Chick Corea has attained iconic status in music. The keyboardist, composer and bandleader is a DownBeat Hall of Famer and NEA Jazz Master, as well as the fourth-most nominated artist in Grammy Awards history with 63 nods – and 22 wins, in addition to a number of Latin Grammys. A venturesome collaborator, Chick has teamed with artists from jazz legend Lionel Hampton to new-generation pianist Stefano Bollani, from banjoist Béla Fleck to vocal superstar Bobby McFerrin. Chick’s duo partnerships with Gary Burton and Herbie Hancock have endured decades.From straight-ahead to avant-garde, bebop to jazz-rock fusion, children’s songs to chamber and symphonic works, Chick has touched an astonishing number of musical bases in his career since playing with the genre-shattering bands of Miles Davis in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Yet Chick has never been more productive than in the 21st century, whether playing acoustic piano or electric keyboards, leading multiple bands, performing solo or collaborating with a who’s who of music. Underscoring this, he has been named Artist of the Year three times this decade in the DownBeat Readers Poll. Born in 1941 in Massachusetts, Chick remains a tireless creative spirit, continually reinventing himself through his art. As The New York Times has said, he is “a luminary, ebullient and eternally youthful.”
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.”
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.”
Few entertainers have ever commanded such depth of artistry in every medium as Dee Dee Bridgewater. Fewer still have been rewarded with Broadway’s coveted Tony Award (Best Featured Actress in a Musical – The Wiz), nominated for the London theater’s West End equivalent, the Laurence Oliver Award (Best Actress in a Musical – Lady Day), won three Grammy® Awards (2011‘s Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Eleanora Fagan: To Billie with Love from Dee Dee Bridgewater”, 1998’s Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocal for "Cottontail," and France’s 1998 top honor Victoire de la Musique (Best Jazz Vocal Album).
She has served as a sparkling ambassador for jazz since she made her phenomenal New York debut in 1970 as the lead vocalist for the band led by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, one of the premier jazz orchestras of the time. These New York years marked an early career in concerts and on recordings with such giants as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon.
In 1974 she jumped at the chance to act and sing on Broadway where her voice, beauty and stage presence won her great success and a Tony Award for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz. Dee Dee captured the hearts of audiences worldwide in The Wiz with her signature song, If You Believe. According to Nick Ashford of Ashford and Simpson, her rendition of her signature song, If You Believe, "personified a generation and gave us all hope." Performing the lead in equally demanding acting/singing roles as Sophisticated Ladies, Cosmopolitan Greetings, Black Ballad, Carmen Jazz and the musical Cabaret (the first black actress to star as Sally Bowles), she secured her reputation as a consummate entertainer.
Dee Dee was also named Ambassador to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1999 in the battle against world hunger, and became the jazz lover’s ears and eyes on the world of live music when she took over the reigns of NPR’s JazzSet from the illustrious Branford Marsalis.
Born into musical legacy, the offspring of musicians Donny Hathaway and Eulaulah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway’s career was never a choice. Proof of Hathaway’s musical prowess is evident in her work, operating as performer, musician, writer and producer. Revered by some of the greatest musicians of the last century, a myriad of collaborations and international performances signpost Hathaway’s 25-year success. Enamoured with colour, space and the evolution of music, Hathaway’s six studio albums chronicles an emotive journey through R&B, Jazz, and Soul. The inflections of Blues, Funk, Gospel, Classical, Country, Rock and Folk cited in her work, is a reflection of this virtuoso’s versatility, with Grammy® wins for Best R&B and Best Traditional R&B Performances in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Multifaceted performer Leslie Odom, Jr. is perhaps best known for his role as Aaron Burr in the musical Broadway smash Hamilton, a performance for which he won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He is also a Grammy Award-winner as a principal soloist on Hamilton’s Original Broadway Cast Recording, which won the 2015 award for Best Musical Theater Album. Odom, Jr. made his Broadway debut at the age of 17 in Rent before heading to Carnegie Mellon University’s prestigious School of Drama.
