A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of All About Jazz

This Sunday, The Jazz Gallery hosts a performance by drummer Antonio Sanchez and his band, Migration. Antonio is one of the most in demand drummers in jazz, appearing with the likes of Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Kenny Werner, and many others.

We asked Antonio about the band he’ll be performing with on Sunday, the music they will be presenting, and the recording they plan to make immediately following the performance. Antonio speaks:

The band that will be featured on your January 29th performance includes Dave Binney (alto), Donny McCaslin (tenor), John Escreet (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Thana Alexa (voice). Tell us about how you went about selecting the personnel.

I’ve been a fan of Dave Binney’s music for a while. Both as a player and as a composer, Dave has a very unique voice, and I’m happy he’s available and willing to play in my band.

I’ve played with Donny McCaslin for quite a few years now in a bunch of different settings. I’ve played in his bands a lot over the years and recorded three of his albums. He’s played in my band on and off as well, and we’ve always had an amazing rapport. Another great aspect of this band is that Donny and Dave have played together quite a bit as well, so that will show in the overall chemistry of the group.

John Escreet was recommended to me by Dave. He’s an amazing musician that can play anything on the piano and he’s very daring onstage,so he can take the music to places that you don’t necessarily expect.

Matt has a great sound and he’s very reliable, consistent, and supportive. He can play any style and has great instincts,so it’s very easy to build stuff with him musically.

Dave, John and Matt were part of my band during a five-week European tour back in November, and the project evolved beautifully over twenty-two gigs, so I’m confident this recording is going to be great.

Thana Alexa is a great new talent that I’m sure will make her mark on the scene in the very near future. She has a beautiful voice and is a great composer and bandleader on her own right, so I like the fact that she’s a musician first and a vocalist second. I usually don’t use voice in my band, but I wrote this one tune where I kept hearing her voice used as a musical instrument (no lyrics), so I’m glad she’s doing it.

You mentioned that this band will be going into the studio to record your third album as a leader on the day following the performance. Can you tell us a little bit about the music that you’ll be performing/recording? How does it compare/contrast with the music on Migration and Live in New York?

Yes, we’ll be going into the studio right after this gig. The experience at The Gallery will help tremendously to see what to do in the studio and what not to do. Playing the music in front of people is a completely different ballgame,and it makes the repertoire mature way faster than if you just rehearse and go straight into the studio.

I’m really excited about this record because I feel it’s a breakthrough in my career as a composer. When I recorded Migration, I felt very shy as a writer, and the tunes were short and basically vehicles for improvisation. Live in New York was also mainly about group interplay. I wanted to see how far we could stretch some of the tunes previously recorded on Migration in a live setting and I was very happy with the results.
This new album will definitely place the emphasis on the writing. I feel a lot more comfortable with my compositional skills, and I’ve learned tons from playing amazing original music with all of the incredible musicians I’ve been lucky to play with for the last 20 years of my life. I’ve absorbed as much as possible from all the situations I’ve been in, and hopefully it will come out in my writing as my own voice.

The name of this album will be New Life because I really feel like I’m beginning a completely new stage of my career as a composer. I’m extremely excited to showcase all this new music at The Jazz Gallery, which is the perfect venue for this occasion.