Workshop Alumni Happenings April 23 – May 6, 2024

By Vail Jazz

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival takes place this weekend (April 25-28) and next (May 3-5) in New Orleans LA. And there is no shortage of Vail Jazz Workshop alumni who will be performing in the Crescent City during this time span! The first weekend of the Festival includes saxophonist Charles Lloyd featuring pianist Gerald Clayton (2002); bassist Larry Grenadier with drummer Marcus Gilmore (2002); saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin (1999); saxophonist Khris Royal (2004) with rap artist Big Freedia; and the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp’s 30th Anniversary celebration featuring trumpeter Chief Adjuah (fka Christian Scott, 2001) along with Royal and Workshop trombone instructor Wycliffe Gordon). Adjuah is also joined by 2014 saxophone alum Morgan Guerin for consecutive-night performances at the Dew Drop Inn on April 25 and 26. Pianist Robert Glasper (1997) is joined by singer Yebba and other friends for a Jazz After Dark concert at the Orpheum Theater on April 27. And the Karl Denson Project, with trumpeter Keyon Harrold (1997), pianist James Francies (2012) and drummer Blaque Dynamite (aka Mike Mitchell, 2011), performs two sets on May 1 during Daze Between New Orleans, at Faubourg Brewery, and then at the after-party at Tipitina’s on May 2. Finally, Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra have Khris Royal (see above) performing with them on the Festival’s last day, May 5. Laissez le bon temps rouler!




Drummer Blaque Dynamite (see lead item, above) performs on April 23 at the Marigold in Easthampton MA.


In addition to his New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival performances, saxophonist Khris Royal (see lead item, above) has a bunch of NOLA gigs outside the Festival venue: on April 23 he’s at d.b.a. with Kid Chocolate and The Free P.O.C.; on April 25 he joins the No Boss Band featuring trumpeter Kermit Ruffins at Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge; on April 29 he’s back on stage with Kid Chocolate and The Free P.O.C. at d.b.a.; and on May 5 he’s at the Spotted Cat Music Club with Pat Casey and The New Sound.


2007 drums alum Bryan Carter joins vocalist Georgia Heers in a quartet performance at The Jazz Club in NYC on April 23. And on April 27 he accompanies trombonist Nick Finzer in a centennial celebration of JJ Johnson at the Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme CT.


Lakecia Benjamin (see lead item, above) performs on April 24 at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah NY.


The Brandon Goldberg Trio, led by 2023 piano alum Brandon Goldberg, performs at Dizzy’s Club in NYC on April 24, at The Local in Saugerties NY on April 25, and in the Common Room at the Pittsfield City Jazz Festival in Pittsfield MA on April 26.


Jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker and two other sight-impaired pianists, Jose Andre (2023 piano) and Justin Kauflin (2003), perform together at The Kennedy Center in DC on April 26.


1998 trumpet alum Jumaane Smith has a two-night quartet engagement at South Kitchen & Jazz Parlor in Philadelphia, April 26 and 27.


Benny Benack III (2008 trumpet) has back-to-back quartet performances at The London Club in Naples FL, April 26-27. On April 29 Benack performs with the Hartford Jazz Orchestra at Elicit Brewing in Manchester CT. And he joins a quartet with vocalist Nicole Zuraitis on May 6 at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights UT.


1997 piano alum Robert Glasper (see lead item, above) is in the lineup for the 2nd annual Austin Blues Festival at Moody Amphitheater in Waterloo Park, Austin TX, on April 28.


“Destination Jazz,” with Patrick Bartley (2010 saxophone) and William Schwartzman (2022 piano), commands the stage at the Waynesboro (PA) Area Senior High School Auditorium on April 28.


2002 alum Adam Alesi is on drums with Brian Swartz & The Swartzestra, the closing band of the 2nd Annual Local 47 Jazz Festival, on April 28 at the American Federation of Musicians Local 47 building in Burbank CA.


Guitarist Gilad Hekselman’s trio, with Obed Calvaire (1998) on drums, performs on April 28 during the 2024 Guitar Masters Festival at the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium in the NYC Bahai Center.