On television, he played Sam Strickland in the 2013 musical television series Smash and had a recurring role on Law & Order: SVU. He’s also appeared in episodes of Gotham, Person of Interest, Grey’s Anatomy, House of Lies, Vanished and CSI: Miami. On the big screen he starred in Red Tails opposite Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. and will be seen this year in Kenneth Branaugh’s Murder in the Orient Express.
His album Leslie Odom Jr. charted at #1 on Billboard Jazz.He promoted the album with a series of concerts throughout the year. Broadwayworld.com’s David Clarke said, "Fans and newcomers alike can revel in the glory of his decadently jazzy debut solo album, and after just one listen, I'm sure that you'll be hooked... There is a crisp smoothness to Leslie Odom Jr.'s voice that is entirely fascinating, and his self-titled debut album puts his instrument on full display." In November 2016, he released a new album, titled Simply Christmas.
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.
Iconic saxophonist Charles Lloyd continues his innovative trajectory into the upper spheres of jazz and the spiritual realms of wonder and beauty. Lloyd’s legendary career spans back to the 1950s. In 1964 he joined The Cannonball Adderley Sextet, then formed his own quartet in 1965 that introduced the jazz world to the talents of pianist Keith Jarrett, drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Cecil McBee. Their album Forest Flower: Live at Monterey made history as one of the first jazz recordings to sell a million copies and became a stunning crossover success that appealed to a popular mass market audience. They were the first jazz group to appear at the famed Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco and to play in the USSR by invitation of the Soviet people rather than through government sponsorship. Lloyd was voted “Jazz Artist of the Year” in 1967 by Down Beat and is credited by many musicians with anticipating the World Music movement by incorporating cadences of many cultures into his compositions as early as the late 1950s. In 2015 he basked in a banner year that included receiving the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters honor and marking a triumphant return to Blue Note Records with his remarkable live album Wild Man Dance.
For Blue Note At Sea, Lloyd is bringing along the powerhouse quintet that he enlisted for his latest album I Long to See You. Appropriately named The Marvels, it consists of the rhythmic core of his stalwart New Quartet ensemble—bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland—and top-tier collaborators guitarist extraordinaire Bill Frisell and stellar pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz.
Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist. An authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ for over five decades, he has been featured on over seventy albums, and has recorded and performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of the greatest jazz, blues and R&B giants in the industry. Consequently, he has often been hailed as a “Legend,” a “Living Musical Icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications. Jazz Times magazine describes him as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” Always ahead of the curve, it is no surprise Dr. Smith’s fan-base is truly worldwide.
His unpredictable, insatiable musical taste illustrates that no genre is safe, as Lonnie has recorded everything from covers of the Beatles, the Stylistics and the Eurythmics, to tribute albums of Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane and Beck–all by employing ensembles ranging from a trio to a fifteen-piece big band. Dr. Smith has been amused to find himself sampled in rap, dance and house grooves while being credited as a forefather of acid jazz.
Many awards have followed since 1969, when Downbeat magazine named Dr. Lonnie Smith “Top Organist” of the year. 2003-2014 he was awarded “Organist/Keyboardist of the Year” by the Jazz Journalist Association. The Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and Jazz Organ Fellowship have also inducted Dr. Lonnie, and in 2015 he received the Village Music Legends Award. He is scheduled to receive the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor in jazz, on April 3, 2017.
