Wynton Marsalis is an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, educator and a leading advocate of American culture. He is the world’s first jazz artist to perform and compose across the full jazz spectrum from its New Orleans roots to bebop to modern jazz. By creating and performing an expansive range of brilliant new music for quartets to big bands, chamber music ensembles to symphony orchestras, tap dance to ballet, Wynton has expanded the vocabulary for jazz and created a vital body of work that places him among the world’s nest musicians and composers. To date Wynton has produced over 70 records which have sold over seven million copies worldwide including three Gold Records.
Born in New Orleans, age 17 Wynton became the youngest musician ever to be admitted to Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center. In 1980 Wynton seized the opportunity to join the Jazz Messengers to study under master drummer and bandleader Art Blakey, where he acquired his concept for bandleading and for bringing intensity to each and every performance. Wynton assembled his own band in 1981 and hit the road, performing over 120 concerts every year for 15 consecutive years. With the power of his superior musicianship, the infectious sound of his swinging bands and an exhaustive series of performances and music workshops, Marsalis rekindled widespread interest in jazz throughout the world. Students of Marsalis’ workshops include: James Carter, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton, Eric Reed and Eric Lewis, to name a few.
In 1987 Marsalis co-founded, and became Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Music Director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. In July 1996, due to its signi cant success, Jazz at Lincoln Center was installed as new constituent of Lincoln Center, equal in stature with the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and New York City Ballet – a historic moment for jazz as an art form and for Lincoln Center as a cultural institution. Under Wynton’s leadership, Jazz at Lincoln Center has developed an international agenda presenting rich and diverse programming that includes concerts, debates, lm forums, dances, television and radio broadcasts, and educational activities.
Marcus Miller, winner of two Grammy® Awards, the 2013 Edison Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz (Holland), the 2010 Victoire du Jazz (France) and appointed UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2013, is not only an exceptional musician— a multi-instrumentalist and world-renowned bassist— but also a highly gifted composer and producer. The legendary album Tutu, written and produced for Miles Davis, sealed his international fame when Marcus was only 25. Over the course of his career, has collaborated with artists as varied and talented as Eric Clapton, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, George Duke, Wayne Shorter, Lalah Hathaway and Herbie Hancock. He also has produced his own genre-defying albums, among them The Sun Don’t Lie, Tales, M2, Silver Rain, Free, A Night in Monte Carlo (with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra), and Renaissance. Along with international tours, Marcus Miller hosts a weekly program on SiriusXM radio show, “Miller Time.”
In his three-and-a-half decade career, David Sanborn has released 24 albums, won six Grammy Awards, and has had eight Gold albums and one Platinum album. Having inspired countless other musicians, Dave has worked in many genres which typically blend instrumental pop, R&B and lately, more and more traditional jazz. Having contracted polio at the age of three, Dave was introduced to the saxophone as part of his treatment therapy. By the age of 14, he was able to play with legends such as Albert King and Little Milton, later playing with The Rolling Stones and touring with David Bowie with whom he recorded the famous solo heard on “Young Americans”. At the same time, Dave was touring and recording with the great Gil Evans. Dave’s solo release of Taking Off in 1975—still considered a classic—further solidified his career. Later albums have included guest artists such as Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Charlie Hayden, Wallace Roney, Luther Vandross, Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, and Eric Clapton.Dave hosted the television show, Night Music from 1988 to 1990.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist with a knack for mellow, harmonically complex compositions that also reveal a subtle hip-hop influence. The pianist released his debut album, Mood, on Fresh Sound New Talent in 2004. Canvas and In My Element followed in 2005 and 2007, respectively, on Blue Note Records.
In 2009, Glasper released the forward-thinking album Double Booked, which featured a mix of modal post-bop and funky, ’80s Herbie Hancock-inspired numbers with two separate bands. The first of these was his trio with drummer Chris Dave and upright bassist Vicente Archer; they recorded five originals and a cover of Thelonious Monk’s “Think of One.” These tracks were followed by five more originals by his electric band, dubbed the Robert Glasper Experiment, featuring Dave, electric bassist Derrick Hodge, and Casey Benjamin on saxes and vocoder. In 2012, the Robert Glasper Experiment (with a slew of all-star guest vocalists) issued their first stand-alone album, Black Radio, for Blue Note, which sought to blur boundaries between jazz, hip-hop, R&B, and rock & roll; it entered the Billboard jazz charts at number one.
