Workshop Alumni Happenings May 7 – May 20, 2024

By Vail Jazz

The Jazz Journalists Association has announced its nominees for Performance and Recordings in the 2024 JJA Jazz Awards, and among them are a number of Vail Jazz Workshop alumni – as well as a couple of Workshop instructors! Alum Ambrose Akinmusire (2000) and instructor Terell Stafford have both been nominated for Trumpeter of the Year. Alum Sullivan Fortner (2002) has been nominated for Pianist of the Year, and fellow alumni pianists Isaiah J. Thompson (2014) and Micah Thomas (2013) are nominees for Up & Coming Musician of the Year. Lakecia Benjamin (1999) has been nominated for Alto Saxophonist of the Year, Elena Pinderhughes (2011 saxophone) for Flutist of the Year, and Luques Curtis (2000) for Bassist of the Year. And the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, co-led by Workshop Education Director and bass instructor John Clayton, is a nominee for Large Ensemble of the Year. The winners will be announced on May 8 on the Jazz Journalists Association website, www.jjajazzawards.org




2014 alum Morgan Guerin (saxophone) performs with singer Alexis Lombre on May 7 at the Harris Theater in Chicago.


Saxophonist Khris Royal (2004) is with Kid Chocolate and The Free P.O.C. on May 7 at d.b.a. in New Orleans.


2008 trumpet alum Benny Benack III has a quartet performance on May 7 at Bayside Restaurant in Newport Beach CA. Benack then performs with a quintet at Vibrato in LA on May 8. On May 14, he leads a jam session at Smalls in NYC and on May 15 he’s with a quartet at Vic’s Lounge in Las Vegas. On May 16, Benack is part of the Emmet Cohen Organ Band’s show at UC Davis, in Davis CA; and he joins singer Dylan Haynes for a duo performance on May 19 at JazzVox in Seattle.


Pianist Isaiah J. Thompson (see lead item, above) leads his quartet in a performance on May 8 at Dizzy’s in NYC, and on May 9 at the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning in Queens NY. Then Thompson has a series of gigs with guitarist John Pizzarelli: on May 10 in a “Billie & Blue Eyes” tribute along with singer Catherine Russell at SHU Community Theatre in Fairfield CT, on May 11 along with the Jazz MN Orchestra at The Dakota in Minneapolis, on May 12 with Pizzarelli’s trio at the same venue, and again with the trio on May 18 at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel NY.


Keyon Harrold (1997 trumpet) performs with Foreverland on May 9 at Terminal West in Atlanta, and for the next two nights (May 10-11) at Missy Lane’s Assembly Room in Durham NC.


Drummer Bryan Carter (2007) joins trombonist Nick Finzer in a JJ Johnson centennial celebration at Smalls in NYC on May 9, and he performs with singer Aaron Tveit at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago on May 18.


Pianist Brandon Goldberg (2023) performs with singer Alexis Cole during the Hart Community Performing Arts Series in Hart MI on May 10; then they move to Chicago for a show at Winter’s Jazz Club on May 11.


Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit moves this year from Atlanta to NYC, and features Robert Glasper (1997 piano) performing a jazz concert at the Blue Note on May 10. Then Glasper performs at Crown Festival Park during the Sugar Land Jazz Festival, in Sugar Land TX, on May 12.


Saxophonist Patrick Bartley (2010) appears at the Main Street Jazz Fest in Columbia SC on May 11.


The Blue Note in NYC hosts the James Francies (2012 piano) Trio, with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeremy Dutton, on May 13.


Saxophonist Braxton Cook (2009) performs at the A&R Music Bar in Columbus OH on May 13 and at The Shelter in Detroit on May 15. Then he’s at the Lodge Room in Highland Park CA on May 20.


Spanish composer, flugelhorn player and trumpeter Milena Casado performs with her quartet, which includes 2014 alum Kanoa Mendenhall on bass, on May 16 at Alphabet City in Pittsburgh.


The Victor Garcia Latin Sextet, with Rocky Yera (2000) on tenor sax, holds forth at The Rootabaga Jazz Festival on May 17 at the Galesburg (IL) Community Arts Center.


1998 trumpet alum Jumaane Smith performs in a “Louis! Louis! Louis!” tribute to Armstrong, Jordan, and Prima on May 18 at the Germantown (TN) Performing Arts Center.


The Christian X.M. McGhee Orchestra, led by drummer Christian McGhee (2014), take the stage at Dizzy’s in NYC on May 20.




To the Surface, a new album by pianist Lawrence Fields and his trio, includes Corey Fonville (2006) on drums. Listen here to “The Lookout.”


Morgan Guerin (see Performances, above) releases Tales of the Façade on May 10.


Pianist Anthony D’Alessandro’s newly released debut album, Searchin’, includes Benny Benack III (see Performances, above) on trumpet and vocals. Listen here to “East of the Sun.”


Marcus Gilmore (2002) plays the drums on saxophonist Gregory Groover Jr.’s first album of original compositions, Loveabye, which was just released; listen here to the title track.


Keyboard player Adam Hersh’s Tornado Watch, recorded live at Sam’s First in LA, is due out on May 17 and features Evan Abounassar (2015) on trumpet.


Pianist and singer Kandace Springs’s new single, “Chasing Shadows,” from her forthcoming album Run Your Race, features Elena Pinderhughes (see lead item, above) on flute. Listen here.


Rap artist Rhapsody has released “3:AM,” a song from the forthcoming album Please Don’t Cry, in collaboration with singer Erykah Badu, and it features Terrace Martin (1997) on saxophone. Listen here.


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


The Oscar Micheaux Project, a new theater musical for which 2004 trumpet alum Alphonso Horne composed the music, has been awarded $20,000 in the Pipeline Arts Foundation’s grants to six new musicals warranting further development.  Congratulations, Alphonso!


Congratulations again, and best wishes, to all Vail Jazz Workshop alumni and instructor nominees (see lead item, above) in the 2024 JJA Jazz Awards!


[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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