One of the most significant and sought-after producers in contemporary music, Don Was has won multiple GRAMMY® Awards and numerous other accolades for his work with a diverse array of artists, including The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Van Morrison & Kurt Elling. A native of Detroit, Don Was first came to prominence as a founding member, songwriter and bassist of the influential multi-genre band Was (Not Was). As President of Blue Note Records, Was is both the company’s leader and ambassador for its music, presenting the label’s artists to worldwide audiences and building upon the label’s singular 77-year legacy of great recordings. Founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion, Blue Note has established itself as the most respected and longest running jazz label in the world. Blue Note’s legendary catalog includes a true Who’s Who of jazz history: Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Jimmy Smith, Dexter Gordon, Grant Green, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Donald Byrd, Andrew Hill, Ornette Coleman and many more. Under the leadership of current President Don Was, Blue Note has renewed its dedication to Lion’s original vision that “any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression.” In the 21st century Lion’s words still ring true and provide a blueprint that includes Robert Glasper Experiment’s visionary melding of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop, vocalists like Gregory Porter, Kandace Springs and Norah Jones and the full spectrum of jazz artists from legends like Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd and Terence Blanchard to contemporary stars such as Marcus Miller, Ambrose Akinmusire, James Francies and Marcus Strickland.
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.
Alonzo has traveled around the world entertaining USO troops from Iraq to Greenland.
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 album Prelude…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.”
Born and raised in Woodstock, NY, Vicente Archer has been hailed as one of the most sought-out bassists of his generation. At the age of twenty, while still in college in Boston, he was picked up by acclaimed artists Donald Harrison and Eric Reed to tour. Soon after that he went on to work with artists such as Terence Blanchard, Kenny Garrett, Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Jordan, Stefon Harris and many more. Vicente currently tours with Blue Note recording artists Amos Lee and Robert Glasper, as well as the Grammy Award winning artist Nicholas Payton.
Bill Frisell is one of the most sought-after guitar voices in contemporary music. The breadth of such performing and recording situations is a testament not only to his unmistakable, singular guitar conception, but his musical versatility as well, collaborating with artists such as Paul Motian, Elvis Costello, ginger Baker, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Van Dyke Parkes, John Scofield, David Sanborn, Petra Haden, Bono and many, many others. This, however, is old news by now. In recent years, it is Frisell’s role as composer and band leader which has garnered him increasing notoriety. Much has been made of the uncategorizable nature of Bill Frisell’s music and the seamlessness with which his bands have navigated such a variety of styles, but whatever he is doing he maintains a deep structure to his music and never loses sight of the melody at its heart. The New York Times said of his artistry, "It’s hard to find a more fruitful meditation on American music than in the compositions of guitarist Bill Frisell. Mixing rock and country with jazz and blues, he’s found what connects them: improvisation and a sense of play. Unlike other pastichists, who tend to duck passion, Mr. Frisell plays up the pleasure in the music and also takes on another often- avoided subject, tenderness." Frisell has been nominated for several Grammys and won he won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for his album Unspeakable.
Both an accomplished soloist and leader of his eponymous quartet, Wycliffe Gordon 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.
Multi-Grammy Nominated Drummer Eric Harland is one of the most in-demand drummers of his generation. He has already been on close to 200 recordings by age 36.
He has shared the stage with masters such as Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, MyCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker, Terence Blanchard, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Savion Glover and many others, as well as today’s up and coming artists like Esperanza Spalding, Jane Monheit, and Stacie Orrico. 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”, “Overtone” with Dave Holland, Jason Moran, 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 artists like Les Claypool “PRIMUS”, “DISPATCH” the band, John Mayer, Spike Lee, Mariah Carey, etc.
Through Harland’s extensive travels, he has come to realize that the deepest secret is that life is not a process of discovery, but a process of creation. His intention is to create the highest musical experience so that every listener may have insight… into the musical moment.
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.
Often referred to as a jazz singer for the hip-hop generation, New York City-based vocalist José James combines jazz, soul, drum'n'bass, and spoken word into his own unique brand of vocal jazz. While he states his main influences as John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, and Billie Holiday, his sound on early 12" singles and in live performances brought to mind such icons of '70s jazz-soul as Terry Callier, and his music felt more like an update of the fluid crossover approach of Gil Scott-Heron, while also being distinctly his own.
