A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Archive for

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Just as The Jazz Gallery was beginning to host concerts at 290 Hudson Street 20 years ago, another West Village jazz institution was starting up: Jason Lindner’s monday night big band at Smalls. The group featured a host of young players that would make their mark on the New York scene, like bassist Omer Avital, saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Myron Walden, drummers Daniel Freedman and Jeff Ballard, and many more. Along with the work of Maria Schneider and Guillermo Klein, Lindner’s big band pushed the traditional instrumentation into new aesthetic territories, creating the wide-open big band landscape of today.

As part of the Gallery’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, the Jason Lindner Big Band will reconvene for a special weekend residency. In this edition of the Jazz Speaks podcast, Jason tells us the history of the group, from its humble beginnings at Smalls, to the challenges of putting out its first studio album, to its eventual relationship with The Jazz Gallery.

The Jason Lindner Big Band plays The Jazz Gallery on Friday, May 1st, and Saturday, May 2nd, 2015. The group is led by Mr. Lindner on piano and keyboards, and features Omer Avital on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums, John Beatty on alto saxophone, Jacques Schwarz-Bart and Anat Cohen on tenor saxophone, Jorge Continentino on baritone saxophone, Clark Gayton and Joe Fiedler on trombone, Duane Eubanks and Alex Norris on trumpet, and Baba Israel on microphones. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m. each night. Tickets are $40 for reserved cabaret seating ($30 for members) and $30 general admission ($20 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here. 

Photo courtesy of the artist

Photo courtesy of the artist

Splitting his time between a home base in Los Angeles and regular touring around the world, saxophonist Walter Smith III doesn’t pass through New York that often. The last time Smith played in the city, it was at 1:45 AM at the Bitter End during this January’s Winter Jazz Festival. And before that, Smith hadn’t been around since the September release party for his latest record, Still Casual (self-produced). These infrequent visits are unfortunate since Smith has played a major role in shaping the character of jazz in New York today, and that many of his closest collaborators (including those on Still Casual) call the city home. It seems that the stars have to align just right for a Walter Smith sighting here.

Luckily, it seems the stars have indeed aligned just right this week. In town for a recording session with the pianist Danny Grissett, Smith has assembled a top-notch band for a special surprise show at The Jazz Gallery on Tuesday evening, April 28th. Joining Smith on the bandstand will be Fabian Almazan on piano, Lage Lund on guitar, Vincente Archer on bass, and Johnathan Blake on drums. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear Smith on the Gallery stage. Who knows when he’ll be in the city next…


Photo by William Brown, courtesy of the artist

Photo by William Brown, courtesy of the artist

Bassist Ricky Rodriguez moved to New York City from his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico about a decade ago and since then has been a versatile and boundary-pushing force on the jazz and contemporary music scene. A true stylistic chameleon, Rodriguez melds his roots in Latin music with classical training into a unique, progressive jazz voice. Rodriguez has performed as a sideman with artists as diverse as David Sanchez, Claudia Acuña, Joe Locke, Alvin Batiste, Stephon Harris, Ignacio Berroa, and Henry Cole, as well as leading several bands of his own. One of the few bassists on the scene who truly doubles up on upright and electric bass, Rodriguez will be performing with a plugged-in group of his this Thursday, April 30th, at The Jazz Gallery. We caught up with Ricky this week to talk about the many strands of music that filter through this group.

The Jazz Gallery: This group you’re bringing to the Gallery has a definite plugged-in character to it. How did the group come together?

Ricky Rodriguez: [Saxophonist] Ben [Wendel] and I worked together with an incredible Cuban drummer named Ignacio Berroa, and we went on tour together in Europe, but you know, we both got busy. The last time we worked together was like 5 years ago, and it’s been too long.

[Keyboardist] Fabian [Almazan] and I just started playing together last year on a gig with David Sanchez, but we also met one time way back in Amsterdam when he was playing with Terrence Blanchard and I was playing with Kenny Werner.

And [Drummer] Henry Cole and I went to school together way back in Puerto Rico, so we’ve been playing together for like 18 years. We worked together on his last Afrobeat record and we worked together with David Sanchez and Miguel Zenon.

