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In a New York Times review of a live performance by Ralph Alessi‘s quartet in August 2010, Nate Chinen noted the trumpeter’s tone, which “conveys a rounded luminescence, like the moon in full phase,” and his technique, which “is an astonishment of fluency.” But at the heart of the review was the idea that Ralph, aided by the rhythm section of the pianist Jason Moran, the bassist Drew Gress, and the drummer Nasheet Waits, managed to propel the music forward with “the urgent force and clarity of a manifesto.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, Ralph comes from a musical family – both of his parents are musicians (in fact, his first trumpet lessons were with his father), and his brother Joseph Jr. is currently the principle trombonist of the New York Philharmonic. While still a teenager, Ralph began freelancing as a classical trumpeter, performing with the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and various chamber orchestras. Soon thereafter, Ralph enrolled the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where he received a bachelors’ degree in trumpet performance and a master’s degree in jazz bass performance (he studied under the legendary Charlie Haden, and also apprenticed in Charlie’s Liberation Music Orchestra during his time there).

After finishing his studies, Ralph made the move to New York, where he immersed himself in the city’s vibrant downtown scene. In the years following his arrival, he performed and recorded regularly with bands led by Steve Coleman, Don Byron, Uri Caine, Ravi Coltrane, Sam Rivers, and others. As a leader, he has released several critically acclaimed albums – This Against That (RKM) was selected by JazzTimes as one of the “Ten Best Recordings of 2002”, and Cognitive Dissonance (CAMJazz) received a four star review in DownBeat. Ralph is also active as an educator – he is the co-founder and director of the non-profit School for Improvisational Music (SIM) and serves on the faculty of New York University.

As Chinen explains in his review, these four musicians have a long history of working together in various configurations. All of them appear on This Against That, and are the only performers featured on his latest album, Cognitive Dissonance (CAMJazz). The pianist Jason Moran and drummer Nasheet Waits share a very well-known (and well-documented) rapport from Jason’s trio, The Bandwagon, and also from Nasheet’s band, Equality. Nasheet and Drew Gress have collaborated extensively in the trio of the pianist Fred Hersch, and Ralph and Drew have worked together on each others’ projects as well.

Ralph, Jason, Drew, and Nasheet have been performing here in various configurations for years, and we are thrilled to be presenting them on our stage this weekend on both Friday and Saturday nights. You don’t have to take our word for it this time; Time Out New York has flagged this show as a Critics’ Pick.

Listen to the title track from Cognitive Dissonance.

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Simply put, Philip Dizack‘s early career has been marked by honors. He received a full tuition scholarship to attend the Manhattan School of Music, was invited to join the NFAA Stan Getz/Clifford Brown Fellowship All-Stars, was named a third-place winner of the 2004 Carmine Caruso International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition, won the John Coltrane Scholarship, and took first place in the 2005 National Trumpet Competition. In the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition, it was no surprise to see Dizack listed as the youngest semifinalist. That year, Philip was also profiled by DownBeat as one of “25 Trumpet Players For the Future.”

Behind all of this recognition is a history of apprenticing under some of the idiom’s great bandleaders. Philip has cut his teeth in ensembles led by Bobby WatsonNicholas PaytonEddie Palmieri, and Orrin Evans, among others. He has also devoted himself to his own pursuits as a leader; in 2005, Philip released his debut album, Beyond A Dream, via the Fresh Sound imprint. Recently, the trumpeter has been applying the finishing touches to his sophomore effort, End of an Era, which will be released by Truth Revolution Records in November.

End of an Era features the saxophonist Jake Saslow, the percussionist Reinaldo DeJesus, and two separate rhythm sections: one includes the pianist Aaron Parks, the bassist Linda Oh, and the drummer Kendrick Scott; the other spotlights the bassist Joe Sanders and the drummer Justin Brown. A third of the album also features arrangements for a sixty-piece studio orchestra, which resulted from Philips collaboration with the producer and composer Charles Schiermeyer.

Philip’s first appearance as a leader at The Gallery was in 2010, and we welcome him back to our stage on Thursday night for his second performance, which will feature the saxophonist Jake Saslow, the pianist Eden Ladin, the bassist Linda Oh, and the drummer Justin Brown.

