Newspeak is Yale’s newest jazz ensemble. The five undergraduates, Alexander Dubovoy ’16, Hans Bilger ’16, Eli Brown ’17, Harvey Xia ’16 and Emma Akrawi ’14, released their first album, “Machinery of the Night,” in November. The grammy-winning recording engineer Jack Renner produced the album, which has a unique, shifting style. This is not your grandfather’s jazz music. WKND sat down with Dubovoy, Newspeak’s leader and pianist, to discuss the ensemble and their upcoming concert.
Q: Tell me about your band!
A: Newspeak was formed kind of unofficially my freshman year. It was originally a trio but we’ve expanded it now. Last year we added Eli Brown ’17, and we’ve also been playing a lot with a freshman drummer this year. It seems like each year we kind of bring in new collaborations, which is really fun. Initially it was founded because there weren’t a ton of jazz groups on campus. Although we play some standard jazz repertoire, we’ve been working on developing our own sound and have stepped outside of what is traditionally considered jazz.
Q: Do you write your own music?
A: We do. All of us have composed at some point, and I’m hoping to bring in some more of our original compositions. We also just released our album, “Machinery of Night,” which is available on Bandcamp (newspeakjazz.bandcamp.com). There are some originals on that; “Safe Haven” is by Eli Brown. Even if it’s not original composition, we do a lot of arrangements and make what we play our own.
Q: How does it work when you add new people to the group?
A: The jazz scene isn’t as formal as something you would have to audition for. There are a lot of jam sessions—I also run the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective, which is an organization that runs jam sessions, concerts, and the annual jazz festival. That means that I’m at all of these events, so I can hear all of the musicians who are out there. So you meet people and you play with them, and it kind of just makes sense, and you start playing with them more often.
Q: What’s one of your favorite shows you’ve had?
A: Well one of my favorites will hopefully be the one we’re playing on Friday. But besides that, last year we played at the Yale Art Gallery as part of the Jazz Lives jazz photography exhibition that was going on there. We got to play surrounded by photographs from the history of music. Just interacting with that history through the artwork was really incredible.
Q: What instrument do you play?
A: I play piano. On the album, it’s me on piano, Eli on trumpet, Hans on bass, and Harvey on sax. We’ve also added Griffin Brown on drums for some of our recent concerts, who’s the freshman I was talking about. Actually, one of the things we were thinking about last year was “should we have a drummer?” Not having one became a distinct part of our style. I think we all learned how to play with each other in a more sensitive way. The rhythm is contingent upon everyone; you all have to be keeping time and paying attention to what you’re doing. So it’s been good to have that experience, and have a drummer this year—we don’t rely on him to keep time, just to bring interaction into the music.
Q: Let’s talk about your show!
A: It’s at the Ninth Note, which is a local jazz club at 56 Orange Street. It just opened up over the summer. They get people from New York every once in a while, but have really done a lot to foster the local scene. There’s actually a really great jazz scene in New Haven, which I think a lot of people don’t realize. There’s now two jazz clubs a walking distance from campus. I think the Ninth Note has really brought that whole scene together. The have open jazz sessions on Thursday. It’s been one of our goals to play at a jazz club in the area for a while, and this is the first time. They’re not charging a cover charge for this performance, because the Ninth Note wants Yalies to get out there and also to play. It starts at 9.