A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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Photo by Billye Ninnemann

Dayna Stephens is “a must see,” according to The New York Times, anyway. His peers agree: “Dayna is one of the people who will move music to a new place. He drives the band as he drives himself. He puts us all to a different level,” says the pianist Taylor Eigsti. “He’s just magic,” adds the vocalist Gretchen Parlato.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dayna showed promise from a young age. The saxophonist began his collegiate career at the Berklee College of Music, where he received a full scholarship, and was subsequently selected by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard to attend The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC. Since then, the saxophonist has performed internationally alongside Terence Blanchard, Kenny Barron, Albert “Tootie” Heath, Roy Hargrove, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, and many others.

Dayna’s debut album, The Timeless Now (CTA), was released in 2007 to widespread critical acclaim. The guitarist John Scofield, the pianist Taylor Eigsti, the bassist Ben Street, the drummer Eric Harland, and the trombonist Nick Vayenas all make contributions to the recording, which received a four star review in DownBeat and was noted by NPR as one of the Top Ten Jazz Jewels of 2007. JazzTimes predicted that the “timely debut may signal the birth of a new cool.” Criss Cross recently released the saxophonist’s sophomore effort, Today Is Tomorrow, which features the pianist Aaron Parks, the guitarist Julian Lage, the trumpeter Michael Rodriguez, the bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, the drummer Donald Edwards, and fellow saxophonist Raffi Garabedian.

Dayna caught our attention early on, and has been performing at The Gallery as a leader since 2007. On Saturday, we will welcome him back in a quintet configuration featuring the pianist Josh Nelson, as well as three of the musicians from his last album: Julian Lage, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and Donald Edwards.

Watch a video of Dayna interpreting and discussing the music of Eddie Harris, via our friends at SFJazz.

Photo via

The New York Times says of Edward Simon: “Mr. Simon’s touch, light and warm, allows for his music to drift calmly, taking its time to get to where it has to go.”

A longtime bandleader, Edward has ten critically-acclaimed recordings under his own name, two of which have been recognized on The New York Times lists for the Top Ten Jazz Albums of the Year. He is a past recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, the MacDowell Fellowship, and The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Music Composition, as well as further honors from the Fulbright Program, the State of Florida, Chamber Music America, and several others.  The pianist is also highly sought-after as a sideperson, and has performed internationally for over two decades, most recently with collaborators such as Don ByronMiguel ZenonLuciana SouzaPaquito D’RiveraJohn Patitucci, and the SFJazz Collective.

A native of Cardón, Venezuela, Edward was first encouraged by his father to pursue his interest in music. At 15, he enrolled in the Philadelphia Performing Arts School, and completed his undergraduate studies at the University of the Arts and the Manhattan School of Music. His arrival in New York was noticed by several prominent artists, including Greg Osby, Jerry Gonzalez, Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Mann, Kevin Eubanks and Paquito D’Rivera, all of whom included the young pianist in their own projects. Edward found longer term employment in Bobby Watson‘s Horizon band, in which he performed from 1989-1994, and later joined Terence Blanchard‘s group from 1994-2002. In 1993, Edward placed third in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.

We’ve been presenting Edward’s ensembles for most of our history as an organization, and we look forward to his return to The Gallery this Friday night. The performance will feature his quartet, which includes the saxophonist David Binney, the bassist Joe Martin, and the drummer Henry Cole, as well as the guitarist (and longtime collaborator) Adam Rogers as a special guest.

Watch a performance of Edward’s composition, “Pere,” featuring the drummer Brian Blade and the bassist John Patitucci.

Photo by Ursula Schmitz

“Fortunately for listeners interested in bold originality”, writes JazzTimes, “Maria Neckam has shaped that cyclonic mix of international influences into a sound and style as refreshing as Kat Edmonson, as idiosyncratic as Björk and often as outre as Patty Waters.”

The “valiant trailblazer” was raised in Vienna, and discovered music at an early age. Maria absorbed the sounds of the city in opera houses and rock clubs, and before long, was performing and recording locally. In her teens, she made the move to Amsterdam to study at the city’s Conservatory, where she further broadened her horizons through studies of musical traditions from around the world. But the young vocalist never felt quite at home, and before long, she took another plunge into the unknown, this time in the form of a move to New York.

Within a short time, the vocalist was performing with a range of improvisers, including Thomas Morgan, Dan Weiss, David Binney, Aaron Parks, Miles Okazaki, and several others. Maria also continued her studies at the Manhattan School of Music, where she refined her skills under Luciana Souza, Peter Eldridge, Theo Bleckmann, Samir Chatterjee, and Nils Vigeland. It wasn’t long before she released Deeper (Sunnyside), an album which won her widespread praise and critical attention, including recognition as one of the Top 10 Albums of 210 by the French newspaper Le Monde, and as one of the most significant “New Discoveries” of 2010 by AllAboutJazz. 2010 was also the year of Maria’s first performance as a leader at The Gallery.

