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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Fabian Almazan is busy as ever, keeping up his longstanding gig in Terence Blanchard’s band, as well as his record label, Biophilia. In addition, Almazan just finished recording his sophomore album with a trio consisting of bassist Linda Oh and drummer Henry Cole. He’ll be bringing the brand-new book of music to The Jazz Gallery, along with Cole on drums and bassist Yunior Terry-Cabrera. We caught up with Almazan, as he was en route from Arizona back to New York, for a quick chat about the new music.

The Jazz Gallery: What brought you to Phoenix this week, and where are you off to next?

Fabian Almazan: We were playing in Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University, where we brought in some big band music for the students. We also played a trio concert. I’m headed home to NYC now. I’ll be for twenty hours before flying off to Seattle, where we’re playing with Terence Blanchard at Jazz Alley for a couple of days.

TJG: And what will you do in New York for twenty hours? Sleep? Catch up on rest? Do you have to run around?

FA: I’ll be running around like crazy [laughs]. First, we’re going to rehearse for the gig at the Gallery, because Yunior hasn’t played this music with us yet. I’m also releasing a couple of albums this year on Biophilia, so I need to do a bunch of things for those releases.

TJG: I hope you can relax on the plane for a few hours!

FA: Yeah. Christmas holidays are right around the corner, so I’ll be able to relax a little then… only ten months away [laughs].

TJG: Exactly. They’re always singing about the three hundred days of Christmas [laughs]. Props to you for keeping busy, and doing a lot of wonderful things! You mentioned the music is new to Yunior?

FA: Exactly. I’ve played with Yunior in different musical settings, but he hasn’t played the music we’re bringing to The Gallery yet. Some of it is new to Henry as well. We recorded an album with a bunch of new music in December, Linda, Henry, and myself, so this will be a chance to keep it fresh.

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Photo by Una Stade, courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, February 28, The Jazz Gallery welcomes vocalist Arta Jēkabsone back to our stage for two sets. Jēkabsone made her Gallery debut this past autumn, showcasing the developing rapport of her home-base ensemble that will return this week. Before coming to New York to study at The New School, Jēkabsone grew up in Kandava, a small town in Latvia, which fostered a distinct relationship between her art and surroundings. In a previous interview in Jazz Speaks, Jēkabsone described that idyllic setting:

[Kandava] is a small town with a lovely river called Abava. I basically spent my childhood there until I was about fifteen years old. It was peaceful there. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I started going to high school in the capital city, Riga.I would maybe travel once a month or so, depending on the stuff I had to do with school and music. Now, I go back to Kandava when I have the urge, the need for space and calmness. Kandava became the place I could go to develop and be with music and with myself, instead of doing concerts.

Before coming to the Gallery to hear Jēkabsone and her band, check out a performance from this past summer in Kandava, below.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Tuesday, February 26, bassist Nick Dunston returns to The Jazz Gallery stage with a new group. Called Truffle Pig, the group is a sax-bass-drums double trio featuring some of Dunston’s closest collaborators.

Dunston’s work straddles an array of musical communities and practices. Dunston is just as comfortable holding down the low-end in a post-bop combo (he’ll be back at the Gallery on Thursday with vocalist Arta Jēkabsone) as he is experimenting with unruly instrumental sounds (he just premiered a new work for solo viola on Sunday). It’s no wonder he’s already gotten to call with acclaimed artists such as Tyshawn Sorey and Marc Ribot.

Before checking out Dunston’s newest work at the Gallery this week, take a listen to a stirring solo bass performance from last year that showcases his wide imagination.

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From L to R: Tom Rainey, Mary Halvorson, & Ingrid Laubrock. Photo courtesy of the artist.

After thirty years as a sideman, working with the likes of Nels Cline, Tim Berne, and Fred Hersch, drummer Tom Rainey released his first record as a leader in 2010—a fully-improvised trio date with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and guitarist Mary Halvorson. This month Rainey celebrates the release of his fourth album, Combobulated, his third release on the Intakt label, featuring his trio with Halvorson and Laubrock. A momentary gap opened up in Rainey’s schedule, so we seized the opportunity to talk on the phone about the new album.

