Workshop Alumni Happenings June 4 – June 17, 2024

By Vail Jazz

Downbeat magazine’s recently published 47th Annual Student Music Awards bestowed the following honors to VJ Workshop alumni: in the Jazz Soloist category, Benjamin Schwartz (2022 drums), High School Winner; Laesio Littlejohn (2023 bass), High School Outstanding Performances; Cosmo Lieberman (2022 saxophone), High School Honors Winner; Aidan Farrell (2022 saxophone), Community College Winner; Kellin Hanas (2020 trumpet), Undergraduate College Outstanding Performances; in the Small Jazz Combo category, Aidan Farrell (see above), Outstanding Soloist, Santa Monica College Jazz Small Group, Community College Winner; in the Original Composition – Small Ensemble category, Laesio Littlejohn (see above), High School Outstanding Composition for “Time;” in the Original Composition – Large Ensemble category, Luciano Soriano (2021 trombone), High School Honors Winner for “Of Little Consequence.” Congratulations to all of these Workshop alumni!




Robert Glasper (1997 piano) puts on multi-night shows at City Winery in Atlanta, June 4-7. Glasper, with poet and lyricist Aja Monet, then closes the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival on June 9, at The Flynn in Burlington VT. On June 15 and 16, he headlines the Hollywood Bowl Jazz Festival in LA, joined by vocalist Yebba and saxophonist Kamasi Washington.


2015 bass alum Solomon Gottfried and a friend have opened a new jazz club, Close Up, at 154 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Check out this timeout.com piece about the opening. A couple of Workshop alumni are slated to perform at Close Up in the next couple of weeks: June 5, Kanoa Mendenhall (2014 bass), who also played there on opening night; and June 16, Phillip Golub (2011 piano).


Lakecia Benjamin (1999 saxophone) and her Phoenix quintet perform at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton NJ on June 5, and at the SFJazz Center during the San Francisco Jazz Festival on June 7. Then they appear in the “Jazz in the Park” series on June 8 at the Clark County Government Center Amphitheater in Las Vegas NV. Benjamin joins the Gary Bartz NTU Troop, with 2000 trumpet alum Ambrose Akinmusire, at SF Jazz Center in San Francisco on June 9.


2002 piano alum Sullivan Fortner accompanies vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant in a June 5 performance at the Flynn Center in Burlington VT. Then he’s got a two-night gig with the Peter Bernstein Quartet, June 7-8, at the Sidedoor Jazz Club in Old Lyme CT.


On June 6, the Trottier Big Band performs with special guest artist Summer Camargo (2018 trumpet) at the Trottier Middle School auditorium in Southborough MA.


Drummer Mike Mitchell (aka Blaque Dynamite) performs on June 6 at the White Oak Music Hall in Houston, and on June 8 at the Empire Control Room & Garage in Austin.


Saxophonist Braxton Cook (2009) performs on June 6 at Judson’s in Orlando Florida, and at The Tin Pan in Richmond VA on June 7. Cook then appears during the Capital Jazz Fest on June 8 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia MD, and 1997 trumpet alum Keyon Harrold also performs there, with Stout, that day.


Trumpeter Jumaane Smith (1998) has a multi-night gig at Birdland in NYC, June 7-9, and then performs at the SFJazz Center during the San Francisco Jazz Festival on June 15.


Bass maestro Ron Carter is joined for a multi-night gig June 11-14 at Birdland Jazz Club in NYC by the Emmet Cohen Trio, with Evan Sherman (2009) on drums.


SFJAZZ presents an all-star Oscar Peterson celebration at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco on June 12, featuring the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and 2002 piano alum Gerald Clayton among other jazz luminaries.


2005 drums alum Craig Hill performs on June 12 at Café Erzulie in Brooklyn NY.


Pianist Brandon Goldberg (2023) performs at the Norman Library West, Andrews Park, during the “Jazz in June” series on June 13 in Norman OK.


Benny Benack III (2008 trumpet) leads a quartet in a June 14 performance at Scullers in Boston. Then he joins an album release event on June 15 for “Someday, Somewhere,” featuring the music of the late bandleader and pianist Johnny Anz. And on June 16 he performs at The Craftsman in NYC. 


2014 piano alum Isaiah J. Thompson continues touring as a member of the John Pizzarelli Trio, with stops on June 14 at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis IN, on June 15 at Myron’s Cabaret at The Smith Center in Las Vegas, and on June 16 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix AZ.




Trumpeter Etienne Charles’s debut album as a big band leader, Creole Orchestra, is due out on June 14 and includes Jumaane Smith (see Performances, above) on “Think Tank” and Sullivan Fortner (see Performances, above) on “Douens.” 


Bassist Avery Sharpe and his Double Quartet, with Zaccai Curtis (1999) on piano, releases I Am My Neighbor’s Keeper on June 14.


Multi-instrumentalist Julius Rodriguez album, Evergreen, featuring Keyon Harrold (see Performances, above), is set for release on June 14.


Instrumentalist and singer Zacchae’us Paul’s forthcoming album, Jazz Money, features 2014 saxophone alum Morgan Guerin, who can be heard on this single from the album, “Banana Laffy Taffy,” out now.


Irish soul band Chief Keegan’s debut album, The Piles High Club, includes 2005 alum Eddie Barbash on tenor saxophone on this track, “Frosty Nips.”


Drummer Matt Wilson’s band Good Trouble, with 1996 alum Tia Fuller on saxophone, releases an album of the same name on June 14, honoring the late Congressman John Lewis and celebrating Wilson’s 60th birthday year.


Singer/songwriter Bilal has released a live rendition of “All For Love,” featuring Robert Glasper (see Performances, above), from the forthcoming June 14 album Live At Glasshaus, performed live at Glasshaus in Brooklyn NY on December 2, 2023. Here is the new track from the album.


Recognitions, Awards & Other Items of Note


A review of the forthcoming (August 16) Come On Home album by Jumaane Smith (see Performances, above) is featured in Jazziz magazine; check it out here.


2008 saxophone alum Grace Kelly’s most recent album, Grace Kelly With Strings: At The Movies, was reviewed and featured in the June 2024 issue of Downbeat magazine. The album’s musical director and producer was Bryan Carter (2007 drums), and synth programming was provided by 2006 piano alum Adam Bravo. Listen to the track “When You Wish Upon A Star,” here.


[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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