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After having alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and flutist/vocalist Elena Pinderhughes inaugurate our Mentoring Series in April, we’re continuing the series with another woodwind duo in July and August: alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, a MacArthur Award-winning artist who first débuted on our stage back in 2001, will appear alongside tenor saxophonist Mario Castro, a fellow Puerto Rican and Berklee alumnus. Castro released his début album, Primavera, on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music in 2012, which Dave Liebman praised as “a real JAZZ recording, [with] no tricks, no games, pure beauty, energy and honesty. For a premier performance it doesn’t get much better.”

Miguel and Mario will appear at the Gallery on two Thursdays in July (the 3rd and the 17th) as well as on two additional Thursdays in August (the 7th and the 14th). We spoke with both Miguel and Mario about their thoughts on these upcoming performances, and we’ll be sharing portions of these interviews over the coming weeks. Here’s part one of our conversation with Miguel:

The Jazz Gallery: Could you tell us about how you first met Mario?

Miguel Zenón: I met Mario maybe about 7 or 8 years ago. I had been organizing for the last decade or so some jam sessions in Puerto Rico when I go over during the Christmas holidays. I remember he came to one of the first ones when he was still in high school—still a young guy, but obviously very talented and really into the music.

He was very dedicated and he was always asking questions. He spent a little bit of time studying with David Sánchez, too. He was serious about what he was trying to do, so when we spoke I tried to tell him what I could and he always seemed to be asking the right questions. He always seemed to be trying to get better.

We stayed in touch and he eventually moved to Boston, so we continued to stay in touch when he went to school. (more…)

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Described by JazzTimes as “a dazzling pyrotechnician and accomplished composer,” Colombian-born pianist Gabriel Guerrero has thus far emphasized an interest in sound over style in his varied career. “Addressing music for its drive, direction and roots rather than styles,” as Guerrero notes on his website, the pianist has recorded and worked in diverse settings over the years. In 2008, he joined Danilo Perez to record the pianist’s Panama Suite (ArtistShare) big band project, while continuing his association with Boston-based bassist Bruce Gertz (Guerrero has recorded four albums thus far with Gertz’s band, which regularly features other Boston-based artists like saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi). Guerrero’s 2012 recording début, Feyas, features original compositions that integrate his influences from jazz, Latin, and classical music, as well as a cast of collaborators that includes Eric Doob, Jorge Roeder, Jerry Bergonzi, and Bruce Gertz, among others.

This Thursday, June 26th, 2014, Guerrero will appear with his trio, featuring Will Slater on bass and Richie Barshay on drums, plus a special guest: Brooklyn-based saxophonist Dan Blake, with whom Guerrero appeared on Panama Suite. Check out these videos of previous iterations of the Gabriel Guerrero Trio, featuring the pianist’s original compositions. First, a trio performance featuring Luques Curtis on bass and Eric Doob on drums at Somethin’ Jazz Club (2011), and then another clip featuring Linda Oh on bass and Rudy Royston on drums at Cornelia Street Café (2012).


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We’ve been in touch with saxophonist Ben van Gelder a number of times over the past year: he spoke with us for an extended interview in October when he appeared with his quartet, and again in March for a weekend residency that featured both a chordless quartet and his working quintet. Back yet again, Ben will be premiering new works as part of our 2013-14 Residency Commissions series, which were composed over the past month for a larger ensemble than his more recent quartet-quintet work. For those unfamiliar with Ben’s sonic profile, NPR bestowed this appraisal upon the Dutch-born altoist after the conclusion of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition last fall:

His blowing was deliberate, methodical, slow-developing; he held notes for what felt like a bit longer than his peers and often landed flush on top of the beat. His tone felt a bit reedy on purpose…One gets the sense he was cultivating a “hip to be square” vibe — perhaps inspired by teacher Lee Konitz, another alto-sax original.

Here’s our conversation with Ben about his latest compositional pursuits, his strategies for overcoming writer’s block, and how the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has been an inspiration in more ways than one:

The Jazz Gallery: What have you been working on so far during your Residency?

Ben van Gelder: The only thing that was really clear for me before I started was the instrumentation: I wanted to write for a seven-piece band. I started checking out a lot of larger ensemble stuff and a lot of music that I’ve always wanted to check out but didn’t have the time or patience to. I’ve been doing that and really trying to conceptualize everything before I sit down at the piano and start writing. It’s been a pretty conscious process and not so intuitive, I would say.

The fact that I have this space where I can go and work on music on a regular basis really helps because, for me, writing is hard and takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. For me, it works best when I can keep working at it for a long time in a row; consistency really helps. Even when there are days where not a lot is happening, something will start to happen somewhere along the line.

TJG: Have you been checking out any music for ideas or inspiration for this residency? 

BVG: I’ve been listening to these Herbie Hancock records from the ’70s with his Mwandishi band: Sextant, Crossings, those records. I’ve been checking out a lot of that—the music won’t sound like that—but just to get ideas for instrumentation, orchestration, and some conceptual frameworks. I’ve also been listening to some classical music like Morton Feldman, which is sonically very interesting and very different from a lot of other music.


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This Friday and Saturday, June 20th and 21st, 2014, saxophonist Godwin Louis will present a new musical project at The Jazz Gallery as part of our 2013-2014 Residency Commissions series, which this year features saxophonists and reed players. This is the third performance in the series, following Ben Wendel in February and Greg Ward in May, and will be followed by Ben van Gelder in late June and conclude with Roman Filiu in July.

