Grammy winner, Swiss born harmonica player and composer, Gregoire Maret moved to New York City at 18 years old to study at the New School University.
Over the course of the past decade, Gregoire has emerged as a unique and compelling new voice across a wide spectrum of the modern jazz world. That his chosen instrument - the harmonica - is a relative rarity in the genre is one element in his singular sound, but far from the whole explanation. After all, the extensive list of heavy- hitters who have enlisted him for their own projects is unparalleled: Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson, and Marcus Miller are some of his most prominent employers, none of whom have the patience to employ novelty for novelty's sake.
His guest appearances on recording sessions and concert stages expand that list to even more jaw-dropping proportions: Prince, Sting, Elton John, Jimmy Scott, Dianne Reeves, Toots Thielemans, Raul Midón, Richard Bona, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tito Puente, Kurt Elling, Mike Stern, Jeff “Tain” Watts and Charlie Hunter have all made use of Maret's unmatched palette of color.
Along the way, Maret has redefined the role of the harmonica, finding fresh pathways through a remarkable variety of styles. Herbie Hancock has called Maret "one of the most creative musicians around," while Marcus Miller has declared that he is "carrying the instrument into the 21st century with prowess, passion, and creativity."
Described by NPR as “a visionary composer, an extraordinary jazz pianist and a very bright young rising star in the jazz world”, and touted by the Boston Globe as being “among the leading lights of a new breed of jazz players”, Romain Collin continues to develop “a highly personal and contemporary vision” (A Blog Supreme, NPR), blurring the lines between virtuosic improvisation, sound designing, indie rock and classical music. About to release his new brainchild, Tiny Lights…, Collin keeps developing “a unique voice, a crystal clear vision” (UK VIBE), making his mark on the New York scene, as well as internationally. Tiny Lights… is a unique project that features Obed Calvaire playing acoustic and electronic drums, Matthew Stevens on electric guitar and Collin on piano, vocal effects and Moog Taurus- a bass pedal synthesizer. Two numbers on the record also feature the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2009, Collin released his debut as a leader, The Rise and Fall of Pipokuhn (Fresh Sound), a record described as “an astonishingly mature and ambitious debut that secures Collin a placeholder in the continuing evolution of the grand tradition of the piano trio” (All About Jazz). The album made New York jazz critic David Adler’s list of notable debuts of 2009 and got radio airplay throughout France, Japan and the US - including a special feature on WNYC Culture program. Collin was soon after invited by legendary pianist Marian McPartland to her prestigious Piano Jazz show on NPR to discuss his artistic vision and to perform solo piano.
In 2012, Collin released his second album as a leader, The Calling (Palmetto). The record was produced by Matt Pierson and features Kendrick Scott on drums and Luques Curtis on bass, a band of “astonishing capabilities, filling a landscape of incredible expanse” (All About Jazz). The Calling has been described as “a tour de force that showcases Collin’s strengths as an accomplished composer and virtuoso pianist of the highest order” (JazzEd Magazine), and as “a work of art that is worthy of being held onto for generations to come” (Eric Sandler, The Revivalist).
Collin’s third release, Press Enter (ACT, 2015) features once again Scott on drums and Curtis on bass. This record was described by the New York Times as a “winning new album”, hailed by Jazz journal, UK as an “absolute masterpiece” and praised by All About Jazz as an “extraordinary album”. The group has toured in major venues and festivals throughout France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and Japan.
Romain, originally born in France, attended Berklee College of Music (’04), where he studied performance with the likes of Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano while majoring in Music Synthesis. In 2007, Collin graduated from the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz where he held a Full Scholarship as the pianist of an ensemble handpicked by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Terence Blanchard. During this time, Romain toured internationally with Hancock and Shorter, shared the stage with Marcus Miller, Jimmy Heath, and Terence Blanchard, and studied with the likes of Larry Goldings, Russell Ferrante, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, Mulgrew Miller and Wynton Marsalis.
While furthering his career as a leader, Romain co-leads a group with harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret, that features guitarist Bill Frisell- the trio recorded Americana (ACT, 2019). Romain has also composed orchestra scores for Anthem and Syria, two mini-documentaries produced by Peace Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai and her fund. Other scoring works include various short documentaries for the United Nations Refugee Agency and for the Gates Foundation, Le Bresil par la Cote (five-part feature documentary, 2014), Les Airventuriers (two-part feature documentary, 2015), as well as numerous award-wining short movies. Collin has taught improvisation at the New School of Music in New York, and was invited to teach film scoring at Princeton University as a guest lecturer.
career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 40 years and many celebrated recordings, whose catalog has been cited by Downbeat as "the best recorded output of the decade."
