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Clockwise from top left: Maria Grand, Baden Goyo, Carolina Mama, Zack O’Farrill, and Ben Tiberio. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This past January, the city of Havana, Cuba was hit by a devastating storm, featuring a tornado and pounding rain. Three residents died, hundreds were injured, and the city suffered significant damage. Since our early days, The Jazz Gallery has been a home for Cuban music and musicians, and so this Saturday, March 30, we are proud to host a concert benefitting the rebuilding efforts in Havana. The concert will feature a special, one-off quintet of saxophonist Maria Grand, pianist Baden Goyo, vocalist Carolina Mama, bassist Ben Tiberio, and drummer Zack O’Farrill. The group will be joined by surprise special guests in the second set. (more…)

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, March 29, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Tivon Pennicott back to our stage. For the evening, Pennicott has convened a quartet of regular collaborators, including trumpeter Philip Dizack, bassist Dean Torrey, and drummer Kenneth Salters. In an interview with Jazz Speaks earlier this year, Pennicott spoke about the new album he is working, where he channels a classic jazz sound from top to bottom:

First, I decided to do an album on tape, the purist way. My initial desire was to get that sound of the 50s and 60s, the way they recorded it, get into the spirit and process they went through. There’s still so much new music where people still pay tribute to those old classic sounds, whether it’s in the writing, recording, or using samples. I wanted to recreate that sound from the ground up because man, every time I hear the old stuff, there’s just nothing like it. Also, I fantasize about what it would be like to have lived in the 50s and 60s. What I would do, how would my music sound, how would I have interacted with those people? This album came out of all that thinking. We did it in Studio G in Williamsburg, where they have a really good tape machine and a big room, with everyone in one room, and did it the way they did it.

Before checking out Pennicott and company at the Gallery on Friday, take a listen to a recent performance with Pennicott’s long running Sound Quartet.

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Design courtesy of the artist.

We’ve just passed the equinox, spring is on its way, and Kassa Overall is four shows deep into his TIME CAPSULE residency at The Jazz Gallery. The last gig, featuring Aaron Parks and Rashaan Carter, was a quiet Valentine’s Day affair. The next show will feature Sullivan Fortner, a dynamic and introspective artist who, now in his early thirties, is widely praised as one of today’s top jazz pianists. In our latest interview with Overall, we talked about French existentialist writers, the tribulations of being an independent artist, and the quiet brilliance of Sullivan Fortner (pun intended—read on to see why).

The Jazz Gallery: Hey Kassa. What’s the latest with the new album?

Kassa Overall: Yo. The album is still lit. Right now I’m a super independent artist, so I’m working on booking shows. There are a bunch of little pockets of energy all over, but you still have to thaw them up to reach them, so to speak. For example, I’m performing in Seattle at the Capital Hill Block Party on July 20th, so we booked a show on July 19th at Jack London Revue in Portland too. I reached out to the jazz radio station in Portland to try to get some promotion going: Turns out, they love the record, they’ve been playing it on air, and they were excited when I hit them up. As an independent artist, I would never have known that. That show didn’t come to me, the radio station didn’t come to me. It’s all in that classic phrase, “the squeaky hinge gets the oil.” There are opportunities out there where I have to do a certain amount of creating. That’s the grind right now.

TJG: Would you prefer to have more people on your team, or does doing it yourself give you more freedom to build the career you envision?

KO: I would love to have more people on my team. I have a small team of people who are close to me, who care about me. It’s hard to find people, in a way. On one hand, there are people who would love to be part of what I’m doing. In order to get them to be helpful, they have to know how to do all this stuff, and I have to know how to manage them. I make music, I’m an artist, and now I’m slowly becoming a business owner due to circumstance. I’m learning how to communicate with people in order to get stuff done.

