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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Kendrick Scott

Photo by Todd Cooper, courtesy of the artist.

Lockdowns. Quarantines. Social Distancing. In no small part, the stress, exhaustion, and sadness of the COVID-19 pandemic many have felt has come from an at least partial breakdown of community. In an effort to protect themselves from illness, often people have focused inward instead of upon things they still share in common with others.  

With Corridors, Kendrick Scott’s Fellowship Commission for The Jazz Gallery, the drummer emphasizes the commonalities between people. The idea is that while we each live our own separate lives, they are each connected along a shared path. One uniting element, arguably, is the importance of mentorship. With this in mind, we asked Scott about not only the general concept of Corridors but also some of his mentors—his mother, Joe Sample, Terence Blanchard, Charles Lloyd—he has thus far encountered in the hallway of his career.

The Jazz Gallery: What is the concept behind Corridors? 

Kendrick Scott: With Corridors, I am trying to focus on the joining elements in our lives. I named it Corridors because if you visit my apartment building in New York, all of the apartments are connected by a long corridor. People have their own lives but we also each share some elements which unite us.  

TJG: What sorts of elements? 

KS: Well, I think about culture. I think about faith. Many different things join us from our little rooms that we stay in. The pandemic kept many of us in those rooms for a year and a half and, in many ways, cut off from those common joining elements.  

In essence, I am trying to pull on common feelings. Some of the pieces for the commission use titles like “One Door Closes and Another Opens” or “Welcoming the Unwelcome.” I am trying to focus on the good points of what this pandemic means in terms of what we have learned about ourselves.  

TJG: In some ways that is aligned with the concept behind A Wall Becomes a Bridge (Blue Note, 2019) in the sense of turning something negative and divisive into something positive and unifying. 

KS: Yeah, yeah. I am definitely an optimist. As Wayne Shorter once said, “there’s always something good unfolding underneath everything bad.” There’s always something unfolding on the other side. I think as long as we can keep the optimism, we can achieve a certain level of peace.  

Honestly, though, I fight with myself on that all the time. Often, I make music as a somewhat selfish thing, basically using it to talk about things I am dealing with in my personal life. So, in many ways “A Wall Becomes a Bridge” is a mantra I have to keep saying in my life to keep my own sanity [laughing]. When something is going wrong in my life and my anxiety is getting to me, I have to say, “You know what? A wall becomes a bridge.” It’s going to be cool. Things will improve. It is about seeing the other side while you are inside of it. It’s hard to do. With Corridors, I am hoping to create a dialogue about the things that all of us have had to deal with from the pandemic.  

TJG: Taking an optimistic view, do you feel like there is some good that may have come out of the shutdowns in terms of music-making? 

KS: Yes, I think in some ways the pandemic has given people, including musicians, an opportunity to essentially meet their own shadow. A chance to sit down and think.  

I’ve been on the road my whole career. My shadow’s been following me like “come on man, let’s deal with this or deal with that.” But when I’m on the road, I’m so busy working that it sometimes causes me to neglect myself a little bit. I think the good thing that will come out of the pandemic is that we are given time to meet our shadow and actually converse with it. I think those conversations and thoughts will get us to a deeper level of knowing ourselves.  

Hopefully, that deeper understanding of yourself will lead artists to create more art that embodies their true selves and not the self that is running around like a chicken with their head cut off; just doing things to stay active instead of tapping into the true essence of who they are as a human being.  

I’ve found that during the pandemic I’ve been very hesitant about being around people. That’s been crazy to me. Living in a city like New York, you are surrounded by people and it is the people that make New York so beautiful. I am here because it lets me around all of these people. I find that as much as I travel the world and see people from different cultures, I see those same cultures right here in the city. I learn so much about myself and others myself that way. So, to be in New York and made to have a standoffish kind of vibe because of the pandemic has really shown me how much I love being around people and learning about people.

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Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Thursday, September 16, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome bassist Ben Tiberio and his quintet to our stage for two sets. Not only is this Tiberio’s first time at the Gallery as a leader (after playing here alongside the likes of Joel Ross, Immanuel Wilkins, and Sasha Berliner), it also marks the almost-release of his debut album, Rare Piece (Outside in Music). The album features 10 original compositions by Tiberio, written across a decade, a decade which saw him finish college, move to New York City, and become an integral member of his improviser peer group.

The compositions are deeply personal, representing what Tiberio calls his “deep perception of the emotional auras of people around me.” This kind of raw connection is reflected in Tiberio’s own wordless vocals on these tracks, including the lead sing “[e]motion,” which you can check out below.

For this release show at the Gallery, Tiberio will be joined album collaborators Nathan Reising on alto saxophone, Lex Korten on piano, and Evan Hyde on drums, as well as tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens. Come to the Gallery this Thursday to experience what Tiberio describes as “this unifying force, which is pervasive and essential in music, provides us with sanctuary and fills us with hope.” (more…)

Yosvany Terry

Photo courtesy of the artist.

This Saturday, September 11, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to welcome saxophonist Yosvany Terry and his quintet back to our stage. Terry has deep roots at The Jazz Gallery, leading the “Jazz Cubano” series house band in the year 2000, and working with bassist Darryl Johns as part of the Gallery’s Mentoring Series in 2017.

For this performance, Terry has convened his working quintet, alongside longtime collaborators like bassist-brother Yunior Terry, and pianist Osmany Paredes. Before hearing the band at the Gallery, take a listen to their scintillating performance as part of Harvard University’s African & African American Studies 50th anniversary symposium, back in February 2020.

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Caroline Davis Portals

Photo courtesy of the artist

In a new book called Generation Disaster, psychologist Karla Vermeulen examines how the compounding traumas of the past twenty years—wars, mass shootings, financial crises, climate calamities, pandemics—have impacted the lives of American young adults. In an interview with writer Anne Helen Petersen, Vermeulen discusses the notion of “getting back to baseline functioning,” and what that means for people who have lived with trauma after trauma. “It seems more like the world is constantly undermining and eroding their personal baselines rather than shoring them up,” Vermeulen says.

Saxophonist Caroline Davis’s new record Portals, Volume 1: Mourning (Sunnyside) emerges from a time in her life where her personal baselines were deeply eroded. In 2019, Davis lost her father unexpectedly, a trauma compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The music on this record is the result of a process of channelling mourning through composition and reflection. The compositions explore multiple experiences of grief—the intellectual, emotional, and bodily—and how they intersect through memory. With her working quintet and a quartet of improvising string players, Davis is able to transform these experiences into potently expressive music.

This Friday, September 10, Davis will celebrate the release of Portals, Volume 1 at The Jazz Gallery alongside many members of the album lineup. Before hearing this music live, take a listen to the full album, below.

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Sara Caswell

Photo by Emma Mead, courtesy of the artist.

This week, The Jazz Gallery starts up the fall season with a performance from violinist Sara Caswell’s quartet. The child of musicologists, Caswell grew up in Bloomington, Indiana listening to and learning all different kinds of music. These wide-ranging musical interests bloomed into Caswell’s distinct style, grounded in classical, jazz, and folk idioms alike.

Last month marked the release of Omegah, the latest album from Caswell’s collaborative trio 9 Horses with mandolinist Joe Brent and bassist Andrew Ryan; it was featured on Bandcamp’s Best New Jazz of August 2021. For her gig at the Gallery, however, Caswell has convened her longtime quartet, featuring guitarist Jesse Lewis, bassist Ike Sturm, and drummer Jared Schonig. Before welcoming the group back to the Gallery stage for the first time since 2012, check out the quartet’s new video of Ike Sturm’s meditative composition “Stillness,” below.

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