Since leaving his native Rhode Island, Brian Drye become a scene-maker in Brooklyn, as a frequent sideman and bandleader for Bizingas and co-leader of The Four Bags. In 2008, Brian created Ibeam Brooklyn, as a teaching, performance and rehearsal space for professional musicians and students located in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. The place has been the germination spot for many projects, large and small, from ECM to Clean Feed and Sunnyside that you’ve seen cross your desk in the past 5 years.
Starting a musical venue takes perseverance and guts. Tell us what led to you launching the Ibeam Brooklyn.
Originally I opened it as a teaching space but due to a lack of spaces to play in the city, we started having some informal concerts at the space. Once we graduated to a concert grand piano, the whole game changed and suddenly we could be taken seriously as a potential venue.
The Ibeam is at the center of the New York creative music ecosystem, both geographically and musically. What is it like to be a keystone of such a scene? Do you feel like you are taking part in something special?
The musicians make Ibeam what it is and the location is convenient to where so many jazz musicians live. The size of Ibeam makes it an ideal performance space for a music which doesn’t always have a large audience. Ibeam supports the musicians playing there because there is no pressure to bring a certain # of guests or sell a certain # of tickets. There is great comraderie among the musicians who are members at Ibeam and perform there regularly. The musicians who perform and rehearse there make it special and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
How is the overall health of the venue? What kind of general turnout do you get?
It really depends on the artist, how much it’s promoted and who else is playing. It could be as many as 50 or as few as 5. Even a concert with 5 guests is something special and intimate. I think that my favorite audience is about 20-25. The place is quite full but it’s not so much pressure as large audiences.
Is running the venue the complete focus of your life, or do you get a chance to take a breath from time to time?
Aside from running Ibeam, I teach privately, work as a Teaching Artist for Carnegie Hall and perform as a professional Trombonist and Pianist. I spend most of my time composing and performing with my original groups such as Bizingas and The Four Bags.
Aside from live shows, what other functions is the Ibeam used for?
Ibeam has a membership which gives people access to the space for rehearsals. Occasionally I rent it to non-members and it’s sometimes used for live recordings.
The Ibeam hosts quite a number of shows that are jazz centered and leaning toward the avant side. Are your own efforts with Bizingas also in that same camp?
Bizingas is definitely similar to most of the groups that perform at Ibeam. It’s sometimes difficult to say exactly what type of music beyond Jazz and Avant that Ibeam hosts, since everything is so varied.
In addition to upcoming shows, what events are coming to the Ibeam that we should know about? Any big plans for the future?
At the moment I am focusing on presenting residencies. which are 3 days long and feature one artist for all three nights. They currently happen once or twice a month. I think that the residency model is strong and has always been a vital element to musicians development. It’s something that’s been missing from the venues that present Jazz and creative music for a long time. In the future I would like to find funding to make more residencies happen on a bigger level. So that musicians can present their work over several nights and develop their work in the way that’s only possible from playing many nights in a row