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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo via burning ambulance.

For over thirty years, saxophonist and composer Hafez Modirzadeh has a forged a distinctly personal musical practice that he calls Chromodality. In this system, western equal temperament collides with other tuning systems from around the world, expanding the expressive possibilities of harmony and color within an improvisational environment. Over his past three albums on Pi Recordings, Modirzadeh has incorporated tunings from Iraqi maqam, Persian dastgah, and Iberian traditional musics. With collaborators like Amir El-Saffar, Vijay Iyer, and the string quartet ETHEL, these multi-modal musical explorations buzz with the excitement of limitless possibility.

This weekend at The Jazz Gallery, Modirzadeh will present a new a project—The Pulsivity/Resonance Project. Over the course of four sets, Modirzadeh will play a set of compositions for saxophone and retuned piano with four different pianists—Leo Genovese, Peter Apfelbaum, Diane Moser, and Tyshawn Sorey. Each pair will play the same compositions, which in turn are all based around a uniquely-tempered eight-note scale. Over the course of the weekend, these compositions will take on new colors and shapes, stretching their structure into multiple dimensions. Before coming out to experience this music, watch Modirzadeh explain elements of his chromodal musical practice below.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, November 8, The Jazz Gallery welcomes saxophonist/composer Felipe Salles and his new large ensemble to our stage to celebrate the release of The Lullaby Project and Other Works for Large Ensemble (Tapestry). A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Salles mines the music of his youth for the music on the album—namely traditional Brazilian lullabies. Through deft compositional manipulations, Salles highlights the tunes’ dark underlying qualities, and, in the composers own words, creates “a strong aural image in the listener’s mind.”

Before coming out to the Gallery to hear these psychologically-probing works, check out the album trailer, below.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Growing up in Philadelphia’s fertile music scene, Jaleel Shaw began playing alto at an early age, and soon would find himself playing alongside Shirley Scott, Grover Washington, Jr., John Blake and countless other of his city’s legendary artists.

Strong identity on the saxophone has served Shaw both in leader contexts, and as a longtime member of the Roy Haynes Quartet and Tom Harrell’s “Colors of a Dream.” But as an artist and a human being, the multi-instrumentalist and composer has gone through many changes. He recently spent some time reflecting on some of those changes—and their related longings—and conceived of a project inspired by the bare essentials of creative expression.

The world premiere of Images Project, Shaw’s Jazz Gallery Fellowship Commission, features Lage Lund, Lawrence Fields, Joe Martin and Kush Abadey, and seeks to recapture—or perhaps rouse—raw imagination in all its permutations.

The Jazz Galley: I like to ask artists who grew up in Philly for their personal interpretation of the Philly sound.

Jaleel Shaw: I’ve always felt like the Philly sound was a pretty open and diverse sound. When I came up on the Philly scene, I was around free artists like Byard Lancaster, hip hop groups like The Roots. I played in big bands; I played in mariachi bands. There was a huge organ presence there with Shirley Scott and Trudy Pitts. There was a soul R&B scene there, too. So there were so many different styles going on at the same time that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is.

That’s the thing that I loved about Philly; it was kind of a mix of so many different things, and all the musicians knew each other. All the musicians played together. There was no division amongst the styles—at least, not for me. As a kid, I was playing with so many different groups and coming out of so many different groups that I never really thought of music not being open, or not allowing myself to be inspired by all the different music that was going on, from hip hop to free jazz to R&B—it was all there.

When I was coming up, there was a very conscious presence—black consciousness and African consciousness—a pride of history. So growing up in Philly, I learned the history of the music. And the history of the people was very important.

TJG: Awhile back I was talking with Dayna Stephens, who made the comment that growing up in the Bay Area, playing all kinds of music or “styles” of music was a requirement—to the point where he was shocked when he moved to New York because it was the first time he experienced some of those harsh divisions; did you have a similar experience when you arrived?

