Jazz Port Townsend is one of the nation’s longest-running summer jazz festivals and is the perfect opportunity to experience world-class jazz in a seaside paradise. Artistic Director John Clayton inspires a true sense of family during this special week of events that showcases internationally-known performers in new and unexpected pairings.
Festival mainstage performances take place in Fort Worden State Park’s 1200-seat McCurdy Pavilion. Jazz Port Townsend also features the popular “Jazz in the Clubs” series, throughout Fort Worden, come alive with the sounds of jazz.
In 2019, we’re excited to feature Thelonious Monk Competition winner Marquis Hill, as well as dynamic young vocalist Michael Mayo, bass phenom Vicente Archer and vocalist Gillian Margot among many others. View all performer bios.
Jazz Port Townsend Saturday Afternoon
Saturday, July 27, 2019, 1:30pm
McCurdy Pavilion, Reserved Seating $56, $43, $32
TICKETS AVAILABLE AT BOX OFFICE ONE HOUR BEFORE SHOWTIME
Brothers of Brass
featuring Terell Stafford and Marquis Hill, trumpets
featuring Michael Mayo, vocal
Centrum All Star Big Band, directed by John Clayton
The hottest Big Band in the Pacific Northwest
featuring Akiko Tsuruga, organ, Gerald Clayton, piano
Jazz Port Townsend Saturday Night
Saturday, July 27, 2019, 7:30pm
McCurdy Pavilion, Reserved Seating: $48, $38, $28
TICKETS AVAILABLE AT BOX OFFICE ONE HOUR BEFORE SHOWTIME
Geoffrey Keezer and Gillian Margot
featuring Geoffrey Keezer, piano, Gillian Margot, vocal
Piedmont Blues, “A Search For Salvation”
by Gerald Clayton
featuring René Marie, vocal
John Clayton, Artistic Director
John Clayton is a natural born multitasker. The multiple roles in which he excels — composer, arranger, conductor, producer, educator, and yes, extraordinary bassist — garner him a number of challenging assignments and commissions.
With a Grammy on his shelf and eight additional nominations, artists such as Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, Regina Carter, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gladys Knight, Queen Latifah, and Charles Aznavour vie for a spot on his crowded calendar. He began his bass career in elementary school playing in strings class, junior orchestra, high school jazz band, orchestra, and soul/R&B groups.
In 1969, at the age of 16, he enrolled in bassist Ray Brown’s jazz class at UCLA, beginning a close relationship that lasted more than three decades. After graduating from Indiana University’s School of Music with a degree in bass performance in 1975, he toured with the Monty Alexander Trio (1975-77), the Count Basie Orchestra (1977-79), and settled in as principal bassist with the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam, Netherlands (1980-85). He was also a bass instructor at The Royal Conservatory, The Hague, Holland from 1980-83.
In 1985 he returned to California, co-founded the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in 1986, rekindled the The Clayton Brothers quintet, and taught part-time bass at Cal State Long Beach, UCLA and USC. In 1988 he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where he taught until 2009.
Now, in addition to individual clinics, workshops, and private students as schedule permits, John also directs the educational components associated with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, and Vail Jazz Party.
Clarence Acox, Big Band
A native of New Orleans, Acox came to Seattle in 1971 straight out of Southern University, where he was recruited by Garfield High School to revive its moribund music program. He founded the Garfield jazz program in 1979, and in over three decades of leadership, he has made the name “Garfield” synonymous with excellence in high school jazz. Garfield’s Jazz Ensemble has taken first place four times (2003, 2004, 2009, 2010) at New York’s Essentially Ellington National Jazz Band Competition and Festival at New York City’s Lincoln Center – the country’s most prestigious high school jazz competition. Under Acox’s direction, the jazz ensemble has won just about every major competition on the West Coast.
An accomplished and in-demand drummer in his own right, Acox co-founded the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 1995 and has performed with the Floyd Standifer Quartet (now known as The Legacy Quartet and led by Acox) at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant for more than two decades.
Vicente Archer, Bass
Hailing from culture-rich Woodstock, New York, Vicente Archer began his musical studies as a jazz guitarist. He attended the legendary New England Conservatory for a year before transferring to Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “I never thought of myself as a bass player,” admits Archer, “but after have not played guitar a couple of years, I gravitated towards the bass as a second instrument. It just seemed like the right direction musically for me.”
In fact, he picked it up with stunning swiftness. Within just eight months of taking up the bass, Archer was asked by Grammy-winning alto saxophonist Donald Harrison to join his group, and he appeared on Harrison’s album Free to Be. Still, Archer stayed in school and finished his degree at Northeastern before moving to New York City to pursue his musical career. There, he began performing and touring with a long list of luminaries, including Terence Blanchard, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Jordan, Kenny Garrett, and much more. Today, he’s as prolific as ever, currently performing with Robert Glasper, John Scofield, and Nicholas Payton as well as appearing on new releases from Amos Lee, Norah Jones, Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead” movie, and many others.
Dan Balmer, Guitar
From coffee house gigs at fifteen to chart-topping success with the Tom Grant band in the nineties to world tours with two-time grammy winner Diane Schuur to contemporary Northwest jam-bands, Dan Balmer brings fire and heart every time he plays the guitar. Featured on over ninety CDs including twelve of his own, Dan’s compositions have appeared in movies, television, and radio internationally.
