Over the course of a multifaceted career spanning four decades, Grammy and Tony Award-winning jazz giant Dee Dee Bridgewater has ascended to the upper echelon of vocalists, putting her unique spin on standards, as well as taking intrepid leaps of faith in re-envisioning jazz classics. Ever the fearless voyager, explorer, pioneer and keeper of tradition, the three-time Grammy winner recently won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee.
Bridgewater’s career has always bridged musical genres. She earned her first professional experience as a member of the legendary Thad Jones/Mel Louis Big Band, and throughout the 1970s she performed with such jazz notables as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Dizzy Gillespie. After a foray into the pop world during the 1980s, she relocated to Paris and began to turn her attention back to jazz. Signing with Universal Music Group as a producer (Bridgewater produces all of her CDs), Bridgewater released a series of critically acclaimed titles beginning with Keeping Tradition in 1993. All but one, including her wildly successful double Grammy Award-winning tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Dear Ella, have received Grammy nominations.
Bridgewater also pursued a parallel career in musical theater, winning a Tony Award for her role as “Glinda” in The Wiz in 1975. Having recently completed a run as the lead role of Billie Holiday in the off-Broadway production of Lady Day, her other theatrical credits include Sophisticated Ladies, Black Ballad, Carmen, and Cabaret. The off-Broadway and West End Productions of Lady Day earned Bridgewater the British Laurence Olivier Nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
As a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, Bridgewater continues to appeal for international solidarity to finance global grassroots projects in the fight against world hunger. Her recent global tour was in support of “Dee Dee’s Feathers” and she was also honored with a stage dedication in her name at the new People’s Health New Orleans Jazz Market. Bridgewater is the recipient of an NEA Jazz Masters Fellows Award.
It’s not simply his abundant virtuosity that has made Christian McBride one of the most in-demand bassists of his generation. McBride consistently combines his deft musicianship with an innate ability to communicate his enthusiasm to an audience—a warm showmanship that transforms his own passion into infectious joy. It comes across whether he’s leading his own bands; sharing the stage with jazz legends like Sonny Rollins, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock or Pat Metheny; accompanying pop giants like James Brown, Sting or The Roots; or collaborating with classical masters like Kathleen Battle, Edgar Meyer or the Shanghai Quartet. Any time that McBride steps into the studio or onto a stage he plays what could be called “people music,” but it’s a particularly apt title for the second release by his hard-swinging acoustic quintet Inside Straight. “‘People Music’ is my personal mantra as a musician,” McBride says of the title. McBride bemoans the unwritten contention that somehow swinging and imagination are mutually exclusive. “I find this band very imaginative and very swinging. I like coming off the stage having broken a sweat.”
Fifty-five years after he moved to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, pianist Monty Alexander is an American classic, touring the world relentlessly with various projects, delighting a global audience drawn to his vibrant personality and soulful message. His spirited conception is one informed by the timeless verities: endless melody-making, effervescent grooves, sophisticated voicings, a romantic spirit, and a consistent predisposition, as Alexander accurately states, “to build up the heat and kick up a storm.” In the course of any given performance, Alexander applies those aesthetics to repertoire spanning a broad range of jazz and Jamaican musical expression—the American songbook and the blues, gospel and bebop, calypso and reggae. In the process, he has performed and recorded with artists from every corner of the musical universe and entertainment world: Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin, Sly Dunbar, and Robbie Shakespeare, among others. Like his “eternal inspiration,” Erroll Garner, Alexander—cited as the fifth greatest jazz pianist ever in The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time—gives the hardcore-jazz-obsessed much to dig into while also communicating the message to the squarest “civilian.” To date Alexander has recorded over 70 albums as a leader. Among his many honors is the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction, awarded to him by the government of Jamaica, for outstanding services to Jamaica as a worldwide music ambassador.
GRAMMY winner Kurt Elling is among the world’s foremost jazz vocalists. He won the DownBeat Critics Poll for fourteen consecutive years and was named “Male Singer of the Year” by the Jazz Journalists Association on eight occasions. An international jazz award winner, he has also been GRAMMY nominated a dozen times.
Elling’s rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word and poetry. The New York Times declared, “Elling is the standout male vocalist of our time.” The Washington Post added, “Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz.” Elling was the Artist-in-Residence for the Singapore and Monterey Jazz Festivals. He has also written multi-disciplinary works for The Steppenwolf Theatre and the City of Chicago. The Obama Administration’s first state dinner featured Elling in a command performance. Elling is a renowned artist of vocalese – the writing and performing of words over recorded improvised jazz solos. Said Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the United States, “In Kurt Elling’s art, the voice of jazz gives a new spiritual presence to the ancient, sweet and powerful bond between poetry and music.”
Raised in poverty in Pennsylvania’s coal-mining country, Sheila Jordan began singing as a child and by her early teens was singing and playing piano in the jazz clubs of Detroit in the 1940s. Her first great influence was Charlie Parker and, indeed, most of her influences have been instrumentalists rather than singers. Working chiefly with black musicians, she was met with disapproval from the white community but persisted with her career.
After moving to New York in the early 50s, she married Parker’s pianist, Duke Jordan, and studied with Lennie Tristano, but it was not until the early 60s that she made her first recordings. One of these was under her own name, the other was “The Outer View” with George Russell, which featured a famous 10-minute version of “You Are My Sunshine.”
In the mid-60s her work encompassed jazz liturgies sung in churches and extensive club work, but her appeal was narrow even within the confines of jazz. By the late 70s, jazz audiences had begun to understand her uncompromising style a little more and her popularity increased — as did her appearances on records, which included albums with pianist Steve Kuhn, whose quartet she joined, and an album, Home, comprising a selection of Robert Creeley’s poems set to music and arranged by Steve Swallow.
The New York Times says of Jordan, “Her ballad performances are simply beyond the emotional and expressive capabilities of most other vocalists.” Her unique musical trademarks, such as the frequent and unexpected sweeping changes of pitch, still tend to confound an uninitiated audience. Entirely non-derivative, Jordan is one of only a tiny handful of jazz singers who fully deserve the appellation and for whom no other term will do.
Jordan was honored in 2012 by induction as an NEA Jazz Master. And she will be on The Jazz Cruise in 2022!
Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization. The winner of fourteen Grammy Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer.
Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony. As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several Grammy nominations (1979, 1980) and a Grammy (1979).
His numerous recordings include more than 30 solo albums. In 1988, he was a founding member of the United Nation Orchestra, a 15-piece ensemble organized by Dizzy Gillespie to showcase the fusion of Latin and Caribbean influences with jazz. D’Rivera continues to appear as guest conductor. A Grammy was awarded the United Nation Orchestra in 1991, the same year D’Rivera received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Carnegie Hall for his contributions to Latin music. Additionally, D’Rivera’s highly acclaimed ensembles- the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band, and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet are in great demand world wide.
While Mr. D’Rivera’s discography reflects a dedication and enthusiasm for Jazz, Bebop and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. In his passion to bring Latin repertoire to greater prominence, Mr. D’Rivera has successfully created, championed and promoted all types of classical compositions, including his three chamber compositions recorded live in concert with distinguished cellist Yo-Yo Ma in September 2003. The chamber work “Merengue,” from that live concert at Zankel Hall, was released by Sony Records and garnered Paquito his 7th Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition 2004.
In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, Mr. D’Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer and is the author of two books, My Sax Life and a novel, Oh, La Habana. The National Endowment for the Arts website affirms “he has become the consummate multinational ambassador, creating and promoting a cross-culture of music that moves effortlessly among jazz, Latin, and Mozart.”
Honored by The National Endowment for the Arts as a 2010 Jazz Master, Kenny Barron has an unmatched ability to mesmerize audiences with his elegant playing, sensitive melodies and infectious rhythms. The Los Angeles Times named him “one of the top jazz pianists in the world” and Jazz Weekly calls him “The most lyrical piano player of our time.”
