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Ingrid Laubrock (Wikimedia Commons)

Ingrid Laubrock (Wikimedia Commons)

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has forged an unpredictable path to her place in the New York jazz scene. After growing up in a small town in Germany, Laubrock only picked up the saxophone at age 19 after moving to London. She supported herself by busking and playing in Cuban and Brazilian bands, and eventually completed a jazz performance degree at the Guildhall School. Laubrock became a prominent member of London’s forward-thinking musical community known as the F-IRE Collective, as her music began taking on new, abstract dimensions. Laubrock then met renowned drummer Tom Rainey as he passed through London, and the two began a musical and personal relationship that brought her to New York (they are both partners in bands and in marriage).

Laubrock plays with a host of groups throughout the city, from the collaborative trio “Paradoxical Frog” with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey to guitarist Mary Halvorson’s septet to Anthony Braxton’s groups to her own quintet “Anti-House.” Recently, however, Laubrock has put together a new group called “Nor’easter,” her take on the classic brass band, which features Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Ben Gerstein on trombone, Dan Peck on tuba, and Tom Rainey on drums. This Friday, July 25th, 2014, Laubrock will bring this band to The Jazz Gallery for the second time with a host of fresh and wide-ranging original compositions. We caught up with Ingrid by phone this week to talk about her motivation for putting this group together, and how the group’s music works.

The Jazz Gallery: When you played at The Jazz Gallery last summer, this group was brand new and nameless. How did you come up with the name “Nor’easter?”

Ingrid Laubrock: I actually might get rid of the name again! I’m not completely happy with it. I kind of had to have a name for a grant application that I was writing—“quintet” sounded too lame. I wanted something that had to do with wind gusts and blowing air. But at this point, I think I’m going to scrap the name.

TJG: What drew you to putting together a group of almost all wind instruments?

IL: It was always interesting for me to hear brass bands. I grew up in a small town in Germany, and that was always a big tradition, but it didn’t necessarily interest me at the time. I have been to Brazil and heard brass bands—maracatu bands—and I played a bit in maracatu bands when I lived in England. And being in New York I hear a lot of Mexican brass bands and New Orleans brass bands. I’m fascinated by the sound of these groups, but I didn’t want to write music for a brass group in a traditional way. I wanted to explore all the textures that you can get out of these instruments.

This is a major reason why I chose the musicians I chose for the group. All of them are really great improvisors and interested in figuring out everything you can do with their instruments that isn’t traditional. I can write extended techniques, I can write interesting rhythmic things, I can write with microtones and other weird things; the musicians can play everything that I can think of. I also consciously didn’t want a harmony instrument, so the writing is very linear, very contrapuntal. I’d always composed at the piano because you have everything at your fingertips, but for this group I wanted to try and write just in my head and on my instrument. It was good to have a different approach for this music. (more…)

Photo by Jimmy Katz, courtesy of the artist

Photo by Jimmy Katz, courtesy of the artist

The only chance to see the Miles Okazaki Quartet perform this summer is coming up this Thursday, July 24th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The show received a Critics’ Pick in The New York Times, and we’re pleased to welcome Miles back to our stage as he leads the same quartet that embarked on a European tour last fall, featuring Donny McCaslin on saxophone, Francois Moutin on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums. For those who have never heard the band before, Miles has shared two full sets from that tour on YouTube: one set recorded at Birdseye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland, and another set recorded at Jamboree Jazz Club in Barcelona, Spain. When he mentioned these recordings to us, he added, “It’s much more different from the way the music was played on the previous record…for lack of a better term, it’s a high-energy thing. It’s pretty wild.”

We caught up with Miles via Skype when he was in Brazil last week to talk about practicing, rehearsing, and inspiration. Here’s our conversation:

The Jazz Gallery: What brings you to Brazil?

Miles Okazaki: I’m down here with Steve Coleman and a group of musicians, and we’re doing a work retreat, basically playing all day everyday and working on stuff. It’s kind of a substitute for extended periods of work that people don’t really have that much anymore, like long club engagements or long tours. It’s hard to get music to a high level with one hit here and there, so this is sort of an extended work trip. Steve does these things every once in a while.

TJG: Speaking of rehearsing, how do you go about rehearsing your own quartet?

MO: I’ve been getting more and more into having less and less material. Personally, I don’t like to read charts onstage, and I also like to see what people come up with and not be controlling all the information. Rehearsal is really just getting a couple of small bits of material together and the rest of it is dealing with improvising together. I’m not a big fan of rehearsals where it’s, “Here’s all my material, learn all my material, and play it the way I want you to play it.” I’m more into, “Here’s some ideas I have and let’s see what you come up with, also.”


Photo via

Photo via

Drummer Ted Poor demonstrates a rare and desired combination: both sensitive and strong, he can follow or lead from the kit. His keen musicianship has greatly serviced groups led by Ben Monder, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dan Tepfer, Cuong Vu, and Shane Endsley. Poor also contributes compositions to the collaborative bands Respect Sextet and Gallery stalwart Bad Touch, and he leads his own Mt. Varnum, whose sound is inspired by classic and indie rock. For the first time, on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014, he will bring a group under his own name to the Gallery.

