Benje Daneman

September 7, 2015

Catching Up with FONT Music 2015 Artist: Joe Moffett

joe moffett 2 (rob miller)
Photo Credit: Rob Miller

 Joe Moffett refers to his career as “lifestyle” – we here at FONT Music agree that in itself sums up a creative artists world.  An artist’s work goes beyond just a form of income … it’s deeper and more complex.  Joe nailed it on it’s head.  We are honored to be showcasing Joe this year on our second night of Visionary trumpet concerts at The Downtown Gallery on Sept 28 starting at 7pm.  

Joe will be doing a full set solo.  That in itself is not only a huge physical feat for a trumpet player, but conceptual one, as well.  No one else to lean on or rely on in any fashion … we can’t wait to hear what he has to present to us.  It was a pleasure chatting with Joe regarding his “lifestyle” as a true forward looking artist, and definitely will strike a chord for all of us staying true to the artist within us.  

Thanks for chatting with us, Joe.  We’re so glad to have you on the roster this year with FONT Music 2015!  Let’s jump right into it – you’re doing a SOLO set on the trumpet on Sept 28!  Can you give us some insight into how you’re preparing for this show?

Nate Wooley contacted me a little while back, asking me if I would be interested in doing something at the festival this year.  This is actually my first time really being involved in FONT.  I was flattered to have been asked, and of course said yes immediately. The timing was perfect in a way – Nate suggested I do something out of my comfort zone and I had just recently begun seriously working on solo performance. So this became a good opportunity to present a set of solo pieces.

I have two pieces, “Vector” and the other tentatively titled “Shell.” Theyjoe moffett 1 are sonically quite different from each other but both deal with issues of perception, from the performer’s and the audience’s perspective. At the heart of the two pieces – and I say pieces not because they are through-composed but rather are improvisations set within a conceptual framework – remains a focus on individual sound events, their emergence and dissipation. I am being intentionally vague so as not to create a concrete image in your mind prior to the event. I’m excited to do them and am currently fleshing them out more in preparation for the evening.

Wow – thanks for the background and sneak peek at your concept going into the solo set.  We can’t wait to hear it!  Give us a little back story on you.

I started my career (the word “lifestyle” might be more accurate) working in free improvisation and free jazz, starting when I was in my undergrad at New England Conservatory. I was based in Boston for a few years after graduating until I made the move to New York, where I have lived for six years.

So, since moving to NYC, what kind of projects have you been focusing on?  What’s some of your recent projects we should be on the lookout for?

I’ve performed in and recorded with various groups over the years and have most recently been working mainly with two ensembles I co-founded – Twins of El Dorado, with vocalist Kristin Slipp (pictured below) and Earth Tongues, with percussionist Carlo Costa and tubist Dan Peck. The twojoe moffett twins groups are quite different. Where Twins is concerned mainly with new approaches to art song, performs mostly very concise pieces, and uses improvisation sparingly (or more “structurally” rather than an open-ended approach), Earth Tongues focuses on creating long-form improvised pieces, and we are working on a conception that plays with the idea of a performance that borders on installation. And of course there is my solo thing, which I am excited to be developing.

Those sound really intriguing!  You have a lot going on … what can we look forward to in the coming days for the “lifestyle” of Joe Moffett?

It’s hard to say on the long-term scale. Life is mysterious, and a career in music is a particularly interesting challenge. I certainly plan to keep performing as much as I can and try to get out of town more – that will be a major focus. I’m also becoming more interested in taking on projects that are larger in scale than an individual performance here and there. I’m in the midst of planning a commissioning and premieres project with Twins, for example, which will involve more people than just the core group and will of course include material not written by us.

I feel some uncertainty, as probably a lot of musicians and artists do, about what it means to try to develop as (or into) an artist and how that relates to the concept of a career. But I’m working on it.

Man, thanks for being so transparent on what I feel so many artists think about, but don’t always share openly.  I think that’s a really important part of the artistic struggle, but the more we talk about it, the more we can unitedly move forward.  Thanks!

Thanks to FONT Music for having me this year. I’m really looking forward to it.

The feelings are mutual!!

Purchase tickets to Joe’s solo set on Sept 28 (7-10pm) at The Downtown Gallery here. The night will also include two other “visionary” trumpet players and their bands, Jaimie Branch and Brandon Lewis.

Check out this video of Joe with his group, Earth Tongues (Video by Brooke Herr):

Earth Tongues at Panoply Performance Lab from Joe Moffett on Vimeo.

About Joe Moffett:
New York-­based trumpeter and improviser Joe Moffett approaches his work with a keen interest in unconventional sounds and forms, collective composition, solo instrumental performance, and the intersection of words and music. He is a regular participant in the improvised/experimental music scene in Brooklyn and is a co-founder of ensembles such as Earth Tongues, Twins of El Dorado and the Kaplan/Merega/Moffett Trio. His material appears on Neither/Nor, Underwolf, Eh?, NotTwo, and Prom Night Records.

