Jazz String Quintet
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Jazz String Quintet

Chicago, Illinois, United States | MAJOR | AFM

Chicago, Illinois, United States | MAJOR | AFM
Band Jazz Classical


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"No shortage of top talent in spotlight this weekend"

If Paris is the City of Light and Los Angeles the City of the Angels, Chicago may be emerging as the City of Festivals.

There's one practically every week of the year, and this weekend two jazz soirees will be casting a spotlight on some of the city's most accomplished musicians.

Longtime Chicago concertgoers will remember the era, not so long ago, when the annual Jazz Fair ran a single night. No more. The expanded Winter Delights Jazz Fair (that name has got to go) now stretches from Thursday through Sunday, a burst of energy and heat precisely when it's needed -- in the dead of winter.

Thursday night's opening augured well for this year's event, with a serenely beautiful performance by Chicago singer Kurt Elling and saxophonist Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet. Though only a small ensemble held the stage of Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center, the intricacy, detail and innovation of Gailloreto's writing evoked the sense of a chamber orchestra.

Many jazz musicians have written arrangements for strings, but Gailloreto's stood out, in part because of the sheer amount of musical information he packed into each piece. Where lesser composers use the strings simply to play slow-moving chords or double the melody line, Gailloreto offered clever, four-part string writing. Elling joined the fray on several numbers, his voice a warm and supple foil to the quintet's often prickly, provocative accompaniments. To hear Elling caress the phrases of Kenny Dorham's "Fair Weather" and unspool the long, sinuous lines of Fred Hersch's "The Sleepers" was to savor a less hysterical facet of the singer's work than listeners are accustomed to.

- The Chicago Tribune by Howard Reich

"Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet American Complex Origin Records"

There is a noir jazz complexion in the music of Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet that reverberates of haunting sensations in the harmonies of the instruments as they travel along serpentine-curved passageways. The group’s new CD, American Complex from Origin Classical label, covers an extensive network of movements from the vintage chamber jazz formations of yesteryear to the domains of avant garde, downbeat ambient, and eclectic modern.

American Complex exhibits a number of facets that vary from the soft glides of classic jazz minuets to eccentric-based motifs calibrated to move at different rhythmic rates framed by sharply cut angles and an Americana-tint in the melodic tooling. The group’s interaction adds dimension to the listening experience by contouring the melodic phrases to reflect familiar visuals. The album is like a performance art piece where it is easy to imagine a cast of actors playing out the movements in the compositions similarly to the actors of the silent film era.

The quintet performs a handful of original tracks and a few improvised renditions of works by Thelonious Monk, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, and Patricia Barber who additionally sings on her songs “Spring Song” and “Wind Song.” The quintet performs as a solid unit even as each musician is entirely involved in his or her own thoughts resulting in a convergence of musical ideas that spurs rejuvenation to occur. For instance, the taut strokes of Benton Wedge’s viola are layered in the feathery swirls of violinists Katherine Hughes and Carol Kalvonjian as the deep-toned vibrations of Jill Kaeding’s cello tippy toe through the melodic glades in “Soliloquy.” The dialogue is animated and melodically synchronized as the harmonies erupt into a vision of sonic beauty.

“Soliloquy” is the opening number to the title track’s suite which bridges into the network of flowery twirls and jutting flights taken by the strings in “Lullaby.” From there, the suite shifts into the soft undulations of “Incantation” before transforming into the downbeat shading of “Sermon.” The instruments pulsate at their own rhythmic timing enabling them to bracket each other’s movements and connect at disjointed angles, and yet, they complement one another’s patterns nicely. The strings squeeze together and loosen their knotted bunches at the close of “Sermon” to come together as one at the ending of the suite.

The group sinks their talons into Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” forming new variations on the main themes that frost the striking accents of the original tune with the angelic temper of the strings. The group performs this same feat with “Fats” Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose.” Patricia Barber’s bourbon-toned timbres resonate beautifully through the channels of graceful notes sowed by the strings in “Spring Song” and “Wind Song” giving these tunes a tint of classic pop meshed with its classic jazz smoothness. Jim Gailloreto’s saxophone adds a mild fizzle in the melodic fluidity of “Bad Clowns,” but stirs up the mixture in Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” as guitarist John McLean mirrors Gailloreto’s melodic phrases.

