Posts by Kevin Laskey

Photo courtesy of the artist.

A master of trombone multiphonics in the tradition of Albert Mangelsdorf, and a successful arranger for TV, Joe Fiedler can cover huge aesthetic ground during the course of single performance. Fiedler’s home-base trio with bassist Rob Jost and drummer Michael Sarin can slide in and out of abstraction on a dime, while his low-brass quartet Big Sackbut showcases a diverse cast of top-notch players.

This month marks the release of Fiedler’s newest record as a leader, Like Strange (Multiphonics Music), which augments his working trio with saxophonist Jeff Lederer and guitarist Pete McCann. On Saturday, March 25th, Fiedler and his quintet will celebrate the release of the record at The Jazz Gallery with two sets of this new music. We caught up with Fiedler by phone to discuss his music’s new directions and how he thinks about combining highly-contrasting musical influences.

The Jazz Gallery: This record marks a bit of departure from your work with your trio or Big Sackbut. What made you want to write for a quintet like this one?

Joe Fiedler: It’s a pretty simple answer, really. I’ve had the trio for thirteen years, I believe, and we’ve done four records. I love playing with those guys. But compositionally, I felt like I needed to step away from things like using multiphonics and other extended techniques to fill the space and make things interesting. I was hearing richer harmonies and textures, so I decided to keep the same trio, but then bring on a couple of extra players—people I’ve played with in different sideman situations for twenty-some years. I wasn’t really looking for a specific instrumentation,  but more for specific creative voices, so Jeff Lederer and Pete McCann were no-brainers. They’re guys I have a rapport with, and so I know the hookup will be right there. They can also range from freer playing to more inside playing.

TJG: What in particular about Jeff and Pete make them the right fit for this group? Why have you stayed close musical compatriots for so long?

JF: There’s definitely an intangible factor to it. With Jeff, one of the things we share is that as young guys, we shared a lot of influences—and those influences stay with you your whole career. I was always into a lot of saxophone players, and we both loved David Murray, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp. But if you talk to Jeff, he’ll say that his favorite instrument is the trombone, so we’ve dug a lot of the same trombone players as well. There’s just a lot of commonality there and as a result, both of our musics are grown out of the same pot, in their own ways. With that, I don’t have to explain what I’m trying to get at in a certain tune—he gets it.

Pete is just a freak of nature. He covers more terrain than just about anyone I know. He’ll play with singer-songwriters, and then he’ll play this super avant-garde gig, and then he’ll play with Darcy James Argue’s big band where the guitar book is really complex. He’s just a chameleon. Whereas Pete’s listening influences and definitely different than mine, he’s just a supportive player that no matter what I want to do, he’s able to follow. If I’m blowing a certain way, he gets it immediately and just comps so well. He’s one of the best guitar players on planet earth as far as I’m concerned.

TJG: In a lot of the tunes on the record, I was really struck by the rich harmonic palette and the clear song forms, compared to what you’ve done with the trio. Why do you think you were drawn to these kinds of materials at this point?

JF: This goes a bit back to some of my heroes as I was coming up, like David Murray and Ray Anderson. What always struck me about those guys was that they were able to play tunes—both had great standards records—and also have this incredible avant-garde creative voice that they could fit within that. While I was a young guy, I couldn’t do that. I would play my crazy free stuff all over the tunes and it sounded awful. As I was developing my own creative voice as a composer at the start, I had other thoughts in my head. I wanted to play with much more angularity, and a lot of the compositions were driven that way. But I’ve always wanted to get to a point—and I don’t know if I necessarily want to stay in this place—where I was writing more traditional songs, things that had a lot of flexibility. I love that in Mingus’s music you can have this blues-based tune and then have this really free solo in there and then have a really tonal solo in there. I also loved the accessibility that Murray or Anderson or Archie Shepp had. Avant-garde fans loved them, and mainstream jazz fans would dig them too. Not that I’m naive enough to think I’m going to be some jazz star, but I like the fact that I can play this record for my mom and she would dig it, versus for the other records she would be like, “Oh that’s nice, dear.” But again, it’s without compromising my vision, and especially my improvising. That doesn’t change from record to record, it’s just how it gets set up by the tunes.


