Bassist Gregg August spans the jazz, Latin jazz, classical and avant-garde scenes. A sought-after composer and arranger, celebrated for his versatility, breadth and intelligence, Gregg has been an active member of the New York music scene for over ten years.
Originally a drummer, while spending two years at SUNY Albany, studying percussion with Richard Albagli, Gregg learned the bass. After transferring to The Eastman School of Music, August began studying jazz composition with renowned arranger Ray Wright and performance with pianist Bill Dobbins. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he promptly made the move to New York City, receiving his Master’s from The Juilliard School, where he studied with legendary bass teacher, Homer Mensch. Soon after graduation, August won the Principal bass position with La Orquestra Ciutat de Barcelona in Spain, which he held for two years. After spending some time freelancing as a jazz bassist in Paris, Gregg found himself hungry to return to the challenging New York scene. Upon arriving back in New York, armed with a wealth of experience in Spanish culture and language, Gregg became extremely inspired by latin music. His interest then led him to Cuba and Brazil and to becoming a student of master latin bass player, Andy Gonzalez. It wasn’t long before he was touring and recording with Ray Barretto’s New World Spirit.
August has played with Ray Barretto, Ornette Coleman, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo O’Farrill, James Moody, The Chico O’Farrill Big Band, The Lincoln Center's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, and Ochun among others. As a classical bassist he frequently performs with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Mark Morris Dance Group, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the American Composer’s Orchestra. He’s also a faculty member at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Institute at MassMoca in North Adams, Mass. In July 2007, The Bang on the Can All Stars premiered his Cuban Son inspired composition “Oriente”. The Boston Globe review admires that the piece “deftly contrasts languorous atmospheric writing with the kind of hard-driving and rhythmically charged music that the All-stars eat for breakfast. “ He was also recently commissioned by the flute, harp and percussion trio, Maya, who recently debuted the works on their first CD In the Spirit.
In 2003 Gregg formed his own sextet which has recorded two critically acclaimed albums; Late August (Iacuessa Records, 2005) and his most recent, One Peace (Iacuessa Records, 2007), which was selected as one of the Top Ten recordings of 2007 by Paul Blair of Hot House magazine. The sextet performs regularly in the NYC area.
August is a member of the JD Allen Trio and Assistant Principal bass with the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
John Bailey- Trumpet
Myron Walden- Alto
Stacy Dillard- Tenor
Luis Perdomo- Piano
Gregg August- Bass
EJ Strickland- Drums
One Peace, Late August
"One of the Year’s Very Best Albums!"
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Conservatory-trained August, whose career has embraced a mix of jazz, Latin and classical, came up w...Conservatory-trained August, whose career has embraced a mix of jazz, Latin and classical, came up with one of 2005’s most impressive debut albums, “Late August”. The follow-up is possibly even better and features the basic six-piece he’s been gigging with, playing ten very varied, challenging, sometimes Latin-tinged and occasionally Ornette Coleman-inspired arrangements, full of harmonic twists and turns, often veering off in unexpectedly different directions. His scoring gives the impression of a much larger front-line. Bailey is a striking section player and soloist, sometimes sounding a little like Ralph Alessi. Walden continues to stake his claim to being the most striking alto/soprano voice on the New York scene, playing with a passion only matched by Kenny Garrett. Yosvany Terry plays tenor instead of his more customary alto on five tracks, while the remainder feature yet another exciting, hard-edged newcomer in the Coltrane tradition named Stacy Dillard, who’s featured strongly in two of the CD highspots, the sombrely dynamic but boppish-lined ballad “In Dedication” (after a heart-breaking, low-register solo by Myron) and the tempo-varying “Change of Course”. The rhythm section plays an important role in August’s arrangements, with the brilliant Perdomo in more straightahead mode than usual, doubling on Rhodes, while EJ, who seems instinctively to know what every soloist is going to say, constantly keeps the cauldron boiling underneath.
It’s astonishing – and unjust – that so few people seem to know about August’s existence. He is an outstanding all-round musician, whose compositions and arrangements are certainly some of the most original around at the moment. One of the year’s very best albums.
"A Belated Top Pick for 2007"
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This sextet cuts through the muck and generally gets to the point with a sense of urgency. With bass...This sextet cuts through the muck and generally gets to the point with a sense of urgency. With bassist Gregg August’s second outing as a leader, matters get out of the gate amid sizzling and snazzy little big band type horns arrangements. Conservatory trained to include stints with Latin-jazz legends, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and percussionist Ray Barretto, the leader of this date transforms his varied experience into a distinct stylization here.
August shines as a formidable arranger, composer and technician throughout this vibrant endeavor, marked with a forward-moving, no looking back impetus. His booming bass lines steer the ship through variable currents and flows, often accelerated by the hornists’ punchy phrasings to complement an abundance of interconnecting subtleties.
On the comp titled “Nastissimo,” the band whirls through circular unison patterns, where August’s fluid bass lines pronounce a rite of passage for a feisty Latin-jazz romp. But he tempers the tide during the melodically engaging “One for Louis,” accelerated by trumpeter John Bailey’s soaring solo. Nonetheless, the sextet mixes it up rather heartily via high-flying bop choruses that are occasionally offset with a few tender moments. In sum, August and his band dish out a combination of fire, grace and passion on this gem of a date that is one of those records you can’t wait to tell your friends about. (A belated top pick for 2007).
