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Photo by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

Todd Neufeld has been keeping busy: he’s been working on a duo recording with pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, a new recording with drummer Richie Barshay‘s band, and has performed recently in bands led by bassist Thomas Morgan, multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey, and reedist Matt Steckler, among others.

On Thursday, we will present Todd’s trio, which will mark the guitarist’s first appearance as a leader at The Jazz Gallery. “I’m really excited to play at The Gallery”, says Todd, noting the breadth of contexts in which he has appeared here in the past. These include various configurations with multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey, a trio with pianist Masabumi Kikuchi and bassist Thomas Morgan, and a two night run with pianist Aaron Parks, among others. Todd first performed here with the veteran saxophonist Lee Konitz: “[Lee has] been a hero [of mine] since I was 16 or 17. Just getting to work with one of these really strong figures, who is, what, 84 now I think? And he’s still searching with every note, and it’s a very specific region he’s working with.”

For Todd, working with Konitz was part of a history of interpreting standards:

I’ve worked on that quite a bit over a number of years and it’s very important to me. I’ve done that a lot with Thomas [Morgan] actually; we used to do these restaurant gigs all the time just to work on learning these songs. [We were] doing something that is taught in the schools and everyone kind of goes through, sometimes begrudgingly. But for us it’s a very personal thing, and we do it to this day together. So working with Lee was a pretty amazing part of that.

Todd is also involved in a longstanding collaboration with another one of his lifelong inspirations, the pianist Masabumi Kikuchi (who is affectionately referred to as “Poo” by his collaborators). And, as it turns out, this relationship also has roots in an experience at The Jazz Gallery:

I was going to see Tyshawn’s That/Not CD release concert at The Gallery and I was in the stairwell waiting to get into the second set, and the [concertgoers from the] first set were walking out, and Poo walked by me. And I stopped him, and said, “Hey Poo, I’m Todd, Thomas’ friend”, and he replied, “Oh yeah!” And he said, “Could you get my number from Thomas?” And then he wrote Thomas that night, and apparently he said, “Yeah, I need that guitar player’s number…there’s something in his eyes!” (laughing). Which is so Poo. But then, through Thomas, we hung out a bunch of times, and eventually we played.

Without getting to into it, just going to his place after so many years of being inspired by his music, and seeing the way that he lives, and since [then] getting to know him much better…just to know that there’s an artist out there that’s working in that way that you dream about as a kid is really inspiring.

Todd’s performance on Thursday is part of a shift in the mind of the artist. For the past several years, Todd has dedicated himself to learning through performing as a sideperson in other leader’s groups. However, he recently began to feel that the next thing he needs to learn will come from “putting [himself] forward, and asking those questions that come from being a leader.”

In selecting the personnel for his own ensemble, Todd mentions that he “tends to be drawn to really personal formations”, citing his extensive history with each of his bandmates:

I’m really close with both of them. With Tyshawn, there’s just such inspiration…in terms of, obviously, his skills, but then [he’s also] so searching, and pushing so much. And with Thomas, by the same token: we met when we were 18, actually, and we started playing together a few years after that. But he’s another guy that, at every turn, gives me so much spur to go forward, to challenge myself. That’s what it’s all about – those moments and those people.

Todd also illuminated aspects of his approach in composing the music for Thursday’s performance:

I always hear an infinity of notes, and the interesting thing for me as I’ve been trying to compose pieces for this date, is that, improvisationally I have a solution for that artistic decision. And that [solution] is just getting myself into a space where I trust me ears and my intuition, because in that way, I can believe in my decision. If I’m not thinking, but I’m seeing the shapes of the music, I trust that I have pretty good ears to be able to find the shape that works. But with composition, it’s different, because the time is stretched out…But I’m working with these pieces now and trying to find the balance between improvisation and [composition].

One thing I am conscious of in a set that will probably be heavily improvised is for it to have certain textures and shapes. Improvisations can have a certain energy, and a certain wave, and perhaps an ambiguity too, which is sometimes a strength. And so, in some ways, I am looking to have the compositions represent some touchstones of clarity within a set that might have a different energy through these improvisations. So I’m thinking that if I can do that for the listeners, maybe it’s going to be a way to keep them in the music and give a certain shape to the set.

