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The Jazz Gallery's 2015 Fall Fantasy & Fun Auction

The Jazz Gallery’s 2015 Fall Fantasy & Fun Auction

Ever thought about how great it’d be to have Kneebody or Aaron Parks play a private concert in your home? Have you ever thought about getting coffee with Dave Binney and talking about life? Are you a fan of homemade Canadian butter tarts? Fortunately for you, all of these things and more are now within reach. Please read below for a short message from our executive director:

The Jazz Gallery Fall Fantasy & Fun Auction is now open! The auction will run from November 4, 2014 to November 18, 2014, with proceeds going to The Jazz Gallery and our mission to showcase emerging Jazz musicians and the music they create.

So spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues.
Thank you for your support as we embark on our 20th Anniversary Year!

Happy Bidding!
Janet Luhrs, Executive Director

Photo by Emra Islek

Photo by Emra Islek

Drummer Johnathan Blake plays with urgency and grace, a controlled and purposeful abandon that endears him to hardcore jazz fans and novices alike as well as a diverse roster of fellow musicians. He’s played and recorded with Tom Harrell, Oliver Lake, Kenny Barron, Ravi Coltrane, and the Mingus Big Band, among others. Blake didn’t release his first album, The Eleventh Hour (Sunnyside Records), until his mid-thirties, and by this time he had fused his experience as a sideman and his broad tastes into a unique, coherent vision as a composer and bandleader. NPR called him the “ultimate modernist,” perhaps for his ability to combine jazz improvisation with anthemic compositions and the kind of textures—harmonicas, Fender Rhodes, studio distortion—one would expect from an R&B album.

His second album, Gone, But Not Forgotten (Criss Cross), was released earlier this year. With a quartet featuring bassist Ben Street and tenor heavyweights Chris Potter and Mark Turner, it seemed like an attempt for Blake to get back to basics. This may seem a bit odd for a performer who had previously released only one album, but Gone showcases Blake’s formidable straight-ahead chops. Only two of Blake’s compositions are on the album, but the credits attest to his knowledge of jazz history and deep respect for its practitioners: compositions by Blake’s fellow Philadelphians Charles Fambrough, Trudy Pitts, and Sid Simmons are joined by the work of Jim Hall, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Eddie Harris, Paul Motian, Frank Foster, and Frank Wess. The group performed on our stage in last September and, as Ethan Iverson wrote, speaking for us all, “Who doesn’t want to hear Mark Turner and Chris Potter try to cut each other in a bare bones situation?”    

Blake brings a new quintet, called BLESS, to The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, November 14th and 15th, 2014. Keeping the two-tenor frontline of Gone, Blake will be joined by saxophonists Dayna Stephens and John Ellis as well as Lage Lund on guitar and Ben Street on bass. The performances are sure to be electric; Blake isn’t capable of anything less.

Johnathan Blake’s BLESS performs this Friday and Saturday, November 14th and 15th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The performances will feature Blake on drums, John Ellis and Dayna Stephens on saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, and Ben Street on bass. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., $22 general admission ($12 for Members). Purchase tickets here.

Courtesy of Mario Castro; design by Lydia Liebman.

Courtesy of Mario Castro; design by Lydia Liebman.

Saxophonist Mario Castro is on a roll. The 26-year Puerto Rican Berklee graduate performed a series of shows with Miguel Zenón this past summer as part of our Mentoring Series, and he returns to our stage this Thursday, November 13th, 2014, to make his début as a leader alongside his quintet plus string quartet.

Mario’s sophomore release, Estrella de Mar (Interrobang Records), came out in September and features guest appearances by Dave Liebman, Casey Benjamin, David Sanchéz, Emily Elbert, and others, as well as the aforementioned string quartet. Videos of complete tracks from the album are available on YouTube, and the album is now available through Interrobang Records, CDBaby, Amazon, and iTunes. We spoke with Mario about this new project, the seeds of which were planted during his time in Boston a couple years ago. It’s not every day that we have strings at the Gallery, so we hope that you’ll join us on Thursday to hear Mario perform this carefully crafted music live.

The Jazz Gallery: Is there a story behind the title track, “Estrella de Mar?”

Mario Castro: The translation is “starfish,” but what it means for me is “star of the sea,” a literal translation. Basically, the concept for this name for me is that there is a star from space, and the star lives with a family of stars that lives in space.

One day, one star decides to come to Earth, and the star is a little bit unhappy with how things are in terms of nature and all that, so she finds herself a little out of place. She keeps on trying to find peace on Earth, and then all of a sudden her family of stars sends her a map to the sea. She enters the sea and becomes a star of the sea.


Courtesy of Andrew Rathbun

Courtesy of Andrew Rathbun

Canadian-born composer, trumpeter, and flugelhorn player Kenny Wheeler passed away in September at the age of 84 after a period of declining health. Wheeler was and is still revered internationally for his inimitable sound, innovative compositional approach, and collaborations with some of the most influential jazz artists of his time, including Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton.

Toronto-born saxophonist and composer Andrew Rathbun has organized a special concert to honor the memory of Wheeler, which will feature a big band performing some of Wheeler’s most beloved large ensemble works. Importantly, 100% of the proceeds from this concert will be donated to the Wheeler family to assist with medical costs.

We spoke with Andrew by phone to discuss the impact that Wheeler had on him musically and also Wheeler’s status as an international jazz icon. Other recent remembrances of Wheeler can be found on Do the Math, including pieces by Darcy James Argue and Ingrid Jensen.

This performance received a starred pick from The New York Times.

The Jazz Gallery: As a Canadian-born jazz musician, can you speak a bit about how Kenny Wheeler was regarded on the Canadian jazz scene? 

Andrew Rathbun: He was a titan. Everyone was super aware of him and really revered and respected him. He’d come to Toronto every year and do a week at one of the clubs like the Montreal Bistro with Toronto guys like Don Thompson, and he knew those guys really well from Banff [Jazz Workshop].

I think that Banff is the biggest connection that people have to Ken. Through Banff he’d just give his music away, and people would take his tunes and play them at sessions. People were playing his music a lot and it became a word of mouth thing because he was the most self-effacing, humble guy; he was humble almost to a fault. He never did anything to promote himself, so whatever fell into his lap was what happened.

He made his first record, Gnu High, when he was 40. That’s kind of amazing, right? In the usual trajectory of major jazz artists, they’re not making their first record when they’re 40, but when they’re 22. I think that really belies his stature as an innovator, since it took people a long time to catch up to what he was into and his interesting contributions.


Photo by Scott Benedict, via

Photo by Scott Benedict, via

Trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson released his long-anticipated début, Moment & the Message (Pi Recordings), last May to critical acclaim, including a 4-star review in DownBeat as well as a 4-star review in The Guardian. Although he might be best known for his long tenure with saxophonist and 2014 MacArthur Fellow Steve Coleman, with whom he began apprenticing in 2000 at the age of 18, Finlayson’s primary musical vehicle in recent times has been Sicilian Defense, the band that appeared on Moment & The Message and that performed at the Gallery back in April.

This Saturday, Finlayson presents a new quintet with an entirely different line-up: D.C.-based tenor saxophonist Brian Settles; pianist Matt Mitchell, who also released his début album, Fiction, on Pi Recordings last September; bassist Mark Helias, who at age 64 will be the elder statesman of this particular band; and drummer Craig Weinrib, who has performed alongside Finlayson in a number of settings (including Sicilian Defense, although Weinrib does not appear on the recording). The band doesn’t have any other dates lined up for the near future, so don’t miss your chance to hear this group of musicians explore their collective chemistry on Saturday.

Jonathan Finlayson +4 performs this Saturday, November 8th, 2014 at The Jazz Gallery. The band features Finlayson on trumpet, Brian Settles on tenor saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Mark Helias on bass, and Craig Weinrib on drums. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., $22 general admission ($12 for Members). Purchase tickets here.