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Photo by Herbert Ejzenberg.

This Monday, August 21st, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Shai Maestro to our stage for two sets of solo piano. Best known for exquisite work with his trio, like on last year’s record The Stone Skipper (Sound Surveyor), and as vocal accompanist (with Theo Bleckmann among others), this solo show marks the beginning of a new avenue of exploration for Maestro. We caught up with Maestro by phone after a busy summer of touring—he had just arrived in Israel after a long summer tour through Europe. We talked about the continuing evolution of the music from The Stone Skipper, and his mental and emotional approach to playing solo; excerpts of our conversation are below.

The Jazz Gallery: When did you arrive in Israel?

Shai Maestro: I arrived yesterday, I came from Belgium.

TJG: You’ve been touring since the end of June and through all of July—how has that been? You’ve been with the trio mostly?

SM: Yeah, mostly with the trio. My career these days is divided into trio, solo, and side bands and projects. So this was mainly trio, I did two gigs with the Mark Guiliana quartet, and now I’m here in Israel to play three solo shows, I have one solo show in France in a week, and then we are going to Kazakhstan and Japan—we have a bunch of stuff going on.

TJG: How has it been performing with the trio now that you last album, The Stone Skipper, has been out for a while. Do you feel like the music has evolved a lot?

SM: Oh yeah, definitely. I actually had a conversation about that recently, someone asked me if when I listen back to The Stone Skipper I feel regret, because the music has evolved so much, and if I wish the music had been different on the album, and my answer is no, because I feel like with The Stone Skipper, we managed to capture something that is honest, at least for me, and that was a representation of this moment in time. And sure, as soon as I understand that music is basically an extension of life, then the change is inevitable. We change as people, and so everything is felt in the music. So the music has developed a lot, but I see it as a beautiful thing, not as a regret.

TJG: How do you typically adapt your music from playing in the trio setting to when you’re playing in the solo piano setting?

SM: The first thing I try to do is embrace the new sonority. To embrace the fact that it’s only me and to embrace the fact that the sonic information onstage is less than half. You feel very naked all of a sudden. The idea is to not expect anything, and to have a constant dialogue with silence, first of all, and then come out from that. So each note feels like it’s full instead of feeling like I’m missing something, like I’m missing the trio. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is interaction—I have to be the ventriloquist and the dummy; I have to be the one activating and the one activated. And it’s kind of a schizophrenic reality to live in. when I’m playing trio or with other people, I’m still executing my own thoughts, but when it’s solo, I’m the only one responsible for it. It’s a really beautiful freedom, but it’s also a great challenge. And that’s something that I have to be very conscious of what does A-minor do to you as a performer, instead of playing for your bass player or playing for your drummer.

The third thing is the left hand challenge, which is something I think that all piano players neglect—the majority of piano players neglect the left hand because this register is taken by the bass player or by the drummer usually, so you can kind of hide and play things that are almost there, but not quite there. And when you’re playing solo you’re very exposed so you have to take care of it, so this has been a great gift to me to be able to work on that.


Since moving to New York over three decades ago, guitarist David Gilmore has traversed a huge range of the city’s music scenes. He’s been active member of M-Base and the plugged-in collective Lost Tribe. He’s been a sideman with the likes of Wayne Shorter and Ronald Shannon Jackson. And he’s been an in-demand session musician, recording with Elton John, Cassandra Wilson, and Joss Stone, among others. This Friday at the Gallery, Gilmore will present music from his most recent solo record Transitions (CrissCross) with the original quintet. The record features a few Gilmore originals, as well as several tributes to recently-deceased jazz legends. We caught up with Gilmore to talk about his band, influences, and musical direction; excerpts from that conversation are below.

The Jazz Gallery: You’re  performing with your quintet. How did you guys form?

