A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo courtesy of Bryan Copeland

Bryan Copeland deals in a strain of jazz “infused with a wistful pop sensibility” (Time Out New York). describes it as “lush, cinematic, contemporary jazz that is difficult to categorize, but easy to swallow.

The bassist grew up in Texas, where he was surrounded by country music, a genre that he initially disliked but later embraced. His early musical influences were pop songsmiths such as Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Bryan didn’t discover jazz until he turned twenty, by which time he was enrolled at San Antonio College and was studying with the New York Philharmonic bassist Satoshi Okamoto. In more recent years, he’s continued to straddle the lines between genres in his sideman work, touring with Toby Goodshank (formerly of Moldy Peaches) or Ashley Arrison one week, and sharing the stage with the likes of David Binney or Roy Hargrove the next.

Bryan explains that he formulated the idea for his band, the Aardvarks, while coping with the loss of a dear friend from home. As he was sitting at the piano, the melody of the song “Sunshine Through the Clouds” just “flowed through” him:

I was having a hard time dealing with the feelings I was having, and I wasn’t really thinking about what I was playing. Something deep in my subconscious just came out, and that’s still the approach I take with this band. I just close my eyes and let my subconscious write the music.

Before long, Bryan had found his collaborators, including the pianist Fabian Almazan, the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, and the drummer Joe Nero, all chosen for their sensitivity, egoless disposition, and commitment to “making music sound beautiful.” You can hear the results on their self-released debut album, Heroes of Make Believe. As for the quirky name, well, Bryan improvised it when asked for an answer ahead of an upcoming gig (though he admits that he later realized a debt to The Ant and the Aardvark):

It just came to me. I don’t even understand where it comes from. But it all ties into this concept of a band that I want to be a direct link to my subconscious or imagination.

On Thursday, Bryan brings the Aadvarks to The Jazz Gallery as a part of our debut series.They’ll be performing songs from Heroes of Make Believe, as well as premiering some brand new material they plan to record on their next album. Bryan speaks:

I’m very excited to be playing at the Jazz Gallery. It’s one of my favorite music venues in the city. In fact, it’s the first place that I saw a show when I moved to New York, and I can pretty much go there on any given night and see something that I’m going to enjoy.

Stream “Sunshine Through the Clouds” (the song that begot the band) below: