A Saxophonist Achieves His ‘Labor of Love’

Graduate Center music doctoral student Lukas Gabric stands with his saxophone. Doctoral student Lukas Gabric released a new jazz album. Photo by Yuting Zhou.

Listening to saxophonist Lukas Gabric discuss his summer touring schedule — which includes stops in Mongolia, China, his native Austria, Germany, and more —  it’s a wonder he finds time to pursue a Ph.D. in music. But after earning his B.F.A. at the New School, his M.A. from The City College of New York, and his Artist Diploma from The Juilliard School, The Graduate Center doctoral student realized he couldn’t easily separate his interest in academia from his interest in performance.
Gabric’s award-winning playing has informed his research, and his research has informed his playing, so he continues pursuing both. “My writing as a jazz musicologist is definitely founded on that performance background,” he says. “I’m passionate about those things.”
Gabric was born in Villach, Austria, but he moved to New York to play music at age 18, and the city quickly suffused his style. “I had pretty good technique, and I had been listening to recordings since I was 11 or 12, but I really came here to learn the language,” he says. “That’s what informed my playing over the years.” He credits New York’s specific energy when it comes to jazz. “I think I have that in my playing, too, even though I’m Austrian,” he explains. “The European jazz aesthetic is very different than the American jazz aesthetic, and I think even though I’m European, I have more of that American aesthetic in my playing.”
Gabric recently released his new album Labor of Love, which he recorded in Trieste, Italy, over the span of one day. “I chose that studio because several European jazz musicians had recommended it to me over the last few years,” he says. There was the acoustics, on the one hand, but also the engineer in charge of running the space. “He’s extremely patient,” Gabric says, “and really, really good at what he’s doing.”
Labor of Love combines original compositions with covers. One song, Gabric’s “Monochrome,” was inspired by an exhibit at MOMA on monochromatic paintings. He was struck by what he saw when he toured the museum, and sought a way to translate it, restricting his compositional technique in order to mimic the paintings’ visual style. “I had the idea to take very basic means and write a whole little tune out of it. It’s mainly the interval of a fourth, and mainly in D minor,” he says. 
While Gabric’s schedule seems busy — and it is — he enjoys taking advantage of his summers when he’s not teaching, and plans on working on a new album this year in between his dates and dissertation. As for where he finds the time to balance it all? “I just try to practice whenever I can, and play whenever I can,” he says. “It actually works out quite nicely.”

Submitted on: MAY 2, 2019

Category: General GC News | Music Ph.D. - D.M.A | Student News