Released March of ’18, Frisell’s latest album for OKeh/Sony is a solo album titled, Music IS - "Taken as a whole, the album beautifully encapsulates Frisell’s depth and range in all its meditative glory."- Chicago Reader. It was recorded in August, 2017 at Tucker Martine’s Flora Recording and Playback studio in Portland, Oregon and produced by longtime collaborator Lee Townsend. All of the compositions on Music IS were written by Frisell, some of them brand new – Change in the Air, Thankful, What Do You Want, Miss You and Go Happy Lucky – others being solo adaptations of now classic original compositions he had previously recorded, such as Ron Carter, Pretty Stars, Monica Jane, and The Pioneers. In Line, and Rambler are from Frisell’s first two ECM albums.
Frisell’s previous project, the Grammy nominated When You Wish Upon a Star also with OKeh/Sony, germinated at Lincoln Center during his two-year appointment as guest curator for the Roots of Americana series (September ’13 – May ’15). It features Frisell with vocalist Petra Haden, Eyvind Kang (viola), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) performing Frisell’s arrangements and interpretations of Music from Film and Television. Jazz Times described the project as follows: "unforgettable themes are the real draw here, reconfigured with ingenuity, wit and affection by Frisell and a terrific group."
"Frisell has had a lot of practice putting high concept into a humble package. Long hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, he has also earned a reputation for teasing out thematic connections with his music... There’s a reason that Jazz at Lincoln Center had him program a series called Roots of Americana." - New York Times
Recognized as one of America’s 21 most vital and productive performing artists, Frisell was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012. He is also a recipient of grants from United States Artists, Meet the Composer among others. In 2016, he was a beneficiary of the first FreshGrass Composition commission to preserve and support innovative grassroots music. Upon San Francisco Jazz opening their doors in 2013, he served as one of their Resident Artistic Directors. Bill is also the subject of a new documentary film by director Emma Franz, entitled Bill Frisell: A Portrait, which examines his creative process in depth.
“Clarence is the kind of musician who leaves his judgments of music and musicians aside to provide the best support and complement. He really cares that everyone on stage sound as good as they can. That explains why the results are so great with the extraordinary musicians he brings into his projects. Fireworks!”—Dave Douglas
“Clarence is a charismatic player, with great dynamic range and drama and musicality. He’s an intricate and heady drummer who thinks compositionally, but uses his gut and instincts towards the end result of making something exciting, that feels alive, and is full of energy and passion. He doesn’t have a limited conception of what the drummer is. Of course, he drives the band and pushes the time, but he also knows how to stop and allow things to happen—to be a colorist.”—Maria Schneider
“I think Clarence is a natural leader. He listens like a producer. He has clarity and vision. He hears everything—the bass, the high voices, the middle. He understands harmony. He understands lyrics. He has the will to solve problems and figure them out. He doesn’t stay traditional, but makes the music free and colorful. He understands that music is play. I’d play with him every day if I could.”—Luciana Souza
Clarence Penn is one of the busiest jazz drummers in the world, a leader of multiple bands, a composer, a prolific producer, and an educator.
Since 1991, when he arrived in New York City, Penn has placed his unique blend of mega-chops, keen intellect, and heady musicianship at the service of a staggering array of A-list artists—a chronological short-list includes Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay. Penn’s impressive discography includes several hundred studio albums (including the Grammy-winning recordings 34th and Lex by Randy Brecker and Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue by Maria Schneider) representing a 360-spectrum of jazz expression, and he’s toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. He’s composed music for films and commercials, and produced tracks for numerous singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a “Ten Best of 1997” accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, Penn’s Landing.
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a protégé of Ellis Marsalis, Penn is active as an educator and drum clinician. From 2004 to 2012, he taught on the faculty of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music. He’s also served on faculty at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Saint Louis College of Music in Rome, Italy, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Intensive Jazz Institute.
Penn currently leads several ensembles. His most recent “rhythmically intoxicating” recording is 2014’s “Monk The Lost Files”arrangements of the music of Thelonious Monk. Released on the Origin record lable, an amazing quartet comprising saxophonist Chad Leftkowitz-Brown, Pianist Gerald Clayton/Donald Vega, and bassist Yasushi Nakamura performing the music of Thelonius Monk with today’s modern jazz sensibility. Near completion is a “world music” studio project of songs and instrumentals that melds background voices—including his own—with a world class band.
Whether Penn is leading his own band or performing as a sideman, he brings to the table unfailing versatility and professionalism, an ability to find creative ways to interpret a global array of styles and idioms, and a stated intention “to play music that’s warm and organic for the people and for myself.”
His motto: “When people hear my name, I want them to think, ‘I don’t know what band he’s playing with tonight or what he’ll be doing, but it’s going to be good, it’s going to be musical.’”