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Photo courtesy of Dan Tepfer

Editor’s note: We’re pleased to present our first guest post for Jazz Speaks. Pianist Dan Tepfer, who has worked with Lee Konitz for a number of years and will be appearing with Konitz’s quartet tonight, graciously agreed to write an introduction for this never-before-published interview, which Dan conducted before an audience in December, 2012. In addition to being fans of his music, we’re also fans of Dan’s blog, which we highly recommend. Read it here.

Introduction, by Dan Tepfer

Lee Konitz will be turning 87 in October, and his long and distinguished career as one of the most singular saxophonists in jazz needs no introduction (but if you need one, it’s here). He is known in particular for his intense focus on improvisational integrity, a desire for each musical choice to reflect the present moment as much as possible instead of a pre-made plan or habit.

It’s easy to overlook how radical this position is. In many other styles of music, from classical to pop, the goal in live performance is the opposite: to reproduce a carefully thought-out plan as faithfully as possible. Even in jazz, it’s not uncommon for groups to take a hybrid approach where a good portion of the material, even outside of written sections, is predetermined. Despite all this, Lee has somehow stubbornly insisted on showing up to his concerts prepared to be unprepared, and has (mostly) delighted audiences in doing so.

In my seven years of playing with Lee in diverse contexts I’ve been able to observe his commitment to the moment firsthand, particularly in our duo playing. One direct result of his approach is that his music is rarely boring; audiences seem to intuitively understand that something unique is going on; they pay attention in the way that people do when they genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next.

And yet it’s also become clear to me that our audience doesn’t always necessarily understand what’s at stake when we perform. In his commitment to true improvisation, Lee isn’t taking the easy road. Failure is very much an option. And success, in the form of authentic engagement with the truth of the moment, may not sound like success to a listener used to being wowed by virtuosic effects. (more…)

Catharsis (l-r): Jorge Roeder, Mike Rodriguez, Ryan Keberle, Eric Doob. Via www.ryankeberle.com

Catharsis (l-r): Jorge Roeder, Mike Rodriguez, Ryan Keberle, Eric Doob. Via www.ryankeberle.com

As usual, Ryan Keberle is having a busy year. When not touring with a who’s who of New York big bands, from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society to the Ryan Truesdell Gil Evans Project, the versatile trombonist has been working on a new record with Catharsis, his longtime pianoless quartet. Titled Into the Zone, the album is due out on September 30 on Greenleaf Music. The record’s mix of standard tunes and long-form originals might be typical for Keberle, but few other chordless ensembles are as meticulously arranged or have influences as widespread; the new album draws from Keberle’s rainbow of career experiences, with a Gil Evans tune he picked up on the Ryan Truesdell tour, a Uruguayan groove inspired by his time in Latin bands, and a particularly sprawling composition that recalls Keberle’s most idiosyncratic employer, Sufjan Stevens.

The record’s title reflects a concept that Keberle calls “elusively familiar”: a creatively flowing state of mind unfettered by self-critique. In the liner notes, Keberle reflects on his own pursuit of “The Zone”:

I’ve found that the key to success, aside from a regular practice regimen, is to accept one’s musical strengths and weaknesses while striving for honest, authentic, and personal musical output.  Another great source of insight on this topic has come from playing with other improvisers who have mastered such mindful creativity.

As on the trombonist’s last album, Into the Zone features vocalist Camila Meza, an accomplished guitarist and songwriter in her own right. Meza and the rest of the band (trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Eric Doob) will appear with Keberle this weekend at the Gallery.

In February, we interviewed Keberle and discussed his composition process and why he likes leading ensembles with unusual instrumentation. You can read that interview here, and Keberle’s full liner notes for Into the Zone are available on his website.

Ryan Keberle and Catharsis perform this Saturday, August 2nd, at The Jazz Gallery. The performance features Keberle on trombone, Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Jorge Roeder on bass, Eric Doob on drums, plus special guest Camila Meza on voice. Sets are at 9 and 11 pm. $22 general admission, $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.