Interview magazine says, “Robert Glasper’s energy is infectious… Intelligent, creative, and incredibly impassioned, the pianist is the ideal flag-bearer for the new jazz era.”
Cécile McLorin Salvant was born and raised in Miami, Florida of a French mother and a Haitian father. She started classical piano studies at 5, and began singing in the Miami Choral Society at 8. In 2007, Cécile moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, to study law as well as classical and baroque voice at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory. It was in Aix-en-Provence, with reedist and teacher Jean-François Bonnel, that she started learning about jazz, and sang with her first band. In 2009, after a series of concerts in Paris, she recorded her first album “Cécile”, with Jean-François Bonnel’s Paris Quintet. A year later, she won the Thelonious Monk competition in Washington D.C.
Over the years, she has developed a curiosity for the history of American music, and the connections between jazz, vaudeville, blues, and folk music. Cécile carefully chooses her repertoire, oftentimes unearthing rarely recorded, forgotten songs, with strong stories.She enjoys popularity in Europe and in the United States, performing in clubs, concert halls, and festivals. In 2014, her second album, WomanChild, was nominated for a Grammy.
Her third album, For One To Love, won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Her fourth album, Dreams and Daggers, was nominated for the 60th Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
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 is a renowned artist of vocalese – the writing and performing of words over recorded improvised jazz solos. The natural heir to jazz pioneers Eddie Jefferson, King Pleasure and Jon Hendricks, Elling has set his own lyrics to the improvised solos of Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny. 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.” Kurt Elling has toured vigorously throughout his career, thrilling audiences throughout the world. In that time he has led his own ensemble and has collaborated with many of the world’s finest orchestras.
Christian Scott, also known as Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, is a two-time Edison Award winning (2010 and 2012) and Grammy Award nominated trumpeter, composer, producer and music executive. Christian’s Grammy nominated international recording debut, Rewind That was called “arguably the most remarkable premiere the genre has seen in the last decade” by Billboard Magazine. Christian, is a scion of New Orleans’ first family of art and culture, nephew of saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. and the grandson of the legendary Big Chief, Donald Harrison Sr., the only man to be Chief of four Black Indian tribes of New Orleans.
Since 2002 Christian has released seven critically acclaimed studio recordings and two live albums. He has been heralded by JazzTimes magazine as “the Architect of a new commercially viable fusion” and “Jazz’s young style God.” Christian is known for developing the harmonic convention known as the “forecasting cell” and for his use of an un-voiced tone in his playing, emphasizing breath over vibration at the mouthpiece, widely referred to as his “whisper technique.” Christian is also widely recognized as one of the progenitors of “Stretch Music,” a jazz rooted, genre blind musical form that attempts to “stretch” jazz’s rhythmic, melodic and harmonic conventions to encompass as many other musical forms, languages and cultures as possible.
Christian is also dedicated to a number of causes that positively impact communities. He gives his time and talents to a number of organizations which garnered him a place in Ebony Magazine’s 30 Young Leaders Under 30.
New Orleans-born and-based Terence Blanchard has traveled many paths musically, including delivering adventurous and provocative acoustic jazz outings of original material, composing over 50 soundtracks and even, in 2013, debuting Champion: An Opera in Jazz. As a leader and co-leader (significantly four albums early in his career with fellow Crescent City artist, saxophonist Donald Harrison), Blanchard has recorded more than 30 albums that often defied genres, yet were still critically acclaimed. On his latest Blue Note Records album, Breathless, Blanchard powerfully and playfully journeys into another jazz realm with his new quintet, The E-Collective—an exciting zone of grooved fusion teeming with funk, R&B and blues colors.
Since his formidable emergence on the music scene in the late 90s, jazz pianist Jason Moran has proven more than his brilliance as a performer. The Blue Note Records recording artist has established himself as a risk-taker and innovator of new directions for jazz as a whole.
In almost every category that matters – improvisation, composition, group concept, repertoire, technique and experimentation – Moran, and his group The Bandwagon – with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits – have challenged the status quo, and earned the reputation as “the future of jazz.”
Moran’s debut recording as a leader, Soundtrack to Human Motion, was released in 1999 to great critical praise. The following year, Facing Left, established The Bandwagon trio with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits, and prompted JazzTimes Magazine to declare the album “an instant classic.” Moran augmented the trio for his third Blue Note release, Black Stars, adding avant-garde icon Sam Rivers, who plays saxophone, flute and piano on the recording.
