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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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From L to R: Isaac Wilson, Kevin Sun, Robin Baytas (front), and Simon Willson (rear). Photo by Jesse Weiner.

From L to R: Isaac Wilson, Kevin Sun, Robin Baytas (front), and Simon Willson (rear). Photo by Jesse Weiner.

In political-speak, a “big tent” political party attempts to gain electoral success by adopting a wide range of polices to attract diverse constituents (think of the 19th century Republican Party or the New Deal Democrats). In the jazz world, the young collective Great On Paper is a musical big tent. On their forthcoming debut album, the harmonies of Steve Coleman sit next to bouts of straight-ahead swing, while the music of classical composer Olivier Messiaen is suffused with ECM atmospherics.

Featuring Kevin Sun¹ on saxophones, Isaac Wilson on keyboards, Simón Willson on bass, and Robin Baytas on drums, Great On Paper began as a secretive jazz experiment at New England Conservatory. The quartet would convene in practice rooms to collaboratively deconstruct standards, quietly concocting a distinctive jazz vocabulary. In 2013, the group began to work in the classroom with accordionist and composer Ted Reichman, and in 2014, was chosen as NEC’s honors jazz ensemble.

This year, Great on Paper has stepped out of the classroom and into the wider jazz world. This March, the group gathered at Sear Sound in New York to document their distinctive and developing take on the jazz tradition, featuring originals from Mssrs. Wilson, Willson, and Sun, as well as a standard and a piece by the aforementioned Messiaen. On Thursday, August 13th, Great On Paper kicks off their “East Coast Campaign” at The Jazz Gallery, before moving up and down the east coast over the next week.

Definitely check out the group’s YouTube playlist below to hear their feast of influences, but as is the case with any tight-knit, collaborative ensemble, the real fireworks happen live on the bandstand.  (more…)

Photo by Ingrid Hertfelder

Photo by Ingrid Hertfelder

“I’m literally working on it right now,” Chris Tordini says of the music for his upcoming show at the Gallery. “I haven’t been super busy with other things the past couple of weeks, so I have a lot of time I can dedicate.”

This much free time doesn’t come often for Tordini, who has spent the last decade building a reputation as one of the busiest—and most flexible—bassists in New York (look to our previous feature, Six Degrees of Chris Tordini, for more on his sterling resume). He steps out infrequently as a leader, so Tuesday’s concert is a rare showcase for a talent who spends most of his nights in the back of the bandstand. We caught up with Tordini by phone to talk about the show and the new music he’ll be premiering.

The Jazz Gallery: What can we expect from the show? Are there any projects you’re involved in that your original music is particularly connected to?

Chris Tordini: I’m not sure if I would compare it to any of the projects that I’m involved in, but I play a lot with each of the members of the band in different contexts, and what I know of their musical personalities has definitely influenced my writing for the show. So yeah, I don’t know what viewers should expect other than hopefully my music putting the rest of the band in positions to sound their best.

TJG: So you wrote the music for these particular players?

CT: I did. I’ve been trying really hard to write as much new music as I can. I’m kind of slow when I compose, so all the new music that I’ve written for this show is written with the members of the band in mind, but there are going to be probably some older things that I didn’t necessarily write for them just because I didn’t have enough time to write more music.

TJG: How did you put together this band?

CT: Jeremy Viner, the tenor sax and clarinet player, we went to college together at the New School, and we’ve been playing together for over ten years now. I always think of him when I’m putting a band together because I love his sound on tenor and clarinet, and he can play anything anyone puts in front of him with ease. He’s a very quick study and a great improviser too.

Kris Davis and I have been playing for almost as long as me and Jeremy. We met playing sessions and being hired to play in other people’s bands together. We’ve always had a very strong connection musically. We’ve done entire gigs together just straight up improvising.

Bobby Avey is going to play keyboards; I’ve played his music a bunch. He’s never played my music before, but I really wanted to get him in there. Usually, in the past I’ve written for piano and guitar, but the guitar player that I usually hire doesn’t live in New York anymore, and even though there’s a million amazing guitar players that I know, I decided to try it out and see how it would sound with keyboard taking the place of the guitar sounds, and I thought of Bobby.

And then Dan Weiss and I have played in a bunch of different bands together for the past six years or so. He’s one of my favorite drummers on the planet. He’s incredibly creative and it’s super fun just to play time with him.

TJG: As a bassist-composer-leader, how do you treat the bass within the context of your compositions?

CT: I think I used to approach it—I would not really think about the role of the bass too much as I was composing. But for the stuff I’ve been writing for this show, some of the ideas started with ideas that I came across when I was just practicing. They came from the bass in a way I’ve never really written before. I’ve been trying to give myself more ambitious parts, technically, to put the responsibility of the pieces on myself while playing them.