At age 19, he moved from Philadelphia to New York City and freelanced with Roy Haynes, Lee Morgan and James Moody, after the tenor saxophonist heard him play at the Five Spot. Upon Moody’s recommendation Dizzy Gillespie hired Barron in 1962 without even hearing him play a note. It was in Dizzy’s band where Kenny developed an appreciation for Latin and Caribbean rhythms. After five years with Dizzy, Barron played with Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Milt Jackson, and Buddy Rich. The early seventies found Kenny working with Yusef Lateef who Kenny credits as a key influence in his art for improvisation. Encouraged by Lateef, to pursue a college education, Barron balanced touring with studies and earned his B.A. in Music from Empire State College, By 1973, Kenny joined the faculty at Rutgers University as professor of music. He held this tenure until 2000, mentoring many of today’s young talents including David Sanchez, Terence Blanchard and Regina Bell. In 1974 Kenny recorded his first album as a leader, entitled “Sunset To Dawn.” This was to be the first in over 40 recordings (and still counting!) as a leader.
Throughout the 80’s Barron collaborated with the great tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, touring with his quartet and recording several legendary albums including “Anniversary”, “Serenity” and the Grammy nominated “People Time” Also during the 80’s, he co-founded the quartet “Sphere,”
along with Buster Williams, Ben Riley and Charlie Rouse. This band focused on the music of Thelonious Monk and original compositions inspired by him.
Barron consistently wins the jazz critics and readers polls, including Downbeat, Jazz Times and Jazziz magazines. The famed Spanish ceramist Lladro honored Mr. Barron with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from his alma mater SUNY Empire State in 2013 and from Berklee College of Music in 2011. In 2009 he received the Living Legacy Award from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame and won a MAC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. He is a six-time recipient of Best Pianist by the Jazz Journalists Association.
Whether he is playing solo, trio or quintet, Kenny Barron is recognized the world over as a master of performance and composition.
In the 1990s, Houston Person kept the soulful thick-toned tenor tradition of Gene Ammons alive, particularly in his work with organists. After learning piano as a youth, Person switched to tenor. While stationed in Germany with the Army, he played in groups that also included Eddie Harris, Lanny Morgan, Leo Wright, and Cedar Walton. Person picked up valuable experience as a member of Johnny Hammond’s group (1963-1966) and became a bandleader in the following years, often working with the late singer Etta Jones. A duo recording with Ran Blake was a nice change of pace, but most of Houston Person’s playing has been done in blues-oriented organ groups. He recorded a consistently excellent series of albums for Muse, eventually switching to HighNote Records for 2006’s You Taught My Heart to Sing, 2007’s Thinking of You, and 2008’s Just Between Friends, which featured bassist Ron Carter. Released in 2012, Naturally, recorded at the famed Van Gelder Recording Studio, teamed Person with Cedar Walton on piano, Ray Drummond on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. He quickly returned with the similarly inclined 2013 effort Nice ‘n’ Easy, followed a year later by The Melody Lingers On. In 2015, Person delivered the rootsy and soulful Something Personal.
Joey DeFrancesco’s emergence in the 1980s marked the onset of a musical renaissance in organ jazz with the sound of his vintage Hammond organ and Leslie tone cabinet. Considered a child prodigy, Joey inherited from his father and grandfather the gift of the musician’s musician: being able to pick up a new instrument and teach himself to play. This manifests itself in Joey’s extraordinary keyboard skills; piano playing; and organ wizardry – not to mention his undeniable mastery of the trumpet.
Joey’s desire to play the trumpet began after touring with the great Miles Davis. Years later, it would be Joey who would be complimenting his own jazz organ performances with exciting bursts of trumpet tones in the notably influenced style of his former employer. The list of established musicians who felt inspired to perform with Joey grew. At twenty-two, Joey was called upon by guitarist, John McLaughlin to form the group, ‘Free Spirits’ which included band member Dennis Chambers. This band toured extensively for four years as the www.thejazzcruise.com of Joey’s influence went global. Joey soon became a household name in the jazz world as he began to tour internationally with his own quartet and eventually trim his group to a trio that boasted the guitar work of Paul Bollenback and drumming of Byron ‘Wookie’ Landrum. This trio would become the longest running organ trio in modern times.
Joey is a three time Grammy Nominee: In 2004 for his record ‘Falling In Love Again’, in 2010 for his release titled ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’, and, again, in 2015 for “Enjoy the View”. He is the winner of Down Beat Magazine’s Critic’s poll 2002-2008, 2012, 2014,2015 as well as the magazines Reader’s Poll every year since 2005. In 2014 he was inducted into the inaugural Hammond Organ Hall of Fame.
Guitar and vocal virtuoso John Pizzarelli has been breathing new life into the Great American Songbook since the age of 6. The GRAMMY®-nominated vocalist will captivate guests of The Jazz Cruise ‘16 with his cool, suave spin on the songs of Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Nat King Cole, his musical inspiration, Frank Sinatra and even the Beatles. Performing solo and as bandleader of his eponymous quartet, John’s astounding list of credentials includes appearances on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “Live With Regis & Kelly,” the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; special guest on recordings for major artists such as James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Kristin Chenoweth, Rosemary Clooney and Buddy DeFranco; and recipient of the 2009 Ella Fitzgerald Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
Grammy Award winning producer and vocalist Steve Tyrell is the definition of a renaissance man. In his nearly five decades in the music business, he has achieved success as a singer, songwriter, producer, music supervisor, and most recently, radio host.
His breakthrough performances in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II helped Tyrell reinvent and re-popularize classic pop standards for a modern-day audience. His hits, The Way You Look Tonight, The Simple Life, Crush On You, and The Sunny Side of The Street, have launched millions of romances and been played at thousands of weddings, including Chelsea Clinton’s. Steve has had the pleasure of singing for Heads of State, including Presidents Bush and Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Santos of Columbia, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In 2014, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales invited Steve and his band for a command performance at Buckingham Palace.
As for American royalty, the Sinatra family has long embraced Steve and his music. Together with Quincy Jones, they handpicked Steve to be the featured performer with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at their season opening concert in which Frank Sinatra was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. Also at the request of the Sinatra family, he reprised that performance at Carnegie Hall. This was one of the rare times the family has reached into the vault of original Sinatra arrangements to share them with another artist.
As an artist, all 9 of his American Standards albums have achieved top 5 status on Billboard’s Jazz charts. His first album, A New Standard, was amongst the bestselling jazz albums for more than 5 years. Tyrell’s work in the studio as a record producer has included collaborations with such diverse and legendary artists as Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Blood Sweat and Tears, Mary J Blige, Chris Botti, Dave Koz, Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, Burt Bacharach, Bette Midler, and Stevie Wonder, among many others.
In 2005, after the passing of the legendary Bobby Short, Steve was asked by New York City’s Cafe Carlyle to take over their revered holiday season of November and December, which Mr. Short had not missed for 36 years.
In August 2015, Tyrell added radio host to his long line of credits. Every Monday thru Friday, he can be heard on The Steve Tyrell Show on KJAZZ 88.1 in Los Angeles and online at jazzandblues.org.
Drummer Jeff Hamilton has been honing his big band skills since the tender age of 8, earning him a presence on the stage with legends like Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney, Monty Alexander and Diana Krall. Currently performing with Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and the Clayton Brothers or co-leading the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (the Grammy®-nominated big band that provides backup for Diana Krall), this in-demand drummer brings his eponymous trio to The Jazz Cruise ‘16 for guests to revel in his sensational stylistics at the helm of a drum. Overflowing but well-deserved accolades include that of No. 1 jazz drummer in Modern Drummer Magazine’s reader’s poll, 2006 Musician of the Year (along with musical partner John Clayton) by the Los Angeles Jazz Society, and a No. 5 spot on the Gavin national jazz radio chart for “It’s Hamilton Time” by the Jeff Hamilton Trio. Featured in nearly 200 recordings – including 16 Grammy® Award-winning titles – with the likes of Natalie Cole, Barbara Streisand, Mel Torme and Herb Ellis, Jeff also teaches, arranges and composes for the drums.
