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Photo by Antonio Porcar, courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, October 19th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Mara Rosenbloom and her trio back to our stage. Just over a year ago, Rosenbloom celebrated the release of her record Prairie Burn (Fresh Sound) on our stage. Writing in the New York Times, Giovanni Russonello, praised the album’s “…bristling provocation and full-bore group improvising,” noting that work “…insert[s] her into the conversation alongside heavyweight contemporaries—suspense-building pianists like Craig Taborn, Kris Davis and Matt Mitchell.”

This Thursday, Rosenbloom will be presenting brand new music alongside bassist Sean Conly from Prairie Burn and drummer Michael Wimberly. Before hearing the forward-thinking Rosenbloom’s next steps, check out this startling free improvisation along with multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore.

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Album art courtesy of the artist.

Marta Sánchez’s long-standing quintet will return to The Jazz Gallery this week for the release of their latest album, “Danza Imposible” (Fresh Sound Records). The quintet, highlighting intricate melodic work and rich arrangements, features Roman Filiú and Jerome Sabbagh on saxophones, Rick Rosato on bass, Daniel Dor on drums, and of course Sánchez on piano and compositions. In a prior Jazz Speaks post, we spoke with Marta about her quintet work on Partenika, her previous album, which was included in New York Times journalist Ben Ratliff’s ‘Top 10’ list for 2015. Sánchez was additionally awarded a 2017 MacDowell Fellowship, where she composed new works for prepared piano. We spoke at length with Sánchez about her textural and contrapuntal approach to composing for quintet.

The Jazz Gallery: Your album titles and artwork are always intriguing. Could you tell me a little about both the title and the art for Danza Imposible (Fresh Sound/New Talent), the new record?

Marta Sánchez: The title is actually from one the pieces, meaning “Impossible Dance” in Spanish. Iit has a triplet-based groove, but it’s in 11/8, so it’s good under the hands, but something’s still weird there. The artwork is by Alicia Martin López, a friend I met in New York. We both came over with Fulbright grants. When we met, I didn’t know what she was doing on her Fulbright, but when she returned to Spain she posted some of her work, and it was beautiful. She did my previous record, Partenika, and I loved that, so I asked her to do this one too.

TJG: What do you like about this cover for Danza Imposible?

MS: Well, I think it represents the music, and now that you ask, it has this weirdness as well. It’s beautiful and attractive, but at the same time mysterious. There’s some strangeness there, and we don’t know where it comes from. My music has a bit of that too.

TJG: Is there something about the concept of impossibility that excites you as a jazz musician? A challenge to break through or overcome?

MS: I don’t think in terms of breaking through the impossible. With my titles, I’m usually thinking of something in the moment. It might be trivial, but I try to be honest with what I feel, and use what I have in sight. Yes, you have to challenge yourself and discover your music, but what attracts me most are the unexpected things. I like when I hear music and it doesn’t sound exactly how I expected. I like the unexpected, but not impossible things [laughs]. Things that surprise you.

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Photo by Devin DeHaven, courtesy of the artist.

33-year-old pianist Gerald Clayton had made the transition from up-and-comer to bonafide stalwart on the international jazz scene. His fourth album, Tributary Tales,”was released this April to acclaim: it’s at turns glassy, soulful and funky, with introspective spoken word interludes woven in. (“His pellucid touch and quicksilver phrasing can evoke swinging touchstones like Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson,” Nate Chinen wrote for WBGO.)

For this gig at The Jazz Gallery, Mr. Clayton will bring a different group than the one that appears on the album, but it’s nonetheless filled with familiar faces: Ben Wendel on saxophone, Matt Brewer on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums, and Lage Lund on guitar. He’ll play some songs from Tributary Tales and some new ones. He called in to talk about the album and the gig; here are excerpts from that conversation.

The Jazz Gallery: What is the concept of Tributary Tales?

Gerald Clayton: I’ve been really inspired by nature and water. With a tributary being a small river that flows out of a larger body of water—I’ve been reflecting on that and how what we do is really connected to what came before us. We’re not setting out to recreate a language from the past, but the essence of the music that we love—that we’ve soaked up for years and years—still exists, and we carry along those messages that we learn from the elders.