In 2005, his blues homage, Same Mother was released. This same year he received the first ever Playboy Jazz Artist of the Year award. Artist in Residence debuted in 2006 and showcased Moran’s signature brilliance with ambitious undertakings. In the span of one year, Moran accepted and recorded three separate commissions from three pre-eminent and very diverse American arts institutions: The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Dia Art Foundation, and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
In 2007, Moran was commissioned to create IN MY MIND: Monk at Town Hall, 1959, the critically-acclaimed multi-media performance investigating Thelonious Monk’s famous recording, Monk at Town Hall. This personal experience has been transformed into a feature documentary entitled IN MY MIND by director Gary Hawkins.
His ongoing visionary collaborations in the art world have brought him additional fans and respect. Moran’s music is in the collections of both the MOMA and Whitney Museum of American Art.
Every so often a new singer emerges who’s able to assimilate multiple musical touchstones and still come off sounding remarkably fresh and unburdened by the past. Kandace Springs is one of those artists. The 27-year-old, Nashville-based singer, songwriter and pianist counts such stylists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and Norah Jones as her heroes, but as evidenced by her sparkling full-length Blue Note Records debut, Soul Eyes,Springs mimics none of them. Instead Springs allows her comely alto to become a conduit that touches upon soul, jazz and pop while transforming those aforementioned influences into a personalized sound that reveals itself effortlessly. “The artists who have inspired me the most all sang so naturally,” Springs says. “That helped me find my own sound.”
An early demo Springs recorded caught the ears of Rogers and Sturken, who have written hits for the likes of Shakira, Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Clarkson, and are best known for discovering and signing Rihanna as a teenager. Rogers flew down to Nashville with an offer to sign Springs to their production company SRP. Still only 17 years old at the time, she and her family decided that it wasn’t the right time to pursue a recording career, instead taking a job at a downtown Nashville hotel where she valet parked cars by day and sang and played piano in the lounge at night.
A few years later, Springs moved to New York and started working seriously on new songs and demo recordings. She eventually landed an audition with Blue Note President Don Was at the Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles, winning him over with a stunning performance of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (the original of which he had coincidentally produced). “That song is so soulful. When I first heard that song, it almost moved me to tears,” Springs says. “I wrote my own arrangement for it a few years before I played it for him.”
Now as Springs continues to develop as singer and songwriter in her own right, she’ll surely win over many other hearts. “I would like to be known as one of the younger people that are keeping jazz and soul alive and vibrant, “she says. “I love the realness of jazz and soul.”
Season 3 winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Alonzo Bodden keeps the boat rolling—in laughter, rest assured—as comedian-in-residence for The Smooth Jazz Cruise. With a resumé that includes numerous appearances on the late-night circuit (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien Show, The Late Show with Craig Kilborn, The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show, and Comedy Central among others), television hosting gigs, voice-over roles and film credits, Alonzo entertains an audience masterfully. His talent has earned him international acclaim and presented the New York native with opportunities to perform in Canada, Ireland, Australia and the U.K., along with stops in Iraq and other places around the world where U.S. troops are stationed.
Born and raised in Oakland, California, Ambrose Akinmusire (pronounced ah-kin-MOO-sir-ee) was a member of the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble when he caught the attention of saxophonist Steve Coleman. Akinmusire was asked to join Coleman’s Five Elements, embarking on a European tour when he was just a 19-year-old student at the Manhattan School of Music. After returning to the West Coast to pursue a master’s degree at the University of
Southern California, Akinmusire went on to attend the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz in Los Angeles, where he studied with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard.
In 2007 Akinmusire won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, decided by a panel of judges that included Blanchard, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Clark Terry and Roy Hargrove. That year Akinmusire also won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition and released his debut albumPrelude…To Cora. He moved back to New York and began performing with the likes of Vijay Iyer, Aaron Parks, Esperanza Spalding and Jason Moran. It was also during this time that he first caught the attention of another discerning listener, Bruce Lundvall, President of Blue Note Records.
Akinmusire’s Blue Note debut When The Heart Emerges Glistening was released in 2011 to rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times praised his “chameleonic tone that can sigh, flutter or soar,” adding that “Akinmusire sounds less like a rising star than one that was already at great heights and just waiting to be discovered.” DownBeat described his playing as “spectacular and not at all shy — muscular, driving, with a forward sound, pliant phrasing and a penchant for intervallic leaps,” concluding that “clearly something very special and personal is at work here, a vision of jazz that’s bigger than camps, broader and more intellectually restless than blowing sessions.”