Ann Hampton Callaway is one of the leading champions of the great American Songbook, having made her mark as a singer, pianist, composer, lyricist, arranger, actress, educator, TV host and producer. A born entertainer, her unique singing style blends jazz and traditional pop, making her a mainstay in concert halls, theaters and jazz clubs as well as in the recording studio, on television, and in film. She is best known for Tony-nominated performance in the hit Broadway musical Swing! and for writing and singing the theme song to the hit TV series The Nanny. Callaway is a Platinum Award winning writer whose songs are featured on seven of Barbra Streisand’s recent CD’s. The only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, she has also written songs with Carole King, Rolf Lovland and Barbara Carroll to name a few.
Callaway’s live performances showcase her warmth, spontaneous wit and passionate delivery of standards, jazz classics and originals. She is one of America’s most gifted improvisers, taking words and phrases from her audiencesand creating songs on the spot, whether alone at a piano or with a symphony orchestra. Ann has been a special guest performer with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood and is featured at many of the Carnegie Hall tributes. Ann resides in New York. She lives by the creed best expressed in the Andre Gide quote: “Art is the collaboration between God and the artist and the less the artist does, the better.”
An 8-time Grammy nominee, Tierney Sutton has received 7 consecutive nominations for “Best Jazz Vocal Album”- a nomination for every project she has released for the last decade. In 2013 she released After Blue, a jazz-inspired re-imagining of the legacy of Joni Mitchell. The album received wide acclaim and was Sutton’s breakout as a leader without her longtime Band, and features Al Jarreau, Hubert Laws, Peter Erskine, Larry Goldings, Mark Summer, Kevin Axt, Serge Merlaud and The Turtle Island String Quartet.
With a recording and touring history spanning over 20 years and 9 CDs, The Tierney Sutton Band, “TSB” has traveled a rare path. Comprised of Sutton and instrumental virtuosos Kevin Axt, Ray Brinker, Trey Henry and Christian Jacob, the band functions as a true collaborative (and legally incorporated) unit and makes all musical as well as business decisions as partners. In 2011 the TSB received a Grammy nomination for it’s collaborative arranging, the only collaborative team ever to receive that honor.
Their discography is thematic and rich and past TSB projects have addressed: Americana (American Road, 2011) Materialism (Desire, 2009), The Pursuit of Happiness (On The Other Side, 2007), as well as the musical legacies of Bill Evans (Blue in Green, 2001) and Frank Sinatra (Dancing in The Dark, 2003). Along these same lines, TSB released a new recording in Fall 2016, The Sting Variations. In addition to this, Christian Jacob and TSB scored the original music for Clint Eastwood’s feature flim “Sully”, starring Tom Hanks and Laura Linney. The film premieres on September 9, 2016.
Tierney has headlined in recent years at The Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center and Jazz At Lincoln Center. She can also be heard on film and television soundtracks including that of The Academy Award-nominated film “The Cooler” as well as on television commercials (BMW, Green Giant, Yoplait Yogurt, Coke)
When she is off the road, Tierney is in demand as both a producer and vocal educator. She taught for over a decade at USC’s Thornton School of Music and served for 5 years as Vocal Department Head at The Los Angeles College of Music in Pasadena, CA where she created a new curriculum for vocalists of all genres. Tierney has taught and mentored some of music’s finest new generation of singers including Gretchen Parlato and Sara Gazarek.
Multifaceted American jazz pianist and composer Emmet Cohen is one of his generation’s pivotal artistic figures. Downbeat praised the “nimble touch, measured stride and warm harmonic vocabulary” he employs to communicate with other musicians and audiences at what he terms “the deepest level of humanity and individuality.” Cohen, no stranger to The Jazz Cruise, first appeared here in 2011 under the tutelage of his mentor, Shelly Berg. He’ll be featured this year with the dynamic “Emmet Cohen Trio,” comprised of the celebrated young bassist, Russell Hall and rising star drummer Kyle Poole. Cohen has appeared in the Monterey, Newport, North Sea, Bern, and Edinburgh jazz festivals, among others, and at many prestigious music venues, including Rose Hall and the Kennedy Center. Cohen is the Executive Producer of The Masters Legacy Series, an ongoing series of recordings celebrating the intergenerational transfer of knowledge between jazz musicians. The first honors legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb, while Volume 2 features the great bassist, Ron Carter. (Keep an eye out for Volume 3, featuring Benny Golson and Tootie Heath.) A Suzuki piano student at age three, Cohen holds jazz piano degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Miami. He was finalist in both the American Pianists Association’s Cole Porter Fellowship (2015, 2011) and the Thelonious Monk International Piano Competition (2011). A member of Christian McBride’s new band, Tip City, Cohen has also performed or recorded with Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb, Kurt Elling, Benny Golson, Billy Hart, Jimmy Heath, Tootie Heath, Brian Lynch, and Herlin Riley.
A select member of jazz’s piano pantheon, Fred Hersch is a pervasively influential creative force who has shaped the music’s course over more than three decades as an improviser, composer, educator, bandleader, collaborator and recording artist. He has been proclaimed “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz over the last decade” by Vanity Fair, “an elegant force of musical invention” by The L.A. Times, and “a living legend” by The New Yorker.
A fourteen-time Grammy nominee, Hersch has regularly garnered jazz’s most prestigious awards and has long set the standard for expressive interpretation and inventive creativity, whether through his exquisite solo performances, as the leader of one of jazz’s era-defining trios, or in eloquent dialogue with his deeply attuned duo partners. His acclaimed 2017 memoir, Good Things Happen Slowly (Crown Archetype Books/Random House), was named one of 2017’s Five Best Memoirs by the Washington Post and The New York Times.
Since coming of age in the nurturing environment of a very musical family and a distinguished bloodline of drummers, New Orleans native HERLIN RILEY emerged from that most creative era of all things rhythmic in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, to enliven the ensembles of such influential and demanding improvisers as pianist Ahmad Jamal and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis through his commanding yet elegant rhythmic presence. His authoritative style of melodic percussion is deeply imbued in the fertile creative soil of the Crescent City, encompassing as it does the entire length and breadth of America’s ongoing musical journey.
Riley’s recent recording New Direction is an engaging, wide-ranging recital that distills a lifetime of experience into a swinging body of new music that defines what a big tent the music of New Orleans has always represented stylistically and spiritually. “It’s like cooking a big pot of gumbo; you may start out with some very humble ingredients, but by the time you’re finished, you have a meal fit for a king. I mean, the essence of jazz music to me is that it is free, but it has form. So our music is modern, and it’s progressive, but we’re trying to engage people as well. … I’ve been playing drums since I was three years old, so while the title New Direction may suggest new bottles, this is surely some well-aged wine.
Warren Wolf is a multi-instrumentalist from Baltimore, MD. From the age of three, Warren has been trained on the vibraphone, marimba, drums, and piano. He attended the Peabody Preparatory for eight years studying classical music with former Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member Leo LePage. During his high school years at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Warren studied with current Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member John Locke. After graduating from Baltimore School for the Arts in June of 1997, Warren headed north and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
During his time at Berklee, Warren studied with Caribbean Jazz Vibraphonist Dave Samuels. After graduating from Berklee in May of 2001, Warren became an active musician on the Boston local scene and was hired in 2003 to become an instructor in the percussion department. Warren is currently the drummer of choice for alto saxophonist Tia Fuller, who tours with internationally renowned pop star Beyoncé. Warren is also a member of the Donal Fox Group and the SFJazz Collective.
