LOGAN SQUARE — Every city’s jazz scene is fueled by key figures who help foster an inclusive, collaborative environment. In Chicago, one of those “connectors” is musician Paul Giallorenzo.
In addition to being a recording artist and internationally touring keyboardist, Giallorenzo is a sound designer, a private teacher, the artistic director of the arts organization Homeroom and a co-founder and programmer of the music venue/art gallery Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey Ave.
If you’ve hung around Chicago’s avant-garde arts scene at any point during the past quarter-century, there’s a good chance you’ve attended a show Giallorenzo helped organize.
Additionally, he is a prolific musician who plays in numerous bands, including GitGO, Hearts and Minds, RedGreenBlue and Scanlines.
Giallorenzo will perform songs from his new Delmark Records album, “Play,” at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Elastic Arts. Joining him onstage to celebrate the record release will be bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Mikel Patrick Avery (who both play on the album), along with cornetist Josh Berman.
“Play” was recorded at Delmark’s historic Riverside Studio in North Center, which has hosted many acclaimed musicians over the years, including Andrew Bird, Roscoe Mitchell, Mavis Staples and Ken Vandermark.
Although Giallorenzo often features electronics and synthesizers in his music, for the “Play” sessions, he embraced a traditional format that has entranced jazz fans for decades: the acoustic piano trio.
“It’s a format that I’ve always found to be the white whale, so to speak — both a challenge and a goal,” Giallorenzo said during a video chat from his home in Logan Square. “I really felt like it was a good vehicle for me. It participates in the jazz tradition in a way that feels meaningful to me. And I think it gives audiences something to grasp onto.”
The new Delmark album, which releases this week, contains 10 tracks (all composed by Giallorenzo), each spiked with dazzling, intricate interplay. One highlight is the hypnotic tune “Saturday the 14th,” the title of which nods to the classic Thelonious Monk composition “Friday the 13th.”
Giallorenzo said his life as a creative musician and his role as an arts programmer are closely intertwined. When he’s not focusing on his own music, he is often helping with programming at Elastic Arts or advancing Homeroom’s goal of presenting never-before-seen collaborations that merge numerous forms of creative expression.
“Homeroom brings live music together with visual art, multimedia, video and dance,” Giallorenzo said. “The ethos is to bring improvisation into all those mediums so people can collaborate easily and freely, the way musicians collaborate — without needing all the funding and all the rehearsals that you usually need for a theater-style production. We have the flexibility to do productions that are more improvised, more experimental and more abstract.”
Serving as a champion for nonprofit arts programs comes naturally to Giallorenzo, a native of Long Island, New York, who graduated from Northwestern University and moved to Chicago in 1999.
“I find myself inspired and motivated by being involved in curatorial projects, bringing people together and creating new types of performances and projects,” he said. “And it’s fun. I don’t want to be living in a world or in a community where there are just commercial venues. Elastic Arts, Homeroom and other similar organizations are part of an ecosystem that I want to live in.”
One arts organizer who shares Giallorenzo’s vision is Sam Lewis, who is a Homeroom board member and co-founder and director of outreach for Elastic Arts, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“Paul is a tremendous pianist who could play whatever he wants to play,” Lewis said. “A lot of times Paul doesn’t get his flowers because he has been so prominent as an arts administrator as well.”
Tickets for Thursday’s “Play” album release party and performance by The Paul Giallorenzo Trio are $15 ($10 with student ID). They’ll be available at the door at Elastic Arts, 3429 W. Diversey Ave.
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