Keep up to date on Joe’s blog:

September 4, 2015

Catching Up with FONT Music 2015 Artist: Brandon Ridenour

The ongoing question of “How do we save classical music?” has been looming for years it seems.  Luckily, in the creative world, multiple ensembles are not just asking the question, they are finding unique ways to SOLVE it.  FONT Music 2015’s opening concert “Without A Frame” will be held at Rockwood Music Hall on Thursday September 24 at 8:30 where we will be featuring three of contemporary classical music’s forward looking, genre bending “classical” ensembles – yMusic, Asphalt Orchestra and Founders.  It’s hard to truly call them “classical” groups as they start in one camp and jump constantly around to countless others. We’ll be spotlighting these groups in the next few weeks to give you a sneak peek for this exciting evening.

brandon 1Today we catch up with FONT Music, Canadian Brass and Juilliard alumni and all around great trumpeter, pianist and musician, Brandon Ridenour.  What doesn’t he do?  We’re still trying to figure that one out.  His latest musical project brings together 5 classically trained musician in a more “Singer Songwriter” setting – bringing both covers of multiple genres and originals to listeners ears.  If this is what the future holds for classical music, I think we’re in for a treat.  Here’s what Brandon had to say to us!

Thanks for chatting with us Brandon.  You’re not a stranger to FONT Music.  You played a few years back, right?  What did you present then?

The last FONT Music concert I recall being involved in was back in 2008. I played an arrangement of mine of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time – written for trumpet w/ electronic effects, electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer, piano, and auxiliary percussion.On a Messiaen side note, Thomas Bergeron’s “Sacred Feast” features works of Messiaen reinterpreted on Sept 25 at The Dimenna Center this year (coincidence?  Maybe…).  This year you’re coming back to us with a whole new project – singer-songwriter meets classical.  A match made in heaven, in my mind.  Tell us a bit about this group.

Founders is the group I’ll be playing with at FONT Music this year. It’s a singing-songwriting group of classical musicians. I was told the working theme of this FONT Music event was something like “Indie Classical”.brandon founders  So yeah, you could call us that. We do some originals, some arrangements. Sometimes there are vocals, sometimes not. The other instruments are violin, viola, cello, bass. I alternate between trumpet and piano depending on what the song calls for. Like yMusic, we might appear to be a classical group, but we don’t necessarily sound classical. Better to experience it in concert than for me to keep rambling about it…Yeah, we’re looking forward to the experience, but we don’t mind your rambling.  Give us a rundown as to what you’ve been up to over the years since your days at Juilliard.

I played with the Canadian Brass from 2006-13. My father and girlfriend are both professional pianists, and I play trumpet/piano

canadianbrass concerts with them quite often. I’ve also been performing a new piece I wrote for solo trumpet and orchestra – based on Paganini’s theme from Caprice No. 24.I’ve also started an ensemble called Useful Chamber, which I direct. It’s a chamber ensemble collective that brings the classical sound
world to singer songwriters. The ensemble’s instrumentation is flexible, but always acoustic. Could be as small as 3 instruments, orbrandon 2as large as a 20 piece chamber orchestra. Our debut album “A Dream Within A Dream” uses the full ensemble, featuring a major mixture of musical minds. Melodies are intertwined from Debussy, Mahler, Glass, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and current writers/singers Leila Adu, Elliot Cole and….me. It’s a fun project. Maybe FONT 2016??Doesn’t sound like a bad idea … we’re really looking forward to Sept 24th!  Thanks for chatting with us!


Check out Brandon Ridenour’s website:
Check out Founders website:
Check out this video of the Founders recording session:



September 2, 2015

Catching Up with FONT Music 2015 Artist: Jonathan Powell

j powell 3
Jonathan Powell is a busy guy – from playing with some of the best big bands in town including Darcy Argue’s Secret Society and Arturo O’Farrill’s Big Band to performing alongside Eddie Palmieri to leading his own groups featuring some of the most creative and cutting edge players on the scene today.  We are proud to have Jonathan debuting his newest band The Jonathan Powell Latin Jazz Sextet during the FONT Music 2015 at The Blue Note on Sunday, September 27 at 11:30am and 1pm featuring a “Who’s Who” of the latin jazz scene today (Buy Tickets Here). 

Thanks for chatting with us today.  We’re so glad to have you on the FONT Music roster this year, Jonathan!

This will be the first time I’ve been involved with FONT and I’m really excited to be a part of it!

You’ve been pretty busy over the years here in NYC.  Can you give us all a quick rundown of your history since moving here.

Well I moved to NYC from Florida in 2001 to pursue my love of music.

j powell 1 Since then I delved into the Latin Music Scene playing with NJ-NY based salsa-Timba bands La Creacion, La Bola and La Excelencia among others. All the while pursuing my first love of jazz having had the chance to record with Sam Rivers, Reggie Workman and Charlie Persip while playing with some great young luminaries like Pedro Giraudo, Darcy James Argue, Miguel Zenon and others.

Not too shabby!!  If you started with THOSE guys, who are you playing with now?

