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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photo via Red Cat Publicity

Into his third year in New York, the saxophonist Greg Ward shows no sign of slowing down. A Chicago native, Greg cut his teeth participating in (and eventually running) sessions at the late great tenorman Fred Anderson‘s fabled club, The Velvet Lounge, while performing with like-minded peers in groups such as Mike Reed’s People, Places, and Things, Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, Blink., and others. During his time in Chicago, Greg performed with artists such as Von Freeman, Al Jarreau, Carl Allen, Rufus Reid, Jeff Parker, Hamid Drake, and many more. He has also penned works for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the Peoria Ballet Company, and the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. More recently, Greg has recorded with the electronic music artist Prefuse 73, arranged and conducted an orchestra for the rapper Lupe Fiasco, and is slated to tour with the acclaimed post-rock band Tortoise.

In his trio, dubbed “Phonic Juggernaut”, Greg entrenches himself in the heavy-hitting New York rhythm section of Joe Sanders (bass) and Damion Reid (drums), both of whom are Jazz Gallery veterans. Speaking on WBGO’s The Checkout, Greg marveled at the flexibility and spontaneity of his collaborators: “They blow me away every time we play together…playing with musicians like this, I can always be surprised.” Listening to the group’s eponymous debut album, it is clear that the rhythm section feels the same way: Joe, who just presented new work as a part of the 2012 Jazz Gallery Residency Commissions this past weekend, says of the band, “To call this trio a power trio is an understatement. [Through Greg’s] very intriguing compositions and arrangements, this trio pushes my thinking and approach to new heights.”

This Thursday, we will present the second Jazz Gallery performance of Phonic Juggernaut, which will mark Greg’s fourth evening here as a leader. To get a taste of what you might hear, stream the two tracks in the SoundCloud player below (courtesy of Thirsty Ear). Popmatters declares that the first number, “Leanin’ In”, takes listeners to “a place where even something like a simple vamp is cursed with all of the catchiness of a pop melody”:

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