"An exceptional example of completely original modern jazz"4 Stars ****
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Bassist and composer Gregg August takes his experience in Latin music and fuses it with hot modern j...Bassist and composer Gregg August takes his experience in Latin music and fuses it with hot modern jazz to produce this meaty collection of original music in sextet trim. August, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer E.J. Strickland combine for a formidable rhythm section, backing a three horn front line consisting of saxophonists Yosvanny Terry and Myron Walden, trumpeter John Bailey, at times omitting Terry for Steve Dillard, and in one case expanding to a septet with bass clarinetist Mike Lowenstern. This music is quite progressive and daring -- episodic as liner notes writer Jim Macnie observes - using a demanding, extensively arranged and precisely played series of charts, challenging for the musicians and the astute listener. It's impressive on many levels, and deserves more than one sitting. Using a wild unharnessed 6/8 rhythm on "Hand To Mouth" or dense 5/4 on "Nastissimo," the music flows with an upbeat powerful kineticism that is hard to deny. "Sixth Finger" starts bluesy but then is supercharged and injected to a frenetic hard bop, while a spiky bop stance informs "Change Of Course." Latin spice comes to the surface on the frenetic "Modal Tune" driven by the leader's bass, while the breezy "Cascading" and laid back "One For Louis" shows a softer side, the latter piece a bit slanted harmonically in a somewhat measured manner ala Wynton Marsalis. Bailey is one of the true unsung heroes in contemporary jazz, as his chops, facility and inventiveness are second to none. Terry and Walden work quite well as a team, and Perdomo is consistently out of sight, his startling piano offerings always greatly enhance the proceedings. An exceptional example of completely original modern jazz, with nothing straight laced and very little derived from sources or influences, August has a tiger by the tail on his effort, which comes highly recommended.
by Michael G. Nastos
"This is a winner"
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Gregg August’s sophomore release grabs you by the collar, gets directly in your face and growls, Lis...Gregg August’s sophomore release grabs you by the collar, gets directly in your face and growls, Listen. Loaded with streetwise postbop tunes, the disc rides in on the leader’s low, suspenseful bass riffs and a rock-solid band with as much forward momentum—and as many quick turns—as a roller coaster. There are plenty of persuasive solos, too, with John Bailey’s gritty trumpet, Myron Walden’s odd sax angles and E.J. Strickland’s drum bashing sitting particularly well opposite Gregg’s chewy, elastic sound. This is a winner.
"Beautifully Played, Wisely Composed and Arranged"
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This is the second release by classical conservatory-trained New York-based bassist and composer Gre...This is the second release by classical conservatory-trained New York-based bassist and composer Gregg August, an Assistant Bass Principal of the Brooklyn Philharmonic and a frequent collaborator with experimental composers collective Bang on a Can. One Peace is a more straight-ahead jazz showcase than August's Latin-flavored debut, Late August (Iacuessa Records, 2005). This time August worked closely with the experienced members of his sextet over the last year in a way that solidifies the interplay and trust between them all.
This approach indeed succeeds, since August's compositions are based on intricate nuances and sharp precision with swift punctuations and multi-layered dynamics. The sextet demonstrates how this working process has nurtured August's ten original compositions. Everyone contributes to the sextet's newfound ease of the playing. Saxophonist Myron Walden and trumpeter John Bailey, who played on Late August, are joined by tenor saxophonists Stacy Dillard and Yosvany Terry, as well as two members of Ravi Coltrane's band—pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer E. J. Strickland.
Bailey really shines here, with beautiful articulation and a solo that keeps gaining power on the sentimental “One for Louis.” August demonstrates his assured playing with his well-built solo on “Modal Tune.” The sharp rhythmic changes of “Sixth Finger”—and August and Strickland's tough and tight rhythmic flow, which enables the brass and reeds player to flourish—is close to some of Charles Mingus' arrangements for his bands.
“Change of Course” best showcases August's new approach. Based on a simple tone row, with no repetition or specific chord changes, it allows each soloist to alter the theme in any tempo he wishes. Walden, August, Perdomo and Bailey use this freedom in a masterful way, but still suggest a coherent meaning to this composition. The closing “Cascading,” featuring Walden's soulful and gentle soprano solo, nods to the Latin side of August, as he still active on the New York Latin scene.
One Peace is beautifully played, wisely composed and arranged, and comes warmly recommended.
"His composing brings out the best in every player on this excellent work"
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Bassist Gregg August is a dynamic and vastly underrated arranger and composer. On One Peace he enhan...Bassist Gregg August is a dynamic and vastly underrated arranger and composer. On One Peace he enhances a hard bop template with complex chord structures, layering of inimitable horn arrangements and echoes from other musical genres.
On “Nastissimo” for example, trumpeter John Bailey, altoist Myron Walden and tenor man Stacy Dillard play almost mournfully over the quicksilver vamp by August, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer EJ Strickland. “One for Louis” showcases Bailey, who plays throughout with a strong, even tone, whether whispering or soaring. Perdomo’s electric piano and Walden’s alto work beautifully on the Latin-styled “Modal Tune,” while “In Dedication” is a gorgeous ballad that melds hard bop and big band sensibilities. The sleek “Crescent Mood” has a “Caravan” type of feel, driven by Yosvany Terry’s wonderful tenor, and Mike Lowenstern’s stellar bass clarinet work on the Middle Eastern-flavored “Cascading” gives the song a mysterious dimension.
Another thing that makes August’s composing so intriguing is that one never knows how a tune will go. The dazzling “Sixth Finger” opens with a private-eye theme and then a swirling horn crescendo transforms the tune into a burner, with Stacy Dillard’s Cain-raising tenor leading the charge.
August’s tunes leave ample room for singular expression and his band mates take full advantage of their moments on center stage. One Peace is not an album of mere by-the-numbers mimicry and the challenges issued by his composing bring out the best in every player on this excellent work.