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Photo by voxjuventus via http://flickr.com

On the subject of the pianist Osmany Paredes, the percussionist (and Jazz Gallery veteran) Dafnis Prieto provides high praise: ”…a fantastic musician. I’m using him whenever I can. He can go in so many different directions, but he’s got such a strong identity he always adds something unexpected into the mix. When he’s playing my music, I just turn him loose.”

Osmany was born in Santa Clara, Cuba, and began studying music at the tender age of five. His father, the percussionist Guillermo Paredes, was Osmany’s first teacher, and their lessons provided an immersion in Afro-Caribbean rhythmic traditions. Focusing on his musical studies throughout his adolescence, the pianist inhaled the European classical repertoire, and began to listen to whatever jazz recordings he could get his hands on. After a few tours abroad, Osmany made the move to Mexico City, where he spent eleven years performing with some of the best musicians in town (and in the world): Israel “Cachao” López, Carlos “Patato” Valdes, Antonio Sánchez, and Jerry Gonzalez. The pianist released his first album, Menduvia (Fonosound), in 2003.

The same year, Osmany fulfilled a longtime dream by moving to the United States, settling briefly in Los Angeles before deciding to make Boston his home base. Dafnis Prieto and Yosvany Terry both quickly began taking the pianist on the road, and people began to take notice. “Steeped in the European classical tradition, enamored of jazz, and fully conversant with Cuban popular music, [Osmany] Paredes is a thrilling player who combines percussive attack with a vivid harmonic imagination,” writes Andrew Gilbert in The Boston Globe. “Paredes is an aggressive stylist with a bright-sounding, percussive approach and penchant for fiery improvisations, yet time and again he revealed a sweet side,” remarks Bob Young in The Boston Herald, proclaiming, “Heed the buzz: Paredes is not to be missed.”

We first heard Osmany as a sideperson in the bands of Dafnis Prieto and Yosvany Terry, and presented his own band for the first time in 2008. We look forward to welcoming the pianist back this Thursday night for a performance with his quartet.

Watch Osmany perform with the drummer (and fellow Jazz Gallerian) Antonio Sánchez and the bassist Luri Molina in Mexico City in 2003.

Photo courtesy of Sofia Rei

“As the Argentine singer Sofía Rei led her multinational band,” remarks Phil Lutz in The New York Times, “the passion and clarity with which she assayed a tricky mix of South American rhythms and jazz-inflected harmonies made clear why she has been embraced by New York City audiences from Carnegie Hall to the hippest downtown haunts.”

Growing up in Argentina, Sofía moved to the United States after completing her undergraduate studies at the National Conservatory of Music in Buenos Aires.  Since earning her Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory, she has worked with Bobby McFerrin, Maria Schneider, John Zorn, Guillermo Klein, Lionel Loueke, Geoffrey Keezer, and many others.

Sofía has released two critically acclaimed albums. Her debut release, Ojalá, which features compositions in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, was selected as on of the Top 10 Albums of 2006 by the Jazz Journalists Association (JJA). In 2010, Sofía followed with her sophmore effort, Sube Azul (World Village/Harmonia Mundi), which distills insights gained through performing progressive jazz into those gleaned through her upbringing in the “folkloric traditions of Argentina and its regional neighbors (Peru, Colombia, Uruguay).” The album was recognized with an Independent Music Award in the World Beat category.

In addition to her busy performance schedule, Sofía also teaches at Berklee College of Music. She recently taught Conan O’Brien how to drink Mate.

Sofía has been performing at The Gallery as a leader since 2008, and was one of the vocalists we commissioned in our 2009-10 “New Voices” series. We look forward to presenting her quartet, which is comprised of the guitarist Eric Kurimski, the bassist Jorge Roeder, and the percussionist Yayo Serka, this Friday night.

Watch Sofía performing “La Gallera” at Lincoln Center Out of Doors:

Photo by Alice Zulkarnain

“The pianist John Escreet seems to be thinking about where jazz can go next,” writes Ben Ratliff in The New York Times. John Fordham of The Guardian agrees: “Escreet has quickly matured into one of the most original exponents of that highly disciplined, melodically and rhythmically intricate contemporary jazz style.”

Since the British-born pianist moved to New York in 2006, he has released three acclaimed albums, and cut his teeth in the bands of Antonio Sanchez, Ambrose Akinmusire, Adam Rogers, Tyshawn Sorey, and several others.

As we’ve mentioned previously, we were taken with John’s playing when he first appeared here as a sideperson with the saxophonist David Binney. We invited him back shortly thereafter to celebrate the release of his first album, Consequences (Posi-Tone), on our stage, and he has performed here on numerous other memorable occasions since then. One of these was the debut concert of his trio, featuring the bassist John Hébert and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey, which will return to The Gallery this Saturday. The performance will precede a short tour in Europe next month, and the group will be test driving some brand new music.

We posed a few questions to the pianist ahead of his upcoming performance, which he graciously answered. Without further ado, John Escreet speaks:


 

Tell us about your relationship to John Hébert and Tyshawn Sorey. When did you meet them? In what other contexts have you performed together? What motivated you to select them for this group?

I met and began playing with Tyshawn around five years ago. He first began performing in my regular working group, and is also featured on my debut album “Consequences” from back in 2008. I’m also in a few of his various ensembles, and on his recent album “Oblique – I”. We’ve played together on so many occasions over the years. He’s perhaps the most remarkable musician I know, and definitely one of the musicians I feel the most liberated with when playing music.