An in-demand educator, Dan has given clinics here and abroad. He has judged the Monterey Next Generation Festival, Reno Jazz Festival and numerous Northwest festivals, as well as being a long-term teacher at the Centrum Jazz Workshop at Port Townsend. He is on the faculty of virtually every college in the Portland area, and is the director of jazz combos at Lewis and Clark College. Dan has toured with: Joey D Francesco, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Les McCann, Javon Jackson, and Karrin Allyson. He has performed with: Benny Golson, Jeff Hamilton, Gerald Clayton, John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Ingrid Jensen, Duduka da Fonseca, Kendrick Scott, Taylor Eigsti, Buddy De Franco, Bruce Forman, and countless others.
Dan’s love of guitar and making music combined with discipline, technique, and restless curiosity provide an ever-deepening experience for himself and his listeners. In every performance, he finds himself in the middle of the path, in an un-ending and compelling process of discovery.
George Cables, Piano
Pianist George Cables has played with Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Joe Henderson, and many other legendary jazz musicians.
His own records include the 1980 Cables’ Vision with Freddie Hubbard among others. In the 1980s he worked in the project Bebop & Beyond, who recorded tribute albums to Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk.
According to Victor Schermer, “Anyone who is serious about jazz will tell you that George Cables belongs in the pantheon of the greatest jazz pianists. Everyone, that is, except George Cables. Exceptional in every way, he is yet a team player. He sees himself as part of the rhythm section, and has always emphasized the group over the soloist. ”
He is currently performing and recording as a soloist, with trio and larger ensembles, and as a clinician in college jazz programs.
Obed Calvaire, Drums
Obed Calvaire, a native of Miami and of Haitian descent is a graduate with both a master and bachelor’s degree of music from one of America’s premiere private music conservatories in the nation, Manhattan School of Music. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2003, completing the undergraduate degree requirements in three years and receiving his master’s in 2005. Obed has performed and recorded with artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Seal, Eddie Palmeri, Vanessa Williams, Mark Murphy, David Foster, Mary J. Blidge, Stefon Harris, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Musiq Soulchild, Nellie McKay, Yellow Jackets, Joshua Redman, Steve Turre, and Lizz Wright to name a few. He has also performed with large ensembles such as the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band, Roy Hargrove big band, and the Bob Mintzer Big Band.
Currently, Obed Calvaire can be found playing with Peter Cincotti, Richard Bona, Monty Alexander, Sean Jones, Yosvany Terry, The Clayton Brothers Quintet, and Mike Stern among others.
Gerald Clayton, Piano
Gerald Clayton searches for honest expression in every note he plays. With harmonic curiosity and critical awareness, he develops musical narratives that unfold as a result of both deliberate searching and chance uncovering. The four-time GRAMMY-nominated pianist/composer formally began his musical journey at the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where he received the 2002 Presidential Scholar of the Arts Award. Continuing his scholarly pursuits, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance at USC’s Thornton School of Music under the instruction of piano icon Billy Childs, after a year of intensive study with NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron at The Manhattan School of Music. Clayton won second place in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition.
Capturing the truth in each moment’s conception of sound comes naturally to Clayton. The son of beloved bass player and composer John Clayton, he enjoyed a familial apprenticeship from an early age. Clayton honors the legacy of his father and all his musical ancestors through a commitment to artistic exploration, innovation, and reinvention.
Dawn Clement, Piano
Pianist/Vocalist/Composer Dawn Clement has established herself as one of the most sought-after musicians working today. With her joyful presence, consummate technique and distinctive sound, Clement has gained the attention and respect of musicians, critics and fans through the US and abroad.
With five CD’s under her belt, not to mention appearing as side woman on Jane Ira Bloom’s latest release “Wild Lines” and Emi Meyer’s “Monochrome”, Dawn has been hailed as the “Wonder Woman of Seattle” by Paul DeBarros (Seattle Times).
Dawn has recently re-located from the Pacific Northwest to Denver, Colorado to take on the new role of Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator of the Jazz and American Music Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Cornish College of the Arts and a Masters of Fine Arts in Music Composition from Vermont College of the Arts.
Anat Cohen, Clarinet/Tenor Sax
Ever charismatic, prolific and inspired, Grammy-nominated clarinetist-saxophonist Anat Cohen has won hearts and minds the world over with her expressive virtuosity and delightful stage presence. Anat has been declared Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association every year since 2007 and has also been named the top clarinetist in both the readers and critics polls in DownBeat for multiple years running. That’s not to mention years of being named Rising Star in the soprano and tenor saxophone categories in DownBeat, as well as Jazz Artist of the Year. In 2009, ASCAP awarded Anat a Wall of Fame prize for composition and musicianship, among other honors. Anat has collaborated regularly with one of her heroes, Cuban-American clarinetist-saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, who introduced her onstage at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in the Jazz at Lincoln Center complex as “one of the greatest players ever of the clarinet.”
