Drew Gress and 7 Black Butterflies

Premonition Records announces the May 24, 2005 release of a new album from New York bassist/composer Drew Gress. Entitled 7 Black Butterflies, it follows Heyday (1999 Soul Note) and Spin & Drift (2001 Premonition) as Gress’ third release in a row to contain nothing but original music. Featuring Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Craig Taborn on piano and Tom Rainey on drums along with Gress on bass and mixed and mastered by David Torn, 7 Black Butterflies is sure to secure Gress’ place on any list of leading jazz composers circa 2005.

Premonition also announces that Drew Gress 7 Black Butterflies (Gress, Berne, Taborn, Rainey and Alessi) will celebrate the release with a performance at The Jazz Gallery on Friday June 10.

On 7 Black Butterflies, Gress takes another gigantic leap in compositional range. The signatures of his writing style -- sophisticated time signatures, lush harmonic structures and super modern melody writing -- are once again present but with this album, he has also developed further his keen sense of how to write for and encourage the serious improvisers he employs. Gress’ music thrives at the intersection of compositional control and extended improvisation. Grounded by his strong bass playing, the music flows freely between tight, punchy ensemble-based sections, complex counterpoint passages for rhythm section and front line, long, lyrical, ostinato supported forms and some of the most progressive, modern jazz improvising there is. The music is fresh, bold and moving. “My goal with this recording was to create something modern and beautiful. I know. How out of vogue!,” says Gress. “But frankly, I could care less if something is fashionable or not. As an artist looking to express myself, my primary goal is to connect with people in ways that leave us both more open. I think there is real, honest beauty in this music and I hope the listener will hear it that way too.”

Born in Trenton, NJ in 1959, Drew Gress grew up near Philadelphia. He attended Towson State University as a composition major studying under composer/arranger Hank Levy (Stan Kenton, Don Ellis) and began playing bass professionally on the Washington, DC/Baltimore scene. He quickly became one of the top bassists in town and could regularly be found playing at clubs like Blues Alley backing up artists such as the singer Ethel Ennis. As his graduation neared he earned an apprenticeship at Hanna Barbera Studios in Los Angeles ghost-writing, arranging and fleshing out sketches for “Casper, The Friendly Ghost” cartoons. Three months in the cartoon business proved to him that jazz, and not functional music was where his heart was. He moved back to the D.C. area and then on to New York City where he has lived and worked ever since.

During his time in New York Gress has managed to record three albums of his own music and maintain a heavy touring and recording schedule including work with leading artists such as Fred Hersch, Ravi Coltrane, Dave Douglas, Paul Bley, Tim Berne, Uri Caine, Lee Konitz, Don Byron, Bill Carrothers, Marc Copland, John Hollenbeck, and others. He has also served as an Artist in Residence at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia and at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and has been awarded grants from major arts institutions such as The National Endowment for the Arts and Meet The Composer.

The title of the album refers to an experience Gress had while hiking in Mexico. “It was June and already scorching in the desert. I was just about ready to drop from exposure when I discovered this beautiful group of butterflies feeding on the evaporating salt in a puddle of seawater. Surrounded by/in a hostile environment, these fragile, beautiful creatures exhibited tremendous resilience and adaptability. It was a true Zen experience. Beauty and strength through flexibility combined with a willingness to bend. That's what I'm after in the music we create.”

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