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Photo by Alice Zulkarnain

Photo by Alice Zulkarnain

While bassist and DJ Zack Lober has called New York home for almost a decade, he’s a third-generation native of Montreal, Canada. Lober’s Zaida (Yiddish for “grandfather”), Hyman Herman, immigrated to Montreal as a child with his family and eventually built a career in Montreal as a drummer and bandleader, working with many musicians who would go on to become jazz legends.

As Lober grew up and became a professional musician himself, he became more and more interested in searching for his familiar musical origins through his Zaida’s stories. Out of these old stories comes The Ancestry Project, a multimedia work that takes listeners on a journey through Lober’s family history. Featuring recorded interviews, visual projections, turntables, and a crack band of Lober’s close associates, The Ancestry Project is an ambitious and deeply moving work that synthesizes Lober’s huge range of musical activities.

The Jazz Gallery is very excited to present this project on Thursday, May 15th, 2014. We caught up with Zack by phone to talk about his grandfather and how he made the different pieces of The Ancestry Project fit together.

The Jazz Gallery: Can you start by telling us a bit about your Zaida and his story?

Zack Lober: My Zaida was born in Poland and his family emigrated from Poland, post-World War I. My Zaida was two years old when they left. This was around the time when there were a lot of pogroms happening against the Jewish people. My family was very marginalized in the town where they were living. My great-grandfather had the wherewithal to get out of there before something worse happened, and it inevitably did.  His family settled eventually in Montreal.

My great-grandfather was a klezmer violinist, and when he moved to Montreal he kept working as a performing musician. He also got involved with teaching and instrument repairs, sort of all things musical. From there, some of his children also grew up to be musicians. My grandfather started out on drums and he had a brother who played bass whose name was Benny. So my Zaida started playing gigs as a drummer and eventually formed his own band that he led for a couple of decades in Montreal. He mostly played commercial music, but he hired lots of great musicians at the time, like Paul Bley when he was 13 years old, and Maynard Ferguson, and Oscar Peterson.

I only learned about him much later on. Music sort of skipped a generation with my family; my mother and father don’t have a connection with music, and I got into it on my own. Once I already started working professionally, my grandfather would occasionally talk about how he’d done this and that, and I’d be like, “What do you mean you hired Paul Bley!?” He was always very modest and nonchalant about it, and he didn’t really talk about it until I started asking him questions, which eventually led to The Ancestry Project.

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Photo via www.kevinhays.com

Photo via www.kevinhays.com

Pianist Kevin Hays and drummer Bill Stewart have been playing together for quite some time. Having performed together in numerous settings, including in the bands of Chris Potter and Peter Bernstein, the pair have nurtured a longstanding musical relationship that’s been a product of both extensive performing and brilliant chemistry. In a 2008 JazzTimes profile, Hays said the following of Stewart:

“The amazing thing to me about Bill,” says Hays, who first called Stewart for a no-pay gig at a sushi restaurant, “is that he had that Bill-ness from the beginning. You could hear the Tony, you could hear the Roy, but he really put it together in his own way.”

And in a 2010 JazzTruth interview with pianist and blogger George Colligan, Hays said,

“…lately I’ve been playing with Bill Stewart so much…I’m so used to Bill that it’s weird.”

There’s no doubt that this duo is predicated on a deeply shared sense of trust, and their sets this Saturday should promise an intimate setting for exploration and exchange.

If you’d like to hear more of their music, we recommended some favorite videos featuring Stewart and Hays when we wrote about them last in September.

Drummer Bill Stewart and pianist Kevin Hays perform at The Jazz Gallery on Saturday, May 10th, 2014. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. $22 general admission and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here. 

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

The English-born pianist John Escreet turns 30 this year, but since moving to New York in 2008, he has already released five albums as a leader with musical collaborators such as Dave Binney, Matt Brewer, and Ambrose Akinmusire. In less than a week, Escreet will release his sixth album, Sound, Space and Structures (Sunnyside), on May 13th, 2014. His latest release features his working trio with bassist John Hébert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey as its core, plus the legendary English saxophonist and sound explorer Evan Parker. Having just turned 70 last month, Parker shows no signs of slowing down, and his powerful, sensitive playing continues to surprise and astonish. In the liner notes to Sound, Space and Structures, Escreet writes:

Evan is one of the most unique voices on any instrument, a pioneer of the saxophone and a particular inspiration to me, being from the UK. I had tried to make this project happen previously, but but people’s schedules had not allowed for it. Then in September 2013, Evan came to New York to curate the program at The Stone for a couple of weeks and invited us to join him to perform one night. I suggested that as he was in town for a couple of weeks that we make a studio recording following our performance, and that’s how this album came to be.

