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Photo by Vincent Soyez, via www.jamiebaum.com

Photo by Vincent Soyez, via www.jamiebaum.com

She may be a consistent presence in DownBeat Critics polls, but to call Jamie Baum a jazz flutist is extremely limiting. Her extensive output has included collaborations with Dave Douglas and Kenny Werner as well as forays into Latin and new music, and her latest album, In This Life (Sunnyside), finds its roots in South Asia and the music of the late Pakistani Qawwali vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn. The album features her “Septet +,” the latest iteration of her ever-expanding large ensemble, which features freewheeling playing from trumpeter Amir Elsaffar, guitarist Brad Shepik, and French hornist Chris Kormer, among others. Although the group stretches out and the album is steeped in the avant-garde, In This Life retains an anthemic melodicism rooted in the folk music from which it’s drawn.

Baum’s “little big band” last came to the Gallery in February, fresh off the release of In This Life (our preview of that show has more info on Baum, including an excerpt from an interview with NPR). The band’s Friday performance will likely showcase some of that material, but you can expect more chances to be taken with the now lived-in compositions. For a taste of what the band’s doing these days, check out this footage from the this year’s NYC Winter Jazzfest, which features the sprawling “Monkeys of Gokarna Forest” as well as Baum’s true-to-life story of how the piece got its name.

The Jamie Baum Septet + performs this Friday, October 24th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The band features Baum on flutes, Amir Elsaffar on trumpet, Douglas Yates on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Chris Komer on French horn, Brad Shepik on guitar, John Escreet on piano, Zack Lober on bass, and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., and tickets are $22.00 ($12.00 for Members). Purchase tickets here.

dalvinyard via Flickr

Photo by Lucy Wood (dalvinyard) via Flickr

Drummer and composer Tyshawn Sorey has been a regular presence at The Jazz Gallery for more than a decade as a sideman, a member of collaborative ensembles, and a leader in his own right. Both his drumming and his compositions encompass a huge range of sounds and moods, from ecstatic and frenetic rhythms to sparse meditations.

This weekend marks a special occasion for Sorey. Not only is he taking up residency at the Gallery for a whole weekend’s worth of shows, but he is also celebrating the release of his newest album as a leader, Alloy (Pi Recordings). Featuring Cory Smythe on piano and Chris Tordini on bass, the record showcases the full range of Sorey’s musical personality and prowess. We caught up with him by phone to discuss his musical aesthetic and the band’s collaborative performance process:

The Jazz Gallery: One of the notable things about the music on your record is that all of it is through-composed to one degree or another. How do you conceive of integrating improvisation into these larger preconceived structures?

Tyshawn Sorey: I might go out on a limb by saying this, but I don’t really see those two worlds as very distinct from one another. I’ve always thought of improvisation as spontaneous composition, really. What each of these pieces defines is the space in which spontaneous composition can happen.

As long as it’s functioning within the same language, the piece as a whole can maintain its identity. That’s essentially what I aim to do in all of my works that contain improvisation. The line between what’s improvised and what’s composed is completely obliterated.

While each piece has its own identity, it’s also malleable. Depending on the venue and depending on the performance dynamic, the piece can come out differently every time we play it. Before every concert, Chris, Cory, and I will meet an hour or hour and a half in advance to run down a different form, so each performance of the piece is different. We’re negotiating areas where we’re on the page and then go off the page, and we figure out alternative plans to go through the form. The performances on the record are condensed versions of those pieces.

On “Returns,” the first piece on the record, the piece takes about 17 minutes in recorded form, but can take 40 minutes when we’re playing it live. But even when we stretch, the character of the materials themselves remain strong—hence the title, Alloy.

TJG: How much latitude do you give to Chris and Cory in terms of letting them push pieces in different directions that you may or may not have intended? Would this fundamentally change the identity of the piece?

TS: I definitely do have that flexibility when it comes to performance. I try not to say too much in terms of directing where the improvisations go because Chris and Cory have had a lot of experience playing my music. They already have a good idea of what the concept is in each piece. When we get together to rehearse, we try not to improvise at all, because I want to be surprised by what happens in performance.