Listen to samples from End of an Era below:

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Photo by Álvaro Felgueroso

Fellow bassist Ben Allison says of Alexis Cuadrado, “Alexis Cuadrado is a bassist/composer/band leader after my own heart… He’s going for something personal, accessing folk music of his native country and continuing to add to and expand the definition of the word ‘jazz’. I’m a fan.”

Alexis was born and raised in the autonomous Catalanonia region of Spain, and moved to the States to pursue a Master’s degree at Queens College after studying with the legendary concert bassist François Rabbath in Paris. Since he arrived in New York, the bassist has been sought after as a sideperson by leading artists including Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder, Perico Sambeat, Mark Turner, Angelique Kidjo, and many others.

Yet, as NPR puts it, “listen to Cuadrado’s compositions and you’ll find every reason to take him seriously.” Alexis has received two grants from Chamber Music America to develop new works – the first was for his fourth and most recent album, Noneto Ibérico (Brooklyn Jazz Underground), and the second is for a new project featuring the vocalist Claudia Acuña and the saxophonist Miguel Zenón entitled “A Lorca Soundscape.” The latter project features scores designed to accompany poems from Poeta en Nueva York by Federico García Lorca, and was premiered in March. Alexis is one of the co-founders of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground, an outfit consisting of ten bandleader-composers on a mission “to promote originality and create awareness of innovative jazz artists in Brooklyn.” He also co-owns (and records for) their label, Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records.

We are very happy to feature Alexis in our 2012 Jazz Gallery Residency Commissions series, “Leading From the Bass.” This Friday and Saturday, Alexis will present the work he has been developing through his residency, Jazz Miniatures: New Works For Double Quartet. Below, the bassist-composer answers our questions about Jazz Miniatures, his choice of personnel, his experiences at The Gallery, and what has been inspiring him lately. Alexis Cuadrado speaks:



Tell us about your piece, Jazz Miniatures for Double Quartet.

The Jazz Miniatures are a collection of apparently disparate pieces in which I use a string quartet and a jazz quartet together. The jazz quartet is a bit of an unusual one, formed by two woodwind players that double on several instruments (saxes, clarinets, flute and bassoon), percussion (rather than drum set) and bass. So, on one hand, there’s the chamber element of the strings, and, on the other hand, we have a pretty loose jazz quartet. I was very curious to see how improvisatory freedom and chamber music could intersect, and this has been a good opportunity to explore that direction. I had been wanting to write for a string quartet for some time now – I’ve never done it before – so when the Gallery commissioned me to write a piece, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally write for strings. Also, in the last few years, I’ve explored a mixture of flamenco, jazz and new music, but always within the context of “jazz” orchestration. In this case, I’m definitely veering towards the chamber sound, but with a lot of improvisation involved.

The idea of writing pieces that are not obviously related came from listening to The Beatles’ White album with my kids. I love how The Beatles put together a collection of almost random songs (Piggies, Helter Skelter, Revolution 1&9, Julia, Martha My Dear, etc… ) Each song is so unrelated to the others, yet, as a collection it all makes some sort of strange sense. So, in a way, that effect is what I was going for.

The composing process has been intense and fun. I started by devouring string quartet sheet music and recordings, all the way from Mozart and Beethoven, through Debussy, Ravel, Bartok, Shostakovich and Stravinsky to Glass and Reich, and I just drafted whatever ideas came to mind. Little by little a few ideas solidified and become short pieces, like 16 bars or so… Then some became longer pieces; some just a melody, others were suddenly heavily arranged. I started with more than 20 pieces but only kept 8 at the end; it was almost a natural selection process. For me it’s been important to let the music dictate where it was going rather than me trying to be in control all the time. If something resonated a week after I drafted it, I’d develop it and so on… so I tried a sort of “non-prejudiced-clean slate” approach, and let things sort of happen on their own.

Describe your relationships to / prior history with the personnel and your reasons for selecting each of them for this performance.

