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This Wednesday, November 1st, The Jazz Gallery and saxophonist Miguel Zenon have teamed up for a special concert to benefit the victims of Hurricane Maria. The concert will feature some of the biggest names in jazz, including Dave Douglas, Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling, and a special appearance of the John Scofield Trio featuring Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart.

All proceeds of the concert will go to Puerto Rico Recovery Fund. Don’t miss this opportunity to support the rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico and see some of jazz’s biggest names in our intimate space. (more…)

Album art courtesy of the artist.

Brooklyn-based drummer, composer, and educator Vinnie Sperrazza is engaged in a wide range of projects. When we spoke last week, Sperrazza was at the Avaloch Music Institute for rehearsals with pianist/vocalist Yoon Sun Choi. Sperrazza’s previous albums have included Apocryphal (Loyal Label, 2014) and Juxtaposition (Posi-Tone, 2017), both of which were met with critical acclaim.

Sperrazza’s new album, “Hide Ye Idols,” features the same band from his previous Apocryphal record: Sperrazza on drums, plus Loren Stillman on alto saxophone, Brandon Seabrook on guitar, and Eivind Opsvik on bass. The album is infused with personal narrative, as well as both literary and cultural references. Produced by Paris Monster’s Geoff Kraly and mastered by Nate Wood, Hide Ye Idols has a thought-out and refined sound. The band will play The Jazz Gallery this Halloween at 9:30 P.M., sharing the bill with Chris Morrissey’s Standard Candle, who will play at 7:30 P.M. We spoke with Sperrazza about the album, literature, and his fledgling practice as a fiction writer.

The Jazz Gallery: How’s Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and what have you been rehearsing with Yoon Sun Choi?

Vinnie Sperrazza: It’s beautiful up here, and it’s nice to be out of the city. Here at Avaloch you get a room, a studio, food, and you just hang out. It’s hard to imagine anything better than this. There’s a lot of individual time too, so I’ve been practicing, writing, listening to music, resting. Yoon has this idea for a trio with me, her, and Dana Lyn. We’re looking at her music, rehearsing, improvising, doing everything we can think of, playing jazz tunes, pop songs, covers. It’s going well, and I definitely think the project will move forward.

TJG: Are you excited about your Halloween double-bill with Standard Candle? Last time I was at The Jazz Gallery on Halloween, I saw Jason Lindner wearing a wizard hat while playing with Justin Brown.

VS: Hell yeah. I’m not too costume-oriented myself, but I’m sure there’ll be some energy on stage. We can’t wait to play. This album definitely is the direction we’ve been heading in.

TJG: You’ve released one track as a preview, “Bulwer Lytton.” I love the pace, your connection with Brandon Seabrook’s guitar playing, the arrangement with the bass solo at the end. Who’s Bulwer Lytton?

VS: Bulwer Lytton was a Victorian-era writer, credited with the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” It’s also thought that he came up with the phrase “The pursuit of the almighty dollar,” and maybe “Far from the madding crowd,” these cliché phrases that we use. He was an editor of Dickens. You know how Great Expectations has a happy-ish ending, where Pip meets Estella again and they get together? It’s thought that that was Lytton’s ending, that he pushed Dickens in that direction. Made it a little cheesier. Anyway. The reason the track is named after him is due to a complicated nexus of thoughts around how Victorians represented childhood, as well as an instrumental theme from my own childhood. I don’t know if you want to hear all of it.

TJG: I want to hear all of it.

VS: So, everything in the song was through-composed. Bassline, drum part, guitar, melody. But, if you listen to the track, specifically the guitar, there’s a hidden clue about the song’s meaning, an inside glimpse at what the song is about. It wasn’t an intentional aspect of the composition, but the guitar part is close to some Pete Townshend stuff. It’s really close. Brandon and I are massive Who fans, and even though “Bulwer Lytton” was written on piano, there are some chords there from The Who’s “Tommy.” Tommy, of course, is a young boy’s story. It’s deeply associated with all the feelings of a pre-adolescent child. It’s a beat-to-death classic rock warhorse that you don’t want to go near, but of course, when I was a child, I didn’t know it was a beat-to-death classic rock warhorse. Discovering Tommy was a beautiful moment for me. So without knowing it, while composing and demoing it at my house, “Bulwer Lytton” became a sort of portrait of the aesthetic experience of childhood. It’s a real scene from my childhood, that moment when a pre-pubescent adolescent discovers a film, song, person that makes them realize the world is ten times bigger than they ever imagined.

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Photo and design courtesy of the artist.

This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome drummer Marcus Gilmore and his group Actions Speak back to our stage for a two-night birthday celebration. Already one of the most prominent drummers working today—with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Chris Potter, and Chick Corea—Gilmore has been stepping out more frequently as a leader, showcasing his own compositions, and freely-improvised work.

Actions Speak is perhaps the clearest distillation of Gilmore’s multifaceted musical personality, combining rich keyboard soundscapes, a deep rhythm section pocket, and risk-taking improvising into an exuberant whole. Before checking out the band’s evolution at the Gallery this weekend, watch Gilmore play some impossibly deft rhythmic games with Actions Speak collaborator David Virelles.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, October 26th, The Jazz Gallery is proud to present pianist Micah Thomas’s debut on our stage. An undergraduate at Juilliard, Thomas has already made a name for himself outside of the classroom, playing with the likes of guitarist Lage Lund, saxophonist Stacey Dillard, and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. At the Gallery, Thomas will convene his current working trio, featuring Dean Torrey on bass and Kyle Benford on drums. We caught up with Thomas to talk about his musical upbringing, his current technical pursuits, and getting out of one’s critical mindset.

The Jazz Gallery: Where are you from?

Micah Thomas: I’m from Columbus, Ohio.

TJG: How’s the music scene there?

MT: For a city that’s not a major jazz hub like New York or Philly, I’d say it’s really good.

TJG: Were you gigging there early on?

MT: I wasn’t really part of the scene, but I had gigs with Byron Stripling, who was the director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and Christian Howes, who’s a jazz violinist from there.

TJG: And piano’s always been your instrument.  When did you start playing?

MT: Since age 2. I think either the theme from Bob the Builder or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was playing on TV and I played it on the piano by ear, and my parents said, “Let’s get this kid some lessons.”

TJG: So you have perfect pitch?

MT: Yeah.

TJG: How is that? Blessing or curse?

MT: I think I’ve actually lost a little bit of it because of how annoying it can be at times.  But it’s definitely helpful—certainly for music.

TJG: There’s this crazy video of this young kid online where he can piece out these extremely dissonant chords-

MT: I know exactly what you’re talking about—where the guy is just playing random notes on the piano. Yeah, that kid’s pretty crazy. He’s working with something different than I am.

TJG: Do you think perfect pitch lends itself to musicality? Will having that gift help him in the long run?

MT: If he wants to be a musician then definitely.

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David Virelles and José Aquiles. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This Friday, October 20th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to host the New York debut of Cuban singer-songwriter José Aquiles. Over a four decade-plus musical career, Aquiles has been one of the leading exponents of the Nueva Trova movement in Cuba, writing sharply-observed and politically-aware songs inspired both by traditional Cuban music and contemporary popular music. In addition to his work as a singer and guitarist, Aquiles has composed music for theater, TV, and film, and was awarded the prestigious CubaDisco and Adolfo Guzmán awards in his native country. Check out Aquiles performing with fellow Cuban singer Jorge Sánchez on Spanish television in the video below.
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