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When we approached Joe Sanders about participating in the 2012 Jazz Gallery Residency Commissions program, we mentioned that the theme for this year would be “Leading From the Bass”: a spotlight on bassist-composers. Joe took this idea and ran with it; on Friday and Saturday nights at The Jazz Gallery, he will premiere brand new music and arrangements showcasing a quartet of acoustic basses. Joe speaks:

The goal is to have the audience understand that role of the bass isn’t always to stand in the back. You can be the bandleader [as a bassist], and still also play the same role that you were, which is the same as everyone else in the band.

The bass is a beautiful instrument and it has so many capabilities – it can produce beautiful melodies and negotiate tricky harmonic and rhythmic situations – which aren’t explored often enough. Every one of the bassists that will be performing on Friday night is capable of showcasing those capabilities.

For the past few weeks, Joe has spent almost every afternoon at The Gallery, “switching from Firefox and Sibelius ever so nervously, making large and small adjustments to the scores.” This weekend’s performances will feature fellow bassists Shawn Conley, Ryan Berg, and Christopher Mees, as well as saxophonist Pat Carroll, pianist Romain Collin, and drummer Justin Brown.

Tune in to Jazz Speaks tomorrow afternoon for a more detailed conversation with Joe, as well as rehearsal shots. Or just go ahead and buy your tickets: Joe says, “if you like bass…I could almost guarantee you’d like this!”

Photo by Esther Cidoncha via

To call Steve Coleman “influential” is an understatement. Vijay Iyer, one of the many groundbreaking composer-performers who began their careers apprenticing with Steve, says, “To me, Steve’s as important as Coltrane. He has contributed an equal amount to the history of the music. He deserves to be placed in the pantheon of pioneering artists.”

But the scope of Steve’s influence isn’t limited to his collaborators. He’s been presenting weekly workshops at The Jazz Gallery almost every season since the fall of 2004, where anyone with a thirst for knowledge can go to absorb the infinitude he has to offer.

On March 8th, we’ll be bringing this series uptown in collaboration with our friends at Symphony Space. The Jazz Gallery Uptown: Steve Coleman Presents, A Musical Salon will expose a new neighborhood to Steve’s ideas and approaches. For those of you downtown, we’ll also begin the Spring season of “Steve Coleman Presents” at The Jazz Gallery next Monday.

Never been to one of Steve’s workshops? Michael J. West provides a great account in the 2010 issue of JazzTimes:

The audience at the Jazz Gallery is under Steve Coleman’s spell. The alto saxophonist, casually dressed in jeans and a backwards baseball cap, sits center stage at the scruffy upstairs club in New York’s SoHo district, leading two of his band members—pianist David Virelles and guitarist Miles Okazaki—through alien-sounding renditions of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are.” The people in the club’s cramped chairs sit in rapt attention, following Coleman’s urgings to clap and sing along with the musicians. Then something unusual happens: Coleman calls one young spectator up to sit with Virelles at the piano, and encourages others to stand onstage behind him and watch.

This is Coleman’s gig, but it isn’t a concert. On a Monday night in March, he’s conducting his weekly master class and workshop, “Steve Coleman Presents,” for musicians of all instruments and skill levels. Coleman has spent the evening discussing negative chords, a system of his own design in which chords are built by stacking notes downward, not upward, from the root. He and his musicians first re-harmonize the changes on “All the Things You Are,” then reconstruct the tune itself using the same concept. “You’re gonna work out the bridge,” he tells the kid he’s brought onto the bandstand, and for the next hour they deconstruct the standard’s B-section note by note, looking to retain the compositional structure but turn it upside down as the remainder of the class—about 20 people, mostly young, some with instruments—looks on.

“What you’re really doing with this is to alter your perspective,” he explains as the kid picks away at the keys. “You’re just looking at the same thing from a different angle, holding up a magnifying glass to see why things work and why they don’t. And you don’t have to stop tonight; you can keep doing it, because it presents situations you’ve never been in before and possibilities you’ve never even thought of.”

[Continue reading here.]

We’d like to point out that Steve’s own website is an incredible resource, with several scores and essays – as well as almost two dozen albums – available for free download. The author also recommends this feature in The Wall Street Journal, as well as this extensive 2008 interview via Innerviews.

Photo by Jimmy Baikovicius via

“I have a lot of trouble coming up with a title,” says Alex Brown. “That’s one of the reasons I write music. I get these feelings that I can’t put into words.”

The young pianist’s international career began in 2007, when the legendary Cuban reedist Paquito D’Rivera first heard him perform in Washington, D.C. After a month-long silence following the concert, Alex received a call from D’Rivera, who told him that he “sounded pretty good…even on that plastic piano!” In the last few years, Alex has toured the world with D’Rivera, and shared a 2010 GRAMMY nomination for his contributions to D’Rivera’s album, Jazz-Clazz (Termidor). Alex’s sideman résumé also includes performances with Miguel Zenón, as well as Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

In addition to growing notoriety in jazz circles, Alex is also building a reputation as a classical musician: he has recorded and performed with the Imani Winds, as well as with the clarinetist Sabine Meyer, and has joined major orchestras in concert in the United States, Mexico, Chile, and Spain. He recently finished his first commission for orchestra.

