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Posts from the Guest Posts Category

Kevin Sun Trio at The Jazz Gallery, March 2017 Poster

Logo graphic by Diane Zhou  //  Design by Kevin Sun

“The trouble with most musicians today is that they are copycats. Of course you have to start out playing like someone else. You have a model, or a teacher, and you learn all that he can show you. But then you start playing for yourself. Show them that you’re an individual. And I can count those who are doing that today on the fingers of one hand.” 

— Lester Young interviewed in 1949 by Pat Harris (DownBeat)


 

I certainly still feel like a copycat these days, but I feel all right with that for the time being. I don’t believe in music or art ex nihilo—especially in improvised, centrally interrelational musical settings such as this trio and other bands that I’ve had the privilege of contributing to since moving to New York in the fall of 2015. As a composer, the strategy that’s been most fruitful for me up to now is to generate something new from something old.

For a few years now, I’ve been enamored with composing compact forms—cyclical rhythmic and melodic material that can be specific and complex, but also brief and conceptually straightforward enough to be written on the back of a napkin or communicated verbally. Most of the music for this trio was composed last spring with this in mind: short, distinct forms to be internalized in a group setting. I wanted us to challenge ourselves and explore these distinct musical environments while discovering what we can construct together in real time.

Bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Matt Honor (and, on occasion, bassist Dan Pappalardo) have been my unwavering partners in transfiguring my notated ideas into living sound. Like me, both Walter and Matt live conveniently nearby in Brooklyn, and we’ve had the chance to grow together into this music for some time. This weekend, we’ll be documenting the music you’ll be hearing at The Jazz Gallery at Wellspring Sound outside of Boston (where I also recorded my last project, Earprint). The forecast suggests a late 2017 or early 2018 release on Endectomorph Music; stay tuned.

 


 

As I mentioned, I like writing and abstracting from pre-existing material. Much of the music you’ll hear us play on Thursday will have been inspired by particular songs or fragments, so I’ve compiled a playlist below of a few of the songs that I referenced or cannibalized in some way for my own compositions. They’re all paired with my own songs, which won’t mean much if you haven’t heard them yet, obviously, but hopefully you’ll hear what I’m talking about on Thursday. We hope you’ll join us.

“Thunder”

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Photo via nicksandersmusic.com

Photo via nicksandersmusic.com

New York-based pianist Nick Sanders wrote a few words about the music he’ll be presenting this Thursday, October 16th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. Check out this post as well as this recent blog post by Doug Ramsey at Rifftides to learn more about Sanders and his music: 

Since moving to New York in November of 2012, I’ve had the chance to play a lot of different music and meet some amazing musicians. My main focus has been working with my piano trio, which has been together for about three years. We released our debut album, Nameless Neighbors, on Sunnyside Records in the summer of 2013 and recently just recorded our second album for Sunnyside, which will be released in early 2015. Fred Hersch produced both albums.

I was recently at the Amiens Jazz Festival in France playing a series of solo piano shows, which made me think differently about how to approach my music outside of the piano trio setting. I decided that I would present two projects I’ve been developing independently from my piano trio for these two sets at the Gallery.

The first set at 8 p.m. will feature standards performed duo with saxophonist Logan Strosahl. Logan and I began playing together when we were at The New England Conservatory, and he was recently signed to Sunnyside Records and will be releasing his own album in the middle of next year, which I am pleased to be a part of. In terms of our influences, I honestly cannot think of a specific duo that has directly influenced us, but we influence each other by just playing a lot together and talking about specific arrangements or tunes that we both enjoy.We’ve also recently started a YouTube channel, where we usually post a new video every week and invite listeners to make comments and requests.

The second set at 10 p.m. is a bass-less trio with tenor saxophonist Sam Decker and drummer Connor Baker. After coming back from a series of solo piano concerts in France, I realized how fun it is to have complete control of the bass as the pianist; Sam and Connor also have an easier time navigating the music, and it gives a different feeling from the “normal” rhythm section setup.

Like Logan, I met Sam and Connor at The New England Conservatory. Connor is the drummer in my piano trio, and Sam and I have played in numerous configurations over the years (not to mention that we were freshman dorm roommates once upon a time). All of us bring in original music and arrange it collaboratively, which really develops trust between us as musicians, and we hope the result is evident in the music.

Nick Sanders Duo + Trio perform at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, October 16th, 2014. The first set at 8 p.m. will feature Sanders on piano and Logan Strosahl on saxophone; the second set at 10 p.m. will feature Sanders on piano, Sam Decker on tenor saxophone, and Connor Baker on drums. Tickets are $15.00 for the first set ($10.00 for Members) and $10.00 for the second set. Purchase tickets here.