Photo by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

Photo by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

Bassist Matt Brewer is a frequent presence on The Jazz Gallery stage, both as a bandleader and a sideman. In 2012 he was one of four bassists selected for the Gallery’s “Leading from the Bass” Residency Commission series, where he premiered pieces written for sextet. (You can read our posts about Brewer’s 2012 residency, and his unique approach to composition, here.) He last appeared at the Gallery as recently as July 18th, playing with Roman Filiu, one of this year’s resident composers/saxophonists, and on Thursday, August 21st, he will be featured in the first of two trios that pianist Aaron Parks is bringing to the Gallery. But first, Brewer will lead his own quintet this Friday, August 1st.

Brewer is one of the most in-demand modern jazz bassists in New York City. Since moving to New York in 2001, he’s built an impressive and enviable body of work. His recording credits include critically acclaimed albums by Shane Endsley, John Escreet, Steve Lehman, Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Antonio Sanchez, and he has performed with Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, and David Sánchez, among many others. He serves as a faculty member at The New School and at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. In a respectable addition to an already packed resume, he placed third in the Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition in 2009.

Though he does not have a recording credit as a bandleader, Brewer can frequently be heard headlining his own quintet (he’s downsized his group since 2012), and we’re hoping that he’s planning on cutting an album soon. On Friday, he will be joined by Greg Osby on alto saxophone, Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Though he often changes his supporting cast, Brewer always chooses musicians with whom he has deep roots. As well as being veterans of his quintet, Stephens and Weinrib played last month alongside Brewer in Filiu’s band. Lund and Brewer are regular presences in each other’s groups. And the much-lauded Osby was one of Brewer’s first employers after the young bassist left Julliard, having completed only two years there. This last connection should make for an especially exciting rapport.

It’s possible that on Friday we’ll hear some of the sextet pieces written during Brewer’s 2012 residency, adapted for this ensemble. Regardless of the provenance of the compositions, the music will undoubtedly be fresh, as Brewer’s driving intellect and keen judgment are among his most valued assets.

The Matt Brewer Quintet performs this Friday, August 1st, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The band features Brewer on bass, Greg Osby on alto saxophone, Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 pm. $22 general admission, $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.

Photo via www.atlasdechamplain.com

Photo via www.atlasdechamplain.com

On Wednesday, July 30th, 2014, The Jazz Gallery is proud to present legendary singer Jon Hendricks for a very special performance. Hendricks is one of the most influential vocalists in the history of jazz and has been duly recognized with an NEA Jazz Master honor, multiple Grammys, an Emmy, a Peabody, and even a French Legion of Honor award.

Hendricks is perhaps best known for popularizing the technique known as vocalese, which is the setting of lyrics to an established jazz instrumental. Vocalese comes in many forms, and Hendricks explored all of them. With partners Dave Lambert and Annie Ross in the pioneering vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Hendricks would write lyrics to whole big band compositions, including those of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. On their 1957 album Sing a Song of Basie, the group used overdubbing to turn the Count’s tunes into choral numbers both virtuosic and witty.

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Photo by Jason Fulford, via www.cstrecords.com

Photo by Jason Fulford, via www.cstrecords.com

When asked about her motivations to create art, Chicago-born alto saxophonist Matana Roberts said:

My belief in the unbelievable, my desire to make sense of the non-sensical, and my urge to give voice to the voiceless through the type of work I make…. The positive wave of change/hope/faith I continue to see art give to the world deeply drives me as well. There is so much astounding possibility in creativity. 

Matana has appeared on our stage numerous times over the years, most recently in October to celebrate the release of the second installment in her COIN COIN project, an ongoing music cycle suffused with “Americana research, ancestral memory, imaginative storytelling, instrumental improvisation and vocal performance, which includes opera alternating with screams of joy.”

In April, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced that Matana would be part of the inaugural class of Doris Duke Impact Award recipients, each of whom will be awarded $80,000 to pursue creative work. Other members of this inaugural class of Impact Award recipients included Muhal Richard Abrams, Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Coleman, Ben Monder, Aruán Ortiz, and Jen Shyu.

We’re pleased to welcome Matana back to our stage as she convenes ANTHEM, a quartet featuring guitarist Liberty Ellman, Kevin Tkacz on bass, and Ches Smith on drums. Hear more of her music on her SoundCloud page and on YouTube, including her most recent performance at The Jazz Gallery for Coin Coin.

Matana Roberts’s ANTHEM performs this Saturday, July 26th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. ANTHEM features Roberts on alto saxophone, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Kevin Tkacz on bass, and Ches Smith on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. $22 general admission and $10 for Members, and free for SummerPass HoldersPurchase tickets here.