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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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Album art courtesy of Sunnyside Records.

Saxophonist Caroline Davis and keyboardist Rob Clearfield are longtime collaborators from their days based in Chicago. While Davis is now based in New York and Clearfield in Paris, France, the pair have continued working together, and have just released Anthems (Sunnyside), the debut album of their new collaborative project, Persona.

The band name comes from the title of director Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film Persona, where a nurse taking care of a mute actress begins to take on her charge’s personality. The film narrative is an apt metaphor for the band’s development. As both Davis and Clearfield added compositions to the group’s book, their musical interests began to merge—Davis started incorporating Clearfield’s complex rhythmic cycles, while Clearfield emulated Davis’s impassioned lyricism. The album’s opening track, Davis’s “People Look Like Tanks,” is a perfect encapsulation of this merged personality, as a searching saxophone line winds its way over an ever-shifting piano vamp.
This Wednesday, October 2, the full Persona lineup comes to The Jazz Gallery to celebrate their album release. Joining Davis and Clearfield for two sets will be bassist Sam Weber and drummer Jay Sawyer. (more…)

From L to R: Christopher Hoffman, Matt Mitchell, Jacob Garchik, Anna Webber, Ches Smith, Chris Tordini, and Jeremy Viner. Photo by Liz Kosack, courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, September 5, The Jazz Gallery kicks off its 2019-20 season with a performance by multi-instrumentalist Anna Webber’s septet. This past January, Webber and her septet released Clockwise (Pi Recordings), a sprawling album of original compositions that takes inspiration from 20th century works for percussion by composers like Edgard Varèse and Iannis Xenakis. However, as Webber notes in an interview with Jazz Speaks, she molds these inspirations in idiosyncratic ways:

I wasn’t taking little licks from the music—it was more from my overall research into a specific piece. For example, two of the pieces on Clockwise called “Korē” are both inspired by [Iannis] Xenakis’ piece “Persephassa.” The connection is that Persephassa is another word in Greek for Persephone, and Korē is another name for the same Greek goddess.

It’s written for six percussionists that are surrounding the audience. And a lot of the ideas in that piece are rotated between percussionists. So, if you’re in the middle of the room, you can feel as if music is moving around you in a circle. I just used the idea of rotation for the two “Korē” pieces. It’s a pretty abstract place to start a piece from, but it was kind of the building block, rather than anything really specific, musically. But there’s a big range on the album from how specific I was with taking ideas from the original pieces and how very, very loosely I treated the source material.

At the Gallery this week, Webber has assembled the album’s full personnel, with Kate Gentile filling in for Ches Smith on drums & percussion. Before coming out to the Gallery, take a listen to the tracks “Kore II” and “Array” below.
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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This week, The Jazz Gallery finishes off its Summer Season with two nights of performances by drummer Johnathan Blake’s Pentad. Earlier this year, Blake released his newest album as a leader, Trion (Giant Steps Arts). Featuring tenor saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Linda Oh, the album was recorded live at The Jazz Gallery. The group stretches on an eclectic set list, featuring originals from the band members, as well as tunes by Charlie Parker, Sting, and John Blake, Jr. Take a listen below:
At the Gallery this week, Blake has assembled a new band called Pentad, featuring a mix of Gallery regulars from different generations: Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Joel Ross on vibraphone, David Virelles on piano, and Dezron Douglas on bass.  (more…)

Photo by Dan Chmielinski, courtesy of the artist.

This Wednesday and thursday, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Michael Thomas to our stage for two nights of performances. Since moving to New York in 2011, Thomas has become an ace big band sideman, appearing on big band records by Miguel Zenon and Dafnis Prieto, as well as performing with Maria Schneider and John Hollenbeck. He’s an accomplished big band composer as well, writing regularly for Brooklyn’s Terraza Big Band, and receiving a commission from the New York Youth Symphony’s jazz ensemble in 2016. As a leader, Thomas released his debut album The Long Way in 2011, featuring music written during his stint in Boston.
While in Boston, Thomas performed weekly with trumpeter Jason Palmer, who appears with Thomas on the front line for this week’s Gallery shows. With the support of photographer Jimmy Katz’s Giant Steps Arts, these performances will be recorded for future release. 2019 has marked some of the first fruits of Giant Steps’ work with the release of albums by Palmer, saxophonist Eric Alexander, and drummer Johnathan Blake (who also joins Thomas on the bandstand this week). Before coming to the Gallery to witness this live document of an emerging voice, check out Thomas’s slippery version of the standard “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” below.

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L to R: Alfredo Colon, Steve Williams, Andres Valbuena, and Edward Gavitt. Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, August 1, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome Secret Mall back to our stage for two sets. Two years ago, the collective made a splash with their self-released debut YeEP, mining meme culture and contemporary electronic music styles like vaporwave to find raw materials for their original compositions. Since then, the band has played at the Gallery regularly and been written up in the New Yorker.

Their show this week celebrates the release of their first full-length album, System32. In addition to further honing their atmospheric group sound, Secret Mall opens space for new collaborators on the album, including bassist Chris Morrissey and vibraphonist Joel Ross. Before joining the record release party at the Gallery on Thursday, check out the track “Dubai” from the album, below.
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