Jazzmania 2020 Artists

Beegie Adair’s sophisticated jazz performances have made her recordings among the biggest sellers in the jazz genre. With over 2 million albums sold and sold out performances internationally, the Beegie Adair Trio is one of the most successful working groups in the world. She and her trio continue to play in jazz clubs and festivals around the world and was the top selling jazz artist in Japan in 2010. 

Ms. Adair cites George Shearing, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner among her influences; she has appeared on over 100 albums (37 of which are studio recordings with her trio), ranging from Cole Porter standards to Frank Sinatra classics to romantic World War II ballads. Her 6-CD Centennial Composers Collection of tunes by Rodgers, Gershwin, Kern, Ellington, Carmichael and Berlin became an instant collectible classic upon its release. 

Since 2011, Beegie has received a very warm welcome from her fans in New York, with her regular appearances at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club, with her trio and vocalist Monica Ramey and Feinstein’s/54 Below with Monica Ramey.  In 2017 & 2018, the Trio sold out London’s famous Pizza Express jazz club and her solo/duo concerts at Steinway & Sons galleries across the United States sell out within days as well as attract fans from all around the world.  The Beegie Adair Trio’s hosts an annual Carnegie Hall to sold-out audiences.  Their debut 2016 performance was the first appearance by a Nashville-based jazz trio in Carnegie’s history.

With 12 albums to her credit, Champian is considered one of the most gifted pure Jazz musicians of her generation. Among her multiple awards she was recently named Pianist and Vocalist of 2019 by Hot House Magazine Readers Poll. Today her piano and voice skills are widely recognized by peers and critics as possessing distinction and sophistication. From North America to Europe, Africa to Australia, Champian’s swinging style and charismatic performances have made her a guardian of the legacy of Jazz.

Chester Thompson is a renowned drummer/percussionist, highly regarded for his ability to move seamlessly between multiple genres. Thompson’s known best for his work with Genesis and Phil Collins, with whom he shared the worldwide stage, as well as time in the studio, for over 30 years.  Other notable legends Chester performed or recorded with include Frank Zappa, Weather Report, John Fogerty, Santana, Michael McDonald, Freddie Hubbard, Ahmad Jamal, Kirk Whalum, Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’. He had the privilege recently of recording on the 2018 Grammy Award winning CD called TajMo.

Chester just recorded his latest album, Steppin’, at Sweetwater Music as part of their Recording Workshop Series. It was released on May 1, 2019.  The album features Alphonso Johnson on bass, Joe Davidian on piano and keyboards, Rod McGaha on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Tony Carpenter on percussion.

Over the past 20 years when Chester was not performing live, doing sessions, clinics, or writing, he spent his time teaching percussion lessons in the Greater Nashville Area. In addition, from 1998-2018 he served as an Adjunct Professor at the esteemed Belmont University in Nashville, TN teaching drum set.

He is a well-regarded drum and percussion clinician and can be found regularly teaching classes at the Nashville Jazz Workshop. In 2008, Thompson was honored with the Sabian Lifetime Achievement Award at the 32nd Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC). This award recognizes the contributions of the most highly regarded leaders in percussion education.

Chester Thompson has done it all. Thompson has surpassed the boundaries of musical genres.  His performance and recording experiences have influenced over three decades of music and musicians. Born and raised in Baltimore, Chester started playing in local nightclubs at age 13. Between tours, Thompson’s adventures brought him to live in cities including Los Angeles, London, and his current home Nashville. Chester Thompson currently endorses DW Drums and Sabian Cymbals.

Choro das 3 is a group formed by three sisters: Corina (flute and piccolo), Lia (7-string guitar), Elisa (mandolin, clarinet, banjo, clarinet and piano) and father Eduardo (tambourine).

