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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, July 13, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome guitarist Nir Felder and his trio back to our stage. Over the past several months, Felder has been living a bit of a double life. By day, Felder has been a steady sideman, touring with the likes of trumpeter Keyon Harrold and Tony-winning actor/singer Ben Platt. By night, Felder has been developing a new book of material for trio, playing late sets at 55 Bar and the Blue Note. Here’s a quick sample of the fireworks Felder has been setting off at these gigs—some ferocious interplay with drummer Louis Cole on the David Binney tune “Aliso.”

For his performance at the Gallery this week, Felder will be joined by two longtime collaborators in bassist Orlando LeFleming and drummer Jimmy MacBride. (more…)

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, July 12, The Jazz Gallery is proud to kick off its summer season with a performance by the Jihye Lee Orchestra. An alumnus of the Berklee College of Music and the Gallery’s Jazz Composers’ Showcase, Lee released her debut large ensemble record April in 2017. The richly-voiced and cinematically-paced music reflects on the 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol of the coast of Korea, which claimed over 300 lives. Lee’s elegiac composition “You Are Here (Every Time I Think of You),” featuring fluegelhorn soloist Sean Jones, rounds out the deeply-affect album.

Since the release of April, Lee has continued to add new compositions to her band’s book. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Lee commented how her move to New York from Boston impacted these new compositions:

Our living environment is very important, I think. Music is the reflection of your life right? Since I’ve moved to New York, I think the energy of the city has changed my music in a good way. There’s more crunchiness, more anger, but in a positive way. The crunchiness is in the harmonic material. I’m using a lot of minor 2nds and 9ths. We learn in school, “Don’t use minor 9ths,” but in order to make personal, emotional statements, you need to use those forbidden harmonic moves.

Before coming out to hear Lee’s compositions at the Gallery on July 12, check out The Jazz Gallery’s SummerPass, which offers general admission to every Gallery show in July and August for one low price. (more…)

Photo by Rachel Thalia Fisher, courtesy of the artist.

Camila Meza engages listeners by sharing her unique experiences and personal longings. Hers are stories of movement, both journeys and emergences.

On the heels of her studio release Ámbar (Sony Masterworks), the Chilean-born singer, guitarist and composer returns to the bandstand to perform Portal, her 2019 Jazz Gallery Residency Commission. While composing the project, Meza chose to explore new music in an instrumental context unfamiliar to her, in part, so she could inhabit one of Portal’s essential themes: the struggle to seek and find solutions to hard questions.

Ahead of her performance, Meza spoke with the Jazz Speaks about joys and challenges of creating possibilities, her connection to vocal harmony, and the enduring aesthetic of “layering” in her work.

The Jazz Gallery: In terms of instrumentation, this project is a departure from your work with the Nectar Orchestra.

Camila Meza: I’d say so. Although in its quantity, it’s similar. It’s a lot of people.

TJG: And you’ve been playing with and composing for Nectar over the past three years—or longer than that?

CM: Well [the Nectar] project started maybe around six years ago but, in the middle, I was taking care of Traces. There was some sort of hiatus for that album, so the last three years have been totally dedicated to Ámbar.

TJG: In what ways do you feel your compositions have expanded—or maybe your compositional style has expanded—as a result of spending so much time with the orchestra?

CM: Having the possibility to experiment with a larger group of people, a wider instrumentation, it really, intuitively gives you so many more options in terms of arranging and landscaping the songs and compositions. It puts you in a position of having to pay a lot of attention to detail and ask yourself “How am I going to use all of these sounds in a cohesive way so that I take advantage of them and also use them in a way that serves the music?”

TJG: Did you ever find those possibilities overwhelming, or did you always sort of find them to be intriguing?

CM: Both. It definitely enhances your creativity. You suddenly have more colors to play with, which sounds enticing, but you’re also in front of another problem to solve. You have to pay attention so you’re able to use these colors without overusing them only because you have them in front of you. That’s the challenge.

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Photo by Alan Nahigian.