Musical director of The Jazz Cruise and a three-time Grammy® nominee, mainstream jazz pianist Shelly Berg brings a wealth of knowledge and unrivaled talent to our program. Entering the Cleveland Institute of Music at age 6, Shelly has since amassed accolades and performance credentials that only the best of the best can boast. His CD, Blackbird, soared to No. 1 in U.S. jazz radio and garnered “Record of the Year” and “Artist of the Year” nominations from Jazzweek. He has performed and recorded in collaboration with jazz legends including Ray Brown, Louie Bellson, Eddie Daniels, Peter Erskine, Branford Marsalis, Gregg Field, Chuck Berghofer, Dave Grusin, Woody Herman, Arturo Sandoval, Clark Terry and Bill Watrous. Other musical endeavors have teamed him up with Gloria Estefan, Patti Austin, Bobby McFerrin, Kurt Elling, Michael Feinstein, Renée Fleming, Gregory Porter, Aretha Franklin, Tierney Sutton, Janelle Monáe, Queen Latifa, Lorraine Feather, Monica Mancini, Rita Moreno, Ricky Martin, Kevin Spacey, Dionne Warwick, Carmen Bradford and many more. Previously the McCoy/Sample Professor of Jazz Studies at the USC Thornton School of Music, Shelly is currently Dean of the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
The Jazz Cruise is excited feature bassist John Clayton, a composer, arranger and conductor who learned his trade starting at age 16 from the great Ray Brown, in its 2016 lineup. With a Grammy® and eight additional nominations under his belt, John cites arranging the ‘Star Spangled Banner” for Whitney Houston’s performance at Super Bowl 1990, playing bass on Paul McCartney’s CD “Kisses On The Bottom,” and arranging and playing bass with Yo-Yo Ma and Friends on “Songs of Joy and Peace” among the most notable moments of his career. Over the years, John’s mentors and influencers have included Robert Farnon, Count Basie, Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini and Quincy Jones. Early in his profession, he toured with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra. Later, he held the principal bass chair in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra for more than five years and had a run as artistic director of jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1998 to 2001. Over the course of his career, John has collaborated with Milt Jackson, Nancy Wilson, Ray Brown, Regina Carter, McCoy Tyner, Carmen McRae, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, Kurt Elling, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé and many others. With brother Jeff Clayton on reeds, he’s graced many stages as part of The Clayton Brothers Quintet. He’s also an integral part – and co-founder – of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Eager to share his talent, John frequently participates in jazz workshops and music clinics around the world.
Jazz trumpeter and composer Randy Brecker has helped shape the sound of jazz, R&B and rock for more than four decades. His trumpet and flugelhorn performances have graced hundreds of albums by a wide range of artists from James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and Parliament/Funkadelic to Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Jaco Pastorius and Frank Zappa.
Randy’s musical talent was nurtured from an early age. He moved to New York where he landed gigs with such prominent bands as Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band, the Duke Pearson Big Band and the Thad Jones Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. In 1967, Randy ventured into jazz-rock with the band Blood, Sweat and Tears. He recorded his first solo album, ‘Score’, in 1968, featuring a young, then unknown 19 year-old tenor saxophonist named Michael Brecker. Randy joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers before teaming up with brother Michael, Barry Rogers, Billy Cobham, and John Abercrombie to form the seminal fusion group ‘Dreams’.
In the early 1970s, Randy performed live with many prominent artists including Larry Coryell’s Eleventh House, Stevie Wonder and Billy Cobham. He also recorded several classic albums with his brother under the leadership of the great pianist/composer Hal Galper. By 1975, Randy and Michael were ready to front their own group, the Brecker Brothers Band. A band of immeasurable impact and influence, they released six albums on Arista and garnered seven Grammy nominations between 1975 and 1981. Their eponymous first record, which Randy wrote, arranged and produced, featured his now classic composition “Some Skunk Funk.”
Randy won his first Grammy as a solo artist for ‘Into the Sun’, featuring his impressions of Brazil, in 1997. ’34th n’ Lex,’ won him his third Grammy for ‘Best Contemporary Jazz Album’ in 2003; In 2007, Randy was awarded his fourth Grammy for “Randy Brecker Live with the WDR Big Band; and ‘Randy in Brazil,’ recorded in Sao Paulo, was chosen one of the top 10 CDs of 2008 by AllAboutJazz.com and earned him Grammy #5.
A Brecker Brothers Band Reunion tour of European festivals in the summer of 2013 re-introduced the familiar faces of Brecker Brothers Band members from the past and their special brand of music to sell-out crowds.
As a composer, performer and in-demand Yamaha clinician, Randy Brecker continues to influence and inspire young musicians around the world.
The Jazz Cruise is privileged to have one of the top trombonists of his generation, Wycliffe Gordon, return for an encore performance as our Gospel Show host. Both an accomplished soloist and leader of his eponymous quartet, Wycliffe tours the globe performing for audiences of every caliber, from elementary school students to heads of state. In 2014, for the third year in a row, he received Downbeat Magazine’s Critics Poll “Best in Trombone” award. Wycliffe also has been recognized eight times – most recently in 2013 – by the Jazz Journalists Association as “Trombonist of the Year.” A veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the musician has 16 solo CDs and seven co-leader CDs under his belt. Adept at the tuba, trumpet and soprano trombone plus an accomplished composer and arranger, Wycliffe currently serves as artist-in-residence at Georgia Regents University where he is developing a jazz studies program, teaches courses and works with music majors.
Playing his first professional gig in elementary school, Ken Peplowski has spent his life – along with many a wedding and high school Polka band engagement – mastering the clarinet. With just a year of college under his belt, he joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra under the direction of Buddy Morrow. In 1980, he moved to New York City and, shortly thereafter, was hired by Benny Goodman to play tenor saxophone in his new band. Considering himself an interpreter of material who thrives on putting his own spin on music of various genres, Ken was inducted into The Jazz Cruise Hall of Fame in 2013 and returns for an encore performance on The Jazz Cruise 2016. With a diverse repertoire of Italian folk songs, avant-garde jazz, pop and classical music, the jazz clarinetist and tenor saxophonist has recorded approximately 50 CDs as a soloist and nearly 400 as a sideman. He’s collaborated with the likes of Mel Torme, Leon Redbone, Charlie Byrd, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Madonna, Hank Jones, Dave Frishberg, Rosemary Clooney, Tom Harrell, James Moody, Cedar Walton, Houston Person, Steve Allen, Bill Charlap, Woody Allen, Marianne Faithfull, Isaac Delgado and Erich Kunzel.
Combine mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real world experience playing with no less than the most celebrated artists of the last half century, and it’s no wonder Benny Green has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Green is the bearer of the torch and guardian of a legacy handed down to him, personally, by his musical mentors. His most recent recordings, Live in Santa Cruz (2015) and Magic Beans (2012) are shining examples of his brilliance. Since emerging under the tutelage of Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard and Ray Brown in the early 1980s, Benny Green has become a highly regarded pianist and bandleader. His efforts to expand upon the language of the classical jazz canon have placed him not only among the best interpreters but also among the vanguard of musicians keeping jazz’s evolution going. Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned to Jazz: “I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I’d been hearing from my father’s collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird… it was a gradual process of teaching myself”. Benny never looked back and never stopped learning as his talent and love for the music propelled him to the upper strata of jazz luminaries.
“Rhythm Is My Business” is the title of his debut recording as a leader, and rhythm is a booming business as far as Lewis Nash is concerned. He is the drummer of choice for an incredible array of artists – from the masters of the music to the hottest young players of today – and is equally in demand as a clinician and educator.