Currently, I’m playing with the groups of Eddie Palmieri (Salsa Orchestra and Latin Jazz Septets), Arturo O’Farrill and the Latin Jazz Orchestra, Henry Cole’s Afrobeat Collective, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society and JT Taylor (the voice of Kool & the Gang) among other groups as a freelance trumpet player.

So, we know you’re highly sought after as a sideman and j powell - beaconssection player, but you are also a very active leader.  Tell us a bit about what’s going on with your own projects.

As a leader, I’ve been focusing my energies on a new recording with my Nu Sangha group called “Beacons of Light” (Purchase Here!). I’m celebrating this new release and currently working on a new album for that group which will feature chanting from all over the world mixed in new arrangements featuring the band and special guests.

Wow!  That sounds really fascinating… I can’t wait to hear that.  But at FONT Music 2015, you’ll be unveiling your newest group, right?

Yes, this will be the debut of my new Latin Jazz Group with which I wish to honor my 14 years in NYC playing Latin music. In the front linewill be Palmieri-band mate Alto Saxaphonist Louis Fouché and myself. We’ve developed a great personal/musical relationship over the years and are looking forward to applying it to this new context.

j powell 2Also special guesting with us will be my brother tenor Saxophonist Jeremy Powell whom will be brought up to play some of the Nu Sangha repertoire for this show. The rhythm section features the best and brightest of the Latin Jazz genre: Grammy nominee Manuel Valera on piano, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, drummer Henry Cole and percussionist Mauricio Herrera. The music will be an eclectic mix of Latinized Nu Sangha tunes, originals by other members, arrangements of a few standards and of course one or two Eddie Palmieri tunes as he has taught me so much in this music.

Can’t wait to hear this … thanks for your time Jonathan, and keep up all the great work!

Check out this video of Jonathan Powell’s nu Sangha Live at The Blue Note:

A little more about Jonathan:
Originally from Largo, Florida Jonathan Powell picked up the trumpet at the age of eleven never to look back. Inspired by the great jazz trumpeters Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis, Jonathan moved to New York City at the age of 19 to emerge himself in the rich Jazz scene of the “Big Apple”. Though Jazz was his first and greatest love, he soon began incorporating elements of Latin music, North Indian Classical music, Drum’n’Bass, Hip Hop, Death Metal and 20th Century Classical Music into his original compositions. These influences are heard and felt on his band Nu Sangha’s debut album “Transcend” released in 2010 as well as the latest endeavor, “Beacons of Light” released with Truth Revolution Records on August 25th, 2015.
As a freelance trumpet player Jonathan has shared the stage and recording studio with world renown musicians and artists like Eddie Palmieri, Miguel Zenon, Henry Cole, Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro­Latin Jazz Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bob Mintzer, The WDR Big Band, JT Taylor (Kool & the Gang), La Excelencia, Sam Rivers, The Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, Q­Tip, Andy Milne, Gary Thomas, Lenny White, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Reggie Workman, Just Blaze, CL Smooth, Slick Rick and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Known for his ease of adaptability to many musical styles, Jonathan has earned a name for himself on the Latin music scene in NYC by winning The Latin Jazz Corner’s Best Latin Jazz Trumpet Player of 2009 as well as becoming Eddie Palmieri’s first call trumpet player in 2013. Jazz guru Nat Hentoff wrote of Jonathan, “Powell’s crackling range and the electricity of his imagination reminded me of the first time I heard Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown. His voice is his own…” ­JazzTimes (April 2003).

August 31, 2015

Catching Up with FONT 2015 Artist & Curator: Marquis Hill

marquis 1 If you are at all involved in the jazz scene, you likely have heard the name Marquis Hill over the past couple years – he’s the definition of a “rising star” and “young lion” in the jazz trumpet world.  While being a sought after unique voice in his native Chicago jazz scene for years now, Marquis began to get the national/international attention he’s deserved recently after winning the 2014 Thelonious Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition (and International Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition in 2012). We’re excited to have him on the FONT Music team this year as not only an artist, but a curator of the event at The Jazz Gallery on September 26th entitled Signatures in Brass (buy tickets here). 

Thanks for being a part of the FONT Music team this year – we’re excited to have you on board.  For the rest of the reading world, give them your history with FONT Music:

This is actually my first year involved with FONT; I discovered the effort about two years ago and have wanted to be involved with their good work ever since. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of it this year.

You’re proudly from Chicago, which has a unique jazz scene. We just recently chatted with fellow Chicagoan, Chad McCullough last week who will also be performing at the festival.  What are your thoughts about growing up in the Chicago jazz scene:

Born and raised in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to learn and grow well in the city’s energetic scene. It has long had a number of authentic voices marquis 3and artist that see artistic vision.  Though currently splitting time between Chicago and New York, I’m ever grateful for the rich opportunities my home town has, and continues to offer. To learn from and perform alongside some of the city’s great thinkers in the music – Willie Pickens, Von Freeman, Fred Anderson, Ken Chaney, Ernest Dawkins, and Bobby Broom – is a blessing.

Wow, a blessing for sure!  Tell us about some of the professional stuff you’ve been up to.

