Without Compromise, From Miles to Wynton to Sean Jones

Don’t miss the Saturday afternoon, September 2nd performance of the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival when the remarkable Sean Jones and his group take the stage at the Avalon Theatre at 2:00 p.m.

Mr. Jones, raised in northeast Ohio, was originally a gospel-bred drummer who discovered jazz and the trumpet when he was 10 after hearing Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and Amandla.  Jones says, “Davis’s overall vision, the way he changed with the times, the purity of the sound is probably the single most powerful influence on me as an artist.” Jones found his jazz epiphany at 19 listening to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which sparked his desire to explore the spirituality of the music.

Photo by Jimmy Katz

Jones perfected his technique through studies with Trumpeter Esotto Pellegini and William Fielder and developed his ears in jazz listening to Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard and Clifford Brown.  He earned his master’s degree from Rutgers University and began his ascent into the upper echelons of the jazz world.  He landed a six month stint with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra which led to an offer from Wynton Marsalis to be lead trumpeter for the LCJO, a position he held for six years.  Jones cites Marsalis for his “personal work ethic and ability to break barriers”  as having a deep effect on him.  Jones states, “When I saw Wynton’s picture on a classical album, I know there were no limitations on me; everything could be within my grasp.”

A highly respected and in-demand musician and composer,  Jones has been featured with artists including Charles Fambrough, Joe Lovano, Jimmy Heath, Dianne Reeves, among others.  Marcus Miller, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter selected Jones for their Tribute to Miles tour in 2011.

Involved in jazz education, Jones has taught at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and he is now chair of the brass department at Berklee College of Music.  He serves as artistic director of both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland jazz orchestras and conducts master classes around the world.  This is his fifth year as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective.

In May, Jones recorded his eighth album with Mack Avenue Records, titled Live From Jazz At The Bistro.  Jones noted,“I’ve been wanting to do a live album for awhile.  I wanted to capture the band’s energy live.”  The band, together for eleven years, includes pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire.  Jones comments, “Having a band this long is really rare in jazz these days.  When we play, it’s like a conversation, like second nature.”

Be sure to be at the Avalon Theatre on Saturday afternoon, September 2nd to experience the music of the Sean Jones Quartet.

The Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is partially underwritten by the Maryland State Arts Council and the Talbot County Arts Council. Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Susan Koh

Brunch, Cocktails, and Jazz at the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival

Start your Saturday off right with the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival’s Jazz Brunch on Saturday, September 2nd, at Hunter’s Tavern, located in the Tidewater Inn.

From noon to 2 p.m., enjoy impeccably crafted brunch dishes while listening to the musical stylings of the Conservatory Classic Jazz Band. It’s a surefire way to unwind after an exciting Friday night—don’t forget Bria Skonberg will be “Shaking Up the Jazz World” at 8.p.m. at the Avalon Theatre!

The Conservatory Classic Jazz Band was formed in 2003, to bring traditional jazz to Washington D.C. audiences. From New Orleans style to small-group swing, the six-piece ensemble performs a variety of early jazz and American Standards. Their repertoire encompasses the music of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Benny Goodman, and other early jazz pioneers, in addition to composers of the Great American Songbook, like George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Hoagy Carmichael.

Photo by Joel Albert

Befitting the afternoon’s live entertainment, the New Orleans-inspired brunch menu at Hunter’s Tavern has something for every palate, from the Short Rib & Grits Bowl with caramelized onions, a fried egg, and crumbled goat cheese, to the Barbecue Shrimp, served in a peppery butter sauce with French bread, and the Fried Oyster Salad, with Applewood bacon, cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and roasted mushrooms in a mustard vinaigrette. As a popular dining choice in Easton, reservations are recommended.

And if you’re looking for something to do in between the afternoon and evening performances—trumpeter Sean Jones performs at 2 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre and jazz vocalist René Marie takes the Avalon stage at 8 p.m.—why not relish in a drink or two? Go to the Tidewater Inn for Cocktails and Jazz at 5 p.m., with wine and rail cocktails for $5, draft beer for $4, and $2.50 bottles of domestic beer. Mingle on the idyllic terrace, libation in hand, as the Conservatory Classic Jazz Band returns for another set! As the ensemble continues to perform jazz standards, indulge your appetite with flash fried barbecue cauliflower, local oysters—fried or on the half shell—guacamole and chips, or Sriracha fries, loaded with Monterey Jack cheese, scallions, bacon, and sour cream. Reservations appreciated, but not required.

