Workshop Alumni Happenings Oct 11 – 24, 2023

By Vail Jazz

Alumni Happenings

Oct 11 – 24, 2023

Congratulations to pianists Esteban Castro (2018) and Brandon Goldberg (2023) for being selected by the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz as semi-finalists for the Institute’s 2023 International Piano Competition. Castro and Goldberg will compete in the semi-finals on October 14 at Perelman Performing Arts Center in NYC before a panel of acclaimed jazz pianists: Bill Charlap, Orrin Evans, Hiromi, Danilo Perez, and Hancock himself. The semi-finals session is free and open to the public; more info at https://hancockinstitute.org. The Competition finals will be held the next evening in the same location. Best of luck to both Workshop alumni!




Josh Shpak (2010 trumpet) continues touring with former Genesis lead vocalist Peter Gabriel; next stops are at the Chase Center in San Francisco on October 11 and the Kia Forum in LA on October 13.


Grace Kelly (2008) takes her saxophone and band to the United Artists Exchange Amphitheatre in Wilmington DE on October 11 and the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival in Rehoboth Beach DE on October 14. They next appear on October 21 at Coachman Park during the Clearwater Jazz Holiday in Clearwater FL and on October 22 at the Fiesta Night Club in Passaic NJ.


The KASA Quartet performs with saxophonist Eddie Barbash (2005) on October 12 at the C-U Folk & Roots Festival in Urbana IL. 


Trumpeter Anthony Hervey (2014) continues his national tour as a member of the band in the “When You Wish Upon A Star” jazz tribute to 100 years of Disney. The tour takes him to Pepperdine University’s Smothers Theatre in Malibu CA on October 12, the Fox Tucson Theatre in Tucson AZ on October 14, the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler AZ on October 15, the Traverse City Opera House in Traverse City MI on October 17, the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre at Michigan State University in East Lansing MI on October 18, Indiana University in Bloomington IN on October 19, Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts in Bloomington IL on October 20, College of DuPage McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn IL on October 21, the Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek WI on October 22, and the Grand Theater in Wausau WI on October 14.


Saxophonist Alex Laurenzi (2015) leads an all-VJ-Workshop-alumni trio in a gig at Shanghai Jazz in NYC on October 12; Laurenzi is joined by 2015 bass alum Solomon Gottfried and 2022 drums alum Ben Schwartz. Then, on October 20, Laurenzi takes the stage with the Rachel Z Trio + Guest at Boonton Coffee, also in the Big Apple.


Benny Benack III (2008 trumpet) takes the SF JAZZ Center stage at the Thelonious Monk Festival in San Francisco on October 13. Benack then crosses the country for a trio performance at The Wallace in NYC on October 14, and quartet performances at the Rose Lehman Arts Center in Harrisburg PA on October 15 and JazzTX in San Antonio TX October 18-19.


2000 trumpet alum Ambrose Akinmusire‘s new ensemble, Owl Song, performs at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in LA in an album-release show on October 14. Then they’re on to the Groton Music Center in Groton MA on October 19 and the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel IN on October 21.


Greg Evans (2003) is on drums with the Zydeco dance band Rose and the Bros, October 14 at the Smith Center for the Arts in Geneva NY.


Pianist Sullivan Fortner (2002) delivers a solo performance at Highfield Hall & Gardens, as part of Falmouth Jam’s Fall Concert Series, October 15 in Falmouth MA.


The Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle on October 15 features a performance by Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah (fka 2001 trumpet alum Christian Scott). On October 21, Adjuah provides live music accompaniment as Complexions Contemporary Ballet performs a world premiere of a work commissioned by the New Orleans Ballet Association, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts in New Orleans.


Summer Camargo (2018) is on trumpet in a celebration of the music of saxophonist Eddie Harris, October 17 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club in NYC.


Pianist Isaiah J. Thompson (2014) plays with guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli and singer Jessica Molaskey during a multi-night gig October 17-21 at Café Carlyle in NYC, and returns with them there on October 24.


Saxophonist Terrace Martin (1997) performs with Las Chikas on October 17 at City Winery in Boston, and again at the BRIC JazzFest on October 19 in Brooklyn NY. Then you can catch him October 20-22 in a Dinner Party show with saxophonist Kamasi Washington and 1997 piano alum Robert Glasper, during Glasper’s continuing “Robtober” residency at the Blue Note in NYC. That residency includes October 11-15 gigs joining Glasper with singer Norah Jones, and his two-night turn at the piano October 17-18, all at the Blue Note.


2009 saxophone alum Braxton Cook has an October 20 gig at Thalia Hall in Chicago.


Khris Royal (2004 saxophone) celebrates his birthday with his band Dark Matter in a “Birthday Bash” on October 21 at the Blue Nile in New Orleans.


Drummer Blaque Dynamite (aka 2011 alum Mike Mitchell) performs at the Sultan Room in Brooklyn NY on October 24.




Trumpeter Nicholas Payton’s newly-released album, Drip, features Robert Glasper (see Performances, above) on “The Backward Step.” Listen here.


Sullivan Fortner (see Performances, above) and bassist David Wong (1999) appear on singer Samara Joy’s forthcoming (October 27) A Joyful Holiday EP, a six-song collection of her seasonal favorites. Here’s a visualizer for “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” And Joy’s new self-produced single, “Tight,” includes drummer Evan Sherman (2009) in the backing band; here’s that track.


Busty and the Bass’s forthcoming (November 17) album, Forever Never Cares, features Terrace Martin (see Performances, above) on “No Self-Control.”


Bassist Ethan Philion’s Quartet has released the album Gnosis, with 1999 alum Greg Ward on saxophone; listen to “Nostalgia.”


2014 trombone alum Nick Lee co-produced this visualizer for the pre-release of rapper/singer B.I’s single, “4 Letters,” from the forthcoming (November 10) release of the album Love or Loved Part 2.


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


2003 piano alum Justin Kauflin is one of the musicians living with disabilities who collaborated to provide live instrumentation of the score for Full Circle, a documentary-style film that recently won the Best Adventure and Audience Choice awards at the 2023 Breckenridge Film Fest in Breckenridge CO. The film tracks snowboarder Trevor Kennison’s return to the sport following a broken back he sustained in competition.


Walt Disney Records has released six new soundtracks for the second season of Launchpad, Disney’s collection of six short films from underrepresented filmmakers. One of the six, “Black Belts,” features music by Ambrose Akinmusire (see Performances, above). You can listen to that soundtrack here.


Congratulations to Grace Kelly (see Performances, above) on being a 2023 Boston Music Awards nominee for Jazz Artist of the Year. The ballots now go out to a public vote, with the winner announced on December 20.


[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!]