Willie Jones III
He’s been called “one of the most animated drummers on the New York scene” by Downbeat Magazine. And the San Diego Union-Tribune recognized him as “a jazz drummer to recon with.” Ever since Willie Jones III put down roots in New York City back in 1997, he has grown to become one of the jazz capital’s most prominent drummers.
Jones’ earliest exposure to music was through his father, Willie Jones II, an accomplished and notable jazz pianist. He later went on to complete his academic training at the California Institute of the Arts where he studied under the tutelage of the legendary Albert “Tootie” Heath. After his training, Jones went on to work with some of jazz’s heavy hitters–Arturo Sandoval, Horace Silver, Roy Hargrove, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Milt Jackson and more.
Whether functioning as a savvy bandleader or a high-profile sideman, Jones applies to every context an abiding musicality and a tonal personality that, as Wynton Marsalis puts it, is “ever tasteful,” marked by what pianist Eric Reed, his frequent collaborator, calls “a West Coast swagger in his swing, with a looseness that isn’t lackadaisical and an edge that isn’t overwhelming.” Jones’ enormous talent has been showcased on seven studio albums of his own and through guest appearances on 51 albums.
When someone calls you a good trombone player, that’s not a bad compliment. But when a Jazz Master (Freddie Hubbard to be exact) calls you “one of the greatest trombone players in the world,” you know you’re doing a damn fine job. So there’s no question that Steve Davis knows how to handle a trombone.
Davis is widely regarded as one of today’s leading improvisers on the trombone. His lyrical, hard-swinging style first gained him broad recognition while working with the bands of jazz legends such as Art Blakey, Jackie McLean, Chick Corea’s Origin and the cooperative sextet, One For All. Steve has appeared in Downbeat Magazine’s Reader’s and Critic’s Polls numerous times, winning the TDWR (Rising Star) Trombone Category in 1998. Steve has also been nominated by The JJA four years in a row as Trombonist of the Year. Davis is featured on over 100 recordings. In recent years, he’s worked with a broad range of jazz icons, including Larry Willis’ Quintet, Freddie Hubbard and The New Jazz Composers Octet, Slide Hampton and The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band (feat. James Moody, Jimmy Heath and Roy Hargrove), The Jimmy Heath Big Band, Ron Carter Big Band, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver and Wynton Marsalis’ Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Terell Stafford has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time” and “a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Back in 1988, Stafford had a chance meeting with Wynton Marsalis who suggested that he study with Dr. William Fielder at Rutgers University. After studying trumpet fundamentals with Dr. Fielder, Stafford was inspired to play all genres of music including jazz. Stafford later went on to perform in Marsalis’ group Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
He’s also been an integral member in bands led by esteemed artists such as Cedar Walton, Sadao Watanabe, Herbie Mann, and Matt Wilson over the years. Along with a number of associated groups and accolades, Stafford’s illustrious career includes a Grammy Award for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard album and appearances on more than 130 albums.
London-born Ralph Moore has been a dedicated musician since he was a teenager, and the life has paid huge dividends. Born to a British show business family, Moore’s life has been culturally rich. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. After college, Moore picked up lengthy musical stints and recorded music with Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown, Roy Haynes, J.J. Johnson, Cedar Walton, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Hargrove, Oscar Peterson, Kenny Baron to name just a few.
Moore spent fifteen years playing tenor saxophone in the band for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. During that time, Moore collaborated in a few cooperative jazz quartets and quintets— one in particular—aptly named “Escape from New York,” featuring some of his Tonight Show co-horts, drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith and bassist Bob Hurst. Moore even released a number of albums for the Landmark (now 32 Jazz) Criss Cross, Concord, Reservoir and Savoy labels. With The Tonight Show with Jay Leno well behind him, Moore is always ready to jump in and get to who he intrinsically and innately is – a jazz musician playing and creating the music he loves.
Donald Vega was trained classically in piano in his native Nicaragua. He emigrated to the United States at age 14 and found a musical home with the Colburn School of Performing Arts. He began his studies there in classical piano with Teresa de Jong Pombo and Dr. Louis Lepley. Vega began learning the language of jazz from mentor Billy Higgins at The World Stage and continued at CSPA with Jeffrey Lavner, then later with bassist John Clayton at the University of Southern California. He went on to graduate from Manhattan School of Music and The Juilliard School where he studied with piano great, Kenny Barron.
His debut album, Tomorrows, was released in 2008 to rave reviews. In his sophomore album, Spiritual Nature (Resonance Records, 2012), he was joined by the regal rhythm tandem of bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash. Vega teamed up again with Lewis Nash on his most recent album, With Respect to Monty, (Resonance Records, 2015). Vega currently performs internationally as the pianist for world-renowned bassist Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio.
Like the masters before him, Gerald Cannon has established a fearless, solid groove that distinguishes him as a principal figure in jazz. Cannon’s father Benjamin, also a guitarist, bought him his first electric bass at the ripe young age of 10. He began playing bass in his father’s group ‘The Gospel Expressions' and he never looked back.
While Cannon was making his way in The Big Apple, acclaimed trumpeter Roy Hargrove came to a club one night while he was working. For the next seven years, Gerald performed as a member of Roy’s band at major jazz festivals all over the world, including the North Sea Jazz Festival, Cape Town Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, and the Montreal Jazz Festival. He also was a part of the award winning Crisol tour where Gerald played with great Cuban musicians like master percussionist Jose Luis “Chanquito” Quintana, Miguel “Anga” Diaz, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Chucho Valdes and studied with excellent bassist Orlando “Cachahito” Lopez and pianist Ruben Gonzalez.
Gerald carries the knowledge passed on to him by legendary bassists Ray Brown, Sam Jones, Ron Carter and Buster Williams and continues the legacy by conducting master classes throughout the U.S. and Europe.