To make a reservation for the Jazz Brunch or Cocktails and Jazz (or both!), call Hunter’s Tavern at 410-822-4034.

The Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is partially underwritten by the Maryland State Arts Council and the Talbot County Arts Council. Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Becca Newell

A Community Concert with the U.S. Navy Band Commodores

For more than 40 years, the U.S. Navy Band Commodores have been performing the best of big band jazz. If you haven’t yet experienced a live concert by this vibrant, dynamic group—or if you’re itching to see them again—look no further than the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, held at Easton’s Avalon Theatre over Labor Day weekend.

The Commodores’ performance, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 2nd.

Formed in 1969, the Commodores—also known as the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Navy—have welcomed a few famous faces into its organization.

“Some of America’s greatest jazz and big band musicians have spent at least a portion of their careers serving as musicians in America’s Navy,” explains Senior Chief Musician William Mulligan. “Artie Shaw, Clark Terry, and John Coltrane to name just three.”

Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Band Commodores

In appreciation of their former bandmates, Mulligan says the 18-member group often features music from these prominent jazz figures in their concerts. The heart of their style, however, draws from classic American big bands, like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, and so many more.

“The Commodores’ repertoire spans over 100 years of jazz history,” he adds.

With a style that’s rooted in an eclectic mix of the traditional sounds of New Orleans’ jazz through to the swing era, the Commodores also blend more contemporary elements of music into their repertoire and incorporate exciting jazz vocal arrangements. The group composes and arranges a lot of their music library, in addition to performing modern compositions written by its members.

Throughout 2017, the Commodores are celebrating the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald. Mulligan hints that attendees of Saturday’s community performance will quite possibly hear tunes associated with the “First Lady of Song” and the “Queen of Jazz.”

“We also take the opportunity to honor our veterans at all of our concerts,” Mulligan says.

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Becca Newell

Bria Skonberg: Shaking Up the Jazz World

As one of the most influential artists in jazz, Louis Armstrong helped shape the swing era. Though arguably all musicians within the genre draw influences from his sound and style, trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg is steadily earning the reputation as Armstrong’s modern-day counterpart.

The Canadian-songwriter opens this year’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival with Shaking Up the Jazz World on Friday, September 1st.

From an outsider’s perspective, a female trumpeter might seem unusual, given the fact that it’s such a male-dominated field. But not for Skonberg, who says she was surrounded by female trumpeters since she first picked up the brassy instrument in seventh grade.

“I didn’t honestly think it was that strange,” she says. “I understand that there’s an imbalance for sure, but the ones that are out there are really good.”

Although the modest musician wouldn’t exactly place herself in that category, it seems others are happy to do it for her—and justifiably so. Most recently, Skonberg’s rising-star status was confirmed when she received a 2017 Juno Award for Jazz Vocal Album of the Year for her 2016 crowd-funded album, Bria.

“Basically, it’s a Canadian Grammy,” she explains, adding that she also released an album earlier this year, shortly after signing with Sony Music Masterworks’ OKeh Records. “It’s been a wild ride.”

Skonberg will reflect on that musical journey during her upcoming concert, in which she’ll undoubtedly showcase her notorious “trad fusion” sound. She’ll be joined by what she affectionately calls her “A Team” of musician-friends.

Her specialty, she says, is old jazz—proven by her solid repertoire of 1900s to 1940s tunes—but her songs draw influence from a variety of genres, from blues to Dixieland to pop.

“I like to be influenced by what’s around me,” she says. “That’s jazz. You listen and react.”

A newcomer to the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, Skonberg says she is excited to be involved with such a respected endeavor and was honored when Alexander, whom she refers to as a “giant in jazz,” invited her to participate.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she adds. “Having played at hundreds of festivals, ultimately the vibe comes down to the people that are presenting them and the people that are there. And I get a good feeling about this one.”