Godwin spent his youth both in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Port au Prince, Haiti, before studying at the Berklee College of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz. His project draws from his Haitian heritage and his modern jazz training alike. This past week, Godwin spoke to us about the inspiration for his project:

I attended the Thelonious Monk Institute in New Orleans, where I got to study with the likes of Barry Harris, Jimmy Heath, and Billy Pierce. I’m also of Haitian descent: my parents are from the beautiful island of Haiti, and I actually got to live there between 1994 and 1997. When I moved to New Orleans, the very first thing I noticed was that there was a heavy presence of Catholicism like you’d find in the rest of the Caribbean, whether Antigua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or Puerto Rico. I lived next to a Catholic church, and the bell would go off by the hour, which reminded me of Haiti. The cuisine and the architecture were similar, too. Even though I had never studied traditional New Orleans jazz before, when I heard the music, it felt like some of the Haitian music my dad would play for me growing up; there were similar arpeggios and chord movements and cadences.

When I was at the Institute, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra did a project in New Orleans. The clarinetist Victor Goines talked about the history of music in New Orleans and the relationship between the city and Haiti. Many Africans that ended up in New Orleans came by way of Haiti, and a big reason for the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon was the Haitian Revolution. After hearing that, I was like, “Okay. I get it now.” I understood why people called New Orleans the northernmost city in the Caribbean. Also, I got to work with Dr. Michael White, a great New Orleans clarinetist, and he taught me more about how some parts of New Orleans jazz came from Haitian sources.

After that, I became more and more interested in Haitian culture, something I took for granted as a teenager. For the past four years, I’ve gone back to Haiti a few times a year to learn more of the country’s history, to try to find documentation supporting the idea that a lot of music passed from Haiti to New Orleans, and to become more familiar with the rhythms of Haitian music. I also began to work on a series of compositions showcasing the connections between Haiti and New Orleans.

However, the project has changed over the past few years. A lot of what I’m writing is coming from the rhythms I’ve learned in Haiti and the Haitian composers that I’ve checked out, like Ludovic Lamothe, who was known as the “Black Chopin.” I will be performing some interpretations of his work at The Jazz Gallery as well as my own pieces that try to bring the modern saxophone side of my personality to the Haitian rhythms that I love. There are so many wonderful musical cultures on the continent that travel all over and inform each other, and I feel that it’s very important to draw from them. This is an ongoing project, and I hope to keep adding to it over the next few years.

Godwin Louis will present his new Haitian-inspired musical project this Friday and Saturday, June 20th and 21st, 2014. Louis will appear as part of The Jazz Gallery 2013-14 Residency Commissions. Joining him will be Pauline Jean on vocals, Axel Tosca Laugart on piano, Billy Buss on trumpet, Zach Brown on bass, Nick Falk on drums, and Paulo Stagnaro on percussion. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m. $22 general admission and $10 for Members. Purchase tickets here. 

The Jazz Gallery’s Residency Commission 2013-2014 is supported in part by a funding from the Jerome Foundation with additional support from the New York State Council on the Arts and Department of Cultural Affairs of New York City.

Photo courtesy of Dave Robaire

Photo courtesy of Dave Robaire

This Thursday, June 19th, 2014, we host the NYC CD release party for a new collective voice on the scene: Holophonor. Wait! Slow down—what did you say? Holo-what? Fans of Matt Groening and David X. Cohen need not be confused here, but for those of you not well-versed in the story arc of Futurama, you can read more about the name’s context here:

The Holophonor is a musical instrument in the 31st century and a kind of combination between an oboe and a holographic projector. The music played triggers the projector to show matching holographic pictures. 

The name aside, there is nothing cartoonish about this band; they’re as real as it gets. The group merges the 2014 graduates of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music into a dynamic septet that features original music from each member of the group, as well as works written collectively. With origins across the U.S. and South America, these seven musicians have been studying with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter for the last two years, rehearsing frequently and performing in Israel, Japan, Sweden, and Turkey, in addition to renowned houses here in the U.S. like the D.C. Kennedy Center.

And individually these artists have played with names like: Aretha FranklinWynton MarsalisRubén BladesJonathan BatisteJohn EllisReggie WorkmanAmbrose AkinmusireDave LiebmanGreg Osby, and Danilo Perez.

But wait? What are their names? We’ll list them out for you, but it’s best you meet them yourself by watching their EPK below. Their bassist, Dave Robaire, was nice enough to hop on a call this past month and share some more insight about their project. Check out the interview below as well.

Holophonor is: Josh Johnson on alto saxophone, Mike Cottone on trumpet, Eric Miller on trombone, Diego Urbano on vibraphone, Miro Sprague on piano, Dave Robaire on bass, and Jonathan Pinson on drums.


The Jazz Gallery: The name “Holophonor” refers to a fictitious instrument from the 31st century in the animated science fiction sitcom Futurama. According to the EPK, you guys were able to whittle it down from about 50 names or so. How did you decide on the name?

Dave Robaire: [laughs] Futurama definitely had something to do with the inspiration, but actually none of us knew what the hell it was at first. We were kind of going back and forth on a bunch of titles, and Holophonor came up as a joke at first. As we started to get closer to needing a name, it began to grow on me a little more. It doesn’t have anything to do with the record. I thought having a reference to a cartoon show was a little funny—not what I would have expected to do from the onset. However, the word has kind of grown on everybody in the group and we’re really happy that it stuck. But, I mean, [laughs] nobody knows what the hell we’re talking about when we say it.

Interestingly, Diego brought to our attention the ancient Greek etymology: ὅλος or hólos, which means “whole.” In this respect, Holophonor implies an “all-encompassing sound” as well. So it has actually taken on a bit of a second meaning, which is fitting despite the fact that it wasn’t our original intention.