Alumni Gerald Clayton (see lead item, above) and Elena Pinderhughes (2011 saxophone) put on a duo performance (Pinderhughes on flute) at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay CA on April 28. Clayton is then at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz CA on April 29 and at Bell’s Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo MI on May 2.


Chief Adjuah (see lead item, above) and Morgan Guerin (see lead item, above) perform together on April 28 at Water Works in Houston, on April 30 at City Winery in Atlanta, and on May 2 at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Madison WI.


The School of Jazz and Contemporary Music at The New School in NYC presents the Blue Note Ensemble, co-directed by James Francies (see lead item, above), on May 1.


Saxophonist Hailey Niswanger (2007) takes the stage at the newly-reopened Portland OR club, The 1905, on May 2.


2007 alum Owen Broder (saxophone) premieres his own original compositions at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, in Gresham OR, on May 3.


Pianist Daniel Meron performs, with Jimmy Macbride (2008) on drums, at the Ginger Rabbit Jazz Lounge in Columbus OH on May 4.


Pianist Jeremy Siskind (2003) performs with singer Lia Booth at Campus Jax in Newport Beach CA on May 5.




Saxophonist Charles McPherson releases Reverence on April 26, with 1999 alum David Wong on bass (as well as Workshop instructor Terell Stafford on trumpet).


Saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s new album, Fearless Movement, with 1997 saxophone alum Terrace Martin on “The Visionary,” is due out on May 3. And Martin has released his own new album, Drones, with musical appearances by Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Leon Bridges, and others.


Bassoonist Joy Guidry’s album Amen, due for release on May 5, includes “Members Don’t Get Weary,” a tribute to Max Roach that includes Morgan Guerin (see lead item, above) on that track; listen here.


2000 trumpet alum Ambrose Akinmusire produced and plays on “God Save The Queen,” heard here, from vocalist and electronica musician Moor Mother’s new album, The Great Bailout.


Trombonist Altin Sencalar’s new album, Discover the Present, has 2014 alum Anthony Hervey on trumpet; listen here to “Awareness.”


2020 alum Kellin Hanas makes a special guest appearance on trumpet on “There But For The Grace of God,” a track from the band Alliance’s new self-titled album.


Baritone saxophonist Dave Schumacher and his band Cubeye’s latest album, Smoke In The Sky, features trumpeter Josh Evans (2002); here is the title track.


Slum Village’s forthcoming (May 3) album, F.U.N., has a special guest appearance on “Since 92” by Robert Glasper (see lead item, above)


Saxophonist Owen Broder (see Performances, above) has released Hodges: Front and Center Vol. 2, the second album in his tribute to alto saxophone great Johnny Hodges, and the recording features Bryan Carter (see Performances, above). Listen here to “Big Smack.”


Vocalist Alyssa Allgood’s new album, From Here, includes 1999 saxophone alum Greg Ward. Listen here to “Dream.”


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


Carnegie Hall has announced the teen musicians from across the US selected for NYO Jazz 2024, and VJ Workshop alumni are heavily represented: Skylar Tang (2021 trumpet), Preston Rupert (2023 trumpet), Miriam Goroff-Behel (2023 saxophone), Benjamin Schwartz (2022 drums), Ruby Farmer (2022 bass), Rayah Thomas (2023 bass), and Ethan Oliver (2023 drums). A highlight of the residency will be a Carnegie Hall performance on July 20 led by trumpeter Sean Jones and featuring vocalist Alicia Olatuja. Congratulations to all these alumni!


This year’s composer/conductor in The University of Scranton World Premiere Composition Series is Nate Sparks (2012 trumpet), who has been commissioned to write two works — one for The Univ of Scranton Concert Band and one for The University of Scranton Concert Choir, each of which will have its world premiere on May 4 at The University of Scranton (PA). In 2018, Sparks contributed to drummer Bobby Sanabria and the Multiverse Big Band’s Grammy-nominated album “West Side Story Reimagined.” Leader of the Nate Sparks Big Band, Sparks currently is Director of the Des Moines (IA) Youth Jazz Orchestra.


Hailey Niswanger (see Performances, above) provides a noon Masterclass on May 3 at the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival at the Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham OR.


[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!] 


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