The IU Plummer Sextet with guitarist Dave Stryker on tour in Austria, Spring 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Tuesday and Wednesday, March 21st and 22nd, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome the Indiana University Plummer Sextet under the direction of Walter Smith III. Named for alumnus-saxophonist Paul Plummer, who gave a landmark gift to the university jazz program in 2012, the group began in spring 2016 and features some of IU’s most talented jazz students.

This year’s ensemble is composed of trumpeter Tim Fogarty, saxophonist Matthew Babineaux, pianist Evan Main, guitarist Connor Evans, bassist Philip Wailes, and drummer Jake Richter. At the Gallery this week, they will be joining trumpeter Marquis Hill, performing tunes off his recent Concord Records release, The Way We Play. Before coming out to see how these talented students sink their teeth into Hill’s hard-driving compositions, check out the album in the playlist below.


From L to R: Greg Tuohey, Jerome Sabbagh. Photos courtesy of the artists.

Back in 1995, saxophonist Jerome Sabbagh and guitarist Greg Tuohey were recent international transplants in New York City—Sabbagh from Paris, France, Tuohey, from Auckland, New Zealand. They both threw themselves into the city’s vibrant scene, playing with talented peers like Mark Turner, Ben Monder, Ari Hoenig, and many more. Along with bassist Matt Penman and drummer Darren Becket (international transplants themselves), Sabbagh and Tuohey formed the collaborative group Flipside, releasing an acclaimed eponymous album on Naxos in 1998.

After the release of that album, however, the pair went their separate ways musically, while remaining close personally. Sabbagh went on to record a string of highly regarded solo albums and played with drummer Paul Motian and the legendary drummer’s final Village Vanguard shows. Tuohey mostly left the New York jazz world, working as a session and touring guitarist for rock groups, including indie singer-songwriter Joe Pug. In 2010, Tuohey returned to improvised music and released his debut album as a leader, First, in 2013. Tuohey and Sabbagh have now reconnected musically to form a quartet that showcases their own original compositions.

This Friday, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome the Sabbagh/Tuohey group to our stage for two sets. Check their effortlessly-swinging and unapologetically-catchy tune “Vintage,” performed live at Smalls, below.


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This Wednesday, March 15th, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis and his band Walking Distance back to our stage. With his bracing tone and incisive lines, Curtis is a favored sideman in high-energy groups where he can cut through the mix, whether the Fat Cat Big Band, or groups led by pianist Orrin Evans, like in the video below.

Walking Distance is Curtis’s home base group—an improvisational collective of likeminded peers including tenor saxophonist Kenny Pexton, bassist Adam Coté, and drummer Shawn Baltazor. In an interview with Jazz Speaks from this past October, Curtis described how the group came together:

Walking Distance is a collaborative quartet that I started in 2012 at a workshop run by Aaron Diehl called the Catskill Jazz Factory. It’s myself on alto, as well as Kenny Pexton on tenor, Adam Coté on bass, and Shawn Baltazor on drums. We went upstate for five days of rehearsals, then played a concert. It was a sudden opportunity to play with people I could trust. Today, we’ve gotten to a place where everyone knows the music so well that we don’t have to count off tunes. We can start playing without even talking. We all own the music. It’s not a problem if any of us come in halfway through a tune and change the direction. We’re all into that—we shift and make these sudden changes.

Recently, this tight-knit quartet has begun to experiment with bringing the piano into their sound world. This summer, the group will go on a short tour with Orrin Evans holding the piano chair, and this week, they have invited Kevin Hays to add his distinct personality to the mix. Don’t miss this great young band push their sound out in new directions. (more…)

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It seems that just about every young guitarist on the planet wants to figure out how Charles Altura does what he does. When you type Altura’s name into a Google search, the first four auto-completes include “Charles Altura gear,” “Charles Altura pedalboard,” and “Charles Altura lesson.” His effortless lines feel like they’re slipping through harmonic wormholes, while his distinctive sound combines a jazz guitar’s traditional warmth with just the right amount of distortion to cut through a hard-driving rhythm section, like in this performance with Terrence Blanchard’s E-Collective.

This weekend is an ideal opportunity to find out more about the exciting mysteries of Altura’s guitar work, as he brings a top-notch quartet to The Jazz Gallery for four sets of music over two nights. Featuring Eden Ladin on piano, Rick Rosato on bass, and Marcus Gilmore (Friday) and Kendrick Scott (Saturday) on drums, Altura’s quartet will surely throw down the gauntlet on some blistering original tunes. (more…)