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Becca Newell

New Faces and Old Favorites at Monty Alexander Jazz Festival

The sensational Monty Alexander returns to Easton this Labor Day weekend for the eponymous three-day jazz festival, along with his hand-picked selection of musical companions—all newcomers, save for past festival favorite René Marie.

“Bringing all these guests and friends to Easton makes for a fun happening,” Alexander says, excitedly. “[The festival] has an unbelievable history; it’s gone so well. I’m proud of that.”

Monty Alexander (Photo by Jerry Michael)

On Friday, September 1st, trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg brings her trademark “trad fusion” to the stage for her 8 p.m. performance, Shaking Up the Jazz World. Though her music draws upon elements of early jazz, blues, swing, and even pop, the Canadian songwriter is heavily influenced by the legendary Louis Armstrong, whom she frequently draws comparisons to.

The fun continues into the weekend, starting with Saturday’s free community concert at 11 a.m., featuring the United States Navy Band Commodores. The 18-member group, recognized as the Navy’s premier jazz ensemble, will perform an eclectic mix of traditional big band music and exciting jazz vocal arrangements.

Trumpeter Sean Jones and his band take the stage Saturday afternoon for their 2 p.m. performance, titled Without Compromise, From Miles to Wynton to Sean Jones. Attendees can expect to hear the evolution of music from their recently released album, “Live from Jazz at the Bistro.”

“As the music is performed in each city, new life is breathed into it as each audience helps to mold the character of each piece,” says Jones.

Sean Jones (Photo by Jimmy Katz)

Jazz vocalist René Marie wraps up Saturday’s lineup with her 8 p.m. performance, A Remarkable Experience as René Marie Electrifies. With a style that borrows elements from folk, R&B, classical, and country genres, Marie’s body of work explores the human experience. Through her creative lyricism and sensual vocal delivery, Marie offers an enlightening experience for audience members.

Headliner Monty Alexander closes out the festival weekend on Sunday, September 3rd, with a “Sunday matinee spectacular,” kicking off at 2 p.m. The Jamaican-born musician is renowned for his vibrant personality and musical expression that result in an energetic, swingin’ performance. For this year’s festival, Alexander has invited a slew of musicians to join him on stage for The River, a reference to his album, released in the early ‘90s. Alexander says this performance will be somewhat of a revisitation of his repertoire and a reflection of his long-standing career in which he has shared the stage—or recording studio—with many of the jazz greats.

“Let me take you on a beautiful journey up the river that is about renewal and inspiration,” he adds, describing the concert. “I’m going to be a little bold and say ‘you don’t want to miss it!’”

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Becca Newell

Week Two of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival Opens with a Czech Concert

Pianist Robert McDonald

The second week of the renowned Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival will begin with a lively Czech-inspired concert and reception on Sunday, June 11 at 3 p.m. at the Aspen Institute, situated on the banks of the Wye River.  A Czech-inspired picnic will follow the concert and will include such delicacies as Czech-style latkes and meatballs, a variety of savory open-faced sandwiches and dips, wild mushroom tarts and salmon croquettes, as well as trifles, bread puddings and compotes for dessert.

According to Festival pianist Robert McDonald, “The Sunday concert at the Aspen Institute is drawn from the works of the three most important Czech composers—Dvorak, Janacek, and Smetana. Their styles succeed at being both strongly individual and complimentary all at once. National folk influences along with heartfelt emotional directness represent the defining strengths in their music.”

The Smetana G Minor Trio that closes the June 11 program is a tribute to Smetana’s beloved four-year old daughter who had died and, according to McDonald, is one of the truly memorable works in the Romantic chamber music literature.

During the week, Festival-goers will then be enthralled by the energetic music of Italian, French, Hungarian and Russian composers at concerts to be held at the Oxford Community Center, the Academy Art Museum and the Avalon Theatre.  And, after enjoying the music of Italian composers Vivaldi and Tartini at the Oxford Community Center on Wednesday, June 14 at 5:30 p.m., concert-goers can make reservations afterwards for an optional, Italian-themed dinner created by Chef Mark Salter at the Robert Morris Inn.

