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The Jazz Gallery

New York, NY               

“As a jazz journalist who has followed developments in New York for over thirty years, I can honestly say that jazz would not sound the way it does today had not The Jazz Gallery served as a locus for NYC’s polyglot musical community to exchange ideas and work on moving to the next step” – Ted Panken (DownBeatJazzTimesJazziz)

The Jazz Gallery is an international cultural center where the youngest generation of emerging professional jazz artists are nurtured with opportunities to collaborate with peers, discover and refine their creative process, and perform for eager audiences. We take pride in our world-renowned reputation as a key player in the NYC jazz community, sustaining a tradition of artistic excellence and fostering creative growth by presenting established figures in jazz alongside a younger generation of artists. Young artists take advantage of The Gallery as a place to workshop new material and experiment in an artist-friendly environment—something not always possible at commercial jazz venues in NYC. On the other hand, well-established leaders and legends of the contemporary jazz world such as Henry Threadgill, Jon Hendricks, and Lee Konitz also return to The Jazz Gallery to reinvigorate their creativity, prepare for a tour or recording session, and mentor younger musicians.

The Jazz Gallery was founded in 1995 by Dale Fitzgerald and esteemed jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who envisioned a hub and home for jazz musicians and composers who come to New York from around the world to take part in and enhance the city’s vibrant cultural scene. Winner of the 2015, 2014, and 2010 CMA/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, The Jazz Gallery has been hailed as “the most imaginatively booked jazz club in New York” (NYTimes).

Since 2002, The Gallery has been actively engaged in commissioning new work by emerging composers, many of whom have gone on to be recognized with MacArthur Fellowships (4), Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, GRAMMY Awards, and more. 12 Thelonious Monk Competition winners got their start on our stage—most recently saxophonist Melissa Aldana in 2013, who is just one among many other artists who first cut their teeth on our stage and are now headlining international jazz festivals and topping “best-of” lists. We are proud of our alumni, many of whom were virtually unknown to New York audiences—let alone national and international audiences—when they first appeared on our stage as leaders. We believed in their talents, visions, and dedication, and we opened our space to them and welcomed them into our nurturing community of creative artists. We know from experience that when you take chances on promising young artists, the pay-off for the music and the arts community at large is tremendous.

The Jazz Gallery generally is open 3 nights per week, 50 weeks per year, presenting more than 300 events to an annual audience in excess of 15,000 listeners. Our programming of live music displays the means by which jazz continues to grow and develop. We accomplish this by presenting both major contemporary figures and a younger generation of artists, many of whom transfuse major world music traditions into the heart of jazz. We celebrate the fact that jazz remains a vigorous and vital art form capable both of sustaining the innovative talents of mature musicians and capturing the imagination of young, brilliant performers and composers. We are committed to building meaningful long-term relationships with the artists who perform at our venue by providing them with the space and freedom to experiment, explore, and grow as artists. Rio Sakairi, our Artistic Director, guides The Jazz Gallery’s artistic direction and programming.

Our current offerings are divided into 5 primary programs: 1) Directions in 21st Century Jazz, which showcases both emerging and established artists; 2) Residency Commissions, which support the creation of new works by exciting young composers; 3) our Mentoring Program, which pairs young musicians with seasoned veterans to gain valuable creative and professional experience; 4) The Woodshed, which provides free rehearsal space to our NYC-based jazz artists; and (5) The Jazz Composers’ Workshop, which provides a platform for emerging composers to develop and perform works for large ensemble.

Directions in 21st Century Jazz is divided into the Début Series and Friday/Saturday headliner shows. The latter presents many of the leading artists on the scene today, while the former is dedicated exclusively to showcasing emerging artists who have not previously led their own bands at the Gallery or even anywhere else in New York. The Jazz Gallery has always made an effort to extend opportunities to promising young artists, and the Début Series has been the Gallery’s primary avenue for nurturing these artists, many of whom arrive on our stage in a variety of ways. Some, such as Mario Castro and Ricky Rodriguez, catch our attention while playing with more established artists; others, such as Senri Oe and Maria Grand, generate buzz as recent international arrivals to the United States. Finally, some come to the Gallery via recommendations by mentors such as Steve Coleman and Miguel Zenón.

In addition to giving performance opportunities to young artists, The Jazz Gallery also has a strong track record of nurturing compositional talent, having commissioned new work annually since 2002, which eventually evolved into the Residency Commissions program. This program grants talented composers and bandleaders the resources to work on large-scale projects that will have enduring and transformative effects on their creative development. We encourage commissioned artists to think outside of the box, to critically explore their creative ideas, and to take risks afforded by the removal of financial and space constraints. To this end, Residency Commission recipients receive a commissioning fee ranging from $7,000–$12,000, as well as unrestricted access to our performance space for an entire season to compose, rehearse, and record during off-hours, culminating in the premiere of their new work on Friday and Saturday nights to packed houses.

