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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, November 1, The Jazz Gallery welcomes bassist Jeong Lim Yang and her quintet to our stage for two sets. A native of South Korea, Yang studied at the Berklee College of Music, then moved to New York in 2011. In 2017, Yang released her debut album, Déjà Vu (Fresh Sound New Talent) with a quintet featuring veteran saxophonists Adam Kolker and Michael Attias, as well as rhythm section peers Nick Sanders on piano and Jesse Simpson on drums. Yang’s original compositions on the album follow the lineage of bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, courting abstraction and lyricism in equal measure.

Yang will reconvene this quintet at the Gallery to play material from Déjà Vu. Before seeing the band live, check out their performance of “Moon Tethered,” an homage to trio of Masabumi Kikuchi, Gary Peacock, and Paul Motian.

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Photo by Andy Newcombe (Wikimedia Commons) // filter via pixlr

This Tuesday, October 30, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome trumpeter Peter Evans back to our stage with his band, Being & Becoming. This past summer, Evans played in three configurations across two nights of performance—solo, duo with pianist Cory Smythe, and trio with vibraphonist Joel Ross and drummer Max Jaffe. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Evans noted how his solo and group work were heading toward a point of convergence:

The ensemble and solo playing has been converging a lot more in the last year or so. It’s something I never really expected, but maybe it was inevitable. In my solo music I have been searching for ways to create coherent and interesting structures that can shape the music—structures that are clearly audible as structures but at the same time are flexible and malleable in the moment if need be. There are a bunch of different ways to achieve this, and some paths I have taken from my work as a composer for improvising ensembles: for instance, a 12 tone mode that repeats at the 2-octave point. This is a field of harmony and melody that fixes each pitch in space, allowing me to work with set materials in a very detailed and sometimes very fast way without having to juggle what note goes where. Strict modal improvisation, in short—nothing new about that! But it’s a development for me in the solo music that comes out of my writing for one of my bands (the piece “Intergalactic“). Conversely, there are ways of developing and organizing material that grew directly out of my solo playing—for instance, juggling 2 or 3 small chunks of music (I think of them as characters or spirits)​ and bouncing them off one another, developing each character in isolation and in dialogue with the others.

Evans’s quartet Being & Becoming is a relatively recent project, featuring alert, young collaborators—Mr. Ross on vibraphone & marimba, Nick Jozwiak on bass, and Savannah Harris on drums.  (more…)

From L to R: Tony Malaby, Michael Formanek, Kris Davis, Ches Smith. Photo by John Rogers.

Michael Formanek’s approach to jazz and the double bass has changed and evolved over the decades. The ‘70s saw Formanek on the road with Tony Williams and Joe Henderson, and the ‘80s featured engagements with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. By the ‘90s, Formanek had become a central figure in New York’s creative jazz scene. Today, Formanek’s many projects include Thumbscrew, a co-lead Brooklyn trio with Mary Halvorson and Tomas Fujiwara, as well as a steady quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, whose 2010 and 2012 albums earned five-star reviews in DownBeat.

Elusion Quartet, one of Formanek’s more recent projects, features the dynamic personnel of saxophonist Tony Malaby, pianist Kris Davis, and drummer/percussionist/vibraphonist Ches Smith. The Elusion Quartet will celebrate the release of their album Time Like This at their upcoming Jazz Gallery show. Published by Swiss label Intakt Records and recorded at Oktaven Audio by Ryan Streber, the album was a vehicle for exploring “a more direct connection to emotions” according to Formanek. We spoke with Formanek about how he and the band put this new music together.

The Jazz Gallery: I know you recorded the album in February, but October somehow feels like the perfect time to listen to it. It’s mesmerizing, ever-changing, expressive, it reflects the season somehow. What are your feelings, listening back now?

Michael Formanek: Well, those are all qualities that I feel all the time [laughs]. That music was recorded in the midst of a series of big personal life changes. We were in the process of leaving Baltimore where we’d lived for many years, moving north. I was deciding whether to leave my teaching position where I’d been for a long time, moving back into the playing and composing part of my life, which I was always doing, but was having to work it out with my teaching schedule. Ultimately, the timing of everything felt right. So these feelings are less seasonal and more about general life change, and I think the album reflects that, along with things happening in the world every day.

TJG: More on the ideas behind the album soon, but in listening, it sounds like there is a good bit of formal logic in terms of pacing and structure in improvised sections. What did the preparation look like for the project, in terms of talking through material with the group?

MF: The album features such a strong group of improvisers and composers, and at this point, it’s almost a given that the majority of the people I play with are going to recognize how musical elements in motion can move from one place to another. Rarely, I might say something, “Maybe this would be better if we moved between these things a little differently,” or “This doesn’t have to be quite so intense here,” just general notes while rehearsing. For me, the challenge in composing for improvisers is in the balance of providing the right amount of material, in the sense of composition and structure, without impeding the flow of what can simply happen. For me, in the case of Time Like This, I was trying to write a bit less than I usually do, to give more room for things to happen.

TJG: On one of the tracks, “Culture of None,” I love the duo bass and drum introduction, and the ensuing melodic lines that emerge so naturally. I was almost surprised when I heard you playing something close to a walking bassline, and Kris Davis playing a linear piano solo, something I don’t often hear. Do you remember some of your intentions going into the track?

MF: That track was a tricky one, because it basically started with that hand drum part. There are these rhythms and mixed meters, with nothing in even time, so for me, it was about looking for patterns and phrases. I started to assign pitches, which is where the bassline or bass melody came from. Once that evolved, I wrote the secondary part, the more melodic part. Only at a certain point later on did it become clear that there was an even 3/8 thing that moves through the whole form. That was a result, a realization, rather than a starting point. The organic part of that piece was that I was indulging these odd groupings of odd rhythms, conceiving of it as a drum part, but thinking more abstractly, it culminated in this even, swinging three feel. That evolved more during the improvisations. I didn’t say “We have to get to this feel,” and in fact, we did a few takes of this tune, where different things happened organically. We started with one idea, improvised, and naturally moved to another. I’m always happy when certain things evolve that didn’t necessarily unfold from their logical starting point.

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Photo by Kholood Eid, courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, October 27, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Darius Jones back to our stage for two sets. Armed with a powerful, deeply vocal sound as well as a keen sense of musical storytelling, Jones has been turning heads with a string of creative projects since the release of his acclaimed debut record Man’ish Boy (AUM Fidelity) in 2009. For this performance at the Gallery, Jones will present his project, Shades of Black. Featuring Sam Newsome on soprano saxophone, Cooper-Moore on organ, Michael Wimberly on percussion, and Chad Taylor on drums, Jones describes the group thusly:

This ensemble will explore the partial or total absence of light, and the artistry within a dark spectrum. A lack of light can bring about feelings of uncertainty or fear of the unknown, causing some to perceive black or dark things as devoid of beauty and having a certain negative connotation. While these feelings exist, we as humans find darkness alluring and even flirt with its mysterious and sensuous qualities. Throughout history, artists of all mediums have created emotionally and visually dark works to evoke impressions of fear, evil, or madness. In the large black textured surface of Chiyu Uemae’s oil painting, ‘Untitled,’ I discovered how rich an environment absent of light could be. I found myself standing in front of the painting and asking, ‘What would this sound like?

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Ross performing Immortal Obsolescence at Roulette in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, October 26, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome guitarist Brandon Ross back to our stage for two sets. Joined by longtime collaborators Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar, J.T. Lewis on drums, and Graham Haynes on cornet, Ross and company will perform Ross’s long-form composition Immortal Obsolescence. The piece was commissioned through Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program in 2014 and is a collection of responses to the work of Venezuelan photographer Carolina Muńoz. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Ross spoke about how the piece was a bit of a departure for him as a composer:

I remember J.T. [Lewis] saying something like, this writing has really become more focused in this particular area. They’re short pieces, a lot of them, and they’re not necessarily about a lot of so-called improvisation, but rather statements that accomodate the interpretive abilities of the musicians to fill them out and realize them. They’re meant to accompany these images and yet stand alone as well.

Ross has been working to get the piece on record, but for the moment, you have a rare chance to hear this rich and sensitive music live this weekend at The Jazz Gallery. (more…)