World-renowned bassist Ron Carter hired Nash in 1984, and in 1986, saxophonist Branford Marsalis asked Lewis to join his quartet. In 1989 Nash toured with legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins. From 1990 to 2000, Lewis was a member of the Tommy Flanagan Trio, and is featured on seven CD recordings with the late piano master. During this period, Nash also toured and recorded with both the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. His impressive discography (over 300 recordings) includes projects with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Hank Jones and John Lewis, as well as new jazz stars Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. Demonstrating his stylistic diversity, Nash is also featured on recordings by Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Rankin, Melissa Manchester and George Michael. Currently, while he continues to perform and record with a wide variety of artists, Nash leads several of his own exciting groups, from duo to septet.
Jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs is one of the most diversely prolific and acclaimed artists working in music today. His canon of original compositions and arrangements has earned him the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009), a composers award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2015), and two Chamber Music America grants: the Jazz New Works Grant (2006) and the Classical Commissioning Grant (2019).
Childs has had 16 Grammy nominations and 5 Grammy Awards, most recently for Best Jazz Instrumental Album (‘Rebirth’). Previously he won for Best Arrangement, Instrumental & Vocal (featuring Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma) in 2015 for ‘New York Tendaberry’, from his highly successful release ‘Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro’.
Born in Los Angeles in 1957, Childs was already proficient at the piano by age 6; he was accepted in USC’s Community School For The Performing Arts at age 16, studying music theory and piano with some of the world’s most renowned musical scholars. He graduated from USC in 1979 with a degree in composition. Among Childs’ early influences: Herbie Hancock, Keith Emerson, Chick Corea and others. He credits classical composers such as Paul Hindemith, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky for also influencing his love of composition. Childs’ performing career was also enriched with early-career apprenticeships with legendary jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson, and trumpet great Freddie Hubbard, in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
Childs’ multiple musical interests also include collaborations, arrangements, and productions for other acclaimed artists, including Yo Yo Ma, The Kronos Quartet, Wynton Marsalis, Sting, Chris Botti, and Leonard Slatkin, among others.
Described as “one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation” (Wall Street Journal) Bria Skonberg recently sang the music of Aretha Franklin alongside Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, played with U2 at the Apollo, sat in with the Dave Matthews band, was a featured guest with Jon Batiste and performed the Star Spangled Banner at Madison Square Garden for a NY Rangers game. Originally from the small town of Chilliwack, British Columbia and a bandleader since her teens, Bria has performed festivals and stages the world over. In 2016 Bria released her debut LP which won a Canadian JUNO award and made the Top 5 on Billboard jazz charts; her music has over 7 million streams on Spotify. A 6x Downbeat Rising Star, further accolades include the Jazz at Lincoln Center Swing Award, Best Vocal and Best Trumpet from Hot House Jazz Magazine and Outstanding Jazz Artist at the Bistro Awards. The “shining hope of hot jazz” (NY Times) has been at the forefront of a revival of classic American music as both a performer and educator, programming concerts and workshops for students of all ages. In 2018 Lincoln Center sought out her leadership for a tribute to the first integrated all female big band, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, which launched her acclaimed group Sisterhood of Swing. In 2019 she was a featured member of Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour for 26 dates alongside Cecile McLorin Salvant, Christian Sands, Melissa Aldana and Jamison Ross. She tours constantly bringing her own signature sound of fiery trumpet playing and smoky vocals together with storytelling and adventurous concoctions of classic and new.
James Morrison is, by anybody’s standard, a virtuoso in the true sense of the word. Besides the trumpet, this multi-instrumentalist also plays piano, all the brass, saxophones, and double bass. At only age sixteen James debuted in the USA with a breathtaking concert at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Following this were performances at the major festivals of Europe including Montreux, Pori and the North Sea, playing with many of the legends of jazz; Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Cab Calloway, Woody Shaw, Red Rodney, George Benson, Ray Charles, B.B. King and Wynton Marsalis to name a few. There were also gigs in the world’s most famous jazz clubs – The Blue Note and Village Vanguard in New York, the New Morning in Paris, The Tokyo Blue Note and Ronnie Scotts in London.
James Morrison’s career thus far has been diverse and perhaps not typical of most jazz musicians. He recorded Jazz Meets the Symphony with The London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lalo Schifrin, performed concerts at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for Princess Anne. Royal command performances on two occasions for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and for US Presidents Bush & Clinton at Parliament House in Australia. James has also performed his own ‘Concerto for Euphonium’ with the Tonkünstler Orchestra at the Muskverein in Vienna. In 2000 James composed and performed the opening fanfare for the Olympic Games in Sydney. James spends much time in education, doing master classes and workshops all over the world and presenting the James Morrison Jazz Scholarship at Generations in Jazz.
Terell Stafford, acclaimed trumpet player based in New York, has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Stafford is recognized as an incredibly gifted and versatile player, he combines a deep love of melody with his own brand of spirited and adventurous lyricism. Stafford’s exceptionally expressive and well defined musical talent allows him to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads.
Since the mid-1990’s, Stafford has performed with groups such as Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, Kenny Barron Quintet, Frank Wess Quintet, Jimmy Heath Quintet and Big Band, Jon Faddis Jazz Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Band. With the Hamilton- Clayton Jazz Orchestra, he performed on Diana Krall’s GRAMMY nominated From this Moment On (2006). John Clayton invited Stafford to perform with the Clayton Brothers Quintet and Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Stafford is a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and they were awarded a GRAMMY in 2009 for Best Large Ensemble, Live at the Village Vanguard. Stafford can be heard on over 130 albums, of which his latest recording was hailed as “the first must have album of 2011” and “genius”, This Side of Strayhorn.
Stafford is the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at Temple University, founder and band leader of the Terell Stafford Quintet, and Managing and Artistic Director of the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia (JOP). Stafford is renowned in the jazz world as an educator, performer and leader and has received countless award nominations and accolades.
Though her career has taken her well beyond the jazz circuit, Niki Haris’s roots are here, and The Jazz Cruise ‘16 is delighted to welcome the songstress to its lineup. The daughter of Grammy®-nominated jazz pianist Gene Harris, Niki and her father released two albums and a live CD before his death in 2000. Carrying on his legacy in jazz, she’s released solo albums, toured Europe with her jazz quartet, and starred in the touring production of “Billie & Me,” a celebration of the life of Billie Holiday. In addition to 18 years of recording and touring with Madonna, Niki has lent her voice to projects of Ray Charles, David Sanborn, Patrice Rushen, Michael Sembello, Leann Rimes, Michelle Branch, Santana, Kylie Minogue, Luther Vandross, All Saints, Wilton Felder of the Jazz Crusaders, Stanley Turrentine, the Righteous Brothers, Julian Lennon, Anita Baker, Mick Jagger and Whitney Houston. She’s also been featured in the soundtracks of “Corrina Corrina,” “The Big Green,” “Coyote Ugly” and Disney’s “Anastasia.” Meanwhile, she’s pursued other artistic passions with great success as well, including staging scenes for Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct,” choreographing for the television series “Melrose Place,” and appeared with in Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in “Heat.”
Born in Newcastle, Australia, Nicki Parrott started her musical training at age four with the piano, followed by the flute, and switched to double bass at the age of 15. Nicki studied jazz at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. She was the recipient of two awards, a scholarship to Pan Pacific Music Camps at the age of 16, and first place in the 1992 Jazz Action Society’s Annual Song Competition for her composition “Come and Get It,” which is the opening track of Nicki and her sister Lisa’s debut CD, “Awabakal Suite”. She was also nominated for the annual Australian Young Achievers Award by the Arts Council of Australia who granted her the funds to come to New York to study with Rufus Reid in 1994.