His full-length debut album, Dreamer, in 2008 earned him accolades worldwide for its blend of jazz, electronic, soul, and pop styles. It placed at number 21 in Jazz Times' Top 50 for the year. Consequently, James played on prestigious stages all over the world. James made numerous guest appearances on recordings by the Junior Mance Trio, Jazzanova, Nicola Conte, Basement Jaxx, and Chico Hamilton, to name a few.
He followed Dreamer with Blackmagic in 2010, and also For All We Know, a collection of standards performed in duet with Belgian pianist Jef Neve. He signed to Blue Note Records in 2012, and his fourth album, No Beginning, No End, was released the following year.
James began composing while on the road. New songs reflected a renewed interest in artists he listened to growing up (Nirvana, Radiohead) as well as newer ones who made an impression (Frank Ocean, James Blake). As a result, he cut While You Were Sleeping, a collection that reflected rock alongside R&B and jazz, in 2014.
In commemoration of Billie Holiday's 100th birthday, the singer he claimed -- from the very beginning of his career -- as his "musical mother," James fronted a band that included pianist Jason Moran, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland and recorded Yesterday I Had the Blues in 2015, produced by Blue Note label-head Don Was.
With his highly regarded discography, unique compositions, and acclaimed performances in a variety of configurations, pianist Geoffrey Keezer commands the attention typically reserved for the living legends of jazz. Whether recording with jazzy chanteuses Diana Krall or Dianne Reeves, touring with trumpet king Chris Botti, or collaborating with pop icon Sting, sax legend Wayne Shorter, guitar wizard Jim Hall, star bassist Christian McBride or vibes master Joe Locke, Geoffrey “has more than enough virtuosity and sheer musical wit and intelligence to weave all of his apparently disparate strands of influence into an original and compelling whole" (Time Magazine). Perhaps the most exciting turn in Geoffrey’s career is his recent focus on solo piano and his first solo release in thirteen years, Heart of the Piano (2013, Motema Records). On a mission to redefine solo jazz piano as a personal and interactive showcase of melody, energy and groove, Keezer brings to Heart of the Piano his most direct and focused artistry to date. But regardless of the nature of his projects, from solo to duo to quartet, from bandleader to big band, from post bop jazz to electronica to global fusion, from composer to arranger, Geoffrey delivers music from the heart of the piano to the ear--and heart--of the listener.
Tom Kennedy is an accomplished touring and studio musician who ranks as one of the top acoustic and electric bass players in the world. By his 18th Birthday, he had already performed with such jazz icons as Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Sonny Stitt, Nat Adderly and Stan Kenton. It wasn’t long before the St. Louis native relocated to New York City, and has since enjoyed countless live performances and recordings with Steps Ahead, Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin, to name a few. Tom has also recorded several solo projects, and has toured his own band in the United States and Europe.
Tom has enjoyed 15 years on The Jazz Cruise to date, and has performed with countless All-Star groups, Anita’s Big Band and the “Superband” with Randy Brecker, Mike Stern, Bill Evans and Dennis Chambers. He was also inducted into “TJC Hall of Fame” in 2016.
Tom is also celebrating a 2017 CD release entitled “Points of View”, and has been touring Europe, Asia and the U.S. throughout the year.
The Berklee educated, innovative drummer Billy Kilson may have started out playing the trumpet and trombone, but playing the drums was certainly his calling. While in Boston Alan Dawson became his teacher and mentor. Billy absorbed everything Alan taught. This diversified performer has toured, received Grammy awards as well as several nominations for his work with such famed musicians as Dave Holland, George Duke, Dianne Reeves, Hank Jones, Larry Carlton, Bob James and Chris Botti. Billy has three recordings of his own and soon to record his fourth. His band projects are a summation of his collective musical experiences which illustrates his diverse background. Although he has achieved notable success as a sideman in concert and on recordings, Billy’s greatest passion is sharing his musical experiences in clinics and teaching the art of drumming globally.
