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Photo by Kasia Idzkowska, courtesy of the artist.

This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is thrilled to team up with Brooklyn Raga Massive to present two nights of BRM’s Coltrane Raga Tribute. The project first performed at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn in September 2015, highlighting the influence of Indian classical music on Coltrane’s work. Under the direction of percussionist Sameer Gupta, the group features a cast of musicians performing on both Indian and jazz instruments. To get a sense of the project’s rich sonic landscape, check out their version of Coltrane’s “Alabama” from their debut performance.

For this special performance at The Jazz Gallery, the ensemble features Marcus Strickland on woodwinds, Abhik Mukherjee on sitar, Jay Gandhi on bansuri, Sharik Hasan on piano & keyboards, Rashaan Carter on bass, and music director Sameer Gupta on drum set & tabla. (more…)

Photo credit William Geddes.

Saxophonist and composer Chet Doxas is nothing if not inquisitive. In each of his prior Jazz Speaks interviews, Doxas has stepped forward with engaging questions and observations about his craft and collaborators. In recent years, Doxas has concocted a brand-new trio alongside pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Thomas Morgan. The trio will perform new music by Doxas written for specifically for the occasion, in anticipation of a recording session for the trio’s debut album.

In an wide-ranging, back-and-forth conversation, Doxas and Gallery staff writer Noah Fishman discuss poetry, musical mentors, and the happy accidents of composition.

Chet Doxas: I’m on your website to refresh my memory of your work: I’m looking at your writing now, and am curious about your approach to poetry—I’ve also been starting to write poetry myself.

Noah Fishman: It’s funny you mention that, because poetry used to be a larger part of my life, but recently, I’ve only been writing poetically when I’m either starting a new composition, or if I’m writing down a dream. Do you sit down and say “I’m going to write a poem now,” and then a poem comes out? 

CD: I wrote my first poem at the beginning of the summer. So far, it’s getting me into a space that I’m trying to become more familiar with while improvising. This ties into the trio with Ethan and Thomas too, and the music I’ve been writing for us. I’m trying to write from the space where things reveal themselves, instead of–for lack of a better word–forcing things. Did you study music formally?

NF: Yes, in a number of different settings.

CD: I’m choosing my words carefully, because I want to avoid labels in my head, but do you ever find yourself wrestling with how you learned music?

NF: Great question. My upbringing is formal yet multifaceted. I’ve studied in a lot of traditional roots/folk music communities–Irish, Swedish, Old Time, Bluegrass, Appalachian, New England. I studied electronic music at a conservatory in Paris, I studied contemporary music at universities in the US, I studied jazz with teachers and mentors through various schools. They’re all “formal,” but they’re all so different. I find that I’m able to see musical things from different perspectives without having to leave the category of “music education.”

CD: That plays into a bigger character study about how people deal with their own education. It’s making me think back to something I’ve been working on myself, with the help of Ellery Eskelin. I’ve been making monthly visits up to his apartment, and recommending it strongly to people. He’s the closest thing I’ve had to one of those mystical mentors. You know those legendary piano teachers that people visit? Like Sophia Rosoff? The greatest piano players, jazz and classical, paid visits to her apartment, everyone from Brad Mehldau and Barry Harris to Jacob Sacks and Ethan Iverson. You face a lot of yourself in those lessons. A scale is never mentioned, nothing like that. With Ellery, we talk about the magic of music, and to be in the presence of that spirit reminds me of all these beautiful community-oriented musics you mentioned. Basically, I feel like dealing with your past, accepting yourself, and feeling good about your journey have everything to do with what you’re going to do next.

NF: It sounds like either now, or in the recent past, something about the way you think about music has frustrated you, and you’re looking to have your horizons widened.

CD: In a sense, I feel like I’ve been at a bit of an impasse. Last time we spoke, that was right when I discovered that paintings trigger a lot of music in me. At the time, I had been pretty hard on myself, practicing and never feeling great after I play, beating myself up. Why? Where does all that stuff come from? You don’t have to look far to realize that a lot of it comes from fear, ego, and unrealistic expectations.

NF: So you’re saying those expectations and fears have ties to “formal” music education?

CD: I won’t go that far. School can help you become enchanted by the ways in which music is one of the great gifts. I’m approaching it that way now, yet it’s taken me a long time to notice that aspect of music as much as I have in the past year. I’m absolutely enchanted by that reality. The music you mentioned has a community spirit, which is so beautiful: My wife grew up on the east coast of Canada, and to this day, you finish dinner and you go in the kitchen and you play and dance, like a ‘ceilidh’ in the Irish tradition. That’s still alive there. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the social aspect of that music that I think are lacking in formal education. Yet, at the same time, I don’t want to bad-mouth schools, because schools can truly open your mind to a lot of things.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Wednesday, September 25, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist David Virelles back to our stage for two sets. Presenting music in a trio format, Virelles will be joined by frequent collaborators Rashaan Carter on bass and Eric McPherson on drums.

