Benjamin James Aronov, known as Ben or Benny, was born October 16, 1932 in Gary, Indiana. He played in local jazz and dance ensembles as a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was a student at the University of Tulsa from 1951 to 1952, then was conscripted into the U.S. Army, stationed in Texas and played in a military band.
In 1954 he relocated to Los Angeles California and began playing at The Lighthouse, as well as with musicians such as Terry Gibbs, June Christy, and Lena Horne. But by 1961 Ben moved to New York City, enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1966.
Following this, he worked with Al Cohn, Benny Goodman, Jim Hall, Morgana King, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, George Mraz, Mark Murphy, the National Jazz Ensemble, Ken Peplowski, Tom Pierson, Zoot Sims, Carol Sloane, and Warren Vache. For 18 years he was the pianist in the Broadway production of Cats from 1982 to 2000.
After leaving Broadway pianist Ben Aronov moved to Aix-en-Provence, France, where he remained until he passed away on May 3, 2015.
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Kenny Garrett, born October 9, 1960 in Detroit, Michigan and his father played saxophone as a hobby. After graduating from Mackenzie High School in 1978 he joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Mercer Ellington. He moved on to join the Mel Lew Orchestra playing the music of Thad Jones followed by a stint with the Dannie Richmond Quartet that focused on the music of Charles Mingus.
1984 saw him recording his first album as a bandleader, Introducing Kenny Garrett, on the Criss Cross label. Moving to Atlantic Records he recorded Prisoner of Love and African Exchange Student. Since 1990 the majority of Garrett albums are co-produced by pianist/composer Donald Brown beginning with signing with Warner Bros. Records label, releasing Black Hope in 1992. Songbook, his first album made up entirely of his own compositions, recorded in 1997, was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Over the course of his ongoing career Kenny has performed and recorded with among others, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Brad Mehldau, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Brian Blade, Marcus Miller, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Ron Carter, Elvin Jones, Geri Allen, Jack Walrath, Cedar Walton, Rodney Kendrick, Charnett Moffett and Mulgrew Miller. Best known in many circles for the five years he spent playing with Miles Davis during the trumpeter’s electric period.
Garrett has won a Grammy Award, has been nominated for a Soul Train Award, a Grammy and a NAACP Image Award nominations for Seeds from the Underground, was awarded an Echo Award in the Saxophonist of the Year in 2013 and has received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Berklee College of Music. Post-bop saxophonist and flautist Kenny Garrett who has released nineteen albums as a leader and over thirty as a sideman, continues to pursue his solo career.
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Matt Wilson was born Matthew Edward Wilson on September 27, 1964 in Knoxville, Illinois. After studying percussion at Wichita State University he moved to New York City in 1992. Since hismove he has performed and/or recorded with Lee Konitz, Cecil McBee, and Dewey Redman, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Bob Stewart, Denny Zeitlin, Ron Miles, Marty Ehrlich, Ted Nash, Jane Ira Bloom, Bobby Hutcherson, Wynton Marsalis, Hank Jones, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell, Michael Becker, Kenny Barron and Dena DeRose, among others.
He leads the Matt Wilson Quartet, Arts and Crafts, Christmas Tree-O and the Carl Sandburg Project. Wilson has has performed in concert at the White House hosted by President Obama along with Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dianne Reeves, Chris Botti, Randy Brecker, Antonio Hart and James Genus. He was the artist in residence at the Litchfield Jazz Festival and conducted over 250 outreach programs promoting jazz and the Jazz for Young Peoples concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Drummer, composer, bandleader, producer, and educator Matt Wilson has been nominated for a Grammy, was for 5 consecutive years voted #1 Rising Star Drummer in the Downbeat Critic’s Poll, voted Drummer of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, recorded sixteen albums as a leader, and continues to perform, tour and record.
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Nicholas Payton was born on September 26, 1973 in New Orleans, Louisiana to bassist and sousaphonist Walter Payton. He took up the trumpet at the age of four and by age nine was sitting in with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band alongside his father. He began his professional career at ten years old as a member of James Andrews’ All-Star Brass and was given his first steady gig by guitarist Danny Barker at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street. He enrolled at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and then at the University of New Orleans.
After touring with Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones in the early Nineties, Payton signed with Verve Records and his first album as a leader, From This Moment was released in 1994. In 1996 he performed on the soundtrack of the movie Kansas City, and in 1997 received a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Solo for his recording Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton.
After seven albums on Verve, Nicholas moved to Warner Bros. Records, and has collaborated with among others Trey Anastasio, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Daniel Lanois, Dr. John, Stanley Jordan, Herbie Hancock, Roy Haynes, Zigaboo Modeliste, Marcus Roberts, Jill Scott, Clark Terry, Allen Toussaint, Nancy Wilson, Dr. Michael White, and Joe Henderson.
He is a founding member of the SFJAZZ Collective, joined The Blue Note 7 honoring the 70th Blue Note Records anniversary and formed a 21-piece big band ensemble called the Television Studio Orchestra. In addition he recorded and released Bitches, a love narrative on which he played every instrument, sang, and wrote all of the music, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra commissioned and debuted his first full orchestral work, The Black American Symphony and formed his own record label, BMF Records. Payton has been a Distinguished Artist and Visiting Lecturer at Tulane University and belongs to a growing group of race scholars and activists committed to social justice. His writings are provocative as witnessed with his most notable pieces On Why Jazz isn’t Cool Anymore describes the effects of cultural colonization on music.
Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has recorded sixteen albums as a leader, another eight as a sideman wth Eric Alexander, Elvin Jones, Joanne Brackeen, Jimmy Smith and Allen Toussaint among others and continues to perform, compose, write and record,
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Billy Pierce was born September 25, 1948 in Hampton, Virginia and was raised in Florida by parents who were both educators. The household valued music and Pierce and his siblings each learned an instrument. He took up the saxophone as a child and started out listening to records by Dave Brubeck. Later he was drawn to the music of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley. Since he was only 16 when he graduated from high school, his parents steered him toward a college in the South so he wouldn’t be too far from home. After he turned 18, and studied with Joe Viola, Andy McGhee and Joe Allard at Berklee College of Music,
Also known as Billy, he went on to play with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers in the early 1980s and in the Tony Williams quintet in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. He has led numerous sessions and released an equal number of CDs. He is the school’s woodwind department chair.
He has recorded with Blakey and Williams as well as with Makoto Ozone and Superblue. Saxophonist Billy Pierce continues to perform, compose and record.
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