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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, The Jazz Gallery is teaming up with the Polish Jazztopad Festival to present a night of international improvisational exchange. Representing Poland will be the Wójciński/Szmańda Quartet. Based in Warsaw, the group is made up of the Wójciński siblings on trumpet, piano, and bass, as well as drummer Krzysztof Szmańda. The group first gathered in the studio in 2014, releasing their electric interplay on record last year (which you can check out below).
Representing the United States is cellist Erik Friedlander. As a staple of the downtown jazz and improv scene for three decades, Friedlander has been a close collaborator of many musical luminaries, including Laurie Anderson, Dave Douglas, and John Zorn. He’s released dozens of diverse albums under his own name, including 2016’s Rings, featuring multi-keyboardist Shoko Nagai and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. We caught up with Friedlander via Skype to hear about the origins of this project and his thoughts on the cello as a jazz instrument.

Piotr Turkiewicz invited me to the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, Poland two or three years ago. He commissioned a premiere and what resulted was a piece called Kore, which was a piece for small orchestra and cello. It was super exciting. Piotr is one of these great presenters who has such a love of music and is curious and is just a good guy—I am really glad that I can call him a friend. He’s really been a great proponent of the Polish scene. The last couple of years, I’ve gone to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola to see some of the Polish jazz groups and it’s been great.

This year, he invited me to participate in the New York edition of the Jazztopad Festival with the Wójciński/Szmańda Quartet. They like to do a lot of free improvisation, pieces with loose structures, and they’re very good at it. I have a feeling our concert will be a mix of organization and structures by design and free playing. One thing we’re going to do a lot of is dividing up into groups, like different combinations of duos—bass and cello, bass and piano, trumpet and cello, and so on.

In terms of fitting into a preexisting group, I feel it’s less about being a cello player and more about being a musician in general. It’s about getting on the same page in terms of how the music flows, and making sure we can all be creative together. I’m always looking for moments—moments of clarity, moments of inspiration, and hope to stay away from moments of boredom.

The cello in jazz is a tricky proposition. I feel when I play pizzicato like a bass player, it fits in really well. When I play with a bow, I feel it’s a much more modern sound—it’s less “jazz” per se, it’s something else. The cello can take on a number of different roles then—I’ll comp, I’ll play bass lines, I’ll play melodies, textures, sounds. With that in mind, the cello needs some kind of acceptance from the musical material and the other players. I’m really excited to see what happens.

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Photo courtesy of the artist

This Friday, June 9th, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome pianist John Escreet back to our stage. A pianist of impeccable technique and rare versatility, Escreet spans a wide range of idioms even within a single performance. His last two records, The Unknown and Sound, Space and Structures (Sunnyside), feature an exploratory quartet with multi-reedist Evan Parker, bassist John Hébert, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. While the first album featured a series of a short, jam-packed improvisations, the latter featured the group stretching out live for two extended, freely-improvised sets. Check out a sample from The Unknown, below.

At the Gallery this week, Escreet will convene a very different band, featuring saxophonist Seamus Blake and bassist Matt Brewer. With Escreet’s exciting unpredictability, who knows what the top-notch group has in store. (more…)

Jonathan Finlayson. Photo by Everett McCourt.

In a recent interview with KXCL Radio in Missouri, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson noted how busy 2016 had been, filled with residencies across the country with Steve Coleman and Five Elements, as well as the release of his second album with his band Sicilian Defense, Moving Still (Pi Recordings). 2017 hasn’t been a let-up either—over the next few months, Finlayson will play at the Village Vanguard twice (with Coleman and Mary Halvorson), travel to Europe with Coleman and guitarist Liberty Ellman’s group, and premiere new music by Henry Threadgill at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

But before Finalyson begins his summer of heavy touring, we at The Jazz Gallery are once again proud to welcome him and Sicilian Defense back to our stage, this Friday, May 5th. Featuring Miles Okazaki on guitar, Matt Mitchell on piano, John Hébert on bass, and Craig Weinrib on drums, this fleet-footed and endlessly-adaptable group has only grown tighter over the several years it has played together. Check out the tracks from their recent album below, but know full well that this only scratches the surface of what this top-flight ensemble can do in the moment.

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Design by Allen Robbins, courtesy of the artist.

On his website, Jeremy Dutton describes himself as a “man, musician, and writer.” This thoughtful self-awareness is a key part of his artistry as a drummer—Dutton is always able to support the direction of the music, regardless of idiom.

This Thursday, May 4th, Dutton returns to The Jazz Gallery stage to present music from a new project, “Things Done Changed.” During his years in New York, Dutton has experienced a city in flux—an increasing division between rich and poor, gentrification morphing neighborhoods block by block, a skyline that grows while the surrounding waters encroach. Alongside his talented band of trumpeter Marquis Hill, pianist James Francies, and bassist Harish Raghavan, Dutton will reflect on his experiences in the city through a series of original compositions, at turns ebullient and introspective. Before coming to the Gallery, you can check out the ebb and flow of his composition “Waves,” below.

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Photo by Alex Chaloff.

This Friday, April 28th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome bassist Matt Brewer back to our stage. This past autumn, Brewer released his latest record on CrissCross, Unspoken, featuring a slate of erudite original compositions alongside choice covers of tunes by Bill Frisell and Charlie Parker. You can stream the album below.

At the Gallery, Brewer will convene a contrasting quartet featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, guitarist Lage Lund, and drummer Eric Harland. The group is sure to give Brewer’s compositions their own distinctive stamp, showcasing the many sides of Brewer’s own musical personality. (more…)