A ‘Labor of Love’ for Jazz

Saxophonist and doctoral candidate Lukas Gabric (The Graduate Center, CUNY) took the ultimate road trip last year to record his new jazz album Labor of Love. Beginning in his native Austria, he rented a van to accommodate the members of his band, drove to Italy, spent eight hours recording in a small Trieste studio, splurged for a delicious pizza, and then returned home. “It was a beautiful setting even though we didn’t get to enjoy it that much,” he said with a chuckle.

The 31-year-old award-winning musician is working on his Ph.D. in jazz musicology in between recording, performing, and living out a touring schedule that would leave anyone with a dissertation to write in awe. Beginning in May, he’ll make stops in Mongolia, China, Austria, and Germany, before finally flying back to New York to lead a workshop. “I just try to practice whenever I can, honestly, and play whenever I can,” he said.

Excerpt from “Nancy,” performed by Lukas Gabric on his jazz album Labor of Love

Many musicians don’t pursue the level of education that Gabric is working toward, but after moving to New York at age 18 to study jazz, he quickly discovered simultaneous passions for academia and performance. He earned his B.F.A., M.A., and Artist Diploma, before turning his attention to a Ph.D. “It actually works out quite nicely,” he said. “My writing as a jazz musicologist is definitely founded on that performance background, but I’m also really trying to be a good musicologist. I’m passionate about those things.”

As for his new album, which features original compositions and covers, he aimed to play jazz for people who tend to eschew that genre. The resulting LP stretches his dexterity in energizing ways that show both maturity and flare.

One song in particular, “Monochrome,” features some particularly adroit phrasing. Gabric was inspired to write it after attending an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art on monochromatic painting. Mirroring the visuals he saw, he restricted his composition. “I had the idea to take very basic means and write a whole little tune out of it,” he says. “It’s mainly the interval of a fourth, and mainly in D minor.”

Beyond that inspiration, Gabric says New York has informed his playing. How could it not? “I got the language here,” he says. “New York is a very specific kind of energy in regard to jazz, and I think I have that in my playing, too, even though I’m Austrian.”

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Labor of Love
Alessa Records, 2019

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Lukas Gabric (Ph.D. Candidate, Musicology) | Profile 1

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The Graduate Center