Sam Blakeslee, Elijah Shiffer, and Inés Velasco. Photos courtesy of the artists.
This week marks the return of The Jazz Gallery’s Jazz Composers’ Showcase featuring new music for large ensemble. For this fourteenth edition of the series, the Gallery is pleased to welcome three new composers to the stage—Sam Blakeslee, Elijah Shiffer, and Inés Velasco.
A trombonist originally from Columbus, Ohio, Blakeslee has been based in New York since 2017. You can frequently find him playing in a number of New York’s acclaimed large jazz ensembles, including Manuel Valera’s New Cuban Express Big Band, Brian Krock’s Big Heart Machine, and the Terraza Big Band. Before moving to New York, Blakeslee led his own big band in Northeast Ohio, holding a monthly residency at Blu Jazz in Akron. Check out his pungent and forceful tribute to fellow trombonist/composer Bob Brookmeyer, below.
While Blakeslee is a relatively recent arrival in New York City, saxophonist Elijah Shiffer is a native of the New York area and graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. With his working band The Robber Crabs, Shiffer has devised a quirky book of music where hot swing nestles in alongside skronky timbres. Take a listen to Shiffer and company’s distinctive brew on their debut album, Unhinged (OneTrickDog), below.
Drummer Inés Velasco hails from Guadalajara, Mexico and is a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music. Fluent in many musical styles, Velasco has composed and arranged music for flamenco performers Javier Limón and José Mercé, as well as the National Jazz Orchestra of Mexico. Take a listen to her evocative take on the standard “Be My Love,” performed by the Metropole Orkest. (more…)
Kendrick Scott & Kanoa Mendenhall. Photos courtesy of the artists.
This Thursday, The Jazz Gallery continues the sixth edition of its Mentoring Series with two sets of performances by mentor-drummer Kendrick Scott and mentee-bassist Kanoa Mendenhall. Having cut his teeth as a longtime member of trumpeter Terence Blanchard’s groups, Kendrick Scott now has a reputation as a bandleader to match his acclaimed drumming. This past April, Scott released A Wall Becomes A Bridge on Blue Note Records, where Scott’s strong social conscience is channeled through a suite of original compositions, including “Mocean,” below.
Mendenhall is a recent graduate of Columbia University, but has already become a favorite collaborator of musicians ranging from saxophonist Maria Grand to vibraphonists Joel Ross and Sasha Berliner. She even has the seal of approval from bassist Christian McBride, as she’s held down the bottom for his big band. Before hearing Mendenhall perform alongside Scott, pianist Taylor Eigsti, and guitarist Mike Moreno at the Gallery this week, check out her performance with Maria Grand at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola this past summer, below.
The Jazz Gallery’s weekend of big bands continues on Friday, November 1, and Saturday, November 2, with a pair of album release concerts by saxophonist Remy LeBoeuf’s Assembly of Shadows. The eponymous album traverses LeBoeuf’s development as a big band composer, from the album’s opening track “Strata” (his first major big band commission from 2015; you can hear it below), to the five part “Assembly of Shadows” suite, premiered at The Jazz Gallery last December.
With composers like Charles Mingus and Aaron Copland as touchstones, LeBoeuf is unafraid of grand musical gestures. In a previous interview with Jazz Speaks, LeBoeuf talks about his penchant for epic musical moments:
I find myself writing a lot of epic things. I have one particular friend who always notes the “Lord of the Rings” moments I have in my music: There was a time in my life where, instead of drinking coffee or tea to get focused, I would watch exciting parts of movies to release endorphins in my brain before sitting down to write. When you’re in a movie, you might cry at a denouement moment, it’s just so emotional, which is a great state to be in while composing. You really feel the weight behind every melody, every texture. There was a while when I didn’t have a streaming service and I had the “Lord of the Rings” films on DVD, so I would watch those to get excited [laughs].
For the album release shows, LeBoeuf will be joined by many of his original collaborators from the studio album. Don’t miss this chance to hear LeBoeuf’s full-throated music envelope the Gallery space. (more…)
This weekend at The Jazz Gallery, the stage will be filled to capacity as we present three nights of new music from young big bands. On Thursday, October 31, saxophonist and composer Brian Krock reconvenes his Big Heart Machine for a night of live recording. The band’s eponymous debut from 2018 showed that Krock and company were unafraid to mix things up, balancing sharp dissonance and flights of fancy (like the sax section doubling on recorders). If you haven’t given the album a listen yet, check it out below.
For this week’s performance at the Gallery, the band will be recording unreleased, revised tunes from their back catalog, as well as three brand new compositions. Krock himself says that one “…is the most special piece of music I’ve ever worked on in my life for a variety of reasons (more on that later).” (more…)
This Friday, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome pianist Micah Thomas and his trio back to our stage for two sets. Since coming to New York to study at Juilliard, Thomas has become a Gallery regular, collaborating with pears like Immanuel Wilkins and established veterans like Melissa Aldana and Lage Lund. In particular, Thomas has been an integral presence in bassist Harish Raghavan’s working band. Check out Thomas’ blistering solo on the track “Seaminer” from the group’s forthcoming debut album, Calls For Action (Whirlwind), starting at 5:45.
Recently, Thomas has been building his book of compositions for trio, performing them at Smalls and Mezzrow over the last couple of months. For this performance at the Gallery, Thomas is planning to present more new compositions, joined by bassist Tyrone Allen and drummer Kayvon Gordon. (more…)