I’ve been involved with some pretty fulfilling projects over the past few years. Matt Ulery’s “Loom,” Juan Pastor’s “Chinano,” Geof Bradifield’s “Our Roots” have each been uniquely fine opportunities in which I had the the oppurtonity to grow and contribute. As of late, my main focus has been my working group, The Marquis Hill Blacktet. We released our latest project, “Modern Flows vol. 1,” last fall; currently, we are preparing to go back into the studio and record  the next project entitled “The Way We Play.”So what’s next for you?

Some great things are coming up; I’m energized to be playing the music from “Modern Flows Vol. 1” at the Chicago Jazz Festival, in September. Thrilled to be spending more time in New York – where I marquis 2get opportunity to learn and grow with a number of compelling artists – I will also be doing a two-month European tour with the great bassist-composer-leader Marcus Miller, beginning in October. After that my focus will come back to the project to be released next spring (“The Way We Play”) Its an exciting and grateful time.

That’s fantastic!  Can’t wait to hear about the Marcus Miller tour – you’ll have to give us a recap of that when you’re back!  Luckily, before you split for that FONT Music gets you on September 16th at The Jazz Gallery.  Can you tell us a little about how you’ve curated this event?

This is a project I call “SIGNATURES IN BRASS: The Personality-packed review of contemporary Jazz Trumpet.” It features Philip Dizack, Josh Evans, Keyon Harold, Ingrid Jensen, Billy Buss, and myself, on trumpets – as well as Theo Hill on Piano, Eric Wheeler on Bass, and Obed Calvaire on the kit. This is a great opportunity to feature a number of different and unique voices emerging under “Jazz Trumpet” umbrella.  Featuring all-original music from the band as well as a commissioned piece – written by long time friend and fine composer, Kendall Moore. Should be a true fellowship!

Purchase tickets to SIGNATURES IN BRASS here!

Fellowship indeed!  That’s what we’re all about here at FONT Music.  We’re so glad to have you on board.  Be sure to check out Marquis’ recent performance of his tune “White Shadows”at Tribeca Arts Center with his group Blacktet below:

Also, check out more about Marquis at his website here:


August 27, 2015

Reflections on Marcus Belgrave by Greg Glassman

marcus belgrave 1On May 24, 2015, Marcus Belgrave, a staple not only in his hometown, Detroit, MI, but also in the jazz world was lost.  Playing on everything from Motown records to recording with other jazz masters – Marcus embodied music, as a being and a musician.  Trumpeter, Greg Glassman, a former student, colleague and friend reflects on the being of Marcus:

If you didn’t know Marcus Belgrave, it is very difficult to paint an apt picture for you through words. This is for some of the same reasons that conditioned his unique version and depth of greatness. Marcus was a true artist, a full human being, a manifestation of lifetimes of wisdom, and of the people. He was very much down-to-earth, and at the same time ephemeral, seeming to hover in the air above us, analogized by his sound, which appeared to be coming from everywhere in a room at once. He was a friend, allowing you to feel equal and important. Yet as his friend, you always felt lucky, as if he was allowing you to touch a higher plane of living. When he was with you, he really was with you, and you felt honored.

I have been around so many great trumpeters, but I haven’t met or heard anyone who comes close to transcending the instrument the way Marcus did. I imagine it was something like being with Dizzy Gillespie (several have told me that later in life Marcus was Dizzy’s favorite trumpet player). The ears are just so advanced that there’s so little in between the soul of the man and what comes out of the horn.marcus belgrave 2 Marcus was an encyclopedia of jazz language, but it was internalized to the point that he wasn’t thinking about notes and chords. I asked him several times about this, and he confirmed in his own way what I had believed to be true: that the goal was to go back to playing by ear. He would play the deepest nooks and crannies of harmony you’ll ever hear, but because it was truly singing in his mind, and because he was truly improvising, it always sounded full of freedom and of the present moment. And he brought this to every setting imaginable. In person I heard him play dixieland, bebop, free jazz, R&B, electronic groove music, music that is not within a label; in every setting he was improvising, and in every setting he sounded simultaneously grounded in the language of that idiom, and unmistakably himself.

He cared so much about serious young musicians, and the future of the music. He became a pillar of culture in Detroit, constantly and passionately working to develop and showcase the wealth of talent in that city. He gave them everything he had.

I started spending time with Marcus Belgrave when I was 19. I would drive to Detroit from Oberlin College and he would have me sit-in on his gigs and stay at his house…pre-gig trips to kinko’s to copy music; post-gig late-night meals; forcing me to push the limits of my social comfort zone; heaping portions of needed criticism and the hard-love that comes from a master when he cares about the music and about a student. He was my closest mentor. And as much as I know my relationship with him was exceptionally close, it blows the mind to realize: So many musicians he touched feel the same way!

Marcus Belgrave 3How is this possible? How did he find this time and energy? This was Marcus Belgrave. A seemingly unending source of energy, joy, dedication, artistry, love and fire. If ever there was someone you expected to live forever, it was him. He’s in every note I play, and I’m joined by many who miss him deeply.

