Info

A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Trina Basu (L) and Arun Ramamurthy (R). Photo courtesy of the artists.

This week, we at The Jazz Gallery are thrilled to open our doors and welcome back listeners for in-person concerts. We are so grateful for all of you who have come to our Monday night lockdown sessions and Thursday night livestreams, supporting our community of musicians during this trying time.

On Thursday, June 3, we’re teaming up with Brooklyn Raga Massive to present violinists Trina Basu & Arun Ramamurthy. As collaborators in both life and music, they’ve spent the pandemic trying to balance music with teaching and taking care of their family, as they highlight in a BRM livestream from February, below.

In a 2018 interview with Jazz Speaks, Basu discussed her and Ramamurthy’s synthesis of different musical traditions:

Our music is rooted in the Carnatic ragas and rhythmic structures. As a string quartet we can tap into the chamber music sound and create beautiful rich drones which is perfect for raga improvisations. There is a lot of experimentation and “breaking rules,” if you will, but we do try our best to retain the spirit of the raga or whatever it is we are tapping into at the moment. We’re both influenced by so many different styles of music but I think you will also find threads of jazz, western classical, and some version of experimental minimalist music.

For this performance, the duo will be joined by bassist Damon Banks and percussionist Dan Kurfirst, further expanding the palette of their music. (more…)

Jeff "Tain" Watts

Photo courtesy of the artist.

With his fiercely polyrhythmic playing, Jeff “Tain” Watts has made an indelible impact on the sound of contemporary jazz drumming. While perhaps best known for his association with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, Watts is also an accomplished composer and bandleader, with several albums to his name, including 2009’s Grammy-winning Watts (Dark Key Music).

This week, Watts convenes an intergenerational trio featuring longtime collaborator Paul Bollenback on guitar and James Francies on piano. We caught up with Watts at his home in Pennsylvania to talk about his life in Covid and his many new compositions.

The Jazz Gallery: What music will you be playing?

Jeff Watts: The music for the show—some music from a few different things. Some music that I’ve already recorded. Of course, like a lot of artists during this pandemic, a lot of unrecorded material, new stuff. You know, you have a lot of free time to compose! I’ve been working on a couple different projects. One is a suite of music that was funded by a Guggenheim fellowship almost three years ago. I proposed to them that I was going to do a musical tribute to the play cycle of August Wilson, who’s from my neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Originally it was about him, but then the more I studied August Wilson and his work, the more I wanted to be less derivative of anything. So as of now, this suite is a broader thing, about Pittsburgh and things indigenous to Pittsburgh, and I’m calling it “Suite to Pittsburgh”. There’ll be a few things from that.

I’ve been writing things about the pandemic itself—a song called “Sanctuary” that’s about being safe. I did something for The Jazz Gallery earlier in the pandemic, where they asked me what I was working on. I had a commission from the University of Michigan, right around the same time the riots were happening around the country, so I have a piece dedicated to George Floyd and how that moved things to a certain point where people felt the need to be responsible for the climate of the country. So I think we’ll premiere that piece. It’s called “Big Floyd and Tipping Point.” That should be very interesting; it has some spoken word, and it should be very evocative of jazz and Mingus and hip hop and a little bit of the vibe of the group the Last Poets.

What else did I write during this thing? Something about the virus—it was an excuse for me to write something in 19/8. I should be premiering a piece originally for the suite, but in the midst of it we lost Ellis Marsalis, so I wrote an elegy that’s dedicated to him.

And then I just wrote something last week. I was watching a documentary about Don Cherry, from 1978, that was done by some Swedish folks. And in the midst of his interview, he’s talking, and he’s like, “Yes, you know America has certain priorities, there’s emphasis on the media, trendy things,” basically saying the climate of America was stunting the “spontanewity” of an artist—and I just thought that word “spontanewity” was cool, so I wrote a new song.

(more…)

Marcus Gilmore

Photo courtesy of the artist.

For the past decade, drummer and composer Marcus Gilmore has been refining his expression alongside the likes of Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders, Zakir Hussain and Vijay Iyer. An artist of multi-directional expansion, he approaches the drum set from within a lineage of percussionists and composers who have treasured its harmonic and melodic as much as its rhythmic depth. From this vantage point, Gilmore summons new leader and solo projects, recently integrating electronics into his live performances. 

In June, he told The Jazz Gallery’s Rob Shepherd how his electronic setup has had an influence on his composing and performing. “I never have a shortage of musical ideas but that doesn’t always readily translate to reality,” said Gilmore. “This particular set up and machinery make it possible for me to do a lot of the things that I had imagined for a while. Once it became an accessible instrument to use, I kind of jumped right on it. At some point, I realized that these different elements could sometimes make it sound like I was playing with a much larger group than just myself. So I became really curious about how to emphasize this aspect in my solo performances.” 

This week at the Gallery, don’t miss Gilmore stretch out with a trio featuring pianist David Virelles and bassist Burniss Earl Travis. (more…)

Photo by Harrison Weinstein, courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, September 24, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Melissa Aldana and her quartet to our stage for a livestream performance. Back in April, just a few weeks after live performances were shut down across the world, we caught up with Aldana to see how she was dealing with the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. She spoke about practicing long tones, picking out J.S. Bach pieces on piano, and writing new material for an upcoming album.

As livestreams and outdoor performances have started in earnest, Aldana has gotten back out there, playing at Smalls in New York, the Arts Center at Duck Creek in the Hamptons (below), and even joining pianist Dan Tepfer for some live quarantine improvisations.

For this performance at the Gallery, Aldana will be joined by pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Pablo Menares, and drummer Kush Abadey—a tight working quartet that sounds like it hasn’t skipped a beat.

(more…)

From L to R: Eric McPherson, Kris Davis, and Stephan Crump. Photo courtesy of the artists.

This Thursday, September 17, The Jazz Gallery continues its Fall Livestream Concerts Series with a performance by the Borderlands Trio. A collaborative effort from bassist Stephan Crump, pianist Kris Davis, and drummer Eric McPherson, Borderlands Trio’s improvisations feature pointedly unstable textures alongside earthy groove. Before tuning in to the group’s fresh, spontaneous compositions on Thursday evening, check out the prickly and patient improvisation “Flockwork” from their debut album, below:
(more…)