In June 2000, Nicki began performing on Monday nights at the Iridium Jazz Club with the legendary guitarist and inventor, Les Paul. As part of the Les Paul Trio, Nicki worked side-by-side with guitar greats from Paul McCartney, Slash, Steve Miller to fellow Aussie, Tommy Emmanuel. Since then she has performed with such notable musicians as Michel Legrand, Joe Wilder, Randy Brecker, Clark Terry, Jose Feliciano, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, Dick Hyman, Patti Labelle & the New York Pops Orchestra, Harry Allen, Marlena Shaw, David Krakauer, Ken Peplowski, Ann Hampton Callaway, Bill Mays, Scott Hamilton, Lillian Boutte, Larry Carlton and Houston Person, just to name a few.
In 2007 and 2008, Nicki received back to back honors for Swing Journal’s Best Jazz Vocal Album (Moon River and Fly Me to The Moon, respectively). In 2010 her album Black Coffee (Venus) received Swing Journal’s Gold Disc award.
With 12 recordings as a leader, more than 200 as a sideman and eight Grammy® awards to his name, baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan has set the bar high in the world of jazz. Winner of the 2014 DownBeat Readers Poll, the 2009 and 2011 Down Beat Critics Poll, the 2009 and 2010 Jazz Journalist Award, and the 2011 Jazz Times Critics and Readers Polls, Gary played early in his career with Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. These days he is a regular member of the Dave Holland Big Band and Octet, The Joe Lovano Nonet, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All Star Big Band. The in-demand musician also has collaborated with the likes of Diana Ross, Ray Charles and B.B. King. Gary is currently an adjunct professor of jazz saxophone at Amherst College, and The Jazz Cruise looks forward to him “schooling” its audiences during the cruise.
Italian native Ada Rovatti started playing saxophone in high school after years of classical piano training. After winning a scholarship from Berklee College of Music in Italy she divided herself between Boston where she studied with Joe Viola and George Garzone, and Italy, where she was working in Big Bands with guest artists such as Phil Woods, Lee Konitz and many others. After spending one year in Paris touring Europe and Africa she moved to New York City. She has performed with an impressive and diverse list of artists and bands such as: Mike Stern, Randy Brecker, Miroslav Vitous, John McLaughlin, James Moody, Anne Ducros, Bob Mintzer, Victor Bailey, Joanne Brackeen, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Vinnie Colaiuta, Jimmy Heath, Patti Austin and many others. In addition to her musical expertise Ada appeared in the movie ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ featuring Julia Roberts.
In 2003 she released her first 2 CDs as a bandleader with the Elephunk Band and with her quartet with guests Randy Brecker, Mike Stern and Don Alias. She also appears on the Grammy CD by Randy Brecker 34 th N Lex (best contemporary jazz Album of 2003) and on the acclaimed CD of John McLaughlin Industrial Zen(2006). Her 2005 release Airbop, featuring guest artists Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker and Don Alias, was nominated by one of the critics of All About Jazz as one of the top Ten CDs of the year. Her latest band leader album ‘ Green Factor” is a unique recording with a melting pot of irish/celtic/jazz/fusion influences with strong harmonies and sophisticated arrangements with guest artists Adam Rogers, Randy Brecker and Ivan Goff. She just released her new album DISGUISE featuring Zach Brock, Janek Gwizdala, Dana Hawkins, Randy Brecker, Dean Brown, Anne Drummond, Leo Genovese, Oli Rockberger and Adam Rogers.
Award-winning jazz pianist Tamir Hendelman has performed with the Jeff Hamilton Trio, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Harry Allen, Teddy Edwards, Warren Vache, Houston Person, Jeff Clayton, Nick Brignola, Phil Upchurch, Rickey Woodard, John Clayton and Barbara Morrison. He also leads his own trio and his debut CD “Playground” features him in this trio setting. Beginning his keyboard studies at age 6 in Tel Aviv, Tamir moved to the US at age 12 in 1984, winning Yamaha’s national keyboard competition 2 years later at age 14. He became the youngest musical director for Lovewell Institute, a national arts education non-profit organization. Tamir joined the Jeff Hamilton Trio in 2000, contributing arrangements, recording and touring Japan, Europe and the US. In 2001 he became a member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, with whom he has recorded for John Pizzarelli, Gladys Knight and Diana Krall. He is the pianist/arranger on Jackie Ryan’s “You and the Night and the Music” and Janis Mann’s “A Perfect Time.” He is also featured on Natalie Cole’s “Still Unforgettable” and Barbara Streisand’s upcoming recording. In his own trio, he explores standards, Brazilian music, blues and his Israeli roots.
John Fedchock has been a mainstay of the New York jazz scene for decades. The revered bandleader and master of the trombone has been wowing audiences and fellow musicians since his debut with the Woody Herman Orchestra in 1980. Today, his 16-piece John Fedchock New York Big Band and the John Fedchock New York Sextet are staples on the international jazz festival circuit. In his 35-year career, the critically acclaimed trombone soloist has earned a Grammy® nomination, released nearly two dozen recordings, and toured with T.S. Monk, Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band, Louie Bellson’s Big Band, the Bob Belden Ensemble, the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. Renowned for his dense voicings, thick ensemble writing and unique, swinging lines, John also is a celebrated arranger and composer destined to make a lasting impression on big band music.
JON HAMAR is a versatile artist who’s ability to find a tasteful, unique voice in any musical situation has made him a staple in the music scene. Hamar’s friendly nature, sense of humor and work ethic has kept him busy as a freelance bassist in multiple performance genres.
Jon was born in Kennewick, Washington. He began playing the string bass at age 11 and a year later began playing the electric bass as well. Jon’s parents are musical and Jon grew up listening to his father play gospel, boogie woogie and classical music at the piano and his mother play the oboe and sing at church.
Jon earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Double Bass Performance from Eastern Washington University and a Master’s degree in Jazz and Contemporary Media from the Eastman School of Music.
In 2001 Hamar relocated to Seattle, Washington, and was in high demand as a freelance bassist. Hamar performed for four years with jazz and blues great Ernestine Anderson as well as Northwest notables such as Greta Matassa, Jim Knapp, Randy Halberstadt, Dawn Clement, Kelley Johnson and John Hansen. In 2012 Jon joined the faculty at the Centrum Jazz Workshop under the Artistic Direction of John Clayton. In Fall of 2015 Hamar joined the faculty at the Natalie Haslam School of Music at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Introduced to the saxophone by his father, Dick Oatts’ career began in the Midwest but took off once New York City got its hands on him in the late 70s. Along with the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra, his big band experience includes performances with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Mel Lewis, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Lester Bowie, Joe Lovano, Sam Jones-Tom Harrell, Paquito d’Rivera, Jim McNeely, Tito Puente, Kenny Wheeler and Gunther Schuller. Vocalists like Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Neene Freelon, Mel Torme and Milton Nascimento have relied on his talents, as have pop artists Luther Vandross, James Taylor and Everything But the Girl. Dick has also appeared in recordings and tours with Red Rodney, Eddie Gomez, Vic Juric, Bob Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis, Dom Salvador, Jerry Bergonzi, Flim & the BB’s, Fred Hersch, Dave Berkman, Soren Moller, Terell Stafford, Jon Faddis, Lalo Schiffrin, and Ray Mantilla. A professor of Jazz Studies at the Boyer School of Music at Temple University, Dick also is an artist-in-residence at the Amsterdam Conservatory. The Jazz Cruise is privileged to include an Artist of this caliber in its lineup.
Rickey Woodard was born in Nashville, Tennessee, where he played in a family band with his brothers and sisters, playing Blues and R’n’B around the Nashville area. Rickey came up listening to such greats as Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt. Rickey’s favorite saxophone players are Hank Mobley and George Coleman. After leaving Nashville, Rickey went to California and joined the Ray Charles Band. After eight great years, Rickey decided to pursue a solo career as both a leader and a sideman. Currently, he performs live frequently leading his own quartet and quintet as well as performing and recording with The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and the Frank Capp Juggernaut Band.