It all started when a volunteer teacher started rehearsing a choir with the first grade class where Corina was studying in her hometown, Porto Feliz. Corina ended up choosing the transverse flute thanks to a Altamiro Carrilho record. The younger sisters Lia and Elisa wanted to be part of that musical game and ended up choosing their instruments too. Currently, thanks to the pandemic, all concerts and tours are canceled, but Choro das 3 has been showing increasing success on the internet with their lives (which started even before the pandemic). The lives are weekly and occur every Thursday on the group’s YouTube channel at 9 pm (São Paulo). The lives are themed and sometimes bring special guests, such as singer Paulo Godoy, cellist Renato Cardoso, among others.

Donna is an arranger/background vocalist on gold and platinum releases “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” by Reba McIntyre; “We Shall Be Free” by Garth Brooks, “Addictive Love” by BeBe and CeCe Winans, and “House of Love” by Amy Grant. She’s the recipient of Grammy nomination for Bigger World (WB), a Dove Award for Songs from the Loft (Reunion), and a 1993 Best Actress Award for the Circle Players’ performance of Sister Mary Regina (Nunsense). Television appearances include Arsenio Hall, Tonight Show, and Grammy Awards.

Jeff Coffin is a globally recognized saxophonist, composer, educator, and is a member of the legendary U.S. rock group, Dave Matthews Band. You may also know him from his 14 years, and 3 Grammy Awards, with the genre-defying Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. Jeff fronts numerous groups when not touring with DMB and has released 17+ solo CD’s on Ear Up Records.

Coffin is known for his musical passion, his melodically driven compositions, his deep involvement with music education, and his continued dedication to the improvisational musical art form some call Jazz.

He is one of the top, in demand, saxophonists in the world as well as a first call studio musician in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has lived since 1991.

Jeff has released 17+ solo recordings, is a Yamaha Performing Artist & Clinician, a Boston Sax Shop Ambassador, has presented over 300 clinics worldwide, teaches improvisation at the prestigious Vanderbilt University, authored four books, produces, engineers, mixes, and runs his own critically acclaimed record label, Ear Up Records.

In 2020, Jeff began a streaming concert series during the global shutdown to benefit his fellow Nashville musicians called IN THE STUDIO from iTAStudioStreams.com, where all the proceeds go to local out of work musicians and their families. Tune in every Friday at 7PM Central Time at www.facebook.com/jeffcoffinmusic – he’ll see you there!

Born in Richmond, Indiana, Jeff grew up listening to his parent’s big band records and at the age of eight began playing drums along with Oscar Peterson records. He attended Indiana University and later studied with John Von Ohlen. Jeff was influenced by Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis, “Philly” Joe Jones and Shelly Manne. In 1974, he got his first big break playing with the New Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He then joined Lionel Hampton’s Band until 1975 when he, along with bassist John Clayton, became members of the Monty Alexander Trio. He attained a childhood goal in 1977 when he joined Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd, with whom he made several recordings. In 1978, he was offered the position vacated by Shelly Manne in the L.A.4 with Ray Brown, Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida. He recorded six records with the L.A.4, some of which featured his own arrangements and compositions. From 1983 to 1987, Jeff performed with Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, Rosemary Clooney and Monty Alexander. Jeff began his association with the Ray Brown Trio in 1988 and left in March 1995 to concentrate on his own trio. From 1999-2001, the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra was named the in-residence ensemble for the Hollywood Bowl Jazz series. The Los Angeles Jazz Society named Jeff and his musical partner, John Clayton, musicians of the year for 2006. A banquet in their honor was held at the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown Hotel. Click here for pictures from the event. Jeff is currently touring with his own Trio, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and Diana Krall.

 

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 Akiyoshi, 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.

If Kandace Springs‘ new album Indigo sounds like something new, that’s because it is. Simple while funky. Classic but contemporary. Straightforward in the way it breaks down complex ideas and genres. And, at the end of the day, undeniably human. That said, it isn’t quite a rebirth for the Nashville-born artist, who after stints living in New York and Los Angeles has returned back home to Music City. She’s long had that lithe and smoky voice and an intensely expressive mastery over the piano. For those paying attention, Kandace’s second album finds her unleashing what was there all along, all at once, for the first time. 