Jim Gailloreto’s Jazz String Quintet are perceptive in knowing when to slice into each others phrases and to what extent to make the cuts. Sometimes the slices are blunt and sometimes they are made at an angle, but no matter how the quintet does it, the outcome is sonically complex and interesting making American Complex an impressive piece of work. - Jazz Times By Susan Frances

"American Complex Jim Gailloreto | Origin Classical (2009)"

Chamber jazz or third stream—or whatever the amalgamation of western classical music and jazz is called—has had a handful of talented proponents sprinkled throughout the history of music. They have ranged from the more structured compositions of Igor Stravinsky to the looser improvisations of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Soprano saxophonist Jim Gailloreto has recently joined the ranks of these musicians.
On American Complex, Gailloreto is in the company of a traditional string quartet, a guitarist on one track, and Patricia Barber's piano and vocals on two.

The CD is made up of a long, four-movement piece and a shorter one—all by Gailloreto— as well as a few standards, including Thelonious Monk, and two compositions by Barber. Even though there is a strong improvisational component to the music the feel is very much that of Western classical with jazzy touches. This is true even with the Monk compositions. Comparing this string quintet with, for example, cellist Akua Dixon's Quartet Indigo sessions—very much blues-drenched jazz with classical accents—this set is the other way around. Barber's songs fit well within the overall structure of the record, but they bear the imprint of her unique sound and style.

The instrumental tracks are very interesting both in their intricate constructs and in the solo and group improvisations. The main soloist is Gailloreto, but on "'Round Midnight" he shares the spotlight with violinist Katherine Hughes, and on "Well You Needn't" with guitarist John McLean. This is not to say that the quartet is relegated to the background like 1940s and '50s popular jazz records, where the role of the strings was to smooth out the horn sounds and make improvised jazz palatable to a larger audience. Quite the contrary,the quartet's playing is as angular as Gailloreto—who is a master of his instrument. He is able to use repetitive ideas and concepts without making the record monotonous; in fact, he is able to infuse his themes with something new each time he improvises on them.

Even though this is not traditional jazz it is a very enjoyable and intellectually stimulating slice of improvised music from a master composer and saxophonist. - All About Jazz by By Hrayr Attarian

"Nothin’ like a G thing Jim Gailloreto brings cred back to the soprano sax with his stellar jazz fusions."

“Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture,” guitar grandmaster Pat Metheny notoriously ranted on his website in 2000. “Something that we all should be totally embarrassed about—and afraid of.” Stop ten people on Wabash Avenue and say “soprano sax,” and all ten likely will reply “Kenny G” faster than you can say man-perm.

But if you’ve spent any time sipping a Manhattan in the burgundy booths of the Green Mill, you’ll probably recognize bespectacled saxophonist Jim Gailloreto, whose inventive improvisatory soprano work with Mill luminaries such as Kurt Elling is the very antithesis of G’s uninspired oxygen consumption. Chicago Symphony Orchestra audiences have also caught the 49-year-old on the Symphony Center stage performing Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “Scorched.” However, it’s Gailloreto’s rare jazz-classical crossover project, the Jazz String Quintet, that sets him apart as one of the most unique composer-performers putting pen to staff paper today.

The ensemble’s roots run back to Gailloreto’s days as a composition student at DePaul University, beginning with his budding romance with his (now) wife and JSQ cellist, Jill Kaeding. “Here was this wonderful, beautiful cellist willing to play my music,” Gailloreto says. The couple now live in Albany Park, and their son, Coleman, just started college.

If impressing brunets was what first sparked his interest in string-writing, it was a giant, if forgivable, lie that made the jazzer-plus-string-quartet concept a reality. Gailloreto recalls that, in 1996, composer Peter Saltzman “called me up and said, ‘Jim, I’m doing a concert. Do you have anything written for string quartet and saxophone?’ I lied and said yes.” After hanging up, Gailloreto cloistered himself in his basement with a two-month deadline to write a 20-minute piece titled “Justina with Strings.”

