Workshop Alumni Happenings Feb 13 – Feb 26, 2024

By Vail Jazz

Workshop class of 2000 trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire’s musicianship contributed to two albums receiving Grammy Awards earlier this month. Akinmusire played trumpet on pianist Billy Childs’s The Winds of Change, which won for Best Jazz Instrumental Album; and on singer-songwriter/bassist Meshell Ndegeocello’s The Omnichord Real Book, which won for Best Alternative Jazz Album. Congratulations to Ambrose! He wasn’t alone among Workshop alumni receiving 2024 Grammy accolades; for a brief overview, scroll down to Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note.




2008 trumpet alum Benny Benack III headlines (along with trumpeter Bria Skonberg) “Sing and Swing: Our American Songbook,” a performance at the M.K. Cox Performing Arts Center in St. George UT. The show’s tour dates continue on February 15 at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls ID; February 16 at the College of Southern Idaho Fine Arts Building in Twin Falls ID; February 17 at the Val Browning Center for the Arts in Ogden UT; February 20 at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville KY; February 21 at the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium in Athens OH; February 22 at the Midland Center for the Arts in Midland MI; February 23 at the Cliffe College of Creative Arts in Youngstown OH; February 24 at Harrisburg University of Science & Technology in Harrisburg PA; and February 25 at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx NY.


2007 alum Bryan Carter (drums) is featured with the Konrad Paszkudzki Trio in a “Things Are Swingin'” show of the tunes of Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee, at City Winery in Atlanta on Valentines Day, February 14.


Other Valentines Day shows:

  • “Sittin’ In and Groovin’ Out,” by the Metta Quintet, features Greg Ward (1999) on saxophone, at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore CA.


  • Anthony Hervey (2014 trumpet) with his quintet at Jazz Gallery in NYC. Hervey follows this up on February 15 when he joins the Christian McBride Big Band at the 92nd Street Y in NYC and again on February 23 at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte NC. Then he performs in a “Fine & Mellow” jazz series at the National Arts Club in NYC on February 26.


  • Trumpeter Keyon Harrold (1997) at the Blue Note in NYC; then he’s on to the Portland Jazz Festival with other alumni (see item below these Valentines Day listings), and he has a February 25 performance in Portland at The Get Down Music Revue.


  • The nationwide tour of the Blue Note Quintet, with Gerald Clayton (2002) on piano and Matt Brewer (2000) on bass, celebrating the 85th Anniversary of Blue Note Records, has a Valentines Day performance at The Alluvian in Traverse City MI. The Quintet tour then continues with the following stops:  February 15 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square PA; February 16 at Chicago Symphony Center in Chicago; February 17 at Lawrence Memorial Chapel in Appleton WI; February 18 at Pablo Center at the Confluence, in Eau Claire WI; February 20 at The Historic Theater in Portsmouth NH; February 21 at Groton Hill Music in Groton MA; February 22 at Bowker Auditorium in Stockbridge Hall, Amherst MA; February 23 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre in Symphony Space NYC; and February 24 at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Jazz Concert Hall in Pittsburgh. For a complete listing of the tour dates/locations, click here.


Chief Adjuah (fka 2001 trumpet alum Christian Scott) leads his quintet at City Winery in Boston on February 15, at the Olin Arts Center in Lewiston ME on February 16, and at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club in Portsmouth NH on February 17.


Trumpeter Jumaane Smith (1998) performs in a “Louis! Louis! Louis!” tribute to Armstrong, Prima, and Jordan, at The Ware Center in Millersville PA on February 16.


Alphonso Horne (2004 trumpet) fronts his band, The Gotham Kings, in performances on February 16, 17 and 18 at the South Jazz Kitchen in Philadelphia.


Keyon Harrold (see Valentines Day item above), Sullivan Fortner (2002 piano), Braxton Cook (2009 saxophone) and Hailey Niswanger (2007 saxophone) perform at the Portland (OR) Jazz Festival held February 16 to March 2; for schedules, see pdxjazz.org.  Fortner also accompanies Cecile McLorin Salvant on February 17 at Spivey Hall in Atlanta, February 19-21 at Steinmetz Hall in Orlando FL, and February 22 at the Blue Note in Napa CA. Fortner’s trio then performs at Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland on February 23, at the Bach Dancing Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay CA on February 25, and at Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz on February 26. And Cook has a two-night gig, February 23-24, at Missy Lane’s Assembly Room in Durham NC.


Saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin (1999) performs at Carver Community Cultural Center in San Antonio TX on February 17.


David Wong (1999) plays bass in the Bill Charlap Trio during a two-night (February 17-18) gig at Keystone Korner in Baltimore MD.


Drummer Evan Sherman (2009) fronts his big band on February 18 at Birdland in NYC.


2014 piano alum Isaiah J. Thompson performs with the John Pizzarelli Trio on February 21 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale FL, and on February 24 at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis MO.


Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (2000) has a La Jolla (CA) Music Society performance with his quintet on February 23, at The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.


Russell Hall (2010) is back on the bass with the Emmet Cohen Trio in a February 24 performance at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center in Notre Dame IN.


Kofi Shepsu (2017) is on drums and Tim Green (1998) is on sax with Sparx on February 24 at Takoma Station in Takoma Park DC.




2012 alum Jeremy Corren is featured on piano and 2014 alum Kanoa Mendenhall on bass on vibraphonist Joel Ross’s just-released album, nublues, which is among Jazziz magazine’s Februarry 2024 list of the “10 Albums You Need To Know.” Corren and Mendenhall also receive “Composer/Lyricist” credits on the album. Listen here to the title track.


The Last Ark Out quintet, featuring Hailey Niswanger (see Performances, above) releases the album Lift on February 23; listen here to the track “Libra.”


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


When singer Samara Joy picked up her third Grammy Award earlier this month, for Best Jazz Performance for the single “Tight,” her acceptance speech included a shout-out to drummer Evan Sherman (see Performances, above) among other members of “the incredible band that played with me on this song.” This year’s Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album went to the soundtrack album to the Broadway show Some Like It Hot (the show closed at the end of 2023), and included honors for Bryan Carter (see Performances, above) who co-produced it. Trumpeter Brandon Lee (2000) is a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, whose Basie Swings The Blues album won for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Saxophonist Braxton Cook (see Performances, above) had production credits on Taylor Swift’s Midnights, which won for Album of the Year. And piano alum Jeremy Siskind (2003) contributed arrangements and collaborated with soprano Julia Bullock, whose Walking In The Dark won for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Congratulations to Evan, Bryan, Brandon, Braxton, Jeremy, and Ambrose [see lead item, above], as well as to Workshop alumni who were 2024 nominees (1997 piano alum Robert Glasper, 1997 saxophone alum Terrace Martin) or played on 2024 nominated recordings (2006 drums alum Corey Fonville). We’re proud of all of you!


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 and is a great way to keep in touch with your alumni colleagues and stay current on what’s happening with them. To join, contact Alan Tanenbaum at alumni@vailjazz.org and he’ll send you the link!