Sadao Watanabe was born on February 1, 1933 in Utsunomiya, Japan and first began learning music at the age of 18. He started performing professionally in 1953. By 1958 he had established himself as a world-class saxophonist having performed with leading musicians and quartets. In 1962 he left Japan to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Known for his bossa nova recordings, Sadao’s work encompasses a large range of styles with collaborations from musicians all over the world. Of his 72 albums to date, he has had 13 albums reach the top 50 Billboard charts and two within the Top 10. He has also had numerous albums reach number one on the jazz charts.
Watanabe has been awarded the Order of the Rising Sun – the imperial medal of honor, the Fumio Nanri Award, and an honorary Doctorate Degree from Berklee College of Music.
In addition to his musical career, alto and soprano saxophonist and flutist Sadao Watanabe is also a published photographer with six books to his credit in Japan. He is also a U.S. citizen sharing his time between his homeland and Los Angeles, California as he continues to perform, record and tour.
Lena Bloch was born on January 31, 1971 in Moscow, Russia. She immigrated to Israel in 1990, to attend Rubin Academy of Music and Dance, and then received a full scholarship for Jazz In July workshop. Acquiring her Artist Diploma cum laude from Cologne Conservatory, she was granted another full scholarship to attend the Jazz Workshop in Banff, Canada. Bloch has studied with Yusef Lateef, Billy Taylor, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Dave Holland and Lee Konitz.
By 2001 Lena met her most important teacher, Lee Konitz, who she studied and was introduced to the music of Lennie Tristano’s school, especially Warne Marsh. She played the first tenor chair in the Jazz Ensemble and got a “Downbeat Student Award” 2005 and MENC Award 2004 in Minneapolis. She has won the “Outstanding Performance Award”.
Since 1993 Lena has been leading her own quartet and trio, writing music and arranging and she played in the legendary “Embryo” band touring Italy. She is an inventive improviser who incorporates Middle-Eastern and Eastern European elements into the jazz idiom, achieving a unique sound.
She has performed with Mal Waldron, Johnny Griffin, Horace Parlan, Keith Copeland, John Marshall, Alvin Queen, Steve Reid Vishnu Wood, Arturo O’Farrill, George Schuller, Billy Mintz, Dave Shapiro, Roberta Picket, Scott Wendholt, Dan Tepfer, Bertha Hope, Ray Drummond and Matt Wilson among many others. Alto saxophonist Lena Bloch is also a creative and inventive educator, who continues to successfully teach woodwinds and jazz improvisation to all ages and levels since 1990.
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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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Ramiro Flores was born on January 12, 1977 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began his musical training through the alto saxophone at the age of 11 years. He studied composition at the UCA and saxophone at the National Conservatory, while both played in the band folklorist César Isella, in addition to various projects.
In 1998 he traveled to Boston to continue his studies at Berklee College of Music, where he studied with musicians such as Joe Lovano, George Garzone and Jerry Bergonzi among others. He graduated with a dual major in Film Scoring and Performance in 2002 before moving to New York and continued developing his musical career in this city.
During this period he collaborated with Pedro Giraudo, Mr. Live Big Band, Pablo Ablanedo, The Monkeys, Ryle’s Big Band, Jerry Bergonzi and Slide Hampton. For a period he worked as a show band musician for Carnival Cruise Lines, was a composer for American Music Co. and wrote a book of instruction flute, and recorded for Music Sales Corporation NYC. He began his development as a leader to form his own band and performing his own music in Boston and New York.
Returning to Argentina in 2005, he participated in the projects of the local jazz including Mariano Otero, Ligia Piro, Juan Cruz de Urquiza, Pepi Taveira and Javier Malosetti amongst numerous others. The following year he won “80mundos, and by 2007 he produced and recorded his first CD “Flowers”, for BAU records, in which he collaborated with the likes of Juan Quintero,
That same year in December he received the Clarín Award as the revelation of jazz, voted best soprano saxophonist in 2008 by the newspaper La Nación. Alto saxophonist Ramiro Flores released his sophomore project “Son Dos” and continues to perform.
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Matthew Clayton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 10, 1980. Picking up the saxophone at age ten his love of jazz was fueled playing in big bands in middle school when he played lead alto. It was during this time that he began venturing into improvisation. By high school he was a member of the National Grammy All Star High School Jazz Band, played the Village Vanguard, Birdland and Carnegie Hall in New York City. While there he also met and gigged with Grover Washington, Jr. and Al Grey, and was a featured performer at a winter jazz festival in Paris, France.
Matriculating through Yale University, Matthew went on to get his Masters and Ph.D. from Harvard University specializing in ethnomusicology, with an emphasis on the study of jazz. While at Harvard, Clayton directed the Harvard Graduate School Big Band and performed with students from the nearby Berklee College of Music, taught saxophone privately and at the Litchfield Summer Jazz Camp in Connecticut and privately while completing his studies.
Dr. Matthew Clayton is currently on the faculty of the prestigious Nelly Berman School of Music, is the Director of Jazz Combos at the University of Pennsylvania, has released his debut album “On The Move” last year and continues to perform.
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