Ken Watters was born July 6, 1964 in Huntsville, Alabama. He attended the University of North Texas and became a part of the Lab Band program. He studied trumpet with internationally renowned teacher Leonard Candelaria prior to studying in New York City with Lew Soloff and Wynton Marsalis.
Ken is a member of several noted performing groups, including Tabou Combo, Natalie Cole Band, the Magic City Jazz Orchestra, Ray Reach and Friends and the W.C. Handy Jazz All-Stars. He recorded his debut release with his Haitian-Caribbean jazz septet RIYEL and has recorded a total of six projects as a leader.
He has recorded and released three CDs titled “Brothers” with his trombonist brother Harry. His latest musical project is an ongoing venture co-led alongside vocalist Ingrid Felts, called the Watters-Felts Project. The jazz-oriented sextet included pianist Keith Taylor, bassist Abe Becker, percussionist Darrell Tibbs and drummer Marcus Pope.
Trumpeter Ken Watters is also an educator currently sitting as an adjunct professor at University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he directs the UAH Jazz Ensemble I. He continues to perform, record and tour.
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Melissa Walker was born the youngest of three sisters on July 3, 1964 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She attended Brown University considering a career in law but instead after graduation local performance and out-of-town dates led her to launch a career as a vocalist in Washington, D.C., in 1990. She produced her own debut album in 1993 titled Little Wishes, which she sold at her performances.
Moving to New York she studied with pianist and master vocal accompanist Norman Simmons. In 1997, Walker signed to Enja Records and recorded May I Feel and released in Germany. She expanded her performing range with her rich, multi-octave textures and impeccable phrasing, formed her own group and appeared with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, directed by Wynton Marsalis. Her 1999 release of Moment of Truth marked her commercial U.S. album debut and two years later came I Saw The Sky.
She has been nominated for a Juno Award, won the U.S. Indie Award for Vocal Jazz, has created new material unrivaled in the American jazz tradition, and has appeared on a number of television networks and magazines. Melissa has performed across continents, working and/or recording with such talents as Hank Jones, Gary Bartz, Kenny Barron, Ray Brown, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Mokoto Ozone Phil Woods, Buster Williams, Russell Malone, Beny Green, Geoff Keezer, Steve Wilson, Ron Blake, Lenny White, Paul Bollenback, Steve Turre and Geri Allen. Vocalist Melissa Walker continues to perform, compose, record and tour.
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Pablo “Chino” Nunez was born on June 25, 1961, adopted as an infant, the only son of Puerto Rican immigrants and raised in New York City’s Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. Inspired and encouraged at a young age, he attributes his success to the “masters” he studied as well as idolizing many instrumentalists and vocalists most notably Tito Puente, Orestes Villato, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Nicky Marrero, The Beatles, The Jackson 5, James Brown, and Ella Fitzgerald among others.
Self-taught, Chino’s career spans four decades he established himself as a percussionist, multi-Instrumentalist, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist, band leader, and educator. He is a multiple Grammy, Latin Grammy and Billboard nominee and winner. He has amassed hundreds of music credits as a producer including the documentary film, “Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar: Dancing En Clave”. He has toured with a who’s who list of performers and has garnered critical acclaim with his Chino Nunez Orchestra.
Nunez has recorded and performed with Tito Puente, Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, Marc Anthony, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Larry Harlow, Tito Nieves, Spanish Harlem Orchestra and a host of others. He has performed all over the world including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, North Sea Jazz Festival, Madison Square Garden, Montreal Jazz Festival, the Tito Puente Amphitheatre and Bellas Arte Performing Arts Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to name a few.
He creates a unique and rhythmic swing fusing Salsa, Big Band, Latin Jazz, Christian, Gospel, Bachata, Reggaeton, Hip Hop and R & B. On Broadway he has performed in “The Life of Celia Cruz”, “Evita”, “Cape Man”, “Lion King”, and “A Tale of Two Cities” featuring his arrangement “Another 100 People”. In 2005, he released his debut album Chino Nunez & Friends, A Tribute to the Dancers, It’s ShoTime. Producer of voice-overs, jingles, radio and television and commercials, Chino Nunez continues to perform and tour worldwide.
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Jeff Beal was born in Hayward, California on June 20, 1963 and began trumpet studies in the third grade after attending a school music assembly at Castro Valley’s Marshall Elementary School with his father. Upon hearing the trumpet played, he chose it as his instrument and his grandmother, pianist Irene Beal, gave him a recording of Miles’ collaboration with Gil Evans, Sketches of Spain.
Beal wrote his first long-form composition for the Oakland Youth Symphony Orchestra while a student at Castro Valley High School, combining his love of jazz improvisation with an orchestral accompaniment. This merging of improvisation with classical composition has remained a hallmark of his music. He went on to matriculate through the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York studying composition and trumpet earning a Bachelor of Music degree.
Beal composed and recorded his debut album, Liberation, for Island Records. His jazz band went on to perform at The Blue Note and the Montreaux Jazz Festival. At the request of Chick Corea, Beal composed and recorded a concerto for the virtuosic jazz bassist, John Patitucci for Corea’s Stretch Records label.
John’s signature work, Alternate Route, was composed for improvised trumpet and orchestra. Written fifteen years after his first long form composition, this piece was again premiered by Kent Nagano for the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, spotlighting him as trumpet soloist. He also composed improvisatory concerti for Dave Samuels, Larry Coombs, and the Turtle Island String Quartet.
By the mid-1990s, he relocated to Los Angeles and got his first critical notice in 2001, for his minimalist Americana score to Ed Harris’ directorial debut, Pollock. He has been nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards including Carnivale, Rome and House of Cards. He has won three. Trumpeter and composer Jeff Beal continues to work in film and television, recording and performing concerts.
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Javon Anthony Jackson was born June 16, 1965 in Carthage, Mississippi and raised in Denver, Colorado by parents who were musicians. His mother played the piano, and his father played trumpet, but he didn’t begin playing alto saxophone until age 10. By 16 he changed to the tenor saxophone and was taught by pianist Billy Wallace.
He briefly enrolled at the University of Denver prior to spending part of 1985-86 at Berklee College of Music, which he abandoned to become a Messenger with Art Blakey. Jackson would later finish his undergraduate degree and obtained a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Purchase where he later taught.
The hard bop, soul and mainstream tenor saxophonist has played with the Harper Brothers, Benny Green, Freddie Hubbard and Elvin Jones among others. He has fourteen albums as a leader, mainly on the Criss Cross and Blue Note labels. In between performing, touring or recording, he heads the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford and has been doing so since 2013.
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