Tyshawn and I played together slightly less frequently while he was earning his Masters degree at Wesleyan University for a couple of years, and I was looking for an opportunity to resume working regularly with him again. I had started to think about forming a trio; it was the perfect opportunity. I had played with John on one or two occasions before forming the trio, but had been aware of his playing for several years due to his association with some of my favorite pianists like Andrew Hill and Fred Hersch. I was fascinated with his approach to music-making, and with his very unique and personal approach to playing the bass. His playing is somehow loose and accurate at the same time. He has incredible ears, not to mention amazing technical facility on his instrument. John and Tyshawn had not really performed much together in the past, but I thought they would be perfect together to realize my vision for the trio, and I was right.

Describe the music: What are your goals as a composer/bandleader for this trio? Are there any particular processes or frameworks you employ in composing for this group? To what extent do you take into account your collaborators’ personalities and input in the compositional process?

The music in this group varies from elaborate, through-composed works of mine, to completely open and improvised pieces, and everything in between. Often the lines get blurred between these two “approaches” which is when the music really starts to get interesting, in my opinion. The benefit of having musicians like John and Tyshawn in the group is that the scope of what they can both do is so vast, and encompasses so much. As a result, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to the music. They are both unique stylists on their instruments, as well as fully-formed conceptualists. They are both incredible improvisers as well as superb readers. They can deal with any music I put in front of them, and can develop it in ways I would not have thought of. Sometimes I do take into account their musical personalities when composing for the group, but in all honesty their personalities are so strong that they immediately own whatever they are playing anyway, whether it was written specifically for them or not.

Talk about your history with and relationship to The Jazz Gallery: When did you start coming here to listen? to perform?

I started frequenting the Jazz Gallery as a listener pretty much as soon as I moved to New York in 2006, as it was the venue with the most interesting music that I wanted to hear. I have seen so many inspiring concerts there over the years. I first performed there in 2007 with David Binney’s big band, and made my debut there as a leader in 2008 in celebration of my first album, “Consequences”. Since then, I’ve played at the Gallery many times as both a leader and as a sideperson. it’s definitely my favorite place to perform in New York, as well as to listen to music.


 

Listen to an early studio session from the trio courtesy of WBGO.

Eli Degibri photo by Orit Pnini // Kevin Hays photo via Dazzle

Herbie Hancock noticed Eli Degibiri early. In 1999, the venerable pianist selected the then-unknown saxophonist to perform internationally with his group, citing Eli’s “natural ability toward effective teamwork, focus, willingness to listen, and eagerness to learn, the caliber of which is a rare find in jazz today.” Hancock saw potential: “Eli’s music treads uncharted waters…he has the potential to be a formidable force in the evolution of jazz.”

In the last decade, Eli has recorded five albums as a leader, and toured with veterans such as Al Foster, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Eric Reed and the Mingus Big Band. “Don’t miss him,” cautions Ben Ratliff in The New York Times, “He is a very modern improviser, super-artful; his creations are spiky and fractured, but immaculately sculptured.”

Kevin Hays has known Brad Mehldau for years; their relationship dates back to high school. On the subject of Hays, his fellow pianist exclaims, “Stellar! Kevin Hays is a true original. Everything he plays has a deep intelligence and swing.” The two artists recently recorded together for the Nonesuch imprint, which is among the latest of Kevin’s dozen releases as a leader or co-leader on labels such as Blue Note, Artist Share, and Steeplechase. Kevin is also highly in-demand as a sideperson, having performed and/or recorded with the likes of Eddie Henderson, Nicholas Payton, Jack DeJohnette, and John Scofield, who proclaims, “[Kevin]’s all-encompassing; phenomenally so!”

We’ve been presenting both Eli and Kevin’s groups intermittently since 2002, and we look forward to the second performance by the duo at The Gallery this Thursday, April 26th. This show will launch a short tour for the pair, which also includes stops at An die Musik LIVE (Baltimore), Dazzle (Denver), and SFJAZZ’s Israeli JazzFest (San Francisco).

You can stream tracks from One Little Song courtesy of our friends at SFJAZZ (the audio player is on the right towards the bottom).

Photos by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

Special promotion: We are delighted to offer a limited number of FREE tickets to hear Rudresh Mahanthappa on Saturday night at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. To receive yours, purchase tickets online to hear Linda Oh at The Jazz Gallery this  Friday night. Then, email deborah@jazzgallery.org to receive an equal number of tickets for the Saturday night Zankel performance. But HURRY! Only a limited number of tickets remain.

NOTE: Our weekly mailing incorrectly stated that Rudresh’s performance would be held on Friday night, but it is in fact on Saturday; we apologize for the confusion.


 

We’re very excited for the next installment in our 2012 Residency Commissions series, “Leading From the Bass,” on Friday and Saturday.

Linda Oh will be presenting an incredible evening of work that she has been carefully refining over the course of this residency. There will be eight musicians on our stage: you’ll hear the Sirius String Quartet, alongside the saxophonist Greg Ward, the pianist Sam Harris, and the drummer Ted Poor (and Linda of course, on bass). Read more about this performance, including an in depth interview with Linda.

Tickets for both Friday and Saturday evening are still available and can be reserved here.