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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Melissa Aldana (Jimmy Katz) and Kevin Hays (Genevieve Russell)

Melissa Aldana (Jimmy Katz) and Kevin Hays (Genevieve Russell)

This Saturday, March 1st, is fit to be an exploratory evening as The Jazz Gallery hosts the convergence of two exceptional musical personalities: tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana and pianist Kevin Hays.

Described as a “trend-setter for her generation” by Greg Osby and “one of New York’s finest young saxophonists” by George Coleman, Santiago-born Melissa Aldana has been quickly making large waves in the New York and international jazz scenes over the last few years. This past September Melissa was named the winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk Competition, establishing herself as the first female instrumentalist to win the competition. Since moving to New York in 2009 from Berklee College of Music, Melissa has performed with likes of Greg Osby, George Garzone, George Coleman, Benny GolsonFrancisco Mela, and Antonio Sanchez. Regarding her sophomore release “Second Cycle” (Inner Circle), The New York Times notes that it “…sounds like a moment of synthesis and challenge, when a jazz musician wants to squeeze the music’s history and prove herself on deeper levels.” This past winter, Melissa has been performing with her Crash Trio, accompanied by bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Francisco Mela, while making numerous stops at jazz festivals across Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Chile. We look forward to her Gallery return.

Joining Melissa will be critically acclaimed pianist Kevin Hays, whom John Scofield refers to as “…all encompassing. Phenomenally so!Kevin has been a driving force in the New York jazz community for over 20 years and is noted for his work with Bill Stewart, having led his trio with Stewart and Doug Weiss while also being a part of Stewart’s own trio. Kevin is also highly in-demand as a sideman, having performed and/or recorded with the likes of Eddie HendersonNicholas PaytonJack DeJohnette, and John Scofield. Recently, Kevin has been leading his “New Day” Trio with bassist Rob Jost and drummer Greg Joseph, which, according to The New York Times, “…has suggested a modern update to the Keith Jarrett Trio of the 1970s.” We have been presenting Kevin on various bills since 2002 and look forward to yet another exemplary performance as he and Melissa negotiate and explore ideas on our stage this Saturday.

We got in touch with Kevin Hays by email; he had this to say about this collaboration:

This is a new project for the two of us. I have played and recorded quite a bit in a duo context (with Brad Mehldau, Bill Stewart, Eli Degibri, etc) and always enjoy the intimacy of the format. I had been hearing about Melissa for a while before she won the Monk competition. She has a wonderful sound and a great, melodic sense. 

The material we have chosen to perform is a mixture of Melissa’s  and my own originals, a couple of standards (and a few surprises thrown in!). There’s a looseness to the approach we are taking to the material that I really like. Melissa or I might start a tune and not even hint at what it is for a little while. Already I feel a sense of trust growing where the music can happen organically, without forcing.

I’m excited to see what grows out of this new musical partnership!

Check out some recent work from both players:

Melissa & Crash Trio at Berklee College of Music:

Kevin Hays’s New Day Trio playing Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl,” with Kevin on Fender Rhodes:

Melissa Aldana and Kevin Hays will perform as a duo at The Jazz Gallery this Saturday, March 1st, 2014. This performance features Melissa on tenor saxophone and Kevin on piano. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m., $20 general admission and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here.