Having first appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2007, she had the honor of being the music director for the Newport Jazz Festival Now 60! all-star band that toured the U.S. on the occasion of the festival’s 60th anniversary in 2014. In 2017, Anat played all the major European festivals as part of the all-star, all-female band called ARTEMIS alongside the likes of Renée Rosnes and Cécile McLorin Salvant. She has also toured in a duo with acclaimed pianist Fred Hersch, as well as with iconic Cuban singer Omara Portuondo.
Shawn Conley, Bass
Hawaiian-born bassist and composer Shawn Conley’s career straddles many genres. He is a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and the Brooklyn-based chamber orchestra, The Knights.
Recent projects include the Grammy Award-winning CD ‘Sing Me Home’ with Silk Road, an international tour of the Azerbaijani opera ‘Layla and Majnun’ with the Mark Morris Dance Group and Silk Road, and an international tour of William Kentridge’s new performance-art piece ‘The Head and the Load.’ Shawn can also be heard on The Knights’ album “Azul,” featuring Yo-Yo Ma.
Shawn has also performed as a studio musician on numerous movie and TV soundtracks. He studied at Rice University and in Paris, and currently splits his time between Brooklyn, NY and Houston, TX.
Graham Dechter, Guitar
An accomplished guitarist, composer and arranger, Graham Dechter plays with the kind of swinging authority and seasoned maturity that belies his young age. The 28-year-old Los Angeles native, a member of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra since he was 19, shows a deep reverence for the jazz guitar tradition in his warm-toned renditions of ballads, bossas, bebop and blues. A formidable soloist and consummate accompanist, he imbues standards with rare enthusiasm and an inherent bluesiness while carving out his own path with several affecting original compositions.
Dechter has toured worldwide with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra appearing at major festivals in North America, Asia and Europe. In 2011, he played on Michael Bublé’s best-selling Christmas album and made followup television appearances backing the popular singer on The Today Show, Regis & Kelly, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and on Michael Buble’s NBC Christmas special. Currently, he is the guitarist for Brazilian jazz pianist and vocal sensation, Eliane Elias. Dechter’s burgeoning list of credits also includes work with saxophonists Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson and James Moody, guitarists John Pizzarelli, Bucky Pizzarelli, Mundell Lowe and Russell Malone, organists Larry Goldings and Atsuko Hashimoto, singers Jon Hendricks, Nancy Wilson and Kurt Elling, violinist Regina Carter, pianists Billy Taylor, Freddie Cole, Benny Green and Bill Charlap, clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, trombonists Curtis Fuller and Wycliffe Gordon and trumpeters Terell Stafford, Clark Terry, Snooky Young and Wynton Marsalis.
Chuck Deardorf, Bass
Chuck Deardorf has recorded and toured internationally with Bud Shank and Don Lanphere, George Cables and Kenny Barron, Winard Harper, and Larry Coryell. As the first call bassist in Seattle, Chuck has performed with Chet Baker, Zoot Sims, Art Farmer, Howard Roberts, Monty Alexander, Kenny Burrell, Marian McPartland, Mel Lewis, Pete Christlieb, Joe Williams, Kenny Werner, Carl Fontana, Joe LaBarbara, and Tal Farlow.
Chuck’s latest solo release on Origin records, “Transparence” (released 2011) demonstrates his performing, producing and arranging abilities with a host of great musicians. He is currently a member of the Deardorf/Peterson Group (whose 2004 Origin release “Portal” won critical acclaim), the Jovino Santos Neto Quartet, the Susan Pascal Quartet along with the Bill Ramsay Big Band.
An accomplished studio musician, Chuck’s bass has been heard on many first run movie soundtracks, dozens of albums and CD projects, and numerous Broadway touring shows. Chuck also has performed on numerous occasions with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
Alex Dugdale, Educator Track
Alex Dugdale was born in Cali, Colombia and was raised in Seattle from an early age. When he was 6 he began taking tap dance lessons with Cheryl Johnson and Anthony Peters. At age 10, he began playing clarinet in his elementary school band and the next year he performed at the NYC Tap Festival. He started playing saxophone in 6th grade and continued through high school. Alex continued his musical studies in Rochester, NY at the Eastman School of Music, obtaining a degree in Jazz Performance.
Alex returned to Seattle in December 2012, and continues to perform and teach music and dance in the Seattle area. He currently works for Bishop Blanchet High School in their Grade School Band Program as well as working with Edmonds-Woodway High School and Eckstein Middle School. He also performs in many big bands and leads his own small groups that perform regularly in the Seattle area.
Chuck Easton, Theory
Chuck graduated from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1980. He has played many different styles of music over the years, but bebop-influenced jazz is his favorite.
Chuck has been teaching private music lessons at Crossroads music in Pt. Townsend, Washington, since 1995, with students of all ages on flute, trombone, saxophone, guitar, bass, piano and clarinet. For many years he has been on faculty for Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend and the Northwest Big Band, where he was the conductor for a number of years.
Chuck continues to play locally on guitar, bass, flute, alto and tenor saxophone and occasionally Eb tuba and trombone. He plays in duos, trios, quartets, quintets and has a sextet which plays both jazz and R&B dance music with vocals and a horn section.
