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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts by Kevin Sun

NATURAL PERCEPTION (Enja Records, 2015)

Natural Perception (Enja Records, 2015)

Tenor saxophonist Tobias Meinhart moved to New York City in 2009, having already worked professionally for several years on the jazz scene in Germany and across Europe. Over the course of the past six or so years, Meinhart has been busy splitting his time between New York and Europe, but over that time completed a Master’s Degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music, where he studied with Antonio Hart, John Ellis, and Seamus Blake, and recorded four albums: Pursuit of Happiness (Doublemoon, 2010), Live at Getxo Jazz Festival (Errebal Records, 2012), In Between (Doublemoon, 2014), and his latest album, Natural Perception (Enja Records, 2015).

Much of the music on the album was inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Spiritual Journey, which led Meinhart to focus on composing music with the emotional and spiritual in mind. To that end, he composed melodies by singing them first without an external instrument, a technique which he gleaned from studying composition with bassist Alexis Cuadrado, incidentally also a 2012 Residency Commission recipient.

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Adam Larson’s SELECTIVE AMNESIA (Inner Circle Music, 2015)

When we last featured tenor saxophonist Adam Larson on our stage in June, he had just come off a US State Department-sponsored, month-long tour in Africa was preparing for a recording session at Sear Sound just one day after his show at the Gallery.

The session produced Larson’s third album as a leader, Selective Amnesia (Inner Circle Music, 2015). As he shares in the album’s EPK:

This project is really special for me because I get to include some of my favorite musicians that I’ve looked up to—either since I got to New York, or even since I’ve been in high school, listening to them on records.

These musicians include Matthew Stevens on guitar, Fabian Almazan on piano, Matt Penman on bass, and Jimmy Macbride on drums, and save for the substitution of Taylor Eigsti for Almazan on Thursday, the show will present the original lineup on Selective Amnesia. Since its release in November, the album has been commended for Larson’s “thoughtful [compositions], with ample breathing room for any soloists” (The New York Times) and its “maturity, virtuosity and elegance” (Something Else Reviews).

To learn and hear more about Selective Amnesia, check out the EPK below. We hope you’ll join us at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, January 21st, to hear the music live and celebrate the release of Larson’s newest album.

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"Enter To Exit" (Destiny Records, 2015)

“Enter To Exit” (Destiny Records, 2015)

A native of South Carolina, drummer Kenneth Salters moved to New York City in 2006 after finishing his undergraduate degree in orchestral percussion at the University of South Carolina. Before long, he was performing and recording with jazz heavyweights like Myron Walden and lending his graceful but strong drumming to rock and indie bands such as Elysian Fields and The Bloodsugars.

In September, Salters released his début album, Enter To Exit, on Destiny Records. The album features a core sextet that first convened in 2008, which is represented on the album by Tivon Pennicott on tenor saxophone, Matt Holman on trumpet and flugelhorn, Aki Ishiguro on guitar, Brad Whiteley on piano, Spencer Murphy on bass, and Salters on drums. With the addition of Myron Walden on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, pianist Shai Maestro on one track, and harpist Bridget Kibbey on several tracks, the album expands the sextet configuration for greater compositional possibilities, showing Salters’s diverse sonic palette culled from an open ear to all genres of music and his background in classical composition.

We caught up with Salters by phone before he makes his first appearance as a leader at The Jazz Gallery, performing new material and some of the music from the album with a sextet that will feature Marcus Strickland and Irwin Hall on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, respectively.

The Jazz Gallery: When you first came to New York, who were you checking out?

KS: Well, the Brian Blade Fellowship was really hot then. That was before Blade got really busy with doing the singer-songwriter thing and playing with Wayne Shorter. They’d play once or twice a year at the Vanguard, which was always an amazing show. I caught that a couple times.

I was also checking out some Johnathan Blake then, and Ari Hoenig. He’s always been doing his thing, so that was a real eye-opener for me to see him. I wasn’t really aware of what a great musician he was until I got here, and I’ll never forget the first time, which was one of the first shows I saw: Ari and Chris Potter playing duo at the 55 Bar. It was ridiculous.

TJG: You studied orchestral percussion in undergrad.

KS: Yeah, I wanted to do everything. I played in everything from samba school to percussion ensemble to opera orchestra; I even played with show choir! Of course, I did all the other usual stuff like jazz combo and big band, but I was trying to be into everything. At some point in my college career, I decided I wanted to focus on drum set.

