Charlotte Greve is taking a different approach to living in New York City as a professional jazz musician. You might expect to find a saxophonist in a standards-based quartet or two, a larger ensemble, perhaps a big band, and the occasional project as a bandleader. Greve’s ensembles, however, look a bit different. There’s Asterids, an all-alto saxophone quartet. There’s Wood River, where Greve sings and plays synthesizer. There are duos with electric bassists or drummers, and commissions for large choirs. Every group utilizes a different aspect of her vast musicality, and her new trio, The Choir Invisible, is no exception.
Greve, a German saxophonist and composer, lived and studied in Berlin before moving to New York to study with the likes of John Hollenbeck, Mark Turner, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. She’s released five albums with her band Lisbeth Quartett, including their most recent album There Is Only Make on Traumton Records. A New Yorker for five years now, Greve has started many projects and supported many more. The Choir Invisible includes Chris Tordini on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. We spoke with Greve about her compositions, the unique feel of the trio, and her thoughts on developing a musical identity New York City.
The Jazz Gallery: Judging by the photo on your contact page, it looks like you live in Crown Heights. So many musicians live there; do you like the area?
Charlotte Greve: Yeah, I think it’s great. I moved here five years ago, and I’m still in the same room. That’s very unusual for New York. We have this brownstone with like eight people that we’ve been sharing, it’s been kind of a musician place. I live in the old room of Tommy Crane, he lived here ten years ago or something. Chris Tordini lived here, Matt Brewer lived here, Kyle Wilson lives here now. Tons of people have passed through this house at some point.
TJG: The Choir Invisible, your trio, has a fantastic name. Does it come from the poem by George Eliot with the same name?
CG: It’s a song that Vinnie wrote, I think inspired by a song from a film, where a character kind of recites this poem. Vin took the words and wrote a melody to it. It’s been the theme song of the trio, so to speak. It represents the vibe of the trio well.
TJG: I just interviewed Vinnie Sperrazza for the blog, and evidently he’s a real literary buff. Are you a big reader too?
CG: I don’t read as much as Vinnie [laughs]. But I do read! I just started this Werner Herzog interview book, A Guide for the Perplexed. I can’t say much about it yet, but it seems really interesting. Before that, I read “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” two or three times, Patti Smith’s “M Train,” which I really liked, and some poems by Patti Smith as well.
TJG: Your last performance as a trio in September at Korzo, right? Tell me a little about the group. Who writes the music, what’s your sound?
CG: We started jamming a year and a half ago, I think, something like that. Before that, I was playing with Vin in a trio with Masa Kamaguchi, who would come in every once in a while from Barcelona. Vin and I eventually established something we liked together, and asked Chris Tordini to join. We were jamming on a regular basis, then started working on music by all three of us. Nobody leads the group, it’s a total collective. We haven’t had many shows yet, but we rehearse all the time [laughs]. Workshopping music with these two guys is a beautiful thing. And we have a lot of material. Since we have two sets at The Gallery, we can stretch and play most of our stuff.