Joel Frahm, Tenor Sax
For nearly 30 years, Joel Frahm has lived in New York City, working in jazz clubs, collaborating with other musicians, and honing his craft. His bold, inventive tenor sound has won fans in the U.S. and across the world. He has worked alongside Betty Carter, Kenny Barron, Freddy Cole, Dianne Schuur, Kurt Elling, Jane Monheit, Bill Charlap, Brad Mehldau, Matt Wilson, Cyrille Aimee, and many other top artists. He has played as a leader or sideman on more than 100 recordings and has appeared at jazz festivals in the United States, Europe, Israel, Canada and South America.
In addition to his work as a performer, he has taught jazz classes in clinics at the University of North Carolina, the University of Connecticut, New York University, Wichita State University, the University of North Texas, Baylor University, Colorado State University, Furman University, the University of Toronto, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Manitoba and others. He also has worked at the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation program; the Sant Andreu Youth Jazz Orchestra in Barcelona, Spain; the Dave Brubeck Institute in Stockton, California; the Center for Jazz Studies at the Israel Conservatory in Tel Aviv; the Czech Jazz Workshop in Prague; and the Siena Jazz Workshop in Italy. Joel grew up in Racine, Wisconsin and moved to West Hartford, Connecticut as a high school freshman, where he became part of the acclaimed Hall High School jazz band. It was there he developed a passion for jazz, exploring the music of jazz greats such as Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver and Wayne Shorter. In 1992, he received a bachelor’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music.
Michael Glynn, Bass
Bassist Michael Glynn is a fixture on the West US jazz scene. In addition to performing with countless musicians throughout the Pacific Northwest, California, and New Mexico, Glynn has performed with jazz legends including Bud Shank, Jon Hendricks, Bobby Shew, Mark Levine, Dave Grusin, Geoffrey Keezer, Seamus Blake, Eric Alexander, David Hazeltine, Benny Green, Gary Smulyan, Don Lanphere, Conte Candoli, Bob Florence, Doug Lawrence, William Parker, Kevin Hays, Kim Richmond, Aaron Parks, Madeline Eastman, Dena DeRose, and the Cab Calloway Orchestra.
Michael starting working professionally while still a student at Garfield High School, where he played for four years in that school’s renowned jazz band. After two years in engineering school at Columbia University in New York City, Michael returned to Seattle where he graduated summa cum laude in with a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from the University of Washington, where he studied under Doug Miller and Barry Lieberman.
Moving to Albuquerque in 2006, he quickly established himself as an integral part of the New Mexico music scene, performing and recording extensively, and also making time to earn his Master of Music degree from the University of New Mexico, studying with Mark Tatum.
On top of his jazz work, Michael performs in a variety of other genres, including classical work with the New Mexico Philharmonic, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Opera Southwest, and Canticum Novum Santa Fe, calypso with steel drum legend Ray Holman, and a mix of Arabic and Western music with Iraqi-American oud virtuoso Rahim Al Haj.
Randy Halberstadt, Piano
Randy Halberstadt has been a major figure on the Pacific Northwest jazz scene for many years. A multi-dimensional pianist, he is equally at home playing be-bop, Latin, down-home blues, mainstream, free and eclectic jazz. He has performed with Herb Ellis, Terry Gibbs, Buddy de Franco, Matt Wilson, Pete Christlieb, Bobby Shew, Joe LaBarbera, and many others. In 1990, Randy performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival with drummer Mel Brown. Randy has performed with the Seattle Symphony and is the pianist for the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra.
On the strength of his large repertoire, great sense of swing, and acute listening skills, Randy has established himself as a first-call accompanist for jazz vocalists. He has performed with Sheila Jordan, Kevin Mahogany, Dee Daniels, Greta Matassa, Marlena Shaw, Meredith d’Ambrosio, Ernestine Anderson, Nancy Kelly, and Jackie Ryan. While Randy continues to expand his talents as a pianist, composer, and arranger, he has taken equal pleasure in helping younger musicians fulfill their potential.
As a full professor at the prestigious Cornish College of the Arts until May 2018, Randy coached ensembles and taught jazz theory, piano, and ear training.
Jon Hamar, Bass
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.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Double Bass Performance from Eastern Washington University under the tutelage of Roma Vayspapir and Kelly Ferris. Jon graduated from the Eastman School of Music with a Master’s degree in Jazz and Contemporary Media, studying with Jeffrey Campbell, James Vandermark, Harold Danko, Clay Jenkins, Raymond Ricker and Fred Sturm.
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 Greta Matassa, Jim Knapp, Randy Halberstadt, Dawn Clement, Kelley Johnson and John Hansen. Jon also performed regularly in an orchestral setting recording on movie soundtracks, and playing recitals and concerts around the Northwest.
In 2012 Jon joined the faculty at the Centrum Jazz Workshop under the Artistic Direction of John Clayton. While living in Seattle Jon taught at Central Washington University, Northwest University and Edmonds Community College as well as maintaining a private studio. In Fall of 2015 Hamar joined the faculty of Natalie Haslam School of Music at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN.
