A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Archive for

Michael Cain (middle) and members of Sola. Photo courtesy of the artist.

A true musical polymath, pianist Michael Cain has forged a unique path through the international jazz scene over the last three decades. Cain has worked closely with artists as diverse as Jack DeJohnette, Billy Higgins, Greg Osby, and Me’Shell Ndege’Ocello, and his own music draws from traditions from around the world. His current working band is called Sola, and finds Cain exploring various forms of hip hop and electronica. An old Gallery regular, Cain will bring Sola to our stage this Thursday, July 20th, for two sets. We caught up with Cain last week by phone; excerpts of the conversation are below.

The Jazz Gallery: What’s your history with The Jazz Gallery?

Michael Cain: I’ve played there many times, but it’s been a while. I used to play there all the time when it first opened. The Gallery was my spot—it was my favorite. I’ve been friends with Rio Sakairi since before the Gallery opened, so I’ve seen it go through its various evolutions.

TJG: Can you talk about your band Sola, which is coming to the Gallery?

MC: Sola is the name of my working band right now, and the name of my last album. It was a combination of different horns and keyboard sounds and electronics. It’s an ensemble that helps me get to the world that I like living in.

TJG: What is that world?

MC: I would say that it’s some sort of combination of jazz, and some hip hop in there, and EDM and electronica, and somewhere there’s rock & roll—a kind of hybrid music. I hear all of those elements most clearly in the music.

TJG: Who are some of the people in the hip hop world that you’ve been listening to recently?

MC: I’m really into Kendrick Lamar and I’ve been spending a lot of time with Jay-Z’s new album. Definitely a lot of Migos.

For me, I need to hear what’s happening in the community right now, what people are dancing to. These days, I feel like I live in different places. I teach at Brandon University in Canada, and I spend a lot of time nowadays in Las Vegas, which is my hometown. When I’m in Vegas—which is a great place for music—I’m going out clubbing every night I can. So I’m listening to whatever’s playing in the club, whatever remixes are coming through. I feel I have to get that side of the music.

In my music—I’m 51 years old, so I’m not trying to imitate that music. But I have to hear that music to get to the sounds that I want to play, for some reason. I’ll start there, and really get a sense of what people are dancing to in a big way.

TJG: Are you trying to directly connect to this popular culture with your music, or is it just something that you’re opening yourself up to as a potential influence?

MC: That’s a great question. I would answer that two ways. One, because I’ve been a teacher for so long, I’m always connected to young culture. I keep getting older every year, but the students don’t, so I always have to stay plugged into what they’re talking about. Teaching is an exchange for sure, so they’re learning from me and I’m learning from them. So that’s part of it, but my ear has always naturally flowed that way too. I’ve always been fascinated with the music that young people are making. I’ve always been interested in their perspective—the sounds, the ideas, the concepts, how they’re constructing their world.

More specifically, it’s the nature of dance. It’s what’s happening in the club. For me, the club is the ritual. That’s where a lot of the music is really alive. What’s interesting about clubbing in Vegas, though, is that it’s not a velvet rope thing, or an age thing. Everybody from all generations can be there. I feel that the club is where everything comes together—the people, the dance, the sound, the energy. Because I study this music so much, when I go to write my own music, I can really feel how those sounds and sensibilities can play out in what I’m doing.


Design by The Jazz Gallery.

The saxophonist Ravi Coltrane has carved out a long, probing career that proudly stands apart from those of his parents, Alice and John. But there’s no denying their outsize influence on his life and musicianship. John died in 1967, when Ravi was not yet two years old, leaving Alice to raise him.

“I would say first and foremost she played music in the house every day,” he told NPR. “And I’d come home from school and she’d be at the piano or the organ you know playing these quiet sort of hymns.”
Ravi honored his mother in concert earlier this year, and on Tuesday, July 18th and Wednesday, July 19th at The Jazz Gallery, Ravi will pay tribute once again in “Universal Consciousness: Melodic Meditations Of Alice Coltrane.” The shows are named after Alice’s revered 1971 album “Universal Consciousness,” which features her swirling harp and organ solos over modal grooves from Jack DeJohnette, Jimmy Garrison and others. For these shows, he’s enlisted a top notch team of players to conjure new possibilities from Alice’s music, including Brandee Younger on harp and David Virelles on organ, as well as swirling percussive sounds from the likes of Johnathan Blake, Marcus Gilmore, Eric McPherson, and Roman Diaz. It’s sure to be a mystical and highly personal affair. Before coming to the Gallery to hear these melodic meditations, check out Coltrane and his home-base quartet playing the famed NPR Tiny Desk.


Design courtesy of the artist.

This weekend, July 14th and 15th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Aaron Parks back to our stage. 2017 has been a busy year for Parks—not only has he toured extensively with oud star Dhafer Youssef, but also in support of his new ECM record, Find The Way. The record finds Parks exploring new outlets for his trademark harmonic sense alongside bassist Ben Street and legendary drummer Billy Hart. Check out the effortless grace of Parks’s original tune “Melquíades” in the video below.