Amidst these other obligations, Alex also performs regularly his own quintet. The group made a memorable debut at The Gallery last September with D’Rivera as a special guest. On Thursday, we will welcome Alex and his quintet back to our stage, with this iteration of the band including another venerable Cuban-born saxophonist: Jazz Gallery veteran Yosvany Terry. Paulo Stagnaro will return on percussion, while drummer Ludwig Afonso and Alex’s brother and bassist Zach Brown will complete the lineup. This concert will be Alex’s second as a part of our Debut Series, which enables us not only to present new artists, but also to continue to cultivate their talents through return performances.

Take a listen to selections from Alex’s debut album Pianist (Sunnyside 2010).

Photo by Jean-Francois Laberine for

This Saturday, The Jazz Gallery will present the debut performance of Myra Melford‘s new ensemble, Snowy Egret.

In a career spanning three decades, the “insightful and far-reaching pianist-composer” (New York Times) has apprenticed in the bands of leading experimentalists such as Leroy Jenkins, Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill and Butch Morris, and studied with pianists Jaki Byard, Don Pullen, and Ran Blake. In the forward to the 2011 Rhapsody Jazz Critics’ Poll, award-winning journalist Francis Davis noted, “Myra Melford lately seems to have entered a phase where she can do no wrong.”

Snowy Egret is the most recent product of this phase. This new ensemble represents the evolution of one of Myra’s previous projects, Happy Whistlings. The latter group was formed in 2008, and interpreted Myra’s original music inspired by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano‘s Memory of Fire trilogy. Snowy Egret picks up where Happy Whistlings left of, building upon new arrangements of the original pieces and juxtaposing them against newer works. The group features musicians Ron Miles (trumpet), Liberty Ellman (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (electric bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums) as well as dancer Oguri.

Watch a video of Myra, Stomu, and Oguri performing live at Inage Candy in Chiba, Japan here.

Photos courtesy of Adam O'Farrill

At a very young age, the brothers Adam and Zack O’Farrill have made serious strides as young musicians. The two sons of GRAMMY-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill co-lead their own ensemble, aptly named “The O’Farrill Brothers Band“, which The Wall Street Journal proclaims “bristles with confidence and creativity.”

On Friday, we will be hosting the third Gallery performance by this group, whose members have performed with Stefon Harris, Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, DJ Logic, and more.

Adam and Zack answered our questions about their music, bandmates, and their history with The Gallery, as well as about what it’s like to work with each other:


Tell us a little about the music you’ll be performing:

ADAM: All of the music we’ll be playing will be on the forthcoming album, which we are recording in late April, and most of the compositions are mine. When I write, I usually don’t have a particular focus in mind, and I usually don’t come up with a title for a piece until after I write it. This helps bring spontaneity to the writing process, and it prevents me from forcing any ideas or concepts. I take a lot of inspiration from other types of music. For example, my composition “Broken Wings” is heavily influenced by Ravel and Debussy. Another piece, “Mind Troubles”, has kind of a gospel, Aretha Franklin harmonic vibe. We will also be playing two tunes by other members of the band – “Action and Reaction” by Livio Almeida, and “Iron Fist” by Adam Kromelow. “Action and Reaction” is a very groovy piece, so I wanted to add a sense of dirt and grit, kind of a street sound to it.

ZACK: We also like to play a tune by Carla Bley called “Wrong Key Donkey.” Our dad played with her when he was younger and we’ve grown up hearing her music. Carla’s writing is pretty unique in the world of jazz for not having lost its sense of humor, which is something all of us in our house admire and strive for. Also, our dad was able to teach us how the piece really should be played when we first started playing it.

Introduce us to the musicians that will be performing with you: when did you meet them and what drew you to select them for this group?

ADAM: Other than my brother, saxophonist Livio Almeida has been the longest standing member of the band since its inception in 2009. He’s from Brasilia, BR, and the first time I had ever played with him was in the West 4th St. train station. We just jammed, and I fell in love with his playing. As an improviser, he has a strong sense of youth and willingness to discover, and he really knows when to raise the energy level. Not only is he an amazing musician, but he truly is a sweet and generous person. Livio is also a bandleader in his own right: check out his debut album, dcLa Sessions.

ZACK: Livio also has a gigantic sound which is the essential element for my brother, who doesn’t have much of a tolerance for small, timid playing!