Jeff Hamilton, Drums
Originality is what versatile drummer Jeff Hamilton brings to the groups he performs with and is one of the reasons why he is constantly in demand, whether he is recording or performing with his trio, the Clayton Brothers or co-leading the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
In addition to his many recordings with Ray Brown, Jeff has been on nearly 200 recordings with artists such as Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Milt Jackson, Rosemary Clooney, Barbara Streisand, Mel Torme, John Pizzarelli, Benny Carter, Lalo Schifrin, George Shearing, Dr. John, Clark Terry, Gene Harris, Toshiko Akioshi, Scott Hamilton, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Keely Smith, Bill Holman, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Mark Murphy.
Jeff is a frequent guest of the WDR Big Band in Cologne, Germany. He also appeared in Natalie Cole’s Great Performances PBS special, Unforgettable and an Oscar Peterson documentary, Life In The Key Of Oscar.
John Hansen, Piano
John Hansen is regarded as one of the most in-demand jazz pianists in the Northwest. A studied and musical ensemble player with a strong melodic vocabulary, John has always been recognizable for a unique personal voice. His performance history includes such venues as NYC’s Birdland, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, DC’s John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, Seattle’s Jazz Alley and Tula’s, and international festivals and tours in France, Japan, Korea, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Russia and Central America.
During his career, John Hansen has performed and recorded with many of the Northwest’s premiere, award-winning bands including: the Jay Thomas Quartet, Jim Knapp Orchestra, Kelley Johnson, and The Bill Ramsay-Milt Kleeb Band with Pete Christlieb. He has been invited to perform with The Seattle Symphony, Rick Margitza, Randy Brecker, Ingrid Jensen, Ernestine Anderson, The Woody Herman Orchestra, Bud Shank, Bobby Shew, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, and more.
Marquis Hill, Trumpet
From his beginnings as one of Chicago’s most thrilling young trumpeters, to his current status as an internationally renowned musician, composer and bandleader, Marquis Hill has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers that divide musical genres. Contemporary and classic jazz, hip-hop, R&B, Chicago house, neo-soul—to Hill, they’re all essential elements of the profound African-American creative heritage he’s a part of. “It all comes from the same tree,” he says. “They simply blossomed from different branches.”
That mission to bring styles together, complemented by Hill’s absolute mastery of his instrument, is a through line connecting his many achievements. It can be heard on his latest album, Modern Flows Vol. II, with its seamless blend of jazz interplay, hip-hop-infused rhythms and socially conscious spoken-word. It’s integral to The Way We Play, his Concord Jazz debut from 2016, where Hill and his musicians reinvent jazz standards using their generation’s wide- ranging influences. It marks the four records Hill self-released before November of 2014, when he won the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competition and became a presence on the global scene virtually overnight. And it defines the revelatory live dates by Hill’s longtime working group, the Blacktet, which the Chicago Tribune called “a remarkably polished, immensely attractive ensemble.”
Previewing a Blacktet show, the New Yorker said, “His performances and recordings reveal a smart post-bop player who circumvents genre clichés by incorporating elements of hip-hop and contemporary R. & B.” Of The Way We Play, DownBeatwrote, “The groove-laden arrangements provide the perfect soundscape for Hill’s fluid improvisational style, which, with its glass-like lucidity, recalls the crisp elegance of hard-bop stalwart Donald Byrd.” In 2016, Hill earned first place in the “Rising Star–Trumpet” category in that magazine’s storied Critics Poll. Throughout his journey, he has supported and guested with a who’s who of jazz that includes Marcus Miller, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Boney James, Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano and Hill’s trailblazing Chicago peer Makaya McCraven.
Gary Hobbs, Drums
Gary Hobbs is a native of the Pacific Northwest and lives in Vancouver, WA. His father and grandfather were both semi-pro drummers, but the drum bug didn’t bite Gary until his senior year in high school. He attended a Stan Kenton Jazz Camp where he studied with legendary jazz drummer and educator John Von Ohlen, who convinced him to pursue drumming professionally.
After a stint in the army, Gary was invited to join the Kenton Band and toured with them almost non-stop for two and a half years. Since then, his hometown has been his home base from which he has commanded a successful career as a drummer and educator. In addition to playing all over the Pacific Northwest, Gary teaches at The University of Oregon. He has traveled the world as a sideman with jazz greats such as Randy Brecker, Anita O’Day, and Eddie Harris, and in his own right as an educator and clinician.
Justin Kauflin – Piano
Justin Kauflin is a “jazz pianist who favors a clarity of touch and ideas…his writing is balanced tempering post-bop intricacies with the assurances of the gospel church” -New York Times. After losing his sight at the age of 11, Kauflin gravitated towards playing jazz piano, despite having a background in classical violin & piano. He received top honors at jazz festivals across the U.S. and began performing professionally by age 15, most notably with the Jae Sinnett Trio.
In 2004, he received the Presidential Scholarship to attend William Paterson University, NJ and while studying there, was taken under the tutelage of the legendary Clark Terry (winner of the 2010 Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz) and played in the Clark Terry Ensemble. He continued to garner numerous awards such as the VSA International Young Soloist Award, selected as a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk Competition in 2012, voted “Jazz Artist of the Year” in VEER Magazine. Kauflin is featured in, as well as composed the film score for, the award-winning documentary, “Keep On Keepin’ On” and is signed for management by impresario and music icon, Quincy Jones.