Our Commissions program has supported 44 artists’ creation of 46 new works, many of which have since been commercially recorded and released and several of which have been nominated for GRAMMY Awards; however, our emphasis for the program has never rested on the end product. Instead, we are more concerned with providing the means for the compositional process for these artists, most of whom are receiving a commission for the first time in their careers. The program also showcases the multitude of cultural influences in New York’s contemporary jazz scene; recent Residency Commission recipients include: Ambrose Akinmusire, Gerald Clayton, Jen Shyu, Kris Davis, Sachal Vasandani, Amir ElSaffar, Linda Oh, Ben Wendel, Joe Sanders, John Escreet, and many others. Our 2016 Residency Commissions program will feature guitarists Rafiq Bhatia, Mary Halvorson, and Gilad Hekselman, each of whom has radically unmoored the guitar from conventional musical expectations, advancing the legacy of the instrument by continually seeking out and generating challenging, new musical contexts.

Since its inception, The Jazz Gallery has been a conduit for young artists to meet and learn from more experienced, established musicians on the scene. In the spring of 2014, we decided to use our experience connecting artists across generations to implement a more intensive and ambitious program: The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series. Drawing on our network of accomplished alumni, the Mentoring Series pairs three to four successful mid-career artists with younger mentees, helping them to develop their voices as artists and laying the foundation for sustainable careers by covering business and leadership skills not always taught in school. Each mentee rehearses in an ensemble hand-selected by and including his or her mentor, culminating in four closely scheduled performances mimicking a small tour, including stops at The Jazz Gallery and local venues such as SEEDS::Brooklyn Arts in Brooklyn, The Falcon in upstate New York, the Jazz Museum of Harlem in Manhattan, and SOUTH in Philadelphia.

For our mentees, these performances simulate the experience of being on the road and performing regularly with a band of veteran artists, a scenario increasingly less common for younger musicians due to the recent economic climate and trend toward institutionalized jazz education. Mentorship is a key theme in jazz history; most great jazz musicians were groomed through these sorts of informal channels, gaining invaluable experience by working alongside their heroes. The future of jazz depends on a continuation of this community-minded mentoring tradition, and although universities now offer Jazz Studies programs, meaningful collaborations between emerging and established musicians on and off the bandstand remain the most direct and effective means for young artists to mature and find their unique voices. Ambrose Akinmusire, Miles Okazaki, and Aaron Parks plan to be mentors in the upcoming season.

This past season also marked the beginning of a new Gallery big band project: The Jazz Composers’ Workshop. Curated by composer and bandleader Miho Hazama, The Workshop presents the music of young composers, performed by a full big band that is occasionally augmented by strings and vocals—an opportunity that is increasingly rare in New York today. To date, the workshop has featured works by composers Tom Erickson, Daniel Jamieson, Scott Ninmer, Erica Seguine, Nathan Parker Smith, John Yao, and Chris Zuar.

Lastly, many artists on the New York scene and beyond call The Gallery their home—not only because they began their careers as leaders on our stage, but also because we opened our doors to them for rehearsals and workshops. Our program The Woodshed offers free rehearsal space to artists who have performed previously at The Jazz Gallery in any capacity. This program originally came out of our ongoing dialogue with artists, who negotiate noise constraints in their apartments and the rising costs of adequate rehearsal spaces in the city. Our performance venue at 1160 Broadway is ideal for rehearsals. It is used on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings for performances and Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday evenings for the subtenancy, which leaves six days a week during the day and at least one evening per week for artists to use the space for their creative gain.

Jazz Speaks, vol. 1, ed. 2: James Francies and Jason Lindner

In 2014, The Jazz Gallery began a new mentorship series that paired up-and-coming jazz artists with today’s leading players for a series of concerts throughout New York.

In this podcast, keyboardists James Francies and Jason Lindner talk about their experiences in the program, and the importance of risk-taking on the bandstand.

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NOVEMBER // Ben Wendel with Aaron Parks

NOVEMBER is one of twelve compositions Ben Wendel wrote for his suite THE SEASONS. Majority of the suite were composed during his Jazz Gallery Residency in 2014. This video, NOVEMBER was also shot at The Jazz Gallery.

THE SEASONS is a collection of duets, which Nate Chinen of the New York Times selected it as one of the best album of 2015, although it was never released in album form, and took the entire year to hear in full. Ben released each video monthly via his website and various social media sites.

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FLOR MIRAGROS // Mario Castro Quartet + Strings

Recorded live at The Jazz Gallery on October 22nd, 2015. Mario Castro was part of the inaugural class of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series and has performed a series of concerts alongside Miguel Zenon.

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