I’ll be doing a couple of pieces of my own, and I’ll probably be incorporating one or two pieces by other people. Some much older songs that Thomas and I worked on might find their way into the set, because we’re often trying to find a way for these myriad influences to come through. Which is what our generation faces – there’s just so much information. And personally, well, I lived in Brazil for a minute, so I’m very interested in Brazilian music. Recently I’ve been starting a small study of African music, and there’s also classical music, North Indian rhythms and approaches to melody, [which I encountered] through working with Dan [Weiss]. And it’s never gone away for me, all of this music tradition – “jazz” tradition, whatever you want to call it – that I can’t seem to escape.

Todd’s attraction to the music began at a very young age; when he was thirteen, a local guitar teacher gave him a recording of Charlie Christian. “I was sitting in my room listening for hours and hours in my room to that music, and I feel so fortunate to connect to it in a way that doesn’t make any sense.” However, his relationship to the music also transcends his instrument:

With all of the respect I have for the instrument and what people have tried to bring out through it, I’m not really hearing much guitar. I’m hearing piano, I’m hearing strings, a lot of voice, and I’m also hearing films. Kiarostami, this Iranian director, is a major influence for me, Richard Pryor is a big influence on my music, Carl Dreyer, another filmmaker, and I guess I’ve been very involved in the process of trying to imitate things you will never be able to imitate. And to me that seems like a very healthy process, and maybe that makes my approach to guitar something I can be a little bit proud of – it gives it a certain breath, a certain air to it.

Even as he prepares for the Thursday’s concert, Todd confirms that he won’t be able to give us an idea of what the music will sound like until he hears it himself. “It’s like my life now…I just wake up in the morning and see which direction to go in.”

Photo courtesy of http://aaronparks.com

If pianist Aaron Parks had to pick two words to describe his own music, he would choose “spontaneous” and “cinematic” (according to his bio, at least). Aaron’s conception is documented on Invisible Cinema, his 2008 debut for Blue Note Records, as well as on recordings with the likes of Terrence Blanchard (who began employing Aaron at the tender age of 18), Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Ambrose Akinmusire.

Like Luis Perdomo (who performs here Friday night), Aaron is a veteran of The Jazz Gallery, having led bands on our stage upwards of twenty times (he appeared most recently as a co-leader last weekend). We also commissioned Aaron as a part of The Jazz Gallery Composers’ Series in 2007. Aaron chose to title his collection of works “Archetypes: Character Studies in Sound”, noting that, “There is a curious parallel between an archetype and a jazz composition: both have a certain skeletal structure that remains constant, but is fleshed out differently in each instance.”

Aaron will be featuring a two keyboard lineup for his two night run, with Pete Rende (synthesizers), Dayna Stephens (saxophone), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Nate Smith (drums). For a glimpse at what the music might sound like, check out this recording from last fall (also featurng Rende) from our friends at NPR’s A Blog Supreme.

Photo courtesy of allaboutjazz.com

Last summer, we launched The Woodshed at The Jazz Gallery, a new initiative to offer musicians the use of our space at no charge for rehearsal, research, and development. With your help, we raised over $20,000 in just 31 days via Kickstarter. Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal features an article on The Woodshed (if you have the print edition, turn to page A23), which includes a few wonderful quotes from the artists benefiting from the initiative. To those of you who helped make this possible, thank you for your support!



Luis Perdomo
is no stranger to the piano at The Jazz Gallery. He’s performed here as a leader or co-leader upwards of twenty times since 2002, and has also appeared regularly in bands led by saxophonists Ravi Coltrane and Miguel Zenón. On Friday night, Luis returns to our stage with a new quartet featuring saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Rodney Green.