Classical musicians often stumble through the swing of jazz, having had rhythmic elasticity surgically extracted during conservatory. Gailloreto resolved this disconnect by writing the swing into the string player’s parts with expertly placed accents, moving away from the traditional dotted-eighth-16th or triplet rhythms. He also collected some of Chicago’s finest freelancers for the JSQ: Katherine Hughes (first violin), Mark Agnor (second violin, replaced by Carol Kalvonjian in 2007) and Benton Wedge (viola).

In 2006, the Jazz String Quintet recorded a self-titled debut album with special guest Elling. On Tuesday 15, the fivesome releases its sophomore effort, American Complex, featuring the incomparable jazz vocalist and Green Mill fixture Patricia Barber on original tunes and adapted standards of Jerome Kern, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. With poignant, beguiling poetry (“Tea for two, minus one, begets me, though alone / I prefer a stiff drink to the tea”), Barber’s voice drifts among darkened bedrooms like some melancholy ghost in her “Spring Song,” one of her two originals on the album. Gailloreto’s spacious, late-night horn snakes around Barber as the strings intersperse little constellations of harmonics. Yet it’s the album’s title work (a commission by Chamber Music America) that exhibits Gailloreto’s finest writing to date, most notably in the “Lullaby” movement when the lyricism is offset with an ominous string pizzicato.

With a recent appearance at New York City’s prestigious Bargemusic series and this week’s can’t-miss album-release performance in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Under the Dome series, the Jazz String Quintet is poised for exposure far beyond city limits. And there’s nary a smooth Christmas album in sight.

JSQ teams with Barber at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Preston Bradley Hall Thursday 10 at 6:30pm. American Complex hits stores Tuesday 15.
- Time Out Chicago By Doyle Armbrust

"Chicago Tribune - by John von Rhein"

Thus "Dance of the Reed Pipes" became "Toot Toot Tootie Toot," its frisky tune playing hide and seek with the syncopated swirls of Larry Combs' clarinet and the bluesy brasses. Similarly, the crisp little toy-soldier "March" morphed into "Peanut Brittle Brigade," which gloried in the high-decibel solos of trumpeter Orbert Davis, saxophonist Jim Gailloreto and Combs. - Classical review, Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" at Symphony Center

"The Jazz Institute - by Marshal Vente"

As the title suggests Gailloreto is well known inside Chicago music circles as a go-to guy when you need a great tenor saxophonist. This recording will undoubtedly expand his reputation well beyond Chicago and is a document of his high level of artistry.

Gailloreto’s sound and content are original, a mix of saxophone innovators that have preceded us all mixed into the musical funnel and poured out into a generous serving of modern jazz. Most appealing is that Gailloreto successfully mixes high content without screaming and grandstanding, his music is both engaging and easy to hear.

This recording also features great arranging. "Four Brothers" is re-harmonized, set to a new bass ostinato and groove while Gailloreto double-times the familiar theme. Similarly Duke’s "Come Sunday" alternates between a waltz and 4/4, with updated highly stylized chord changes. The program also includes three interesting originals, two from Gailloreto and one from pianist Steve Million, and a unique presentation of "Andante" by Beethoven.

The supporting players are all equally original and engaging: guitarist John McLean, pianist Steve Million also shows his Hammond B3 chops, bassist Larry Kohut and drummer Eric Montzka. All combine their musical voices to make this one of the finest recordings.

It is also interesting to note that this flawless recording was co-produced by Gailloreto with fellow tenor saxophonist Jim Massoth, who along with Steve Johnston, who was also the recording engineer.

