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If you haven’t heard Roman Filiú’s name, you certainly know the people he’s worked with, including Chucho Valdés, Omara Portuondo, Steve Coleman, Pablo Milanés, Michael Mossman, Roy Hargrove, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and the Buena Vista Social Club. Filiú has released two albums under his own name, including Blowin Reflections (2006) and Musae (2012), the more recent of which featured David Virelles, Adam Rogers, Reinier Elizarde, Marcus Gilmore, and Dafnis Prieto.

With support from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Filiú returns to The Jazz Gallery this week, leading his band Musae in new project titled Okàn: El Libro de Las Almas. The lineup will again include Adam Rogers and David Virelles, with additions of Maria Grand on saxophone, Matt Brewer on bass, Craig Weinrib on drums, and Mauricio Herrera on percussion. We’ve spoken with Filiú before, about his influences and upbringing. This time, we spoke further on his compositional techniques and the thematic underpinnings of his work.

TJG: At The Jazz Gallery, you’ll be premiering a new work, funded by the Doris Duke Foundation and Chamber Music America. Can you talk a little about the work?

RF: I always try to work on a theme. This project is based on an imaginary book, written by a fictional writer, on the people who have helped me in my life. Important people pass on or leave your life, you don’t see them anymore, and when you’re a kid, you say, “Well, that’s life.” But when you have a kid, you start to think about the people who supported you and never asked anything of you in return. I imagine a book where all the people who have helped me have their stories there. I love science fiction, and have been reading a lot this year, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, books by Orson Scott Card and Ursula K. Le Guin. I similarly try to link my music to something unreal, to create something different. I’ve been trying to imagine an alternate universe where all these people who helped me still live. Sometimes you never had the opportunity to say thank you. So this is a kind of tribute, in a way.

TJG: I think I understand the concept of the theme. Could you talk about how, for you, it translates into the music?

RF: It depends on the personality of the person on my mind, the specific things they did, our ages, our relationship, or where we met. I build the music around those ideas. For example, when I was a kid, there was an old man, eighty-something years old, from Haiti. He never said a word, but when I was little, with my big saxophone, he would always help me carry it. He was slower than me, man: To walk a block with him was like one hour. But he saw my saxophone and he came by my side to help me. That happened for two years straight. I was thinking of him, of the specific slow walking pace that he had, almost like an invalid. Something like that is how I link the music and the form with the personality.

TJG: Do you know what happened to that man?

RF: Never found out. I moved when I was fourteen, to go to boarding school, and I think he moved to another part of the country around that time, or right before. I didn’t see him any more.

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This Thursday, October 12th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome drummer Dan Weiss back to our stage for a performance showcasing his study of Indian Classical music, presented with Brooklyn Raga Massive. Weiss is both an in-demand collaborator and acclaimed bandleader, bringing his extraordinarily wide musical experiences to bare in any situation.

In addition to his work as a drummer and composer, Weiss has been a longtime student of Indian Classical music, working with guru Pandit Samir Chatterjee for twenty years. Weiss has recorded a solo tabla record, 3D CD, as well as two records with guitarist Miles Okazaki that translate rhythms from the tabla to the drum set. Check out Weiss and Okazaki play a piece based on the ten-beat rhythmic cycle, jhaptal, at The Jazz Gallery.

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Photo by Cisza Nie Istnieje.

This Thursday, October 12th, The Jazz Gallery is excited to kick off a new series in partnership with the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) in Queens. For one Thursday a month from October through May, the Gallery and JCAL will present shows featuring some of the Gallery’s favorite young groups—a true kaleidoscope of jazz in New York right now.

For the first show of this new series, John Escreet will take the stage at JCAL with his trio. Since his arrival in New York, Escreet has established himself as one of the city’s most versatile pianists, working within a variety of idioms and with diverse performers, from David Binney to Antonio Sanchez to Tyshawn Sorey to Evan Parker. Before heading out to Queens for Thursday’s performance, check out Escreet’s riveting set with Sorey and bassist John Hébert, below.

