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To close out 2017, The Jazz Gallery is excited to welcome trumpeter Roy Hargrove back to our stage with an all-star quintet—Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone, Orrin Evans on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums. As some of the busiest and most acclaimed players in the international scene, gathering them together on one stage is a rare occurrence—this show is not to be missed.

Before coming to the Gallery to catch Hargrove and company, check out some of Hargrove’s newest compositions played by his working band at KNKX in Seattle.

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Photo by Jati Lindsay, via www.ericrevis.com

With fascinating observations about the creative process, bassist Eric Revis has much to say about his role as a bandleader and composer. He’s a veteran of the New York scene, and now that he’s based in Los Angeles, he’s still one of the busiest sidemen in jazz. Throughout the decades, he’s supported Betty Carter, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Steve Coleman, Lionel Hampton, McCoy Tyner, Orrin Evans, and Branford Marsalis, who says “Eric’s sound is the sound of doom; big, thick, percussive.” Aside from being an in-demand sideman, Revis has become an increasingly-active bandleader, releasing acclaimed records including City of Asylum (2013), Crowded Solitudes (2016), and his most recent release, Sing Me Some Cry (2017).

As part of The Jazz Gallery Fellowship, a residency made possible by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Revis spent several weeks living at the Marcel Breuer House at Pocantico. For the upcoming premiere of this new music at the Gallery, Revis has assembled a band composed of former collaborators on his past albums, including Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Bill McHenry on tenor saxophone, Kris Davis on piano, and Chad Taylor on drums. His time living and working in the sequestered, angular modernist Breuer/Rockefeller house shaped his music and creative flow, he told us in a recent interview. Read more below:

The Jazz Gallery: You’ve got a string of shows coming up in New York, with Kris Davis and Johnathan Blake at The Stone, the premiere of your fellowship commission at The Jazz Gallery, and finally a hit with Roy Hargrove. How’s your preparation going, given how different each gig will be?

Eric Revis: [Laughs] It’s one thing at a time. I’m still in the process of amassing material for my commission premiere. It’s kind of strange having to compartmentalize everything, working on things in different capacities as a composer, bassist, bandleader. It’s pretty chaotic right now. Kris has some really developed, difficult, intense music for her gig. She has certain ideas about things she wants to do, and we discuss a lot back and forth. I need to find out what she wants me to do from section to section. At the gig, I want to be in the performance, not navigating the paper. I want to do a good job, to get into the music, to dance.

TJG: Next week you’ll be playing her music one night, then she’ll be playing yours the next. Do you think your relationship changes depending on who’s in charge?

ER: I don’t think my musical relationship changes with anybody that I play with, really. Music is not proprietary. If you’re of the idea that “This is mine, and I want you to do this” in an egotistical way, then you’re fucked. I’m fortunate in that with the people I play with, there seems to be an overarching ideal of “We’re doing this together: What do you need from me?” It’s about sitting together collectively at the table, rather than a more dictatorial arrangement.

TJG: What can go wrong in the former scenario? I’m sure a lot of cats hire a band and say exactly how they want it to be, and that arrangement is the communal starting point.

ER: Yeah, but usually, if people are that hard-nosed about it, you can hear it on the bandstand. Today, everybody’s a composer, everybody’s got a concept. That’s anathema to art. You’re not supposed to have a concept. You’re supposed to be navigating a trajectory to get to another place of artistic development. Once you hunker down and say “This is my concept,” you’re screwed. You’ve put a period on what should be some Henry Miller-type shit. Keep going, keep developing. Now, the hard-line specificity of conveying a certain idea, that’s a bit different. Cecil Taylor, or Ornette’s band, they rehearsed hours a day, for years. But that was more about inculcating guys into a certain sense of direction, not “I need you to hit this 32nd note right here, then do this, then that.”

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Red velvet frames another Tuesday night at Zinc Bar as James Francies gets inside a blues in 6 and stays there for a good long while. Now and then a virtuosic line escapes his right hand, but ultimately returns to the thick groove.

In five short years, the Houston-born pianist/composer has become a force on the New York scene, working steadily to dissolve genre lines and create new music that preserves and connects all his early influences, and explores the shape of what’s to come.

“Growing up in Houston, I was exposed to music at a very young age,” says Francies. “Playing classical music, playing in church, going to jam sessions and having different teachers—it was always just a mash of good music.” An artist who’s focused on uncovering innate musical connections, past and present, Francies finds himself less concerned with shoehorning one particular sound into another. Instead, he allows those connections to emerge naturally.

“I don’t try to ‘combine’ my roots because once you have roots, you can’t really turn away from them,” he says. “I just try to let my personal experiences and my influences authentically come out. Having a jazz and classical foundation has really helped me understand where I want to go, where I’m going and where I am, musically.”

Where he is, musically, is where he is, physically. According to Francies, the New York music scene has had a profound effect not only on the way he plays, but on his degree of day-to-day hustle. “I never saw New York as an arrival; I always saw it more as a launching pad,” he says.

“I always wanted to come to New York—ever since I was 12. So I was always focused and still, to this day, working hard. When I got here, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I finally made it!’ It was more like, now you have to work twice as hard—three times as hard—to get to where you want to be. And I do enjoy it. New York’s one of those places that keeps you on your toes.” (more…)

Album art courtesy of Sunnyside Records.

This Thursday, December 14th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome Adam O’Farrill’s Stranger Days back to our stage for two sets. Their self-titled debut from 2016 garnered significant acclaim; in The New York Times, Nate Chinen called it “a potent declaration of independence, as much as it is a glowing indication of promise.”

At the Gallery this week, the group will be playing a varied program, including a new suite of music called “Hungry at the Slaughterhouse,” inspired by O’Farrill’s experience working on a farm in Maine last summer. They will also be performing music from their next album, set to release in 2018, as well as some traditional Mexican tunes. Before coming out to the show, check out O’Farrill’s stark and evocative composition “Henry Ford Hospital”—inspired by the Frida Kahlo painting—below.
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Photo courtesy of the artist.

A Gibson across her lap, Camila Meza sits opposite a young student who closes his eyes and begins to sing over a two-chord progression. “We started singing, and he didn’t even know he had this in him,” she says.

“We were talking about improvisation and the idea of connecting your own ideas and your own melodies to your solos, getting rid of the idea of playing by memory—playing lines that you’ve already learned, stuff like that. He started singing over a certain chord these beautiful melodies, a great progression of intervals, and we ended up literally making a song. His improvisation became a song.”

For the Chilean-born singer, guitarist, composer and bilingual lyricist, encouraging students to develop their own sound by releasing preexisting musical concepts comes as naturally as an inhale—and reflects an essential quality of her own expression. “My approach always sort of gravitates to what feels natural,” she says, “what feels good to the body, what feels good to sing to. I would never force something to be just because, intellectually, I want it to be.”

Naturally inquisitive, curiosity gripped Meza from an early age, and has pervaded her sound ever since. As a child playing her father’s record collection, melody would haunt her.

“I feel like I’ve always, in a way, been really, really curious about the world that lies underneath the melody,” says Meza. “[That world] can somehow change the whole universe of a melody, and the whole way we perceive that statement. [Even as a child,] I immediately sensed that there was something really deep in how you would build that world beneath the melody, and how that could influence the whole thing.”

As she listened to other people’s music more intently, and began developing a sound of her own, Meza began noticing colors. She wanted to be able to choose the specific extensions and manipulate voicings that would allow her melodies to “shine” in a particular way. “I started to realize that changing the structure of what lies beneath the melody could make you feel emotions in a very different way, when it comes to the melody,” she says.

“A chord, and also the bass movement, can literally change your whole perception of what the intervallic movement of the melody is. And that’s when I started experimenting with it. I would take a song and keep the melody and mess around with the harmony like crazy. I realized I had so much control of the emotional concept of the melody just by surfing underneath it. That’s when I started doing arrangements and having so much fun reharmonizing stuff and sort of playing around with that aspect of music” (more…)