Maria’s forthcoming album, Unison (Sunnyside), features her compositions and vocal stylings in collaboration with several of her colleagues: the pianists Aaron Parks and Glenn Zaleski; the bassist Thomas Morgan; the drummer Colin Stranahan; the alto saxophonists Lars Dietrich and Will Vinson; the tenor saxophonist Samir Zarif; the guitarist Nir Felder; the trumpeter Kenny Warren; and the cellist Mariel Roberts.

Unison doesn’t officially drop until June 6th, but you can stream the title track below:

Like what you hear? Don’t miss the album release concert this Thursday, May 31st.

Photo by John Rogers

UPDATE: The second set of Tillery‘s performance tonight (May 27th, 2012) has been cancelled – there will be one set only at 9 p.m.

Tillery features “three of the sharpest and most open-minded jazz singers” (Time Out New York) in jazz today: Rebecca Martin, Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens. Together, they are described as a “potent collective force that’s more than the sum of its already formidable parts.”

The band was formed after the three vocalists retreated to Rebecca’s home in Kingston, NY for a weekend getaway. Rebecca [Martin] remembers, “At some point, I picked up my guitar and said ‘Let’s sing something,’ and that was it. There wasn’t any thought put into it.  It just happened, and it just made sense.” Becca [Stevens] adds, “The three of our voices and the warm receptive energy in the room created this sound that was like… love butter.  You just want to spread it all over everything.”

In 2011, Tillery spent a week working with students at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California. The experience left the group inspired to keep sharing their knowledge and experience with the next generation:

The three of us all share the same desire to connect with musicians in this intimate setting – with students who are dedicated to their craft. Sharing ourselves in this manner is a very natural part of what we all do.
–Rebecca Martin

Writing, learning, and composing is only half of the joy of music for me. Sharing these gifts makes up the other half. I consider teaching to be the most direct and meaningful way that I can share music. Performing is blissful, but the impression that can be made though teaching, both for the teacher and the student, has the potential to be far deeper.
–Becca Stevens

Songwriting is a gift. It’s a gift to ourselves and to those who listen. In our workshop, we want to open up, explore and share the process with other songwriters in our workshop, connecting and learning from each other on all levels technical, spiritual, and emotional.
–Gretchen Parlato

This weekend, Tillery will be sharing their inventive approaches to songwriting through a workshop at The Gallery. You can read more and view a schedule of events, and watch a delightfully silly promo video. The workshop will also be accompanied by Tillery performances on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are quotes from two students who participated in a previous Tillery songwriting workshop:

Tillery’s songwriting workshop was one of the greatest musical experiences I have ever had. This group of three incredibly beautiful and talented women made the songwriting process more magical and reachable than ever before.
–Alicyn Yaffee

The Stanford Jazz Workshop songwriting course was such an amazing and unusual opportunity to meet and share philosophies with likeminded songwriters. To listen to the voices of Rebecca Martin, Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens was very inspiring and helped me to come closer to finding my own voice through song.
–Helene Greenwood

We’ve been presenting bands led by all three members of Tillery for years, and we were elated to hear that they had begun working together. The band played one of their first shows at The Gallery, and we look forward to having them back for both this weekend’s workshop and the accompanying two-night run of concerts on Saturday and Sunday.

Time Out New York has selected the two-night run of performances as a Critics’ Pick, and also include a note about the workshop. They write:

Three of the sharpest and most open-minded jazz singers in (or out of) town—Rebecca Martin, Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens—team up for a collaborative set, featuring pieces penned by each vocalist. Visit for info on a weekend-long songwriting workshop hosted by the group.

Last fall, a live set by the band was featured in a live recording by NPR/WBGO. Listen to the full set, or watch a live rendition of “Magnus” below:

Photos by Matana Roberts via

Matana Roberts is a Chicago-bred, NYC-based composer-performer with an interest in “the mystical roots and spiritual traditions of American creative expression.”

Over the course of fifteen years of working as a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader, she has released numerous albums under her own name and led ensembles in performance in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. In addition to her own projects, Matana has cut her teeth as a sideperson with Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar, Reg E. Gaines and Savion GloverThe Oliver Lake Big BandThe Julius Hemphill Sextet, and Merce Cunningham dance, and collaborated in the studio with bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and TV On The Radio. Matana’s most recent release, COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres (Constellation), earned numerous accolades, including the #2 slot on SPIN magazine’s list of the 20 Best Avant Albums of 2011.

After presenting her work in various configurations over the past ten years, we invited Matana to test drive new work on our stage during a three performance residency. This Friday, Matana will give the second of three performances with a quartet featuring the guitarist Liberty Ellman, the bassist Kevin Tkacz, and the drummer Ches Smith.

We really look forward to continuing this run, which was selected by Time Out New York as a Critics’ Pick.

The above images were taken from Matana’s regularly updated Tumblr, STEELKILT, ROSE. Head on over there for more, or (re)visit our previous post on the saxophonist for more a/v.