I’ve been writing really hard music for these guys and my brain is fried from it, but it feels so fresh. I’m also playing some music that’s going to be on my album that’s coming out June 20th. The album’s going to have a different band that features Adam Rogers on guitar, Obed Calvaire on drums, Luis Perdomo on piano, and Myron Walden on alto saxophone, and David Sanchez on tenor saxophone.

But for this hit, I’m mixing some of the music on the record with a more electric sound. With my writing, I’m thinking specifically about everybody’s sound, Ben’s sound, Henry’s, Fabian’s…so I’m writing music specifically for those guys. And then I picked 2 or 3 tracks from my album to see if it would work for this electric context.

TJG: A lot of guys “kind-of” play electric bass but they don’t really double up, but you focus your energies equally on upright and electric. How do you approach the two instruments differently?

RR: I work with Joe Locke the vibraphone player and I used to only play upright with him, but on his new record, that’s coming out in May, I play both electric and upright about equally. I actually started on electric bass when I was about 7 years old back in my hometown of Ponce. I went to this private school and I was lucky because I had this teacher that had just arrived from New England Conservatory so he was fresh and had all this information, harmony, advice… He told me “hey man, check out Weather Report!” You know, I didn’t know Weather Report when I was eight! And Bitches Brew and stuff… when I heard those records I thought “I don’t know what that is but it sounds killing!” And it turned out it was Dave Holland on bass. There are some people who do both really well: Miroslav Vitous is badass, [John] Patitucci, Christian McBride…

People know I’m going to put in 100% on electric bass, it’s not just going to be a sideman gig. I’ve seen some killing acoustic players who take a gig on electric and I’m ready to leave the room, because they haven’t studied the electric approach, which is a very specific type of thing. That’s why I have respect for so many electric bass players…the way that Jaco was…Gary Willis, this unsung cat who played with Tribal Tech in the 80s and 90s. He played fretless, but, MAN, his intonation was killer. Matt Brewer actually studied with Gary Willis back in the day! I guess it’s the same thing for piano players, some cats play acoustic and some cats play Fender Rhodes, but just be honest about what you do well. Don’t buy a keyboard for the gig tomorrow and not know how to get sounds out of it.

That’s why it’s hard for me when I’m calling up cats. The first person who was going to do this gig was Jason Lindner, but he’s so busy, and he’s coming in [to the Jazz Gallery] with his big band right after. But Fabian is incredible at both piano and keyboards. Fabian and I played a show together about two months ago. I did a gig at Iridium with my quintet, and he brought this keyboard and his computer. I think he puts some crazy processing program on his keys and it sounds awesome.

I want Fabian to have the freedom to create lots of moods and textures. With this music, it doesn’t have to just be about solos. We can get a groove going on and then he can make sounds over that.


Photo by Marc Minsker (Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Marc Minsker (Wikimedia Commons)

Bassist for Stevie Wonder and the 5th Dimension. Oboist for the American Ballet Theater orchestra. Jazz saxophonist working with Cannonball Adderley, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones. Leading expert on and transcriber of John Coltrane’s music.

It’s hard to believe, but these accomplishments all belong to the same person, Andrew White III. For over 50 years, White has been enmeshed in an unparalleled range of musical activities. Today, White continues to release volumes of Coltrane transcriptions, compose music of varied styles, and keep up a working jazz quartet in his home base of Washington, D.C. Last April, The Jazz Gallery presented Mr. White’s first performance in New York in over two decades, and we are excited for his return this Saturday, April 25th.

Before coming to the hit on Saturday, check out our interview with Mr. White from last April, and this great radio piece on him from WAMU in Washington. (more…)

Photo by Jerry Lacay, courtesy of the artist.

Photo by Jerry Lacay, courtesy of the artist.

In 2002, Norwegian guitarist and composer Lage Lund came to New York on a Fulbright scholarship to become the first guitarist in Juiliard’s budding jazz program. 13 years later, Lund finds himself fresh off a European jaunt with drummer Jochen Rueckert, balancing his time between raising baby girls, releasing two new trio records, and evolving his craft. Noted as a “deftly imaginative guitarist” by The New York Times, the 2005 Theloniuous Monk Competition winner has now released seven albums as a leader. His most recent release Idlewild (Criss Cross), came out in February and featured the stout rhythm team of Bill Stewart and Ben Street.

This April marks the release of Arts and Letters: the second installment of OWL trio, a co-led project between Lund, Orlando le Fleming, and Will Vinson that seeks to explore conversation in different acoustic environments. This Friday, he takes the stage with friends and musical companions le Fleming, Aaron Parks, and Craig Weinrib for a different discussion in the quartet setting. For a moment of refuge, Lund sat down with us over “toasties” at Brooklyn’s Milk Bar to talk about his varied musical—and non-musical—activities.

The Jazz Gallery: You have just released two different trio records—Idlewild and Arts and Letters. Can you share a bit about those experiences?

Lage Lund: I’ve been playing a lot of trio over the past few years. Most of the touring I have done as a leader has been for trio gigs. It was something I started doing, both because I wanted to and because it’s easier to put together than a quartet or a quintet. I started enjoying it more and began thinking about how I could take more advantage of that space. The trio with bass and drums is basically about showcasing my stuff whereas the OWL Trio is a different thing in that it’s completely co-led. Obviously, not having drums gives it a different kind of sonic feel. Part of what we also wanted to do with that group was play in spaces other than the clubs we usually play in. The first record was recorded in a church. The new album was recorded at The American Academy of Arts and Letters. They have this gorgeous old theatre that a lot of classical people have recorded in—people like Yo-Yo Ma. Except for my amp, it was totally acoustic with one stereo pair of microphones. We were trying to use the room as part of the sound—it was a live sounding room that isn’t really be suitable for drums. It changes how we play a bit, it changes the repertoire, all kinds of stuff.

TJG: What about the material for the quartet show coming up at the Gallery?

LL: There will be some new things that I haven’t recorded yet. Basically, I have almost an album’s worth of quartet music that I haven’t recorded yet that I’m still, gig to gig, trying to boil down to its essence. It’s that and it’s all people that I have a pretty long history with. I’ve been playing with Orlando and Aaron since I came here. I started playing with Craig Weinrib three or four years ago and immediately loved it. It’s a long history but the four of us actually haven’t played together yet.

TJG: You mentioned previously that you compose at the piano. Is this still the case and was it always that way?

LL: When I started music at age thirteen, it was on the guitar. I didn’t really start playing piano until high school and college. I can play some chords and stuff but I can’t really “play” piano. I think at some point I just found it easier to write on piano. The guitar can be too familiar sometimes. I might play a chord on guitar and get bored immediately. On the piano, I can play the exact same voicing but I might visualize the next step in a way that I wouldn’t see on the guitar. Because I’m less familiar with piano, it sparks my curiosity more as to what harmonic or melodic changes I might make. I also like to write away from instruments, so I’m not writing something only because it’s coming from my fingers. But, I’m trying to write more on guitar because I might write something away from it but need to figure out how to apply it to the guitar. The whole process is sort of abstract. It’s like I’m hearing something and I’m just trying to uncover it. It’s devoid of any method. It’s hard for me to devote time to it, particularly now with a family. Often, when I’m on the road and have some hours in a hotel, I’ll devote some time to it but it’s not like I always have a set aside time for it.

TJG: Is there a practice routine you follow?

LL: These days [laughs] it’s pretty slim. Once you have two kids, whenever you get a chance its like “whoa!” Organizing your time is really tough. A lot of it is about the next gig or tour. “What’s the music I have to learn?” Usually I have one or two things maximum, some things that I’m working on for a longer period of time. It could be a specific harmonic idea, a certain chord or rhythmic motif. Whenever I do have time to practice, some amount of time is going to be spent on that. If I have an hour, then maybe twenty minutes gets spent on that, but if I have seven minutes before sound check, then I’ll do it for three minutes. Just to check-in every time.

The idea can be very small or very specific. If I’m listening to some Messiaen thing and there is a certain sound, maybe I’ll boil it down to one particular chord. Then, if I have these four notes: what are all of the twenty-eight different ways I can play those notes on the guitar? What are all the inversions of those? What is every possible way I could play this or use this? I think that works the best for me as opposed to working on a lot of different things. When I was younger, a lot of it was transcribing.