A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Last year, we enlisted four bassists to draft new works through our 2011-2012 Residency Commissions series, dubbed “Leading From the Bass.” Joe Sanders took this idea and ran with it, creating music and arrangements showcasing a quartet of acoustic basses. Joe speaks:

The goal is to have the audience understand that the role of the bass isn’t always to stand in the back. You can be the bandleader [as a bassist], and still also play the same role that you were, which is the same as everyone else in the band.

The bass is a beautiful instrument and it has so many capabilities – it can produce beautiful melodies and negotiate tricky harmonic and rhythmic situations – which aren’t explored often enough. Every one of the bassists that will be performing on Friday night is capable of showcasing those capabilities.

For several weeks, Joe spent almost every afternoon (and several nights) at The Gallery, honing and shaping his compositions for this group. The experience shifted Joe’s outlook. At the time, he remarked, “I’m a bass player. I play bass all the time, so I’ve always felt like a bass player. Sometimes, I feel like a bassist-composer. But, at this point, I feel like a composer-bassist. It’s been really weird being in the house all day not touching my instrument and just writing for ten hours!” Although he found himself adjusting to spending time away from the bass, Joe created a series of pieces that draw upon his deep understanding of the instrument:

I know bass players. I know them really well. And I knew that these guys would be gung-ho about this, because it’s something really different, and something new, and [they would do] anything to advance the bass. These guys have been wonderful. And I’m in the same boat that they are, which is usually not the case. Because [no bandleader] really knows what you’re doing with the bass – [e.g.] the fingerings or bowings that you have to use – so we’re all in the same space. And I’m playing this music too, and it’s hard for me, and I wrote it!

The premiere of Joe’s commissioned work for his Chamber Bass Project last Spring was a truly memorable event, and we are very excited to welcome them back to our new home (1160 Broadway, 5th floor) this Saturday. The performance will feature fellow bassists Shawn ConleyRyan Berg, and Christopher Mees, as well as saxophonist Pat Carroll, pianist Gerald Clayton, and drummer Kevin Kanner.

Read our full interview with Joe from last Spring, which touches on the highs and lows of composing, developing ideas at The Gallery, and leading from the bass.