Workshop Alumni Happenings May 12 – May 26, 2023

By Vail Jazz

Alumni Happenings

May 12 –  May 26, 2023




The May 12 DACAMERA premiere of drummer Kendrick Scott’s “Unearthed,” an evening-length work inspired by the Sugar Land 95 (the 95 African Americans buried in an unmarked grave near Houston between 1878 and 1911), features Gerald Clayton (2002) on piano and Joe Sanders (2001) on bass, at the Cullen Theater in Houston.


Symphony Center Jazz in Chicago presents “An Evening with Dave Holland,” featuring Kenny Barron, Kevin Eubanks, and Obed Calvaire (1998 drums), on May 12.


Grammy® nominated saxophonist Khris Royal (2004) appears with The Point on May 15 at New Orleans’ Spotted Cat.


Pianist James Francies (2012) performs with saxophonist Cliff Gordon on May 14 at The Water Works in Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, during the “Jazzy Sundays in the Parks” concert series. On May 15, he takes the stage at Blue Note in NYC.


Chicagoan Greg Ward (1999 alto sax) takes the stage in Philadelphia on May 17 at Solar Myth with his quintet Rogue’s Parade.


Pianist Sullivan Fortner (2002) accompanies vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC on May 19.


Natalie Barbieri (2019 saxophone) performs with her band on May 19 at the Bitter End in NYC, and she plays her horn in a “Face to Face” tribute to the music of Billy Joel and Elton John, on May 20 at Plattdeutsche Park in Franklin Square NY.


Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (2000) will be in Minneapolis for 2 nights) at Walker Art Center. On May 19, he offers an evening of improvisation with ten musicians from his ensemble. The following night will be the world premiere of his composition Honey from a Winter’s Stone, again featuring his ten-person ensemble.


Recent American Pianists Award winner Isaiah J. Thompson (2014) will be on keys with the John Pizzarelli trio May 19-21 at Baltimore’s Keystone Korner, focusing on songs from stage & screen.


Benny Benack (2008 trumpet) appears at Smalls in NYC on May 24 for two sets, the first featuring his quintet, the second as host of an open jam session at midnight.


Also May 24, a half-block down 10th Street, Benny’s 2008 fellow alum Jimmy Macbride (2008) will play drums at Mezzrow for a couple of trio sets with bass and guitar. 


In Los Angeles, saxophonist Hailey Niswanger (2007) will perform on May 24 as Mae.Sun at Resident. 


Grammy-winning trumpeter Maurice “Mobetta” Brown (1999) will be performing with friends on May 24 at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver.


Lakecia Benjamin (1999) will play alto sax with Phoenix on May 24 at City Winery in Nashville.




Vocalist Kurt Elling and guitarist Charlie Hunter have a new album, SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree, scheduled for release on September 15, and it features 2006 alum Corey Fonville on drums. The album’s first single, “Not Here/Not Now,” can be heard here.


Trumpeter Anthony Hervey (2014) is set to release his debut album Words From My Horn on June 9, followed by an album release party at Dizzy’s (NYC) June 17. Joining Anthony on many of the 12 tracks are Vail Jazz alum Philip Norris (2016 bass) and fellow 2014 Workshop classmate/pianist Isaiah J. Thompson [see Performances, above]. Here’s Hervey performing the title track a year ago, with alumni colleagues Philip Norris (2016) on bass and Christian McGhee (2014) on drums.




In this issue, Benny Benack, Philip Norris, Anthony Hervey, Obed Calvaire and Joe Sanders have all played with renowned jazz pianist and Vail Jazz favorite Emmet Cohen. In fact, many of our alumni, including Russell Hall (2010), Bryan Carter (2007), Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (2007), Jeffery Miller (2013), Patrick Bartley (2010), Evan Sherman (2009) among many others, have all played with Emmet in recent years. You might say Emmet is an “honorary” alum!  You can catch him in a live-streamed performance from his place in Harlem NY on June 12 (www.facebook.com/heyemmet) with Workshop instructors Terell Stafford and Dick Oatts as special guests.


[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!]