Workshop Alumni Happenings Sept 1 – 14, 2023

By Vail Jazz

Alumni Happenings

Sept 1 – 14, 2023

The former Vail Jazz Workshop students who comprise the 2023 Alumni Sextet during the 29th annual Vail Jazz Party already underway in Vail CO are: Benny Benack III (2008 trumpet), Kenny Banks Jr. (2004 piano), Braxton Cook (2009 saxophone), Jimmy Macbride (2008 drums), Tia Fuller (1996 saxophone), and David Wong (1999 bass, also a member of the 2022 Alumni Sextet). That’s right, for the first time in recent history, there are two saxophone players in this year’s Sextet, and no trombonist! Do you think this will produce a different sound? Well, you’ll just have to attend one or more of their VJP performances (tickets and passes are available here) to find out!




Benny Benack III [see lead item, above] performs back-to-back gigs in NYC on September 13 and September 14, first in a jam session at Smalls and then in a trio with special guests at The Wallace.


2012 piano alum James Francies & Friends have a three-night gig at Birdland Theater in NYC, September 1, 2, and 3. Francies then appears as a special guest with trumpeter Nicholas Payton & Nouveau Standards on September 4 at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC.


Pianist Gerald Clayton (2002) appears on September 2 with the Charles Lloyd Kindred Spirits during the DC Jazzfest at the DC Wharf.


2007 saxophone alum Chad Lefkowitz-Brown performs in a quartet at the Wantagh Jazz Festival in Wantagh NY on September 2, and as part of his artist residency at the Berklee College of Music in Boston on September 7 and 8.


The free Detroit Jazz Festival in downtown Detroit includes pianists Johnny O’Neal and Sullivan Fortner (2002) in a “Tribute to Detroit Piano Masters” on September 3. Fortner then performs solo on September 6 at The Jazz Gallery in NYC, and he accompanies vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant at JazzFest White Plains, in White Plains NY, on September 9.


Da Camera presents Lakecia Benjamin (1999 saxophone) and her band Phoenix on September  8 at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston.


Trumpeter Keyon Harrold (1997) appears at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis during Jazz St. Louis’s  Music at the Intersection, September 8, and at the Grand Center Inn on September 9 and 10 in the same city. Then he’s on to Pittsburgh, for a September 14 performance at Highmark Stadium.


1997 piano alum Robert Glasper performs in Black Radio: A Hip-Hop 50 Celebration, in association with the Kennedy Center’s Hip-Hop Culture Council, September 9 at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center in Vienna VA.


The September 9 performance of “Bebop and Beyond: The Music of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie,” at the Rady Shell in San Diego CA’s Jacobs Park, includes David Wong [see lead item, above] on bass.


Pianist Bertha Hope and her Quintet, with Lucianna Padmore (1997) on drums, perform a free concert on September 10 at the Bronx Music Hall Plaza in the Bronx NY.


2010 trumpet alum Josh Shpak is in Peter Gabriel’s band during the former Genesis front-man’s concert at TD Garden in Boston on September 14.




Robert Glasper [see Performances, above] guest-appears on 16-year-old multi-instrumentalist Justin-Lee Schultz’s Just in the Moment, releasing September 1. Glasper and Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (fka Christian Scott, 2001 trumpet) are featured on the newly-released album, Nova, by Terrace Martin (1997 saxophone) and singer James Fauntleroy; listen to “Like It Like That.”


2014 trumpet alum Anthony Hervey’s new album, Words From My Horn, is now out, and is chock-full of contributions by other Workshop alumni: Isaiah J. Thompson (2014) on piano, Philip Norris (2016) on bass, and Miguel Russell (2019) on drums. Listen to the opening track, “Crystal Stair.”


Trumpeter Marquis Hill’s new album, Rituals + Routines, features Braxton Cook [see lead item, above] on alto sax and vocals.


Drummer Jeremy Dutton’s debut album as a leader, Anyone Is Better Than Here, features trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (2000) and pianist James Francies [see Performances, above]. Here is a video of last month’s album-release show, with Francies on piano, at Roulette in NYC.


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


Congratulations to Lakecia Benjamin [see Performances, above] on being named the 2023 Library of Congress Jazz Scholar.


Congratulations as well to Greg Evans (2003 drums), who has won a national search and been appointed Director of Jazz Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences at Binghamton University, in Binghamton NY.


Anyone who attended this summer’s Vail Jazz Festival educational performance by Sullivan Fortner [see Performances, above] at the Arrabelle Hotel in Vail were awed by the depth and breadth of his knowledge of music and jazz history. No wonder, then, that Fortner scored a perfect seven-out-of-seven in the September 2023 Downbeat magazine “Blindfold Test,” which challenges the featured artist (i.e., Fortner) to identify the music and musicians who performed on selected recordings. He nailed each of these piano recordings: “Beat’s Up” by Tommy Flanagan, “Soul Heir” by Geri Allen, “Take The A Train” by Duke Ellington, “Caravan” by Nat King Cole, “Autumn in New York” by Ahmad Jamal, “Mimosa” by Herbie Hancock, and “Scrimmage” by Gerald Clayton [see Performances, above]. Way to go, Sullivan!


Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (fka Christian Scott, 2001 trumpet) [see Recordings, above] is one of the commentators in the new “Trap Jazz” documentary on Hulu, which shines a light on the trap music subgenre of Hip Hop unique to the south.


[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!]