Geoffrey Keezer, Piano
With his highly regarded discography, unique compositions, and acclaimed performances in a variety of conﬁgurations, multiple Grammy-nominated pianist Geoffrey Keezer commands the attention typically reserved for the living legends of jazz. A native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Keezer was playing in jazz clubs as a teenager, holding down the piano chair for Art Blakey at age 18, and touring in the company of Ray Brown, Joshua Redman, Diana Krall, Art Famer, Benny Golson and Barbara Hendricks in his 20s. More recently he has toured with Wayne Shorter, Dianne Reeves, David Sanborn, Chris Botti, Sting, Joe Locke and Christian McBride; produced and arranged three Grammy-nominated recordings with vocalist Denise Donatelli, and released a series of albums drawing inﬂuences from Hawaiian, Okinawan and Afro-Peruvian folk traditions. His 2009 album Áurea (ArtistShare) was nominated for a Best Latin Jazz Album Grammy award. Geoffrey’s 2013 solo piano release, Heart of the Piano (Motema Records), seeks to redeﬁne solo jazz piano as a personal and interactive showcase of melody, energy and groove, while his latest album On My Way to You (MarKeez Records 2018) is a stunning new set of music featuring his working trio with the addition of guest vocalist Gillian Margot.
Geoffrey’s compositions have been commissioned by the Mainly Mozart Festival, Art of Elán ensemble, Saint Joseph Ballet, Zeltsman Marimba Festival, Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra andScottish National Jazz Orchestra. His music can be heard in the ﬁlms What Happens in Vegas and Inhale, and in numerous TV shows including The Young and the Restless (CBS), Parks and Recreation (NBC), House of Lies (Showtime), and Casual (Hulu Original).
Time Magazine wrote, “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”, and pop icon Sting said “In the universe of piano players that I have been exposed to over the years, Geoffrey has proved himself to be not only a superb technician and improviser, but also above and beyond this, a composer and conceptualist who can maintain the overall line and the DNA of the song in everything he plays. A musician’s musician.”
Kelby MacNyr, Drums
Drummer / composer / band-leader Kelby MacNayr performs groundbreaking original music, soulful swinging jazz, reaching contemporary music and traditional music from around the world.
A dynamic and creative musician MacNayr performs in Canada and abroad with leading musicians from New York, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto & Europe. A faculty member of the renowned Jazz Port Townsend Festival under director John Clayton, staff at the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, Kelby is continually reinventing himself as a performer, composer and educator.
In November 2013 the Kelby MacNayr Quintet released the much-anticipated album The Measure of Light featuring Phil Dwyer, Dan Lapp, Miles Black & Tom Wakeling.
Recent concert highlights include performances with Larry Fuller, John Clayton, George Colligan, Geoffrey Keezer and more!
Gillian Margot, Vocalist
Gillian Margot is the rarest sort of singer – the kind that makes people sit up and listen.She has an exquisite voice, a disarmingly wide range and a style that is deeply rooted in the tradition of the great jazz vocalists, yet she possesses a gift of storytelling and emotionally intelligent lyrical delivery that is refreshingly free of “jazz singer” clichés. Trained as a vocalist, multi instrumentalist and dancer, Margot feels equally at home in the musical worlds of jazz, R&B and pop, and commands a stage presence and confidence honed through years of performing for audiences worldwide.
A native of Toronto, Margot studied under a generation of jazz legends including Oscar Peterson, Freddy Cole, Carol Welsman, and Norman Simmons. She credits her love of multi-culturalism and mixing of genres to her educational background in both music and anthropology. Considered a young stalwart of the Canadian jazz scene, Gillian Margot has expanded her talents beyond borders through collaborations with artists in the United States, Australia, and Asia. Her vast experience includes sharing the stage with a host of greats including soprano Kathleen Battle, conductors Wayne Marshall (London Philharmonic) and Jukka-Pekka Saraste (Toronto Symphony Orchestra), as well as performing for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Peter Gabriel, and the Honourable Lincoln M. Alexander.
Renee Marie, Vocalist
In a span of two decades, 11 recordings and countless stage performances, vocalist René Marie has cemented her reputation as not only a singer but also a composer, arranger, theatrical performer and teacher.
Guided and tempered by powerful life lessons and rooted in jazz traditions laid down by Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and other leading ladies of past generations, she borrows various elements of folk, R&B and even classical and country to create a captivating hybrid style. Her body of work is musical, but it’s more than just music. It’s an exploration of the bright and dark corners of the human experience, and an affirmation of the power of the human spirit.
René joined the Motéma label with the 2011 release of Voice of My Beautiful Country, followed later that same year by Black Lace Freudian Slip. Her 2013 followup, I Wanna Be Evil: With Love To Eartha Kitt, earned a Grammy nomination in the Best Jazz Vocals category. The newest installment in her ever-expanding body of work is Sound of Red, a CD set for release on Motéma in April 2016. It’s her first album of all-original material, an 11-song set that provides insightful glimpses into the many small but profound turning points that are part of an individual life.
Michael Mayo, Vocalist
Michael Mayo began forging his musical identity long before he hit the stage. The son of two successful musicians, the Los Angeles native grew up just a little more than 20 feet from the likes of Diana Ross, Luther Vandross, Earth Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder. This proximity helped Mayo create a musical path centered around the innovative elements of R&B and Jazz.