Greg Leisz is a songwriter, recording artist, and producer who plays guitar, dobro, and mandolin—but it is the lap and pedal steel guitar that truly sets him apart. He was influenced early on by the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, and has played with Bill Frisell, Sheryl Crow, Dave Alvin, k.d. lang,Brian Wilson, Tracy Chapman, The Smashing Pumpkins, Grant Lee Buffalo, Ray Lamontagne, Paula Cole, Matthew Sweet, The Jayhawks, Beck, Bruce Cockburn, Wilco, Shawn Colvin, Lucinda Williams, Peter Case, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and Joe Cocker, to name just a few. His approach to lap and pedal steel casts aside the traditional country boundaries of the instruments to allow him to be creative and musically open-minded, a collaborative artist who serves the song rather than his influence on it. As a result, his steel playing has transcended genres and given him a broad and popular appeal. For 18 years he was a mainstay of k.d. lang’s touring and recording bands. In 2013 he toured as a member of Eric Clapton’s band and tours regularly with Bill Frisell.
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.
Harold López-Nussa is a child of two worlds. Born into a musical household in Cuba and educated by his French grandparents, López-Nussa took an early interest in classical piano before shifting his focus at age 20 to the fiery Cuban jazz of his homeland. He was part of projects such as the Cuba volume of Rhythms del Mundo, which paired him with veterans from Buena Vista Social Club, and he spent three years in the touring band of singer Omara Portuondo, an opportunity he calls “a blessing,” before winning the esteemed Solo Piano Contest at the 2005 Montreux Jazz Festival, and recording his first solo piano album, “Sobre el Atelier.” He has distilled all those experiences not only into a rich, personal style, as a player and composer, but it infused him with an engaging attitude about making and sharing music.
He has performed at world-renowned venues and festivals such as the Olympia Theater and the Monterey Jazz Festival, Standard in New York, and SF Jazz among many others. With his last album, NEW DAY, the rising star refines his style and adds color to his artistic palette; asserting himself as a stylish composer whose technical abilities are matched only by his powerful playing.
Combining astonishing gifts and dazzling technique spanning the jazz continuum, the Harold López-Nussa Trio brings an abundance of soul.
Pianist Aaron Parks is a forward-thinking jazz musician who came to the public's attention during his time with trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Born in Seattle, Washington, Parks began playing piano at a young age and by the time he was 14 had enrolled in an early entrance degree program at the University of Washington. While there, he studied with noted pianist Kenny Barron and received several competitive accolades, including being named the 2001 Cole Porter Fellow of the American Pianists Association. At age 18 he joined Blanchard's ensemble and subsequently recorded four albums with the veteran trumpeter. Besides playing with Blanchard, Parks has performed with a variety of artists including trumpeter Christian Scott, drummer Kendrick Scott, vocalist Gretchen Parlato, and others. Parks has released several albums under his own name, including his 2008 Blue Note debut, Invisible Cinema. Parks, who has also recorded with Christian Scott, Kendrick Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, and Kurt Rosenwinkel, was an integral part of the James Farm Quartet with Joshua Redman, Matt Penman, and Eric Harland. Find the Way, his sophomore label date for ECM, was issued in late spring of 2017. It featured bassist Ben Street and drummer Billy Hart in the rhythm section and was inspired in part (according to Parks) by the music of Alice Coltrane and Shirley Horn (for whom Hart played); both of whom prioritized space and subtlety in composition and improvisation.
Damion Reid is from West Covina, California, the son of well-respected bassist and astute operatic singer and teacher. By the age of three, Damion was already playing in church and by around twelve Damion began being mentored by the world-renowned drummer Billy Higgins. As he began to mature musically he found himself frequenting Billy’s club “The World Stage,” learning and playing with the likes of Billy Childs, George Bohanon and Oscar Brashear.
