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Elan

Trotman

Saxophonist Elan Trotman, has quickly become one of jazz’s most thrilling and emotive performers as he continues to stand out and push boundaries as a composer, performer, teacher and recording artist. Trotman’s playing, though inspired by Grover Washington, Jr., Kirk Whalum and Najee, displays his own fresh ideas and distinctive tone. So much so that the New England Urban Music Awards, and The Barbados Music Awards both named himJazz Artist of The Year on multiple occasions.

Trotman is also the Executive Producer and host of the Barbados Jazz Excursion, a jazz and golf weekend getaway which brings over 300 music lovers to the island every Columbus Day Weekend. Past performers include Jeff Lorber, Javier Colon, Gerald Veasley, Brian Simpson, Althea Rene, Marcus Anderson, Peter White and Jeffrey Osborne. Elan is also the founder of the Never Lose Your Drive Foundation – a Non-Profit which directly funds the Headstart Music Program. Headstart Music provides FREE weekly instrument instruction to students ages 7-11 on saxophone, trumpet, flute, clarinet and percussion. In 2016, over $6,000.00 was raised at the Jazz Excursion Weekend and Golf Tournament. All proceeds go towards tutor salaries, instrument maintenance and supplies for the program.

Born and raised in Barbados, the native island of pop star Rihanna, and educated at the world-renowned Berklee College Of Music in Boston,Trotman approaches jazz in his own way. Blending Caribbean rhythms from his roots with skillful horn textures, his playing is full of surprises.

Trotman has recorded and performed with a number of world-class musicians, including Michael McDonald, Roberta Flack, Jonathan Butler, Keiko Matsui, Johnny Gill, Jeffrey Osborne, Sheila E, Marcus Miller, Will Downing, Earl Klugh, Jeff Lorber, Peter White, Peabo Bryson, Brian Simpson and many others. A huge sports fan, Trotman has performed the National Anthem on numerous occasions for such teams as the Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. As an avid sports fan, Elan has provided entertainment for numerous celebrities including The Bronson Arroyo Band, Cold Pizza on ESPN with Woody Page,  Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Golf Classic, Chris Tucker Charity Golf Tournament, Ray Allen Golf Tournament, Hot Stove Cool Music with Peter Gammons and Theo Epstein.

As a recording artist Elan has topped the Billboard Radio Charts over 10 times. As a solo artist charting songs include “Heaven In Your Eyes” feat. Brian Simpson, “Tradewinds” feat Peter White, “Master Blaster”, “As” feat. Lin Rountree, “Thoughts of Sumer” feat. Will Downing, and “Smooth N Saxy”. Collaborations that have topped the charts include “Magic Men” (Marion Meadows), “Groove Me” (Greg Manning), “Just What You Need” (Brian Simpson), “Smooth (Cal Harris) and “Ride Along” (Julian Vaughn).

Carla

Cook

Everything Carla Cook sings swings.

 

There’s a reason for that: Cook has been influenced by the jazz vocal masters, but equally influenced by phenomenal instrumentalists, like Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery and The Crusaders. The Detroit native also finds inspiration in R&B, Motown, pop, gospel and country. In fact, she has put her unique phrasing on everything from Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” to Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” to Neil Young’s  “Heart of Gold”.

 

As a result, Cook has an improvisational style that’s steeped in the swing tradition yet eclectic, and brimming with fresh interpretations. “Although I’ve been influenced by all the masters, I’ve been maturing into my own sound, “says Cook. “Today, I sound exactly like me.”

 

That sound is a warm contralto with a remarkably wide range of colors; known for her interpretive gifts, Cook can sing in a hefty, bluesy timbre, reach crystal clear high notes, then scat with sure-footed richness; and she does it all with an acute sense of rhythm and timing. As a result, says jazz critic John Murph of The Washington Post. “She has sass that enlivens her impeccable diction, and tremendous soul that lets her swagger with gutbucket finesse, but it’s all buttressed with sparkling optimism and innocence.”