McDonald adds, “Though most concert programs that we play are constructed of works by composers from a variety of national backgrounds, it is always refreshing to put together recitals that draw exclusively from a single country as inspiration. This offers listener and performer alike a chance to compare the enormous range of musical styles that exist under the umbrella of a shared language, history, and national customs.”

Musicians performing at the Avalon Theatre at the opening concert of this year’s Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival. Photo by Cal Jackson.

The Festival wraps up with the Angels Concert at Watermelon Point in Easton featuring music of Latin America, with a catered reception by Gourmet by the Bay. The reception will feature such Eastern Shore favorites as crab-n-corn fritters with red pepper remoulade and charred vegetable gazpacho with lump crab, as well as such Latin favorites as fried plantains with a spicy pineapple relish and a tapas buffet including vegetable empanadas, chorizo stuffed mushrooms with queso blanco, and jerk chicken drummettes. Desserts will include salted dulce de leche tarts, banana coconut pudding shots, chocolate tres leches cake bites, and key lime raspberry tarts.

Sponsors of this year’s Festival include the Talbot County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, The Star Democrat, Talbot Spy, and What’s Up Media. Additional generous financial support from corporate, public and private benefactors enables Chesapeake Music to offer affordable tickets for Festival concerts and recitals; open rehearsals are free to the general public. 

This year’s concerts offer the opportunity to travel the world through an incredible variety of music with internationally-acclaimed artists right here on the Eastern Shore.  To purchase tickets, visit www.ChesapeakeMusic.org or call 410 819-0380. To make reservations for the optional fixed-price dinner at the historic Robert Morris Inn, call 410-226-5111. Registrations for the Angels Concert must be made by June 12.

Chamber Music Kicks Off Extraordinary Two-Week Festival On June 4

Festival-goers will experience the extraordinary as they travel the world through classical music at Chesapeake Music’s Annual Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, which will be held from June 4 through June 18, 2017.  Artistic Directors Marcy Rosen and J. Lawrie Bloom have developed an exciting program featuring 10 concerts over two music-filled weeks, including the premiere of a Primosch Quintet commissioned for Chesapeake Music.

The Festival includes acclaimed musicians from the world stage, renowned musical ensembles, and a range of familiar classics—Beethoven, Mozart, Gershwin, Ravel, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and more from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Hungary, Russia, Latin America, France and the United States.  Each concert represents composers from a different country.  Several concerts will include receptions with food and beverage pairings echoing the music of that country. 

Kim Kashkashian, an internationally-recognized voice on viola who will perform at the “Mozart by the Sea” concert at the Tred Avon Yacht Club (left) and Violinist Tessa Lark who will appear at the “Mozart by the Sea” and Christ Church USA concerts (right).

The opening concert at the Avalon Theatre will whet Festival-goers appetites for what’s to come with a potpourri of music from around the world and a pre-concert reception where guests can mix and mingle with old friends.  Jonathan Palevsky of WBJC will provide live concert commentary that night to kick off the Festival. On Friday evening at Christ Church, Easton, concert-goers will be treated to music from the United States, including the magic of Gershwin’s Lullaby for string quartet and Barber’s Adagio for string quartet. Thanks to the generosity of Arnold and Zena Lerman, this concert will also feature the premiere of a Primosch Quintet for oboe, violin, viola, cello and piano, commissioned for Chesapeake Music and performed by Peggy Pearson, Diane Walsh, Catherine Cho and others.  In addition to “Mozart by the Sea” at the Tred Avon Yacht Club, during the first week, concert-goers can also travel to Trinity Cathedral to enjoy Germany’s Beethoven and Brahms.

Sponsors of this year’s Festival include the Talbot County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, The Star Democrat, Talbot Spy, and What’s Up Media. Additional generous financial support from corporate, public and private benefactors enables Chesapeake Music to offer affordable tickets for Festival concerts and recitals; open rehearsals are free to the general public. 

This year’s concerts offer the opportunity to travel the world through an incredible variety of music with internationally-acclaimed artists right here on the Eastern Shore.  To purchase tickets, visit www.ChesapeakeMusic.org or call 410 819-0380.

