The Take Two series nurtures a vital young loft-jazz scene in Brooklyn
You may have heard: jazz is cool, again. His mainstream sounds are featured in Oscar-nominated Hollywood movies and represented at the Grammys. Locally, it mutates faster, sparking conversations about how new music sounds, who it is and where it’s played. A local conversation is how the role of jazz nightclubs in New York is changing, even as a growing number of shows in apartments, backyards and makeshift venues push improvised music into exciting spaces, while nurturing new listeners and even dancers.
Take Two, an ongoing series of such performances, has been bringing together classic sounds, great local acts, and deep listening and tinkering energy in Brooklyn homes for three years now. The series was founded in 2018 by two music-loving expats who were also DJ partners at a Williamsburg club, Black Flamingo. Samuel Ngahane, a 32-year-old French-Cameroonian software engineer, and Jared Proudfoot, a 33-year-old writer and digital producer from Sydney, wanted to create their own party. But they weren’t interested in emulating the rave atmosphere of popular Brooklyn nightlife. Both were jazz fans, as sensitive to the history of music as to the new sounds created by young artists in London, Chicago, Johannesburg and increasingly in New York. (Proudfoot had already launched a label, Picnic Recordings.) The party they were inspired to create would be more of a private-public event, where friends could listen to great records and enjoy live music in an intimate setting.
“Take Two reunited in response to what was really going on in London [at] Brilliant Corners,” Proudfoot said, referring to a jazz bar in Hackney named after a song by Thelonious Monk. Boasting a famous sound system loved by vinylheads the world over, the club has been the epicenter of this city’s young jazz scene. “They have an event called played twice, in which you listen to a record until the end, then ask musicians to perform a reinterpretation of this record. We were in New York and we thought, given the history of music here and the talented musicians we had seen over the past few years, that this idea would really work in New York.
They started small: Take Two debuted in September 2018 in Ngahane’s Bushwick loft, with a singer, songwriter and acoustic guitarist Matt white performing a solo rendition of the classic jazz album bossa nova from 1964, Getz/Gilbertofamous for giving the world the classic version of “The Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Astrud Gilberto.
The emotional connection between the audience and the material was immediate. “Somebody came up to us after that gig and said, ‘That was my mom’s favorite record, that’s what I grew up on as a kid, and I shed a few tears on it. thinking and my relationship with her,'” Ngahane said.
Musicians from across the New York scene immediately caught on to the idea, bringing with them exciting, often offbeat album choices. Endea Owensbest known as bassist for Jon Batiste on The late show leads his group through Earfood, a 2008 recording by the late trumpeter Roy Hargrove, well known to many jazz enthusiasts. Avant-garde composer and vibraphonist Sasha Berlinerat the head of a quartet with drummer Tyshawn Sorey, performed an obscure album by the contemporary New York trumpeter Avishai Cohen. And the afro-funk band from Brooklyn Super Yamba paid tribute to the long-time Beninese band Poly-Rhythm Orchestra of Cotonou.
Take Two’s diversity of styles and selections reflect the many directions of creative music today, as do the 13 versions of Take Two who performed in various Brooklyn lofts and backyards, to small crowds. always sold out, revealed an evolving community for music usually referred to as ‘jazz’.
“We can organize an experience for both the audience and the performer,” Ngahane said. “Musicians play differently when they’re in a room or in a place where they feel safe to express themselves the way they want. They can do it in front of a grateful audience, but also very different from what they are used to You are so close [to each other], the audience is almost part of the group and the group is part of the audience. There is no clear limit, no clear boundary. And so we had musicians who engaged the audience: not just to ‘clap one’, but almost to create the music with them. »
This symbiosis between musicians and audience in private spaces has played a big role in the musical evolution of New York. It was there, in the lofts that experimental jazz musicians gravitated to in the 1960s and 1970s, when mainstream jazz clubs chose not to reserve the more complicated, free-spirited sounds. And it was the magnet from the famous David Mancuso movie Evenings in the loftsthe cornerstone of the 1970s disco revival in New York.
This symbiosis is also underscored in the upcoming Take Two, on Sunday, March 27, when the Brooklyn-born and raised drummer Tcheser Holmes will reinterpret Brown ricea 1975 album by Gift Cherry. A legendary trumpeter and global music thinker who began his career playing free jazz with Paul Bley and Ornette Coleman, Cherry and his wife, Moki, have hosted community concerts around the world, inviting members of the public to play along. them. These events, and the wider legacy of the Cherrys, are the subject of the 2021 book, Organic music companieswhich inspired Proudfoot and Ngahane.
“They talk a lot in this book about how Moki Cherry created these safe spaces in schools or in apartments,” Proudfoot said. “Don Cherry was part of the loft scene in New York, and it’s a very similar thing we’re trying to do here.”
Holmes, a musician and composer trained at the New England Conservatory, plays with many local improvisers in the city, but is best known for his work with the punk-jazz band Irreversible entanglements, a leader in today’s free improvisation scene. The quintet he will lead on Sunday includes two other members of this group, trumpeter Aquiles Navarro and bassist Luke Stewart; plus Tomin Perea-Chamblee on woodwinds and electronics, and François on percussion.
Holmes chose Brown rice because for him the album evokes a lot of what’s going on in the music he loves right now – and his identity too.
“Don Cherry’s music relates to me being a young black kid in downtown Brooklyn,” Holmes said. “He embodies for me this essence, of to be in brooklyn and explore. [Brown Rice] was also super relevant to the era, where it was going. If you think about the last cut of this album, “Degi-Degi“- the voices, the conversations about the music, the wildness of it is just a great precursor to what’s to come for the music that I love to make in the scene. I would even call it a noise record… even the choice of notes reminds me of punk rock, or something The Who might do. It’s really global. »
As a veteran of conventional stages and DIY spaces, Holmes recognizes the inherent value of home shows like Take Two in helping to foster the community bond between performers and audiences — especially in the confusing moment (is it “ post-pandemic”? “the final stages of”?) that live music is experiencing right now.
“It sometimes feels like the future,” Holmes said. “I see artists getting signed [to record labels] make major productions in their garden or at a friend’s house. I see major artists, when they’re not on tour, maybe being in a loft and performing in front of a crowd of 60 people, and doing that maybe for a week.
So what is it about these shows that sets them apart from more conventional venues? “I feel like on a DIY show, people will get a good look at you as an artist,” Holmes said. “They will see everything, they will hear everything. They’ll hear the cough, they’ll see the face you make when you tap your thumb on the edge. With DIY, they’re just really seeing you. And it’s more spiritual for me.
Sunday’s Take Two performance of Brown rice with Tcheser Holmes is sold out. For upcoming events, visit picnicrecordings.com/take-two.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified trumpeter Avishai Cohen.