It felt fitting to just to keep looking at everything as different tributaries. Another literal meaning of tributary is paying tribute, which definitely feels like it applies to the music I play: giving a nod to the masters. All the musicians on the record coming from different places and influences and there’s a sense of connectedness between everybody. And each song on the record might have a different character, yet there’s a flow that makes them feel like they all belong on the same disc.

TJG: Seems like you have a deep connection to water: where did that stem from? A single moment?

GC: I don’t know if it’s as poetic as a single moment. But I love nature, I love surfing, the feeling of being pushed by nature. Surfing’s one of the few sports where you’re tapping into an energy source.

When I was at the Monterey Festival, I got a tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and got to hear about their plastics initiative to clean up the ocean and be more aware of single use plastics. To get some firsthand information from people who devote their lives to that cause was a real honor and something I want to continue with moving forward.

TJG: What are you the most proud of about the album?

GC: The record is in a way a documentation of a single day. You go on, you play it more, you keep discovering new things. That’s definitely a part of the process I cherish. I really enjoyed getting to work with Aja Monet and Carl Hancock Rux and explore the relationship between music and spoken word a little bit more. Some of the post production work I did with Gabriel Lugo, the percussionist—I went further in than I have in the past in some of the sounds and effects. I’m proud of that work.  

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Morgan Guerin and Orrin Evans. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This week, The Jazz Gallery continues our latest Mentorship Series with the pair of mentor-pianist Orrin Evans and mentee-multi-instrumentalist Morgan Guerin. A native and resident of Philadelphia, Evans is one hard-to-classify pianist, playing hard-swinging music with his working trio, aggressive and exploratory music with the avant collective Tarbaby, and will soon be adding his inimitable personality to The Bad Plus. Guerin recently started his second year studying jazz at The New School, but already has an active presence performing across New York and elsewhere, whether with his peers or Grammy-winning drummer Terri Lynne Carrington.

For these shows, Guerin will be sliding into the saxophone chair of Evans’ band, learning from the group’s long-honed chemistry. Before checking out the group at The Jazz Museum in Harlem or Roxborough United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, or on November 2nd at The Jazz Gallery, check out Jazz Speaks’s previous interviews with both Evans and Guerin. (more…)

From L to R: Joe Sanders, Jure Pukl, Melissa Aldana, Greg Hutchinson. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Tenor saxophonist Jure Pukl returns to The Jazz Gallery this week to celebrate the release of Doubtless. The new record, released on Inner Circle, highlights the remarkable musical synergy between Pukl and his wife, saxophonist Melissa Aldana. The record also features Greg Hutchinson (drums) and Joe Sanders (bass), and was recorded in Pukl’s home country of Slovenia. We spoke with Pukl for the second time this year to discuss the inspiration, development, and message behind the new release.

TJG: Between our previous interview and now, I was actually on tour with an orchestra in Slovenia, and was amazed by both the magnificence of the country and the generosity of everyone I met. We played in a festival at a huge castle called Grad Snežnik.

JP: Man! I know the place. I probably was there twenty years ago, for a school trip or something. Slovenia is so small, but there are still these places hidden away [laughs]. I’ve heard of that festival at Snežnik. Right now, I’m trying to establish a festival too. It’s currently a one-week clinic at the end of February, using the clubs and music school in my hometown of Velenje. But we have lakes, a camping area, restaurants, lots of space, so it would be a perfect festival site in the future.

TJG: You recorded the new album in Slovenia. Do you return often to perform?

JP: I go back every time I go to Europe, usually twice a year. I love playing in Slovenia, especially now that I’m doing this workshop in my hometown. We have around eighty students from all around Europe, from age 12 to 25, even some older musicians who want to learn new things. I bring Joe Sanders, Greg Hutchinson, Melissa of course. This year we have Shai Maestro. Last year we had Kurt Rosenwinkel in residence. And there are always European cats too. We perform for the students, make spontaneous groups, and end with a three-night festival, so the students get the real thing. It gets bigger every year, and it’s amazing that I get to play in my own hometown with such great musicians.

TJG: That’s what happens when you create your own festival: You attract students and fans to learn and socialize, and then when you want to perform and try new things, there’s an audience.

JP: Exactly. That’s how this band on Doubtless got started. We were teaching and playing at the clinic in different settings. The band started as a friendship, a family thing. Joe 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 the 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.

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