Take a Musical Tour at the 2017 Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival

McDonnell Concert I Image 1

Pictured are artists performing at the 2016 Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival at Christ Church Easton. (Photo by William McDonnell)

Travel the world at the 32nd Annual Chesapeake Chamber Music (CCM) Festival which will be held in Talbot County, MD from June 4 through June 18, 2017 and experience the extraordinary. Ten concerts over two music-filled weeks of concerts will feature musicians from the world stage, renowned musical ensembles, and a range of familiar classics—Beethoven, Mozart, Gershwin, Ravel, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and more from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Hungary, Russia, and Latin America. The Festival also includes the premiere of a Primosch Quintet for oboe, violin, viola, cello and piano, commissioned for Chesapeake Music.

The opening concert at the Avalon Theatre in Easton will feature a potpourri of music from around the world and a pre-concert cocktail party. Festival goers will enjoy this year’s addition of concerts at new venues to include the Aspen Institute on the Wye River, and the Tred Avon Yacht Club, as well as musical premier at Christ Church Easton. Sponsors of this year’s Festival include the Talbot County Arts Council and the Maryland State Arts Council. Additional generous financial support from corporate, public and private benefactors enables Chesapeake Music to offer affordable tickets for Festival concerts and recitals; open rehearsals are free to the general public. Tickets go on sale in April 2017. For additional information, visit www.ChesapeakeMusic.org or call 410 819-0380.

The Harlem Quartet at Inn at Perry Cabin

Chesapeake Music of Easton, Maryland and the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond are thrilled to welcome the acclaimed Harlem Quartet to St. Michaels, Maryland for an exclusive performance on April 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Praised for its “panache” by The New York Times and for “bringing a new attitude to classical music” by The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Harlem Quartet is one of today’s hottest musical ensembles. The Harlem Quartet was the Silver Medal prize winner at the 2010 Chesapeake Chamber Music (CCM) Competition, one of the nation’s most prestigious chamber music competitions with one of the world’s largest chamber music prizes.

Pictured (left to right): Violinist Ilmar Gavilán, violinist Melissa White, violist Jaime Amador and cellist Felix Umansky. (Photo by Amy Schroeder)

Since their debut in 2006, the New York-based foursome has performed in chamber music series around the world and collaborated with the likes of Itzhak Perlman and jazz legend Chuck Corea, to name only two of many.

In fact, it was the Harlem Quartet’s album made with Corea and Gary Burton, “Mozart Goes Dancing,” that won them the Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition in 2013. They have been featured on CNN, NBC’s Today Show and News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and in 2009 performed for President and First Lady Obama at the White House.

Violinists Ilmar Gavilán and Melissa White, violist Jaime Amador and cellist Felix Umansky each are seasoned artists in their own right. Individually, they have performed with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, and the Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Julliard, National, New World, Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico and Utah symphony orchestras.

Not only exceptionally talented and musically versatile, the Harlem Quartet also is civic minded. Its mission is to advance diversity in classical music while engaging new audiences with varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. The group will soon launch its fourth album—a collaboration with the Chicago Sinfonietta featuring a new arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s iconic musical, West Side Story.

Tickets for the Harlem Quartet’s performance at Inn at Perry Cabin are limited and available on (443) 258-2230. $85 buys entry for one to the performance as well as admission to a pre-performance cocktail reception. Dinner and beverage specials will be tailored to the evening in both Stars restaurant and Purser’s Pub. Reservations are recommended for Stars and available at (410) 745-2200 and www.opentable.com/stars.

Chesapeake Music Receives Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund Grant

From L to R: John Flohr, Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund Board member; Steve Shearer, Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund Board member; Don Buxton, Executive Director, Chesapeake Music; Jackie Wilson, President, Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund Board; and Tom Lane, Immediate Past President of the Rotary Club and member of the Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund Board.

Chesapeake Music recently received a grant from the Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund for its YouthReach Program.  This grant assists Chesapeake Music in creating a transformational life experiences for children. According to Don Buxton, CM Executive Director, “The longer-term goal of the program is to awaken young people’s interest in, and ultimately their love for, the classical music art form.”

For further information about Chesapeake Music’s programs and musical offerings, contact Don Buxton at 410-819-0380 or visit chesapeakemusic.org. The 32st Annual Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival will be held from June 4 through June 18, 2017 on the Mid Shore.