I deliberately chose to collaborate with musicians who I haven’t played with much, or ever… At the same time I’m always looking to have musicians with strong individual voices in my projects – people with experience as bandleaders who can really enrich my initial vision. The choice of the string quartet was easy and obvious, since I’ve known Jody Redhage, the cellist, for quite a few years, and she’s done everything from pop gigs to jazz to new music and classical. I wanted to have string players that can be open-minded and improvise, but at the same time deliver a strong chamber sound as a unit when needed… so Jody recommended Sara Caswell (Violin I) and Lois Martin (Viola). The 3 of them were touring with Esperanza Spalding last year and have functioned as a unit. Antonia Nelson (violin II) is also a great addition to that team. We did a reading of some of the material a few days ago and they sounded wonderful, so I was happy to verify that my instinct pointed me in the right direction.

Then, for the “jazz” quartet I wanted to have two strong voices on sax who could double on as many woodwinds as possible. I’ve played a few times with Jason Rigby and loved his unique approach to soloing. Jason also has played some of my big band music lately and sounded fantastic on all of the doubles, so I’m excited to have him in this project. Ben Wendel is someone I’ve been listening to a lot in the last few years, and we’ve played a bit here and there. He was an obvious choice because, besides having such a strong voice as an improviser, he also plays the bassoon like nobody else. Satoshi [Takeishi] is someone I’ve seen play many times for over 20 years or so, even before I was in NY, so he’s been a drummer I’ve always wanted to play with. Last January, I heard him play his percussion set and I was blown away, so it was a no-brainer to ask him to do this. Luckily, all these musicians have been available and super devoted to the project; I’m just ecstatic to be able to collaborate with them!

You’ve had a key to The Gallery during your residency. What have been the greatest advantages associated with having access to our space? Describe the impact this has had on the work you’ve been developing, and on your general productivity.

It’s such a privilege to have a space like The Gallery available! I’ve mostly used it to workshop the pieces with the musicians, and having a professionally equipped room at my disposal is an amazing luxury! Also, The Gallery is a place with such a vibe, it’s just inspiring to be at the space. I’m sad that the current location will have to go, for that matter one of the pieces that I wrote for this project is called “290 Hudson” and I hope it captures some of the vibe that I’m talking about. Having said that, though, renovation is good, and in this case it may just be a great thing for the organization to move on to a space that brings some new energy. I certainly hope so!

Do you have any recommendations for our audience? Anything you’ve been listening to, looking at, eating, drinking, or otherwise drawing inspiration from?

Sure, let’s see…

Food: A Ramen joint on E5th between A&B called Minca. Simple and sublime.

Drink: I’m addicted to home-brewed Sencha green tea and Pellegrino Limonata (I have both next to me at the moment).

Music: I am checking out things that help me get ideas for the projects that I’m working on at the moment… All the aforementioned string quartet music has been extremely inspiring to me. Also I’ve been writing a lot of new Big Band music, so I’ve been listening to Darcy James Argue, Maria Schneider, Mike Holober, Jim McNeely, and the Vanguard band. I also saw Paco De Lucia for the first time a couple months ago and it was amazing. Besides this, Guillermo Klein‘s new record is awesome, and the band at the Vanguard just a couple weeks ago was something else. Finally, all the sidewomen/men collaborating in my project are producing amazing music worth checking out. And the White Album, always!

Photo by Lydia Polzer

In a New York Times review of a concert by Ingrid Laubrock‘s Anti-House, Ben Ratliff notes:

Some young jazz musicians find their style and move in lock, stock and barrel, making little refinements over the years but basically keeping their place. Ingrid Laubrock, a German saxophonist who started her career in London and has spent the last 15 years playing there, sounds happily unsettled. On tenor and soprano, she’s omnivorous and pointed, slouching and precise, humorous and austere…You didn’t walk away thinking, well, that sounded like a certain person, place or time. Ms. Laubrock encouraged its constant sense of renewal.

Originally from Germany, Ingrid moved to London at age 19 and joined the F-IRE (Fellowship for Integrated Rhythmic Expression) Collective. During her tenure with F-RE, she won the BBC Jazz Award for Innovation in 2004, was among the nominees for the BBC Jazz Award for ‘Rising Star’ in 2005 and won a Fellowship in Jazz Composition from the Arts Foundation in 2006. After spending nineteen years in London, the reedist relocated to Brooklyn. Currently, Ingrid is splitting her time between her base in Brooklyn and Moers, Germany, where she has been appointed the “Improviser in Residence.”