For Kandace it boils down to a question that connects past to present: “What would Nina Simone do if she had the technology of today? You could never put Nina in a box—she would do a blues followed a classical piece, a jazz standard and then a Beatles cover. This LP took a lot of inspiration from that—it’s a mix of everything that I am.” Indigo offers a fairly plausible answer to that impossible query: songs that swirl classical composition with quiet-storm cool, jazz poise with hip-hop swing, tropical warmth with soulful depth, and earthen groove with airy psych. With all but two of the tracks here produced by the mighty drummer-producer Karriem Riggins—the living bridge spanning Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall to Erykah Badu and J Dilla—Indigo creates a vibe as familiar as it is previously unheard.

Take “Indigo Part 1,” and “Indigo Part 2,” a pair of interludes that give the album its title, where allusions—Rachmaninoff, Portishead, Sade—emerge and melt into the liquid soundscape. It feels like magic. And then there’s “Don’t Need The Real Thing” with a breezy dancehall beat that’d sound at home in today’s Top 40, except far more musical and almost hypnotic in its combination of plaintive bass and busy percussion. Kandace’s versatility is underscored when one juxtaposes “Breakdown,” a pop ballad stunner that Kandace co-wrote with the track’s producer Jamie Hartman (Rag’n’Bone Man), and “Unsophisticated,” a sultry jazz ballad that features Roy Hargrove‘s trumpet playfully intertwined with Kandace’s voice and keys. 

Ask our heroine how Indigo became the name of the entire project and she replies, with an air of mystery, “The album is an exotic flower, its own kind.” The more you listen, the more that makes sense. In fact, she could be describing herself.

Kandace grew up the bi-racial daughter of a soul singer in a country-western town. Her dad Scat Springs had his own band but also sang backup for an incredible array of musicians: Brian McKnight, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Michael McDonald, Donna Summer. He did voices on Nashville radio too, while Kandace’s mother had a full-time gig raising three talented daughters at home. Kandace’s first passions were drawing and cars. “My dad gave me a Matchbox muscle car and my mom gave me a Barbie,” she says. “I drew a mustache on Barbie and never played with her again. I still have the Matchbox.” 

She collects, rebuilds, and resells cars to this day, but her plans to one day study automotive design were put on hold at age 10 when Scat brought home an upright piano (side note: Kandace still plans to pursue her dream of going to automotive school one day). She couldn’t leave the keys alone, and soon mom started taking her to lessons, while dad let her tag along to sessions and led his own three-girl choir in the living room. “He’d make us do hymns but we hated it,” Kandace laughs. “We’d be singing and crying at the same time.”

Her father instilled in Kandace a love of the greats—Nina of course, but also Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy, Luther Vandross—and eventually they grew closer than ever through music. He helped her record a demo at 15 and got it into the hands of the production team Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, who have written hits for the likes of Shakira, Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Clarkson, and are best known for discovering Rihanna as a teen and signing her to their production company SRP. They offered Kandace a deal but it was too much, too soon. “My dad said, ‘If you sign with these guys, I’ll never get the chance to make an album with you,’” says Kandace. “I’m so glad I waited.” She and Scat made that album when she was 17 and though it was never released, a piece of it appears on Indigo. Scat suffered a stroke in early 2017 that rendered him unable to sing, so she pulled one of his original vocals from their record and set it to new music. Powered by her signature Rhodes electric piano, “Simple Things” is the beating heart of this LP.

When the time came, Evan and Carl got Kandace into Blue Note Records to audition for president Don Was. She performed a Bonnie Raitt song that he’d originally produced, and he was sold. Her 2014 self-titled EP found her teaming with cutting-edge hitmakers like Pop & Oak and won her late-night TV appearances on Letterman, Kimmel and Fallon, plus sets at festivals like Bonnaroo and Afropunk. Her 2016 full-length Soul Eyes took a different tack. Grown, stripped, and refined, it was essentially a live album—solid, unfussy bedrock for future experimentation. All that history, and the fact that she featured on a couple Ghostface Killah cuts, made Karriem exactly the right person to work with Kandace to catalyze the best parts of various interests into something new.