JS: Right. Yeah, I feel like New York is a huge city, and I guess I didn’t get to know all of the musicians like I did back home. In Philly, like I said, I basically knew all the musicians. I knew and played with Shirley Scott; I knew Grover Washington, Jr.; I knew John Blake—that’s how I met Johnathan Blake; I knew The Roots. Everything was just mixed. We were all, it seemed, on the same scene. We would go to each other’s shows, and you could call anyone, anytime to ask a question about the music. It wasn’t until I was older that I really realized how special it was to have had that coming up in Philly.

TJG: In past interviews, you’ve described certain sounds from Philly and also Chicago as “Afrocentric.” Can you talk a little bit about your own interpretation of that concept?

JS: Wow. Where’d you see that?

TJG: I think it was in your blindfold test from a couple years ago.

JS: Wow. Okay. Well, yeah. For one, I grew up in a diverse community, and my mom made sure I learned my history. Every time I go home to visit her, I’m always amazed at how many books she has about everything, but specifically about my culture. And I realized she really immersed me in that, and made sure I understood and embraced it. And in Philly there were many African American events going on, from art shows to dance to poetry. And my mom always took me to those events. There was also something called Odunde, which was the African American festival that we had every year.

TJG: They no longer have it?

JS: It’s still happening. That’s a great festival. There’s a great African American museum in Philly, and I felt like the community was very strong. And it was embracing; it was a community of people teaching the music and teaching the culture, and everyone was welcome to learn it.

I’m sure it’s happening in New York, but I just haven’t seen or experienced it as much. But that may also be due to my activities since moving to the area.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, November 1, The Jazz Gallery welcomes bassist Jeong Lim Yang and her quintet to our stage for two sets. A native of South Korea, Yang studied at the Berklee College of Music, then moved to New York in 2011. In 2017, Yang released her debut album, Déjà Vu (Fresh Sound New Talent) with a quintet featuring veteran saxophonists Adam Kolker and Michael Attias, as well as rhythm section peers Nick Sanders on piano and Jesse Simpson on drums. Yang’s original compositions on the album follow the lineage of bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, courting abstraction and lyricism in equal measure.

Yang will reconvene this quintet at the Gallery to play material from Déjà Vu. Before seeing the band live, check out their performance of “Moon Tethered,” an homage to trio of Masabumi Kikuchi, Gary Peacock, and Paul Motian.

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Photo by Andy Newcombe (Wikimedia Commons) // filter via pixlr

This Tuesday, October 30, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome trumpeter Peter Evans back to our stage with his band, Being & Becoming. This past summer, Evans played in three configurations across two nights of performance—solo, duo with pianist Cory Smythe, and trio with vibraphonist Joel Ross and drummer Max Jaffe. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Evans noted how his solo and group work were heading toward a point of convergence:

The ensemble and solo playing has been converging a lot more in the last year or so. It’s something I never really expected, but maybe it was inevitable. In my solo music I have been searching for ways to create coherent and interesting structures that can shape the music—structures that are clearly audible as structures but at the same time are flexible and malleable in the moment if need be. There are a bunch of different ways to achieve this, and some paths I have taken from my work as a composer for improvising ensembles: for instance, a 12 tone mode that repeats at the 2-octave point. This is a field of harmony and melody that fixes each pitch in space, allowing me to work with set materials in a very detailed and sometimes very fast way without having to juggle what note goes where. Strict modal improvisation, in short—nothing new about that! But it’s a development for me in the solo music that comes out of my writing for one of my bands (the piece “Intergalactic“). Conversely, there are ways of developing and organizing material that grew directly out of my solo playing—for instance, juggling 2 or 3 small chunks of music (I think of them as characters or spirits)​ and bouncing them off one another, developing each character in isolation and in dialogue with the others.

Evans’s quartet Being & Becoming is a relatively recent project, featuring alert, young collaborators—Mr. Ross on vibraphone & marimba, Nick Jozwiak on bass, and Savannah Harris on drums.  (more…)