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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts by Rebecca Zola

Photos courtesy of the artists.

Photos courtesy of the artists.

About twenty years ago, right when The Jazz Gallery was getting off the ground, Lionel Loueke was a young guitarist studying at the American School for Modern Music, in Paris, France. He had moved to Europe from his native Benin (by way of Ivory Coast), but his musical pursuits would soon take him even farther afield. Loueke won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and then in 2001, won acceptance to the Thelonious Monk Institute, at the time based at the University of Southern California.

Loueke formed strong musical connections with his classmates. He linked up with bassist Masimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth to form Gilfema, a fleet-footed trio that is still going strong today. Loueke also met a talented young singer at the Monk Institute—Gretchen Parlato.

“Gretchen is always present, she’s my musical soulmate, there’s no doubt about it,” says Loueke. “We have a very deep connection musically speaking. She is always inspiring me, she is always looking for new things. I’ve never seen a singer like her, because she has a great sense of rhythm and melody.”

Loueke and Parlato both moved to New York after completing their studies at the Monk Institute and became frequent collaborators, performing on each other’s albums. Their musical chemistry grew to border on uncanny, with Loueke’s percussive guitar lines and vocal pops blending effortlessly with Parlato’s ethereal voice and syncopated hand claps. The pair’s version of Stevie Wonder-Michael Jackson song “I Can’t Help It” bares strong testament to this. (more…)

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Charles Altura. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Called a “…blazingly precise young guitarist,” by the New York Times, Charles Altura has put the international jazz world on notice with his unique blend of effortless lyricism and rich, atmospheric sound. Altura is as comfortable hanging with Chick Corea’s fusion pyrotechnics as he is with Ambrose Akinmusire’s reflective post-bop. While Altura always seems to be on the road—most recently with Terrence Blanchard—we at The Jazz Gallery are proud to present Altura’s debut as a leader in our space this Friday, January 23rd. We met up with Charles this week to talk about how all this travel has affected the music that he will present this weekend.

The Jazz Gallery: Over the past few years, you’ve really established yourself as a first-call sideman with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, and Ambrose Akinmusire, to name a few. How has playing with these artists shaped you as a musician?

Charles Altura: Well, I feel like I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of artists that I really like, and I definitely have learned a lot being on the road with them. I’ve learned a lot about how to lead a band, in particular.

TJG: What has it been like working on so many different projects at the same time?

CA: I try to balance doing the right thing for each situation with always wanting to have my own voice, you know, always trying to just play how I feel like playing.

TJG: Are there any pieces of musical knowledge or experiences from 2014 that you will take with you into the new year?

CA: Over the of past few years I’ve been on the road a lot of the time, so I would say I learned the most from that, just from playing every night with people who I love to listen to, and playing their compositions. I think just hanging out with everybody on the road so much and getting close as people—just seeing how that changed the way we played every night was really cool.

(more…)

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My Ideal (2015), courtesy of the artist

Pianist Glenn Zaleski is bursting with excitement over the release of his first album as a leader—My Ideal. The record, featuring his trio with Craig Weinrib on drums and Dezron Douglas on bass will be released by Sunnyside Records on March 17th. This Friday, January 16th, Glenn will bring this trio to The Jazz Gallery for the first time (with Ben Street filling in for Mr. Douglas on bass). Glenn has previously performed at The Jazz Gallery with several different groups, including with collaborative the Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato Trio. Besides touring with this home base group, as well as the likes of Ravi Coltrane and Jamie Baum, Glenn has been working with JazzReach, a non-for profit organization that travels the country educating others about jazz. We caught up with Glenn by phone this week to find out about what he is looking forward to about his new trio and the new year. 

The Jazz Gallery: What are some new pieces of musical knowledge or experiences from 2014 that you are taking with you into the new year?

Glenn Zaleski: I’ve recently realized that it’s amazing how little you really need to play. I’ve been noticing many instances when I didn’t feel like I was playing that much at all, and then I would listen back to the recording afterward and realize that I was actually terribly overplaying and the feeling of the music would be lost. And then when I simplified and played less, my playing sounded more full, infinitely clearer, and overall more effective. I’ve been amazed at just how little I need to play.

 TJG: What inspired you to make music with this particular trio? Is there something in particular driving the set of music on the album? (more…)