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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts by Rafiq

Photo via Chad Lefkowitz-Brown

Photo via Chad Lefkowitz-Brown

“I must have been the last musician in New York City that didn’t know about Chad [Lefkowitz-Brown],” exclaims the veteran bassist Ron McClure. “When I mention his name, everyone seems to know him and how seriously good he is.” The saxophonist Donny McCaslin concurs: “Chad is an exceptionally talented musician. His contribution to the jazz world will be a pleasure to watch in the coming years.”

Chad grew up in Horseheads, NY. After assuring his parents that he would grow up to “play the microphone” as a toddler (“I really loved singing,” he recalls), Chad took up the saxophone at age nine. His father was a music teacher, and exposed the budding musician to improvisatory approaches, as well as the music of Charlie Parker. The combination was enough to grab Chad’s interest; within two years, he was performing locally and already beginning to receive wider recognition. At the end of high school, the saxophonist was invited to join the Brubeck Institute Fellowship Program, where he spent his college years touring internationally with the institute’s quintet.

Soon after graduating, Chad made the move to New York City, and quickly became in-demand as a sideperson; you can hear him on recent recordings from Ron McClureClarence Penn, and Arturo O’Farrill. He also serves as the musical director and saxophonist for 2010 America’s Got Talent finalist Alice Tan Ridley. Chad recently finished his own debut recording, Imagery Manifesto, which features the trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, the guitarist Travis Reuter, the pianist Sam Harris, the bassist Linda Oh, and the drummer Kenneth SaltersManifesto is currently slated for a spring release.

This Thursday, we present Chad and the Imagery Manifesto band as a part of our debut series. Watch a clip of the band performing Chad’s composition, “Still Here.”

Photo via Marsalis Music

Photo via Marsalis Music

Newsday proclaims that Claudia Acuña sings with “the voice of an angel.” The New York Times praises her “strength and grace,” and the LA Times marvels, “she has mastered the essential elements of jazz with startling effectiveness.” Great artists share the sentiment of the press: Claudia has toured and/or recorded with the likes of George BensonBilly ChildsRoy HargroveTom HarrellChristian McBrideDanilo Perez and more.

A native of Santiago, Chile, Claudia was raised in Concepción. Though surrounded by the arts in her community from a young age, Claudia found that her parents did not share her enthusiasm. Nonetheless, she decided at a young age that she wanted to further her abilities, eventually making a career in music, and friends and faculty members who heard her recognized her talents from an early age. Yet finding ways to develop her skills proved to be a balancing act:

“I was the only member of a college choir who did not attend the college, for instance, and my parents approved of that because it was at a college. When I became older, and chances to perform with rock or jazz groups arose, I’d start lying about going to a friend’s house. I would also sneak into the conservatory on the way home from high school and try to memorize the lessons. I would sing anything, and after people heard me sitting in and began to hire me, the money I made became the excuse to get work. “

Claudia eventually moved back to her birthplace, continuing to pursue her art while making a living recording jingles and voice-overs for cartoons. Yet she didn’t forget about her dreams, and after meeting a few supportive musicians from New York, decided to move there four years after she arrived in Santiago. While she originally planned to attend one of the local universities, the costs were prohibitive. However, she soon found herself learning quickly on the bandstand from several of the best young musicians on the scene at the time, including, among others, Jeff BallardAvishai Cohen (the bassist), Guillermo KleinBrad Mehldau, and Jason Lindner. These experiences solidified Claudia’s foundation, and provided her with a set of like-minded peers: “It was like a little music gang. I knew then that I had made the right decision, and had arrived at the right place. I wasn’t in school, but every note I heard was a lesson.”

The vocalist signed with Verve for her first two albums, Wind from the South and Rhythm of Life, the MaxJazz imprint followed with Luna, and, most recently, Marsalis Music released En Este Momento. In addition to her musical commitments, Claudia was also recently appointed as a spokesperson for World Vision Chile, an organization which helps fight poverty through child sponsorship.

Claudia is a Jazz Gallery veteran; she has performed here over twenty times since 2003. This weekend, Claudia will make her first appearance on our new stage (1160 Broadway, 5th floor), accompanied by her close collaborator, the guitarist Juancho Herrera, and special guests.

Watch Claudia and Juancho performing “Tulum” live on CN8.

Photo via The Sirius Quartet

Photo via The Sirius Quartet

Time Out New York describes the pianist Uri Caine as “a polymath pianist at home in driving postbop, funky grooves and classical abstractions.” After apprenticing with titans Philly Joe Jones and Hank Mobley, Uri grew fluent in the aforementioned areas through deep collaborations with the likes of Don Byron, Dave Douglas, and John Zorn, which are documented on the dozens of recordings he has released as a leader or collaborator. Yet the Euro-American classical canon has been a pervasive influence in the pianist’s work for decades, and has grown even more apparent through a series of recent commissions. In at least one case, however, the pianist made the first move:

Uri recalls, “The first time I heard the Sirius Quartet was last year [2011] at The Stone in New York City, and after that, I decided I wanted to work together. So I decided to write a piece that showcased the Sirius Quartet, thinking also about a piece that we could play together.” The result is String Theories, a spellbinding work that received its world premiere at the Theaterhaus Jazz Festival  in April 2012, followed by a North American premiere at the Tribeca New Music Festival.

