A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo by Jozef Van de Poel via Flickr

Photo by Jozef Van de Poel via Flickr

New York Times review of Jaleel Shaw‘s new album, The Soundtrack of Things to Come (Changu), praises the saxophonist’s “warm, frank tone on alto saxophone and an attraction to music of earthy enlightenment.” “The essential trait of Mr. Shaw’s music is balance: between the internal and the external, intellect and emotion, fealty and license,” they write. “Listen closely enough and you realize that he has considered his aesthetic from every angle.”

The saxophonist was born and raised in Philadelphia. He absorbed the city’s rich musical heritage, and the omnivorous leanings of it’s artists; in an interview with The Revivalist, Jaleel recalls:

The great thing about coming up in Philly is that everyone was open musically. You could play with a straight ahead player one day and the next day go do a avant-garde gig, or a hip hop gig. It was all love and everyone knew and supported each other. I think it’s great that I grew up in an environment that included such a diverse group of musicians.

After cutting his teeth on local bandstands and training under Philly educators such as Rayburn Wright, Robert Landham, and Lovette Hines, Jaleel moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. It wasn’t long before he relocated again to New York, this time to pursue a masters’ degree at the Manhattan School of Music. While still a student, Jaleel was approached by two of jazz’s premier big bands: the Mingus Big Band and the Count Basie Orchestra. He went on to contribute to two of the Mingus Big Band’s Grammy-nominated albums, Tonight at Noon and I Am Three.

Upon graduating, Jaleel began to make advances as a bandleader while continuing to work with numerous artists in New York and beyond. His debut album, Perspective, was self-released in 2005 and received strong acclaim from publications including The New York Timesand JazzWise. His sophomore effort, 2008′s Optimism, saw a similarly strong reception from the Times, OkayPlayer, and AllMusic, among others. In the wake of this release, The Jazz Journalists Association recognized Jaleel as one of the “Up and Coming Musicians of 2008″; he has subsequently been heralded as a contender for Alto Saxophonist of the Year byJazzTimes (readers’ poll).

Also in 2005, Jaleel was asked to join Roy Haynes‘ band, a group which he continues to perform with today. The ensemble received a Grammy nomination for their album Whereas (Dreyfus), and performs frequently around the globe.

Recently, Jaleel released The Soundtrack of Things To Come, a musical tale which responds to an array of impulses, from works of art to the passing of loved ones. The album has swiftly garnered critical notice. The New York Times reports:

Throughout the album Mr. Shaw plays commandingly with narrative logic and forward pull…It registers clearly that he made the album with a working band, breaking in his new music before entering a studio. His quartet features the powerfully expressive drummer Johnathan Blake — another former Philadelphian, and his steadiest musical partner — as well as the bassist Boris Kozlov and the pianist Lawrence Fields. (Mr. Shaw will lead a version of this quartet, with Linda Oh on bass, at the Jazz Gallery on April 6.) On a track like “Leel’s Tune,” which rides a shifting and often asymmetrical pulse, the rhythm section’s dynamic exchange is both bracing and matter-of-fact.

Jaleel has been performing at The Gallery as both a leader and a sideperson for many years; this Saturday night, he returns to The Gallery with his quartet to celebrate the release of The Soundtrack.

Watch an interview between Jaleel and JazzTimes in which he discusses the new album.