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From L to R: Gerald Cleaver, Cameron Brown, Jason Rigby. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, April 29th, versatile,and high-flying saxophonist Jason Rigby returns to The Jazz Gallery to release One, his latest CD on the Fresh Sounds label. The new album features Cameron Brown (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums) in a configuration they’re calling the Detroit-Cleveland Trio. Known for his ‘inside-outside’ style of playing (which we discussed at length), Rigby strives to sound at home in many styles, leading to an authoritative and multidimensional sound. Rigby also teaches at Towson University, where he maintains a saxophone studio and premieres new music. At the Gallery this week, Rigby will perform new tunes from One, as well as music from a brand-new unnamed suite of music in response to our volatile and mercurial social climate. We spoke about all of the above in a recent phone interview.

The Jazz Gallery: I know you’ve been on the road for a while. Have you been getting together with the guys in the trio to work through the material from the latest album?

Jason Rigby: I’m going to get together with Cameron to work on some unison stuff that we have together. But I actually try not to rehearse too much with this group. I feel like it’s better to just let it happen.

TJG: Interesting—was there a time where you felt like you killed the energy by rehearsing too much?

JR: I don’t know if ‘killed it’ is the right phrase, but I chose these two musicians because I feel like I have a strong individual and musical connection with them. Putting the band together, it was a situation where intuition would be crucial. The times we have rehearsed, I immediately knew that we should just learn the structures and ideas, and not go too deep for rehearsal purposes.

TJG: It’s good to know how to rehearse to sound your best.

JR: Yeah, it took a little while to figure that out. The default is to think, “Oh, we gotta rehearse all the time to sound great.” That sentiment goes hand-in-hand with composing. I’ve learned a lot about how to compose for this group. After a few performances I realized I had to change some things. It’s about writing enough of a structure and themes to give the piece an identity, maybe multiple sections if it happens that way, but the group is so improvisation-based that if I over-write, it can get in the way.

TJG: If you were introducing your newest album to an uninformed listener, how would you say One follow your previous releases, Translucent Space and The Sage?

JR: First of all, for tenor players, the trio is one of the historically favorite formats over the last sixty years of recorded jazz. There have been a lot of awesome collaborations in this format. One of the first recordings I’d ever heard was Sonny Rollins Live at the Village Vanguard, which I think was actually the first live recording of a show from the Vanguard, sometime in the mid 50s. It has a couple different groups and sets, so it’s sort of a mishmash of different groups. But I think that’s the first live recording from the Vanguard. So, to an uninformed listener, the format stems from a long tradition of tenor trio albums. It differs from my earlier stuff because, on the previous two records, there was a lot of focus on composition and orchestration with the band. I feel like I’m a fairly different player now than I was on those recordings. This project is more about stretching out. I don’t feel like I allowed myself a huge amount of space on the first two records, and that’s the focus of this group. We’ve played together a bunch, I never know what’s going to happen. It’s really cool.

TJG: It’s kind of your playground then?

JR: [Laughs] Yeah, it kind of is! I trust them a lot, too. (more…)

Photo by Alex Chaloff.

This Friday, April 28th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome bassist Matt Brewer back to our stage. This past autumn, Brewer released his latest record on CrissCross, Unspoken, featuring a slate of erudite original compositions alongside choice covers of tunes by Bill Frisell and Charlie Parker. You can stream the album below.

At the Gallery, Brewer will convene a contrasting quartet featuring saxophonist Greg Osby, guitarist Lage Lund, and drummer Eric Harland. The group is sure to give Brewer’s compositions their own distinctive stamp, showcasing the many sides of Brewer’s own musical personality. (more…)

Clockwise, from top left: Chris Dingman, Bryan Copeland, Fabian Almazan, Joe Nero, an aardvark, and Jesse Lewis. Photos by Dominick Nero.

Whimsey, wonder, and despair go head-to-head on Bryan Copeland’s new album, Sounds From The Deep Field. Inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope’s photos of the impossibly endless depth of the universe, Copeland’s new album asks searching questions about our sense of self-importance on a personal and biological scale. The album is another in a flurry of releases from Biophilia Records, an environmentally-conscious effort headed by Fabian Almazan to raise awareness about our consumption on Earth.

At The Jazz Gallery this week, Bryan and The Aardvarks will take the stage to celebrate the release of “Sounds From The Deep Field.” The band will include Jesse Lewis (guitar), Chris Dingman (vibes), Fabian Almazan (piano/keys), Bryan Copeland (bass), Joe Nero (drums), plus special guest Dave Binney (alto saxophone). We caught up with Copeland over the phone to discuss the means and methods behind this extra-terrestrial new release.

The Jazz Gallery: In an interview with AXS, you said that after you discovered the Hubble Deep Field photos, you “had this insatiable desire to express this enormity in my music and I composed most of the album in about one month.” Has anything ever spoken to you like that before?

Bryan Copeland: It actually all coincided with buying Logic Pro X. I got so into the program that I’d sit there and compose for twelve, sixteen hours a day for a month, maybe two months. It was winter, two years ago, and I just sat there and wrote the tunes, one after another. We didn’t rehearse, really. I’d booked a studio to record another project, but I realized what I’d written was much more important to me. Everyone is so busy, but I pieced together the rehearsals, and the album came together. Some of these charts are like fifteen pages long, with big roadmaps. It was a bit scary having one day booked in the studio, there was a lot of pressure, a lot of open questions. But it was amazing. And The Clubhouse Studio in Rhinebeck is so great, so welcoming. It’s on a farm, with a converted barn for sleeping quarters.

TJG: In an interview with us from several years ago, you discussed how your composition process mostly happens on the computer, because it’s visual, and the musical elements become kind of modular.

BC: Yeah. Before Logic, I’d compose all my music at the piano, playing it myself. I’m fairly limited at what I can play on the piano, and I’m obsessed with being able to hear stuff back in real time. So I would spent hours learning to play these parts on the piano, just so I could hear them. It was hugely time consuming just to be able to hear the music I was creating. In Logic, you can record it, hear it, adjust things, move forward.

TJG: So what was so inspiring about the new Logic when writing the new album?

BC: It opened up a whole compositional world where I wasn’t limited by what I could play. Again, I could record bits and pieces, move them around, and I wouldn’t lose ideas. Playing by myself on the piano, I’d come up with something, try to revisit it, and forget where my fingers were supposed to go. In Logic, it’s there forever. So before, my compositions were more standard jazz forms, AABA, fairly simplistic. With Logic, it helps with arranging, opening up sections, finding new ways of charting the territory. My compositions have expanded.

TJG: You’ve mentioned that “When we stop and appreciate that we are such a tiny part of this unimaginably infinite universe, it becomes quite difficult to continue to imagine ourselves to be some all important center of it.” As a musical prompt, this feels beyond overwhelming.

BC: I was hit by seeing those gigantic trees I’ve discussed before: I started thinking about all the things humans do to justify doing ill will on their environment and each other, out of the belief that we’re the most important thing in the universe. The more you start to look at our place in the universe from an existential standpoint, you see that we’re such a tiny, imperceptible part of this gigantic, infinite thing. It’s hard. When we look at ourselves in this huge context, how important is what we think is important?


Photo courtesy of the artist.

Oliver Lake is a prolific composer, arranger, poet, and performer who, over a decades-long career, has played in innumerable configurations on countless stages. He co-founded the World Saxophone Quartet, and can often be found with Trio 3, consisting of Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille. As the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and the Melon Jazz Living Legacy award, Lake is constantly working on new music for any number of boundary-pushing ensembles.

Over two nights this weekend, The Oliver Lake Big Band will perform selections from their previous two albums, as well as new arrangements of Lake’s contemporary compositions. Incidentally, Lake will be releasing an album of music with string quartet on the same night. Over the phone, we discussed the power of the rhythm section in the big band, the joy of having a band full of tremendous improvisers, and the quicksilver nature of evolution.

TJG: The two-night performance at The Jazz Gallery features your big band: What’s on the setlist?

Oliver Lake: I have a couple of new pieces that I need to print out and arrange for the next rehearsal. One of them is called “France Dance.” It’s new for the big band, though I played it years ago with my quartet. The second piece is a re-arrangement of a ballad called “As You Like.” We’ve done it before, but I changed the arrangement. I’ll be conducting and doing some playing too. I’ll play on some of them.

TJG: In a Jazz Times profile in 2013, Mike Shanley reviewed your album Wheels and said “Big bands are hard to sustain but hopefully Lake’s vision will help this one to thrive. This is a unit that should keep evolving.” In what ways has the group evolved in the last five years?

OL: Well, it’s been kind of a two-way street. It’s evolved, but it’s stayed the same too. A lot of the guys in the band have been pretty consistent. When I get a gig I call the guys in the rhythm section first to see if they’re available. A couple of the horn players have stayed the same since the beginning. So there have been changes, and things have stayed the same. It’s been a positive evolution. I try to add new pieces every time too, so the guys don’t get bored being in the band [laughs]. For me, the improvisational abilities of the group is one of the strengths of the band. You can point to anyone in any section, and you’ll get a fantastic improviser.

TJG: That must give you a lot of options as an arranger, thinking about the sound of the piece and who might solo on it.

OL: Oh yes, absolutely. It’s not difficult to choose, anyone I choose to solo will deliver a strong performance. They’re all tremendous.

TJG: What do you bring to big band writing, specifically in the horns?

OL: Well, it’s difficult for me to put that in words. I’m trying to increase my skills as an arranger with the big band for every performance. As I said, I’ve rearranged a piece, the ballad, and improved it, I’m trying to improve. That holds for any ensemble: Quartet, big band, any group.


Album art courtesy of Sunnyside Records.

This Friday, April 21st, marks the release of The Wandering (Sunnyside), an elegant and varied duo recording from pianist Randy Ingram. As a followup to his acclaimed 2014 album Sky/LiftThe Wandering finds Ingram both honing and stretching his trademark lyricism alongside bassist Drew Gress. The pair first played together at the club Mezzrow, where their top-notch interplay was clear from the get-go, meaning an album was just about inevitable. The Wandering’s set list includes compositions from both Gress and Ingram (including tributes to British pianist John Taylor and former Boston Red Sox great David Ortiz), as well as standards from Cole Porter and Bill Evans.

This Wednesday, April 19th, Ingram and Gress will come to The Jazz Gallery to celebrate the release of The Wandering with two sets of music. Before coming, be sure to check out a couple of tracks from the record—the John Taylor-inspired title track and an up-tempo rendition of Evans’s “Show-Type Tune”—below.