He has performed and recorded with such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, Nancy Wilson and many others. Rickey has over 200 original compositions and extensive experience arranging for quartets and quintets. His latest recording, Pineapple Delight, consists of all original compositions arranged for a quintet.
Multi-GRAMMY nominated drummer Eric Harland is one the most in-demand drummers of his generation. He has been on close to 200 recordings at his age of 36 and has been recognized in the New York Times, Boston Globe, JazzTimes, Modern Drummer, The New Yorker, DownBeat, L’uomo Vogue and other prominent publications.
His current list of performing groups are James Farm with Joshua Redman, Prism with Dave Holland and Kevin Eubanks, Sangam with Charles Lloyd and Zakir Hussain, Charles Lloyd New Quartet, Overtown with Dave Holland, Jason Moran, and Chris Potter, and Voyager, Eric’s own widely recognized group. But Eric doesn’t stop there, he also manages to fit in many collaborations with world renowned artist like Les Claypool, the band Dispatch, John Mayer, Spike Lee, Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson from American Idol, and more.
Trumpeter Bijon Watson’s career as an artist-educator has taken him around the globe performing for audiences worldwide. Bijon’s passion for big band jazz inspired him to become a student of the great bands and has become a sought after lead trumpet player. Bijon’s played lead for Grammy-nominated bands including the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, John Daversa Progressive Big Band and John Beasley’s Monkestra. Bijon’s credits are vast and include iconic artists such as Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, Harry Connick, Jr., Justin Timberlake, Diana Krall, Michael Jackson, Arturo Sandoval, Lady GaGa, Stevie Wonder, Rosemary Clooney, Alicia Keys, Prince, Steve Tyrell, Joe Williams and Nancy Wilson. His film appearances include appearing in the award-winning film “La La Land.”
Jennifer Wharton is a low brass specialist based in New York City. Though getting her start classically, Jen has deep roots in jazz, commercial, chamber and Broadway music. These days, Jennifer can be found leading her trombone-forward ensemble, Bonegasm, and performing in West Side Story but has also held positions at King Kong, Beautiful, The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Jekyll and Hyde, Scandalous, Wonderland, 9 to 5 and Curtains.
Jen is a member of two multiple Grammy-nominated ensembles, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and Alan Ferber Big Band. She has also performed on the Grammy-nominated cast albums for The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess, 9 to 5 The Musical and Curtains The Musical as well as the Grammy-winning recording of Beautiful The Carole King Musical. She also teaches bass trombone at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
She has performed and/or recorded with ensembles including the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band, Ken Peplowski Big Band, Miggy Augmented Jazz Orchestra, DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Birdland Big Band, Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra, Woody Herman Orchestra, Terraza 7 Big Band, John Yao and His 17 Piece Instrument, Walking Distance, South Florida Jazz Orchestra, new Alchemy Jazz Orchestra, Steven Feifke Big Band, and the BMI Jazz Composers’ Workshop.
Guitarist and Los Angeles native Graham Dechter is one of the most promising young jazz musicians on the scene today. Born into a family of musicians, Graham’s musical journey began at the age of 5 when he started taking violin lessons and composing various orchestral pieces. His talents as both a violinist and a composer led him to the Idyllwild Arts Academy in CA, one of three prestigious residential arts high schools in the country. It was there that Graham discovered his passion for guitar and began pursuing his life’s calling: jazz.
At Idyllwild Arts, Graham studied improvisation with legendary jazz bassist Marshall Hawkins, an experience that profoundly affected his musical development. Upon graduation, Graham entered the Jazz Studies program at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. After completing a year at Eastman, at the invitation of Jeff Hamilton, Graham moved back to Los Angeles to accept the guitar seat in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO). He was 19 at the time and became the youngest member of the acclaimed orchestra.
Graham, through his association with CHJO and other playing experience, has performed and recorded with some of the most respected names in music, including Ernie Andrews, Charles Aznavour, Michael Buble, Regina Carter, Gilbert Castellanos, Freddie Cole, Natalie Cole, Bill Charlap, Paquito D’Rivera, Kurt Elling, and many more.
John Clayton, who joined Graham on his debut album Right on Time, is quoted as saying: “Graham Dechter’s playing is not only a joy to hear, it is a joy to be a part of. Personally, I love a warm guitar sound. Better: I love HIS warm guitar sound. Combine that with some serious swinging, clean arrangements, a high level of intensity and a dose of beautiful lines, and you’ve got a guitar player that is exciting to play with. The other good part of all of this is that he’s still so young. There’s just no telling to what wonderful places he will take us.”
Javier Nero is a jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger whose musicianship is already receiving significant recognition. Dr. Nero has won first place in 4 international jazz solo competitions. Recently, Dr. Nero recorded his first album, “Freedom” with the Javier Nero Septet. Multiple Grammy award-winning trumpeter, Brian Lynch calls Nero’s compositions: “modern, sophisticated yet accessible, pleasing the player and listener alike”. Javier currently leads and performs with 2 of his own ensembles: “The Javier Nero Septet” and the “Javier Nero Jazz Orchestra” which perform regularly in the NYC area.
He has collaborated and recorded with multiple Grammy award winning trumpeters / composers Brian Lynch and John Daversa, as well as Shelly Berg, Martin Bejerano, Errol Rackipov, Felipe Lamoglia, Tal Cohen, and Jean Caze. Javier has also held the lead trombone position in the award winning Frost Concert Jazz Band at the University of Miami.
His classical training and versatility have enabled him to perform in various styles and genres alike, ranging from small jazz combos, to symphony orchestras. Nero is also a member of the award winning Haitian band “Klass” which tours the US, Canada, the Caribbean, South America, and France regularly.
Nero currently holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Juilliard School, a Master of Music from University of Miami in Studio/Jazz Writing, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree with a cognate (minor) in classical trombone performance at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.
Patrick Bartley, Jr. is a Grammy-nominated and award-winning saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer/arranger from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now gaining recognition as an emerging artist in New York City. Patrick has recorded and performed and alongside such renowned musicians as Louis Hayes, Jonathan Batiste, Mulgrew Miller, Jeff Coffin, and Wynton Marsalis, and has performed at world-renowned venues such as The STAPLES Center, Madison Square Garden, and The Black Sea Jazz Festival. Throughout his secondary and post-secondary educational years, he has been featured as a member of the Grammy Jazz Ensemble, Next Generation Jazz Orchestra, Vail Jazz Workshop All-Stars, and has received two Downbeat Student Awards in the Jazz Soloist category. Patrick also enjoys performing in a wide range of musical styles, including classical, Afro-Cuban, Japanese music, and various types of electronic music. Patrick strives to further his life-long study in the various ways melody and rhythm can affect and unite people in unique ways, which encourages him to plunge deep in to the plethora of multi-cultural music from around the world and let it affect him. In addition to building his career as a performer and composer, Patrick intends to pursue his passion for Japanese music and continue pushing his original music project, the “J-MUSIC Ensemble”, which focuses on bringing new perspectives to modern Japanese pop and art music.
Ted Rosenthal has performed worldwide as soloist, with his trio, and sideman with many jazz greats including Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, James Moody, Bob Brookmeyer and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He has also been a featured soloist with several major American orchestras including the Detroit Symphony. Winner of the 1988 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, Rosenthal has released 15 CDs as a leader. His latest, Rhapsody in Gershwin (2014), reached #1 in jazz album sales at iTunes. It features his arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue for jazz trio. A recipient of three NEA grants, Rosenthal also composes music ranging from jazz tunes to orchestral works and ballet scores, including for Alvin Ailey. Rosenthal is a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School and is a published author.