After receiving his Bachelor’s from the New England Conservatory of Music, Mayo attended the acclaimed Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, only the third vocalist to be accepted into the 20-year-old program, where he learned from Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Luciana Souza.
Mayo, now living in New York City, is a veteran international performer whose highlights include singing at the White House, the Kennedy Center and Renée Fleming’s American Voices Festival, as well as the Panama Jazz Festival. Most recently he has collaborated or shared the stage with Herbie Hancock, Kneebody, Gretchen Parlato, Christian Sands, Josh Groban, Ben Wendel, Becca Stevens, and Theo Bleckmann among many others.
Gary Smulyan, Bari
Gary Smulyan attended SUNY-Postsdam and Hofstra University before he joined Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd in 1978. In 1980, he became part of the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra then under the direction of Bob Brookmeyer.
Smulyan also found work with other important large ensembles including the Mingus Epitaph band, and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. Smulyan has shared the stage and the recording studio with trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Stan Getz, pianist Chick Corea, timbales king Tito Puente, and R&B/blues and soul icons Ray Charles, B.B. King and Diana Ross.
Smulyan is a perennial (and 2014) winner of the DownBeat Critics and Readers Polls, and a five-time Grammy award winner for his work with B.B. King, Lovano, Holland and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, Rutgers University, and SUNY Purchase.
Terell Stafford, Trumpet
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. 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 along with countless award nominations, accolades and associated acts. Terell Stafford was born in Miami and raised in Chicago, Illinois and Silver Spring, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Maryland in 1988 and a Masters of Music from Rutgers University in 1993.
Chris Symer, Bass
Born and raised in Southern California, bassist Chris Symer relocated to the Northwest in 2002 where he continues to make his living as a freelance musician.
Equally comfortable in the classroom, stage or recording studio, Chris has stayed busy doing everything from teaching to playing on feature films. Notable projects have included recordings with Bill Anschell (“Rumbler” 2017), Johnaye Kendrick (“Here” 2014), James Knapp (“Scrape” 2013), and Nelda Swiggett (“Stingtet” 2014) as well as tours to South America with Anschell (2012, 2014) and Kendrick (2013).
Studies in jazz and classical double bass performance combined with a love for bass guitar have provided Chris with an appreciation of many styles of music and an ability to fit into almost any musical situation. His open-minded approach has led him to the somewhat unusual practice of tuning his own double bass in fifths an octave below the cello, he remains fascinated by the tonal palette the tuning provides.
Jay Thomas, Trumpet
Jay Thomas, a native of Seattle, is a versatile multi-instrumentalist (trumpet, flugelhorn, alto, tenor, soprano and flutes). His music could be described as earthy and lyrical with the blues and swing always in evidence. Jay grew up in the fertile atmosphere of Seattle’s 60’s jazz scene sometimes subbing for Quincy Jones alumnus Floyd Standifer while still in high school. Clubs such as the “ H.O.E.” otherwise known as the House of Entertainment and the Black and Tan and the Llahngaelhyn figured prominently in Jay’s early years of trial and error music making. The end of 1968 saw Jay move to New York where he worked and studied for several years.
Highlights include gigging for a summer with Machito’s Latin band, recording for James Moody on the Perception label, and taking private lessons with Carmine Caruso. Three years later Jay added flute and tenor to his repertoire. Jay is also involved with passing the music on to future generations. He is an adjunct professor at Cornish College of the Arts, and works at the renowned Garfield High School, tutoring kids in improvisation.
Jay often does clinics and workshops at universities in the US and Japan and is an instructor in several prominent jazz camps each summer.
Akiko Tsuruga, Organ
Raised in Osaka, Japan, Akiko Tsuruga began studying the organ at the age of three, at the famed Yamaha Music School. After discovering her passion for jazz very early on in her musical journey, Akiko launched her career immediately after graduating from the Osaka College of Music. After landing in the mecca for jazz, New York City, it didn’t take long for Akiko to make her mark – she was soon embraced not only by audiences, but by her fellow musicians, as one of the top organ players in the city. It was during these early years that she had the great honor of playing several gigs with jazz greats Frank Wess and Jimmy Cobb.
But it was the meeting of organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith that proved to have the greatest impact on Akiko’s musical development and career. He became an important mentor to Akiko, and she considers him her greatest influence. She flourished and continued to be a constant draw on the NY jazz scene. Her extraordinary musicianship and captivating stage presence ultimately drew Lou Donaldson’s attention, when he chose her in 2006 as his quartet’s organist.
Akiko has ten albums as a leader to her credit. Her debut album in the U.S., “Sweet and Funky”, was selected as a “Best album of 2007” in DOWNBEAT Magazine. Akiko has been a regular in the DOWNBEAT polls since 2008 – culminating this year with the 65th Annual Critics Poll, coming in at #2 in the “Rising Star – Organ” category. Hot House Magazine has just named her ‘Best Organ” in the 2017 Readers Poll. Her albums have constantly placed in the top ten on the National Radio Jazz Chart.
Akiko’s most recent recording, “So Cute, So Bad” is a live record date, recorded at the Alvas Showroom in Los Angeles, and features Jeff Hamilton (Drums) and Graham Dechter (Guitar). This album was released in both the U.S. and in Japan in May 2017.