Gailloreto may be the insider to the musical community but now his music can be enjoyed by all on the outside–check him out!-MV
- CD Review Jim Gailloreto, The Insider

"Sounds of Timeless Jazz Review - by Paula Edelstein"

What happens when five of Chicago’s top players get together and play? They make jazz that’s about as good as it gets, and you can hear it on THE INSIDER. Tenor saxophonist Jim Gailloreto, John McLean on guitarist, pianist/organist Steve Million, Larry Kohut on acoustic bass and drummer Eric Montzka break through with a seasonal mix of jazz standards, originals and even “Andante” by Ludwig Van Beethoven! This is no cookie cutter recording that just whets the appetite. It’s gratifying, great for sharing and highly enjoyable because of its adventurous and edgy improvisations. World-class jazz at its best and a great accomplishment while shedding new light on jazz history. Buy it now. - CD Review Jim Gailloreto, The Insider (Wide Sound)

"Chicago Jazz Magazine - by Michael Jeffers"

An artist is able to swing and dig in because he has total control over his instrument and, most importantly, has developed and created his own concept of music. Jim Gailloreto’s latest offering, The Insider, makes it very clear that he’s arrived.

The song selection and performance styles helps one see where Gailloreto came from and where he’s heading. Judging from The Insider, Gailloreto’s heading to the big time. - CD Review Jim Gailloreto, The Insider (Wide Sound)

"Jazz Improv Magazine - by Marco Pignataro"

Jim Gailloreto’s debut album, The Insider deserves your attention. This very persuasive project from the locally esteemed Chicagoan saxophone player may at first sound a bit too polished and chic for its own good. There is an apparent symmetry and neatness insinuating out of Jim’s jazz conception, which may overshadow at a first sight the deep substance of his musical offering. Get focused and listen carefully because this talented, distinguished gentleman has really something to say and it is worth listening to.

Gailloreto’s experience in the jazz and classical Windy City’s scene ranges from the Bill Russo’s Chicago Jazz Ensemble to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with in between stints with the Woody Herman Orchestra and names

such as Patricia Barbers, Kurt Elling and the Chicago String Orchestra. Jim is obviously a very versatile instrumentalist and his playing suggests confidence, cleverness and an underlying overall eruditeness. Both his tenor sound and his postmodern improvisation’s approach may vaguely remind you of players like Mintzer or Bob Berg but with a much more contained, minimalist energy. Additionally, Jim’s conception reveals a clear fondness towards introspective moods, and a certain unassuming yet rather sophisticated elegance. All of the above could be already enough to make him shine above the average standards, whereas his composition, arranging and re-harmonization ingenuity definitively set him apart within the list of new talents deserving wider recognition.

The Insider has a sum of Gailloreto’s sophisticated musical conception and offers some real gems of musical thinking. Among them, stand out tunes like Jimmy Giuffre ‘s classic “Four Brothers”, revisited in modernity and retrieved from its passé cool era. Yet, Jim’s rendition preserves the tune’s original spirit but redefines its coolness feel with a contemporary, urban drive. This revisionist approach permeates the album and Jim’s re-harmonization endeavors. Next to kin, Tristano’s “Lennie’s Pennies” – as well as the other album selections – is treated with a similar stylistic objective and, what in a first stance may have been misconstrued for an unemotional neatness, emerges boldly as an intentional and evocative neo-cool aesthetic conception. Consistently, Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” immerges the listener into a floating space of dreamlike suggestion. Guitarist John McLean’s buoyant comping and drummer Eric Montzka’s feathery rhythmic raindrops withdraw the time into an airy, space-less pulse as Gailloreto’s melodic evocations intertwine gently with bassist Larry Kouth’s quasi contrapuntal lines. In my opinion, this tune alone is worth the acquisition of the album.

These progressive, introspective atmospheres permeate the beautiful Sam Rivers’ composition “Beatrice”, Ellington’s “Come Sundays” and the pianist Steve Million’s “Mercurial”, but stumble ever so slightly in the somewhat irreverent, yet poignant interpretation of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony “Andante”, which temporarily pushes Gailloreto’s playing dangerously borderline to a smooth jazz feel. It is also worth mentioning the recurring delicate balance and haunting quality of McLean’s guitar floating chords interjections with Million’s unobtrusive Hammond B3 organ. In addition, Gailloreto’s own compositions, “The Insider”, and “Shaking Loose” set free his funkier temperament, which inflection latently appears throughout the album.