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

The four-headed creature known as Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut is a rare creature indeed. With just four low brass instruments, this animal can make music that shrieks, howls, and purrs, all with an unrelenting energy and groove. Like all rare species, Big Sackbut has a fascinating evolutionary tree. Trombonist-leader Joe Fiedler illuminates that tree with a curated playlist of tunes from Big Sackbut’s ancestors: the group’s musical DNA — Kevin Laskey

1. “Hattie Wall,” World Saxophone Quartet

I’m pretty sure “Hattie Wall” was the first tune of the World Saxophone Quartet that I ever heard. It was their theme song and they would walk onstage playing it. The sheer power and authority with which all four of those guys played—the raw energy and the rhythmical cadence—was so stunning. It just hit me in the gut. I was hooked.

It’s such a simple tune and they could riff on that for ten minutes before going on to the solo section. Hamiet Bluiett would keep this Afro-Caribbean clave thing going. It would keep cycling and cycling; it was hypnotic. The way that the top three voices would improvise together and play off what everyone else was doing was just magical. They were so in tune with how each other was as an improviser.

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Photo courtesy of Dan Tepfer

Editor’s note: We’re pleased to present our first guest post for Jazz Speaks. Pianist Dan Tepfer, who has worked with Lee Konitz for a number of years and will be appearing with Konitz’s quartet tonight, graciously agreed to write an introduction for this never-before-published interview, which Dan conducted before an audience in December, 2012. In addition to being fans of his music, we’re also fans of Dan’s blog, which we highly recommend. Read it here.

Introduction, by Dan Tepfer

Lee Konitz will be turning 87 in October, and his long and distinguished career as one of the most singular saxophonists in jazz needs no introduction (but if you need one, it’s here). He is known in particular for his intense focus on improvisational integrity, a desire for each musical choice to reflect the present moment as much as possible instead of a pre-made plan or habit.

It’s easy to overlook how radical this position is. In many other styles of music, from classical to pop, the goal in live performance is the opposite: to reproduce a carefully thought-out plan as faithfully as possible. Even in jazz, it’s not uncommon for groups to take a hybrid approach where a good portion of the material, even outside of written sections, is predetermined. Despite all this, Lee has somehow stubbornly insisted on showing up to his concerts prepared to be unprepared, and has (mostly) delighted audiences in doing so.

In my seven years of playing with Lee in diverse contexts I’ve been able to observe his commitment to the moment firsthand, particularly in our duo playing. One direct result of his approach is that his music is rarely boring; audiences seem to intuitively understand that something unique is going on; they pay attention in the way that people do when they genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next.

And yet it’s also become clear to me that our audience doesn’t always necessarily understand what’s at stake when we perform. In his commitment to true improvisation, Lee isn’t taking the easy road. Failure is very much an option. And success, in the form of authentic engagement with the truth of the moment, may not sound like success to a listener used to being wowed by virtuosic effects. (more…)

Photograph by Jimmy Katz

Photograph by Jimmy Katz

Ben Ratliff describes the music on Figurations (Sunnyside), which is the most recent release from the guitarist Miles Okazaki, as “slowly evolving puzzles of brilliant jazz logic, worked out among some new-model brains.” The album made it onto Ratliff’s Best of 2012 shortlist in The New York Times. In 2009, Vijay Iyer listed Generations (Sunnyside) – another of Miles’ releases – among his top ten albums of 2009 in ArtForum, offered a similar characterization: “a recursively structured, fractally detailed labyrinth of music — the sonic equivalent of Escher or Borges, but with real emotional heft.”

Characterized as “an exceedingly skilled guitarist with a head for rhythmic convolution” by The New York Times, Miles was raised in Port Townsend, Washington. He holds degrees from Harvard, Manhattan School of Music, and Juilliard, and was the 2nd place finalist in the 2005 Thelonious Monk Guitar Competition. He has honed his skills in bands led by Stanley TurrentineKenny Barron, and Steve Coleman, among others.

We’ve presented Miles numerous times since 2007, including the CD release concerts for all three of his albums. Additionally, the music on Figurations was commissioned by The Jazz Gallery during our 2011 Residency Commissions series, and the album was recorded live on our stage during the premiere concert. This Friday, we welcome Miles to our new stage (1160 Broadway, 5th floor) with a quartet featuring the bassist Hans Glawischnig, the drummer Dan Weiss, and the reedist Ben Wendel.

Read a guest post from Miles about the pioneering guitarist Charlie Christian, via Do The Math.