Three cheers for Saint Marcus Belgrave!

Greg Glassman

Greg Glassman is emerging as one of New York City’s mostgreg glassman 1recognizable and accomplished young jazz musicians. Born in Queens, NY in 1977, Mr. Glassman has packed a wealth of knowledge and experience into his budding career. He started his career as a full-time professional at age 17, while attending the esteemed Oberlin Conservatory and Oberlin College. While at Oberlin, he developed close relationships with Donald Walden and Marcus Belgrave, making frequent trips to Detroit to mentor under them. He earned a B.A. from Oberlin in 1998 and immediately moved back to New York City. In 2002 he received his M.A. in Jazz Performance from Queens College, where he studied with Michael Mossman and Roland Hanna and presently serves as a clinician for Queens College’s Jazz Project. Since returning to New York Mr. Glassman has been steadily cementing himself in the canon of great NY trumpeters. He has led legendary weekly jam sessions for years, tours internationally and is a staple of the vibrant New York jazz scene.  

Learn more about Greg at his website here:


August 24, 2015

Catching Up with FONT Music 2015 Artist: Chad McCullough

chad 2
Chad McCullough is no stranger to FONT Music, as over the past few years he’s been involved not only as a performer, but also behind the scenes as one of our graphic designers (see the web banner above – that’s him!).  A diverse performer and composer, Chad is at the helm of the Chicago jazz scene and regularly is performing all across the world, in addition to teaching at DePaul University.  Among his many music projects, his group Chicago based, Spin Quartet has just recently released their newest album, Starting From Zero.

He’ll be joining FONT Music 2015 at Downtown Music Gallery on Sunday Sept 27th at 7pm for our first night of the “Visionaries” Concerts, where he’ll play a duo set with New York pianist, Dan Cray (buy tickets here!).  We touched base with Chad to see what he’s been up lately:

Thanks for chatting with us today Chad – tell us about your involvement with FONT Music over the years:
I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with FONT since 2010. I started just making some small web banner graphics, and now do most all of the graphic design for the festival. I was able to perform in 2013, and will be back this year!

Give us a quick snapshot of your past and what you’ve been up to over the years?
I live in Chicago, and am very happy to be a part of this town’s vibrant jazz scene. I grew up in Seattle, learning from many of thechad 1 great musicians in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been in the midwest for about 2.5 years, and teach at DePaul University in the jazz studies department.

I’ve been involved in some extremely rewarding long-term collaborative projects in the last few years. I’ve got a band with a great Belgian pianist, Bram Weijters, and we’ve been luckily enough to tour around the world. My band, The Spin Quartet has been an exciting group to work with and develop over the last few years as well. I also play with The Kora Band, a US-Canadian collaboration called Tunnel Six, and in Chicago am a member of a few very hip (I think!) bands; James Davis’ Beveled, Luke Malewicz’s Heritage Quartet; and just about anything else I can do to keep busy!

Wow!  Sounds like you keep busy!  Enough about the past, what’s on the horizon for you these days?

Lots on the horizon! In September I’m playing at the Chicago Jazz Festival and touring Canada, and a few days in the Pacificchad 3 Northwest with The Spin Quartet in celebration of our newly released live record, The Kora Band is releasing a new album with a UK tour in October, and in November Bram Weijters and I will celebrate our latest album with a mid-west US tour. All good things! On top of all of that I’m very much looking forward to starting the upcoming school year, and working with the new students at DePaul.

You also will be joining us here in NYC in September for a set of duo music with NYC (and former Chicago) pianist, Dan Cray at FONT Music’s Visionaries Series (tickets here).  Tell us a little about this setup and your history with Dan.

Dan and I have been friends for a while, and have played and talked a lot about music. This duo project will focus on our original music. As far as pianist in that setting, I really can’t think of anyone I’d rather play with! I’m really looking forward to this show.

Great!  We’re looking forward to hearing that next month.  Anything else you want to leave the trumpet world with til next time?

I’m around at any time to talk embouchures, valve oil, vintage horns, or just get together and play some long-tones with.

Check out this live video from Spin Quartet’s recent album release “Starting from Zero”:

August 19, 2015

Reflections on Lew Soloff by Randy Brecker

LewLast March, the jazz trumpet world suddenly lost another master,
Lew Soloff.  Known throughout the jazz world not only for his truly unique approach to his music, but also to life.  Mention of his name in the jazz circles today still brings pain to a fresh wound from his loss.  No one is more fit to write about Lew than his close friend and colleague, Randy Brecker:

“Lew simply put was one of my closest friends for close to 50 years. I first heard him play at the home of Barry Miles then a precocious drummer and pianist in 1966. Barry had heard me play at ‘Ramblerny’ I believe, a jazz camp that Phil Woods ran in New Hope, PA. After returning from a 4 month State Dept tour with the Indiana U Jazz Ensemble I was visiting and sitting in with my younger brother Mike, who was attending the camp, and playing in Phil’s student big band. (Phil’s sax section included 15 year olds: Michael Brecker, Ritchie Cole and Roger Rosenberg-imagine that!). Anyway, Barry was playing tapes of his concerts for me at his home near the camp, and I heard some amazingly strong and creative trumpet playing. I asked Barry who it was, and he said:

Lew 2Lew Soloff….I kinda froze thinking ‘uh oh! I’m going to have to compete with THIS when I move to NYC from Philly in a couple of months??’