On the other hand, there are the established booking agents, managers, publicists. Anybody worth working with needs you to be on a certain level so they can book you. It’s a catch-22. So yes, I have people I work with, but I’m trying to raise myself up to the point where I become somebody who established managers or agents want to work with. They can love the art, but they don’t need to listen to the album, they don’t care. It comes down to “Last time you played Chicago, how many people showed up? How many people will show up now?” I’m slowly learning that you need to spend time doing the thing you have passion for, in order to make the machine work the best. I need to be working on music, and spending time working on other stuff can take away from my artistic thing. I’m working the angles, but I’m grateful for where I’m at, and am trying to do the best artistic work with what I have.

TJG: You have a lot to be proud of. You’re doing the hustle, the art is great. Props!

KO: I appreciate it, man.

TJG: How was the last TIME CAPSULE show with Aaron Parks and Rashaan Carter?

KO: It was good. We played a little quieter, more intimate. It was Valentine’s Day [laughs]. It ended up giving us a good kind of vibe. I even want to play quieter on the next gig. It was so intimate, everybody in the room got to feel it, we got high together.

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Photo by Lynne Harty, courtesy of the artist.

Grammy-nominated vocalist and contemporary composer Theo Bleckmann is bringing a new quartet to The Jazz Gallery for a full evening of songs. The program includes compositions from four corners of the musical map, creating a cross-generational, multimodal backdrop over which Bleckmann and his band will freely explore. The band includes pianist Mike King, bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer Ulysses Owens. Read on for Bleckmann’s thoughts on the new band and his approach to programming a concert of old and new music.

The Jazz Gallery: To start, I must say that I love the band that you’ve put together for this show, with Mike King, Chris Tordini and Ulysses Owens.

Theo Bleckmann: I do too. Have you heard Mike King play?

TJG: Not in person, but I’ve heard recordings.

TB: He’s amazing. He can play edgy and hard, but he also has a lyrical side that is just completely mesmerizing. I realized how amazing he was when we did a soundcheck, and he started playing “Skylark.” I joined him, and it just worked beautifully. Skylark was just a random tune, yet he played it so sensitively, so spaciously, with such beautiful voicings. It had so much emotion and space. He gets a sound out of the piano. That sealed the deal.

TJG: Do you have the words to describe how it felt?

TB: It felt like we didn’t have to talk about anything. It was just clear how the music should go. When you find someone you really like to play with, you don’t have to talk all that much about what needs to happen. You both take each other to a place that feels right.

TJG: Are there specific ways that you feel Mike adapts to your voice?

TB: Mike is his own person. He has his own viewpoint when playing. He plays lyrically, very hard and aggressively, which I really like. It’s not just one personality or one sound. His playing is as deep as a real person. Sometimes it’s mad, sometimes it’s sweet. It’s not just one color. I appreciate that.

TJG: What starts to happen when you get Chris and Ulysses into the mix?

TB: We’ll see! I’ve been playing with Ulysses for three years now, I just love his playing: His drumming makes me smile. As soon as he starts to play, my heart opens up. It’s this magical feeling that I can’t name. I’ve played with Chris many times as well. The first time was in John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet when Chris was subbing for Drew Gress. I hired Chris for my last ECM record, Elegy. He has a beautiful sound, he has all the makings of a musician I like to work with, and he’s also extremely nice [laughs]. He’s open to not having to solo on every other song, and the same is true for Mike and Ulysses. The musicians I like to work with are interested in the shape of things, not necessarily on being ‘important soloists.’ They’re interested in creating something together.

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Nathaniel Morgan, Dustin Carlson, and Kate Gentile. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This Saturday, March 23, The Jazz Gallery welcomes the band Secret People to our stage for two set. Featuring saxophonist Nathaniel Morgan, guitarist Dustin Carlson, and drummer Kate Gentile, the collaborative trio balances extended improvisation with deftly-constructed compositions. Reflecting their diverse backgrounds in an array of musical practices, Secret People’s music can simultaneously evoke the noisy intensity of Merzbow, the serpentine explorations of Tim Berne, and the quirky subversions of Thelonious Monk.

Before coming to the Gallery for Saturday’s performance, check out some of Secret People’s recent performance at Outskirs Music Series in Brooklyn, below.

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