Bassist and composer Martin Wind was born in Flensburg, Germany in 1968 and moved to New York in 1996 to study at New York University (NYU) with a scholarship by the German Academic Exchange Service. Since his move to New York Martin has become a regular at all major jazz clubs and is also in demand as a session player; his credits include movies such as “The Alamo”, “Intolerable Cruelty”, ” Mona Lisa Smiles”, “Fur”, “True Grit” and “The Adventures of Walter Mitty”. In 1996 Martin Wind won the first Cognac Hennessy/Blue Note Jazz Search in Germany with his trio Dreikland and got to record an album for Blue Note Records.
In 2000 he was the first Jazz musician to win the Cultural Award of his home state Schleswig-Holstein. Martin has released about 10 albums so far as leader/co-leader including his debut album Gone with the Wind (1993), Tender Waves (1996), Dreiklang (1997), Family (1999), The Soccerball (2002), Salt & Pepper (2007), Get it (2009), Theresia (2010) and MWQuartet – Live at JazzBaltica (DVD).
In 2014 Martin released the album Turn out the Stars – music written or inspired by Bill Evans on his newly founded “What if Music” Record Label. The recording features Martin’s current Quartet consisting of Scott Robinson (tenor sax), Bill Cunliffe (piano) and Joe La Barbera (drums), as well as the Italian “Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana.” Paquito D’Rivera called the album “disgustingly beautiful!” Currently Martin is a member of the trios of Bill Mays, Dena DeRose, Bill Cunliffe, Ann Hampton Callaway, Ted Rosenthal, as well as of Matt Wilson’s Quartet “Arts and Crafts”. Since 2013 he has also been touring with Belgian guitarist and jazz legend Philip Catherine, playing material from their duo album New Folks.
Wind has recorded and/or performed with the following artists: Lalo Schifrin, Monty Alexander, Pat Metheny, Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Toots Thielemans, Buddy DeFranco, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Bucky Pizzarelli, Mike Stern, Johnny Mandel, James Moody, John Scofield, Sting, Ann Hampton Callaway, Michel Legrand, Mulgrew Miller, Ken Peplowski, Anat Cohen, Benny Green, Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and others.
New York drummer Tim Horner is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston where he studied percussion with Dean Anderson, drums with Keith Copeland and drumming concepts with bassist Miroslav Vitous. In 1980 following his six years in Boston, he moved to New York City where he has since offered his experience, knowledge and skills as one of New York’s most in-demand jazz drummers. He’s traveled extensively in the US, Europe, the Balkans, Asia, North and South America with some of the world’s greatest jazz talents, performing concerts, clubs, recordings, teaching and master classes. Currently he teaches jazz ensembles and jazz drumming at New Jersey City University. Tim is a long time professor of jazz drumset at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, New Jersey. Along with keeping a studio at the university and at his home, Tim has been teaching through “The New York Jazz Workshop.”
While following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, John Allred has made a pretty big name for himself along the way. The accomplished trombonist was a lead and featured soloist with the legendary Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd in the 80s. Today, he continues appearing with the orchestra under the direction of Frank Tiberi. John also has toured with the Harry Connick Jr. Big Band and performed with The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, Toshiko Akioshi’s Big Band, Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks and the Louis Armstrong Centennial band.
Russell Hall is an award-winning double bassist from Kingston, Jamaica. He was introduced to jazz at the Dillard Center for the Arts directed by Christopher Dorsey. He continued his studies with master bassists Ron Carter and Ben Wolfe at The Juilliard School in New York City. He has been blessed to work with legends such as Edward Norton, Kathleen Battle, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Barry Harris, Wayne Shorter, Roy Haynes, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mwenso and The Shakes, Emmet Cohen and Jonathan Batiste and Stay Human. His band, “Bessie and The Rainbowkids” is a group comprised of artists from all around the world whose mission is to bring peace to all ears and love to all hearts. in addition, Russell is a part of “The Blacksmiths”, an arts coalition dedicated to social justice.
Hailed by Jazz Speaks as a “young prodigious drummer”, Los Angeles native Kyle Poole has been residing in New York City since 2011 and continues to impress wherever his drums take him next. Along with his band of fellow NY jazz upstarts aptly titled “Poole & the Gang”, Kyle has performed in New York’s most esteemed jazz clubs, notably Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola & SMOKE Jazz, culminating in a weekly residency at Small’s Jazz Club lasting nearly 3 years. One of Poole’s chief missions is to expand jazz’s audience by incorporating all dance styles of music, reaching back to ragtime & bebop, while forging ahead all the way to funk, hip-hop & beyond. With the constant fluctuation of genre, rhythm & harmony, “Poole & the Gang” connects these musical dots in a uniquely improvised fashion, while audiences worldwide are delighted to simply, “go with the flow.”
Internationally renowned bassist and recording artist Rodney Whitaker currently holds the titles of Professor of Jazz Bass and Director of Jazz Studies at Michigan State University where he has built one of the leading jazz degree programs and performing faculty in the United States of America. He is considered one of the leading performers and teachers of the jazz double bass in the United States. Whitaker has performed and toured with over 100+ legendary performing jazz artists over the past 25+ years. Featured on more than 100+ recordings—from film to compact discs—Whitaker’s film scores include China, directed by Jeff Wray and released on PBS Fall 2002, and Malaria and Malawi, released on PBS Fall 2010. Also, Whitaker has a DVD release featuring Michigan State University’s Jazz Department entitled, “Inside Jazz” and three new compact discs entitled, “Get Ready” & “Work To Do”—both on Mack Avenue Records and “Better Than Alright” by Michigan State University College of Music.
Alonzo Bodden will keep the ship rolling—in laughter. Bodden, who won Season 3 on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, is a regular on NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” and “Comedy Congress,” as well as being a panelist on the Game Show Network’s “Mind of a Man.”
In 2011, he starred in the comedy special “Who’s Paying Attention” on Showtime, released a DVD, and hosts a podcast of the same name. That same year, he was a panelist on the syndicated show “Inside the Vault,” and voiced the character of Thunderon in the Power Rangers movie. Bodden has also hosted Speed Channel’s “101 Cars You Must Drive” and “America’s Worst Driver” on Travel Channel. Alonzo’s first big comedy break came when he was on the “New Faces of Comedy” showcase at industry festival, Just For Laughs in Montreal.
Alonzo has made the rounds on the late night television circuit including appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn,” and “The Keenen Ivory Wayans” show. His film credits include “Scary Movie 4,” “The Girl Next Door,” and “Bringing Down the House” starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah. His latest television special was “Heavy Lightweight” on Amazon Prime.
Alonzo has traveled around the world entertaining USO troops from Iraq to Greenland.
LeRoy Downs has been an icon in the jazz industry for the past twenty years. The Los Angeles jazz radio program & festival host, journalist, television producer, curator and concert series producer began his career with station 88.1 FM KKJZ and has continued to contribute to the art form as broadcaster on several Los Angeles radio stations.
The love of the music continued on another platform with the creation of TheJazzcat.net. This blog style website has featured all of the articles, concert reviews, interviews, events and multi-media projects that LeRoy has collaborated and produced over the years.
LeRoy has been busy hosting many jazz festivals and performances including more that 15 years with the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Central Avenue Jazz Festival, the Angel City Jazz Festival, The Playboy Jazz Cruise, The Jazz Cruise, Winter Jazz Fest in New York, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz performances. You can find him weekly at his own Just Jazz Series, and enjoy many programs, interviews, articles, jazz radio broadcasts and more on “The Jazzcat App”, as well as listen to progressive music on his 24- 7 online radio station called “Sounds and Colors Radio.”
“My vision and goal is to bring an eclectic sonic experience of jazz to my listeners. A blend of music, style, culture, love and a voice for the unsung. A sense of openness and understanding to an art form that so many have formed nostalgic opinions about or have not really taken the time to explore its vast cerebral beauty. and colors of the continuum of sound. A mix of old and new dreams that bridge generations, colors, cultures, and politics while letting the natural vibrations of the harmonies and melodies inspire new visions of self-discovery!”