Since the turn of the century, the Miami-native Marcus Strickland has made indelible imprints on the modern jazz scene playing with such titans as Roy Haynes, Dave Douglas and Jeff “Tain” Waits and reinvigorating the genre with his own band Twi-Life. Beginning with his 2001 debut, At Last (Fresh Sounds/New Talent), he’s also been steadily building an impressive body of work. Last year Marcus appeared on Blue Note/Revive’s acclaimed statement of purpose,Supreme Sonacy Vol. 1, on which he and singer Christie Dashiell delivered a spellbinding makeover of Janet Jackson’s 1986 quiet-storm classic, “Let’s Wait Awhile.” The New York Times review singled out the track, writing that it “approaches the high bar for simmering R&B covers set by the Robert Glasper Experiment.” His latest album, Nihil Novi(a Latin phrase that translates to “nothing new”) draws upon a world of music from hip-hop beat making to Hungarian folk music, from Fela’s propulsive Afrobeat to Mingus’ freewheeling jazz truths. About the album title, Strickland says, “I think about what’s around me instead of trying to create something new. Everything is inspired by something else.Ecclesiastes says: ‘There’s nothing new under the sun.’”
West African guitarist Lionel Loueke picked up the guitar late at age 17. He attended the National Institute of Art in Ivory Coast, and in 1994 he left Africa to pursue jazz studies at the American School of Modern Music in Paris, then came to the U.S. on a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where he first encountered his future trio mates Massimo Biolcati and Ferenc Nemeth. After graduating Loueke was accepted to the Thelonious Monk Institute where he was able to study with his most significant mentors, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard, and appear on some high-profile recordings.
Praised by Hancock as “a musical painter,” Loueke combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. His Blue Note debut Karibu (2008) featured guest appearances from Hancock and Shorter with his trio and was met with wide acclaim. Mwaliko (2010) offered a series of intimate duets with Angelique Kidjo, Richard Bona, Esperanza Spalding and Marcus Gilmore. Heritage (2012) was co-produced by label mate Robert Glasper and found Loueke exploring a more electric sound with a new trio featuring Derrick Hodge on electric bass and Mark Guiliana on drums.
In addition to albums with his collective trio Gilfema with Biolcati and Nemeth, Loueke has appeared on recordings by Hancock, Blanchard, Jack DeJohnette, Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and Joe Lovano, as well as contemporaries including Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Kendrick Scott and others. He has also toured the world with Hancock and is a member of Blue Note’s 75th anniversary all-star band with Glasper, Hodge, Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire and Marcus Strickland.
Derrick Hodge is a Grammy Award-winning American bassist, composer, record producer, and musical director. Known as a hybrid bassist as well as a solo artist, Derrick has performed and recorded with various artists including Terence Blanchard, Terell Stafford, Clark Terry, Common, Maxwell, Kanye West, Jill Scott, Mos Def, The Robert Glasper Experiment and many others. Hodge also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2013 with the Robert Glasper Experiment for the 2012 Blue Note Records release Black Radio, and won again in 2014 with the follow up release in 2013 of Black Radio 2. Derrick was a contributing composer for the original musical score of When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, an HBO documentary produced by Spike Lee, as well as choral arranger for the ending credits of “Miracle At St. Anna” also directed by Lee.
In the relatively short span of ten years, drummer and composer Kendrick Scott has established himself as an artist of great versatility and depth. Having toured and recorded with such luminaries as Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, the Crusaders and others, he has proven his ability to adapt his style to virtually any occasion or circumstance, and at the same time maintain his own distinctive voice in the process. In addition to his work as a support figure, he has also developed a reputation as an innovative composer and bandleader, with the help of his ever-evolving musical collective, The Kendrick Scott Oracle.
Scott’s combination of innate talent, discipline and support from his parents earned him a seat in Houston’s renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts – a school whose roster of prestigious alums also includes Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Mike Moreno, Jason Moran, Eric Harland, Beyoncé, and many others. Before finishing high school, Scott won a number of Downbeat Magazine student awards, as well as the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Award from the International Association of Jazz Educators and the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts. He was later awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music. After he graduated in 2003, he had offers to tour first with the Crusaders, and later with Terence Blanchard. He has played with Blanchard for most of the ten years since. “Kendrick is a true artist of the highest order,” says Blanchard. “He is exactly what the music world needs: someone with the vision and courage to press forward and expand the world of music.”