Not too long after, I actually met Lew (who had just gotten out of the Army Reserves) at the old Half Note Club downtown…by then I was playing with the Duke Pearson Big band and Duke needed a sub and Lew was hired. He blew us all away not only his soloing, but his expertise in reading the parts, playing lead trumpet, and his overall musicality.

Being close in age, we became fast friends, and would trade lessons with each other, and just hang out a lot. He loved to talk trumpet and more trumpet. It was an entirely accurate statement that Wynton made upon hearing of his death: “Lew Soloff loved the trumpet more than anyone!”

He was completely enthusiastic about everything he loved, trumpet food, wine and trumpet again. He became the world’s greatest jazz piccolo trumpet player. He tasted great fame and fortune when he joined Blood Sweat and Tears. I had to beg him to do that gig. I was leaving the band to join Horace Silver, and found myself sitting next to Lew at a Joe Henderson Big Band rehearsal the day after I quit. Lew didn’t want to do the gig because it was a ‘Rock Band’ and he wanted to play Jazz, but I was in a spot so as a friend he said OK he’d try it for Lew-Soloff-with-BSTawhile…needless to say the record they were about to record sold 11 million copies! and Lew’s salary went from $200 a week to $5000 a week (!) so he was there to stay! We were taking lessons together with Ed Troidel in NJ usually taking a bus to get there, and Lew started  picking me up in a stretch Limo laughing the whole time!

Randy & Lew
Lew & Randy (Courtesy of Randy Brecker)

He was such a character with a great sense of  self deprecating humor. Jeez I miss him. Guitarist Bob Mann said it best upon hearing the news: “Sadly Cirque Du Soloff has Ended”….


His memory, his love, and music will live on…”

Randy Brecker –  8/11/15

Find out more about Lew and his music at his website:

randy brecker
Randy Brecker will be appearing at FONT Music 2015 as a special guest at The Eddie Henderson Quartet Concert/Award Ceremony on Sept 29th – buy your ticket here!

Lew Soloff Interview w/ Michael Davis

August 14, 2015

Catching Up with FONT Music Alum Riley Mulherkar

Riley Piano Shot - Credit Andrew Imanaka
Riley Mulherkar – Photo Credit: Andrew Imanaka

One year ago, FONT Music awarded the first ever Laurie Frink Career Grant at Cornelia Street Cafe during our 2014 Festival to young budding trumpeter, Riley Mulherkar. A recent grad from Juilliard, Riley has been busy this year leading his truly unique brass group, The Westerlies and working as a serious trumpeter on the music scene in New York.  We wanted to chat with him to see what he’s been up to since last year’s festival

riley westerlies
The Westerlies – Photo Credit: Sasha Arutyunova

So what’s new, Riley?  What have you been up to this past year?
I just graduated from Juilliard in May so it’s been a whirlwind of a year, finishing up school while getting involved in a number of projects all over the map. I’m currently in beautiful New Hampshire at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, working day and night with The Westerlies to get a bunch of original music ready for our second album, to be recorded in just a couple of weeks!

It sounds like you’ve been busy with your truly unique group, The Westerlies. Tell us more about that group!
The Westerlies is a band dear to my heart – comprised of my three best friends from Seattle, we’ve been together for three and a half years and I can’t wait for all to come with these guys. We just had our big-screen debut as part of Cast Party, a podcast festival with Radiolab, Ira Glass, Lauren Lapkus, Invisibilia, Reply All, and The Truth that was beamed into movie theaters across the USA, Canada, and Australia – that was a thrill!

Visit The Westerlies Website to learn more about this unique brass quartet!

Riley tpt Credit - Lauren Desberg
Photo Credit – Lauren Desberg

Other than forging new paths with The Westerlies, what other things have you been up to professionally?
I’ve also been at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center a number of times in the past year, presenting a range of shows including the King Oliver-inspired “Gotham Kings,” the “Birth of the American Orchestra,” which explored the origins of the Jazz Age big band, and “Billie and the Boys,” a Billie Holiday extravaganza that featured five singers telling the musical story of her years with Teddy Wilson. These shows allow us to investigate bodies of music from all styles of jazz, arrange and interpret them in an honest way, and then put together a show that hopefully entertains and uplifts the audience. The shows are a blast, and the jam sessions that follow, hosted by Michael Mwenso, have created a beautiful community of young musicians with an infectious love for the music.