 

Her remarkable voice has earned Cook a Grammy nomination for her debut album, It’s All About Love, and widespread critical acclaim for her two subsequent recordings, Dem Bones, (“an intoxicating album that is as adventurous as it is accessible”) and Simply Natural  (“she remains delightfully free of artifice or affectation”), which solidified her reputation as a songwriter as well as a singer.

 

And in an extraordinary career, Cook has performed or recorded as a guest artist with such luminaries as the Count Basie Orchestra and Lionel Hampton’s Big Band (she was the last of a long line of esteemed featured vocalists who performed with him before his death). She originated the lead vocal role for Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s The Cotton Club Parade at City Center.  (The role was later performed with various vocalists for the Broadway production, renamed After Midnight).  And in 2011, she was the featured vocalist with the world –renowned Jazz Sinfonica, an 82-piece orchestra performing in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

 

The list of great artists Cook has worked with includes among others Jimmy Heath, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Steve Wilson, Regina Carter, Eric Reed, Don Byron, Craig Harris, Sekou Sundiata, Patrice Rushen, Savion Glover, Ben Vereen, Cyrus Chestnut, Carl Allen, Rodney Jones, Igor Butman, Wycliff Gordon, Bruce Barth and Terell Stafford. Her band The Carla Cook Quintet, has opened for Ron Carter, Wayne Shorter and B.B. King; her band has also performed at the invitation of Aretha Franklin for her annual Christmas Party.

 

In addition to her performing career, Cook is proud of her work as an educator. She has taught master classes at numerous universities and jazz camps in Australia and the U.S. for teens and adults. And since 2007, she has taught jazz voice and ensemble at Temple University in Philadelphia. For several years, the Carla Cook Quintet has offered master classes through The Rhythm Exchange, an interactive Jazz Education Program she created for secondary students in schools throughout the U.S.

 

In 2016, Cook was named Artist-In-Residence for the Robert S. Duncanson Society in Cincinnati, OH, where she provided educational programming and performances for students of all ages as well as the general public. In 2017 she joined the faculty of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY for a special Residency teaching “Jazz: A Journey in Progress” to graduate students of Performance Studies. In 2018 she joined the faculty of The New School in New York City to teach Vocal Jazz Ensemble.


 

“I’ve been able to strike a balance between performance and education and a variety of different collaborations,” says Cook. “I think it’s really important that we pass this on. It’s American classical music, and so it excites me when I see young people interested and excited about it, and wanting to pursue it as I did when I was young.”

 

Indeed, Cook was introduced to the music at a young age in her native Detroit. Growing up, she sang in the Methodist Church, but also enjoyed a range of musical styles – from European classical to rock to the blues. During her formative years, Cook studied privately voice, piano and string bass, the latter of when she played in the orchestra at Detroit’s esteemed Cass Technical High School. Cook attended Boston’s Northeastern University and earned a degree in Speech Communication. While in Boston, she formed the first of several jazz ensembles. She moved to New York in 1990, where she began performing regularly on the jazz scene; in the ensuing years, in a career spanning more than two decades, she has performed in concert halls and nightclubs and jazz festivals throughout the U.S. and Europe, Russia, Central Asia, Canada, Brazil, The United Arab Emirates, Africa, and Australia.

 

Always open to new experiences, Cooks looks forward to the next big thing – from solo recording to collaboration to performing to more teaching opportunities. For her, it’s all about telling stories, and that’s what she loves about a life in jazz.

 

“I love that it allows me to improvise,” says Cook. “I love the freedom of the music. I love that it’s so broad, with all its different influences by some amazing people that started off creating and defining this music. I feel honored to be part of the story.”

Yoko

     Miwa

Internationally acclaimed pianist/composer Yoko Miwa is quickly becoming known as one of the most powerful and compelling performers on the scene today. She performed on the main stage at the 2018 Atlanta Jazz Festival, and drew the largest audience of any act at the 2018 Litchfield Jazz Festival. Her trio – with its remarkable telepathy and infectious energy – has brought audiences to their feet worldwide.

