Music and spirituality have always been fully intertwined in the artistic vision of trumpeter, composer, educator, and activist Sean Jones. Mr. Jones sang and performed as a child with the church choir in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, and switched from playing the drums to the trumpet after his first exposure to Miles Davis at the age of 10. He found further influence after his discovery of immortal visionary John Coltrane when he was a 19-year-old classical trumpet performance major at Youngstown State University.
After receiving his master’s degree in classical trumpet performance from Rutgers University, Mr. Jones had a six-month stint with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which marked the beginning of his relationship with Wynton Marsalis. Mr. Marsalis then offered Mr. Jones a permanent position as lead trumpeter in the orchestra, which Mr. Jones held until 2010.
A highly respected and in-demand musician, Mr. Jones has recorded and performed with major artists who include Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson, and Marcus Miller. His relationship with Mr. Miller led Mr. Jones to be selected for the A Tribute to Miles tour in 2011 with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.
Mr. Jones also performs with his own ensembles, and has a longstanding relationship with Mack Avenue Records, with which he has released eight albums. Heavily involved in education, Mr. Jones has recently been appointed the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair in Jazz Studies at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. He is currently an artist-in-residence at San Francisco Performances and a member of the SFJAZZ Collective.
Obed Calvaire, a Miami native of Haitian descent, holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in music from one of America’s premiere private music conservatories, the Manhattan School of Music. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2003, completing the undergraduate requirements in three years, and received his master’s in 2005.
Mr. Calvaire has performed and recorded with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Seal, Eddie Palmieri, Vanessa Williams, David Foster, Mary J. Blige, Stefon Harris, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Peter Cincotti, Musiq Soulchild, Nellie McKay, Yellowjackets, Joshua Redman, Steve Turre, and Lizz Wright, to name a few. He has also performed with large ensembles that include the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Metropole Orchestra, and the Mingus, Roy Hargrove, and Bob Mintzer big bands. Currently, Mr. Calvaire can be found playing with the SFJAZZ Collective, Dave Holland, Monty Alexander, Sean Jones, Yosvany Terry, The Clayton Brothers, and Mike Stern, among others.
Born on the island of Trinidad, Etienne Charles defies easy musical categorization. Hailed as “a daring improviser who delivers with heart wrenching lyricism” (Jazz Times), Mr. Charles has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions, and knack for connecting with audiences worldwide. In June 2012, Mr. Charles was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad and Tobago, and to the world. Perhaps more than any other Eastern Caribbean musician of his generation, Mr. Charles brings a careful study of myriad rhythms from the French, Spanish, English, and Dutch-speaking Caribbean to the table. As a soloist, he fully understands the New Orleans trumpet tradition (which is readily discernible in his trademark instrumental swagger), as well as what famed Crescent City pianist Jelly Roll Morton succinctly captured in the now-immortal phrase, “The Spanish Tinge.”
Mr. Charles’s latest recording, Creole Soul (Culture Shock Music, 2013), has received worldwide critical acclaim for its fusion of Afro-Caribbean root grooves. His previous release, Kaiso (Culture Shock Music, 2011), features his own arrangements and interpretations of the music of calypso legends Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, and the Roaring Lion. As a sideman, Mr. Charles has performed and recorded with artists who include Monty Alexander, Roberta Flack, Frank Foster, Ralph MacDonald, Johnny Mandel, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Maria Schneider, Eric Reed, Lord Blakie, David Rudder, the Count Basie Orchestra, and many others. Mr. Charles holds a master’s degree from The Juilliard School and a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.
Gerald Clayton searches for honest expression in every note he plays. With harmonic curiosity and critical awareness, he develops musical narratives that unfold as the result of both deliberate searching and chance uncovering. The four-time Grammy Award–nominated pianist and 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. After a year of intensive study with NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron at the Manhattan School of Music, Mr. Clayton earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music under the instruction of piano icon Billy Childs. Mr. Clayton won second place in the 2006 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Piano Competition.
Expansion has become part of Mr. Clayton’s artistic identity. His music is a celebration of the inherent differences in musical perspectives that promote true artistic synergy. Inclusive sensibilities have allowed him to perform and record with such distinctive artists as Diana Krall, Roy Hargrove, Dianne Reeves, Ambrose Akinmusire, Dayna Stephens, Kendrick Scott, John Scofield, Ben Williams, Michael Rodriguez, Terri Lyne Carrington, Avishai Cohen, Peter Bernstein, Terell Stafford / Dick Oatts, and The Clayton Brothers Quintet. Mr. Clayton has also enjoyed an extended association with saxophone legend Charles Lloyd, with whom he has toured and recorded since 2013.
A musical ambassador and interpreter of “America’s music,” Wycliffe Gordon is one of the world’s most renowned and award-winning jazz trombonists. The Jazz Journalists Association named him Trombonist of the Year for the 10th time in 2017, and DownBeat Magazine’s Critics Poll named him Best Trombone in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Mr. Gordon’s signature sound and mastery of the plunger mute have helped solidify his impressive musical career.
Mr. Gordon tours as a soloist and with his quintet, Wycliffe Gordon and His International All-Stars, headlining legendary jazz venues and performing arts centers worldwide. Mr. Gordon has recorded or been featured on over 300 recordings; composed and arranged hundreds of compositions, including the theme song for NPR’s All Things Considered; and is a passionate and sought-after educator. Mr. Gordon is a former veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and has been a featured guest artist on Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center series.
For more than two decades, bassist, vocalist, producer, label owner, and filmmaker Mimi Jones has reigned supreme as sidewoman to an impressive coterie of musicians, and as leader of the Mimi Jones Band. She has released three CDs on her own label (Hot Tone Music); her latest recording, Feet in the Mud, is her most powerful to date, with a focus on being true to yourself no matter your race, age, gender, or size. Ms. Jones is supported by an engaging collection of musicians that includes pianist Jon Cowherd, drummer Jonathan Barber, and saxophonist Samir Zarif.
Born in New York City to parents from Barbados, and raised in the Bronx, Ms. Jones is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and has studied with Lisle Atkinson, Ron Carter, Linda McKnight, and Milt Hinton, among others. She has toured throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, and is recognized as a US Jazz Ambassador. Her vast work as a sidewoman includes gigs with Kenny Barron, Frank Ocean, Dianne Reeves, Tia Fuller, Ingrid Jensen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marc Cary, Toshi Reagon, Rachel Z, Sean Jones, Ravi Coltrane, and Terri Lyne Carrington, with whom she recorded on Carrington’s Grammy Award–winning album The Mosaic Project. Ms. Jones also serves as co-director (with ArcoIris Sandoval) of The D.O.M.E. Experience, a multimedia project created to inspire its audience to learn about environmental and social issues through choreography, composition, and cinematography.
Renowned flutist, saxophonist, composer, and educator Erica von Kleist has been a performing artist and teacher worldwide for over two decades. A native of Connecticut and an alumna of Essentially Ellington Jazz Academy, Ms. von Kleist moved to New York to hone her skills at The Juilliard School, and in 2004 earned the first bachelor’s degree in jazz in the school’s history. After graduation, she launched her career as a sidewoman through touring, recording, and performing with the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chris Potter, Bebo Valdés, Cachao, Celia Cruz, Kristin Chenoweth, and Seth MacFarlane, among many others. Ms. von Kleist is the recipient of several honors that include the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composer Award and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award. She has also been named a Rising Star and Critic’s Pick in DownBeat Magazine.
Ms. von Kleist has taught private lessons for over 15 years. She has been a guest educator at The Juilliard School, Stanford University, University of Montana, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others, and has done outreach work at conservatories in Havana, Cuba. Ms. von Kleist has released three albums as a bandleader: Project E in 2005, Erica von Kleist & No Exceptions in 2009, and Alpine Clarity in 2014, which she recorded in her new home of Whitefish, Montana. Ms. von Kleist recently started two companies that aim to provide employment for musicians based in the Flathead Valley—the Northwest Artist Syndicate and Groovetrail—which have booked hundreds of paid performances for talented local musicians since their inception.
Born in Toronto in 1982, Matthew Stevens began studying the piano when he was seven years old and switched to the guitar when he was 11 years old. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2004, Mr. Stevens became an essential contributor to new work by artists who include Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Terri Lyne Carrington, Harvey Mason, ERIMAJ, Sean Jones, Walter Smith III, Linda Oh, NEXT Collective, and Esperanza Spalding. Stevens was a key player in Spalding’s recent albums Emily’s D+Evolution and Exposure.
In 2016, DownBeat Magazine included Mr. Stevens in its “25 for the Future” issue, and has placed him in the rising guitar star category of its Annual Critics Poll for the past two years. Mr. Stevens’s performances have been lauded in Billboard, The FADER, The Guardian, Guitar Player, Jazz Times, Mojo, The New York Times, Pitchfork, PopMatters, Stereogum, Vice, Noisey, and NPR, among others.
Mr. Stevens released Woodwork (Whirlwind Recordings and Crystal Math), his debut album as a bandleader, in 2015. Woodwork received numerous enthusiastic reviews, and has been described as “an amalgamation of modern jazz and neo-fusion elements which showcase … sonic versatility and savvy producing chops” (LA Weekly). His 2017 release, Preverbal (Ropeadope Records and Crystal Math), has been called “honest and soulful” (Pitchfork) and “music [that] advances the ideals of modern jazz” (NPR). Mr. Stevens currently lives in Harlem.
Reginald Thomas can be seen fronting his own groups—the Mardra/Reggie Thomas Ensemble and organ trio OGD—on both piano and Hammond organ, and performing as sideman with great artists that include Hamiet Bluiett, Ann Hampton Callaway, and the Carl Allen / Rodney Whitaker ensemble. He often performs with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra as accompanist at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.
Mr. Thomas appears as guest artist at collegiate jazz festivals around the country, including those at Lawrence University, the University of South Florida, and Texas Tech University. He has also performed internationally, in Tokyo, Bangkok, Macau, Jakarta, Calgary, Milan, Warsaw, Poznan, Senegal, and London. In recordings, he has collaborated with Clay Jenkins, Kim Richmond, and Clark Terry / Mike Vax. His latest recording with his wife, Mardra—Matters of the Heart (MRT Jazz)—was released in 2015. Mr. Thomas has been awarded the Excellence in the Arts Award from the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis, and was named best jazz artist by the Riverfront Times in 2005.
After almost 20 years as professor of music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and three years at Michigan State University as professor of jazz piano, Mr. Thomas now leads the Northern Illinois University School of Music’s jazz studies program. He also works as consultant and clinician with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Program and Band Director Academy. He is an active member of summer jazz faculties in the US and abroad, and a frequent director of all-state jazz bands, combos, and choirs. Mr. Thomas earned his master’s degree in music education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University.
Lead donors: Hope and Robert F. Smith; Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; and Beatrice Santo Domingo
Major support has been provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Additional support has been provided by the Arison Arts Foundation; Bank of America; and The Netherland-America Foundation.