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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This week, The Jazz Gallery finishes off its Summer Season with two nights of performances by drummer Johnathan Blake’s Pentad. Earlier this year, Blake released his newest album as a leader, Trion (Giant Steps Arts). Featuring tenor saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Linda Oh, the album was recorded live at The Jazz Gallery. The group stretches on an eclectic set list, featuring originals from the band members, as well as tunes by Charlie Parker, Sting, and John Blake, Jr. Take a listen below:
At the Gallery this week, Blake has assembled a new band called Pentad, featuring a mix of Gallery regulars from different generations: Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Joel Ross on vibraphone, David Virelles on piano, and Dezron Douglas on bass.  (more…)

Design courtesy of City Parks Foundation.

This Saturday, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to once again team up with the Joyce and George Wein Foundation and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival to present Reclamation, a new collaboratively-composed work that reexamines the music of Charlie Parker. Last year’s project, Unheard, featured compositions by trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, and vibraphonist Joel Ross. Check out Wilkins and Ross talking with George Wein and Jazz Gallery artistic director Rio Sakairi below.

Like UnheardReclamation presents three young musicians’ own takes on Parker’s music—saxophonist/vocalist Camille Thurman, vibraphonist Nikara Warren, and harpist Brandee YoungerReclamation kicks off the festival festivities at 3:00 P.M. at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem on Saturday, August 24. (more…)

Photo by Emra Islek, courtesy of the artist.

This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome guitarist Charles Altura and his quintet back to our stage for two evenings of performances. A year ago at the Gallery, Altura presented the fruits of his 2017-18 Residency Commission, entitled Portraits of Resonance. In an interview about the project with Jazz Speaks, Altura talked about how he approached writing for a band with both piano and guitar:

I’ve always been fascinated by the combination of guitar and piano together—and actually trumpet, too. So a lot of the texture is just dealing with that combination. I tend to think of the guitar and the piano as extensions of each other when you have both in the same band. It’s always an interesting thing, the way people deal with guitar and piano together because they cover the same register.

I think it’s because my first instrument was piano and I still see the guitar from the perspective of being a piano player. I’ve written all of the music for [the commission] on piano. So then when I get to the guitar, I’m kind of seeing it as one instrument. Having that perspective helps me to have an idea of what space needs to be filled—or not filled.

For this performance at the Gallery, Altura will be revisiting music from his Portraits project with some new personalities in the mix, including trumpeter Philip Dizack, pianist Eden Ladin, and bassist Matt Brewer (Kendrick Scott reprises his roll on drums).  (more…)

Kris Davis & Julian Lage. Photos courtesy of the artists.

Pianist Kris Davis and guitarist Julian Lage are two hard-to-pin-down musicians. Davis’ and Lage’s individual projects over the years, have engaged a huge range of personalities. For Davis, that includes Terri Lyne Carrington, Craig Taborn, Ingrid Laubrock, and Mary Halvorson; while for Lage, that includes Nels Cline, Eric Harland, Nicole Henry and Fred Hersch. Ahead of their duo hit at The Jazz Gallery this Wednesday and Thursday, they discuss the merits of judgment, cooperative exploration and those persistent playback scaries. 

The Jazz Gallery: Musicians are always engaging in conversation, bandstand dialogue, etc. Both of you obviously are very receptive conscious listeners. Kris, to me there’s something about your playing that feels like a very close to literal translation of the idea of conversation, almost a voice speaking. In what ways, if any, do you feel like there’s a connection between your actual speech patterns and your phrasing choices or broad musical choices? 

Kris Davis: I guess what I would say is that I’m innately a shy person and some times it’s hard for me to come up with things to say. So when I’m playing music, it’s kind of the opposite. I feel completely free to generate material and express myself. And I think that’s really how I express myself in general. 

TJG: When you’re playing, do you feel as though you’re not going to be judge for what you’re saying musically in the way that you might be judged for what you say verbally? 

KD: I’m from the school of “There are no mistakes.” It hasn’t always been that way but, at this point, anything I come across, if I think it’s not sounding that exciting or I’m not happy with my choice, sometimes I’ll just stick with it and see where I can take it. Things that might seem dissonant or, I don’t know, things that other people might consider a mistake or a bad sound, to me, I try to come from a place of loving all sound and just rolling with that and going with it. 

TJG: That concept relates directly to the practice of reserving self-judgment. Julian, over the course of your career as an artist, have you transitioned into that headspace of being far less critical of yourself than maybe when you began playing? 

Julian Lage: That’s a good question. I suppose in certain respects, the stakes seem a little clearer now than maybe they did when I was younger, as far as what’s really at risk, what’s really at stake if I don’t play exactly as I had hoped or it doesn’t go the way I’d wished it would. 

KD: Yeah, I understand that sentiment. 

JL: As far as critique and judgment, I’m very much aligned with Kris in that respect. I embrace critique as kind of a dramatic subtext. Maybe a player is going about their business and then you hear something happen that you maybe think, “Ooh, that’s awkward,” and then you hear how they reconcile it. I would say it’s like that. It’s very dramatically interesting. And it’s not divorced from judgment per se; it’s just the relationship to judgment is not stifled. I’m pretty blunt. If I play something that I feel is not going well, I’ll say, “That sucked. Cool.” And then if it’s killing, there’s something happening and I might say, “Well that was amazing.” I’ll feel empowered to say, “Did you hear that? I’ve never heard a guitar do that. It’s amazing.” I don’t take any credit for it, but I do think amazing things happen and it’s fun to rejoice. 

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Photo by Gaya Feldhiem Schorr, courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, August 17, trombonist Kalia Vandever returns to The Jazz Gallery to celebrate the release of her debut album, In Bloom. Upon the record’s release in May, Vandever and her bandmates received positive notice from WBGO’s Nate Chinen: “This is a cohort that has obviously metabolized many different approaches,” Chinen writes, “and chosen its own path.” You can check out the record yourself, below.
Before her show at the Gallery, Vandever sat down with us at Jazz Speaks to talk about developing a band sound, her observations on the current New York jazz community, and her recent forays into solo performance (which she’ll continue to explore at the Gallery on Saturday).

The Jazz Gallery: Your trombone playing captures the instrument’s capacity for being a vastly dynamic and emotionally resonant melodic voice. What initially drew you to the trombone and has your relationship with the instrument changed over time?

Kalia Vandever: I first heard the instrument on this record my dad used to play around the house. I told him that I wanted to play the trombone without realizing what it looked like. It’s funny because when I received my first horn, I couldn’t reach 7th position and I felt so limited on the instrument, but really loved the challenge. I honestly feel similar about the instrument today. There are certainly days that the instrument and its limitations really frustrate me, but the feeling motivates me to lean into the really beautiful qualities of the trombone.

TJG: You’ve said that the people in your band include some of your closest friends in New York City, both personally and professionally. How have these friendships influenced the way that these compositions have developed since their conception?

KV: I’m always pretty confident that a piece I bring into rehearsal will sound way better once I hear what they have to add to it. I try to leave room for the guys to take liberties with the music, so if they’re hearing something that I didn’t write, I trust that it’s going to be thoughtful and musical. The way we sound as a band is constantly evolving because we’re all changing as musicians and improvisers.

TJG: Perhaps it’s because of the pedal that runs throughout, but the track “Renee” invokes a rising sensation of ascension or elevation, almost as if something is being searched for while it floats higher and higher. What is the story behind this composition and what is the feeling of playing it with the group?

KV: Renee is my sister’s middle name and this piece was inspired by her perseverance and strength during a difficult period of her life. I’d say the forward moving element in the melody reflects her resilience. The piece sort of devolves and can often get a little chaotic in the middle, which I really love. It’s something I really try to employ in my writing and performances; striking a balance between beauty and chaos. It’s become one of my favorite songs to play.

TJG: How do you envision the kind of space that gets created between you, your bandmates and the audience when this music is performed? Is there a certain invisible narrative you want to bring forward through the music, like the experiences at the Whitney Plantation that inspired “Lost in The Oaks,” or is it more about creating a mood or valence shared between everyone?

KV: Not all of my compositions have a clear narrative and even if they were inspired by a specific experience, I generally err on the side of letting the audience experience the music in the way they want to experience it. There’s certainly a mood that we create on stage, but it might be different for those listening in the audience, so I try not to influence the way they hear things.

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