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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Posts from the Guest Posts Category

Photo courtesy of Dan Tepfer

Editor’s note: We’re pleased to present our first guest post for Jazz Speaks. Pianist Dan Tepfer, who has worked with Lee Konitz for a number of years and will be appearing with Konitz’s quartet tonight, graciously agreed to write an introduction for this never-before-published interview, which Dan conducted before an audience in December, 2012. In addition to being fans of his music, we’re also fans of Dan’s blog, which we highly recommend. Read it here.

Introduction, by Dan Tepfer

Lee Konitz will be turning 87 in October, and his long and distinguished career as one of the most singular saxophonists in jazz needs no introduction (but if you need one, it’s here). He is known in particular for his intense focus on improvisational integrity, a desire for each musical choice to reflect the present moment as much as possible instead of a pre-made plan or habit.

It’s easy to overlook how radical this position is. In many other styles of music, from classical to pop, the goal in live performance is the opposite: to reproduce a carefully thought-out plan as faithfully as possible. Even in jazz, it’s not uncommon for groups to take a hybrid approach where a good portion of the material, even outside of written sections, is predetermined. Despite all this, Lee has somehow stubbornly insisted on showing up to his concerts prepared to be unprepared, and has (mostly) delighted audiences in doing so.

In my seven years of playing with Lee in diverse contexts I’ve been able to observe his commitment to the moment firsthand, particularly in our duo playing. One direct result of his approach is that his music is rarely boring; audiences seem to intuitively understand that something unique is going on; they pay attention in the way that people do when they genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen next.

And yet it’s also become clear to me that our audience doesn’t always necessarily understand what’s at stake when we perform. In his commitment to true improvisation, Lee isn’t taking the easy road. Failure is very much an option. And success, in the form of authentic engagement with the truth of the moment, may not sound like success to a listener used to being wowed by virtuosic effects. (more…)

Photograph by Jimmy Katz

Photograph by Jimmy Katz

Ben Ratliff describes the music on Figurations (Sunnyside), which is the most recent release from the guitarist Miles Okazaki, as “slowly evolving puzzles of brilliant jazz logic, worked out among some new-model brains.” The album made it onto Ratliff’s Best of 2012 shortlist in The New York Times. In 2009, Vijay Iyer listed Generations (Sunnyside) – another of Miles’ releases – among his top ten albums of 2009 in ArtForum, offered a similar characterization: “a recursively structured, fractally detailed labyrinth of music — the sonic equivalent of Escher or Borges, but with real emotional heft.”

Characterized as “an exceedingly skilled guitarist with a head for rhythmic convolution” by The New York Times, Miles was raised in Port Townsend, Washington. He holds degrees from Harvard, Manhattan School of Music, and Juilliard, and was the 2nd place finalist in the 2005 Thelonious Monk Guitar Competition. He has honed his skills in bands led by Stanley TurrentineKenny Barron, and Steve Coleman, among others.

We’ve presented Miles numerous times since 2007, including the CD release concerts for all three of his albums. Additionally, the music on Figurations was commissioned by The Jazz Gallery during our 2011 Residency Commissions series, and the album was recorded live on our stage during the premiere concert. This Friday, we welcome Miles to our new stage (1160 Broadway, 5th floor) with a quartet featuring the bassist Hans Glawischnig, the drummer Dan Weiss, and the reedist Ben Wendel.

Read a guest post from Miles about the pioneering guitarist Charlie Christian, via Do The Math.

Photo by Timothy Saccenti

In the words of the esteemed drummer Billy Hart, Rafiq Bhatia’s music holds “the true potential of the future.” The GRAMMY-nominated pianist-composer and longtime Jazz Gallery artist Vijay Iyer adds, “his music is innovative and fearless.” Valgeir Sigurðsson, a producer known for his collaborations with artists like Björk and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, remarks that working with Rafiq “felt like learning a new language.”

Since moving to Brooklyn in 2010, Rafiq “has wasted no time grabbing wider attention” (Time Out New York). He’s been busy documenting and performing his music with a breadth of artists including Hart, Iyer, Sigurðsson, High Priest (of Antipop Consortium), The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and Shahzad Ismaily, among others, and has been lending his guitar playing to the bands of Gordon Voidwell and Tecla.

We met Rafiq soon after he arrived here, and are pleased to present his quartet, which features Jeremy Viner (woodwinds), Jackson Hill (bass), and Alex Ritz (drums), as a part of our debut series this Thursday evening.