This Friday’s performance will feature a slightly different ensemble, which will include Escreet on piano and Sorey on bass, plus Amir ElSaffar on trumpet and Francois Moutin on bass. We last interviewed Escreet back in April of 2012, which can be found here. We’re pleased to bring Escreet back to our stage to present more original music, and we should note that Escreet will be performing on our stage every night next week: next Thursday, he will appear with Zack Lober: The Ancestry Project, and on Friday and Saturday, he will perform with Greg Ward as part of The Jazz Gallery Residency/Commission 2013-14.

The John Escreet Quartet performs at The Jazz Gallery on Friday, May 9th, 2014. The band features Escreet on piano, Amir ElSaffar on trumpet, Francois Moutin on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. $22 general admission and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here. 

Stranahan Zaleski Rosato on a recent trip to Thailand, courtesy of Glenn Zaleski

Stranahan Zaleski Rosato on a recent trip to Thailand, courtesy of Glenn Zaleski

Now into its fourth year, Stranahan Zaleski Rosato has been actively honing its ensemble sound and refining its repertoire over the course of two albums, 2011’s Anticipation and 2013’s Limitless, and numerous tours around the world.

We’ve written about this trio a number of times on this blog, including an introduction after the release of their début album, an exclusive stream of the title track of their sophomore effort, and a sampling of some choice videos of the band. We hope that you’ll join us on Thursday as we follow this band’s evolution and self-transformation in real time.

Stranahan Zaleski Rosato performs at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, May 8th, 2014, with Colin Stranahan (drums), Glenn Zaleski (piano), and Rick Rosato (bass). Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. The first set is $15 general admission ($10 for members); the second set is $10 general admission ($5 for members). Purchase tickets here.

Photos courtesy of Lezlie Harrison and Dale Fitzgerald

Photos courtesy of Lezlie Harrison and Dale Fitzgerald

Next Monday, May 12th, 2014, The Jazz Gallery will honor several very special figures at a gala event at The Cabanas in the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. Among those honored will be Dale Fitzgerald, Lezlie Harrison, and Roy Hargrove, the three original cofounders of The Jazz Gallery. We spoke with Dale and Lezlie about some of their memories looking back on the nearly two decade-long existence of the Gallery, and we hope that you’ll join us next Monday for this very special event, which will feature many artists in The Jazz Gallery family,

The Jazz Gallery: Could you talk a bit about how The Jazz Gallery came about?

Dale Fitzgerald: February 1992 was when I first signed a lease on that space [290 Hudson Street], and I signed it at the time as a representative of the business that I ran with Roy [Hargrove]. Moving ahead to August of 1995 when we opened as The Jazz Gallery, an international jazz cultural center, the search that I originally went on for that space was on behalf of Roy, who needed a place to live in because he was having problems with a series of landlords, where he’d be playing his horn at inappropriate hours of the day and night.

He needed a place where he could live where it wouldn’t be a problem, so this loft at 290 Hudson Street presented itself as a possibility. The problem with the loft space was that it was a rather chance-y thing where the landlords of the building had applied for a variance that would allow residential use, but they still hadn’t gotten confirmation that they could have residential use. They knew that we were looking for Roy to live there, so after we signed the lease it turned out their application for a variation had been denied.

We already had a plan B and it’s something that Lezlie and I had already talked about, and Roy was a part of it. I should say that any step along the way all three of us were aware that we needed a plan B. Roy would still need another place to live other than the one he had, but we would be able to use that for Roy’s rehearsal space, especially since we were already working with the idea of Roy having a big band.

A lot of people, depending on who you ask, will say, “Oh, it was first used for Roy Hargrove’s big band.”That’s true to a point: it was the first use of it by lots of people—people who were in his very first big band—but The Jazz Gallery opened in August of 1995 and its first exhibit was part of the Greenwich Village Jazz Festival [Produced by James Browne, MC of the Gala event], Roy Hargrove’s big band had its inaugural appearance at Washington Square Park as part of that same festival, prepared largely by rehearsals at The Jazz Gallery, which opened at the same time.

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