The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series: Vol.5
The Latest Update
Meet the Artists: Eric Revis & Julius Rodriguez
This week, the third edition of this season’s Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series kicks off with performances at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, and The Jazz Gallery. This third edition features bassist Eric Revis mentoring pianist/multi-instrumentalist Julius Rodriguez. Beyond his longstanding association withs saxophonist Branford Marsalis, Revis has put together an acclaimed body of work as a bandleader over the course of several records, including 2017’s Sing Me Some Cry (Clean Feed). Writing in the New York Times, Nate Chinen notes that Revis’s working trio with Kris Davis and Gerald Cleaver has “a rare and mystifying cohesion.”
Currently studying in the Juilliard jazz program, Julius Rodriguez has established a strong reputation in New York as both a drummer and pianist. In an interview with Jazz Speaks, Rodriguez noted how this dual perspective informs his playing:
[Piano and drums] are different worlds, though they connect through rhythm. When I’m playing drums with a piano player, there are a lot of things we catch rhythmically, and vice versa when I’m playing piano with a drummer. People notice that, and they love to see that connection. They’re both accompanying instruments, and their job is to make the soloist feel comfortable and sound good. It’s different on the piano, because you have all the harmonic things you can do. On the drums there’s the rhythm. So the harmonic sense helps me on drums, and the rhythmic awareness helps me on piano.
In addition to creating a strong hookup with Revis on the leader’s open and mercurial compositions, Rodriguez will be sparring with drummer Nasheet Waits and saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo over the course of the concerts as well. Here’s the group’s full schedule:
December 11 | The National Jazz Museum in Harlem | 7:00 P.M. | $10 general admission
December 12 | The Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA | 9:00 P.M. | FREE admission
December 13 | The Jazz Gallery | 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. | $15 general admission (FREE for members), $20 reserved cabaret seating ($10 for members) for each set
December 19 | Shapeshifter Lab, Brooklyn | 8:15 P.M. | $15 general admission
Meet the Artists: Kris Davis & David Leon
On Thursday, November 15, the next edition of The Jazz Gallery Mentoring Series kicks off at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. This edition features pianist Kris Davis mentoring saxophonist David Leon. Throughout November, the pair will play in four different configurations, from duo to quartet. The ensembles will feature many of Davis’s regular collaborators, including drummers Tom Rainey and Tomas Fujiwara, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and bassist Michael Formanek.
Like Davis, Leon is an improviser of enthusiastic versatility and catholic taste. He leads his own post-bop quartet, performs with the collaborative trio Sound Underground, and frequently convenes groups for free improvisation. A native of Miami, Florida, and a graduate of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, Leon has won an ASCAP Herb Alpert Award for jazz composition and performed at the 2017 Newport Jazz Festival. Sound Underground has just released their third album as a group; you can check out their 2017 performance at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. at the top of the page.
Here’s Davis and Leon’s full schedule:
November 15, 2018 | 7 PM | The Jazz Museum in Harlem | with Tomas Fujiwara, drums
November 20, 2018 | 7:30 PM & 9:30 PM | The Jazz Gallery | with Tom Rainey, drums, and Michael Formanek, bass
November 28, 2018 | 8 PM | The Howland Cultural Center, Beacon, NY
November 29, 2018 | 7:30 PM | The Owl Music Parlor, Brooklyn, NY | with Ingrid Laubrock, saxophones
Immanuel Wilkins Speaks
Last week, The Jazz Gallery kicked off this year’s Mentoring Series with performances by mentor Jonathan Finlayson and mentee Immanuel Wilkins at the Gallery and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Before the shows, we sat down with Immanuel to talk about his musical lineage and his hopes for the mentoring experience.
The Jazz Gallery: You’ve had the chance to work with many established artists from a cross section of generations. How have these experiences influenced your self-perception within the lineage of the music?