As Damion moved to the Boston, Massachusetts New England Conservatory of Music where he spent time with Cecil McBee, Danilo Perez, Fred Buda and George Russell as well as his musical peers. He received the prestigious Alan Dawson scholarship and was then was accepted into the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz at the University of Southern California, finding himself trekking to New York City to attend The New School. He then began performing and touring alongside Greg Osby, Terence Blanchard, Robert Glasper, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Jacky Terrasson, Ravi Coltrane, Reggie Workman, Marcus Belgrave, Lauryn Hill, Robert Hurst, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, Jason Moran, Mark Shim, Mark Turner, Chihiro Yamanaka, Steve Coleman, Bunky Green and many others.
Imbued with groove and spirit from birth, Reuben Rogers combined the calypso and reggae rhythms of his native Virgin Islands with the gospel sounds of the church and the freedom and improvisation of jazz to create the unique chemistry that would make him one of the most distinctive and in-demand bassists in modern jazz. Rogers’ versatile mastery of both the acoustic and electric bass has led to opportunities alongside some of the music’s most renowned artists, including Charles Lloyd, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Tomasz Stanko, Marcus Roberts, Nicholas Payton, Mulgrew Miller, Jackie McLean and Dianne Reeves, among countless others. He maintains musical partnerships reaching back to his earliest mentors, and enjoys rewarding long-term collaborations with several other artists, including notable tenures with Joshua Redman, Charles Lloyd and the Aaron Goldberg Trio that have lasted for a decade or more. Over the last two decades, he’s been featured on more than 100 recordings (including his sole release as a leader, the 2006 all-star session The Things I Am) and countless international tours. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Rogers gives back with numerous workshops, clinics, and master classes around the world.
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.”
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.’”
Ben Williams is one of the youngest and brightest musicians on the scene today who is helping to push the legacy of jazz forward through the reflection of his own distinct sound and flavor of hip hop, gospel, and rhythm & blues. He is highly recognized as a national and international acclaimed bassist, bandleader, performer, music educator and composer, having performed with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Chaka Kahn, Dee Bridgewater, Terrence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Benny Golson, Stefon Harris and many others.
Williams became a “Rising Star” when he won the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Bass Competition Award that landed him a record-deal with Concord Records. Thereafter, he recorded and released his debut album, State of Art, in 2011 with his band, Sound Effect. The Album received an impressive 4.5 Star Review in DownBeat Magazine and reached #1 on the charts of Itunes and the National BillBoard. He was named the 2011 Itunes Breakthrough Artist of the Year in the category of jazz. In April 2015 he released his sophomore album, “Coming of Age.” Williams won his first Grammy Award with the Pat Metheny Unity Band for Best Jazz Instrumental Album of 2012.
Eric Marienthal left Southern California after high school in 1976 to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., under the legendary saxophone professor, Joe Viola. In 1995, Eric was awarded the Berklee Distinguished Alumnus Award for outstanding achievements in contemporary music. He has since gone on to perform in over 65 different countries, recorded 11 solo CD's and has played on hundreds of records, films, television shows and commercial jingles.
Eric started his professional career in 1980 with famed New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt. After returning to Los Angeles, Eric became a member of the Chick Corea Elektric Band. He recorded 6 CD's with Chick's band and 2 of those CD's were Grammy award winners. Eric went on to perform with artists such as Elton John, Barbara Streisand, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Aaron Neville, Johnny Mathis, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, David Benoit, The Rippingtons, The Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band, Patti Austin, Lou Rawls, The Yellowjackets, B.B. King, Ramsey Louis, Patti Labelle, and many others.
Among Eric's 11 solo CD's, his latest is entitled "Got You Covered.” Six of the songs that Eric has recorded have made it to the top 10 of the National Contemporary Jazz Radio Charts and two have made it to #1. Eric's "Oasis" CD hit the top 5 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Chart.
Eric has also written 3 instructional books,and every summer for the past 8 years Eric has put on an annual fundraising concert for High Hopes, a non-profit organization in Orange County, California that works with people who have suffered traumatic head injuries.