Ingrid has performed and recorded with a host of creative musicians including Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas, Kenny Wheeler, Tim Berne, Evan Parker, and many others. Her own groups include Anti-House, which features the guitarist Mary Halvorson, the pianist Kris Davis, the bassist John Hébert, and the drummer Tom Rainey; Paradoxical Frog, a collaboratively-led trio with Kris and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey; Sleepthief, featuring Tom and the pianist Liam Noble; and a new octet featuring Mary, Liam, and Tom, as well as the bassist Drew Gress, the accordionist Ted Reichman, flugelhornist Tom Arthurs, and cellist Ben Davis – several other exciting ensembles, a few of which feature different combinations of the same personnel, are listed here.

Anti-House is heading into studio on Sunday to record a new album for Intakt Records. On Thursday night, you can get a taste of the groups’ “knotty, kinetic avant-jazz” (TONY) at The Jazz Gallery. Time Out New York agrees that you shouldn’t miss it; they’ve selected this performance as a Critics’ Pick.

Watch a video of the group performing live at Jazzfestival Saalfelden in 2010.

Photo via Story Cooking/Flickr

Dr. Cornel West describes the work of Salim Washington as a “new synoptic vision of what jazz can be and do. The fundamental spirit behind this music…lives on in new ways and novel sounds.” Salim adds, “When you play, if the people are with you, you can feel it…a transformation occurs that casts away all boundaries.”

A native of Memphis, TN, the “very colorful” (Pharoah Sanders) saxophonist began what would become a life-long musical journey at age eight, when his family moved to Detroit. A local gang recruited Salim, but his tenure with them did not last long; the leader’s abilities on the trumpet inspired Salim to leave that crew behind in pursuit of music. Salim also spent time in the church during his formative years, which taught him that music could be viewed as a “vehicle through which spirit travels. It animates the soul [and] allows for a transformation into a sacred time and space where the boundaries and concerns of the world are pushed down and love is brought up higher.”

After graduating from high school, Salim moved to Boston to attend Harvard University. While in Boston, he honed his abilities on the bandstand in Billy Skinner’s Double Jazz Quartet, Jamyl Jones’ Worlds Experience Orchestra, and his own Roxbury Blues Aesthetic (RBA), and later joined the Source of Life Arkestral Revelation (SOLAR). The latter group took Salim away from his studies and into the turbulent south, where they toured before the saxophonist eventually returned to Harvard to finish his degree (he eventually earned a Ph.D from the institution).

After leaving Harvard, Salim moved to New York to begin a professorship at Brooklyn College, where he is currently a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies in American Music, and a Professor of Music. Salim is highly in-demand as a lecturer and clinician, and has shared his knowledge in the United States, Lebanon, and Ireland, and in Paris in settings ranging from the most prestigious institutions of higher learning (Bill Evans Conservatory, Ecole Musical Nationale du Moçambique, the Sorbonne) to prisons. He has also spent time studying local strains of jazz abroad in both Brazil and South America.

Salim heads the Harlem Arts Ensemble, and has recorded four albums as a leader: Love in Exile (Accurate Records)Harlem Homecoming (Ujam Records)Live at St. Nick’s (CimpOL), and Strings (Cadence). He has also performed and/or recorded with the likes of Randy Weston, Pharoah Sanders, Charles Tolliver, Oliver Lake, David Murray, and many others.

According to Salim, jazz is “not just a disembodied art form, but it’s something that exists for people in specific places and times for specific reasons. This is a spiritual music because its birth comes from times when the social, political, and economic realities [for Black people] were full of terror and oppression. Yet in the face of this, there was a certain kind of nation-building, [there was the] establishment of culture and institutions that aided in our survival of that terror. That spiritual essence is what I’m intimately involved with as a musician.”

This Sunday, Salim will present his final concert in New York before moving back to Africa. This farewell celebration will feature the saxophonist passing the torch to the gifted young reedsman Darius Jones, and will include contributions from the pianist Donald Smith, the bassist Mark Helias, and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey.