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Yosvany Terry

This Friday and Saturday, September 18th and 19th, The Jazz Gallery will continue our 20th Anniversary celebration with a return of “Jazz Cubano.” The band will be led by the Cuban saxophonist, composer, and chekere player, Yosvany Terry, who led the original Jazz Cubano shows at The Jazz Gallery and remains a vital force in the Latin Jazz and Contemporary music scenes in New York City.

The Jazz Gallery has a long history and deep ties with Cuban music and Cuban musicians in New York. Dale Fitzgerald, the late founder and executive director of the Jazz Gallery, had a deep love and passion for the music, lifestyle, and culture of Cuba, making a point of curating great Cuban acts at The Jazz Gallery from the very beginning. Under Fitzgerald’s leadership and onward, The Jazz Gallery became the premier venue for Cuban jazz musicians to make their United States debuts and was a physical nexus for expatriate musicians from across Latin America and the Caribbean to hang out, link up, and jam.

This scene centered on The Jazz Gallery’s weekly Jazz Cubano series on Thursday evenings, which ran from 2000 through 2001. The house band was led by Yosvany Terry and featured great musicians from across Latin America, including Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, Puerto Rican bassist John Benitez, and Cuban percussionist Dafnis Prieto. The group also frequently hosted special guests, including Pedro Martinez, Miguel Zenon, Bobby Carcasses (senior and junior). Even after the Jazz Cubano series ended, its influence remained palpable, as many of its featured artists went on to lead and write music for their own groups, becoming prominent members of the greater New York jazz scene.

This past spring, saxophonist Miguel Zenon, pianist Luis Perdomo, and drummer Dafnis Prieto—all members of the Latin Jazz scene at The Jazz Gallery—wrote remembrances for Dale Fitzgerald, each musician speaking fondly of the scene Fitzgerald helped cultivate.

Miguel Zenon

I first met Dale about 15 years ago through Yosvany Terry, when the Gallery was starting to run the “Jazz Cubano Series.” Shortly after that (and through Yosvany’s recommendation), Dale gave me my first chance ever to present an ensemble as a leader. As in my first gig as a leader ANYWHERE. Little did I know that this gig would be the first step towards one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had. The Gallery not only became a place to play, but it became our second home in NYC. At one point we were spending so much time there that my wife jokingly mentioned that we should set up sleeping bags in the back and just sleep there…

Luis Perdomo

At some point, The Jazz Gallery became for me a sort of laboratory and second home, where for years I had the pleasure of developing and trying new music with some of my peers. It was a period of constant growth for myself, playing week after week with some of the best musicians in NYC; and a big part of this was due to the forward thinking vision of Dale Fitzgerald, who not only gave us an opportunity to have our music heard, but created an atmosphere where musicians could come and create in a worry-free environment.

Dafnis Prieto

Dale was one of the first people in New York that opened the doors at The Jazz Gallery to my music. These memories are very meaningful to me because they were the beginnings of a complete new musical chapter in my life.

Beyond the Jazz Cubano series, The Jazz Gallery has supported Cuban music in other ways. In 1996, the great Cuban pianist Jesus “Chucho” Valdès and conguero Miguel “Anga” Diaz performed at the Gallery for a rare duo concert, which marked Diaz’s US debut. In 1998, the Gallery hosted a special interdisciplinary event honoring the great Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo, featuring rare archival recordings, a reading by the poet Jayne Cortez, and a presentation of Pozo’s music led by Eddie Bobe.

The concerts at The Jazz Gallery on the 18th and 19th will both be redux of the Jazz Cubano Series and a celebration of the Gallery’s continued commitment to showcasing Cuban music. For these concerts, our bandleader Yosvany Terry will be bringing along a special group of Cuban and non-Cuban musicians, all of whom have strong connections to the Gallery. Both nights feature pianist Osmany Paredes, bassist Yunior Terry, and percussionist Mauricio Herrera, all Cuban natives. On the first night the great master of polyrhythm Jeff Tain Watts is on drums, while the second night, Obed Calvaire (a Haitian native and member of the Yosvany Terry Quintet) takes over. Special guests are expected to sit in, so be on the lookout for some exciting musical surprises! (more…)

