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Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

The four-headed creature known as Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut is a rare creature indeed. With just four low brass instruments, this animal can make music that shrieks, howls, and purrs, all with an unrelenting energy and groove. Like all rare species, Big Sackbut has a fascinating evolutionary tree. Trombonist-leader Joe Fiedler illuminates that tree with a curated playlist of tunes from Big Sackbut’s ancestors: the group’s musical DNA — Kevin Laskey

1. “Hattie Wall,” World Saxophone Quartet

I’m pretty sure “Hattie Wall” was the first tune of the World Saxophone Quartet that I ever heard. It was their theme song and they would walk onstage playing it. The sheer power and authority with which all four of those guys played—the raw energy and the rhythmical cadence—was so stunning. It just hit me in the gut. I was hooked.

It’s such a simple tune and they could riff on that for ten minutes before going on to the solo section. Hamiet Bluiett would keep this Afro-Caribbean clave thing going. It would keep cycling and cycling; it was hypnotic. The way that the top three voices would improvise together and play off what everyone else was doing was just magical. They were so in tune with how each other was as an improviser.


Photo via

Photo via

This month, we feature four performances with pianist Taylor Eigsti and up-and-coming drummer Jeremy Dutton as part of our Mentoring Series. We’ll be publishing a series of blog posts about these two artists and their ongoing musical friendship. Here’s the first:

“I had no idea the legacy of what had happened through HSPVA [Houston School of Performing and Visual Arts], but I auditioned and got in,” says Jeremy Dutton. “We learned about Robert Glasper and Jason Moran, and there were these plaques on the wall about people going to All-State, YoungArts Awards, the Jason Moran Award, and all this other stuff. We saw these names on the wall and then we learned as we were there, ‘Oh my goodness, this could be done.’ So the goal became to go to New York.”

Now 20 years old and enrolled at The New School, Jeremy has been diligently pursuing (and succeeding in) his dream to make music with some of the best musicians on the scene. In February of 2014, he embarked on his first tour with vocalist Sachal Vasandani, performing across Africa and Europe with pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Buster Hemphill.

Before this tour, Jeremy had already released his début album in 2013, I Am, with his band Wayfarer, and had been actively performing and recording with iiii, a collaborative jazz-R&B-singer-songwriter-hip-hop project with vocalist Laila Smith, pianist Paul Bloom, and bassist Connor Schultze, each an enterprising young musician still enrolled in university (Harvard, Columbia, and Manhattan School of Music, respectively).

A native of Houston, Texas, Jeremy started on the drums early:

“When I was two, my mom bought me a plastic drum set for my birthday. Apparently, I really liked that drum set because when I was four, my mom and my uncle bought me a real, wooden drum set to play. I used to watch the drummer in my church player and music was just something that I was attracted to. It seems random because nobody else in my family is a musician, but I stuck with it. My mom was always really encouraging—my family in general was really encouraging—and my mom let me practice in the house and stuff like that.”

There is an emergent modern lineage of jazz drumming that can be traced directly to Houston: drummers Eric Harland, Kendrick Scott, Chris Dave, and Jamire Williams are some of the influential figures associated with the city. In the summer after fifth grade, Jeremy unknowingly became part of that lineage: (more…)

Bucky Pizzarelli (center) with the Benny Goodman band, ca. 1972 (Wikimedia Commons — Heinrich Klaffs)

Bucky Pizzarelli (center) with the Benny Goodman band, ca. 1972 (Wikimedia Commons — Heinrich Klaffs)

A pioneer of the 7-string guitar, a World War II veteran, and a native New Jerseyan, 88 year-old John “Bucky” Pizzarelli is a true jazz legend. The father of another jazz guitarist, John Pizzarelli, as well as bassist Martin Pizzarelli and classical guitarist Mary Pizzarelli, the elder Pizzarelli has worked with everyone from Les Paul, Stéphane Grappelli, and Benny Goodman to Tiny Tim, whom he accompanied through his stint in the band of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Pizzarelli was recently the subject of a 15-minute, 2011 student documentary entitled The Seventh String: The Life and Tales of Bucky Pizzarelli:

Pizzarelli was also profiled by National Public Radio on All Things Considered in 2009, and he gave his most recently published interview for Boardwalk Jazz with P.J. Rasmussen, which you can view here.

We’re delighted to present two sets of music by this living legend of jazz, who will be joined by fellow guitarists Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden. Please join us in welcoming John “Bucky” Pizzarelli on our stage tomorrow evening!

Bucky Pizzarelli & Friends perform this Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The performance will feature Pizzarelli, Jack Wilkins, and Howard Alden on guitar. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m. First and second sets are each $25 general admission and $15 for Members. Purchase tickets here.

Please note that sets are at 8 and 10 pm., our new set times starting in September.

