A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts from the Guest Posts Category

Artwork courtesy of Monica Jane Frisell and Carole d'Inverno.This Tuesday evening, January 21, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to open a new art exhibition featuring paintings by Carole d’Inverno and photographs by Monica Jane Frisell. Despite the contrast in medium—whimsically abstract canvases versus stark photographs—both artists’ work is rooted in a sense of American place. For d’Inverno, that means researching particular historical events and translating them into a pattern of specific visual motifs. Frisell, on the other hand, uses a 4×5 large format camera, slowing down her process and creating a unique sense of intimacy between artist and subject.

To celebrate the exhibition opening at 6 P.M. this Tuesday, guitarist David Torn will perform a special set of improvisations. And if you can’t make this week’s opening, be sure to check out d’Inverno and Frisell’s work the next time you catch a Gallery show. (more…)

Album art courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, multi-reedist and composer Brian Krock will convene his large ensemble Big Heart Machine at The Jazz Gallery to celebrate the release of their eponymous debut album. The centerpiece of the album is a five-part suite, “Tamalpais.” In a post on his website, reprinted below, Krock details the genesis of the piece and gives a blow-by-blow account of his compositional process.

The centerpiece of the soon-to-be-released Big Heart Machine record is a suite in five movements called Tamalpais. On a cloudy day in 2014, my sister, Becca, took me on a hike at one of her favorite spots—Mt. Tam in Marin County. We’ve always been a hiking family—and Mt. Tamalpais isn’t really that exceptional as far as hiking trails go—but for whatever reason I was so musically inspired by the topography of that mountain on this particular day. I’m sure Becca will remember me telling her about my sudden inspiration: to write a piece in which every musical consideration would be based on the specific elements inherent in the trail we followed that day. Over the next three years, I worked on this idea pretty much constantly.

I was also thirsty for a project when the inspiration hit; I needed a daily endeavor to structure my lifestyle on the road. I had been touring with musical theater productions for a couple years, and while that was a rewarding professional experience, it was anything but creatively satisfying. I loved being on the road- and making a living wage for the first time in my adult life- but I had also never been so uninspired. Playing the same show eight times every week is mentally fatiguing to say the least, and traveling around North America non-stop was physically exhausting. So, I adopted this large-scale project to give myself some structure and a goal to set my mind towards. No one commissioned me. I didn’t even have hopes of hearing the piece performed at that point in my life. But I decided to work on this idea every day, and see how far I could take it.

There is a deep but relatively short history of programmatic suites written for jazz big band. Duke Ellington made a series of well-loved suites for his band. Black, Brown, and Beige; The Far East Suite; The New Orleans Suite; The Queen’s Suite; The Togo Brava Suite; Such Sweet Thunder—these are some of my favorite recordings. However, they are nothing more than collections of unrelated pieces of music. There isn’t anything wrong with finding a pleasant order for a collection of random songs and presenting them as a continuous suite of music. Composers have done this for centuries (think of The Nutcracker Suite—Duke’s reimagination of Tchaikovsky’s immortal work is another great album). (more…)

Kevin Sun Trio at The Jazz Gallery, March 2017 Poster

Logo graphic by Diane Zhou  //  Design by Kevin Sun

“The trouble with most musicians today is that they are copycats. Of course you have to start out playing like someone else. You have a model, or a teacher, and you learn all that he can show you. But then you start playing for yourself. Show them that you’re an individual. And I can count those who are doing that today on the fingers of one hand.” 

— Lester Young interviewed in 1949 by Pat Harris (DownBeat)


I certainly still feel like a copycat these days, but I feel all right with that for the time being. I don’t believe in music or art ex nihilo—especially in improvised, centrally interrelational musical settings such as this trio and other bands that I’ve had the privilege of contributing to since moving to New York in the fall of 2015. As a composer, the strategy that’s been most fruitful for me up to now is to generate something new from something old.

For a few years now, I’ve been enamored with composing compact forms—cyclical rhythmic and melodic material that can be specific and complex, but also brief and conceptually straightforward enough to be written on the back of a napkin or communicated verbally. Most of the music for this trio was composed last spring with this in mind: short, distinct forms to be internalized in a group setting. I wanted us to challenge ourselves and explore these distinct musical environments while discovering what we can construct together in real time.

Bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Matt Honor (and, on occasion, bassist Dan Pappalardo) have been my unwavering partners in transfiguring my notated ideas into living sound. Like me, both Walter and Matt live conveniently nearby in Brooklyn, and we’ve had the chance to grow together into this music for some time. This weekend, we’ll be documenting the music you’ll be hearing at The Jazz Gallery at Wellspring Sound outside of Boston (where I also recorded my last project, Earprint). The forecast suggests a late 2017 or early 2018 release on Endectomorph Music; stay tuned.



As I mentioned, I like writing and abstracting from pre-existing material. Much of the music you’ll hear us play on Thursday will have been inspired by particular songs or fragments, so I’ve compiled a playlist below of a few of the songs that I referenced or cannibalized in some way for my own compositions. They’re all paired with my own songs, which won’t mean much if you haven’t heard them yet, obviously, but hopefully you’ll hear what I’m talking about on Thursday. We hope you’ll join us.



Photo via

Photo via

New York-based pianist Nick Sanders wrote a few words about the music he’ll be presenting this Thursday, October 16th, 2014, at The Jazz Gallery. Check out this post as well as this recent blog post by Doug Ramsey at Rifftides to learn more about Sanders and his music: 

Since moving to New York in November of 2012, I’ve had the chance to play a lot of different music and meet some amazing musicians. My main focus has been working with my piano trio, which has been together for about three years. We released our debut album, Nameless Neighbors, on Sunnyside Records in the summer of 2013 and recently just recorded our second album for Sunnyside, which will be released in early 2015. Fred Hersch produced both albums.

I was recently at the Amiens Jazz Festival in France playing a series of solo piano shows, which made me think differently about how to approach my music outside of the piano trio setting. I decided that I would present two projects I’ve been developing independently from my piano trio for these two sets at the Gallery.

The first set at 8 p.m. will feature standards performed duo with saxophonist Logan Strosahl. Logan and I began playing together when we were at The New England Conservatory, and he was recently signed to Sunnyside Records and will be releasing his own album in the middle of next year, which I am pleased to be a part of. In terms of our influences, I honestly cannot think of a specific duo that has directly influenced us, but we influence each other by just playing a lot together and talking about specific arrangements or tunes that we both enjoy.We’ve also recently started a YouTube channel, where we usually post a new video every week and invite listeners to make comments and requests.

The second set at 10 p.m. is a bass-less trio with tenor saxophonist Sam Decker and drummer Connor Baker. After coming back from a series of solo piano concerts in France, I realized how fun it is to have complete control of the bass as the pianist; Sam and Connor also have an easier time navigating the music, and it gives a different feeling from the “normal” rhythm section setup.

Like Logan, I met Sam and Connor at The New England Conservatory. Connor is the drummer in my piano trio, and Sam and I have played in numerous configurations over the years (not to mention that we were freshman dorm roommates once upon a time). All of us bring in original music and arrange it collaboratively, which really develops trust between us as musicians, and we hope the result is evident in the music.

Nick Sanders Duo + Trio perform at The Jazz Gallery this Thursday, October 16th, 2014. The first set at 8 p.m. will feature Sanders on piano and Logan Strosahl on saxophone; the second set at 10 p.m. will feature Sanders on piano, Sam Decker on tenor saxophone, and Connor Baker on drums. Tickets are $15.00 for the first set ($10.00 for Members) and $10.00 for the second set. Purchase tickets here.

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

Photo by Peter Gannushkin, courtesy of the artist

The four-headed creature known as Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut is a rare creature indeed. With just four low brass instruments, this animal can make music that shrieks, howls, and purrs, all with an unrelenting energy and groove. Like all rare species, Big Sackbut has a fascinating evolutionary tree. Trombonist-leader Joe Fiedler illuminates that tree with a curated playlist of tunes from Big Sackbut’s ancestors: the group’s musical DNA — Kevin Laskey

1. “Hattie Wall,” World Saxophone Quartet

I’m pretty sure “Hattie Wall” was the first tune of the World Saxophone Quartet that I ever heard. It was their theme song and they would walk onstage playing it. The sheer power and authority with which all four of those guys played—the raw energy and the rhythmical cadence—was so stunning. It just hit me in the gut. I was hooked.

It’s such a simple tune and they could riff on that for ten minutes before going on to the solo section. Hamiet Bluiett would keep this Afro-Caribbean clave thing going. It would keep cycling and cycling; it was hypnotic. The way that the top three voices would improvise together and play off what everyone else was doing was just magical. They were so in tune with how each other was as an improviser.