Although this will be Rafiq’s first performance at The Gallery, he’s been working with us in other ways for some time, most recently as our new Director of Media and Communications. If you’ve been following this blog or reading our emails, you might recognize his voice in the guest post below.

–Deborah Steinglass, Executive Director


 

When I was a student at Oberlin College, I used to spend every moment that I could afford to spare in Billy Hart’s office. I would sit quietly in a corner while Billy taught drum lessons, listening as he freely shared secrets gleaned in his decades of experience alongside artists like Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, and Jimmy Smith (the contents of which would be more than enough for several dedicated posts, but that’s another story).

Those lessons really brought to my attention the idea that drumming in the African-American tradition underwent a series of abstractions in the first half of the twentieth century. The fluid and highly interactive styles of Max Roach, Tony Williams, and Elvin Jones can be understood as extensions of the prior innovations of drummers who played the dance music of their day.

This concept stuck with me. I became obsessed with music after hearing hip-hop in the mid-nineties (more on that here), and I’m still listening hard. Lately, I have records by producers like Madlib, DabryeFlying Lotus, Samiyam, James Blake, and Jeremiah Jae on heavy rotation. These beats tend to share a common trait: they challenge the mind but not the body. When listening, my mind notices precise subdivisions and variations, but has a hard time quantifying them or breaking them down. At the same time, my head nods uncontrollably, slowly rising at the start of a phrase and whipping down into the next. I imagine an improvised music that uses these principles as building blocks.

Not surprisingly, one can learn a lot about how producers have developed these rhythmic directions by spending some time with the interfaces they use to make music. Other clues are present in the source material: there are reasons why Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Hancock and Stanley Cowell have all been sampled so frequently. These and other similar explorations have had a major impact on my recent music.

I’ve also been paying a great deal of attention to the orchestrational possibilities that the studio provides. The technique of creating new, composite sounds from different combinations of instruments dates back centuries. Lately, producers like Tim Hecker, Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson, and Oren Ambarchi are pushing that idea to new heights, creating hyper-realities in which acoustic recordings are enhanced through highly detailed electroacoustic treatments.

Employing the studio as a compositional tool also provides opportunities to blend improvisation and composition in new ways. Much of the music we will perform on Thursday was developed through a studio-composition process that the producer Alexander Overington and I employed on my two forthcoming releases. First, we recorded each piece as performed by an improvising ensemble, and then framed the recorded improvisations in layers of overdubs and processing. Our live performances have come to incorporate these production elements; we use a combination of samples and live processing to achieve the sonorities we discovered through the recording process.

I’ve been developing this music through close collaboration with Jeremy Viner, Jackson Hill, and Alex Ritz, and we are really looking forward to performing it at The Jazz Gallery on Thursday. I’ve always admired the strength of the programming here, and the commitment to supporting new artists. Working at The Gallery doesn’t make it any easier to get a gig here, which makes the invitation to play feel particularly gratifying.

Tickets are available here. We hope to see you soon.

Photo courtesy of http://krisdavis.net/

2011 was a strong year for pianist Kris Davis. Her work was featured on two head-turning releases on Clean FeedAeriol Piano, her own solo album, and Novela, the eponymous release by a band led by Tony Malaby for which she also did the arrangements (they performed here recently). Aeriol Piano received several year-end accolades. Ben Ratliff of The New York Times listed the release as one of the Best Albums of 2011, and also profiled Kris in “New Pilots at The Keyboard“, an article about four jazz pianists on the rise.

We took note of Kris’ work last year in performances by Paradoxical Frog (the trio she co-leads with the saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and drummer Tyshawn Sorey) and Novela, and we look forward to her first performance under her own name at The Gallery on Thursday.

Below, Kris shares and discusses examples of the work of some of her favorite pianists, composers, and improvisers. Kris speaks:


 

Patterns in a Chromatic Field – Morton Feldman

This is one of my favorite pieces of all time. The way the piano and cello interact as a harmonic and melodic unit is the reason I come back to this piece again and again. Because each cell is repetitive within itself, you really have a chance to get inside the sonority of the instruments and the way they interact- sometimes as a unit, sometimes as separate entities. Rhythmically, some of the sections seem to be rooted in two different pulses, which is an effect that I have tried to use in my own compositions and when improvising.