Gathering some of the most distinctive personalities on the New York jazz scene, Poor will play sets loosely inspired by Sonny Rollins’s under-appreciated albums Our Man in Jazz and The Paris Concert, recorded in 1962 and ’63, respectively. Don’t get the wrong idea: the band is not a tribute project per se. The Rollins albums provide a stylistic entry point for Poor and his band to address the bebop tradition they were trained in. Featuring Bill McHenry on tenor saxophone, Josh Roseman on trombone, and Ben Street on bass, the Ted Poor Quartet offers inventive and exciting takes on standards and lesser-known repertory from the mid-20th century. We talked with Ted last week about what we can expect from the performance:

The Jazz Gallery: You just came off tour in Mexico with Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Standards band. How was that? 

Ted Poor: Oh, it was great. Wonderful audiences and nice venues. We felt very connected with the people there. We had a great time.

TJG: For how long have you been playing with him? 

TP: That was the first time in over two years. I was with the band regularly in 2011 and 2012. Probably even before then. Then he changed up the band, and we reconnected recently.

I really, really enjoy the Standards Trio with Kurt. No one really in my career in New York has asked me to go back to the bebop language and tradition and to be free in that world. I’ve come to really be thankful for that. Kurt is a master of that language, and it’s so joyous to be in that language with him. It’s partly the reason I’ve put this quartet together at The Jazz Gallery. It’s a band that I wanted to get together after having reconnected with this tradition.


Román Filiú at The Village Vanguard (via

Román Filiú at the Village Vanguard (via

This Friday and Saturday, July 18th and 19th, 2014, will conclude The Jazz Gallery’s 2013-2014 Residency Commissions series. These two nights will feature original music from Cuban-born saxophonist-composer Román Filiú and the septet that he convened for the occasion. Filiú assumes the final chapter in the series storyline—this year focused on saxophonists and reed players—outlined by Ben WendelGreg Ward, Ben van Gelder, and Godwin Louis earlier in the season.

Since 2011, Filiú has successfully embedded himself in the engine of New York’s contemporary jazz scene, firing with cylinders like Matt BrewerMarcus Gilmore, Dafnis Prieto, Adam Rogers, Yusnier SanchezDavid Virelles, and Craig Weinrib, among others. Prior to landing in New York, Filiú was based in Havana for eight years while heavily involved with Chucho Valdes‘s “Irakere” band and also in Madrid for six years, often working with David Murray and Doug Hammond. A frequenter of our stage and our blog, the saxophonist will call upon Ralph Alessi, Dayna Stephens, David Virelles, Matt Brewer, Craig Weinrib, and Yusnier Sanchez to present his new material. We caught up with him by phone this past week:

The Jazz Gallery: Could you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on in your residency?

Román Filiú: When The Jazz Gallery presented the opportunity to me, I wanted to do something that drew on inspiration from the music I grew up with—music that I heard in my hometown. As Santiago de Cuba was a very musical town, with traditions across conga, bolero, and sonCarnival music—I was inundated with it all of the time. Aside from my father being a musician, my brothers were violin players so I was trying to compete with them, trying to play violin music because I was the only one that played saxophone.

Aside from Cuban music, we were listening to a lot of classical, things like Bartók or Zoltán Kodály. I didn’t know anything about jazz; I wasn’t listening to it at the time. So it was an interesting mix of classical music, Carnival music, Cuban folkloric music, and popular music in Cuba that was on the radio. This residency was about considering this whole musical environment: how all of these styles converged in my head, opening up my mind to more advanced music and helping me find my own voice. I tried to reproduce these themes in the songs that I’ve been working on and frame them within the context of jazz improvisation.

I am grateful to The Jazz Gallery for the opportunity to make this music. I’m very fond of everyone else who has participated in this series, so it’s an honor.


Photo via Mario Castro's official Facebook page

Photo via Mario Castro’s official Facebook page

Two weeks ago, we posted the first part of our conversation with MacArthur Award-winning alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who has selected tenor saxophonist Mario Castro to join him as part of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series. Their first performance of four was well-received, and we’re looking forward to hearing the chordless quartet again on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 , as they continue to refine their two-horn ensemble sound.

Here’s our conversation with Castro, who, like Zenón, hails from Puerto Rico and is a Berklee alumnus (Zenón is class of ’98; Castro graduated in 2011):

The Jazz Gallery: When did you first meet Miguel?

Mario Castro: I met Miguel for the first time at a jam session he did in Puerto Rico. He used to go every December and do some jam sessions with the purpose of bringing up the musician community, and I met him at one of those sessions. It must have been like 2004 or 2005.

TJG: What do you recall of that meeting?

MC: At the first jam session, I got really sick—I think it was because I was really nervous—and at the second, I got to play with him. The third one got cancelled, but at the fourth one I got to talk to him for a while. He talked to me about sound and about the importance of knowing vocabulary, of having substance when I play; he told me, “You gotta develop this, that…you gotta develop a repertoire.”

And I remember he looked at me in the eyes and asked, “Are you serious about this?” And I said, “Yes.” So he said, “Okay, if you want to learn for real, you have to leave Puerto Rico and try to expand.” At that time, I feel like “jazz education” in Puerto Rico wasn’t as developed as it is maybe now. The conservatory has a program and they bring in all different artists, and I feel like that happened so quickly thanks to Miguel and David [Sánchez] and people who, you know, had an urge to bring education there.