Tom Rainey: I’m in Scottsdale right now, playing tonight with Nels Cline’s band. Today is the first day of his tour. I actually met Nels in LA yesterday, and we drove to Phoenix last night. We’ll mostly be moving every day to different cities now.

The Jazz Gallery: Has it been intense for you, with the release of your new album, Combobulated, and also getting ready for this tour?

TR: Not really, we’re just doing the concert at The Jazz Gallery, and there’s not a lot of conflict right now between my trio and the other things that I’m doing. It probably won’t happen until next year, but we’re planning a tour in early 2020. Everybody’s busy doing lots of different stuff, so we just get together when we can get together anyway.

TJG: Do I have it right that Pool School, released in 2010, was your first record as a leader?

TR: Yeah. I don’t remember the dates so much, but Pool School was the first thing I ever put out as a leader. I’ve been involved with projects that were more collective, but this was the first thing I ever called “mine.”

TJG: Were you waiting for the right people to come along?

TR: You know, I’ve always been, and still am, pretty creatively satisfied just by doing all the things I do, things I’m not necessarily leading. I never felt a big need to have a band. But when Ingrid and I started playing together, that was a big part of the incentive to create more situations where we could play together, and that was part of the impetus for putting together this group. After a couple of gigs, I knew the musical chemistry had the potential to go a lot of different places.

TJG: The first album was from 2010, the year you and Ingrid got married, correct?

TR: Oh yes, I guess it was.

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From L to R: Shai Maestro, Ari Bragi Karason, Arthur Hnatek, Rick Rosato. Photo courtesy of the artist.

A native of Switzerland, drummer Arthur Hnatek arrived in New York a decade ago to study at the New School. Now based in Berlin, Hnatek is seemingly always on the move, touring with the likes of pianist Tigran Hamasyan and trumpeter Erik Truffaz. A composer of diverse interests and expansive vision, Hnatek is equally comfortable writing for large ensembles as he is devising work for his solo project, SWIMS.

This Saturday, February 23, Hnatek returns to New York to perform at The Jazz Gallery with the collaborative quartet, Melismetiq. Featuring New School peers Rick Rosato on bass and Ari Bragi Karason on trumpet (along with pianist Shai Maestro), the group explores stripped-down forms as a jumping-off point for melodic expression. We caught up with Hnatek at home in Berlin via Skype, where he spoke about Melismetiq’s development and expanding the expressive vocabulary of the drum set.

The Jazz Gallery: I understand you just arrived home?

AH: Yes, I just got back today from Switzerland, where I’m from originally. I played in this city called Basel, where I played my solo drums and electronics project, SWIMS.

TJG: Does that stand for something?

AH: It’s just one of those words where if you spell it in capital letters and turn it on itself, it remains the same. Most of my titles with that project are either palindromes or other forms of wordplay—I just like the games (laughs)—simple words with some kind of visual meaning to them.

TJG: It seems like a lot of drummers have recently been adding electronic sounds to their repertoire. I’m sure you know Marcus Gilmore and Ian Chang.

AH: Yes, of course. Ian was actually the one who hooked me up with Sunhouse Sensory Percussion.

TJG: I personally think it’s amazing how natural the integration of the electronic sounds has become. It’s almost like DJing in that you can instantly trigger a sound or loop in time the same way you might hit a snare for example. Do you see these additions as a natural progression of the instrument?

AH: I think drummers in general have always been interested in audio technology—if you look back to jazz drummers of the past, some of them would record and mix their own albums and were very savvy with technology in general. I know so many drummers who are sound engineers, and who do really great production work. So yes, I think it comes naturally for a drummer to be interested in using these types of auxiliary equipment, maybe in the same way a guitar player is interested in all of their gear and pedals.

TJG: So you’ve been touring SWIMS a bit—have you been touring with Melismetiq recently?

AH: No, we’ve never really toured the band. We kind of play one-off gigs here and there. The last one was actually also in Switzerland. Usually the gigs either come from my contacts or from Ari, the Icelandic trumpet player. In the past, festivals have asked us to bring a project, and we try to feature Melismetiq. We played this last summer in Geneva for a festival, but it was only one show. Both Shai and Rick had to fly to all the way from New York just for that one concert.

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