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Courtesy of the Artist

Courtesy of the Artist

This Tuesday, March 31st, The Jazz Gallery is once again proud to present composer Miho Hazama and M_Unit. Hazama has a new album in the works with her uniquely-instrumentated large ensemble, following up her acclaimed debut Journey to Journey (Sunnyside) in 2013. Tuesday will be your only chance to get a sneak peak at this new and exciting music.

In the meantime, check out this video from M_Unit’s last performance at the Gallery, featuring Steve Wilson on alto saxophone.

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Maria Grand, tenor saxophonist

Photo by Gilmatic, courtesy of the artist

22-year-old Swiss-born saxophonist Maria Grand is not one to take the more-weathered path.

A regular member of drummer Doug Hammond’s quartet and boasting performance credits alongside the likes of Steve Coleman and Roman Filiu, Grand found mentors in older musicians such as Coleman and saxophonist Ohad Talmor upon arriving in New York City for a three-month stay in 2009.

“I was staying at Ohad Talmor’s place, who grew up in Geneva, so he was the first person I met who was an improviser. I randomly met him at the music school I attended in Geneva, and after that I stayed in touch and he’d show me stuff whenever he came through. I was really eager to learn,” she says.

“There was nobody else. He’d come once every three months or whatever. I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to learn stuff over there, so I stayed at Ohad’s house and he introduced me to a lot of people. I knew that Steve had his masterclasses at The Jazz Gallery, so I met him at the workshop in 2009.” (more…)

INTRODUCING SPARKLER from Peter Apfelbaum on Vimeo.

As a high school senior in Berkeley, California in the late ’70s, multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum founded a big band called the Hieroglyphics Ensemble featuring some friends and classmates like pianist Benny Green, saxophonist Craig Handy, and trumpeter Steven Bernstein. Since then, Apfelbaum has been an inveterate explorer of the craggy landscapes between different musical styles, working with an eclectic group of musicians from trumpeter Don Cherry, to guitarist Trey Anastasio, to synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla.

While Apfelbaum’s Hieroglyphics Ensemble is still going strong today, he has recently put together a new group—SPARKLER—a multi-generational ensemble that mixes adventuresome improvisation with danceable grooves and song-oriented material. SPARKLER will make their Jazz Gallery debut this Saturday, March 28th. We caught up with Apfelbaum to talk about the group’s origins and his poly-stylistic musical approach.

The Jazz Gallery: You’ve been working with SPARKLER since the Fall of 2012. Can you tell us a little more about how this group started, and how this particular group of people came together?

Peter Apfelbaum: Natalie is unofficially my goddaughter. She is the daughter of a really long time friend and collaborator, Jeff Cressman who plays trombone with Santana, and he is married to Sandy Cressman who is a singer and does a lot of Brazillian Jazz, and Natalie grew up with her younger sister who plays violin. So Natalie grew up in a really musical household and I’ve known her since she was born. By the time she was about twelve, you could hear that she was really developing a sense of phrasing on the trombone, and by the time she got to be in her mid-teens, she had become a really strong improviser and could also sing really well, and had had some actual training from her mom, so people used to joke that she could play like her dad and sing like her mom. She also dances and plays bass—she’s really multitalented. So when Natalie came out to Manhattan School of Music, she was already subbing with my big band, New York Hieroglyphics. Even when my regular trombonist Josh Roseman was able to do the gigs, we just kept her on and we had two trombones instead of one. I just kept thinking, I really want to do something with Natalie singing.

About three years ago I was thinking that I wanted to write lyrics more, and I kept having ideas that would come from random things, like even conversations overheard in an airport, or something like that. I wanted to steer away from writing a song in the conventional sense, part of it being because it was a little intimidating. I’ve always written music and lyrics have been a little bit more challenging for me. But I also was getting into groups like Cibo Matto, a more downtown group that got really big in the 90s, and they just got back together (they’re these two Japanese women who do kind of rap, and they’ll have songs about food and random stuff). So I started realizing that the subject matter could be actually really broad, and I could write lyrics that wouldn’t necessarily be a song. I could focus on a groove, which is kind of one thing that I’ve always done, and then have lyrics come in and out. So Natalie was important in that, and we started getting together.

And I thought I’d like to have two horn players that can play and sing, so I thought of Jill Ryan because I’d met her a few years before in Nevada when she was in high school, and I knew she could play really well. I’ve always liked the sound of alto sax and trombone together, and I decided I wanted to play more keyboards, so that I could focus on the bass line, because in this type of music that we’re doing which is more electronic and funk and kind of dubbed out stuff, the bass has to be really big, like bigger than it would be in a normal jazz group, so I wanted to be able to control that, so I’m doing keyboard bass, and then Natalie and Jill can sing and rap so I’m having fun with that.

TJG: Cool! So you’re saying you want to have a larger bass sound for dancing. Do you see the group playing in a more dance hall kind of setting?

PA: Definitely, I want to. The interesting thing about the group is that there’s a lot of ways we can go, but that’s the direction that a lot of the music that we’re doing is in because I realized I’ve been in clubs where something’s really strong but it’s musically not always super interesting, and I wanted to change that. I’ve always loved reggae because the bass is really big, it feels like you’re in a big cloud of bass, so I wanted to do something with a really strong rhythm.

In Hieroglyphics, there’s a lot of stuff with odd time signatures and even open time but with SPARKLER it’s pretty much always even time signatures, you know like 4/4, 6/8, or some permutation of those, because I want it to translate in a really universal way. But the other thing is, I get bored if all we do is grooves and lyrics and themes. To have a rich musical experience and express myself all the way there has to be some improvisation and some more subtle stuff too, so when we play The Jazz Gallery that’s gonna be a nice opportunity for us to get more into the more improvisational, subtle side of the band. When we first started doing festivals two years ago, it was great to see several hundred people dancing, or like shouting—I love that and that’s something we want to do more—but for this upcoming gig, it’s also gonna allow us to do some more of our nuanced stuff too.

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Photo via www.tedpoor.com

Photo via www.tedpoor.com

You never quite know when and where drummer Ted Poor is going to show up on the bandstand. He might be playing in adventurous, open-ended groups like the Respect Sextet, or threading through the knotty mixed meters of guitarist Ben Monder’s music. Or he might be providing the solid backbeat to genre-crossing works by contemporary composer-performers William Britelle and Gabriel Kahane.

On Friday, March 27th, Ted Poor will bring a quartet to The Jazz Gallery featuring Dayna Stephens on saxophone, Josh Roseman on trombone, and Ben Street on bass. We caught up with Ted by phone to talk about his group and his recent work at the University of Washington while he was in Rotterdam, finishing up a tour with the Joris Roelofs trio.

The Jazz Gallery: You’re currently an artist in residence at University of Washington in Seattle. How do you like living Seattle?

Ted Poor: I’ve been there for about a year and a half. It’s a great place to live, a beautiful city.  It’s an opportunity to try something different; it’s been a good move. I still feel very connected to the people that I play with in New York and around the world. I was a little bit worried about that, in a way, because it’s hard to remove yourself from the New York community. But it’s been like I haven’t left. I’ve been able to maintain the relationships that I care about, musically, and I end up going back to New York every few months, at least. I still play and travel with the bands that are important to me. I’m not available for the “gig around town” in New York, and I do miss that, but I’m able to focus more exclusively on the things that are really important to me. Between touring and teaching at the University, I haven’t really had time to connect with the music scene in Seattle wholeheartedly, though Seattle is a really cultured, artistic city, with a great orchestra, museums, jazz and improvised music.

TJG: What are you doing at the University, and how are you working with your students?

TP: I ended up at the University of Washington in Seattle because of my good friend Cuong Vu, the trumpet player, who I’ve been playing with for about twelve years. We met in New York, and he moved back to Seattle about seven years ago. He was bringing the band out to play, and things sort of snowballed in terms of my position at the University. I teach all the drummers, and some other instrumentalists one-on-one. I see an ensemble twice a week, and I teach a class called “Jazz Lab,” which is very open-ended. We do a lot of transcribing, emulation, and composition.

TJG: Could you talk a little about what you mean by “emulation?”

TP: Well, we dig into particular records or artists, and take the opportunity to really get specific with our understanding of what’s going on with a record or song, or even the relationship between a couple of musicians from the history. We do a lot of transcribing and internalizing of the language. Then, we try to take that and use it in our own playing. It’s been very rewarding for the students and me.

TJG: Speaking of the relationship between musicians, how does your approach to your own instrument change depending on your format, in terms of duo, trio, and so on?

TP: My relationship to my instrument doesn’t change at all. I try to have a relationship with the drums where, in general, I’m trying to play what I want the drummer to play. So it’s really about listening, trying to conceive of something that I want to hear, from me or from the ensemble at large. So yes, my fundamental relationship to the instrument or the musical situation is really the same. It’s just that every situation is different, varying in complexity. I’m really just trying to listen, to get in touch with what I want to hear, and to express that as accurately as possible.

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

The music of pianist Emilio Teubal effortlessly spans across diverse countries, styles, and sounds. Teubal grew up in Argentina and was an active member of the tango scene in Buenos Aires before coming to study jazz in New York in 1999. His current ensemble puts instruments traditionally associated with tango, the cello and clarinet, in dialogue with the modern electric guitar and electric bass. The result is music that has been described as “painterly,” “imaginative, dreamy,” and “…as near to perfection as you can get.

The Jazz Gallery is proud to present the Emilio Teubal Ensemble this Thursday, March 26th, 2015. For a little taste of Teubal’s impressionistic tunes, check out the group performing at ShapeShifter Lab in the video below.

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