TJG: How would you say your study of orchestral percussion informs your kit playing?

KS: I think I got lucky because, as an orchestral percussionist, I had to take a lot of the general ear training, sight-singing, and general theory classes. It’s funny, I’ve never really had a jazz theory class in college, so all my background comes from a counterpoint, classical background as far as composition goes. I was also learning how to play the drum, how to strike the drum, how to move—like, if you’re learning to play marimba, you have to learn how to move on that instrument. It’s like 60 targets in six and a half feet—it’s like dancing—so if you can apply some of that stuff to drum set, it’s going to help you a lot.

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Rhizome, by Fabian Almazan (Blue Note/ArtistShare, 2014)

Rhizome, by Fabian Almazan (Blue Note/ArtistShare, 2014)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “rhizome,” a botanical term dating from the early 19th century, as the following:

“An elongated, usually horizontal, subterranean stem which sends out roots and leafy shoots at intervals along its length.”

Inspired by the symbolic undertones of the rhizome, pianist and composer Fabian Almazan released an ambitious project entitled Rhizome last year on Blue Note-ArtistShare, with music composed for an ensemble consisting of piano trio, string quartet, and voice. Almazan cites regeneration as a thematic idea that inspired the music on the album, having composed much of it in the aftermath of the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

“I came to embrace the idea that humanity is somehow all connected; we’re all nourished from the same rhizome,” he says.

Although continually busy as a leader and a sideman with Terence Blanchard’s E-Collective and more recently John Hollenbeck, Almazan, with support from a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant, has composed a new multi-movement suite for the Rhizome ensemble, which will have its New York City premiere performances at The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, December 11th and 12th, 2016.

“I’m trying to reflect the unpredictability of life—how in one moment you can experience something beautiful and then, without any warning, something dangerous or exciting,” he says. “There’s a lot of shifting in the music to reflect that; it’s something I wanted to experiment with.”

Almazan will be joined by Linda Oh on bass and Henry Cole on drums, who comprise the trio on his 2011 release Personalities, as well as a string quartet comprised of Megan Gould and Tomoko Omura on violin, Karen Waltuch on viola, Noah Offeld on cello. Vocalist-guitarist Camila Meza, for whom Almazan wrote music for his 2012-13 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission and who has been a frequent collaborator of Almazan’s in recent years, will also be featured as part of the Rhizome ensemble.

“I feel like I’ve gotten to know her voice and her style very well, and it’s gotten easier for me to write for her,” he says, adding, “I don’t come to her with stuff that’s completely out of her range!”

Almazan’s new CMA-commissioned work will be recorded on Valentine’s Day next year, but you’ll have a chance to hear it first on our stage this weekend. (more…)

Tim Berne's Snakeoil (l-r): Berne, Matt Mitchell, Ryan Ferreira, Ches Smith, Oscar Noriega. Photo by Wes Orshosky.

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil (l-r): Berne, Matt Mitchell, Ryan Ferreira, Ches Smith, Oscar Noriega. Photo by Wes Orshosky.

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil released You’ve Been Watching Me, its third album on ECM, back in April. The band, which features a bass-less configuration with the recent addition of guitarist Ryan Ferreira on their latest album, will appear as a quartet minus Ferreira for their appearance at the Gallery this Thursday, and they’ll be appearing at IBeam Brooklyn the following evening as well.

Berne, a tirelessly prolific composer and saxophonist, has released 50 albums as leader or co-leader to date, and he shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, having been a creative force on the New York scene for over four decades. Snakeoil, which first came together six years ago, has been a vehicle for Berne’s intricate compositions, which have been likened to chamber music. As he says in a promotional video for the band’s second release, Shadow Man (2013), his conception for the band primarily involves creating compositional “scenarios” within which he and his bandmates navigate and make decisions together:

“I don’t really tell people how to play … I think my influence, if there’s any, is in the writing: creating these crazy scenarios that these guys kind of have to play their way out of, or into.”

The band has an unmistakable sonic profile, although one that’s perhaps hard to describe: shapeshifting, variously stark and dense, rich with detail but unafraid of space and silence. We’re pleased to welcome Berne back to our stage and hope you’ll join us to witness Snakeoil’s continuing evolution. (more…)