A leading pianist of his generation, Fortner’s formidable fluidity and inspired originality derives from his ability to tastefully draw on vocabulary reaching from the music’s traditional roots through its most avant-garde modernity. A product of New Orleans’s music schools and programs, he’s known for his stints in groups led by vibraphonist Stefon Harris trumpeter Roy Hargrove, his collaborations with singer Cecile McLorin Savant (including their recent Grammy®-winning album, The Window) and his own solo excursions.
At 43, Harland is the senior member of New Masters, who’s established as the go-to drummer for a number of jazz legends, including saxophonist Charles Lloyd, bassist Dave Holland, percussionist Zakir Hussain and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. He’s a graduate of Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts from which many other jazz players of note originated, has recorded several albums as a leader, and continues to be one of the most distinguished and in-demand drummers on the scene today.
Harrold could easily be the most heard trumpet today that no one can name, simply because since graduating from the New School he has become one of the most requested sidemen – on tours and recording projects – by a number of well-known R&B and neo Soul artists, as well as jazz leaders. He’s played with Common, D’Angelo, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé and Maxwell, and was the trumpet heard in all scenes in Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead. He’s recently come into his own as a leader, having recently released the genre-bending album The Mugician. Raised in Ferguson, Missouri he unsurprisingly focuses on tunes of message and social awareness.
The Israeli-born Hekselman is a standout voice in jazz guitar today, who arrived in New York City in 2004 and is already a major influence on other guitar players of his generation. He’s played in bands led by a diverse range of players – Anat Cohen and Chris Potter, John Scofield and Esperanza Spalding – proving his flexibility in dealing with different approaches and situations. He’s led his own groups for fifteen years and recorded five albums as a leader.
BURNISS EARL TRAVIS
Travis didn’t begin his musical journey on bass nor was he drawn to jazz; he was a violinist who first loved hip-hop and the local dance scene in Houston. We have vibraphonist Stefon Harris to thank in part for convincing him to pursue a future playing jazz bass. Early experiences included playing in bands led by trumpeter Roy Hargrove and pianist Eldar – the last for almost three years – and he’s now a go-to bassist for the like of keyboardist Robert Glasper, singer Gretchen Parlato, and MC Common.
Saxophonist Wilkins is the group’s junior member having just graduated from Juilliard School of Music, and hails from Philadelphia where his entry into music came from his church background as well as dedicated jazz programs. His musical experiences have taken him in and out of the jazz circle; he’s performed and/or recorded with Jason Moran, the Count Basie Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis and Gerald Clayton, as well as Lalah Hathaway, Solange Knowles, and Bob Dylan.