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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, September 13, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome multi-instrumentalist Jasper Dütz back to our stage for two sets. Having just returned to New York from a tour of Japan, Dütz will convene a new ensemble featuring his talented peers, as well as his father, percussionist Brad Dütz.

The ensemble will perform a mix of Dütz’s original compositions, as well as whimsical takes on jazz standards and classic video game themes. In addition, Jasper and Brad will perform selections from their recently released duo album, which you can stream below. Don’t miss this evening of fleet-footed and quick-witted musical interplay.

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Trina Basu (L) and Arun Ramamurthy (R). Photo courtesy of the artists.

It’s not uncommon for musicians to find inspiration in a realm beyond their musical upbringing. Violinist Trina Basu takes that idea to the next level, having been raised in a Western Classical tradition and subsequently immersing herself in the worlds of both jazz and Indian Classical music. A native of Miami, Florida, Basu received a fellowship in 2007 to study Carnatic Classical violin in Chennai, India. After arriving back in New York, Basu found herself performing in a wide range of style-defying ensembles.

Today, Basu co-leads the chamber ensemble Karavika, as well as Brooklyn Raga Massive, A.R. Balaskandan’s Akshara, Adam Rudolph’s Go: Organic Orchestra, Neel Murgai Ensemble, and many others. As an educator and music therapist in the New York area and beyond, Basu has organized musical initiatives focusing on both underserved youth, hospitalized children and adults, and Alzheimers and stroke patients. Like her own performance career, Basu’s educational work focuses on expanding the musical horizons of her students. 

Along with her musical partner and husband Arun Ramamurthy, Trina Basu will perform at The Jazz Gallery with a quartet rounded out by cellist Marika Hughes and bassist Rashaan Carter. The mission of the group, called Nakshatra, is to reimagine “the potential of string Chamber Music for our global times.” We caught up with Basu via phone, and discussed the breadth of her musical career

The Jazz Gallery: I’ve heard unbelievable recordings of you and Arun playing duo. Can you walk me through the experience of incorporating Marika Hughes and Rashaan Carter into your sound?

Trina Basu: Thanks! This show will be the first time we’re playing as a string quartet, so it should be fun. As Arun and I have been building more original material together, we’ve experimented with bringing other musicians into the fold. Marika and Rashaan have been friends and colleagues of ours for several years, and they’re two of our favorite musicians and improvisers. We’ve had our hearts set on playing with them, and this show at The Jazz Gallery seemed like the right time to bring them in. Marika and Rashaan will give us that beautiful low-end that is so essential to the string quartet sound. 

TJG: So what will you be playing together at The Jazz Gallery?

TB: The music is all original, written by Arun and myself. We’ve been playing together for about ten years. We met playing music in a group called Akshara back in 2007. We were playing on similar scenes but come from different musical backgrounds: Arun is a Carnatic South-Indian trained violinist but is influenced by much more, whereas I’m trained as a Western Classical violinist who came into Indian Classical and other styles later in life. When we met, we had great musical and personal chemistry. We ended up getting married several years later, and now we have children together, so life has gotten pretty crazy. Over the past couple years we’ve been developing original music together and it’s really exciting. The music will draw from our roots in tradition but will take on new shapes reflective of our individual voices. 

TJG: So what does that mean for the sound you’ve created together, in musical terms?

TB: Our music is rooted in the Carnatic ragas and rhythmic structures. As a string quartet we can tap into the chamber music sound and create beautiful rich drones which is perfect for raga improvisations. There is a lot of experimentation and “breaking rules,” if you will, but we do try our best to retain the spirit of the raga or whatever it is we are tapping into at the moment. We’re both influenced by so many different styles of music but I think you will also find threads of jazz, western classical, and some version of experimental minimalist music. 

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Art courtesy of Ezra & Alvin Roy

This Tuesday, September 11, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to open a new exhibition of art by father and son Alvin and Ezra Roy. Together, their lives and work tell a remarkable story. In 1988, Ezra was born with Down Syndrome. At the time, Alvin was beginning a career in law, but had studied painting at the Houston Technical Institute and with artists Burford Evans and Robin Ishimi Johnson. From a young age, it was clear that Ezra had a keen interest in painting as well. Beginning with training from his father, Ezra has become an accomplished artist. Ezra graduated from Texas Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in art in 2014, the first student with Down Syndrome to graduate from a four-year college.

The pair have exhibited their work extensively throughout their hometown of Houston, Texas and the southern US, but we at The Jazz Gallery are pleased to help the Roys bring their work to New York. To celebrate the exhibition opening on the 11th, pianist Jason Moran will play a solo set at 7 P.M. If you can’t make it to the exhibition opening, come to the Gallery a bit early before your next show to check out Alvin and Ezra’s evocative works.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

It may come as some surprise that trumpeter Nabaté Isles, an accomplished and (by some standards) mid-career musician, just recently released his first album as a leader. That, in large part, is due to Isles’ career in the world of sports media, production, and entertainment, having been the host of So Much to Talk about on Manhattan cable, SiriusXM’s NBA Radio, and winner of both ESPN’s Stump The Schwab and Crackle/NBC Sports’ Sports Jeopardy. Leading two careers at once, Isles is no stranger to music, having played in big bands lead by Christian McBride, Oliver Lake, Mike Longo, and Charli Persip. His musical upbringing includes all forms of jazz, R&B, pop, Motown, as well as exposure to classical music from his time at Eastman school of Music.

