A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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Photo by James Matthew Daniel

On the subject of the composer/arranger Darcy James Argue, Ben Ratliff of The New York Times explains: “what you bring home from his shows is a sense of energy and renewal, an intense will to do something contemporary with the whole idea of big-band music, blending the lessons of Charles Mingus and Steve Reich and TV on the Radio.”

As we noted in the first entry ever posted on this blog, Darcy and Secret Society, his 18-piece steampunk big band, are veterans of The Jazz Gallery; they’ve graced our stage at least a dozen times dating back to 2007, including a featured performance of new work written by Darcy as part of our 2008-2009 Large Ensemble Commissioning Series.

Immediately following the premiere of his Jazz Gallery commission, Darcy took Secret Society into the studio to record his debut album, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam), which landed on over 100 Best-of-the-Year lists, earned the distinction of “Best Debut” in the 2009 Village Voice Jazz Critic’s Poll, and received a GRAMMY nomination for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album”. Read Darcy’s full bio here.

Earlier this year, Darcy and his co-conspirators returned to our stage, performing selections from Infernal Machines and excerpts from the score to Brooklyn Babylon. A “multimedia extravaganza” commissioned by and premiered at the 2011 BAM Next Wave FestivalBrooklyn Babylon is the result of over a year of collaboration between Darcy and graphic artist Danijel Zezelj. The piece was praised for its “visual splendor and musical majesty of the type not often experienced” (Ralph A. Miriello,Huffington Post), and for “originality, power, and beauty that left an audience slack-jawed” (David Krasnow, WNYC’sStudio 360). You can check out a video teaser here (courtesy of BAM), and read a Jazz Speaks guest post from Darcy here.

This Friday and Saturday, Darcy and Secret Society return to The Jazz Gallery. Get your tickets today (for Friday and/or Saturday).

Update: in case you needed further convincing, Darcy’s run has been selected as a Critics’ Pick in The New York Times and Time Out New York, and received a glowing profile in the New York Daily News.

Photo via

The guitarist Russell Malone praises the reedist and vocalist Camille Thurman‘s “warm and beautiful sound.” In Russell’s words, Camille is “a creative improviser…with taste. Keep your ears on this young lady!” The pianist Luis Perdomo concurs, noting Camille’s “very versatile talent” and suggesting that she is one “to watch out for.” “Look out for this fresh new voice on the New York scene,” proclaims the saxophonist Tia Fuller, “As a saxophonist, flutist, vocalist and composer, Camille is versatile and deeply rooted in the tradition. Get ready world…Camille Thurman has it all.”

If you haven’t checked out Camille’s own groups yet, you may have heard her performing with one of the artists whose effusive praise you just read. Or perhaps you’ve seen her sharing the stage with elder statesmen like Dr. Billy Taylor, Benny Golson, or George Coleman, or backing up R&B and Hip-Hop stars like Alicia Keys, India Arie, Ciara, or Missy Elliott. One thing is certain: with the formidable combination of “gutbucket” (The Hartford Courant) tenor stylings and a four-octave vocal range, you’re likely to start hearing more about Camille very soon.

Camille is a native of Queens, New York. Her musical journey started with early lessons from memorizing and singing the music of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sarah Vaughan, and other artists in her mother’s record collection. Camille added the flute and the saxophone to her arsenal in her early teens, and was performing professionally even while studying the geological and environmental sciences at Binghampton University. After graduating, Camille made the move to New York, where she is a regular member of the Nicholas Payton Television Studio Orchestra, the Mimi Jones Band, Charlie Persip and Supersound, the Valery Ponomarev Big Band, and the UMOJA Sextet. Her own quartet has performed around the country and around the globe.

We look forward to welcoming Camille’s quartet to our stage on Thursday as a part of our debut series. She’ll be joined by the pianist Shamie Royston, the bassist James Genus, and the drummer Rudy Royston. In the words of Rio Sakairi, our Director of Programming, “Don’t sleep on Camille Thurman. This girl is bad.”

Listen to a clip of Camille soloing on her original composition, “Pursuit With A Purpose.”

Photo by Mamoru Kobayakawa

A blurb in The New York Times describes Aaron Parks as “a pianist of imposing fluency and catalytic power.” The pianist’s blend of “gossamer postbop flavored with rock and electronica” (Time Out New York) has made him one of the most sought-after pianists of his generation.

Aaron’s conception is documented on Invisible Cinema, his 2008 debut album, released on the legendary Blue Note imprint. He also co-leads the acoustic quartet James Farm, along with the tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, the bassist Matt Penman and the drummer Eric Harland (Matt and Eric also form the rhythm section on Invisible Cinema). James Farm released their eponymous debut on Nonesuch earlier this year. The pianist has toured and/or recorded with the likes of Terrence Blanchard (who began employing Aaron at the tender age of 18), Kurt RosenwinkelAmbrose Akinmusire, CANT (Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear), Gretchen Parlato, and many others.

Aaron is a veteran of The Jazz Gallery, having led bands on our stage upwards of twenty times. 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.” This Wednesday, Aaron returns to our stage with his trio. He’ll be joined by “assertive partners” (The New York Times): the bassist Thomas Morgan and the drummer RJ Miller, for an evening of music not to be missed.

Listen to Aaron’s trio (featuring the bassist Matt Brewer and the drummer Tommy Crane) performing “Travellers” live at JazzFest Berlin in 2009.

