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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts by Tree Palmedo

Yosvany Terry at the Stanford Jazz Workshop

Yosvany Terry at the Stanford Jazz Workshop

Though he’s a regular face on the New York jazz circuit, saxophonist, composer, and educator Yosvany Terry remains deeply connected to his Cuban roots. His music can be formally complex and technically intricate, but it always feels organic, retaining a strong sense of groove. This spring, Terry will release a new album entitled New Throned King on 5Passion, a young label maintained by one of his closest collaborators, similarly forward-thinking Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

The Jazz Gallery has a long history with Terry. Check out this video from 2008, when he was featured as part of our Composers’ Series:

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Photo by Vincent Soyez

Photo by Vincent Soyez

Small Constructions, a 2013 release from saxophonist Ben Wendel and pianist Dan Tepfer, isn’t your typical duo album. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times for its “restless invention,” Small Constructions was carefully constructed through a series of overdubs. Wendel, who is also known for his work with the hard-hitting jazz-rock collective Kneebody, plays three kinds of saxes and a bassoon on the record, while Tepfer, versed in keyboard language from Monk to the Goldberg Variations, intertwines layers of piano, Fender Rhodes, and melodica.

In a live setting, the duo have fewer tools at their immediate disposal. But for Wendel and Tepfer, two voices are all that is necessary. As seen in this video from WBGO, they can take any tune, like Lennie Tristano’s “Line Up,” and put a unique spin on it, full of unexpected detours and influenced by pop and classical as much as jazz.

Both Wendel and Tepfer grew up on classical music, which Wendel believes contributes to their connection: “We have a shared aesthetic sensibility from this,” he says, “extending from our choice of tunes to the way we improvise together, finishing each other’s sentences. I guess you could say that we’re kindred musical spirits.”

Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer with Woodwind Quartet and Smartphones perform at The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, December 20th and 21st. The performance will feature Ben Wendel on saxophone, Dan Tepfer on piano, Joshua Rubin on clarinet, Gareth Flowers on trumpet, and Rebekah Heller and Adrian Morejon on bassoon. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m., $20 general admission and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here

Photo via http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/

Photo via http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/

“I will step into the realm of all possibilities,” saxophonist and composer Oliver Lake writes in his poem, “What can I do.” It seems as though he already has, for although though Lake may be a musician first and foremost, he actively engages in a myriad of art forms, listing painter, poet, and performance artist among the hats he wears. Within the music world, Lake’s output is equally as eclectic, ranging from performances with rapper Mos Def and Me’shell Ndegeocello to collaborations with poet Amiri Baraka and Native American vocalist Mary Redhouse. He was a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet and has also composed and arranged for the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Björk, and Lou Reed, not to mention his own free-leaning Organ Quartet, Steel Quartet, and Big Band.

Big bands can be tough to maintain, but Lake’s has managed to stay afloat in various iterations since 2003; he’ll bring the newest version to The Jazz Gallery on November 15th and 16th. Their recent release, Wheels, features a cadre of established New York players, including altoist Darius Jones, tenor man Mike Lee, and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, all of whom will be onstage at the Gallery. “This is a unit that should keep evolving,” JazzTimes said of the ensemble. We’re excited to welcome Lake and the band back to our stage, where our audiences can see this evolution in action.

The Oliver Lake Big Band performs this Friday and Saturday, November 15th and 16th, at The Jazz Gallery. The band features Oliver Lake, Darius Jones, Bruce Williams, Mike Stewart, Mike Lee, and Jason Marshall on saxophones; Terry Greene, Alfred Patterson, Stafford Hunter, and Aaron Johnson on trombone; Josh Evans, Greg Glassman, Nabate Isles, and Freddie Hendrix on trumpet; and Yoichi Uzeki on piano, Robert Sabin on bass, and Chris Beck on drums. Sets are at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m., $20 general admission and $10 for members. Purchase tickets here

Photo by Michael Hoefner (Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Michael Hoefner (Wikimedia Commons)

Improvisational freedom and structured composition might seem like an unlikely combination, but for Taylor Ho Bynum, the two go hand in hand. Bynum’s virtuosic yet playful cornet style has made him a favorite of forward-thinking artists from Anthony Braxton to Cecil Taylor, and in his own work, he strives to write music that gives his band as much flexibility as possible. His latest release, Navigation (Firehouse 12 Records), is a four-album set that showcases some of his most improvisational work yet. The album chronicles four performances of the work, two with his working sextet and two with an expanded 7-tette, and the modular, collaborative nature of the composition makes Navigation a collection of four very different performances.

It’s a typically ambitious move from Bynum, whose work has also included collaborations with dancers and visual artists as well as solo tours conducted entirely on his bicycle. On Saturday, November 9th, he’ll perform Navigation live at The Jazz Gallery with his sextet, which features saxophonist Jim Hobbs, trombonist/tubist Bill Lowe, guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. We caught up with Bynum by phone to talk about the album, his influences, and what listeners can expect from Saturday’s show.

The Jazz Gallery: Why four performances of the same composition? How’d the piece come together?

Taylor Ho Bynum: I always try to give musicians in my group as much freedom as possible, but I’ve generally done it with a relatively fixed road map. I compose material A and then we improvise and they can take it wherever they want, but eventually we’re going to get to area B. After [2012’s Apparent Distance], I really had realized [the musicians in the group] were kind of busting at those seams. I really wanted to give the musicians the freedom not just to improvise in the moment, but really to make choices in the compositional material so the musicians themselves can make the choices of what the road map is. There’s not a fixed road map; instead, it’s sort of a playground of opportunity. There are all these different places we know we can go together as an ensemble, and each of the musicians is responsible for where we can go next. (more…)