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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, October 5, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Fabian Almazan back to our stage for two sets. Back in June, Almazan released his latest album, This Land Abounds with Life (Biophilia). While Almazan’s working trio with bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Henry Cole is the album’s core, Almazan places the ensemble inside a veritable terrarium of sound, featuring digital effects and Almazan’s own field recordings from Cuba. The result is an album with both a clear sense of place and a fantastical imagination.

For his Gallery performance this week, Almazan will be joined by Oh and drummer Rudy Royston. Before checking out this music live, take a listen to the evocative track “The Poets,” below.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

Through three decades of performing, violist Mat Maneri has expanded the musical practices of his instruments. While playing with luminaries including Cecil Taylor, Joe Morris, and Matthew Shipp, Maneri has cultivated a fearless improvisation style that builds on his father Joe Maneri’s explorations of microtonality.

This Friday at The Jazz Gallery, Maneri celebrates his 50th birthday with two sets of music performed with many of his longtime collaborators. at 7:30 P.M., Maneri convenes his Dust Quartet, featuring pianist Lucian Ban, bassist Brad Jones, and drummer Randy Peterson. At 9:30, Maneri will join an expanded ensemble for a set of free improvisation, featuring Morris and Shipp, plus pianist Craig Taborn, saxophonist Tony Malaby, and fellow violist Tanya Kalmanovitch.

Before coming out to this celebration of Maneri’s music, check out this performance of Maneri with drummer Ches Smith’s trio, featuring Craig Taborn.

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From L to R: Gerald Cleaver, Dan Rieser, Jonathan Goldberger, Curtis Hasselbring, Chris Cheek, Chris Lightcap, Tony Malaby, and Craig Taborn. Photo courtesy of the artist.

For a working musician in New York, it’s common to play in multiple ensembles. It’s not too uncommon to be a bandleader for two or more groups. It’s rare, however, when a bandleader decides to take two freestanding bands and create a new project combining every member of both groups. That’s exactly what Chris Lightcap has done with SuperBigmouth, a combination of his longstanding groups Bigmouth and Superette. The mega-band features all eight members of the two bands, including keyboardist Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek, guitarists Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring, and drummers Gerald Cleaver and Dan Rieser. The full lineup will hit the stage at The Jazz Gallery on October 3rd to celebrate the release of their upcoming album. We spoke with Lightcap on the phone about the logistics of leading a larger project, the musical opportunities afforded by overlapping instrumentation, and perhaps most importantly, all the details on his adorable new puppy.

The Jazz Gallery: How have you been? Is now a good time to chat?

Chris Lightcap: Yep, now is cool, let me just check something… We just got a puppy, so I just want to see if she’s doing okay [laughs]. Everything looks good.

TJG: Aw! What kind of puppy?

CL: They’re calling them Bernedoodles: She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog mixed with a Miniature Poodle. So, a mini Bernedoodle.

TJG: Wow. How’d you decide on that breed?

CL: There’s one in our building already. We met this dog, and he’s completely amazing. We got in touch with the same breeder that they used. We wanted to get a rescue dog, but any time you find a poodle mix at a shelter, it’s usually been spoken for–my wife’s allergic to dogs, so we needed some kind of poodle mix. We decided to bite the bullet and go for this breeder. Amazingly, two weeks later, our neighbors from across the street showed up with a puppy from the exact same litter: Our puppy’s sister. Our neighbors got the same idea when they met the other Bernedoodle in our building. So, our puppy has her sister living across the street from us, and her half-brother living downstairs.

TJG: You’ve got a whole block full of Bernedoodles.

CL: Yeah, it’s all Bernedoodles all the time now [laughs].

TJG: It’s not so common for a touring musician to get a pet.

CL: It was a stretch, for sure. But she seems to be pretty easy, as far as puppies go. We have a million great dog walkers in the neighborhood, and it’s a very dog-friendly neighborhood. I know several musicians around who have dogs, and they’ve given me a lot of great advice about how to tour when you have a dog, what to do when you get out of town, different boarding options. My wife and I have two older kids now, 10 and 14, who get themselves home from school and help out. It’s not as overwhelming as it might seem.

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Album art courtesy of Sunnyside Records.

Saxophonist Caroline Davis and keyboardist Rob Clearfield are longtime collaborators from their days based in Chicago. While Davis is now based in New York and Clearfield in Paris, France, the pair have continued working together, and have just released Anthems (Sunnyside), the debut album of their new collaborative project, Persona.

The band name comes from the title of director Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film Persona, where a nurse taking care of a mute actress begins to take on her charge’s personality. The film narrative is an apt metaphor for the band’s development. As both Davis and Clearfield added compositions to the group’s book, their musical interests began to merge—Davis started incorporating Clearfield’s complex rhythmic cycles, while Clearfield emulated Davis’s impassioned lyricism. The album’s opening track, Davis’s “People Look Like Tanks,” is a perfect encapsulation of this merged personality, as a searching saxophone line winds its way over an ever-shifting piano vamp.
This Wednesday, October 2, the full Persona lineup comes to The Jazz Gallery to celebrate their album release. Joining Davis and Clearfield for two sets will be bassist Sam Weber and drummer Jay Sawyer. (more…)

Photo by Kasia Idzkowska, courtesy of the artist.

This weekend, The Jazz Gallery is thrilled to team up with Brooklyn Raga Massive to present two nights of BRM’s Coltrane Raga Tribute. The project first performed at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn in September 2015, highlighting the influence of Indian classical music on Coltrane’s work. Under the direction of percussionist Sameer Gupta, the group features a cast of musicians performing on both Indian and jazz instruments. To get a sense of the project’s rich sonic landscape, check out their version of Coltrane’s “Alabama” from their debut performance.

For this special performance at The Jazz Gallery, the ensemble features Marcus Strickland on woodwinds, Abhik Mukherjee on sitar, Jay Gandhi on bansuri, Sharik Hasan on piano & keyboards, Rashaan Carter on bass, and music director Sameer Gupta on drum set & tabla. (more…)