Even though the music is through-composed and suggests certain directions, performers can push against it and make it a different thing. The performers are assigned some sort of “job” in the piece, but they can run with it or push against it. I try to allow for as much individual freedom as possible. It always works when playing with these guys, no matter what they do, so that’s why I keep playing with them.

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Photo via nicksandersmusic.com

Photo via nicksandersmusic.com

New York-based pianist Nick Sanders wrote a few words about the music he’ll be presenting this Thursday, October 16th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. Check out this post as well as this recent blog post by Doug Ramsey at Rifftides to learn more about Sanders and his music: 

Since moving to New York in November of 2012, I’ve had the chance to play a lot of different music and meet some amazing musicians. My main focus has been working with my piano trio, which has been together for about three years. We released our debut album, Nameless Neighbors, on Sunnyside Records in the summer of 2013 and recently just recorded our second album for Sunnyside, which will be released in early 2015. Fred Hersch produced both albums.

I was recently at the Amiens Jazz Festival in France playing a series of solo piano shows, which made me think differently about how to approach my music outside of the piano trio setting. I decided that I would present two projects I’ve been developing independently from my piano trio for these two sets at the Gallery.

The first set at 8 p.m. will feature standards performed duo with saxophonist Logan Strosahl. Logan and I began playing together when we were at The New England Conservatory, and he was recently signed to Sunnyside Records and will be releasing his own album in the middle of next year, which I am pleased to be a part of. In terms of our influences, I honestly cannot think of a specific duo that has directly influenced us, but we influence each other by just playing a lot together and talking about specific arrangements or tunes that we both enjoy.We’ve also recently started a YouTube channel, where we usually post a new video every week and invite listeners to make comments and requests.

The second set at 10 p.m. is a bass-less trio with tenor saxophonist Sam Decker and drummer Connor Baker. After coming back from a series of solo piano concerts in France, I realized how fun it is to have complete control of the bass as the pianist; Sam and Connor also have an easier time navigating the music, and it gives a different feeling from the “normal” rhythm section setup.

Like Logan, I met Sam and Connor at The New England Conservatory. Connor is the drummer in my piano trio, and Sam and I have played in numerous configurations over the years (not to mention that we were freshman dorm roommates once upon a time). All of us bring in original music and arrange it collaboratively, which really develops trust between us as musicians, and we hope the result is evident in the music.

Nick Sanders Duo + Trio perform at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, October 16th, 2014. The first set at 8 p.m. will feature Sanders on piano and Logan Strosahl on saxophone; the second set at 10 p.m. will feature Sanders on piano, Sam Decker on tenor saxophone, and Connor Baker on drums. Tickets are $15.00 for the first set ($10.00 for Members) and $10.00 for the second set. Purchase tickets here.

From left to right: Rodney Green, Linda Oh, Aaron Parks, Jaleel Shaw, Ben Wendel

From left to right: Rodney Green, Linda Oh, Aaron Parks, Jaleel Shaw, Ben Wendel

This weekend features two nights of modern jazz with some of the most in-demand musicians on the scene.

That sounds like the most generic description possible, but, in this case, it’s dead accurate. Everyone in the band is in their 30s—Linda Oh, 30, the youngest, and Ben Wendel, 38, the oldest—and has appeared at premiere music venues around the world both with their own bands and the bands of top-tier artists such as Dave Douglas, Terence Blanchard, and the late Charlie Haden. They aren’t the youngest generation on the scene anymore—although some are still being tapped as “Rising Stars” by DownBeat Magazine—but are fast becoming the new veterans on the scene as an even younger generation emerges.

If you’ve been following modern jazz during the past ten years, it’s highly unlikely that you wouldn’t recognize at least one of these five distinct voices, but they’re all worth checking out on their own: drummer Rodney Green, bassist Linda Oh, pianist Aaron Parks, alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, and tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel (it’s worth noting that this is also a new generation of jazz artists whose personal websites are as thoughtfully designed as their music). This weekend is an “everyone playing everyone’s music” type of occasion, so come out to hear these leaders as they share their music both with one another and with you at the Gallery.