“I love crossing genres and the direction on Indigo was to marry all the different things to tell her story,” says Karriem, who tracked his drums at various studios while on the road with Krall, and chopped and reassembled his and Kandace’s recordings into what you hear. “It sounds organic because everything was built around the songwriting. She says so much on the piano, and her voice is amazing—it’s the focal point of the whole sound. I kept it simple, added a little punch.”

Kandace also co-wrote several songs with her longtime collaborators Evan and Carl including “Piece of Me” which finds Kandace channeling Sade to stunning effect. The three also wrote “Fix Me” together, taking inspiration from Chopin’s Prelude No. 4, and the groovy lament “Love Sucks” which was produced by Evan and Carl along with the UK’s Jimmy Hogarth (Amy Winehouse, Corinne Bailey Rae).

Some of Indigo‘s greatest songs are its most unadorned: “Black Orchid” highlights the acoustic strum of guitarist-songwriter Jesse Harris (who struck Grammy gold with Kandace’s early hero Norah Jones by penning her breakout hit “Don’t Know Why”); a cover of The Stylistics’ “People Make the World Go Round” drifts languidly over Karriem’s drum programming; the remake of Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s “Six Eight” is molasses slow and crystalline pretty; and the Roberta Flack-popularized torch song “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (a crowd favorite at Kandace’s live shows) radiates light from the white space between notes. That one was special for Kandace. “Prince picked it for me to play for Purple Rain‘s 30th anniversary at Paisley Park in 2014,” she says. “His band played behind me. He stood off to the right. It’s something I’ll never forget.” That was Kandace’s first big break. The legendary artist saw her on YouTube before she’d released a single note and invited her out. It’s testament, again, to the power and potential that’s been in Kandace this whole time.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear a nod to Prince in the lyrics of “Fix Me,” but the best tribute she could pay to him, Ms. Simone, and the humble legacy of the man who introduced her to music, her father, is by, as Karriem words it, “creating something that adds to the art form.” With Indigo, an album that couldn’t have been made by anyone but her, Kandace Springs does exactly that.

Keb’ Mo’s self-titled release under his coined Keb’ Mo’ moniker, reached it’s quarter century milestone in 2019, and over the years, Keb’ has proven that he is a musical force that defies typical genre labels. Album after album, 14 in total, he has garnered 5 GRAMMY awards, including his most recent 2019 release, Oklahoma, which won in the Best Americana Album category. Keb’s list of GRAMMY recognitions continues with 12 GRAMMY nominations, in total, including his 2014 self-produced release, BLUESAmericana, earning three nominations on its own as well as a producer/engineer/artist GRAMMY Certificate for his track on the 2001 Country Album of the Year, Hank Williams Tribute – Timeless. The talented artist has also been awarded 14 Blues Foundation Awards and 6 BMI Awards for his work in TV & Film.

Over the past two decades, Keb’ has cultivated a reputation as a modern master of American roots music through the understated excellence of his live and studio performances. Artists who have recorded his songs include B.B. King, Buddy Guy, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Cocker, Robert Palmer, Tom Jones, Melissa Manchester, Solomon Burke and the Zac Brown Band to name a few. The list of artist collaborations comprises a who’s who in the music industry and includes Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jackson Browne, Natalie Cole, Lyle Lovett, India Arie, James Cotton, Bobby Rush, Timothy B. Schmit, Marcus Miller and many more. His guitar playing has garnered him two invites to Eric Clapton’s acclaimed Crossroads Festival and has inspired leading instrument makers, Gibson Brands, to issue the Keb’ Mo’ Signature Bluesmaster and Bluesmaster Royale acoustic guitars and Martin Guitars to issue the HD-28KM Keb’ Mo’ Limited Edition Signature model.

He has been featured in TV and film, playing Robert Johnson in the 1998 documentary “Can’t You Hear The Wind Howl,” appeared three times on the television series, “Touched By An Angel,” and was the ghostly bluesman Possum in John Sayles’ 2007 movie, “Honeydripper.” Keb’ created “Martha’s Theme” for the TV show Martha Stewart Living. Keb’ also wrote and performed the theme song for the hit sitcom, Mike & Molly, created by Chuck Lorre and was music composer for TNT’s Memphis Beat starring Jason Lee. In early 2017, nine songs from Keb’s extensive catalog were featured in the film Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel. This film was also Keb’s first feature film lead acting role. He also appears in an episode on the CMT series “Sun Records” as Howlin’ Wolf and can be heard playing his original song “Operator.” Keb’ has played his iconic version of “America The Beautiful” in the series finale of Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing,” as well as at the actual White House for President Obama.

Keb’ Mo’ has been a long-time supporter of the Playing For Change Foundation (PFCF), a nonprofit organization that creates positive change through music education. PFCF provides free music education to children in nine countries, including Brazil, Bangladesh, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa and the United States, and has established 12 music schools around the world. They also work with partners to address basic needs in the communities where they teach, including providing education, clean water, food, medicines, clothing, books, and school supplies.

Additionally, Keb’ is a celebrity mentor with the Kennedy Center’s Turnaround Arts program, which focuses on elementary and middle schools throughout the US. This highly successful program began under the guidance of Michelle Obama and the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities. Each artist adopts a school and becomes a mentor, working with teachers, students, parents, and the community to help build a successful arts education program. Keb’ enjoys his mentorship at The Johnson School of Excellence in Chicago, Illinois.

In 2017, Keb’ Mo’ released TajMo, a collaborative album with the legendary Taj Mahal. The project, which won the 2018 GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Blues Album, features guest appearances by Sheila E., Joe Walsh, Lizz Wright and Bonnie Raitt. At the 39th Annual Blues Music Awards, Keb’ Mo’, alongside Blues Hall of Famer Taj Mahal, was awarded Album of the Year and Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for their first-ever collaboration project, TajMo. Keb’ also took home the title of Contemporary Blues Male Artist of The Year. The multi-generational duo went on to tour the US and Europe in support of their album.

Twenty-five years after the release of his debut album under the moniker Keb’ Mo’, the widely admired artist released his most recent album, Oklahoma (Concord Records), winning him a 2020 GRAMMY Award for Best Americana Album. Featuring cameos from Taj Mahal, Rosanne Cash, Robert Randolph, Jaci Velasquez and Keb’ Mo’s wife, Robbie Brooks Moore, Keb’ delivers an album that pushes his boundaries even further with brand new songs addressing topics such as immigration, depression, pollution, love, female empowerment and more. Following the deeply thought-provoking release, Keb’ lightened the mood with the release of his first-ever holiday album, Moonlight, Mistletoe & You. A decade in the making, Moonlight, Mistletoe & You includes six original songs and four cover tunes including “Please Come Home for Christmas.” 

For more information on Keb’ Mo’, visit his official website at kebmo.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Soulful, passionate, stirring…these are the words most often used to describe Kirk’s music. Forged from his Memphis, (TN) gospel roots and his 1980‘s initiation into the thriving Houston, TX nightclub scene, Kirk’s big, rich tenor sound is unmistakably his. The 80’s were highlighted by Kirk’s stepping out of his blossoming sideman role and forming his own band. It was there that Kirk ultimately developed both his “voice” and songwriting in the crucible of the local club scene––especially at a rooftop club called Cody’s. It was also in Houston where jazz pianist Bob James “discovered” him and brought him on tour, which led to five successful albums with Columbia Records, including Cache, Kirk’s first #1 album. As well, Kirk and Bob received a Grammy nomination for their collaboration album, Joined at the Hip. After moving to Los Angeles, Kirk became an in demand session player for top artists like, Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and most notably, Whitney Houston, amongst many others. It’s his sax heard on the mega-hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Kirk soon followed that career high point with his phenomenal hit album released on Warner Bros. Records, For You, perhaps the most successful of over 25 solo recordings to date; others include his eclectic, and much lauded, Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4). In addition to his many solo projects, Kirk was also a member of the popular soul/jazz group, BWB, which features Kirk as the “W” of the group with Rick Braun (trumpet) and Norman Brown (guitar).

An ordained minister, Kirk has earned a Masters of Art in Religion. It’s in this spirit that he serves his community in various ways when his touring schedule allows. There is also his daily fifteen minute podcast, Bible In Your Ear (BIYE), in which he invites you to listen along as he reads through the Bible in a year. In addition to music and ministry, Kirk has a passion to educate young, aspiring musicians and is currently engaged as a music professor at Visible Music College in his hometown of Memphis.

Kirk is the recipient of numerous awards and acknowledgements for his musical excellence including three Dove Award nominations, an NAACP Image Award nomination and has won two Stellar AwardsGospel music’s highest honor. A twelve time Grammy nominee, Kirk won his first Grammy award (2011)for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do”––featuring Lalah Hathaway) alongside life-long friend and gifted songwriter, Jerry Peters.

In a career spanning decades, Kirk has a sound that is uniquely his; it is a sound that leaves an indelible imprint on the listener.

Jazz guitarist Peter Bernstein has been a part of the jazz scene in New York and abroad since1989.During that time he has participated in numerous recordings and performances with musicians from all generations. As a leader, Peter has released nine albums and a DVD. As a sideman Peter has appeared in groups led by Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson, George Coleman, Lou Donaldson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Fathead Newman, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Diana Krall, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Cobb and many more.

 

Current projects include his album, Monk, with Doug Weiss and Bill Stewart, a recently released solo record, Solo Guitar – Live at Smalls, and the highly acclaimed organ trio with organist Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart.

Vilray & Rachael Price met as students in the Fall of 2003 and became friends. Their duo grew from their shared reverence for the pop music of the 1930s and 40s and its breadth of emotions. Playing original songs and forgotten treasures, their sound recalls both the warmth of radio’s golden age and the intimacy of parlor concerts in a time before recordings. Their debut album ‘Rachael & Vilray’ is out now on Nonesuch Records.

Vilray (vill-ree) is a composer, performer and Nonesuch Records recording artist from Brooklyn, he sings and plays guitar in NYC and around the world.

Vocal powerhouse Rachael Price is a legend in the making. The lead singer of Lake Street Dive started her journey at a young age in international traveling choirs and jazz ensembles. While studying at New England Conservatory, Price met her fellow Lake Street Dive members. In May 2018 Lake Street Dive released the self-produced Free Yourself Up and has been busy touring in support of the album. On their rise to success over the past few years, they have sold out many of America’s legendary venues, toured Europe and Australia, and made multiple national television appearances. During the band’s downtime, Price is involved in a project with Vilray Bolles. With simple arrangements and only a guitar for accompaniment, Rachael & Vilray perform original works and revive forgotten gems of the jazz big bands and western swing ensembles. Their eponymous debut album, Rachael & Vilray, is out now on Nonesuch Records. Equal parts sass, gritty soul, and unfettered grace, Price has been called a “cool cannon blast of a voice” by Rolling Stone and continues to make fans from the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Mavis Staples, and Stephen Colbert.

Whether you first heard him as the opening act for Take 6 or as one of the featured jazz soloists with Max Roach’s critically-acclaimed group, or maybe even as a featured soloist playing in front of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, one of your first thoughts had to be, “This guy makes playing great look really easy.”  That’s because Rod has lived a musical life that was founded on consistent, hard work behind the scenes and passionate fun and pleasure on the stage.  “If I didn’t love playing so much, I would have quit – years ago.”

A native born Chicagoan, Rod McGaha first showed up on Chicago’s jazz scene as a young prodigy, during an era when young lions were making more than just a little roar.  He constantly comments on how receiving the acceptance and guidance of legendary tenor saxophonist, Von Freeman was very important to him.  “When I teach in clinics, I remember how eager I was to get better and how important it was for me to be called one of Von’s “horses”.  When I teach kids today, I recognize that look in their eyes.  I’m just as happy for them, as I was for me.  I understand their excitement and their fear.” 

Rod is quick to admit that he was blessed to to have garnered the attention of legends like Von Freeman and Clark Terry at a young age, but it is probably most telling that although he received an invite from none other than Wynton Marsalis himself, to come to New York to audition for a spot as one of the newest young lions in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, he felt that life was calling him in a different direction, to be a different kind of lion.

By the time he was 22, Rod was busy trying to find “a way” to musically express his spiritual beliefs, while utilizing his knowledge and skills in African American modern improvisation (or as it is better known as, Jazz).  And, apparently that “way” is an endlessly long way.  Rod has played concerts in Egypt, Japan, Germany, South Africa, Poland and Mexico.  He has played in bands for Kenny Rogers, Bebe and CeCe Winans and was even the music the director for the now alternative rock sensation Shelby Lynne.  One could just list the stages on which he’s played (Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and Chicago’s legendary Jazz Showcase, to name just a few) and come to the conclusion that his has been a complete musical life.  But Rod says the music is the only thing that really matters.  “If I can make someone feel something through my music, then I know I’m doing it right.  I want people to feel the way I felt listening to Clark Terry.  I remember, I was listening to a recording of Clark Terry and it gave me great joy.  He made me happy just with his music alone.  That’s the power of music!”

For the last 50 years, Rufus Reid has been a consistent, formidable, and influential presence in the jazz world as a bassist and educator. His performances and recordings with Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Andrew Hill, The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and Quartet, Kenny Barron, Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, Lee Konitz, Jack DeJohnette, to name but a few, has cemented his stature as one of the great living deans of the jazz bass.

 

His receipt of the 2006 Raymond Sackler Commission resulted in his five-movement suite for large jazz ensemble, Quiet Pride-The Elizabeth Catlett Project. In November 2015, this album received two Grammy nominations, for Best Large Jazz Ensemble and Best Instrumental Composition. Rufus Reid is a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow in the field of composition, which resulted in the three-movement symphonic work, Mass Transit. In April 2016, he was named Harvard University’s Jazz Master in Residence, participating in public conversations and also performing in concert with his original compositions. In April 2017, Lake Tyrrell In Innisfree, Rufus’ third symphonic work was debuted in Raleigh, NC by the Raleigh Civic Symphony. May 2017, Rufus Reid was awarded the America Composers Forum Commission to composed, Remembrance, for Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble to be premiered in July 6-7, 2018. In December 2017, Newvelle Records, an all vinyl recording company, will release the Rufus Reid Trio, “Terrestrial Dance,” featuring the Sirius Quartet. February 2020, Newvelle Records release his second vinyl duo recording, “Always In The Moment,” with stellar pianist, Sullivan Fortner.

 

A distinguished educator as well, for 20 years Rufus was Director of the Jazz Studies Program at William Paterson University and was instrumental in building the program’s international reputation as one of the leading jazz schools in the world. He has recorded more than 400 albums and a dozen albums as a leader and authored a seminal text and DVD for bass methodology, The Evolving Bassist. Rufus continues to evolve as a composer and “The Evolving Bassist.”

Victor Lemonte Wooten is a unique human being. Born the youngest of five boys, he began learning to play music at the tender age of two. He started performing in nightclubs and theaters as the bassist with the family band at age five, and at age six, was on tour with his brothers opening shows for legendary soul artist Curtis Mayfield. Soon after, he was affectionately known as the 8-year-old Bass Ace, and before graduating high school, he and his brothers had shared the stage with artists such as Stephanie Mills, War, Ramsey Lewis, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Dexter Wansel, and The Temptations. But, this only begins to tell the tale of this Tennessee titan.

Wooten, now a five-time Grammy winner, hit the worldwide scene in 1990 as a founding member of the super-group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Continuing to blaze a musical trail with the band, Victor has also become widely known for his own Grammy nominated solo recordings and tours.

Among other things, he is a loving husband and father of four, a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician and acrobat, and has won every major award given to a bass guitarist including being voted Bassist of the Year in Bass Player Magazine’s readers poll three times (the only person to win it more than once.) In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine voted Victor one of the Top Ten Bassists of ALL TIME.