Almost a year ago you were awarded the first ever Laurie Frink Career Grant last year, which provides you some funding to pursue educational opportunities.  How has this affected you, your study and career?

riley cornelia 2014
Riley performing at Cornelia Street Cafe Awards Ceremony – FONT 2014

Accepting The Laurie Frink Career Grant at last year’s FONT was one of the greatest honors of my life.  The grant has come to me at a crucial point in my life as I graduate from school and enter “the real world,” so over the next year I’ll be able to continue studies on the trumpet and explore further educational experiences outside of Juilliard. Additionally, one of the most valuable opportunities this grant has provided is the opportunity to meet and share stories with the many friends and students of Laurie who I’ve been able to connect with – her spirit is still with us today, as strong as ever!

We just chatted with Nadje Noordhuis recently (see post here) talking about the great trumpeter/educator, Laurie Frink.  Tell us about your relationship with her!
I was lucky enough to study with Laurie when I first arrived in New York five years ago, and she instilled in me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned when she told me “You’re not going to just wake up one day and have it all.” This was not the most welcome news to me at the time, but it has proved to be one of the greatest and most comforting truths I’ve ever learned, because it provides a profound purpose to my lifelong study of the trumpet. My morning routine still begins with the exercises Laurie taught me, and I am forever indebted to her for the grounded sense of balance she instilled in my playing and my life.

For more information on Riley, visit his website:

Check out some videos of The Westerlies below:

August 12, 2015

“Community” by Joey Tartell

FONT Music is a community … a supportive, diverse and adventurous community of musicians, composers, brass players and trumpeters.  We come from many backgrounds, locations, beliefs and levels.  But through music – we are united.  Additionally, we are all a part of unique other communities within the musical world and other areas of our life. Trumpeter/Educator, Joey Tartell, joey tartellrecently wrote a post on just this idea, and as we gear up for September’s festival we need to be reminded of how fortunate we are to have each other, and consider how we are involved and interact within these communities:


Last week I attended the National Trumpet Competition.  In addition to judging the Jazz Finals and performing with Tromba Mundi, I spent plenty of time connecting and reconnecting with trumpet players from all over the place (and, of course, trying out new stuff…that was fun, too).  It was striking how good the trumpet community can be.  And how important community is.

Whether we like it or not, we are all part of at least a few different communities.  Professionally, I’m a member of the Brass Department at Indiana University, the free lance music scene in Indianapolis, and the trumpet world- just to name a few.  It’s up to the individual to decide what kind of community member to be, and how involved to become.  This can say quite a bit about the individual, and will result in vastly different kinds of communities.

What I witnessed, and was pleased to a part of, last week was the best kind of roy campbell trumpetscommunity.  For those of you that don’t know, the National Trumpet Competition is an event built around the student experience.  There are several levels of competition, including solo and trumpet ensemble.  The judges are trumpet players and teachers from all over the country.  In addition to the actual competition, there are daily warm-up classes and masterclasses given by professionals.  Each night there are concerts by outstanding groups with top-notch soloists.  There are also exhibits with plenty of horns, mouthpieces, and trumpet accessories.  Although centered around competition, which can often create negative feelings, NTC has created a supportive environment for students and professionals.

How did this happen?  It happens by getting individuals to come together for something bigger than themselves.

Now that we’re all back home, we rejoin all kinds of communities. So here’s the question:

What kind of community member do you want to be?

My hope is to be a positive and involved community member (those who know me also know I have not always succeeded in this deceptively simple statement).  This is not to say that once you try and be a positive and involved community member everything will be rainbows and sunshine.  If you find yourself in a community that, despite your best efforts, remains negative, perhaps it’s time to rethink your involvement.  It is also important to remember that everyone else might not agree with you on how to make things better, and that there is no right way to be involved.  Some people will organize events…some will run organizations…some will volunteer their time…Depending on the person and the community, there will be a variety of ways of being involved available.

These concepts apply to an organization as small as a student brass quintet, and as large as a major symphony orchestra.  How you choose to involve yourself will, at some level, play a part in the success of that community.

Please choose wisely.

(Originally posted March 27, 2015 –

Joey Tartell joined the faculty of Indiana University in 2003. Before that he played lead trumpet for Maynard Ferguson, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, and the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors. Joey has also been hired as a lead trumpet/soloist with the St. Louis, Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras for Pops concerts.

Mr. Tartell is also a founding member of Tromba Mundi, a professional trumpet ensemble. Tromba Mundi is just finishing their third recording, and will be making their Carnegie Hall debut October 7.

Check out Joey’s website & follow his blog here:

Check out Joey giving a clinic on WARMING UP at 2013 The National Trumpet Competition:

August 10, 2015

Reflections on Kenny Wheeler by Nick Smart

As we approach FONT Music 2015 in September to embark on hearing new trumpeters and music, we wanted to take some time on a regular basis to remember and honor those trumpet masters we lost this past year.  This week FONT Music asked fantastic London-based trumpeter/educator, Nick Smart, to reflect on the life and music of master composer, trumpeter and improviser, Kenny Wheeler whom we lost last September.  Below is Nick’s heartfelt remembrance of not only a unique voice in the jazz compositional and improvisational world, but a truly loving and caring individual, in addition to a fascinating video interview with Norma Winstone and Evan Parker discussing Kenny’s life and music:

kenny 1
Kenny Wheeler (Jan 14, 1930 – Sept 18, 2014)

So much has already been said about Kenny in the many tributes that have poured out, since his passing last September 18th, 2014. Many wonderful musicians have reflected upon the influence of Kenny; that extraordinary sound on the instrument, the stunning compositional output, the creation of a new and identifiable vocabulary as an improviser, and of course his humble, funny and beautiful character. But as we approach a year since we lost him, I would like to share a few memories and thoughts about the great legacy, both musical and personal that Kenny has left us.

