A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Dayna Stephens back to our stage for two sets. Despite the challenges of the past 18 months, Stephens has managed to release three new albums on his new imprint, showcasing different sides of his musical personality. Liberty, released just pre-pandemic, features Stephens in a 3-way rhythmic boxing match with bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric Harland, recorded in the famed Rudy Van Gelder studio.
Right Now! was recorded live during Stephens’ debut run at the Village Vanguard in 2019. Many of the tracks come from the evening where Stephens’ family flew in from the west coast as a surprise.
Stephens’ latest release Pluto Juice! from this past July has a cosmic flavor, featuring Stephens’ work on EWI and compositions inspired by NASA spacecraft and the astronomer Carl Sagan.
For his performance at the Gallery, Stephens will be joined by pianist Gabriel Chakarji, bassist Rick Rosato, and drummer Kweku Sumbry. With these flexible sidemen, anything from the Stephens songbook is fair game. (more…)

Joel Ross

Photo by Lauren Desberg, courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, October 1, vibraphonist Joel Ross returns to The Jazz Gallery to present his project Praise In The Midst Of The Storm. Commissioned by the Jazz Coalition during the height of the pandemic, Ross premiered this work virtually in July 2020 as part of Rise Up Brooklyn!

In a conversation with Jazz Speaks last summer, Ross talked about the project’s source material:

The stipulation for the Jazz Coalition is anything related to the pandemic, any feelings I might be experiencing about it, any type of music that might be getting me through. For me, it’s been all about keeping hope. I’m calling it Praise In The Midst Of The Storm. A lot of the music has this old gospel-type vibe, a sound I grew up with, so I’m working with that.

With trumpeter Marquis Hill as the lone holdover from the premiere’s ensemble, this deeply-felt music is sure to take on a new patina. (more…)

From L to R: Dave Liebman, Adam Rudolph, Tyshawn Sorey. Photos courtesy of the artists.

This week, acclaimed improvisers Dave Liebman, Adam Rudolph, and Tyshawn Sorey come to The Jazz Gallery, performing together as a trio for the first time. Rudolph is the connecting tissue in the ensemble, having invited both Liebman and Sorey to play with him at different residencies at The Stone in recent years. After playing there together in 2016, Liebman and Rudolph recorded The Unknowable (Rare Noise) with percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani.
Later, during Rudolph’s 2018 Stone residency, he and Liebman joined forces with percussionist Hamid Drake, yielding the live album Chi (Rare Noise).
In 2019, Rudolph and Sorey presented 2 nights of scintillating duo performances.

With this long track record of collaboration, the trio of Liebman, Rudolph, and Sorey will yield sounds both fresh and lived-in. (more…)

Photo courtesy of the artist.

In July 2020, pianist Fabian Almazan and bassist Linda May Han Oh relocated from their Harlem apartment to Perth, Australia to be close to Oh’s family. Now with their first child in tow, Oh and Almazan have just returned to the United States. After playing a duo show in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, Almazan will return to The Jazz Gallery stage on Saturday, September 25 with a quintet of long-time collaborators.

In addition to the personal milestones of this past year, Almazan has continued to deepen his own musical practice as well. He put together a hybrid online performance with his Perth-based group and members of the Detroit Symphony in November 2020, as well as a scintillating solo piano set, featuring extensive live electronic processing, which you can check out below.

Alongside saxophonist Dayna Stephens, guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer Henry Cole, Saturday’s performance is sure to be a musical reunion worth the wait. (more…)

This week, violinist Sana Nagano comes to The Jazz Gallery with her band Smashing Humans, belatedly celebrating the release of their eponymous debut album.
Before the show, we at Jazz Speaks caught up with Nagano to talk about the band’s formation, her work with Karl Berger, and her emotional growth during this time of pandemic.

The Jazz Gallery: How are you?

Sara Nagano: I’m good, I’m doing well. Have been just busy. It’s been a crazy year and a half. Just learning to manage, settling down. I moved many times during COVID, during the whole year and a half, and I finally got my own apartment and am relaxing into it.

TJG: Smashing Humans, where did the name come from?

SN: The name of the band, well I named it a while ago, two, three years ago, and it means kind of like, smashing or slashing the thinking mind. I think that’s a little more accurate, I used to say ego, but that’s a little bit ambiguous. I think it’s a bit of a joke, but smashing or dealing with the thinking mind, everyday life, problems or limitations that we feel like we have. Basically it means—smashing is a little bit of an aggressive word—dealing with our thinking mind as humans, people.

TJG: And how did you and the rest of the band get connected?

SN: The guitarist Keisuke Matsuno and I have been good friends for a long time in New York City, probably about ten years. We met each other in some jazz jam session in Manhattan. There’s a place called Cleopatra’s Needle—I don’t know if it’s still there—but they used to have sessions every week, and I used to go there a lot to just kind of meet people and practice, to improvise over stuff like jazz standards. Keisuke was hosting one of the sessions, I think he was covering for someone, that’s when we met each other the first time. We had opportunities to meet up and hang out in those session situations and we became very good friends. And so I asked him to join the band.

Joe Hertenstein—the drummer on the album—I met him at the Creative Music Studio. Karl Berger is a mentor of mine, and in New York City he’s like a free jazz and jazz master.  He’s also a good friend and I play in his Improviser Orchestra. I have been playing in his group for seven years or so, and that’s where I met Joe, and also we played together in Adam Rudolph’s Organic Orchestra. We also played in Harvey Valdes’ trio, another amazing guitarist and composer.

Ken Filiano and Peter Apfelbaum are also part of my New York City music family. They’re not like teachers, or mentors—they’re very friendly and down to earth—but I really look up to them as musicians and artists. I met them again in Karl Berger’s Creative Music Orchestra.

Danny Shir is our new drummer, since Joe is in Berlin. During the pandemic, it’s good to have a few different people in different places who can share this music together when we perform. Dan played in my other project, Atomic Pigeons, before the pandemic, and he’s just an amazing player. He also has his band, Horse Torso. It’s more rock music, really cool rhythmic elements, math rock. I’m a fan of his band, and I got to know him seeing his music and performances in Brooklyn. I just emailed him to see if he could play in Atomic Pigeons and he was like, “Yeah, of course!” And it was just amazing to work with him before the pandemic. This time, I feel really lucky to have Danny, because Joe is away and I was like, “Oh my god, who can play in this group?” Because I still wanted to play. And Danny just happens to be moving back to New York City, right on time, so I was like okay, let’s play!

We did a zoom rehearsal, a few months ago, before we knew about this Jazz Gallery gig, but I was like okay, we’re playing somewhere, let’s get ready! And he said, okay, I’ll be ready and he was really ready for our rehearsal a few weeks ago, he just killed it, so I’m really excited to have him and to play in this band together.