The New York City-based Sirius Quartet describe their own sound as a blend of “the precision of classical music with the raw energy of a rock band…challenging conventional ideas of what a string quartet is capable of.” We’ve seen them do it in the past, most recently on our stage in collaboration with Linda Oh during our 2011-2012 Residency Commissions (watch here); they’ve also worked with John Zorn, Elliott Sharp, and Steve Wilson. “Rarely do you find ensembles who master the combination of new music, avant-garde, and jazz in such a brilliant way,” proclaims the German publication Reutlinger Zeitung.

On Thursday, we are pleased to welcome the Sirius Quartet and Uri Caine to our stage. The program will place String Theories alongside new works by Quartet members Gregor Huebner, Jeremy Harman and Fung Chern Hwei. In anticipation of the show, watch a performance of String Theories.

Photo via Stranahan / Zaleski / Rosato.

Photo via Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato.

Reflecting on his collaboratively-led trio with the pianist Glenn Zaleski and the bassist Rick Rosato, the drummer Colin Stranahan muses: “What’s great about this band is that we are all composers, and we work on our music as a band. One of us writes something, but the composition doesn’t take shape until we work on it together as a band, making changes as each of us adds our input.”

Anticipation (Capri), the debut release from Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato, has been described by The New York Times as “an estimable album… [with a] meticulously flowing sound.” The Ottawa Citizen remarks that the album should be “required listening,” and that the band “helps set the standard high for not only jazz 20-somethings, but for musicians of all ages.” Stranahan remarks, “We started playing and noticed how making music together seemed so effortless. It was really a pleasure and we felt the chemistry right away.”

All three members of the trio are active sidemen and have received independent recognition for their work. Colin performs with Kurt RosenwinkelJonathan KreisbergDan TepferMaria Neckam, and others, and recently took third place in the 2012 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drum Competition. Glenn can be heard with the likes of Ravi ColtraneLage Lund, and Ben van Gelder. The pianist was a finalist for the 2011 APA Cole Porter Fellowship in Jazz, and a semi-finalist in the 2011 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Rick’s performance credits include work alongside Ari HoenigAaron GoldbergAaron Parks, and Tigran Hamasyan, among numerous others.

Colin, Glenn, and Rick have all appeared at The Gallery both separately and together numerous times over the past few years, and we look forward to their performance on Saturday night. In anticipation of the show (no pun intended), we’re offering an exclusive stream of “Limitless,” which is the title track from the trio’s forthcoming album:

[audio http://www.jazzspeaks.org/wp-content/MEDIA/Limitless.mp3 ]

Photo by Marc Monaghan via Flickr

Photo by Marc Monaghan via Flickr

The New York Times characterizes Greg Ward‘s music as “a tight but expansive sort of post-bop, strutting and soulful.” Popmatters declares that the young saxophonist takes listeners to “a place where even something like a simple vamp is cursed with all of the catchiness of a pop melody.” One thing is for certain: he plays as though he means every note. Recently, when asked about his motivations as a musician, Greg responded: “I’m up here because I love this and I don’t want to be anywhere else. You have to play and work with that kind of intensity. No half-steppin’.”

Into his fourth year in New York, Greg shows no sign of slowing down. A Chicago native, Greg cut his teeth participating in (and eventually running) sessions at the late great tenorman Fred Anderson‘s fabled club, The Velvet Lounge, while performing with like-minded peers in groups such as Mike Reed’s People, Places, and ThingsOccidental Brothers Dance Band InternationalBlink., and others. During his time in Chicago, Greg performed with artists such as Von FreemanAl JarreauCarl AllenRufus ReidJeff ParkerHamid Drake, and many more. He has also penned works for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Peoria Ballet Company, and the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. More recently, Greg has recorded with the electronic music artist Prefuse 73, arranged and conducted an orchestra for the rapper Lupe Fiasco, and is slated to tour with the acclaimed post-rock band Tortoise.

In the past couple of years, we have watched Greg grow his ideas in collaboration with a trio, dubbed “Phonic Juggernaut.” In this setting, Greg entrenches himself in the heavy-hitting New York rhythm section of the bassist Joe Sanders and the drummer Damion Reid, both of whom are Jazz Gallery veterans. Speaking on WBGO’s The Checkout, Greg marveled at the flexibility and spontaneity of his collaborators: “They blow me away every time we play together…playing with musicians like this, I can always be surprised.” Listening to the group’s eponymous debut album, it is clear that the rhythm section feels the same way: Joe, who we commissioned last year as a part of the 2012 Jazz Gallery Residency Commissions, says of the band, “To call this trio a power trio is an understatement. [Through Greg’s] very intriguing compositions and arrangements, this trio pushes my thinking and approach to new heights.”

Join us this Friday for a look at what Greg might be cooking up next: a quartet featuring the guitarist (and longtime collaborator) Dave Miller, the bassist Zack Lober, and the drummer Tomas Fujiwara.