Wayne Escoffery was born on February 23, 1975 in London, England. He and his mother emigrated to the U.S. in 1986 and settled in New Haven, Connecticut. At age eleven he joined The New Haven Trinity Boys Choir and began taking saxophone lessons from Malcolm Dickinson. By sixteen, he had left the choir and engaged in a more intensive study of the saxophone in New York City at the Jazzmobile, the Neighborhood Music School and the ACES Educational Center for the Arts, both in New Haven.
During his senior year in high School, he attended the Artists Collective, Inc. in Hartford, Connecticut. While there he met Jackie McLean who founded the jazz program at The Hartt School, that Escoffery would ultimately attend under scholarship. He went on to matriculate through the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the New England Conservatory in Boston. During this time, he toured with Herbie Hancock and performed and studied with several jazz greats. In 1999, he graduated with a Masters degree and moved to New York to begin his professional career.
Since 2000, Wayne has been working in New York City with Carl Allen, Eric Reed, Mingus Big Band, Ralph Peterson, Ben riley, Ron Carter, Rufus Reid, Bill Charlap, Bruce Barth, Jimmy Cobb, Eddie Henderson, Mary Stallings, Cynthia Scott, Nancie Banks, Laverne Butler and his wife, Carolyn Leonhart.
Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery has released nine albums to date and in addition, he collaborates with his wife, continues to perform with his own quartet and quintet, the Tom Harrell Quintet, Abdullah Ibrahim’s Akaya and Jazz At Lincoln Center and others.
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Christian Howes was born on February 21, 1972 in Rocky River, Ohio but grew up in Columbus. From the age of five he studied classical violin and by 16 was performing with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. He would go on to matriculate through Ohio State University with a degree in philosophy.
When Christian turned twenty he began playing at regular gospel church services and his interest turned to becoming a jazz voice. Over the next few years he became one of the world’s most respected jazz violinists. He worked with Les Paul for eleven years. Since 2001 he has become an in-demand violinist on the New York jazz scene collaborating with Greg Osby, D.D. Jackson, Frank Vignola, Joel Harrison, Dafnis Prieto, Dave Samuels, Spyro Gyra and a 4-year chair in Bill Evans “Soulgrass” band.
Howes has been recognized by Jazz Times as one of three top violinists, Down Beat Critics Poll’s #2 Rising Star and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune called him the fiercest violinist since Billy Bang.
As an educator he has taught as an Associate Professor at Beklee College of Music and established the Creative String Workshop and Festival. Teacher, composer, producer and violinist Christian Howes also plays the viola, guitar and bass guitar and continues to perform and record.
Darek “Oles” Oleszkiewicz was born on February 20, 1963 in Breslau, Poland. He had five years of piano lessons at the State Conservatory in his hometown, later learning guitar, electric bass and upright bass. As a teenager, he played pop styles of rock music, blues and jazz-rock and jazz. In the early 1980s he performed at numerous jazz festivals and national competitions. In 1983 in Krakow and was awarded the first place for jazz composition and a second for ensemble playing at the Youth Jazz Competition.
Subsequently, he joined saxophonist Ptaszyn Wroblewski’s quartet and in the following years worked with several bands. In 1988, he moved to Los Angeles where he received a fellowship at the California Institute of the Arts and studied with Charlie Haden. After his graduation in 1992, he taught at the Institute and has performed in Los Angeles Jazz Quartet with Chuck Manning and managed various jazz ensembles. He has been a lecturer at the University of California since 2002.
In addition to teaching, he worked with a number of American jazz musicians such as Brad Mehldau, Billy Higgins, Pat Metheny, Joe Lovano, Charles Lloyd, John Abercrombie, Bennie Maupin and Lee Konitz.
In 2004 he released his debut album Like A Dream, which he recorded with Mehldau and Bennie Maupin for Cryptogramophone. He was selected Best Acoustic Bass in the 2005 Reader Poll the European Jazz Forum. He recorded a duo album Raindance with Adam Czerwinski, and a trio album with Peter Erskine and Alan Pasqua titled The Interlochen Concert in 2010. Bassist, composer and educator Darek Oles continues to perform and record.
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Javier Vercher was born in Madrid, Spain on February 7, 1978. At the age of 6, his family moved to Valencia where he began studying with his father music theory, piano and clarinet. By 17 years old he won the title of medium degree in classics Clarinet, plan 66, in the Conservatory Joaquín Rodrigo de Valencia.
After finishing his studies at the conservatory began exploring jazz and attended several seminars with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Perico Sambeat, Chris Cheek and Jorge Pardo in 1995. At 18, Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Association of Interpreters and Performers gave him a scholarship to study, graduating with a degree in Performance.
In 1999, he met the legendary drummer and composer Bob Moses Rakalam and soon after was playing around town with his band. In 2002, he moved to New York and began playing with local musicians such as Lionel Loueke, Henry Cole, David Doruzka, Ferenc Nemeth and RJ Miller.
In 2003, Vercher formed a trio and began composing for began to develop compositions for this format. He recorded his first solo album “Introducing The Javier Vercher Trio for Fresh Sound. His trio would later enlist the talents of guitarist Lionel Loueke at several festivals in Spain including the Madrid Jazz Festival, Jazz Festival Vitoria-Gasteiz, Jazz Festival Valencia and Almansa Jazz Festival to name a few.
Javier received the Musician Revelation Tete Montoliu Award, produced his second album “Wheel Of Time”, recorded with Alejandro Sanz on his 2007 Warner Bros. album “El Tren de los Momentos”. His quartet worked throughout the Caribbean, South America and Spain.
In late 2009 he moved to Barcelona and the following year released his next album “Wish You Were Here” in 2010 with Larry Grenadier, Lionel Loueke, Sam Yahel and Francisco Mela. Since then tenor saxophonist Javier Vercher has continued to perform, record and tour.
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Min Rager was born on February 4, 1975 in Seoul, Korea and began her music career playing in local jazz clubs and her reputation rapidly grew. In 1997, she moved to Montreal to attend McGill University and while there she continued to evolve as a pianist and composer. She graduated in 2003 with an Award of Excellence in Jazz Piano and formed a quintet as support for her original compositions and arrangements.
The following year her quintet recorded a studio recording for CBC Radio Beat Jazz II program. The show aired nationally in 2004 and was released as Min debut album Bright Road on Effendi in October 2005. She has composed a jazz suite for two pianos in 2008, performed at the International Jazz Festival of Montreal, had her quintet was named for General Motors Grand Jazz Award and played the Montreal Off Jazz Festival where she received “Best New Artist” honors.
Min Rager is currently on staff both at McGill University as a faculty member part-time where she teaches at the jazz department at the Conservatory of McGill University where she teaches jazz piano when not performing.
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