Eric Verlinde, Piano
Pianist Eric Verlinde has excited audiences worldwide with his energetic and passionate performances. His music touches the very soul of the listener.
He has played with Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker, Eric Alexander, Terell Stafford, Mark Murphy, Luis Conte, Thelma Huston, Francine Reed, Kelley Gray, Don Lamphere, Jay Thomas, Buddy Cattlet, Greta Matassa, and Luis Peralta.
Eric is in high demand and is constantly performing, refining the sound and creating new music. His different groups create music that is pure, creative, spontaneous, superbly structured and melodic.
Jiggs Whigham, Trombone
Jiggs Whigham is an internationally acclaimed trombonist, band leader and educator. This versatile performer, born Oliver Haydn Whigham III (the nickname Jiggs was given by his grandfather) in Cleveland Ohio on 20 August 1943, first came to the attention of critics and fans at 17, as featured soloist and first trombonist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, directed by Ray McKinley. Two years later, he was first and solo trombonist with Stan Kenton. Following a year of studio and Broadway Musical engagements in New York, he became featured soloist with the Kurt Edelhagen Jazz Orchestra at the West German Broadcasting Company in Cologne, Germany in 1965. In 1966 his was awarded 1st Prize at the first competition for Modern Jazz in Vienna. He uses Bonn, London and Cape Cod as home bases.
In 1979 he was named Professor and Head of the Jazz Department at Cologne University College of Music, the first appointment of its kind in Germany. In 1995 he was named “Professor for Life” and head of the Jazz-Popular Music Department at the “Hanns Eisler” College of Music in Berlin. From 2000-2001 he was visiting professor at Indiana University. He was bandleader of the Swiss Radio Band (Radio DRS) from 1984-1986. From 1995-2000 he was chief conductor and artistic director of the Berlin Radio Orchestra (RIAS Big Band Berlin).
Jon Wikan, Drums
Currently based in New York, Jon Wikan is a jazz drummer rapidly garnering praise on the international music scene. He has accompanied a cross-section of leaders, ranging from singers Ernestine Anderson, Mark Murphy and Freddy Cole to established horn players such as Bud Shank, Ingrid Jensen, and Pete Cristlieb. Born in Petersburg, Alaska, Wikan was transplanted to Seattle Washington at age 5. He was soon turned on to the drums in his high school band program and began spending the summer months back in Alaska commercial fishing with his grandfather in order to buy his first drum set. From 1988-95 Wikan attended Central Washington University. Within this period he took a year off to tour with the legendary Mills Brothers and Ellington alumni Herb Jefferies. The road experience paid off as he was soon called to work with vocalist Ernestine Anderson. During his travels he studied with some of the great drum masters such as Chico Hamilton, Carl Allen, Jeff Hamilton and Peruvian drum master Hugo Alcazar. In 1996 Wikan immersed himself in the Seattle jazz scene and was taken under the wings of multi-horn man Jay Thomas, Bill Ramsay, and composer James Knapp. During this period he became one of the busiest sidemen in the northwest area backing international artists including Pat Labarbra, Herb Ellis, John Fedchock, Rick Margitza, Buddy Collette, Roswell Rudd, Mark Murphy, Kurt Elling, Bobby Shew, Brad Turner, Jessica Williams and Dan Faehnle. Wikans’ recent move to New York City immediately landed him a tour of Japan with Downbeat Vocalist of the Year, Mark Murphy, a week at the Blue Note with Grammy award winners, the New York Voices and a week in Peru playing and teaching with trumpet player Ingrid Jensen. As well, he performed with the Ingrid Jensen Quartet at the Detroit jazz festival, the Mary Lou Williams Jazz festival, the Savannah Jazz Festival and recorded a live CBC radio concert in Montreal.
Immanuel Wilkins, Alto Sax
Immanuel Wilkins is a saxophonist, composer, arranger and band leader who grew up in the Philadelphia area. Immanuel has had the opportunity to play in Japan, Europe, South America, The United Arab Emirates, and the U.S., working and/or recording with Jason Moran, the Count Basie Orchestra, Delfeayo Marsalis, Aaron Parks, Gerald Clayton, Gretchen Parlato, Lalah Hathaway, Solange Knowles, Bob Dylan, and Wynton Marsalis.
Immanuel currently attends The Juilliard School. Through his immersion in the music scene and his exposure to numerous masters, he has established the goal of being a force in music and society today and to have a profound spiritual and emotional impact. He aspires to bring people together through the commonality of love and belief in this music.
Matt Wilson, Drums
Matt Wilson leads the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts and Crafts, Christmas Tree-O and the Carl Sandburg Project. Matt is integral part of bands led by Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Lee Konitz, Bob Stewart, Denny Zeitlin, Ron Miles, Marty Ehrlich, Ted Nash, Jane Ira Bloom and Dena DeRose among others.
He has performed with many legends of music including Herbie Hancock, Dewey Redman, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Elvis Costello, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, John Zorn, Marshall Allen, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and Hank Jones.
Wilson has appeared on 250 CDs as a sideman and has released 9 as a leader for Palmetto Records as well as co-leading 5 additional releases.