Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

SFJAZZ Collective in NYC

The imaginative repertory band tackles Chick Corea classics at Jazz Standard

The SFJAZZ Collective 2012, from left: Jeff Ballard, Miguel Zenón, Matt Penman, Stefon Harris, Robin Eubanks, David Sánchez, Edward Simon, Avishai Cohen
The SFJAZZ Collective performs at Jazz Standard in New York City, October 2012
The SFJAZZ Collective performs at Jazz Standard in New York City, October 2012. From left: Edward Simon, Stefon Harris, Robin Eubanks, Matt Penman, Avishai Cohen, David Sánchez, Miguel Zenón and Jeff Ballard.

Each year since 2004, the mid-sized SFJAZZ Collective has come together to rehearse, write, tour and document its gigs in triple- or double-album form. SFJAZZ, the organization, fosters new music by band members as well as new arrangements of material by one iconic source composer; this year, the Collective’s lodestar is Chick Corea. The band’s lineup has changed considerably over the years, but the quality of the players, plucked from postbop’s midcareer A-list, hasn’t. (This season, the Collective comprises saxophonists David Sánchez and Miguel Zenón, trumpeter Avishai Cohen, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, pianist Edward Simon, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jeff Ballard.) In all, the enterprise has given jazz repertory ensembles a better, or at least different, name, effectively deflecting the common criticisms against institutional bands whose business is interpretation. (“Interpretation” is a key word here, as opposed to “recreation.”)

You can’t, for instance, say that SFJAZZ is reactionary in its composer choices, which have included Monk, Ornette, Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver and even Stevie Wonder. You also can’t accuse the group of mining nostalgia or enforcing a musical preservationist act. As demonstrated during its late set on Oct. 14 at New York City’s Jazz Standard, its arrangements are too mercurial and intricate and accomplished. They certainly don’t sound old, yet they also aren’t willfully progressive. Hard-won evolution has been the band’s m.o.: This band recasts hard-jazz tenets without conceding to pop. (Yes, it often swings.)

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published