Never a musician to stay in one place for very long, Parks is already looking ahead to the next project. At the Gallery this weekend, Parks will convene a group featuring collaborators both old and new—saxophonist Maria Grand, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, bassist Matt Penman, and drummer Anwar Marshall. The group has a keen balance of fire and lyricism, which will surely yield memorable results. (more…)

40Twenty (2012, Yeah Yeah Records)

“…those ‘forty-twenty’ sets the club owners wanted everybody to play. They wanted you to begin your set twenty minutes after the hour and play until the end of the hour and then come back twenty minutes later and play another set”

Miles Davis

Writing about 40Twenty for The New York Times back in the summer of 2010, Ben Ratliff described the band, a Brooklyn-based collective featuring trombonist Jacob Garchik, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist Dave Ambrosio, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, as reminiscent of the mood of ’60s Paul Bley albums with their “dry, controlled radicalism; a smeary version of chamber jazz.” In advance of their sets at The Jazz Gallery this Wednesday, July 12, 2017, we caught up with the band’s pianist to discuss in greater detail the origins of the ensemble; the past, present, and future of the long-form gig; and how repeat performances enable musicians and listeners alike to move beyond the surface of the music and understand the core values of a band.

The Jazz Gallery: Everybody in the band has known each other for years, but how did this particular ensemble form?

Jacob Sacks: The concept of that band was to try to do a long-form gig, basically. Vinnie Sperrazza and I had talked about this idea: how Monk would play six months at the Five Spot. At that time, we were talking about we felt like we’d missed something, not getting to do something like that, and I’d gotten to play with Paul [Motian] at the Vanguard for a week—five different weeks, actually—and each of those weeks was really instructive.

When you get to do more than one gig in a row, you get deeper into the music, and when Brian Drye gave us two weeks at IBeam, we got it together, more or less.

TJG: There’s that great Miles Davis quote you reference in the 2012 album’s liner notes.

JS: Yeah, but he hated that, though. He eventually got it so he wouldn’t do all those sets they want you to do, because those cats would often play from 9 to 4, six or seven sets, whatever it was, if you can imagine.

TJG: The name of the band’s sort of ironic, then?

JS: Yeah. When we play, we usually try to perform 40 minutes sets and take 20 off. We won’t do that at The Jazz Gallery where the format is two longer sets, but we often set up the gigs like that.

TJG: So even though Miles wasn’t into it, you still tried it out?

JS: Well, it wasn’t so much the convention of 40/20 that was the thing—it was more the convention of playing a bunch of nights in a row. It was to try to experience what our heroes in the music often did (obviously on a much smaller scale). They would do six months, maybe five to seven hours a night; we did two weeks, two sets a night.

When I was a kid though—I grew up in southeastern lower Michigan, northwestern Ohio area—Rusty’s Jazz Cafe was 9 to 2, so you’d play four sets at least at that place. That was my training as a kid, and you might play Friday to Saturday, two nights of five set gigs in a row. Even some places up in Ann Arbor, like I used to play at this place called the Bird of Paradise: That was 9 to 1, and that was 3 sets at least, if I remember correctly; and so that was my upbringing—having to play 25 to 35 solos a night.

You do a lot of tunes, but I realized when I moved to New York that, back in the Midwest on those gigs you could play 35 tunes over the course of a gig, but you might not need to know how to play them 100 different ways. You might know one way of playing on each tune, and the tune itself might change—the variables:  different tempo, different feel, whatever it was—but here in New York, I always felt like, “Oh, you need to know 500 tunes and 500 ways of playing each of those 500 tunes,” which is good, actually. So that’s the one great thing about New York, is that so many different people are here. You just get a sense there are a lot of different ways to play the same old thing, whereas there, there were a number of great musicians, but not the numbers here, where there’s probably 1000 great jazz piano players in New York alone. That’s 1000 great ways to play right there.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

To kick off our summer season this week, The Jazz Gallery is proud to welcome Australian drummer Simon Barker to our stage for two nights of special events. Based in Sydney, Barker is one of Australia’s most prolific drummers, playing with internationally-renowned groups led by trumpeters Phil Slater and Scott Tinkler, as well as leading several of his own bands. Barker is a true musical omnivore, comfortable in almost any idiom—as critic John Shand of the Sydney Morning Herald puts it, “Barker has few peers worldwide for flexibility, resourcefulness, imagination, and a complete absence of rhythmic cliches.”

One of Barker’s chief musical interests, however, are the rhythms of Korean traditional music. At 6 P.M. on Monday, July 10th, Barker will lead a workshop at The Jazz Gallery on Korean rhythms and applying them within a jazz-improvisational setting. To hear Barker talk more about his experiences with Korean music, check out the video below.