Green/Oh/Parks/Shaw/Wendel performs this Friday and Saturday, October 10th and 11th, 2014. The band features Ben Wendel on tenor saxophone, Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone, Aaron Parks on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Rodney Green on drums. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., and tickets are $22.00 ($12.00 for Members). Purchase tickets here.

Taylor Eigsti (l), photo by Bill Douthart; Jeremy Dutton (r), photo via www.onemustwonder.com

Taylor Eigsti (l), photo by Bill Douthart; Jeremy Dutton (r), photo via www.onemustwonder.com

NB: Thursday’s Mentoring Series performance will take place at SEEDS::Brooklyn Arts, located at 617 Vanderbilt Ave. in Brooklyn. There will be one set only at 9 p.m.

This month, we feature four performances with pianist Taylor Eigsti and up-and-coming drummer Jeremy Dutton as part of our Mentoring Series. We’ll be publishing a series of blog posts about these two artists and their ongoing musical friendship. Read the first post of the series here.

Although Jeremy Dutton had met Taylor Eigsti at the Stanford Jazz Workshop while still in high school, they didn’t start making music together immediately.

“I didn’t really talk to Taylor that much there,” Jeremy recalls. “I was always stepping on eggshells around him because just me as a person, I don’t ever talk out of obligation. I just can’t do it, so I just say what flows, and if I don’t feel anything, I don’t say anything.”

Already at the time, however, Taylor had picked up on Jeremy’s musical potential.

“I first heard Jeremy years ago when he was a student at Stanford Jazz Workshop,” Taylor says. “He really stood out to me as someone who not only had great talent on the instrument, but also possessed a natural quality as a bandleader. I remember watching a combo in a student performance where he was introducing the songs, and I thought, ‘This guy a born bandleader!”

Once Jeremy arrived in New York in fall of 2012 to attend The New School, he followed up with Taylor and played some more with him. Then, a serendipitous turn of events came about in the fall of 2013. The student housing that Jeremy sought at The New School wasn’t available for the first month, but Taylor fortunately needed a subletter for the month.

“We hung out a lot that month, and every now and then he’d treat me to dinner or something and he’s a real personable, warm, funny kind of dude, and I really appreciated that,” Jeremy recalls. “From then on we were pretty much friends.”

When vocalist Sachal Vasandani was putting a band together for an extended tour across Africa and Europe in early 2014, Taylor recommended Jeremy, and the music continued to develop from there. According to Taylor, it wasn’t just Jeremy’s outstanding musicianship that made him a great choice for the gig; it was also his attitude. Many of Taylor’s mentors—he cites Dave Brubeck, David Benoit, Red Holloway, Ernestine Anderson, and Shelly Berg as a few—taught him not only about music, but also the bigger picture.

“[They] taught me to be good to other people and not to take yourself too seriously and remain grounded in everything else, which is why I’m drawn to Jeremy in particular,” he says. “He’s a gentle guy and a humble guy, a person of really high character, which comes out in his music. He’s never playing music to impress people; he’s playing to bring out a beautiful moment in life, to express emotions. … I feel like music reflects life, so if you can get along with someone socially and personally, then the music really falls into place.”

In the case of Taylor and Jeremy, a friendship outside of music helped strengthen a music relationship that continues to evolve.

“Having that tour was really when we got to develop the way we play together and get used to the way we interpret music—basically bringing the friendship we already had outside of music into the music, which didn’t take long,” Jeremy says.

“I had a feeling on the first tour we ever did together with Sachal,” Taylor says. “I thought, ‘I’m going to be friends with this guy for a long time.'”

The Cycle of Learning

For Taylor, the Mentoring Series is both an opportunity to introduce Jeremy’s formidable musical talents to a larger audience and a chance to shift the conversation in jazz toward the future, rather than the past. (more…)