Immanuel Wilkins: The beginning, for me, was when I was still in Philadelphia. Probably when I was around 15 years old, I started playing with the Sun Ra Arkestra, with Marshall Allen and a lot of those people. And I didn’t realize it then—it look me leaving Philadelphia to realize I was blessed to have a bunch of experiences with true masters of the music, at an age where I wasn’t really ready for it. So I [started] from there. Mickey Roker was also in Philadelphia at the time; he was around, Bootsie Barnes—there was all these people of the really old generation that kind of took me under their wing. And then also, I was doing the Kimmel Center program with Anthony Tidd. Steve Coleman would come down and do masterclasses from time to time with that program. That’s how I met Jonathan [Finlayson] and Marcus Gilmore and all the people in the M-Base crowd. That’s how I kind of got started checking out that music and getting into that stuff.
TJG: Now you’re in New York—you’re playing at the clubs, you’re billing yourself as the headliner. What has developed in terms of the way you see yourself as being a part of this legacy?
IW: I’m trying to think of the defining moment. I think at this point, I more concerned about playing good. I was talking to Kenny Washington today, and he was talking about how he was talking to Dizzy. He asked Dizzy, “Man, how’d you change music like this? What were you and Bird thinking?” and Dizzy was just like, “Man, we were just trying to play good—we were just trying to play.” That spoke to me. I guess my place in the lineage is just trying to continue the line. I’m trying to play good. And if that happens to change things, then good. That means maybe I stumbled upon something worth exploring. But if not, that’s fine, too. I’m trying to play good.
TJG: I’ve talked about the “Philly sound” with people like Johnathan Blake—as something that’s laid back while having that alive, very forward momentum. What’s your interpretation of the Philly sound, and how would you say it has influenced your playing and your approach to music? Or is it something that’s more essential and you can’t really define it?
IW: Okay, the Philly sound. I remember, for me at least, growing up in Philly, we were all trying to sound like Trane. I think John Coltrane has the biggest influence on the Philly sound, at least when I was younger. We would go to jam sessions and cats would call these long modal tunes, and we’d stretch out for like 20 minutes on one chord—as opposed to here. Cats are calling tunes with chords—like, actual changes. I think there are benefits for both. One thing I’ve learned from Philly is that there’s a certain depth that all the musicians who come out of Philadelphia play with: Jaleel (Shaw), Justin Faulkner, Johnathan Blake, Orrin—any of these people. There’s a certain depth to their playing that’s something almost only Philly people recognize. And secretly, I realized it once I got to New York. When I first got here, I was like, “Man, I’m not having any experiences like I was back home.” And I realized that depth is very special to Philly. It’s a certain Philly thing. Honestly, I put it up there as one of the cities close to New Orleans. It’s up there with New Orleans in terms of [being] a serious jazz town that has a deep connection to the music, and a deep foundation for what happens after.
TJG: Since you brought it up, let’s talk about blowing. You and Jonathan have distinct, unique ways of constructing solos, and you’re both tremendously receptive players as well as players who offer a lot of information in your soloing. What are you most looking forward to, in terms of inspiration, playing with and alongside Jonathan?
IW: First of all, I love Jonathan’s playing. I guess I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if this should be on the record or off the record—you make the decision—but I haven’t checked out the music yet. But I am looking forward to it just because I have checked out a lot of M-Base stuff, so I’m interested to see how much of that is in Jonathan’s stuff. And in a sextet setting it’s going to be interesting, because I haven’t heard that concept in a three-horn type of situation. I’m really looking forward to it. Also I love Craig. Craig Weinrib’s playing drums on all of it. Craig’s my man.
TJG: Do you want to talk about your connection to the personnel on this upcoming performance?
IW: I met Craig right when I moved to New York. We played a session at Aaron Parks’ house. I remember he heard me and he took a liking to me, and I always liked listening to Craig, before that even. And so I called him on my first leader gig in New York, at the Gallery. Ever since then, we’ve been playing off and on a little bit. He’s one of my favorite drummers in New York. I don’t know Brian Settles, but I’m looking forward to hearing him. I’m sure he’s great. David Bryant—how’d I meet David? I guess just around the scene, but he’s also one of my favorite piano players. He’s great—he’s really amazing. And John Hébert, I’ve listened to him, but I’ve never met him or played with him, so that should be fun. I do like his playing.
TJG: I know you said you haven’t exactly checked it out yet, but the music you’ll be presenting, is it all Johnathan’s?
IW: I think it’s music from the new record he just released [3 Times Round]. I know it’s a sextet and I’m pretty sure the alto player is Steve Lehman on the record.
TJG: In addition to being from Philly, you also came up, as so many artists in New York have, playing in the church. In what ways did that experience give you an understanding of what your instrument could do, maybe before you knew what you wanted to do with your instrument?
IW: When I first started playing saxophone, I started in church. The only time I would play was at church, and coming home and playing the music I heard that day, figuring it out on my horn. My parents wouldn’t give me lessons [at first], because I went through a bunch of instruments before then, and they paid for lessons for all of those. So this one, they were like, “Alright, you gotta prove to me you wanna learn how to play.” So I learned the church songs, and then I started playing in the church. I was playing saxophone in church for about five years maybe. They didn’t really need a saxophone player, so I’d end up learning keyboards, bass, drums and then organ a little bit. So I kind of shifted, at that point; it was more or less me trying to fulfill a role.
But let me answer your question. When I was playing saxophone in church—because my first experience was me coming home from church and trying to figure out a church song, I was close to emulating voices. That’s something that the horn kind of showed me. I didn’t have any other references. I mean there were records around the house; my dad had a lot of jazz records, so did my mom. So I had heard the saxophone, but that was a formative experience for me—coming home from church and learning those songs. So I immediately connected with the vocal quality. Even though trumpet and trombone are kind of known for being a little bit more vocal, I was trying to get that same sound. I was trying to get that same replication from the saxophone.
TJG: Is that early experience informing the way to play right now?
IW: Oh, totally. I’m still attracted to people who sound the most human—Ornette Coleman, Johnny Hodges, Trane. People who sound human, that’s what I like about music in general. It’s that connection between humans.
TJG: I know this mentorship series has a business component, also. What would you say are some challenges you’ve encountered as you’ve begun to market yourself as an artist?
IW: The broad answer to that question is, I haven’t really thought about it as much as I should. And these are people out there with records. Jonathan just came out with a new record. I just—literally today—we just solidified the studio date for my band to go into the studio.
TJG: For your first record?
IW: Yeah. So seeing these sort of parallels, or not parallels, but intersecting lines, it gives me some good talking points because he’s done this and I have no idea what the recording process entails—or touring—or anything that involves being a real musician. I need some work on those things.
TJG: It’s rough out there.
IW: It really is. That’s amazing—it really is rough out here.
TGJ: Are you with a label or are you putting this out yourself?
IW: I’m going to record it and then try to pitch it to a label.
TJG: Old school.
TJG: What do you hope listeners will bring with them to this upcoming performance?
IW: Open ears. My ears are also going to be open. One thing I am looking forward to is I’m going to be coming to this almost as an audience member. I haven’t been in the band. This is already a set band. So coming into it, it’s kind of my job to fit in where I can and find my own voice within the umbrella of what is the Jonathan Finlayson Sextet. So I’m going to be just as open as I hope the audience is.
Meet the Artists: Jonathan Finlayson & Immanuel Wilkins
This fall, The Jazz Gallery is pleased to present the fifth edition of our Mentorship Series. Over the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce you to the three mentor-mentee pairs that will play a series of concerts in New York City and beyond.
First off, we have mentor Jonathan Finlayson and mentee Immanuel Wilkins. Hailing from Oakland, California, Finlayson has become one of the most acclaimed trumpeters working in New York for over the past decade. He has been a member of saxophonist Steve Coleman’s Five Elements since age 18, playing a vital role on records like “Harvesting Semblances and Affinities” and “Synovial Joints,” which were both named best albums of the year by the New York Times. In addition to his long-running association with Coleman, Finlayson has performed with several other critics poll-topping groups, including those led by guitarist Mary Halvorson, saxophonist Steve Lehman, and pianist David Virelles. Finlayson has released has two albums with his own ensemble, Sicilian Defense, and it is set to release his next one, 3 Times Round (which began as a 2014 Jazz Gallery commission), on October 5. At the top of the page, listen to Finalyson talk about his own musical education and approach to teaching.
Immanuel Wilkins grew up in Philadelphia, playing in church and studying saxophone at the city’s Clef Club of Jazz. He’s currently a student at Juilliard, but has already asserted himself as a new voice of note on the wider scene, touring with Jason Moran’s “Monk at Town Hall, 1959” project and pianist Gerald Clayton. He’s quickly established a deep rapport with his peers, like vibraphonist Joel Ross and pianist Micah Thomas, and was recently featured at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival on the collaborative project UNHEARD. Wilkins’s original composition “Warriors,” performed live at The Jazz Gallery, is featured at the top of the page.
For their mentorship project, Finlayson and Wilkins will perform music from 3 Times Round alongside saxophonist Brian Settles, pianist David Bryant, bassist John Hébert, and drummer Craig Weinrib. Their tour kicks off at The Jazz Gallery on Wednesday, October 10, with sets at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M., followed a set at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem on Thursday, October 11, at 7:00 P.M. Stay tuned for more dates in November.
Mentorship has always been a key theme throughout jazz history. Jazz musicians historically came up through informal channels, gaining invaluable experience by being alongside their heroes both on and off the bandstand and future generations of jazz will depend on the continuation of this community-minded mentoring tradition. Unfortunately, this culture of mentorship has steadily declined in recent decades, as formalized jazz education have replaced these direct processes of masters passing down wisdom and knowledge. To address this, The Jazz Gallery developed the Mentoring Series to cultivate a group of senior-level jazz musicians who could provide aspiring musicians with the opportunity to learn the music and business of jazz under their guidance.
Since the program’s inception in 2014, 13 pairs of mentors and emerging artists have presented series of concerts at venues across New York City and beyond; through partnerships with other presenters, young artists have embarked upon mini-tours to upstate New York, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn. Several mentees have also seen a marked rise in their career profile after participating in the program, including two recent mentees who were awarded Residency Commissions to compose and premiere original works at The Jazz Gallery (Maria Grand and Joel Ross).
In 2018, The Jazz Gallery will sponsor three mentors: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Eric Revis (bass), and Ben Wendel (saxophone). We trust our mentors to address the needs of their mentees as they see fit, and approaches have included workshopping compositions by mentees, preparing classic repertoire united by a historical theme, or presenting original music by both mentor and mentee. Mentors are also responsible for hand-selecting an ensemble of seasoned veterans to accompany mentees, who are tasked with navigating unfamiliar and challenging musical situations. Through the program, mentees develop not only their musicianship, but also become savvier in managing their musical careers. They also have the opportunity to participate as educators themselves; in our most recent season, a performance at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia was preceded by a workshop given by a group led by Yosvany Terry (mentor) which included Daryl Johns (mentee). We look forward to expanding educational outreach in the coming seasons. Finally, mentees gain valuable exposure performing with high-profile artists, which is expanded through coverage on our official blog, Jazz Speaks; participating artists benefit from being interviewed and featured on the site, which was named #2 Jazz Blog on the internet by Feedspot.
We select our mentors from among the regular contributors to our flagship weekend performance series, Directions in 21st Century Jazz, and our sole requirement is the completion of a mini-tour of 4 concerts. Although these performances are dedicated to mentees’ artistic growth, we hold them to a high artistic standard. Consequently, this program is invite-only, with mentees selected by a curatorial panel composed of Artistic Director, Artistic Advisory Board, as well as our chosen mentors. Mentees are to be selected soon. 6 artists total, including mentors and mentees, will benefit from this upcoming season, while the audience for performances (12 in total) will be upwards of 1,000.
One of the 12 movements from Ben Wendel’s (proposed mentor) SEASONS. NOVEMBER was filmed at The Jazz Gallery in duo with Aaron Parks who has served as a mentor (mentoring Joel Ross) in 2014.
A selection from Jonathan Finlayson’s (proposed mentor) latest album MOVING STILL.
Eric Revis (proposed mentor) is seen and heard here with his own mentor Branford Marsalis, with whom Eric has been performing with for past 20 years. Eric has gained wealth of knowledge from his experience with Mr. Marsalis on and off the bandstands and he is primed to step up as a mentor himself.
Start and End Dates
01/01/2018 — 12/31/2018
New York, New York