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Eric Revis (L) and Julius Rodriguez (R). Photos courtesy of the artists.

This week, the third edition of this season’s Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series kicks off with performances at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and The Jazz Gallery. This third edition features bassist Eric Revis mentoring pianist/multi-instrumentalist Julius Rodriguez. Beyond his longstanding association withs saxophonist Branford Marsalis, Revis has put together an acclaimed body of work as a bandleader over the course of several records, including 2017’s Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed). Writing in the New York Times, Nate Chinen notes that Revis’s working trio with Kris Davis and Gerald Cleaver has “a rare and mystifying cohesion.”

Currently studying in the Juilliard jazz program, Julius Rodriguez has established a strong reputation in New York as both a drummer and pianist. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Rodriguez noted how this dual perspective informs his playing:

[Piano and drums] are different worlds, though they connect through rhythm. When I’m playing drums with a piano player, there are a lot of things we catch rhythmically, and vice versa when I’m playing piano with a drummer. People notice that, and they love to see that connection. They’re both accompanying instruments, and their job is to make the soloist feel comfortable and sound good. It’s different on the piano, because you have all the harmonic things you can do. On the drums there’s the rhythm. So the harmonic sense helps me on drums, and the rhythmic awareness helps me on piano.

In addition to creating a strong hookup with Revis on the leader’s open and mercurial compositions, Rodriguez will be sparring with drummer Nasheet Waits and saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo over the course of the concerts as well.  (more…)

From L to R: Eric McPherson, Kris Davis, and Stephan Crump. Photo courtesy of the artists.

This Saturday, December 8, The Jazz Gallery welcomes the Borderlands Trio to our stage for two sets. Featuring bassist Stephan Crump, pianist Kris Davis, and drummer Eric McPherson, the band last graced our stage a year ago to celebrate the release of their debut album, Asteroidea (Intakt). In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Crump spoke about the group’s unique sense of collective orchestration:

I think we all share an orchestral sense, a sense of structure, as far as each member has a broad conception of the range of possibilities on his or her instrument, and the various colors and textures and overtones, and thinking about what one can offer to the music that orchestrates it properly at any given moment based on what the others are offering. That might take each of us into areas that aren’t necessarily traditional areas on the instrument, but everybody in the band percieves the music on that level as well. I think of it as orchestration. So that’s really satisfying, because on a simple level it means that everybody’s always making things work. Whatever anybody offers to the music, the rest of the band will contextualize it instantly so it works, even as things are always morphing.

Before coming out the Gallery to hear the trio’s ever-deepening interplay, check out the sprawling and shapeshifting title track from the group’s album.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Speaking with saxophonist and composer Remy Le Boeuf always feels like a masterclass. As he talks about his work, he naturally brings in performance ideas, composition techniques, observations on the likes of Bartók, Copland, and Mingus, and lots of praise for his musical peers. Though already a busy performer and educator in New York, Le Boeuf has recently started a new professional chapter as a big band composer and arranger. Through an unlikely series of personal connections, Le Boeuf received his first big band commission in 2015, and since then, has had arrangements and compositions premiered throughout the world, including by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

Remy Le Boeuf’s large-ensemble writing has recently coalesced in his “Assembly of Shadows” Orchestra. The upcoming concert at The Jazz Gallery will feature the premiere of the piece by the same name, “Assembly of Shadows,” made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. Continue reading below for some insights into Le Boeuf’s process as a saxophonist and big band composer.

The Jazz Gallery: So how did the big band thing start for you?

Remy Le Boeuf: I started writing for big band when I was eighteen, but I began to take it more seriously in 2015 when I got commissioned by Keio University in Japan to write them a piece for a big band competition.

TJG: How did the commission come about if you weren’t writing big band music at the time?

RLB: My friend Franky Rousseau, an excellent big band composer, introduced me to a guy named Jun Umegaki at a party. Jun had been a fan of my music, and worked with this Japanese big band, Keio Light Music Society, comprised of students from Keio University. They have been supportive of a lot of young New York composers, and had worked with Franky, as well as Miho Hazama, Michael Thomas, and plenty more. Keio commissioned me to write a piece that summer for an upcoming competition, and I got to work with the band via email. They would rehearse and send me recordings, and I’d send back notes and make adjustments to the piece. I became more familiar with large-ensemble textures, and learned more about how to write for the instrumentation and for those specific players. They were so motivated to play my music, and I was excited to be working with them. It was contagious. They performed the piece I wrote, “Strata,” at the Yamano Big Band Competition, and won for the first time in decades. It was a huge high for all of them, and it was so exciting for me to be writing music I loved for such enthusiastic musicians.

I had so much fun writing for Keio that I wanted to write more for big band. I applied for other commission opportunities with the recording I got from Keio, and one of those opportunities was the Jerome Fund, awarded by the American Composers Forum through the generosity of the Jerome Foundation. I proposed writing a piece called “Assembly of Shadows,” and I was awarded the commission. I began writing that in 2016, and now, this fall, I’m finishing it. I’m excited to premiere it at The Jazz Gallery, and the ensemble shares the name of the piece, “Assembly of Shadows.”

TJG: So this is the beginning of an exciting new project. You have an ambitious timeline for the next year, and you are in the middle of a fundraising campaign for your first large-ensemble album.  Can you tell me about your vision for this project?

RLB: After we premiere “Assembly of Shadows” at The Jazz Gallery next week, I’m going to start planning the recording, which will likely take place in Spring 2019. By that time, I hope to have raised enough money through my fundraising efforts and applications to various organizations to record, and I hope to release the album in Fall 2019 at the earliest. It takes a lot of resources to make a large ensemble album, including paying everyone appropriately for their full days in the studio, renting the space, tuning the piano, getting hard drives, and hourly rates for engineering, mixing, and mastering. But I have all of this music that I’m really excited about, and I’m ready to share it with the world, so I’m doing everything I can to make it happen. In addition to that, I have a sextet album coming out in April, so I’ve got a lot going on this year.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, December 6, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome vocal trio SONICA to our stage for two sets. Featuring Thana Alexa, Nicole Zuraitis, and Julia Adamy, the group performs original compositions and smart arrangements, deftly mixing their voices with Alexa’s looping station, Zuraitis’s keyboards, and Adamy’s bass. Check out their piece “15/4” performed lived, below:

For their performance at the Gallery, SONICA will be joined by special guest drummers (and husbands) Antonio Sanchez, Dan Pugach, and Ross Pederson. Don’t miss the chance to check out this trio’s unique artistry live. (more…)

Album art courtesy of BFM Jazz.

This Sunday, December 2, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome the University of Miami’s Frost Concert Jazz Band to our stage for a special performance of American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom. This past fall, John Daversa, chair of the university’s studio music & jazz department, spearheaded an album featuring performances by “Dreamers”—undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The album’s repertoire includes fresh takes on classic Americana, including Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Bernstein’s “America,” and Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee,” interspersed with musical spoken-word segments by the Dreamer-performers.

Following in the footsteps of works by the likes of Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Charles Mingus, and others, the album is a work of musical activism. According to one of the album’s producers, music attorney Doug Davis, “We’re hoping to use the music for messaging purposes. We’re using the album to get these phenomenal kids in front of people who otherwise wouldn’t be aware of the issue. If lightning can strike because we hit the right notes, well that’s the goal.”

Before coming out to hear the Frost Concert Jazz Band’s special performance of this work, give a listen to the album, below.

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