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This Sunday, October 8th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock back to our stage. Laubrock is among the most active and sought-after exploratory improvisers working in New York, performing with luminaries like Anthony Braxton, and many acclaimed groups led by her close collaborators including Mary Halvorson, Kris Davis, and Tom Rainey. Laubrock is an active leader in her own right, always seeking novel combinations of instruments and players, like in her 2015 Jazz Gallery Commission project.

On Sunday, Laubrock will convene a new lineup of her band Serpentines. Featuring Miya Masaoka on koto and Sam Pluta on electronics, alongside more typical jazz instruments, the group straddles many compositional and improvisational traditions. We caught up with Laubrock by phone to discuss the challenges of blending these diverse instruments and organizing a team of top-flight improvisers.

The Jazz Gallery: The instrumentation for this group is a little unusual—could you talk about that?

Ingrid Laubrock: The origin of this band is not what the lineup currently is—usually we also have Peter Evans, who is not available, and Kris Davis is on piano and Tom Rainey is on drums—but the music is written in a relatively open way, so the instrumentation can be adapted. Originally this was basically a commission by the 2014 Vision Fest, which asked me to put a group together, people who I’d like to play with, and I wrote for it. I really enjoyed it—for that particular event I wrote a very very open piece. And then Intakt records, who I usually record for, agreed to record the group, and I added Peter Evans to it. Since it has koto in it and electronics, I had to adapt my usual way of writing; certain specific things can’t be played on the koto since it’s not a chromatic instrument, and likewise, on electronics, I think of it as a different instrument, therefore not a traditional jazz instrument, so it was a good challenge for me.

TJG: How do you approach writing for these things differently?

IL: I check back a lot with Miya and with Sam, so I’ll write something or have an idea—sometimes it’s very intentional, maybe global idea, a sort of drone or sound or how I want a piece to communicate electronics over the course of the piece—things like that I’ve sort of closely checked with Sam, and Miya while I was writing it. I’ve gotten together with Miya a couple of times and seen what is possible on the koto, for her to demystify it a little bit so that I could write something that was meaningful for it.

And then of course they’re all fantastic improvisers and I wanted to make sure they had scope to express that, to have a certain open modes where they can really just put in their own taste buds.

TJG: There’s also a certain amount of large group coordination that goes on that I’m curious about, how that comes into play.

IL: You have to balance it all, more than with a smaller group. In a smaller group I might not specify combinations of improvisers, I might have an open section. In a large group, it’s more like I’ll ask—you three improvise, and then you two improvise and the rest are like backgrounds, or I specify backgrounds as in improvised intersections with cells of material, so it’s a little more organized than you might find in a smaller group, to prevent it from descending into chaos.

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Trombonist Alan Ferber is one of the most well-traveled jazz musicians in New York, both literally and figuratively—his recording credits and international touring gigs run the gamut from jazz to contemporary classical to rock and back. Ferber is among the most in-demand big band trombonists, playing in groups led by John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue, Michael Formanek, Ted Nash, and Miguel Zenon to name just a few. He’s played and arranged for Bang on a Can’s Asphalt Orchestra, and has worked with some of Indie rock’s most acclaimed groups, including Beirut, The National, and Sufjan Stevens.

Through these varied experiences, Ferber has found himself at the nexus of different musical communities. On his newest big band record, Jigsaw (Sunnyside)—his followup to the Grammy-nominated March Sublime—Ferber draws from his eclectic mix of musical relationships in both personnel and repertoire. The band features longtime collaborators like saxophonists John O’Gallagher and John Ellis, as well as mentors and former bandleaders like trombonist John Fedchock, trumpeter Tony Kadleck, and guitarist Anthony Wilson. The repertoire is especially-geared to the members of the band, featuring  a mix of originals and Ferber’s own arrangements of favorite tunes. Below, check out the album’s title track, a blistering workout written especially for John O’Gallagher, and “Lost in The Hours,” a lyrical bossa nova by the multi-reedist Paul McCandless.

This weekend, Ferber and his full band will celebrate the release of Jigsaw with two nights of performances. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear Ferber’s fresh and deeply felt music played by the people it was written for. (more…)