from Cleveland where you performed with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra. What was the occasion for the concert?

Judi Silvano: It was a celebration of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme on his 90th birthday. I sang “Equinox,” which incidentally was close to the actual date of the equinox. It was an arrangement by the director Paul Ferguson, which he wrote just for the gig. I wouldn’t consider myself a big band singer, but I’ve done a lot of work with big bands through the years, and I love feeling like a part of that horn and woodwind section. I started to develop my singing concept by listening to those big band horns, and later on in life, I began studying many of those standard songs which are often used to feature a vocalist with the big band.

TJG: So the band you’re bringing to The Jazz Gallery is called Zephyr, and uses two guitars, yes?

JS: Yes, this is what I call the Zephyr Two-Guitar Band. It includes Kenny Wessel and Bruce Arnold on guitars, Adam Kolker on on reeds, Ratzo Harris on bass, Bob Meyer on drums, Todd Isler on percussion, and Joe Lovano on saxophone. This band that I’m bringing to The Jazz Gallery is very exciting for me, because it’s a culmination of all of the work that I’ve done thus far. We recently recorded an album of originals and are in the process of releasing it. I finally went into the studio last fall with them, and the experience was great. Since then, we’ve been touring. I’ve been playing with these particular cats for about five years. We’ve developed a rapport, and my material has evolved. 

TJG: You brought your Zephyr band to the Red Hook Jazz Festival in Brooklyn this June. How did it feel to bring this two-guitar sound to Brooklyn?

JS: Oh, it was so much fun! The festival was great. It’s a grassy little corner lot right near shipping containers and other industrial stuff. In the park, it was its own little world with its own little stage. It was a windy day too, so the canopy was blowing all over the place. It was wild. Everyone who came to the festival was listening. I mean really listening. There were a lot of great bands and some serious jazz appreciators there to enjoy the day. 

TJG: What’s it like to sing on top of two guitar players?

JS: For many years, I’ve been sharing my vocal range with soprano saxophone. I most often sing and play with pianists, but I love the sound of the guitar and voice. Instead of singing on top of the guitars, I think of it as sharing the same space with them. Sometimes, if our tonalities are in the same range, it’s an exciting kind of sound and feeling. We respond to each others’ musical statements without stepping on each other. There’s something about singing lyrics that becomes important as well. The first time the words come through with the music, they need to have space, so the audience can hear the words and comprehend what the story is about before the piece begins to evolve. For this reason, I love to play with people who are both dynamic and sensitive. There’s always some open space, and this goes for the two-guitar band. The musical tapestry gets created around the bare bones of the story. I’ve been writing more lyrics and stories to the songs these days. I’ve put lyrics to some of my older songs, and it has been an exciting new development and evolution for me. I have a song that I’ve been playing since the 1980s called “Bass Space.” I recorded that with no lyrics, and Joe Lovano recorded it a few times. I decided that I wanted to put words to it, and the new version is called “Our World” on “My Dance” with Michael Abene. 

I love working with Kenny and Bruce. Some bands have a woodwind section, some bands have two drummers, so why not have two guitarists? And the truth is, they’re having so much fun, they dig each other too! They play together in a responsive and respectful way. They contribute a different color and feeling to the music. It’s orchestral to have two guitars like that. We share being lead instruments, and I don’t feel like I have to be front and center.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Originally from Berkeley, CA, Charles Altura is a guitarist and composer. He now lives in Brooklyn and is fond of cats, keeping two of his own. Noted for his “quicksilver technique” by the New York Times, he is a consistent face among many groups and has collaborated with Chick CoreaAmbrose AkinmusireJustin BrownTerence BlanchardStanley ClarkeTigran Hamasyan and Linda Oh among others.

With an album in the works, Altura returns to the Gallery this Saturday to further explore his compositions with long time bay area friends Akinmusire and Brown who he’s known since high school, in addition to friends and collaborators Fabian Almazan and Matt Brewer who he plays with regularly.

We sat down with him this week in Brooklyn to learn a bit more about his musical journey thus far:

The Jazz Gallery: You’re looking to put out your first record as a leader soon?

Charles Altura: Yeah we recorded a little while ago. Then I did another session with Justin and Harish Raghavan as a trio. The record includes Ambrose, Justin, Harish and Taylor Eigsti. This performance will feature material from the album and a few new ideas.

TJG: The timbral roles in your group mirror E-Collective. Is the confluence of piano, guitar and trumpet important to you?

CA: Yes. For some reason, that instrumentation seems to have clicked. I’ve listened to a lot of trumpet players. Ambrose and I played together quite a bit growing up too, so the combination of trumpet and guitar is very natural to me.

TJG: Can you discuss your musical upbringing?