Photo by Ben Wolf

The pianist Gerald Clayton has a “gift for reconciling the backward glance with the forward stare” (The New York Times). He’s known not only for his “huge, authoritative presence, …Oscar Peterson-like style, highly controlled touch and dynamics and rhapsodic, episodic soloing,” but also for “restraint and concision”; a recent performance revealed “the work of someone interested in the clearest articulation of an idea.”

Gerald has a mantra: “Tradition and innovation can peacefully coexist.” The son of the acclaimed bassist John Clayton was reared in Los Angeles, and has studied with or performed alongside a veritable history of the innovators on his instrument: Hank Jones, Billy Childs, Kenny Barron, Benny Green, Mulgrew Miller. The panel of the 2006 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, in which Gerald took second place, included Herbie HancockAndrew Hill, Danilo Perez, Renee Rosnes, Billy Taylor and Randy Weston. Gatekeepers of jazz tradition such as Clark Terry, Lewis Nash, Roy Hargrove, and Al Foster have employed the young pianist in their own groups. Through his own trio with the bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown, as well as in the groups of Ambrose Akinmusire, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick ScottChris Dingman, and many others, Gerald uses these experiences as shoulders to stand on, reaching for the future.

Gerald has released two albums, both GRAMMY nominated, and both featuring the trio: 2009’s Two-Shade (Artist Share & Decca / Emarcy) and 2011’s Bond: The Paris Sessions (Emarcy / Decca). In addition to his second place finish in the Monk Competition, Gerald has also been hailed as a Rising Star in the jazz piano category of the DownBeat Critics’ Poll. His work has been performed by the BBC Orchestra, and by his own groups on stages around the globe.

Gerald has been performing on our stage for years now, and we commissioned him to write “Themes in Travel” as a part of our 2007-2008 Composers’ Series. This Friday and Saturday, we welcome him back for a series of special duo concerts, featuring intimate exchanges with longtime collaborators including the saxophonist Dayna Stephens, the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, and the drummer Justin Brown, as well as special guests.

Watch a video about the making of Bond: The Paris Sessions.

Update: If you needed further convincing, Gerald’s run has been selected as a Critics’ Pick by The New York Times and Time Out New York.

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.” Artists like Don Byron, Cassandra Wilson, and others agree, and elaborate (see our expanded list of testimonials here).

Raised on Chicago’s turbulent South Side, Steve began his relationship with the saxophone at age thirteen, and soon discovered the music of Charlie Parker, a favorite of his father’s. During his college years, the saxophonist prioritized the guidance of Chicago veterans like Von Freeman and Bunky Green and an education only possible through listening to the greats and trial by fire on the bandstand. Before long, Steve moved to New York and began performing with the big bands of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Cecil Taylor, and Sam Rivers.

A band that Steve put together with the cornetist Graham Haynes to hone their craft while busking in New York’s busy streets evolved into Five Elements, Steve’s flagship ensemble and one of the most influential outfits in recent memory (and on the artists who perform at The Jazz Gallery). A concept known as M-Base has bound the group’s many explorations, which are informed by Steve’s travels and studies of African diasporic traditions from around the globe. These collaborative explorations have informed the conceptions of some of the most innovative minds in our music, including Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Geri Allen, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Dave Holland, Robin Eubanks, Vijay Iyer, Ambrose Akinmusire, and countless others. Steve’s work is documented on over twenty five releases, many of which can be downloaded for free here.

But the scope of Steve’s influence isn’t limited to his collaborators. He’s been presenting acclaimed 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. Steve likes to think of himself “like a [West African] griot”; he hopes to function “like a person that’s documenting something in music, telling a story and passing information down.”

We encourage you to visit the incredible resource which is Steve’s own website, 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.

After a lengthy history of involvement as a key figure at The Jazz Gallery, we welcome Steve back with the latest configuration of his ensemble, Five Elements, next Friday and Saturday. Each of the three other musicians on board for this engagement – the trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, the bassist Anthony Tidd, and the drummer Sean Rickman – all have an extensive history playing in the group, but never all at once until recently.

Update: this performance has been selected as a Critics’ Pick by The New York Times and Time Out New York:

★ Steve Coleman and Five Elements (Friday and Saturday) Mr. Coleman’s alto saxophone cuts cleanly through the complex compositional forms on his most recent album, “The Mancy of Sound,” released on Pi last year. The album featured Five Elements, his signature band, which has been a stable proposition of late. But for this weekend engagement he re-enlists just one partner from the band’s recent lineup, the trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, and otherwise calls on a muscular rhythm team he was using about a decade ago: Anthony Tidd on bass and Sean Rickman on drums. At 9 and 10:30 p.m., Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street, at Spring Street, South Village, (212) 242-1063,; $20, $10 for members. (Chinen)
-The New York Times 

Steve Coleman, a saxist and composer known for his masterful balance of braininess and groove, doesn’t always receive the credit due an artist whose band was a training ground for many of today’s rising stars (including Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman and Tyshawn Sorey), but his recent association with the vital Pi label is helping to right that wrong. Here Coleman heads up a quartet with trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist Anthony Tidd and drummer Sean Rickman.
-Time Out New York

Wondering what it’ll sound like? We think nothing short of spectacular, but you can hear some recent live footage of this group. Check out Shape One and Shape Two, or just get your tickets today.