Marcus Lamar Miller was born on September 9, 1970 in Chesapeake, Virginia and began his musical journey at the age of three playing drums in his mothers church. During his elementary school years, 3rd-5th grade, he studied classical harp with the principal harpist for the Norfolk Symphony. Between the years 1983-88 he recorded on three albums with several mass choirs of the United Holy Church of America Inc. His high school and college years were spent backing rock, reggae, funk, Appalachian folk and jazz bands.
He went onto attend Washington & Lee University studying four-years of African, European, and Latin American histories. Setting his sights west to continue studies in music, Marcus landed in Berkeley, California in 1993 and began working with numerous local bands in the San Francisco bay area.
Miller landed a CNN spotlight of up and coming jazz musicians before touring and performing 1995 and 1996 with Ben Harper throughout Europe, Japan, and North America. He then moved to Anaheim after the tour, began a stint with Disney, started studying African traditional drumming with percussionists Leon Mobley and Angel Figueroa, and was a founding member of Leon Mobley & Da Lion.
Marcus has since gone on to perform with such artists as Ashanti, Sheila E, Andre Cymone, Barbara McNair, the Watts Prophets, Bennie Maupin, Vinx, Jimmy Sommers,Tony Furtado, and Ozomatli. He has collaborated with such choreographer/dancers as Lula Washington, Cleo Parker Robinson, Winifred Harris, Bonnie Homesy, Toni Pierce, Marguerite Donlon, and wife Tamica Washington-Miller.
Educating children is one of his biggest passions and teaches regularly at the New Roads School and holds private lessons. He founded YDLA, a performance group called the Young Drummers of Los Angeles, and works with various organizations throughout California facilitating drum workshops for the youth. His Freedom Jazz Movement serves as his main vehicle of musical expression, fusing traditional African rhythms with a East Coast swing. Drummer, composer, bandleader and educator Marcus L. Miller continues to perform, record and educate.
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Hugh Ramopolo Masekela was born on April 4, 1939 in Kwa-Guqa Township of Witbank, South Africa. He began singing and playing piano as a child. At the age of 14, after seeing Kirk Douglas in the film Young Man With A Horn he took up playing the trumpet. He was given his first trumpet was given to him by anti-apartheid Archbishop Trevor Huddleston at St. Peter’s Secondary School.
Quickly mastering the instrument under the tutelage of Uncle Sauda of Johannesburg’s Native Municipal Brass Band, Masekela along with some of his schoolmates formed the Huddleston Jazz Band, South Africa’s first youth orchestra. By 1956, after leading other ensembles, he joined Alfred Hebrert’s African Jazz Revue.
In 1958 he wound up in the orchestra of South Africa’s first musical blockbuster King Kong, followed by touring the country for a sold-out year with Miriam Makeba and the Manhattan Brothers’ Nathan Mdledle in the lead. By the end of 1959 Hugh along with Dollar Brand, Kippie Moeketsi, Makhaya Ntshoko and Johnny Gertze formed the Jazz Epistles. They became the first African jazz group to record an album and perform to record-breaking audiences in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Following the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre of 69 peacefully protesting Africans he left the country with the help of Huddleston, Yehudi Menuhin and John Dankworth for London’s Guildhall School of Music. Befriended by Harry Belafonte on a visit to the U.S. he gained admission to Manhattan School of Music studying classical trumpet.
By the late Sixties he had hits with Up, Up & Away and Grazing In The Grass, appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival, and was featured in the film Monterey Pop. In 1974, Masekela and friend Stewart Levine organized the Zaire 74 music festival around the Rumble In The Jungle boxing match.
He has played primarily in jazz ensembles, with guest appearances on recordings by The Byrds and Paul Simon. Since 1954 Hugh’s music protested about apartheid, slavery, government and the hardships individuals were living but also vividly portrayed the struggles and sorrows, as well as the joys and passions of his country. In 1987, he had a hit single with Bring Him Back Home, which became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela.
Trumpeter Hugh Masekela also plays the flugelhorn, cornet, and trombone and is a composer and singer. He has some four dozen albums to date in his catalogue, has won two Grammy Awards with seven nominations, received two honorary doctorates, and serves as a director on the board of The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization that provides a daily meal to students of township schools in Soweto. He continues to perform, record and tour.
Guillermo Serpas was born on August 1, 1969 in San Salvador, El Salvador and grew up in an environment of rich musical tradition of legendary singers and masterful guitarists of the popular folklore. A gifted musician he was inspired him to learn the highly versatile and lyrical classical guitar. By his early teens he was studying with Maestro Candido Morales.
In 1983, the family moved to Calgary, Alberta bringing the young artist new artistic experiences to embrace. He immersed himself in the music genres of blues, jazz and rock. Guillermo soon joined several local bands and experimented with these different styles, while keeping his focus on classical guitar. He went on to acquire formal studies at the University of Calgary, graduating with a Bachelors Degree in music in 1996.
With his deep Latin roots ever present in his music Serpas has infused rhythmic elements of jazz, salsa, bolero, samba, blues and rock in his performing. Always present is the exotic percussion from his Latin American folklore creating a unique mosaic of sound. He released his debut recording Mi Sol y MI Luna in 2006 with his sophomore project following in 2011 titled Guitarra Bohemia. Guitarist Guillermo Serpas continues to perform, record and tour.
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Mike Ellis was born in New York City in on January 18, 1957 where he was raised by artistically inclined parents during the fabulous Sixties. He began his musical training at age of eight on clarinet, piano and drums. By 19, he was working professionally and teaching.
Ellis paid his dues attending Berklee College, New School and the Institute of Artistic & Cultural Perception (I.A.C.P.) where Billy Pierce, Steve Lacy, Steve Grossman, Alan Silva and David Liebman were particularly helpful and influential as teachers and mentors during his early career.
Ellis’ eclectic approach to music has labeled it “World Jazz”, a term that may seem vague but it sums up what he’s been doing recently with Brazilian and African percussionists, seasoned international jazz artists and Siberian throat singers. After nearly 100 concerts in New York with Speak in Tones, he has performed alongside Antoine Roney, Graham Haynes, Terreon Gully, Phoenix Rivera, Taurus Mateen, Brian Carrott, Curtis Lundy, Bruce Cox, Daniel Moreno, just to name a few.
He recorded his last two projects in Salvador Bahia Brazil “Subaro” Speak in Tones and “Bahia Band” under his own name and on his label AlphaPocket Records. Some of the musicians on these projects include Jerry Gonzalez, Cheikh Tidiane Seck, Mo Brasil, Bira Reis, Adam Rudolf, Jean-Paul Bourelly and Darryl Hall.
Music has taken him around the world, from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall to the Tokyo Jazz club scene and everything in between. Currently residing in Paris, he attends to his professorial and compositional duties while remaining active on the Parisian jazz scene performing regularly at Paris Clubs such as the Duc des Lombards, Sunset and the Baiser Sale. A few of his regular sidemen include John Betsch, J.J. Avenel, Michael Felberbaum, Brice Wassy, Bobby Few, Alain Jean Marie, Munir Hossn. All this, soprano saxophonist Mike Ellis accomplishes when he is not busy with projects in Brazil and New York.
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