ADAM: When I first called pianist Adam Kromelow to sub for a gig our original pianist couldn’t make, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The only recording I had heard of him was a video of him playing some loud, furious stride, but I dug his personality. Then I actually played with him, and came to realize that he is not only an incredibly creative pianist, but one of the funnest people I’ve ever played with. Adam has always been able to challenge me to the fullest extent. A Chicago native, he studied with Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer at the Manhattan School of Music, and one of the things I enjoy most about his playing is his ability to play with a sense of humor, as well as with serious depth.

ZACK: Adam is a really funny guy who, if we’re all lucky, might be persuaded to sing us some Elton John, or Peter Gabriel, or a Disney song at the Gallery. But he’s an amazing pianist who has incredible technical facility as well as creativity, and he’s as exciting and fun to listen to as he is to play with! Adam also just released his first record, Youngblood, on ZOHO Records, with his trio, which was produced by our dad. It’s an amazing record that people should definitely check out.

ADAM: Gabe Schnider, our guitarist, has been one of my best friends, both personally and musically. He and I first met when we were both participating in the GRAMMY Jazz Ensemble in 2010. We started playing together a lot at MSM Pre-College, and I felt a deep musical connection with him. This inspired us to add guitar to our original quintet lineup, making it a sextet. Adding Gabe has changed the dynamic of the band; he’s always coming up with new and exciting ways to play the music. He also gets really good coconut custard from a bakery in his hometown of Accord, NY, so ask him about that…

ZACK: Gabe is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and he’s one of the most solid young guitarists I’ve ever heard. And he can read well, which is a real rarity! We haven’t looked back since adding him.

ADAM: The newest member of the band is bassist Raviv Markovitz, from Lexington, MA. He was a semifinalist in the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition, and I first played with him when he was a freshman at Columbia University. We had been playing together around the city before he joined the band, and I have always been a huge fan of his playing. Every time I make music with him, it’s a huge treat. He is someone who really knows to hold the groove down, while also truly shining as a soloist. We look forward to working more with Raviv this year.

ZACK: Raviv is one of those people who almost perpetually has a smile on his face, and he makes you want to smile when you play with him! When you play with Raviv, the time is solid as a rock, but it’s as effortless as jumping onto a soft bed after a long day.

As brothers working together, you two clearly have a longstanding collaborative history. Tell us about the rewards and challenges of working with someone you are so close to personally.

ZACK: I think everyone knows the rewards of working together.  We can almost read each others minds when we play. When Adam is writing one of his complex odysseys, he’s always showing it to me while he’s working on it, so when we get to rehearsal I barely need music for it!  The rewards are obvious.

The challenges are much more fun and entertaining.  It’s really easy not to take each other seriously (which can be a plus too), and sometimes we get into fights during gigs or rehearsals which can be a real mood killer.  We got into a couple big fights during our recording, and sometimes we can really get on each others cases about what music we’re bringing in to the group: whether we have enough or too much, if something is too hard. Also, for every gig we start practically throwing stuff at each other, each trying to get the other to write a mass email promoting the gig because we’re each too lazy to do it ourselves (though I always wind up doing it).

However, we are able to do analysis and planning whenever an idea or criticism strikes, which one of the best parts of leading a band with your brother.  Also, we share a room and frequently stay up late showing each other new things that are interesting and influencing us.  We’re listening to the Bach Ciaccone from the D Minor Partita for solo violin right now.

ADAM: For me, playing with my brother is extremely fun and relaxing because he always knows what I’m going to do. He also understands my music more than anyone else I know. Sometimes we get into fights, but that’s just some brotherly love! Working with my brother on music is just like doing anything else with him: playing video games, riding our bikes through Prospect Park, eating dinner, etc. It’s all the same when it’s with family.

Describe your history with The Jazz Gallery. When did you first start coming to hear music here? How did your first performance here come about? 

ZACK: The first time we came to the Jazz Gallery was to see the SFJazz Collective perform in October 2010. We were as impressed by the venue and its programming as we were with the show.  We were so glad to find a “jazz” club that was all about the music – with no bar, or restaurant, or outrageous cover charge/minimum – that is dedicated to helping young musicians!  We continued coming to shows, and one day decided to inquire about performing.  We didn’t get a response for a long time.  But when we did Rio and Debbie and Russell and all the folks here were so inviting, and they have continued to be!  The Jazz Gallery almost feels like a home away from home sometimes, and with so many incredible and inspiring artists performing here, as well as the artists that have cut their teeth here over the years, it’s a pretty humbling home and family to be a part of.

ADAM: The O’Farrill Brothers Band made our debut at The Gallery with our CD Release Party in March 2011, and we followed that performance up with a birthday bash in September 2011. Both my brother and I have participated in some of the Steve Coleman workshops, Roy Hargrove jam sessions, etc.

The Jazz Gallery is probably my favorite place to play, because its openness to all kinds of new music, and its mission to move forward, as well as the wonderful atmosphere inside the building itself. When you walk in, you feel like you’re a breathing, living part of jazz history.