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Just as The Jazz Gallery was beginning to host concerts at 290 Hudson Street 20 years ago, another West Village jazz institution was starting up: Jason Lindner’s monday night big band at Smalls. The group featured a host of young players that would make their mark on the New York scene, like bassist Omer Avital, saxophonists Jimmy Greene and Myron Walden, drummers Daniel Freedman and Jeff Ballard, and many more. Along with the work of Maria Schneider and Guillermo Klein, Lindner’s big band pushed the traditional instrumentation into new aesthetic territories, creating the wide-open big band landscape of today.

As part of the Gallery’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, the Jason Lindner Big Band will reconvene for a special weekend residency. In this edition of the Jazz Speaks podcast, Jason tells us the history of the group, from its humble beginnings at Smalls, to the challenges of putting out its first studio album, to its eventual relationship with The Jazz Gallery.

The Jason Lindner Big Band plays The Jazz Gallery on Friday, May 1st, and Saturday, May 2nd, 2015. The group is led by Mr. Lindner on piano and keyboards, and features Omer Avital on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums, John Beatty on alto saxophone, Jacques Schwarz-Bart and Anat Cohen on tenor saxophone, Jorge Continentino on baritone saxophone, Clark Gayton and Joe Fiedler on trombone, Duane Eubanks and Alex Norris on trumpet, and Baba Israel on microphones. Sets are at 8 and 10 p.m. each night. Tickets are $40 for reserved cabaret seating ($30 for members) and $30 general admission ($20 for members) for each set. Purchase tickets here. 

Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Considering how many times we have had the pleasure of hosting Steve Coleman in both performances and workshops, it may come as a surprise that Jazz Speaks has not yet interviewed the 2014 MacArthur Fellow and monolithically influential saxophonist and composer. 20 minutes on the phone with Coleman quickly stretched to nearly an hour as we discussed his experiences with The Jazz Gallery before it was even officially The Jazz Gallery, his reflections on teaching and leading workshops, and the origins of his conception of spontaneous composition. He will perform four sets over the course of two nights this weekend with Five Elements as part of our 20th Anniversary Concert Series, and as always we are honored to have him present his inimitable music on our stage.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

 TJG: When was the first time you came to The Jazz Gallery? 

Steve Coleman: I came to The Jazz Gallery before it was The Jazz Gallery, back when they were just a loft on Hudson. I remember getting together with Roy Hargrove there in either ’93 or ’94 because his manager had gotten the place so Roy could practice, but this was before they were doing performances. It was just me and Roy up there, practicing and going over stuff, just trumpet and saxophone. We were both with BMG/RCA, and we were talking about doing demos and stuff like that.

TJG: How did you start leading workshops at the Gallery?

SC: That started because we used to get together at this place on 50th Street near 6th Avenue. It was an art gallery, and it was myself and Graham Haynes and a couple of other people just going over music. They had a piano there and we’d bring in drums and get together, somewhere between 2000 and 2002.

It was around the same time that I met Marcus Gilmore, who was about 13 or 14 then. Graham kept telling me that he wanted to bring his nephew around for me to hear him. I asked him how old he was, and he said, “He’s just a kid. He’s 12,” and I’m, like “Man, I don’t want to hear no 12 year old kid!” and he was like “No, this guy is good! This guy is really good. He’s gonna be great, blah blah blah…”

He kept telling me this and I kept putting it off, and then one day he just brought him by anyway and he played. I was like, “Oh, man, this kid can play!” Jonathan [Finlayson] had just started hanging around me and playing with me. He was only 17 and Marcus was about four years younger than him.

I’m mentioning all this because we stopped getting access to that place, so I talked to The Jazz Gallery about doing the same thing, a private get together, and they said, “Well, we don’t know if we can do a private get together because we have to pay for the lights,” and rigmarole about bills to pay. We talked more about it and they said, “What about a public thing where we charge people?” and after some back and forth we came to an agreement. This must have been ten years ago.

TJG: How did you feel about making these musical get-togethers public? (more…)