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Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Pianist Randy Ingram, whose latest album Sky/Lift (Sunnyside) was released last month, had this to share about the origin of the album title:

I was in upstate New York teaching at the state university in Oneonta over the summer. It’s beautiful up there and the sky is incredibly big and open. I was out for a run one morning and the idea of “Sky Lift” sort of hit me. But then I realized I wanted a separation between the two words, just visually, so the slash looked good and it also gave the idea of two sources of thought—the idea of moving upward and just the expanse of sky.

We spoke with Randy last month prior to his show, which was postponed due to inclement weather. He will be performing this Wednesday, March 19th, with his quartet to celebrate the release of his newest album; click here to read our conversation with Randy.

Randy Ingram celebrates the release of Sky/Lift (Sunnyside) at The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, March 19th. The group features Randy Ingram on piano, Mike Moreno on guitar, Matt Clohesy on bass, and Jochen Rueckert on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m., $15 general admission ($10 for members) for the first set, $10 general admission ($5 for members) for the second set. Purchase tickets here.

Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein

Coming off both Grammy and JUNO nominations for their album Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam), Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society returns to The Jazz Gallery this weekend for two very special nights of performances—their last before the Newport Jazz Festival this August.

Having toured with the music from Brooklyn Babylon extensively this past year, it seems that it’s time for the Secret Society to move onto new things. To hear a bit about what the group is planning on playing this weekend and about new projects in the works, we caught up with composer, conductor, and ringleader Darcy James Argue at a coffee shop in Brooklyn.

The Jazz Gallery: What are you planning on playing this weekend? Stuff from Brooklyn Babylon? Older material? New material that you’ve been working on?

Darcy James Argue: It’s a mix of stuff. There’s some recently commissioned material that we haven’t recorded yet that we’ve started playing—three commissions from various groups.

There’s one for the West Point Jazz Knights, called “Codebreaker.” It was written in honor of Alan Turing’s 100th birthday, so that was something where I had to think about. “Okay, I’m writing a piece for the West Point Military Band. How do I feel about that?” But when I realized that it would be Alan Turing’s 100th birthday, I felt that it would be a really appropriate thing because he’s someone I’ve always had incredible admiration for as the father of modern computer science—who did more than any other civilian to win World War II and then of course was horribly mistreated by his own government after the war, and hounded into suicide for being gay. We played it last time we were at The Jazz Gallery, but probably most people still haven’t heard it because we haven’t recorded it.

There’s a piece, “Last Waltz for Levon,” which we’ve been also playing a fair bit. I started out thinking that I was actually going to write something for Dave Brubeck. I kind of did what his tune “The Duke” does, which is go through all twelve chromatic bass notes during the first A section, so I started out doing that, but then it kind of became this country waltz. You never know where a piece can take you, and this one took me much more into The Band’s musical territory, so it became a tribute to the great Levon Helm. That’s something I wrote for the Danish Radio Big Band, then adapted for Secret Society.

The third recent tribute was commissioned by the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, which is a Portuguese big band. They were having a festival of international jazz composers and were commissioning new work from each of them. They’ve just recorded it, so they’re going to put out this disk of pieces by myself and Ohad Talmor and Steven Bernstein and Forian Ross—all these great North American and European-based composers. My piece, called “All In,” became a tribute to the late trumpeter Laurie Frink. Laurie passed in the middle of my composing this piece. Her departure left a really big void: she played on Secret Society’s first record, she was with us when we played Newport for the first time. There are many people in the band who were close to her and were students of hers; it was just an overwhelming loss. When I heard about that, it just started to influence how I was writing the piece, and at the end of it I sort of thought, “Well, I think this might work as a tribute to Laurie.” (more…)

Noah Baerman

Photo courtesy of the artist

This Thursday, March 13th, we invite you to join composer/pianist Noah Baerman and the Jazz Samaritan Alliance in celebration of Baerman’s new album Ripples (Lemel Music Productions). While Thursday’s bill certainly calls for festivity, it also encourages a time for reflection. For Baerman, music is a vehicle for societal advancement:

“I feel a responsibility to use my music in service of the issues that matter to me, while those issues add an important layer of substance to the music itself. At this point I scarcely know how to separate my art from my commitment to love, understanding and healing.”

On a quest to make “message music”, Noah’s struggles with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and his experiences as a foster parent have helped crystallize his approach to the art form.

Based out of Connecticut, Baerman grew his musical legs under the mentorship of Kenny Barron at Rutgers University and, with the release of Ripples, has now produced nine albums as a bandleader. Featuring jazz legends Ron Carter and Ben Riley, Baerman’s 2003 release Patch Kit was inspired by his struggles with EDS, an incurable connective tissue disorder that almost caused him to give up the piano, and helped raise awareness and funds for the disorder. Awarded a “New Works” grant from Chamber Music America/Doris Duke Foundation in 2008, Noah produced “Know Thyself,” an epic 65 minute suite for septet that was premiered at both Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts and here at The Jazz Gallery. A jack of many trades, Baerman has also gained significant recognition as an educator for his work as the Director of the Wesleyan University Jazz Ensemble and the nine instructional books that he authored through the Alfred Publishing Company. You will also notice his work as the Artistic Director of Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI), an organization founded by Baerman in 2012 to explore and deepen connections between music and social causes. Also in the realm of activism is Baerman’s group, the Jazz Samaritan Alliance, which is a collective of accomplished artists working to make socially conscious music.

As the first album released in conjunction with RMI,  Ripples pays homage to Noah’s late aunt Margie Pozefsky for her philanthropy, activism, and the “ripple” effect that she had on others. As Baerman points out:

“The songs presented here reflect this spirit of striving for a better, kinder world and the need to use whatever we do, however humble it may seem, to create these positive ripples.”

The record features performances by the Jazz Samaritan Alliance, Noah’s trio of 10 years, and special guests including Linda Oh and Kenny Barron. A full overview can be found here.

In this clip, Baerman expounds on the new album:

(more…)

Photo via http://benvangelder.com

Photo via http://benvangelder.com

This Friday and Saturday, March 7th and 8th, saxophonist-composer Ben van Gelder will be bringing two bands to The Jazz Gallery. On Friday, he’ll be performing quartet without chordal accompaniment, which will feature Kyle Wilson on tenor saxophone, Joe Sanders on bass, and Craig Weinrib on drums; on Saturday, he’ll be performing with his quintet, which features some of the usual suspects from ongoing collaborations: Sam Harris on piano, Peter Schlamb on vibes, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Craig Weinrib again on drums.

Ben led his quartet on our stage back in October, and we spoke a bit about his musical interests and the formative influences on his ever-developing musical persona. On his own website, Ben reflected on his past year in music and mentioned the work that’s gone into the music that you’ll be hearing this weekend:

I’m currently working on writing music for a chord-less quartet. I played a few shows over the past months featuring either Ambrose Akinmusire or Mark Turner. These concerts felt natural and effortless. (more…)

Photo by Carlos Pericás // www.carlospericas.net

Photo by Carlos Pericás // www.carlospericas.net

Throughout the history of jazz, musicians have taken on the sounds and forms of popular music and twisted them into a means of their own artistic expression. Beboppers took tunes from movies and musicals and laid new melodies and frenetic solos on top of them. Miles Davis drew from Sly Stone’s funky beats and electric wall of sound, creating a fusion of styles that was visceral and formally abstract. And because of groups like the Brad Mehldau Trio and the Bad Plus, it’s no longer a novelty to hear a jazz cover of a song by the likes Radiohead or Björk.

Like these jazz innovators, saxophonist Aaron Burnett is making music that synthesizes improvisation with popular forms—in his case, electronic styles like house and drum & bass. On Thursday evening, Burnett will bring his “Big Machine” to The Jazz Gallery, presenting music that defies simple categorization: abstract improvisation living within tightly wrought compositions, powered by the rhythms of a dance club. It’s a unique and intoxicating blend, and an experience not to be missed. We caught up with Aaron last weekend by phone to talk about how he created his distinct style and what he has planned for Thursday evening.

The Jazz Gallery: You incorporate a lot of different sounds and rhythms from electronic genres like drum & bass and dub to a degree that few other jazz musicians really have. How did you get started working with these styles? 

Aaron Burnett: When I was 18 or 19, I got asked to play saxophone with drum & bass DJs in North Carolina. They paid me a bunch of money and they were like, “Listen. Come and play. We want to hear what you can do over our tracks.” That’s where it really started.

I started playing with DJs and eventually I started understanding the music and incorporating it into my own music.

TJG: What about these electronic styles and your experiences drew you in and made you want to work with them more?

AB: I went to my first underground electronic party when I was 19. It really impressed me. I was like, “What is this music, this drum & bass?” I had never heard this before. After a while, I started going to see big DJs; I started playing with DJs. I eventually started playing at house clubs, doing all different kinds of stuff.

In terms of the saxophone, I started off playing little melodies over the beats, but then I started getting into higher technical things. On saxophone, you can play up to like six notes at once, so I started imitating the sounds of synth leads. I was getting the same sounds that these producers were getting so they kept hiring me. I learned how to do all of that by ear. (more…)