A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts by Andrew Katzenstein

Photo via

Photo via

Gilad Hekselman has been praised as one of the best young guitarists in New York City. In 2013, he was named an international rising star in DownBeat, so in the spirit of cosmopolitanism, here are some reviews from far-flung publications: “This 30 year old Israeli has no competition amongst the guitarist of his generation” (Die Zeit [Germany]); “…one of the best guitarists of a new generation of talented musicians” (Jazzmag [France]); “…one of the most promising guitarists on the New York jazz scene” (The Times of Malta); “a terrific guitarist and, more importantly, an amazing musician” (Haaretz [Israel]).

Hekselman’s 2011 release Hearts Wide Open was named one of the top 10 albums of the year by New York Times critic Nate Chinen. Reviewing that album in the same newspaper, Ben Ratliff wrote that Hekselman is “on a good road, and he’s still moving.” In 2013 he released This Just In, a mostly trio record that was loosely structured on a news broadcast, to positive reviews.

Although Hekselman possesses astounding technique, what stands out in his playing is restraint. He has a sensitive touch with a penchant for dramatic sweeps of phrase, and his style is particularly suited to his lyrical compositions, which are suffused with clear and strong mood. Equally adept at playing lines, setting up riffs, shredding, and creating rubato melodies that float over the rhythm section, he’s a guitarist with something to offer to different types of listeners. Speaking to Doug Fischer of the Ottawa Citizen, Hekselman said, “I am always looking for a balance between complexity and emotion, something that can connect me to an audience and also keep them interested. It’s not about being flashy.” (more…)

The Alan Ferber Big Band recording "March Sublime" at Systems II // via

The Alan Ferber Big Band recording “March Sublime” at Systems II // via

Will the Alan Ferber Big Band become a Gallery Thanksgiving tradition? We hope so.

Last year at The Jazz Gallery, over the weekend after Thanksgiving , trombonist and composer Ferber played music from his 2013 big band release, March Sublime. Ferber is a frequent presence in DownBeat polls who has played with a varied roster of musicians including Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Charlie Hunter, John Hollenbeck, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Sufjan Stevens, The National, and Dr. Dre, and who has led his own Nonet for over a decade. A short while after he played the Gallery, he picked up a Grammy nomination for March Sublime, his first large ensemble recording. You can hear him talk about the Grammies and learn what his favorite coffee place in New York is on the Wing Walker podcast.

Check out our interview from last year with Ferber in which he talks about March Sublime, as well as these videos of his big band from a few years back. This is a band with a lineup that’s sure to knock the stuffing out of you.

The Alan Ferber Big Band performs this Friday and Saturday, November 28th and 29th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The band features Taylor Haskins, Scott Wendholt, Alex Norris, and Clay Jenkins on trumpets; Alan Ferber, Tim Albright, Josh Roseman, and Jennifer Wharton on trombones; John O’Gallagher, Rob Wilkerson, and Jason Rigby on saxophones; Anthony Wilson on guitar, David Cook on piano, Matt Pavolka on bass, and, last, but not least, Mark Ferber  on drums. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., $22 general admission ($12 for Members). Purchase tickets here.

Photo by Emra Islek

Photo by Emra Islek

Drummer Johnathan Blake plays with urgency and grace, a controlled and purposeful abandon that endears him to hardcore jazz fans and novices alike as well as a diverse roster of fellow musicians. He’s played and recorded with Tom Harrell, Oliver Lake, Kenny Barron, Ravi Coltrane, and the Mingus Big Band, among others. Blake didn’t release his first album, The Eleventh Hour (Sunnyside Records), until his mid-thirties, and by this time he had fused his experience as a sideman and his broad tastes into a unique, coherent vision as a composer and bandleader. NPR called him the “ultimate modernist,” perhaps for his ability to combine jazz improvisation with anthemic compositions and the kind of textures—harmonicas, Fender Rhodes, studio distortion—one would expect from an R&B album.

His second album, Gone, But Not Forgotten (Criss Cross), was released earlier this year. With a quartet featuring bassist Ben Street and tenor heavyweights Chris Potter and Mark Turner, it seemed like an attempt for Blake to get back to basics. This may seem a bit odd for a performer who had previously released only one album, but Gone showcases Blake’s formidable straight-ahead chops. Only two of Blake’s compositions are on the album, but the credits attest to his knowledge of jazz history and deep respect for its practitioners: compositions by Blake’s fellow Philadelphians Charles Fambrough, Trudy Pitts, and Sid Simmons are joined by the work of Jim Hall, Cedar Walton, Mulgrew Miller, Eddie Harris, Paul Motian, Frank Foster, and Frank Wess. The group performed on our stage in last September and, as Ethan Iverson wrote, speaking for us all, “Who doesn’t want to hear Mark Turner and Chris Potter try to cut each other in a bare bones situation?”    

