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The Super O'Farrill Brothers

The Super O’Farrill Brothers

Trumpeter Adam O’Farrill and drummer Zack O’Farrill co-lead the O’Farrill Brothers Band, which has already put out two records in the past few years: 2013’s Sensing Slight (ZOHO) and 2011’s Giant Peach (ZOHO). This Friday, April 25th, 2014, the brothers will become supercharged after a dose of Super Mushroom: they’ll be presenting the début performance of The Super O’Farrill Bros., which features different, electronically-charged personnel from their usual band. We spoke with the brothers (accidentally interrupting Zack’s Starfox 64 session) to discuss the motivation behind this fun, new project.

The Jazz Gallery: When did this project begin? What was the original inspiration?

Zack O’Farrill: It’s been the Super O’Farrills for a month, right?

Adam O’Farrill: We’ve been rehearsing since around February, I think. The whole thing is based around the idea of playing music that’s inspired by video games that we grew up with. It’s the first time we’ve experimented with a lot of different electronic instruments, and it’s interesting because the way we play together—it’s like playing a video game.

ZO: Our rehearsals are as much talking about video games as playing the music.

TJG: Which games are in the Super O’Farrill Bros. canon?

AO: Sonic the Hedgehog, The Legend of ZeldaStarfoxKirby, a lot of different stuff…Metroid Prime—a lot of Nintendo stuff. One of the keyboard players is a diehard Nintendo fan and the alto player told me his goal is to play every Playstation 2 game by 2020, which is insane. He’s actually playing the Nintendo DS on the gig!

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Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

“Poised to become a major voice on the instrument” as Taylor Eigsti notes, James Francies has been maintaining a robust musical momentum for the past 14 years and is already a recognized voice in contemporary jazz at age 18. Now attending The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Francies is a recent graduate of The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston, Texas. With rich exposure to progressive musicianship, having played with the likes of Bobby Watson, Eric Harland, Julian Lage, Joe Lovano, and Mike Moreno, among others, Francies has won continuous scholarships, accolades in DownBeat, opening slots for the Jazz Crusaders, and appearances at The Monterey Jazz Festival, the Jazz Standard, and The Kennedy Center.

On Thursday, April 24th, 2014 as part of the Gallery’s Thursday night début series, we present Kinetic: The James Francies Group, with James Francies on piano, Mike Moreno on guitar, Joe Martin on bass, and Jeremy Dutton on drums. We spoke recently with James in the West Village to discuss his life as a musician and his thoughts on the upcoming performance. 

TJG: You recently graduated from The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) and have now been at The New School since the fall. How has the transition to the city been?

JF: Houston’s jazz scene isn’t as big as New York’s, so being here in New York gives me the opportunity to play a lot more, see all of my favorite musicians—all of my heroes playing right around the corner. Kenny Barron might be playing at The Village Vanguard or Bennie Green at the Jazz Standard—the type of people that I used to dream about seeing, they’re just here. That’s the beauty of New York. Robert Glasper, Taylor Eigsti, Stefon Harris, and Antonio Hart have particularly looked out for me since I moved here. I really appreciate that. I’m studying under George Cables and Bilal. They are completely different but both have such a wealth of knowledge.  I’m still acclimating to the lack of space in New York. I do miss the food in Houston. I need a good country meal now and then.

TJG: What are the go-to eats in Houston?

JF: Frenchy’s Chicken: the best chicken you’ll ever have. Their French fries and collard greens are great, just great soul food. Also, this place Whataburger: a great burger joint. Jason Moran, Robert Glasper, Kendrick Scott, and Chris Dave would also all speak highly of those establishments.

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Photo by Nick Amoscato (Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Nick Amoscato (Wikimedia Commons)

Bad Touch, a collective jazz quartet playing exciting new music that draws from the whole spectrum of jazz history and has a great new album out, should never be mistaken for The Bad Plus, a collective jazz trio playing exciting new music that draws from the whole spectrum of jazz history and has a great new album out.

Okay, there might be a few similarities between the groups, but they’re nothing more than superficial. Bad Touch, which features Loren Stillman on alto saxophone, Nate Radley on guitar, Gary Versace on organ, and Ted Poor on drums, has developed its own distinctive group sound where any instrument can take the lead at any given time. Their collective taste is broad and the results are satisfyingly unpredictable.

This past January, Bad Touch released their third album together, Going Public (Fresh Sound), featuring original compositions by Stillman, Radley, and Poor. On Saturday, the group will celebrate the release of their record with a performance at The Jazz Gallery. To get a sense of how the group has developed its unique sound over the past several years, we talked with saxophonist Loren Stillman by phone.

The Jazz Gallery: Where did you meet everyone from Bad Touch? How did you come together as a group?

Loren Stillman: I met everybody individually. I met Gary first back in like 1999 or 2000, and I met Nate around 2003, and Ted Poor around 2004-2005. We all played in separate situations and I felt there was a kinship in the way they played music and improvised on an individual level. I thought it would be a cool experiment to see what these guys would sound like together. I guess it was around 2006 or 2007 when everybody got together to play.

When you fall in love with something, there’s this initial reaction that draws you in. It was just so fun to play music with these people, in addition to the beautiful sounds that they were creating. It all just kind of came together, as I had hoped. (more…)

Photo by Ian Douglas

Photo by Ian Douglas

In preparation for his May 6th release on Whirlwind Recordings, Bobby Avey comes to The Jazz Gallery to celebrate Authority Melts From Me, a suite inspired by the 1791 Haitian Revolution and Haitian Vodou drumming practices.  Winner of the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Composers Competition, Avey is a prominent pianist noted for his critically acclaimed records A New Face (2010) and Be Not So Long to Speak (2013) in addition to his work with Dave Liebman in Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group and on Vienna Dialogues (2006)

Authority is Avey’s largest project to date. After receiving the New Jazz Works: Commissioning and Ensemble Development grant from Chamber Music America, Avey traveled to Haiti in 2012 to record a Vodou drumming ceremony in a small village outside of Gonaïves called Soukri.  Drawing on his field research in addition to other ensembles, Avey composed the suite with inspiration from Haitian Vodou rhythms. The hour-long suite features Miguel Zenón, Ben Monder, Thomson Kneeland, and Jordan Perlson, who accompanied Avey in his performance last February at Symphony Space.

This Friday, April 18th, Avey will be joined by the musicians from  Authority Melts From Me to perform the suite in its entirety. We caught up recently with Bobby by phone to discuss the context of the project.

The Jazz Gallery: Through your introduction to Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” you were made aware of Haiti’s challenging history and became inspired to do your own field research in 2012, documenting Vodou drumming in the community of Soukri. In addition to this, you also drew on inspiration for this record from the Port au Prince drumming ensemble, Societe Absolument Guinin.

Could you touch on the differences between these two ensembles? Why did you focus on these two groups for the project?

Bobby Avey: Firstly, prior to my involvement with Soukri, I already had a CD from Societe Absolument Guinin and was fascinated by it. As far as documentation goes, it is very well recorded. When I received the grant for this project from Chamber Music America, I was interested in finding another vantage point in Haiti that would give the project more depth. What I found is that saying “Haitian Vodou” is a bit like saying “jazz,” it really doesn’t get you all that far. Every single community that practices Vodou has a different tradition. Even communities that are only 20 minutes away from each other can sound completely different.

In terms of comparing the groups from Port au Prince and Soukri, the group from Soukri incorporates a bell and two hand drummers. I’ve never seen the Port au Prince group live, but, by ear, that band has three drummers and no bell or metal plate player. I found that, when transcribing, it was easier to interpret the group from Port au Prince in terms of Western musical notation—far easier than the group from Soukri. The style from Soukri seemed to exist more in the cracks rhythmically.

As far as anything beyond that, I’m only approaching this from an outsider’s viewpoint. I never took a lesson with anyone there. I wasn’t learning Haitian Vodou drumming from the ground up. I was just listening to these specimens from the outside, electing parts that I found intriguing and trying to understand them on some level. (more…)

Photo by Andy Newcombe (Wikimedia Commons) // filter via pixlr

Photo by Andy Newcombe (Wikimedia Commons) // filter via pixlr

Peter Evans sounds good with anyone. Whether he’s by himself, backed up by his friends in Mostly Other People Do The Killing, or leading any of his own groups, Evans’s unmistakeable fluidity makes him a focal point in the sonic environment. Over several records, many of them released on his own label, More Is More, Evans has experimented with several formats, including a laptop-assisted quintet that received praise from The New York Times. That group’s 2011 album Ghosts (More Is More) was also curiously praised by All About Jazz as a “modern classic of the future.”

On Thursday, he brings one of his sparser lineups, the chordless Zebulon Trio, back to The Jazz Gallery. Named after the now-closed Brooklyn club at which they recorded a live album, the group pairs Evans with bassist John Hébert and drummer Kassa Overall. Here’s an interview we did with Evans back in September, in which he talked about his approach to the group.

Peter Evans Zebulon Trio performs at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, April 17th, 2014. Zebulon Trio features Evans on trumpet, John Hébert on bass, and Kassa Overall on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. $15 general admission ($10 for members) for the first set, $10 general admission ($5 for members) for the second. Purchase tickets here.