David Gilmore: This quintet came about as a result of a record I did last September for Criss Cross records. They approached me to record something, and I had not had this thing in mind until approached by them. I thought of having a tribute to some recently deceased jazz ambassadors, like Toots Thieleman, we do a version of “Bluesette” by him; also Victor Bailey, a bass player who recently passed away—we did one of his songs. Bobby Hutcherson also passed away last year, so we played two of his songs, and Paul Bley, not a song of his but one he recorded by Annette Peacock, a tune that sort of encapsulates what he was all about in my opinion. I then wrote two originals, and we did another by Hermeto Pascoal, a tune called “Nem Un Talvez.” It’s sort of a mixture, but it’s mostly paying homage to a few of the recently deceased jazz greats, and so together these jazz guys I’ve worked with in various situations—like Mark Shim and Carlo DeRosa and E.J. Strickland—I thought it be good to take this direction. Victor Gould is a pianist I’ve known since he was a student at Berkeley, and he’s played my music before. So that’s how it came about. I called them up, and fortunately they were available and we knocked it out in the studio.

TJG: For the show on Friday will you be playing tunes from the record?

DG: It’s the original cast of characters from the CD, minus the guest artists, so the core quintet playing, and we’re going to play most of the tunes from the CD.

TJG: What do you see as the challenges and highlights of the ensemble?

DG: The highlights are the level of artistry that each musician brings. We’ve only done a handful of gigs since the record was recorded, so it’s different every time, and it’s just a level of artistry and chemistry that I think is great amongst these guys. What’s also great is the fact that we can actually get along—there are bands that don’t get along, but I always like working with people that I have a good time with, there’s that factor.

As far as the challenges, I could say on a personal level I find some of the music challenging. One tune of mine, “End of Daze,” is one that’s always a challenge to play, and some of the Bobby Hutcherson blues are not the repertoire I’m known for playing. To me this is more of a—dare I use the word—straight ahead kind of a vibe, which you’ll find on a lot of Criss Cross releases. My thought was to sort of bring in a concept in tune with the label and what it generally does and represents. For me that’s sort of stepping outside the box stylistically; it’s more straight ahead—I hate that word—but you know what I’m saying? There’s some out there stuff in there, but there’s some 4/4 straight-ahead swing. For me that’s actually a challenge to get inside that box, more traditional yet kind of still retain a modern edge to it. I’m not being ultra traditional—that’s not what I’m after in my music—but it is a tribute to older jazz. It is one foot in that world and one foot in the modern world, trying to bring a fresh interpretation.


Photo by William Brown, courtesy of the artist

This Thursday, August 17th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome bassist Ricky Rodríguez back to our stage. A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Rodríguez came to New York at age twenty and has since made a name for himself playing alongside fellow Puerto Ricans like David Sánchez and Miguel Zenon, as well as the likes of Ray Barretto and Joe Locke, among others. Last year, Rodríguez released Looking Beyond (Destiny Records), a record of sprightly original compositions played by a top-flight quintet featuring the likes of Luis Perdomo and Obed Calvaire.

This Thursday at the Gallery, Rodríguez will reconvene the quintet to perform favorite tunes from the album, as well as a slate of new compositions. Before coming to the Gallery on Thursday, check out Looking Beyond, below.


Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Tuesday, August 15th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome harmonica player Grégoire Maret to our stage. Called “the new champ” of harmonica by critic Ted Gioia in The Daily Beast, Maret has shared the stage with a huge range of musical luminaries, from Sting to Pat Metheny to Steve Coleman. In 2016, Maret released his record Wanted on Sunnyside, assembling an all-star cast of players to showcase both his astonishing facility and multifaceted aesthetic. Check out a preview of the album below, including guest appearances from the rapper Koyaki and singer Diane Reeves.
At the Gallery this Tuesday, Maret will convene his band Innervoice, featuring a richly-textured, multi-keyboard rhythm section. To get a sense of the sparks of interplay that can fly with Maret on the bandstand, check out their performance at the 2016 Lotos Jazz Festival, below.

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, August 11th, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Manuel Valera and his trio to our stage. Throughout his career, Valera has been an expert at blending high concept and visceral groove. His recent projects have included a sprawling song cycle based on the writings of José Martí (premiered at the Gallery in 2014) and a suite inspired by Antonio Vivaldi’s famous concerto grosso, The Four Seasons, released on record this past spring.

This Friday at the Gallery, Valera will present another classically-inspired project called “The Planets,” inspired by the Gustav Holst composition of the same name. Like Valera’s José Martí project, “The Planets” was the winner of a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant. To get a taste of what Valera has in store, check out the trio—featuring Hans Glawishnig on bass and E.J. Strickland on drums—running through some of the music.