Blake brings a new quintet, called BLESS, to The Jazz Gallery this Friday and Saturday, November 14th and 15th, 2014. Keeping the two-tenor frontline of Gone, Blake will be joined by saxophonists Dayna Stephens and John Ellis as well as Lage Lund on guitar and Ben Street on bass. The performances are sure to be electric; Blake isn’t capable of anything less.

Johnathan Blake’s BLESS performs this Friday and Saturday, November 14th and 15th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. The performances will feature Blake on drums, John Ellis and Dayna Stephens on saxophone, Lage Lund on guitar, and Ben Street on bass. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m., $22 general admission ($12 for Members). Purchase tickets here.

Photo by Miguel Mengal, via

Photo by Miguel Mengal, via

Saxophonist Alex LoRe received high praise for his debut album, Dream House (Inner Circle Music), which was released in April of this year. All About Jazz wrote, “Dream House is full of tasteful, intelligent music that’s also warm and swinging. The album has moments of pure beauty, belying a depth of experience and thoughtfulness.” Ben Ratliff of The New York Times noted, “LoRe is making the connections among about 70 years’ worth of contemplative, articulate and light-toned players, people who can find the emotional node of a ballad where modesty turns nearly to shame, and also locate a single, fine, well-placed note through abstraction or understatement.”

On the album, LoRe displays a measured and mature attention to melody. His technique, which is considerable, always services a greater melodic arc. There are few grand gestures and virtually no superfluous “runs”—rare for any jazz musician, especially remarkable for one so young. Dream House presents a consistent aesthetic, similar to the work of Jimmy Giuffre and Paul Motian’s tamer bands (and like those artists, LoRe knows how to get a variety of sounds and textures out of a trio.) Yes, it’s dreamy, but at the same time it’s earthy, reminding us of the mysteries of common objects. LoRe knows where his dream house is, and we’re excited to see what he does with the place.

LoRe is playing at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, October 30th, 2014, with his quartet, featuring Dan Tepfer on piano, Martin Nevin on bass, and Colin Stranahan on bass. We got a chance to talk to LoRe last week about his music, his influences, and his mentors.

The Jazz Gallery: You studied with George Garzone and he plays with you on “Amnesia,” the first track of your album. This is unusual in a way because, for many jazz musicians, a début album is a chance to establish an identity independent of their teachers and the conservatories.

Alex LoRe: George and I have a very close relationship. He took me under his wing at NEC [The New England Conservatory of Music] when I was studying with him. He has this kind of relationship with a lot of his students. His family’s from southern Italy and my father’s from Sicily, so there are a lot of similarities between the two. I think that’s part of the reason we bonded so well. I studied with him at Manhattan School of Music as well, during my first year there for graduate studies. We’ve just had this relationship and we’ve played a lot.

That song on the record, I felt it was a good song to open with and I didn’t feel like I had anything to hide. Actually, it was really funny. The first song is a contrafact [on “I Remember You”]. I don’t think George realized that until the recording date. I gave him the charts to practice and he was heckling me for making him practice these lines. So then we’re in the studio and we’re about to record a take and I was like, “George, you want to blow over this?” He said, “No, no, no, you got it.” And I said, “George, it’s just ‘I Remember You.’” He’s like, “Seriously?”

TJG: He quotes it on the record.

AL: Yeah. The look he gave me when I told him that: it’s like, finally the light bulb went off.



Photo by Michael Weintrob

Last year, clarinetist Mike McGinnis released Road*Trip, an album that featured two suites: “Concerto for Clarinet & Combo” by Bill Smith, and McGinnis’s own “Road*Trip for Clarinet and 9 Players.” The album has garnered many accolades, receiving a 4 1/2-star rating from Downbeat and landing on the Village Voice’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2013.  We spoke to McGinnis last year just after the album was released; you can check out our interview here.

If you’ve never heard of Bill Smith, take a look at McGinnis’s blog, where he has written a short biography of Smith and a listening guide to Smith’s music. And if you haven’t heard Road*Trip yet, here are videos of “Concerto for Clarinet & Combo,” recorded live in-studio on WNYC’s Spinning on Air with David Garland: