Gypsy Schaeffer, Matthias Lupri
January 1, 1970Just the usual two items again this week. The column profiled Gypsy Schaeffer, the cooperative quartet of saxophonist Andy Voelker, trombonist Joel Yennior, bassist Jef Charland, and drummer Chris Punis. Their first couple of CDs (the second of which is due out in a couple of months) reveal them to be one of the better and more interesting young groups here in Boston (though Punis says he'd like to persuade everyone in the group to move to New York in a couple of years). They've already got a fan in Nat Hentoff, who sent them a hand-written blurb they'll be attaching to the new CD. It's no surprise that Hentoff would like their work: like the guys in the band, he's got an appreciation of jazz that ranges from the music's earliest days right up through the present.
The Calendar pick was vibraphonist Matthias Lupri and his group. He and his band were joined by a couple of guests — saxophonist George Garzone and percussionist Jamey Haddad — for a gig at Berklee Performance Center on Thursday. And Gypsy Schaeffer had a pair of extras on hand for their show at Brookline Tai Chi last night: saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase and trombonist Jeff Galindo.
Yours truly missed both gigs, alas. I've been scrambling to get ahead on some work so I can sit back and enjoy the 3rd and 4th. (The fireworks are fired a day early up here in Swampscott, and it's become an annual summer highlight to sit on our front porch and watch them.)
Have a great holiday yourselves.
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While looking to the past, Gypsy Schaeffer moves forward
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | June 30, 2006
CAMBRIDGE — Drummer Chris Punis and trombonist Joel Yennior, both 32, sit at an outdoor table at Cambridge Brewing Company in Kendall Square, a snifter of the extra-potent house stout before each of them, explaining how their quartet, Gypsy Schaeffer, with saxophonist Andy Voelker and bassist Jef Charland, came to be.
The group's oddball name, for instance, comes from a venue in old-time New Orleans where jazz titan Jelly Roll Morton played piano. The band performs tonight at Brookline Tai Chi with saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase and trombonist Jeff Galindo.
"I guess the original idea of the band," says Punis, who manages Cambridge Brewing Company by day, "was to have a name that would communicate that we have a deep respect for the tradition and we want to rest on the shoulders of the people before us, but at the same time we want to go forward. And so, 'Oh, this is the club Jelly Roll used to play at. That sounds good.'"
What they didn't immediately realize was that the venue in question had doubled as a bordello. In fact, further digging on the Internet revealed that the joint took its name from the champagne-loving madam who ran it. But if that made the band's chosen name less venerable, it certainly wasn't grounds for rejecting it.
"It's like Chris said," says Yennior, an eight-year veteran of the Either/ Orchestra and teacher in New England Conservatory's extension program. "For better or worse, that's sort of the history of jazz."
Jazz history can also be heard in the band's distinctive sound, which at times echoes everyone from Sidney Bechet and Count Basie to Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman — all while executing original compositions very much their own. The absence of a chordal instrument such as piano or guitar often turns the band's two horns into accompaniment instruments, leading to all sorts of intriguing voicings and counterpoint.
The slightly offbeat instrumentation came about at least partly by accident. The group got its start when Punis and Yennior started booking weekly brunch gigs in late 2002. They played standards with a revolving cast of sidemen that eventually coalesced into a working quartet of Punis, Yennior, Voelker, and Gypsy Schaeffer's original bassist, Edward Perez. The sax-trombone-bass-drums lineup became firmly established.
"It was a new experience for myself to be playing in that context without a chordal instrument," says Yennior. "But I found it to be really liberating. Also, it provided some interesting interplay between the horns, sort of treating one another as a comping instrument, playing off one another and complementing one another's improvisations and melody statements."
Academia helped prompt Gypsy Schaeffer's historic approach to music making: Punis, Voelker, and Charland all attended the Berklee College of Music; Yennior has degrees from the University of Miami and NEC. But Punis and Yennior arrived at their history blurring from opposite directions.
Punis was big into John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman when one of his teachers, Hal Crook, had him assemble a tape ranging through several decades of jazz history, one track per decade, and told him to listen to it each day as an exercise. "I wound up really getting into the first three or four," Punis recalls. "I really got into Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, in particular. There was a period for a year or two where that older stuff was primarily what I listened to, and that kind of smashed open all of the different genres within jazz for me."
Yennior started out with the older stuff growing up in South Orange, N.J., before zeroing in on the more modern. "My high school band director turned me onto these jam sessions hosted by the Jersey Jazz Society, which is really a bunch of old timers coming around and playing traditional jazz," he says. "I was into trombonists like Jack Teagarden and Kid Ory. And then somebody turned me on to J.J. Johnson."
Thus far there have been two self-produced Gypsy Schaeffer CDs. "Gypsy Schaeffer" was meant to be a demo when the band recorded it in 2003, shortly before Perez left the band to study music in Peru; by the time it was released the next year, Charland had taken over on bass. Since then they've recorded a follow-up, "Portamental," due out this fall.
The new disc will feature a blurb from the eminent jazz writer Nat Hentoff, the contents of which are already proudly displayed on the band's website (www.gypsyschaeffer.com).
"As Sidney Bechet said," it begins, "jazz keeps moving through the generations — its roots refreshed with more enlivening sounds of surprise. Gypsy Schaeffer has established its own distinctive identity — a lyrically swinging, immediately identifiable addition to the jazz scene."
Gypsy Schaeffer performs at 8 tonight at Brookline Tai Chi, with guests Charlie Kohlhase and Jeff Galindo. Tickets $10, $5 students. Call 617-277-2975 or visit www.brooklinetaichi.com.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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Calendar Jazz Picks
Matthias Lupri Group with George Garzone and Jamey Haddad
Matthias Lupri (left) has gotten tagged as a vibraphonist deserving wider recognition in the past couple of Down Beat critics' polls. But he's making a mark as a composer as well, the most recent evidence of which is his new release, "Metalix." As with its immediate predecessor, "Transition Sonic," the new disc incorporates electronic effects to create a sound both progressive and atmospheric. Lupri is generally joined by a core group: guitarist Nate Radley, bassist Thomson Kneeland, and drummer Jordan Perlson, plus a pair of ringers. On "Metalix," the add-ons were saxophonists Myron Walden and Donny McCaslin. Tonight at Berklee, where Lupri's group is performing as part of the college's Percussion Week, the group will be joined by a pair of Berklee professors: local sax hero George Garzone and in-demand percussion master Jamey Haddad.
Thurs 6/ 29 Pyeng Threadgill The eclectic vocalist Pyeng Threadgill, daughter of renowned jazz composer Henry Threadgill, debuted on disc with "Sweet Home: The Songs of Robert Johnson" in 2004, revamping famous tunes by the legendary bluesman. Now she's followed up with a CD of original compositions, "Of the Air," also from Random Chance Records. Scullers, Doubletree Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston. 617-562-4111. 8 & 10 p.m. $18, $58 with dinner.
Fri 6/ 30 Miles Donahue Group Donahue, one of the few jazzmen to double on saxophone and trumpet, arrives in Acton touting a pair of star-studded CDs out this month from Amerigo Records. "In the Pocket" sees him joined by Jerry Bergonzi, Fred Hersch, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jamey Haddad, et al. "Bounce" has him with Joey Calderazzo, Adam Nussbaum, John Lockwood, and John Patitucci, among others. Joining him in Acton tomorrow are pianist Tim Ray, guitarist Norm Zocher, bassist Lockwood, and drummer Jim Lattini. Acton Jazz Cafe, 452 Great Road (Rte. 2A), Acton. 978-263-6161. 9 p.m. $10.