To this writer’s view, “The Insider” seems to carry the germinal foundation of Gailloreto’s innovative potential. Dwelling further in his audacity and taking a bit more distance from his inspiring jazz heroes, this artist might likely stumble upon some new conceptions of musical relevance. Let’s all hope so while cherishing this remarkable debut album. - CD Review Jim Gailloreto, The Insider (Wide Sound)

"Friday Evening Jazz - by Al Warner"

The Insider is Jim Gailloreto's debut release on the Wide Sound label (Italy). A worthwhile wait, the seven covers are redone in a way that creates new charts worth hearing. Mr. Gailloreto is new to me, I don't recall having seen his name as a sideman. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he had done work on other people's releases, because the Chicago based saxophonist is too good to ignore. Along with Steve Million (see Steve's latest release 'Poetic Necessities') and the other players, Jim has a way with the arrangements that should help establish his style in the world of jazz.

Track one is a good solid bop piece (think Woody Herman).

Cut two starts off as an up-tempo piece with a short time change announcing the break and then brings the tune back to the original tempo.

Number three from the Ellington classic 'Black, Brown and Beige Suite' has much good work by keyboardist Steve Million.

Four is a cover of the seldom done Lennie Tristano tune, very bop, very well done.

Track five brings us back to Ellington songbook with Mood Indigo and has some very tasty dialogue between Gailloreto, Kohut and McLean.

Number six was written by Steve Million with some well done piano work.

Number seven is Beethoven's 'Andante' is my least favorite on the CD, even though I believe if Beethoven were alive during the first half of the 20th century he would be an innovator in jazz, the European classical styling of his time can be difficult to adapt into a jazz format. (I've found it's tough to make Ludvig sving.)

Cut eight is the title track, a nice little bop tune.

Nine has John McLean beginning the break, a nice backbeat, it's a toe tapper. Ending with Sam Rivers 'Beatrice' in a slow tempo, providing ample room for guitar, piano and sax to solo.

All in all a nice piece of work, I've added it to my collection. - CD Review Jim Gailloreto, The Insider (Wide Sound)


•Jazz String Quintet•

American Complex - Origin Classical
Jazz String Quintet - Naim Label

•Jim Gailloreto solo CDs•

Insider - Wide Sound
Split Decision, Shadow Puppets - Naim Label

•Jim Gailloreto soloist•

Kurt Elling - Man in the Air - Blue Note
Neal Alger - Here and Now, There and Before
Kelly Brand - a Dream In a Stone
Ryan Cohan - Real World & Here & Now
Ensemble9- Children of the Night Hallway
Tom Mc Carthy - Spark And Luminance
John Mc Lean – Better Angels Origin Jazz
Bill Russo - Kenton ala Russo - Hallway Records
Fred Simon- Open Book - Columbia
Deanna Witkowski - Having To Ask
Jeremy Kahn - Part of a Nickel
Grazyna Auguscik – Lulajze
Alison Ruble – Ashland - Origin Records



Jazz String Quintet is a provocative blend of jazz and classical music; the instrumentation is soprano saxophone and classical string quartet. This group has produced some of the most beautiful, original and critically praised music to come out of Chicago in recent years.

Gailloreto’s composition pay homage to America’s greatest jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Fats Waller, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and many others.

Jazz String Quintet has recorded & performed with various notables, such as Grammy award winning jazz vocalist-Kurt Elling, Blue Note recording artist-Patricia Barber, The William Ferris Chorale, Fulcrum Point, West African Kora musician-Foday Musa Suso, French pianist Franck Amsallem and renowned New York composer/pianist-Fred Hersch.

“Many jazz musicians have written arrangements for strings, but Gailloreto's stood out, in part because of the sheer amount of musical information he packed into each piece…. a burst of energy and heat precisely when it's needed”

By Howard Reich Tribune arts critic