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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

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Caroline Davis Portals

Photo courtesy of the artist

In a new book called Generation Disaster, psychologist Karla Vermeulen examines how the compounding traumas of the past twenty years—wars, mass shootings, financial crises, climate calamities, pandemics—have impacted the lives of American young adults. In an interview with writer Anne Helen Petersen, Vermeulen discusses the notion of “getting back to baseline functioning,” and what that means for people who have lived with trauma after trauma. “It seems more like the world is constantly undermining and eroding their personal baselines rather than shoring them up,” Vermeulen says.

Saxophonist Caroline Davis’s new record Portals, Volume 1: Mourning (Sunnyside) emerges from a time in her life where her personal baselines were deeply eroded. In 2019, Davis lost her father unexpectedly, a trauma compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The music on this record is the result of a process of channelling mourning through composition and reflection. The compositions explore multiple experiences of grief—the intellectual, emotional, and bodily—and how they intersect through memory. With her working quintet and a quartet of improvising string players, Davis is able to transform these experiences into potently expressive music.

This Friday, September 10, Davis will celebrate the release of Portals, Volume 1 at The Jazz Gallery alongside many members of the album lineup. Before hearing this music live, take a listen to the full album, below.

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John Escreet Quartet

Clockwise from top left: John Escreet, Chris Potter, Eric Harland, Harish Raghavan. Photos courtesy of the artists.

When pianist John Escreet began his studies at the Manhattan School of Music in 2006, the New York club he visited most frequently was The Jazz Gallery. “It was the venue with the most interesting music that I wanted to hear,” Escreet remembered in a 2012 interview with Jazz Speaks. It didn’t take him long to become a regular on the bandstand, joining David Binney’s band on stage in 2007, and celebrating the release of his debut album Consequences (Positone) at the Gallery the next year.

In the years since, Escreet has brought a host of projects to the Gallery stage, from his working trio with bassist John Hébert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (check out a classic set from Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, below), to one-off groups featuring guests like guitarist Ben Monder, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, and saxophonist Seamus Blake.

Now a resident of Los Angeles, Escreet makes a special return to The Jazz Gallery on Thursday, August 12, convening an all-star quartet with saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Eric Harland. (more…)

Joe Dyson

Photo courtesy of the artist.

Drummer Joe Dyson first graced The Jazz Gallery stage as part of the Mentorship Series back in 2015, resulting in an electric series of two drum-kit performances with mentor Johnathan Blake. In discussing the unique aspects of playing with another drummer, Dyson spoke with Jazz Speaks about his musical upbringing in New Orleans:

I grew up in New Orleans and I grew up playing traditional music, playing in brass bands, and marching bands. They require at least two drummers, so there’s always a counterpoint of rhythm and a counterpoint of ideas, everything happening simultaneously. So playing with Johnathan actually works really well. He’s such a musical player—we’re always listening to each other’s ideas and complementing what’s going on.

Most times when you’re sitting in the drum chair, you’re the main orchestrator, and so a lot people see that when you have two drummers, you’re competing for the space of orchestrator. But when you’re really listening, it’s easier to have a real conversation and communicate the same idea together.

Dyson’s New Orleans roots also play a big role in his debut album, Look Within, released earlier this year. Featuring a cast of talented New Orleans-based peers, the album foregrounds Dyson’s spiritual pursuits and histories, building compositions on recorded samples of sermons (including one by his father, the Rev. Dr. J.C. Dyson, Sr. You can stream the album below:
This Thursday, July 29, Dyson returns to the Gallery as a leader in his own right, playing music from the album with a stable of New York collaborators. (more…)

Kris Davis

Photo by Caroline Mardok, courtesy of the artist.

If the New York improv scene is an ecosystem, then pianist Kris Davis can be well-described as a spider. First, there’s the spidery way she moves along the keyboard, with agile slides giving way to delicately-wound harmonies. Second, there’s the particular web of collaborators she has spun, connecting players across styles and practices like Terri Lynne Carrington, Craig Taborn, and Julian Lage.

This Friday and Saturday, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome Davis back to our stage with one of her many groups, Capricorn Climber. Featuring Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones, Mat Maneri on viola, Trevor Dunn on bass, and Tom Rainey on drums, the band released a self-titled album back in 2013.

To get a sense of the kind of improvisational mischief that can arise with this group, check out Davis and Laubrock performing live on the Gallery stage as part of the 2020 Skopje Jazz Festival, below.

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Dezron Douglas

Photo courtesy of the artist.

It’s a truism that jazz is a music defined by the spontaneous interactions between performer and listener. So during the COVID-19 pandemic, jazz musicians have used every last bit of guile to keep the music flowing over wires and screens. One of the earliest and most memorable COVID jazz events were the performances by harpist Brandee Younger and bassist Dezron Douglas, streamed from their East Harlem apartment:

They eventually gathered their favorite tracks—a mix of originals as well as pieces by Pharaoh Sanders, Kate Bush, and others—into an album, Force Majeure.
Outside the home, Douglas has stayed active doing livestreams at Smalls and Bar Bayeux, working with elder statesmen like Cyrus Chestnut and Victor Lewis, as well as his home-base quartet. This Thursday, Douglas will play live and in person at The Jazz Gallery with this quartet, joined by saxophonist Emilio Modeste, pianist George Burton, and drummer Joe Dyson (the show will be livestreamed as well). Before coming out to the Gallery to be a part of the spontaneous music-making, check out the quartet’s performance of “Atalaya,” below.

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