This week, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome guitarist Liberty Ellman and his sextet back to our stage for two nights of performances. Ellman is an acclaimed and versatile sideman, holding down the guitar chair in acclaimed groups including Henry Threadgill’s Zooid, Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio, Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret, and Joe Lovano’s Universal Band. Ellman’s work as a leader builds on the relationships he has cultivated as a sideman. His last album—2015’s Radiate on Pi Recordings—features a sextet composed of longtime collaborators, including trombonist/tubaist Jose Davila from Zooid and bassist Stephan Crump from Rosetta. You can take a listen to two tracks from the record—the knotty “Supercell” and “Rhinocerisms”—below.
At the Gallery this week, Ellman’s sextet will be presenting new music commissioned as part of Chamber Music America’s 2018 New Jazz Works grants. While Ellman has worked with great musical system-makers like Threadgill, Butch Morris, and Steve Coleman, he says his own music comes from a more intuitive place. In an interview with JazzTimes, Ellman says:

I haven’t yet developed anything that I could say is purely mine in terms of a codified system. For me, it’s more about things that I’ve learned from being around these people and listening to their music. When I write music, basically I start from an idea. A lot of times it’s something rhythmic, either a groove or a bassline or a small fragment of a melody, and then I try to see where it goes, and that’s an intuitive process. Sometimes I find a melody that I feel is really strong, and I keep writing, and if I’m in the zone, 20 bars later is where I actually find the piece, and I throw away everything else. [But] there has to be a melodic shape. I make sure that every line has its own melody. Every part someone plays should stand on its own. That’s one of my rules.

Don’t miss these two nights of both fierce and fiercely melodic new music from Liberty Ellman and his sextet. (more…)

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Vibraphonist-composer Nikara Warren combines a broad lineage of music with the very personal and diverse artistry she grew up embracing in her native Brooklyn, creating new music that confronts injustice and celebrates humanity.

While her debut recording Black Wall Street awaits release, Warren invites the Black Wall Street band back to The Jazz Gallery stage for the final performance of her Political Gangster Trilogy, which offers original interpretations of music from Nina Simone and Me’Shell Ndegeocello. In her interview with Jazz Speaks, Warren discusses similarities and differences in political inquiries through music, the atmospheres she creates for listeners, and the universal need—and love—for the process.

The Jazz Gallery: You have a connection to the human voice—this performance in more of a literal way, many of the horn parts for Black Wall Street to have kind of a choral quality, and you sing through your instrument—listeners can hear you sing while you play, and you’ve been known to grab the mic yourself in different contexts. In what ways has the decision to become politically gangster with your artistry given you a stronger connection to the human voice?

Nikara Warren: Well politics, that’s what it’s all about—people speaking their truths—which is also what music is all about. I’m not really someone who enjoys talking about politics; if I’m hanging out, it’s not on the list of things I want to chat about. But, because of the state of the country and the world, I feel like I guess I have to be. And I don’t always know that my words can really do it. But [the state we’re in] has forced me to find ways to make statements, musically, that were directly related to my political stance, which I guess is kind of difficult – being able to say things with no words, because I don’t always have them.

TJG: I’d like to read you a quotation from the one-sheet for Me’Shell’s Ventriloquism.

NW: Okay.

TJG: “In times so extreme and overwhelming, when there is no known expression for the feeling, no satisfactory direction for art or action, then [artists] might take refuge in a process, a ritual, something familiar, the shape and sound of which recall another time altogether, so that they can weather the present long enough to call it the past.”

NW: Yeah that’s the blues. That’s the premise of the blues, where all this music started.

TJG: How does that sentiment resonate with your choices as an artist?

NW: The beauty of music is that it can move you. It can move you, and it can change the place that you’re in mentally. And I think a lot of the reason artists make art is to reflect the times emotionally, or what’s going on. So there are times for artists when things are difficult, you might want to cling on to, or submerge yourself in a process that maybe feels like home. For a lot of artists, that’s just creating—being creative. Because, if you do that, you can kind of weather the storm. You can get through it. Thank you for reading that.

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