CA: I started on piano, I was about nine. Then I worked on classical piano and started playing guitar. I taught myself guitar from piano when I was about 13 and got into jazz soon after that. My older brother is a guitarist. He introduced me to a lot of music, a lot of jazz music. I always heard him walking around playing these solos. I liked the idea that you could walk around and practice anywhere. I like how it crosses genres easily. You can go wherever you want with guitar. It’s a chordal instrument but you can also be lyrical like a singer. When I got into jazz, the guitar provided a way to be like a horn player or a piano player.

I kept the piano going and at certain points I even quit guitar for a while and just played piano. Two or three times in high school. I would always end up back on guitar because I felt like I could somehow do more. Most of my composition happens at the piano, and I still play classical piano.

TJG: Were your parents musical? What was playing in the house?

CA: Yeah, my mom is musical, she plays piano and accordion. My dad was a big music fan. He got me into classical music and my mom has a very good ear. She taught me how to learn things by ear. There was a lot of classical music in the house—Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin. I was also into rock music, like Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, so I always had that going too.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, September 23rd, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome vibraphonist Joel Ross back to our stage. Already a preternaturally gifted player when he first graced our stage last year, Ross’s maturity and musicianship has reached a new level over the past few months. After participating in our Mentorship Series with pianist Aaron Parks last spring (check out our conversation with Mr. Parks about working with Ross), Ross returned to the Gallery as a leader in July, displaying new confidence and taking more risks. Just check out all of the musical colors Ross and company wring out his original ballad “Touched By An Angel” from that July performance.

On Friday, Ross brings much of the same group back to the Gallery for two sets of music. We can be assured that they’re interplay has only deepened in the intervening months. (more…)

Photo by Josh Goleman.

From L to R: Colin Stranahan, John Raymond, and Gilad Hekselman. Photo by Josh Goleman.

“I’m not really not a pyrotechnics, flashy kind of a player,” John Raymond says. “I’m more a subtle kind of guy.”

Don’t mistake subtle for boring, though. Raymond is a top-rate trumpet and flugelhorn player with a warm, assured sound and a keen ear for melody; his flexibility and craft allow him to excel in a variety of settings. In the New York Times, Nate Chinen praised Raymond’s 2015 “Foreign Territory” album, writing: “This is an album about finding new possibilities within a recognizable framework; it’s more rational than radical, with a thoughtful relationship to mainstream convention. It’s also a substantial leap forward for Mr. Raymond.”

Raymond leaps forward again this year with his stripped-down project Real Feels, which features the unusual flugelhorn-drums-guitar trio, featuring Gilad Hekselman and Colin Stranahan. He’s got a new live album coming out soon, and will give out an advance copy to anyone who comes to the show. We talked to Raymond via phone; here are excerpts from the conversation.

The Jazz Gallery: How did this unusual trio come about?

John Raymond: One of my main influences has been listening to Art Farmer. He has those great couple records with Jim Hall. I just love the sound of flugelhorn and guitar. There can be moments where you can sort tell which is which, but it’s less identifiable than a trumpet/guitar, or definitely a sax/guitar. It’s fun to weave in and out of each other like that. Gilad has played in pretty much every iteration of a band I’ve had since I moved to town 7 years ago—I sought him out.

This has been been a band where I don’t really want to bring in a lot of crazy difficult music. The joy of it is we’re playing these simple songs: “Amazing Grace,” “Scarborough Fair,” “This Land is Your Land.” But because of the trio setting, and moreso because how we’re all approaching the music, we’re taking this simple idea and able to then take it in a lot of directions.

TJG: Are there any trios that this group is inspired by?

JR: This group feels partly like a chordless group—but with chords. It has a certain sense of that openness that I really like in groups like Sonny Rollins, Live at the Vanguard, and Mark Turner’s chordless band. All that stuff, it places a different responsibility on each member of the group to carry the time and melody and the harmony.

TJG: Do you ever feel ungrounded without a bass player?

JR: I never do. Maybe part of it is that Gilad will plug in through a guitar amp and bass amp. He can play basslines if he wanted to. He at least gets a certain sense of bottom really fills out the band, so I’m never feel like I’m missing anything.

TJG: Why are you playing flugelhorn and not trumpet in this project?

JR: Playing flugelhorn feels really natural to me. I remember watching an Art Farmer interview and he said something like, “when I play the flugelhorn, I don’t have to think about my sound. It comes out exactly like I hear it, so I can focus on the notes or the melody.” I resonate with that. I feel like there’s a certain natural feeling I get when I play the instrument that I have to work harder for on the trumpet because I hear a different sound.

And playing flugelhorn has really made me a better trumpet player. Once I play the flugelhorn, it reminds me, “that’s what I sound like.” So then I can replicate that more quickly on the trumpet. (more…)