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A look inside The Jazz Gallery

Photograph by Jimmy Katz

Photograph by Jimmy Katz

“The first time I heard Will Vinson, I was totally blown away,” remarks Joshua Redman, “so much so that I started trying to play alto again. An ill-fated attempt. But I’m still listening to Will every chance I get. And each time, I’m even more inspired, humbled, and, quite frankly, terrified.”

Joshua isn’t the only player of his generation to become captivated with Will’s musicianship. Since arriving in New York in 1999, the reedist has been enlisted by Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Jonathan Kreisberg, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Lage Lund, and Ari Hoenig, among others, and has also worked with Rufus Wainwright, Sufjan Stevens, and Sean Lennon. He has also released four albums as a leader, most recently Stockholm Syndrome (Criss Cross). According to DownBeat, Will’s approach is “marvelous;” it “drills a hole through [the music], boxing like a sprightly Olympic welterweight.”

As a young music enthusiast in London, Will frequently encountered older, more “responsible” influencers who never missed an opportunity to remind the youngster “just how hard it would be to try to pursue a professional future in music.” One instance in particular stood out:

The one counsel I remember most vividly came from my jazz piano teacher in London, a great and inspirational musician and educator called Leon Cohen. I paraphrase slightly, but he said, basically, “don’t do it unless you’d rather be dead than do anything else”. That sounded so romantic and hip that it had the no doubt unintended consequence of helping me make up my mind that this is what I wanted to do.

Of course, Will was also deeply inspired by the music itself; earlier, it was Stan Getz, Lester Young, Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, and later, Weather Report and Keith Jarrett. Before too long, Will packed his bags and set out on a journey across the Atlantic to New York, one that would lead to many more opportunities to share his sound far and wide. Will concurs: “I try not to forget how lucky I am to be able to not only do the thing I love, but also to be able to do it all over the world.”

Will has been performing at The Gallery since 2006, and we are pleased to have his group, featuring the guitarist Lage Lund, the bassist Chris Smith, and the drummer Jochen Rueckert, performing at our new home (1160 Broadway, 5th floor) on Friday.

Listen to “Dean Street Rundown,” a cut from Stockholm Syndrome.