Photo via

Photo via

Noted for his “judicious exuberance” by The New York Times, saxophonist, composer, and educator Dayna Stephens has been a frequent mainstay on the Gallery stage now since 2007. Educated at Berklee College of Music and The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at USC where he studied with Herbie HancockWayne Shorter, and Terence Blanchard, Stephens has since played with a rotating cast of musicians that includes Ambrose Akinmusire, Kenny Barron, Taylor EigstiAlbert “Tootie” HeathRoy Hargrove, Aaron Parks, Gretchen ParlatoCarlos Santana, John Scofield, Ben Street, and Stevie Wonder, among others. His records have also garnered critical acclaim from the likes of DownBeat, NPR and JazzTimes. The last five years have been challenging for Stephens as he has suffered from a rare kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS); the jazz community has rallied to support the saxophonist through an organization called “Help Dayna Stephens.”

This past summer, Stephens went into the studio with Eric Harland, Larry Grenadier, Julian LageBrad Mehldau, and producer Matt Pierson to work on his fifth record, Peace. This Saturday, September 27th, 2014, Stephens returns to our stage with Darrell Green, Dave Robaire, Ben van Gelder, and Sam Yahel. Amidst his busy schedule, Stephens was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss his new records, crowdfunding, his love of comedy, the state of his health, and the influence of Charlie Haden.

The Jazz Gallery: You just finished your fifth record, Peace. How did it go?

Dayna Stephens: Actually, I officially just finished my fifth and seventh records. We had a surplus of material from this past session, so we decided we had enough for two records. Also, I had already recorded an album for Criss Cross last October, and that’s finally going to come out this coming February: Reminiscent. That one is a really fun double-tenor record and has Walter Smith III, Harish Raghavan, Aaron Parks, Mike Moreno and Rodney Green. So, number five is Peace, number six is Reminiscent, and number seven will be called Gratitude, with the same band from Peace. I’d say that Gratitude is probably coming out late spring or early summer in 2015.

Peace was all about standards and three songs taken from films: two by Ennio Morricone and one by Astor Piazzolla, the famous tango composer and bandoneon player. Before we went into the studio, Matt chose the two Morricone songs, which I had never heard before. He gave me a list of a few songs that he thought might go well with this type of record and I chose the ones that really spoke to me. One of them is a tune called “Deborah’s Theme” which is from Once Upon a Time in America, a Robert De Niro film from the ’80s.The other Morricone tune, “Brothers,” is from a film called The Mission, another early De Niro film. “Peace” is obviously the title track, but we actually chose that title about four months before Horace Silver had passed; we obviously didn’t know that was going to happen. We also coincidentally didn’t know that the world would be breaking out as much as it is in the opposite direction of peace [laughs uncomfortably].

TJG: It’s fitting that you put that project together amongst those events…

DS: Yeah, synchronicity is crazy! [laughs] That is all I can say. I’m really happy with the way the record turned out. None of these guys have ever played in this particular format before, and the interaction between Brad and Eric was pretty awesome.


Photo by Jati Lindsay, via

Photo by Jati Lindsay, via

With his unbridled intensity and sure-footed rhythmic feel, bassist Eric Revis has become one of the most prominent and respected jazz musicians the world over. He’s best known for holding down the low end of Branford Marsalis’s quartet since 1997. In this video from the group’s recording session for their 2012 album Four MFs Playin’ TunesRevis walks a bass line with the authority of a posterizing slam dunk.

But Revis’s playing in the Marsalis quartet shows off only a part of his musical personality. In an interview with critic Kevin Whitehead on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of saxophonist Albert Ayler’s groundbreaking free jazz album Spiritual Unity, Revis talks about the importance of Ayler on his own musical development:

I first heard [Spiritual Unity] at a midpoint in my development, in the late ’80s or early ’90s. It shocked me, but something kept me going back to it, and then I started looking for as much Ayler from that period as possible. You listen to early Ornette Coleman now, it sounds almost…prosaic. All the fundamental elements of jazz are there, even though he’s bending and stretching the rules.

Ayler took it to a whole other level — the visceral thing times 10. That Albert cry — there’s something so human about it. No matter how seemingly out the music is, there’s something very inviting about it too. His melodies are so strong. The first time you hear ‘Ghosts,’ you know it — like you’ve already heard it before.

This influence is palpable in several of Revis’s own groups, like the collaborative trio Tarbaby, with pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Nasheet Waits (and featuring special guests Oliver Lake and Marc Ducret in this video).

The combination of strong melody and visceral energy that Revis speaks about is also a hallmark of his most recent album, In Memory Of Things Yet Seen, released this spring on Clean Feed Records. With a pianoless quartet featuring saxophonists Darius Jones and Bill McHenry and percussionist Chad Taylor, Revis explores material that is eminently tuneful, yet never safe or predictable. (more…)