Isles held nothing back on his debut solo release, Eclectic Excursions, produced by Sam Barsh. Featuring sixteen tracks with myriad influences, the album includes an outrageous lineup, far too long to list here in its entirety, but including such notables as Christian McBride, Nate Smith, Ben Williams, Johnathan Blake, Jimmy Owens, David Gilmore, Stacy Dillard, Jaleel Shaw, Frank Lacy, Alita Moses, and Michael Mayo. We spoke with Isles via phone about the full intersection of influences and experiences represented by his new album.

TJG: How goes the preparation for the show?

Nabaté Isles: It’s going well, I’m looking forward to it. We’re doing pretty much all music from the record, and most of the cats that were on the album are playing on the show.

TJG: You’re kidding! There were so many people on the album, how could they all fit on that stage?

NI: [Laughs] It’s going to be a somewhat condensed group, including Stacy Dillard on saxophones, David Gilmore on guitar, Adam Klipple on keyboards, Ben Williams on bass, Johnathan Blake and Jaimeo Brown on drums, all of whom were on the record except Jaimeo, who couldn’t make it. We’ll also have Jimmy Owens, of course, my musical dad, and flautist Elsa Nilsson.

TJG: That’s still only a fraction of the people on Eclectic Excursions—you really pulled out all the stops for this album. How did you keep track of the logistics involved? I imagine it must have taken a lot of work.

NI: I have to tell you, it actually didn’t take a lot of work. Everything went off without a hitch. Around May of 2017, I wrote down a list of everyone who I wanted to be on the album, and then contacted them to ask about the last week of November, after Thanksgiving weekend, because a lot of people are in town during that time, yet not much is happening then. Basically, everyone was free to do the session, which was amazing. Johnathan Blake, David Gilmore, Jaleel Shaw, we go back more than twenty years, and it was great to be able to bring them all together. The planning and organizational process beforehand, now that took time. I wanted to make sure everything was straight for these cats to feel comfortable and relaxed in the studio. We did two major days at The Bunker Studio. I came up with a schedule based on who was playing what, because I didn’t want many people waiting around. It was kind of like a Rubik’s Cube, getting all of the colors organized together.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

David Adewumi is a trumpeter of expansive vocabulary and strong discipline. The child of Nigerian immigrants and raised in New Hampshire, Adewumi attended New England Conservatory, and upon graduation, received a Soros fellowship for graduate study at Juilliard. Adewumi has also completed notable performance programs through the Banff Summer Jazz Workshop, Thelonious Monk Institute, and Betty Carter Jazz Ahead.

Adewumi’s upcoming debut as a leader at The Jazz Gallery has its origins in a conversation with Dave Douglass, who encouraged Adewumi to assemble a group of young trumpet players. Joining Adewumi will be Adam O’Farrill and Davy Lazar on trumpet, as well as Dean Torrey on bass and Kate Gentile on drums. In a recent phone interview, we discussed Adewumi’s upbringing and education, his musical relationship with O’Farrill and Lazar, and the underlying ideas that connect their compositions.

The Jazz Gallery: What’s the backstory behind your upcoming show, featuring three young trumpeters?

David Adewumi: The idea started during a conversation with Dave Douglass at Juilliard when I was doing the Composers Ensemble there. He took a liking to my music because I was trying to do something a little more outside the box in terms of the aesthetic at Juilliard. He invited me to play some of his music, as well as one of my pieces, at a festival in 2017 with him, Jeremy Pelt, Stephanie Richards, and Nate Wooley. The next year, Dave asked me to think of some other young trumpet players I would want to assemble for a set of original music, and I immediately thought of Davy and Adam.

I almost think of Adam as a stone: He has so much strength in his playing, yet at the same time, he’s very thoughtful and calm. Davy, I see him as a wizard in some ways. Some of the things that he thinks of are so crazy, you have to keep on your toes, and he writes some really hard music, man [laughs]. I’ve enjoyed hearing them over the past couple of years, and I’m excited about playing with them both.

TJG: So Dave Douglass approached you at a time when you were writing music outside the norm for Juilliard; in what way were you pushing against the prevailing aesthetic?

TJG: The philosophy at Juilliard is mainly centered around creating music based around the elements of blues improvisation. Those elements will always be in the music that I write, but at the same time, I went to New England Conservatory before Juilliard, and that aesthetic is based more around free improvisation and Third Stream. It’s almost as if though my music, I’m trying to reconcile two sides of the jazz and improvised music spectrum, the traditional versus the forward-thinking. The music I wrote includes elements based more in free improvisation, which I did a little at Juilliard, but never as much as I did at NEC. Still, the music includes elements of swing, yet instead of being totally obedient to the time, the time exists on its own, and the ensemble plays against it. There might be a really fast swing groove where the horns play my melody rubato, for example. That sound has a powerful impact in terms of what I want the music to evoke emotionally.

TJG: Davy Lazar plays with Kate Gentile a lot in New York in his Davy Lazar Trio, his duo with Kate called Pluto’s Lawyer, and Kate’s band with Matt Mitchell, Snark Horse. Is that where the connection came from for this show?

DA: Absolutely. Kate really learned the music. She has an incredible way of making the music feel good while still nailing all of the super complex parts. Her music with Davy, wow, it’s intense. We’ll likely play three compositions by me, three by Davy, and three by Adam. We’re still working on the music, so it’s all subject to change. We were practicing some of it last week, so I’m excited to see what’s going to happen.

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