Of Miwa’s 2017 release Pathways, Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz said, “4 stars–This is Yoko Miwa at her extroverted best…her finest recording to date.” Pathways – her seventh as a leader –which spent 4 weeks on the Jazz Week top 10 radio charts and is earning wide critical acclaim. Since first appearing on Jazz Week charts, Pathways was in the top 10 for four weeks running and consistently remained in the Top 40, peaking at #6. Miwa was the subject of a feature article in the September 2017 issue of DownBeat that referenced her “impressive technique and a tuneful lyricism that combines an Oscar Peterson-ish hard swing with Bill Evans-like introspection.”

 

For the past decade Miwa has honed one of the most musical trio sounds on the jazz scene. They play regularly at major jazz clubs in their home city of Boston, as well as venues around the world. A favorite of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Miwa was chosen to play on “Marian McPartland & Friends,” part of the Coca Cola Generations in Jazz Festival. She was also chosen to perform at Lincoln Center’s annual Jazz and Leadership Workshop for The National Urban League’s Youth Summit.

 

Miwa also appears regularly at New York’s famed Blue Note Jazz Club and has performed and/or recorded with a wide range of jazz greats including Sheila Jordan, Slide Hampton, Arturo Sandoval, George Garzone, Jon Faddis, Jerry Bergonzi, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Kevin Mahogany, John Lockwood and Johnathan Blake among others.

Miwa is a Yamaha Pianos Artist, JVC Victor Entertainment recording artist, and Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll winner. Miwa’s story of becoming a jazz musician is full of serendipity and happy twists of fate. In the late 1990s the classically-trained artist auditioned for Berklee College of Music on a lark and ended up winning a full scholarship. She arrived at the school from her homeland of Japan in 1997, intending to stay for a year. In 2017, she’s still in Boston, enriching the city’s musical life and serving as one of the most popular professors in the Berklee piano department.

Act Naturally, the Yoko Miwa Trio’s major label debut in Japan, came out in 2012 on the JVC Victor Entertainment label and the band toured Japan that same year. “She is one of the best jazz pianists in Japan,” said Yozo Iwanami, Jazz Hihyo Magazine.

A native of Kobe, Japan, Miwa was classically trained and didn’t pursue an interest in jazz until she met and studied with Minoru Ozone, a popular television organist and nightclub owner who is the father of pianist Makoto Ozone. Miwa worked at Ozone’s club and as an accompanist and piano instructor at his music school until the great Kobe earthquake of 1995 destroyed both facilities. Then, while continuing to take private lessons from Minoru Ozone, she also pursued musical studies at the Koyo Conservatory in Kobe. From there she won first prize in a scholarship competition to attend Berklee. Miwa quickly began playing with a host of talented students and teachers, and she formed a strong bond with vocal great Kevin Mahogany, who chose the pianist to serve as accompanist in his classes and on his gigs.

Miwa has recorded seven highly acclaimed CDs: In the Mist of Time (Tokuma, 2000); Fadeless Flower (Polystar, 2002); Canopy of Stars (Polystar, 2004); The Day We Said Goodbye, recorded live at the studios of WGBH-FM (Sunshine Digital, 2006); Live at Scullers (Jazz Cat Amnesty, 2011); Act Naturally (JVC Victor Entertainment, 2012), and Pathways (2017). On each CD one hears Miwa’s distinct and powerful musical personality.

Of Miwa’s 2017 release Pathways, Dan McClenaghan of All About Jazz said, “4 stars–This is Yoko Miwa at her extroverted best…her finest recording to date.” Pathways – her seventh as a leader –which spent 4 weeks on the Jazz Week top 10 radio charts and is earning wide critical acclaim. Since first appearing on Jazz Week charts, Pathways was in the top 10 for four weeks running and consistently remained in the Top 40, peaking at #6. Miwa was the subject of a feature article in the September 2017 issue of DownBeat that referenced her “impressive technique and a tuneful lyricism that combines an Oscar Peterson-ish hard swing with Bill Evans-like introspection.”

Eguie Castrillo

"Growing up in the Cupey section of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Castrillo's first showed hints of musical ability playing a tiny organ in his parents' living room. "I used to play the theme to the movie The Godfather and 'Noche de Paz' on that organ, and it would make my mother cry," Castrillo says. He continues with a laugh, "I wonder now if she was crying because it touched her or because it sounded bad."

Castrillo's parents ultimately diverted his attention from the organ when he was seven years old by giving him a set of timbales for Christmas. "I loved the timbales and would practice for eight hours most days," Castrillo recalls. "Timbales are very loud. When I played at night, the neighbors would call the police. Finally, we all came to an agreement that I would have to stop playing by 8:00 p.m. But by the time that happened, I had become good friends with the police!"

One artist whose music profoundly affected Castrillo early on was the late, great bandleader and percussionist Tito Puente. "After I saw him playing timbales, I knew what I wanted to be a timbalero." At 11, he met Giovanni Hidalgo, who Castrillo believes is one of the best conga players anywhere. The connection helped broaden Castrillo's musical horizons. "I was lucky to grow up around him," Castrillo says. "After we met, I started playing conga and bongos and even a little bit of bata drums." These days, Castrillo is a high demand percussionist and an authority on the rhythms of the Caribbean countries Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Castrillo started playing professionally with several groups in high school. By the time he left Puerto Rico in 1993, he had played with all of the top names in the country. "I felt I had to move to see where my talent would take me," says Castrillo. “A group in New York called, promising me good work as a conguero if I moved there. I had a family and owned a house in Puerto Rico by then, so moving to New York was a big change." In the end, the work never materialized, and Castrillo left New York for Miami, where he was soon hired by Latin-jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

"The five years I spent playing with Arturo were great.We traveled around the world four times and played with many great musicians, including Michael Brecker, Steve Winwood, and Cachao Lopez." Toward the end of that stint, Castrillo wanted a change. He sought to tour less and spend more time at home with his family. At the urging of Professor Victor Mendoza and others, Castrillo moved to the Boston area and began teaching at Berklee in 1999.

Since his arrival in the area, he has worked with many acts, and very few of them are Latin artists looking for a timbale player. "So many people call me to play congas," he says. "I also get called upon to play all kinds of grooves. You can apply any rhythm to the congas. You can be playing salsa and then change to calypso, or cross over to American music like funk, rock, blues, or whatever. You can also play the traditional rhythms of different Carribean countries like the bomba from Puerto Rico or rhythms from Venezuela. That is the beauty of that instrument."

While Castrillo has made a good living playing congas, his first love remains the timbales. It had been his dream since 1989 to be a timbalero leading a large ensemble playing mambos, cha-chas, and rumbas in a salute to the 1950s Palladium era in New York. "When Tito Puente passed away in 2000, I went to the funeral, stood by his casket, and made a promise that I would try to carry on the tradition he started. I want to bring the mambo back with some new touches."

Castrillo's first outing with the orchestra of his dreams was a Latin Big Band concert at the Berklee Performance Center in November of 2004. "I did a tribute to the Mambo Kings, Tito Puente, Machito, and Tito Rodriguez.” This show received a very warm welcome by the Media and all the public in attendance which prompted Castrillo to work on a mambo CD titled “Palladium Tradition”, released in 2005, and he couldn't be happier. "I am very pleased with the record," he says. "There is a medley of boleros and a rumba from Cuba that I adapted and had José Madera, conguero and arranger for Tito Puente, arrange for us."

While Castrillo feels that Puente left big shoes to fill, he wants to do what he can to keep the music alive. "I want to continue passing on knowledge and stories to my audience for them to do the same thing."

Ron Savage Trio

Ron Savage remembers the impact of hearing drums at a July 4 paradewhen he was little. “The percussion section of the marching band came by,” Savage recalls, “and according to my parents, I took off running and followed the drums all the way to the end of the parade route.” That was the first indicator that drumming would have a powerful effect on him. “Once I began playing, I knew that I wanted to play drums for the rest of my life.”

His musical path began with drum lessons at eight and ultimately led him to studies at Berklee in the early 1980s to gigs with a veritable who’s who in the jazz world, and then back to Berklee, where he has been a faculty member for 19 years. Savage has been chair of the Ensemble Department since 2000. Early on, he found that in addition to playing drums, he also had a gift and passion for teaching.

Savage spent his early years in Westchester County, New York, and his first opportunities to play music came by way of his church. Later he broadened his stylistic palette. “I played old-time gospel in my church when I was a kid, he says. “When I was 13, my family moved to Ahoskie, North Carolina. I was in an r&b band playing tunes by Rick James, the Bar-Kays, James Brown, and others in juke joints around rural North Carolina.”

Savage and his brother had to get creative to find good music on the radio in their rural town in the northeast corner of the state. “The local radio station went off the air when the sun went down,” Savage recalls. “But my younger brother found a way to amplify the coil in the radio, and we started getting stations from Norfolk, Virginia, and elsewhere. I remember a Sunday morning when one of the stations played some jazz. I heard Dizzy Gillespie singing ‘Salt Peanuts’ followed by Coltrane’s ‘My Favorite Things.’ I didn’t know anything about what kind of music it was, but I knew I had to play it.”

It wasn’t until Savage got to Berklee that he began to play jazz with other students. After graduating in 1984 as a drum performance major, he established himself as a jazz musician around Boston. His drum teacher Alan Dawson began recommending him for jazz gigs that Dawson couldn’t make. “The first important gig I had was with some former members of the Count Basie Band,” Savage recalls. “Things took off from there and I started going on the road playing with older jazz guys.” For a decade after graduating from Berklee, Savage toured with Mulgrew Miller, Gary Bartz, Nnenna Freelon, and others. (Today, the roster of artists he’s played with includes Phil Woods, Art Farmer, Cyrus Chestnut, Mark Whitfield, Christian McBride, Kurt Elling, and many more.)

In 1993, Savage left the road and joined the Berklee faculty, teaching ear training and drum lessons initially. He was named the assistant chair of percussion in 1996 and, four years later, the chair of the Ensemble Department.

From an early age, Savage felt drawn to teaching; at the age of the 13, he began teaching friends drum beats. At Berklee, Savage stresses the importance of mastering the fundamentals of music. “The high standards and expectations we have for our students can’t change,” he says. “How students apply that knowledge in their own careers is up to them. Technology may continue to affect the way music is produced or delivered, but the music has to be there. People still want good songs and good beats.”

Some 20 years ago, Savage unexpectedly began a charitable effort to teach music to young people at Abundant Life Church in Cambridge. “A seven-year-old boy came up to me at my church and told me he wanted to learn to play the drums,” recalls Savage. “I told him to come back on Saturday and I’d teach him. He showed up with a friend who also wanted to learn, so I taught them both. More kids came each week, and soon I had five students. Then a parent asked me about piano lessons for her daughter, so I found someone to teach her piano. No one had money to pay for the lessons. I was giving drum lessons for free and paying for the piano teacher initially. Pretty soon we had a dozen students taking drum and piano lessons. I feel everyone should have a chance to play a musical instrument—even if they aren’t planning to become a musician.”

Savage organized Abundant Life Music Instruction (ALMI), which currently provides lessons on half a dozen instruments to 40 students, 30 weeks a year. The operation is now self-sustaining, with families paying as they are able. Savage and his wife, Lois, hold fundraising events and seek out sponsorships to fill the gaps for ALMI’s rent and teacher salaries.

Many lives have been touched through Savage’s mentoring and generous spirit. A number of ALMI students have won scholarships to various colleges—including Berklee. One student’s story has brought things full circle for Savage. Mark Ward was the seven-year-old who initially approached Savage about lessons. Ward wanted to pursue a music career and worked with Savage for years. “When he told me he wanted to go to music school,” says Savage. “I told him that if he did everything I told him to, he’d get a full scholarship.” Savage laid it out and Ward worked diligently. As predicted, he received a full-tuition scholarship through the Berklee City Music Program and has just earned his bachelor’s degree. Savage sees a bright future for him. And Ward gives back by teaching at ALMI, and in addition to performing extensively, he has released his first CD.

Looking over his career to date, Savage is grateful as well as philosophical. “I’ve had a great education and the chance to play with some of the best jazz musicians ever. I get to teach at the best music school anywhere, and run another program where I can pass it all on.”