In 2007, we commissioned Luis as a part of The Jazz Gallery Composers’ Series. The result was ”Central Coast: Impressions on Afro-Venezuelan Music”, an extended work featuring the twin bass stylings of Boris Koslov and Hans Glawischnig along with reedist Peter Apfelbaum and drummer Eric McPherson. Speaking about the experience in an interview with The Beating Planet, Luis explains:

Some time ago, The Jazz Gallery [asked] me [to write] a work [for] its composers cycle. The venue has been a home [to me] during the last ten years. That’s how I had the opportunity to consolidate a project I had in mind for some time. I called it “Central Coast: Impressions on Afro-Venezuelan music”, which is a ten-piece collection inspired by the music of Venezuela’s central coast. It was very successful, since my idea was to keep the main rhythmic elements and the spirit of that music, but present [it] in a different way. I hired a sax player who played flute, percussion and blow-organ. There were also two acoustic bass players, a drummer and of course piano. It was a very interesting thing that attracted the attention of the audience.

Most recently, Luis participated in a residency as a member of Miguel Zenón‘s quartet, in which the band performed at The Gallery on a monthly basis for over a year. The residency was designed to prepare the group to record their 2011 release, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook, which was recently nominated for a GRAMMY.

You can familiarize yourself with Luis’ playing through these videos: an original composition for trio, an extended piano solo with Miguel Zenón at The Jazz Gallery, or an extrapolation on John Coltrane’s famous harmonic matrix “Giant Steps” with the Ravi Coltrane Quartet.

Photos by Rafiq for Jazz Speaks

On Thursday, The Jazz Gallery will host the return of Corey King and TAFFY. Corey has appeared on our stage in multiple contexts in the past, and Thursday’s performance will be his second as a leader here.

Corey caught our attention as the musical director and trombonist for Jamire WilliamsERIMAJ, a band that Ben Ratliff of The New York Times proclaims “dissolves lines between rhythmic traditions in jazz and hip-hop as well as I’ve ever heard”. Click here to read what Ratliff had to say after ERIMAJ performed at The Jazz Gallery.

In addition to his work with ERIMAJ, Corey also serves as the musical director for the Dr. Lonnie Smith Big Band and Nonet, and has performed and/or recorded with Jason Moran, Dave Binney, Chris Dave, Mos Def, Gil Scott-Heron, Bilal, Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, Mark Ronson, and several others.

TAFFY features Corey’s original music, and consists of Corey (trombone/compositions), Takuya Kuroda (trumpet), Max Seigel (bass trombone), Frank LoCrasto (keys), Matt Stevens (guitar), Chris Smith (bass), Jamire Williams (drums), and Adam Jackson (percussion).

The photos above were shot by this blogger in whatever tight spaces he could find in the pianist’s crowded rehearsal space in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Nonetheless, the deliciousness of the music more than compensated for the scarcity of wiggle room. It was like being stuck in taffy.

 

Photo by Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

Amidst the whirlwind of recent activity at The Gallery, we’ve found ourselves in the press quite a bit. Two of our recent concerts received reviews in The New York Times: Kris Bowers and Tony Malaby’s “Novela”. Additionally, we were spotlighted in this profile from Rebecca Dalzell in The Boston Globe:

If there is one place where you can reliably catch the breadth and energy of the scene, it is the Jazz Gallery. The second-floor space feels like a listening loft, with art on the walls, folding chairs, and no bar. A 17-year-old nonprofit, it fosters young musicians and commissions new works. This winter it will host a residency for bassists and open its doors for rehearsals during off-hours, a project funded by Kickstarter donations.

The Gallery has an impressive track record for spotting new talent: three MacArthur grant recipients have frequented its stage, including Miguel Zenón, a resident artist last year. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, a recent Blue Note Records signee, once worked the door. Musicians graduate from here to bigger things.

“We’re focused on nurturing the future,’’ says Deborah Steinglass, executive director. “There are no artistic constraints, so musicians can take risks and bring different material here than they would elsewhere.’’

Maybe it’s the homey atmosphere, but you get a sense of community at the Gallery. Students come to support their friends, audience members talk to one another, and bands onstage clearly have fun. “Jazz musicians are so invested in each other, and that feeling infuses the environment,’’ says Steinglass. She has watched mentorships grow, citing a show when Akinmusire invited an unknown saxophonist, Adam Larson, onstage; Larson has since brought his own band to the Gallery’s Thursday-night debut series.