Workshop Alumni Happenings April 28 – May 11, 2023

By Vail Jazz

Alumni Happenings

April 28 –  May 11, 2023


Congratulations to 2014 Vail Jazz Workshop alum Isaiah J. Thompson, who just won the prestigious 2023 American Pianists Award for jazz, presented by the American Pianists Association. Thompson triumphed after a nationwide, multi-venue, live competition held over the past 13 months, capped by last weekend’s two-night face-off among the five finalists, one of whom was 2018 Workshop alum Esteban Castro. Thompson, who performed at the Vail Jazz Party last Labor Day weekend, recently released the critically acclaimed album The Power of the Spirit. As the winner, he will receive prizes with a total value of $200,000. Thompson, Castro and the other finalists gave stellar performances throughout the competition and now rightly take their place at the forefront of this new generation of celebrated American jazz pianists. Bravo! From the competition, watch his solo performance of “A Prayer” here.




The Smoogies, with Harvel Nakundi (2006) on drums, appear in the Timucua Jazz Series in Orland FL on April 28 in Orlando FL.


Fresh off his win in the 2023 American Pianists Awards competition [see lead item above], Isaiah J. Thompson accompanies John Pizzarelli at Birdland (NYC) for the guitarist’s album release shows on April 28 and 29. Thompson and Pizzarelli then perform on April 30 at Chubb Theatre in Concord NH, and on May 5 at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown NJ in a tribute to Pizzarelli’s late father, the legendary jazz guitarist, Bucky.


Trumpeter Nicholas Payton’s set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which runs April 28 – May 7, features MonoNeon and the 2006 Workshop class’s other drummer, Corey Fonville, during the Festival’s first weekend (April 28).


Trombonist Ethan Santos (2015) is in four different ensembles during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: on April 28 with Tank & the Bangas; on April 29 with Alexey Marti & Afrogumbo; on April 30 with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra featuring singer Jazzmeia Horn; and on May 5 with Trumpet Mafia. Santos has a number of other NOLA gigs too: on May 2 with Trumpet Mafia at the Royal Frenchmen Hotel; on May 4 with Tank & the Bangas at The Joy Theatre; later on May 5 (after the Trumpet Mafia show) with 1999 Workshop alum Maurice “Mobetta” Brown (trumpet) at the Rabbit Hole (you can catch Brown earlier in the week during a late-night NOLA get-down the night of April 30 into May 1 at the Toulouse Theatre); and with Trumpet Mafia again on May 9 at the Royal Frenchmen Hotel. 


Trumpeter Benny Benack III (2008) is with his quartet at the Civic Music Association in Des Moines IA on April 28, and then Benack performs at Winter’s Jazz Club in Chicago on April 29. He and his quartet have a flurry of gigs throughout the remainder of this Alumni Happenings period: April 30-May 1 at The 1905 in Portland OR; May 2 at the Sam First Club in LA; May 6 at Revelers Hall in Dallas; May 7 at JazzTX in San Antonio TX; May 8 at the Parker Jazz Club in Austin TX; and May 9-10 back at JazzTX in San Antonio.


The “At the Movies: Grace Kelly with Strings” tour, where 2008 saxophone alum Grace Kelly plays with a 15-piece ensemble doing reimagined versions of her favorite songs from movies, includes a stop at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston on April 29.


Jamael Dean (2013 piano) and Sharada Shashidhar perform together at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson CA during the Dymally International Jazz & Arts Festival on April 29.


World premieres of “Miniatures” from 2007 piano alum Sam Yulsman‘s Encyclopedia of Longing, followed by collaborative covers of songs by Tom Waits, are presented April 29 at the Kenneth C. Griffin Sidewalk Studio in David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center NYC, as part of the Kravis Nightcap Series.


Pianist Robert Glasper (1997) is in the lineup for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue’s “Treme Threauxdown” concert on April 29 at the Saenger Theater in New Orleans. Glasper later kicks off the Mary J. Blige “Strength of a Woman” Festival and Summit with a special performance on May 11 at City Winery in Atlanta.


Philip Norris (2016) is on bass with the Emmet Cohen Trio and saxophonist Houston Person at the Pittsfield City Jazz Festival, in Pittsfield MA, on April 30; and then in the Trio’s consecutive-night Birdland (NYC) performances: on May 2 with vibraphonist Warren Wolf, on May 3 with trumpeter Bruce Harris and saxophonist Jerry Weldon, on May 4 and 5 in a Trio show, and on May 6 with saxophonist Person.


2013 trumpet alum John Michael Bradford performs on May 2 at Tipitina’s Uptown in New Orleans.


2018 saxophone alum Coby Petricone-Berg performs with guitarist David Rourke at The Meadows in Brooklyn NY on May 4.


Saxophonist Tia Fuller (1996) has a May 4 gig at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club in Portsmouth NH.


Zaccai Curtis (1999 piano) is a featured guest during a May 4-7 premiere run of the Steven Oquendo Latin Jazz Orchestra performing the music of Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez at Dizzy’s Club in NYC. Curtis then performs on May 9 at SOBS in NYC.


Pianist Dan Nimmer and 1999 bass alum David Wong present a duo concert at 4 Waldron Avenue in Summit NJ on May 7.


A 15-piece “Purple Party” tribute to Prince, with Khris Royal (2004) on saxophone, occurs at The Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans on May 7.


Keyon Harrold (1997) performs his original music as special guest trumpeter in a free Symphonic Jazz Orchestra concert on May 7 at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach CA.


Patricia Brennan’s More Touch percussion ensemble, featuring Marcus Gilmore on drums, performs on May 7 at the Peter Jay Sharp Building in Brooklyn NY.


2004 trumpet alum Alphonso Horne performs at the Cape May Ferry Grand Green Space in Cape May NJ on May 7.


2014 trumpet alum Anthony Hervey performs with the Essentially Ellington Alumni Band at Dizzy’s in NYC on May 8.


Pianist Phillip Golub (2011) debuts his new quintet in a performance at The Owl Music Parlor in Brooklyn NY on May 11.




Israeli guitarist Tomer Cohen’s debut album, Not The Same River, features Obed Calvaire (1998) on drums. Listen here to “Connecting Dots.”


Norwegian violinist and singer Alexander Rybak has released a new single, “1000 Views,” featuring alum saxophonist Grace Kelly [see Performances above]. Watch this video of the release.


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


Trumpeter Anthony Hervey (2014) [see Performances above] has just been recognized by grammy.com as one of “10 Emerging Jazz Artists To Watch.” Hervey’s debut album as a leader, Words From My Horn, is due for release in June; here he is performing the title track with Workshop alumni colleagues Philip Norris [see Performances above] and Christian McGhee (2014 drums).


[If you’re a Vail Jazz Workshop alum, do you know about the communication channel we created exclusively for alumni? It’s free on Slack, is a great way to network and keep in touch with your alumni colleagues, and enables you to stay current on more about what’s happening with all things alumni-related. To join, contact Alan Tanenbaum at alumni@vailjazz.org and he’ll send you the link!]