Fresh Spots for New Sounds: Ibeam Brooklyn

(l-r.) Sylvie Courvoisier, Max Johnson, Lou Grassi and Mikko Innanen performing at Ibeam Brooklyn. photo by Peter Gannushkin

There was an excellent panel discussion at the City of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center Monday night, titled “Jazz and New York: A Fragile Economy,” within a worthy series called “Cultural Capital: The Promise and Price of New York’s Creative Economy.” (The series continues Feb. 25 with a conversation between composer Steve Reich and critic Justin Davidson, followed by a performance by Reich and friends of the composer’s “Clapping Music” and “Mallet Quartet.”)
I’ll transcribe my notes and unpack some of the issues discussed Monday in another post soon, and they relate well to the stuff I’ve been writing of late about both New York and New Orleans..
For now, I’ll simply mention that when the subject of venues came up, pianist Jason Moran (one of the three panelists, with critic Gary Giddins as moderator) cited a few places run by musicians that he thought were especially dynamic in terms of exposing worthy talents, nurturing new audiences and creating modest and self-sustaining business models: in Manhattan, John Zorn’s club, The Stone; and in Brooklyn, Matt Garrison’s Shapeshifter Lab, which is among my current favorite music spots, and Ohad Talmor’s Seeds, where I heard one of the most memorable sets of 2013.
I’d add to that list Ibeam Brooklyn. On his website, trombonist Brian Drye describes his place this way:

…a performance, rehearsal and teaching space for professional musicians and students located in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn, NY.  [directions here] Our goal is to foster a community of innovative musicians, educators and students in a clean, comfortable environment. Ibeam Brooklyn features a Schimmel Concert Grand piano, a vintage Gretsch drumset and a state of the art sound system.  Ibeam supports established and emerging artists by providing the rare opportunity to experiment with new works.

In February, Ibeam will host residencies by two pianists, Aruán Ortiz (Feb. 13-15) and Mara Rosenbloom (Feb. 27-March 1), each leading three different bands, some of which include the likes of saxophonist Darius Jones and singer Fay Victor. (Scroll down for full listings for these gigs.)
In an email exchange, here’s how Drye described the genesis of his venue:What led you to create Ibeam?
Ibeam developed originally as a place for me to teach lessons.  I originally started with a partner who was also teaching there. We then opened up the rest of the time to musicians for rehearsal and, with the addition of a concert grand piano, opened it up through memberships to musicians for rehearsals and performance. [According to Drye, memberships generally range between $60-$200 per month, depending on how much studio time a musician requires.] In time, performances started there sort of as an experiment, and grew from there. The musicians who I was friends with helped by promoting concerts there. I also began renting out the space to outside members and charging a nominal fee to produce a show. In the beginning, these shows were completely DIY. The performers even had to pick up a key and clean the space. Eventually when this proved to be too much work, we moved to having a staff member at each show, first to just open the space and, eventually, having a door person to work the door and collect the money for the artists. The artists have always received 100% of the door. It allowed a lot of people to be part of the space even if they weren’t a member. In the end Ibeam moved away from being a teaching space, although some musicians still use it for that purpose and we host a slew of student recitals every year.
Where did you get your funding?
We have never received any funding from any source. We once had a fundraiser, to have some work done on our piano, but that was the extent of it. The memberships of musicians using the space for rehearsal and gigs have always been how we managed to fund the operations. Everything has been pretty much a labor of love to create a really nice space with good acoustics and quality gear.
How would you describe your vision for Ibeam and articulate your plans?
The artistic vision for the space has become one of several alternatives to the dwindling number of jazz venues in our city. At a small place like Ibeam, you can have a smaller draw and still create a viable concert experience both for the listener and the musicians. I know how difficult it is to find a place to play in New York and to present your music. By offering a low-cost alternative to the normal jazz venues, we try to give voice to a lot of music that would normally not be able to be presented. I am currently curating a monthly series of members and beyond in three-day residencies. One of the benefits of a space like Ibeam, where the overhead is covered by its memberships, is that we can afford to take a risk on longer-term residencies. I think that the future of spaces such as ours will lie in this residency format. I would like to look for funding sources to continue to affordable rentals, as well as residencies of three or more days. For many jazz musicians, it is a rare opportunity to play in the same venue for multiple nights. It is a little closer to how so many musicians worked years ago and, artistically, it makes sense to develop your work in real time in from of an audience.
Ibeam is a place where you can develop your music with no consequences beyond audience attendance. (Something I am working on trying to improve). There is no club owner breathing down your neck, and there are no expectations other than that the music work within the context of the space and push boundaries whenever possible. More and more spaces have opened similar to Ibeam and that pushes us and our community to improve and develop. Each space has its strengths, and I hope to be able to continue to keep improving foster the strengths and support creative music in Brooklyn.
Aruán Ortiz Residency 444+1 (FEB 13-15)
Thursday, February 13th
Analytical Symmetry
Ralph Alessi – trumpet
Michaël Attias – sax
Aruán Ortiz – piano
Tomas Fujiwara – drums
Friday, February 14th
Firm roots featuring Fay Victor.
Darius Jones, sax
Fay Victor, voice
Aruán Ortiz, piano & percussion
Marika Hughes, cello
Mike Sarin, drums
Saturday, February 15th
Orbiting Quartet
Rez Abbasi, guitar
Aruán Ortiz, piano
Sean Conly, bass
Eric McPherson, drums
Mara Rosenbloom Residency (FEB 27 – MAR 1)
Thursday, February 27th
First set: Mara Rosenbloom SOLO PIANO
Second set: Mara Rosenbloom Quartet
Darius Jones (alto saxophone) Sean Conly (bass) Tomas Fujiwara (drums)
Friday, February 28th
First set: Mara Rosenbloom SOLO PIANO
Second Set: Mara Rosenbloom Quartet
Darius Jones (alto sax) Sean Conly (bass) Tomas Fujiwara (drums)
Saturday, March 1st
First & second sets: Mara Rosenbloom TRIO
Adam Lane (bass) Jeff Davis (drums)

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