Roy Nathanson’s 82 Days

At LOOVE LABS @58 N. 6th Street in Brooklyn

Saturday, January 13 at 10:45pm

Part of the Winter Jazz Festival Brooklyn Marathon



GABE NATHANSON, trumpet/vox

ALBER BASEEL, percussion



ISAIAH BARR, tenor saxophone



HUGO DWYER, samples

NEW YORK TIMES  Feature on the 82 Days of Porch Sessions

New York band leader, saxophonist, and composer, Roy Nathanson is a passionate storyteller.  His stories are reminiscent of Woody Allen or Marx Brothers’ wicked humor, and are deeply human, playing with shades of memory as they showcase the ridiculous plots of daily life. This toolbox in hand, Roy Nathanson has been involved in aspects of New York’s music history for the last 40 years.

The musical career of the now 72-year-old Nathanson began in the Big Apple Circus where he met his alter-ego, the recently deceased trombonist Curtis Fowlkes. In 1984 Fowlkes and Nathanson joined John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards where they took part in 3 groundbreaking albums before leaving the band in 1989. During this same period, Nathanson and Fowlkes started the Jazz Passengers, adding Lound Lizards’ guitarist Marc Ribot and percussionist EJ Rodriguez (on drums), and brought in vibraphonist Bill Ware, bassist Brad Jones, and manic violinist Jim Nolet to create a truly unique, yet somehow traditional band that aimed at creating serious music tempered by a decidedly non-serious atmosphere of comedic theatricality. Over the last 35 years, guests of the Jazz Passengers have included Blondie Singer Debbie Harry and Punk Icon Elvis Costello, Mavis Staples, Jimmy Scott, Jeff Buckley among many others. In 2000 Nathanson showcased the acclaimed song cycle “Fire at Keaton’s Bar and Grill” (also including Costello and Harry) with members of the Passengers plus other guest musicians. Concurrent with the Jazz Passengers, Nathanson also created a duo with
keyboardist Anthony Coleman, then went on to establish a new, smaller, vocal-centered band Sotto Voce, with whom he made 3 albums form 2006-2012. Nathanson has also worked on several recordings with the French group, Papanosh.

As if this were not enough, Mr. Nathanson followed another passion in the new millennium. He became a music teacher in the of Public School system of Manhattan. More than just an instructor, he organized a big band for students, provided them with instruments, and developed a platform out of Sotto Voce’s “Subway Moon” project to develop their writing and playing skills and to enable them to travel to overseas to collaborate and perform with students in several European cities.

“82 Days” the new album of Roy Nathanson, is a departure from his previous work, drawn both from the drive to keep to creating new outlets for his musical and lyrical expression and the limitations and isolation imposed by the Covid pandemic.

One day in March 2020, as the lockdown began, Roy stepped out onto the balcony of his house in Brooklyn, at precisely 5 pm, to play the folk classic “Amazing Grace.” He repeated this ritual 81 more consecutive days at always exactly the same time of day, every time with a different, familiar and soulful song. As word got around, people assembled in front of his house to listen. As the ritual grew, other musicians joined in and played along. On the 83rd day the saxophonist ended the project and together with several of his musician friends, turned the ritual into a kind of free neighborhood music
school in his working-class neighborhood of Flatbush, Brooklyn.

But this was not the end of the process. Nathanson then retreated into his basement studio and recorded many of those 82 songs anew from memory, adding several original compositions. This experience for him was like a dream. On some of the tracks he was accompanied by his former student, saxophonist Isaiah Barr (now the leader of the Onyx Collective), on others by the singer Nick Hakim. Eventually Nathanson’s close friend and producer Hugo Dwyer got his hands on the material to give the songs their final touch.

“82 Days,” the album that came out of this long process, is a suite of heart touching humanity. He started conjuring up traditional songs like “Amazing Grace” (the song it all started with) and “Go Down Moses”, writing new compositions that grew organically out of the pandemic, and reimagining classic tunes like Bill Withers’ hit “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Green Chimneys.”

On “82 Days” Roy Nathanson shows yet again, that there is no drawer, not even a  walk-in-closet, that is big enough contain his panoramic style. Nathanson has long established his own category of music. This collection of songs is an invitation to humans of all generations, social backgrounds, education and musical niches to listen not just to him but also listen to each other. A statement of humanity we need so desperately at this time.