Berio Sequenza IV for Piano

I first discovered Berio a couple years ago while studying with composer Jonathan Pieslak. Berio wrote solo pieces for various instruments and, although I’m partial to the piano sequenza for obvious reasons, I also love the oboe and viola sequenzas. In this piano piece, Berio creates various tiers of harmony and density that seem to overlap, unveiling themselves in sudden bursts and spaces. Dynamics, the attack of the notes, and the sostenuto pedal all help to create these effects. There are so many levels going on. When I listen to this piece, I am constantly trying to figure out how the sound is created, but at the same time, I am completely centered in the sound.

Benoit Delbecq – Circles and Calligrams

I think Benoit is one of the most unique pianists and composers of our generation. The way he orchestrates piano preparations to emphasize or obscure polyrhythms, his touch at the piano, and the effect he creates combining these elements is definitely something to experience if you haven’t already.

Rytis Mazulis – Sybilla

Rytis is a Lithuanian composer. I first heard his piece ‘Clavier of Pure Reason’ which seems to be influenced by Nancarrow (who I’m a big fan of) and minimalism. Both these pieces begin with an initial cell, which become increasingly dense and dissonant through each passing cycle.

Paradoxical Frog

Paradoxical Frog is a collective trio I have been a part of since 2009. Ingrid and Tyshawn have both been so influential and our work as a trio has significantly impacted the way I think about improvisation and composition. This is a clip from a concert we played at the Moers Festival in 2010.

David Murray

I just saw this clip a few days ago and it blew me away. David is there, playing with the rhythm section, but also playing in his own time over the tune. He’s floating, but not to the point that it’s completely free – he’s still within the framework of the song.

Cecil Taylor

Cecil plays with such energy – it’s so inspiring! I love this clip.

Gyorgy Ligeti – Continuum

Ligeti’s music has had a HUGE influence on me as a pianist and composer. I was initially drawn to his music because, within the first few moments of listening, you know what the concept behind the entire piece is. Most of these ‘root’ ideas are concise; it could be a short pattern, a texture that reveals itself as a rhythmic idea or pulse, or it could be based on a specific technique that is explored throughout the instrument. The complexity lies in the development of that idea.

 

Photo by Ben Anaman

As we mentioned in yesterday’s inaugural post, we created Jazz Speaks in order to provide you with a window into the world of The Jazz Gallery and the artists who grace our stage.

With this in mind, we are pleased to bring you what will be the first of many guest posts from the musicians who perform here, this one from composer/arranger/bandleader Darcy James Argue. Darcy and Secret Society – Darcy’s “usual band of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells” – will hold court at The Gallery this Friday-Saturday (January 6th-7th). Without further ado, Darcy speaks:



My co-conspirators and I
have, as they say, “a history” with The Jazz Gallery. They were the first legitimate jazz venue to host Secret Society – by “legitimate jazz venue,” I mean a venue with the word “jazz” in its name. (That was April 5, 2007, for those keeping track.) Two selections from Infernal Machines, “Jacobin Club” and “Obsidian Flow,” were commissioned by and premiered at The Jazz Gallery immediately prior to us going into the studio. Those who have not seen a big band perform in the Gallery’s intimate confines are often surprised that we are able to fit at all, but we’ve done it enough to develop a refined and intricate method of squeezing the band onto the stage. It’s always a kick to perform with the audience so close to the band, and the sound in the room is vivid, clear, and natural.

For our performances next week – Friday, January 6 and Saturday, January 7 – we will be reprising selections from our recent multimedia production, Brooklyn Babylon, for the first time since premiering the work at the Next Wave Festival in November. (Incidentally, we’ve just added some live audio from our run at the BAM Harvey Theater to the Brooklyn Babylon website.)

Additionally, in tribute to the memory of my compositional mentor, Bob Brookmeyer, we will also be performing pieces of mine that bear his unmistakable imprint.

For these shows, we’re very pleased to announce the return of co-conspirator emeritus Tim Hagans, whom we first encountered four years ago, during our first Canadian incursion. He’ll be joined by the usual band of miscreants and ne’er-do-wells:

WINDS
Erica von Kleist
Rob Wilkerson
Sam Sadigursky
John Ellis (Jan. 6)
Mark Small (Jan. 7)
Josh Sinton

TRUMPETS
Seneca Black
Tom Goehring
Nathan Eklund
Nadje Noordhuis
Tim Hagans

TROMBONES
Mike Fahie
Ryan Keberle
James Hirschfeld
George Flynn

RHYTHM
Sebastian Noelle, guitar
Adam Birnbaum, piano
Matt Clohesy, bass
Ted Poor, drums

Tickets are $20/$10 for members/FREE for APAP badge-holders (reservations required – email info@jazzgallery.org).