Recently, Virelles has been busy balancing his work as a bandleader and collaborator. In August, Virelles joined drummer Andrew Cyrille’s trio for a run at the Village Vanguard, before joining Ravi Coltrane’s group at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Harlem. Virelles then played the Chicago Jazz Festival with an all-star group of Latinx musicians (and Gallery stalwarts) including Miguel Zenon, Melissa Aldana, Ricky Rodriguez, and Antonio Sanchez. For Latinx Heritage Month, Virelles was profiled by the streaming service Tidal (alongside Zenon and Camila Meza), which you can check out here.

Before hearing Virelles and his trio live, take a listen to their recent performance at Roulette as part of the annual Vision Festival, alongside percussionist Román Diaz, below.

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Photo by Caroline Mardok, courtesy of the artist.

This Monday, September 23, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to have saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock back on our stage presenting new music for a new sextet. Much of Laubrock’s recent work as a leader builds on concepts of instrumentation and sound color. Ubatuba is a wind-powered band, with trombone, tuba, and saxophones. Serpentines adds live electronic processing into the mix. And Contemporary Chaos Practices expands Laubrock’s canvass to the size of a full orchestra. Her latest sextet fits into this pattern, as Laubrock surrounds her saxophone with an array of strings—guitarist Brandon Seabrook, bassist Michael Formanek, violinist Mazz Swift, and cellist Tomeka Reid, orbiting around Tom Rainey’s combustible drumming.

Before coming out to the Gallery, take a listen to Laubrock, Rainey, and Seabrook’s prickly rapport in a performance with bassist Brandon Lopez at Three’s Brewing this past July.

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Photos courtesy of the artists.

New projects, fresh ideas, and “first times” always have their challenges. For Harish Raghavan and Savannah Harris, their ongoing mentorship series has layers of newness. For their first show together at The Jazz Gallery, Raghavan mentioned that “not only was it my first time playing with Savannah, it was my first time with Morgan Guerin, my first time with Maria Grand, and my first time playing my own music with John Escreet, and Eden Ladin soon. Everything was new. There were no expectations. I don’t know what’s gonna happen next: That’s exciting.”

For background on the musicians and the mentorship series, we did a short piece introducing the mentorship here. Speaking on the phone with both Harris and Raghavan, we caught up after their Jazz Gallery show, and will chat with both of them once more at the end of their project.

The Jazz Gallery: Harish, was Savannah on your radar before you got paired together at The Jazz Gallery?

Harish Raghavan: Without a doubt. I met Savannah when she first moved to New York a few years ago. She grew up with some of my friends that I play with a lot, Ambrose Akinmusire and Justin Brown. They watched her grow up in Oakland, they’ve known her for a long time, so we had some familiarity. But I hadn’t heard her play until recently. I heard her with Aaron Parks, and she sounded great. Playing with her felt the same. Very talented.

TJG: Savannah, what were your first impressions of the gig at the Gallery?

Savannah Harris: It went well! I was definitely nervous, which was interesting for me. I always feel like I want to do well, but, I was nervous! The first set was cool. We were coming together and gelling. The second set was very powerful. It was tight. People we love came out and supported, it created a really nice environment.

TJG: Did your nerves change throughout the night?

SH: No! [Laughs] I can’t really say why. It wasn’t a fear of not being able to execute, though. For Harish, the execution of the music is really just at the base level for him. There’s a lot more to get into beyond just being able to play it. I was trying to get there. I had fear about getting there, and whether it would hit. It did hit, so I was very pleased after it was all said and done, and I think he did too.

TJG: What do you mean when you say that for Harish, there’s so much more than getting it right?

SH: Yesterday, we talked on the phone and had a little debrief, and shared a sense of what to do going forward. Harish said that the intention behind his music is that we are free of our traditional roles. Rather than “rhythm section being there to anchor, support, and accompany,” we actually are there as equivalent soloists. It makes the job of the rhythm section more complicated. In addition to being able to shape the music, support and accompany, you have to be so comfortable doing that that you’re able to engage as a soloist throughout the whole show. It takes it to the next level.

TJG: Harish, were catalyzing moments in your career where you started to push against the “traditional role” of the bassist?

HR: Never any particular moments, more like particular musicians. As bass players, we love the instrument, the pedagogy, the history, we love listening to everyone from Walter Page to Daryl Johns and everyone in between, you know. We’re always checking out what’s happening with the instrument. You start to understand the roles based on the history of the instrument and how different bass players were able to open up serious ideas of roles. We do have to understand what the significance of this instrument is, but it’s less about roles because often times, roles are bound by rules, and then things can become contrived. To be in the moment, you need to find the right kind of people, where understanding the foundation, history, and the role of their instruments is all secondary.

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