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Altura1

Photo courtesy of the artist

Guitarist Charles Altura may be a chill California native off of the bandstand, but on it, his bold and effortless lines cut their way through the music of Chick Corea, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Terrence Blanchard alike. A guitarist’s guitarist (Google’s top suggested search term for the guitarist is “Charles Altura Gear”), Altura is now poised to step out as an exciting bandleader in his own right.

This past January, Altura made his Jazz Gallery debut as a leader, and we are pleased to welcome him back again this Friday, August 7th. Always pushing himself in new directions, Altura has assembled a completely different quartet for this week’s performance than the one convened in January. Joining Mr. Altura will be three Gallery regulars—Shai Maestro on piano (who led a group here last month), Chris Tordini on bass (who leads a group here next week), and drummer Ziv Ravitz. Please join us this Friday for an evening of sharp interplay and new discoveries.  (more…)

 

Pascal (l) and Remy (r) Le Boeuf (Photo: Zlata Kolomoyskaya, John Davydov)

Pascal (l) and Remy (r) Le Boeuf (Photo: Zlata Kolomoyskaya, John Davydov)

Twin brothers Pascal and Remy Le Boeuf are inveterate musical searchers. Already well-grounded in the complex harmonies and shifting time signatures of contemporary post-bop, both musicians have continued to expand their musical palette, incorporating sounds and ideas from hip-hop, electronic, and classical traditions alike.

This Tuesday, August 4th, the Le Boeuf brothers return to The Jazz Gallery—one of their musical homes in New York—for a concert to celebrate their 29th birthdays. Remy and Pascal were kind enough to answer some questions about their show and recent projects via email.

The Jazz Gallery: Could you both give a few words about the project you’re bringing to The Jazz Gallery on August 4th?

Pascal Le Boeuf: We wanted to celebrate our 29th birthday by putting together a show with some of our friends and frequent collaborators. Both Linda and Peter are touring members of Le Boeuf Brothers and together we have developed an extensive repertoire over the years. The Jazz Gallery and its surrounding community have been a home to us since we moved to New York in 2004: The warmth and support radiating from this wonderful establishment made it a perfect venue to host our birthday concert.  We are looking forward to a fun show that we expect will be just as much as a party as a performance.

TJG: How did you start working with Donny McCaslin, Linda Oh, and Peter Kronreif?

PL: We first met Linda briefly when we were kids at the 2004 IAJE conference in NY where we were being honored as fellows in various programs supported by IAJE, the National Foundation for Advancement in the ARTS (now YoungARTS) and the ASCAP Foundation. We later worked with her more extensively at the Banff Centre’s workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, then run by Dave Douglas.  When Linda moved to New York we began playing shows and touring shortly after.

Remy Le Boeuf: Peter has toured with us for years and will be featured on our upcoming album, Imaginist. I first met him through a mutual friend  at a jam session in Harlem in 2010.  I was shocked by how well we played off of each other; wherever I went musically, Peter was right there with me. Wherever he went musically was a place I also wanted to explore. Peter joined us that Summer for a tour in California and Canada and we have been bandmates and close friends ever since.

PL: Donny is from our hometown of Santa Cruz, CA so we have always experienced a sort of kinship. He was also among the first to expand our quartet into a quintet back in 2006 when we performed a Monday night concert at the newly-formed Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

RL: I love playing with Donny. Earlier this Summer I performed with Donny’s saxophone quartet at Chamber Music America’s Bryant Park series. He writes great music, he’s a beast on the saxophone, and he’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet.

TJG: Pascal, you’ve written that “As an artist, I see my responsibility to humanity as that of a diver, charged with the task of swimming deep within the mind, beneath the surface of reality, to retrieve something beautiful, undiscovered or interesting to share with the real world.” How does this exploratory mission more concretely extend into the realms of composition and improvisation?

PL: This is a metaphor for the creative process. I have found the most rewarding experiences in both composing and group improvising to be those in which I/we are able to channel inward thoughts or feelings through the music. This is very personal but very meaningful in the moment. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve shared some vulnerability with the audience and the other musicians and the result is that almost magic closeness, that sense that we’ve all just shared a secret.

TJG: As far as I understand it, “Pascal’s triangle” describes a sort of sequence of numbers, increasing and expanding on the outside as they continuously add up on the inside. Are there any mathematical or conceptual underpinnings to the new album?

PL: Pascal’s Triangle was a happy accident. Originally meant to be an electronic crossover album, we decided to release only the acoustic recorded material and a few casual takes we recorded towards the end of the session. We’re still sitting on a ton of recorded material for the electronic crossover project such as Justin’s “W.A.I.T.T.” video. Hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity to release these tracks in the years to come.

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