I was asked to speak at Kenny’s funeral to try to articulate to the family, who are not musicians, just what he meant to the jazz community and why he was held in such high esteem. Here is part of what I eventually came up with, after much agonising, to try to convey why he was so special.

“The enormity of what Kenny achieved, and has given to the world through his music and recordings, is almost impossible to express in words. To understand it is to understand that just one of his achievements would in itself be remarkable for anyone else; to create a sound on your instrument through which a single note makes you instantly recognisable around the world would on its own be some sort of holy grail for a ‘normal’ musician. But to add to that the immeasurable impact he had on jazz music throughout the world, as a composer and as a player, meant that in the end he was simply peerless.”

kenny 2But this got me thinking, there was another intriguing side to Kenny that I saw over and over again, something beyond his musical gifts. It seemed to me it was more to do with the way he made other people feel. In all my travels meeting new friends and discussing music and musicians, like we do, I realised that whenever I chatted about Kenny with someone who knew him personally, there was invariably a sense of actual affection for him. Love, even. Not just the usual respect, admiration or fondness one usually gets from a fan or friend, but something more than that, something deeper, something more personal. Speaking for myself, I certainly have not known someone so universally loved by all who came across him. There was something about his manner that seemed to make people feel better, I guess it left a deep and lasting impression to be spoken to as an equal by someone you knew was really in another universe. His generosity and humility inspired the rest of us to feel that just maybe, we could achieve more as artists. And of course, there was no pretence about Kenny’s own opinion of himself, nor the affably self-deprecating humour through which that was expressed.

dave, kenny & nick
(l to r) Dave Douglas, Kenny Wheeler & Nick Smart

It is an interesting time to write this piece as I am in the middle of co-writing Kenny’s biography at the moment, along with my friend and great trumpeter/educator Brian Shaw from Louisiana State University. As you’d expect (and hope!) we’re uncovering many things we never knew, some big, and some small hidden gems – like him being a fantastic vibes player, being fired from James Last’s gig because he couldn’t do the dance steps, or taking a mail-order course in advanced algebra to help with composition. But the most striking thing we have uncovered can be summed up in one word. Busy. So very busy. The studio sessions, the TV shows, the sideman work, the big bands, the writing commissions, the teaching, the guest spots, the band leading, etc etc… the sheer breadth and volume of what he threw himself into is not only breathtaking in itself – but when you consider the equally necessary breadth and volume of skills needed to be able to actually do all those things, and to the level he did them… now THAT is a legacy. The openness and integrity he gave to each new musical situation and the way he treated his fellow musicians along the way, now that is a meaningful life lesson. In all the most positive of ways, that is what Kenny can teach us about the way we move forward in our own lives, as musicians, as instrumentalists, as people. We might never write something as perfect as the “Sweet Time Suite” or play a solo as perfect as “Solo One”, that isn’t really something you can learn to do, there is certainly a sort of celestial intervention required to imbue one human with that much heart-stopping beauty, but what we can try to do is live our musical lives by the same principles Kenny embodied; dedication, curiosity, humility, friendship, patience and loyalty.

kenny, ingrid, dave and nick at standard
FONT 2011 @ The Jazz Standard: (l to r) Kenny Wheeler, Ingrid Jensen, Dave Douglas & Nick Smart

Finally a word of thanks to FONT, and especially to Dave Douglas, for bringing Kenny over for the 2011 FONT residency at the Jazz Standard – it should be acknowledged here just how much that experience meant to Kenny. His son Mark (who was also with us on the trip) commented after his father’s passing that he thought the FONT trip to New York had given Kenny the positive energy needed to carry on for another couple of years. It was such a wonderful chance for him to catch up with old friends and family members, for some of whom it would be the last time they saw each other. It was moving to see the love and respect in which he was held by the great New York musical community, the sold-out houses, and also to witness the many different areas of his long career from which the fans knew him. That was a special, memorable trip, and huge thanks are due to Dave and all involved at FONT for the special work of this wonderful organisation.

— Nick Smart – August 2015 —

Nick Smart is a British trumpeter and head of the Jazz Department at London’s Royal Academy of Music. As a close friend and colleague to Wheeler, Nick played in the last incarnation of Wheeler’s UK big band and worked closely with Kenny in arranging the Nick Smart ShotKW archive of original manuscripts to be housed at the Academy, as well as setting up a KW prize in his name. In 2013/14 Nick curated a museum exhibition at the Academy telling the story of Wheeler’s life, which has loosely become the template for the forthcoming biography by Smart and Shaw.  Check out his music at: