Xavier Davis' professional career as a Jazz pianist took off when the legendary vocalist Betty Carter spotted his outstanding talent at the 1994 International Association of Jazz Educators convention in Boston while he was performing with his college ensemble. It was her who brought Xavier to New York, hiring him exclusively as the pianist of her working trio. Today, Xavier is one of the most accomplished Jazz pianists world wide. Having led master classes and clinics all over the world and coming from a family of music educators, passing on knowledge and skills to young musicians is very important to Xavier. As such, he is proud to be Associate Professor of Jazz Piano at Michigan State University. Xavier was also member of the teaching staff in the Jazz department of the Julliard School of Music in New York for six years prior to that.
Xavier's development as a musician has been greatly influenced by the inspiration and guidance he has received from Carl Allen, James Williams, and Billy Hart, whom he sees and respects as his great mentors. In addition to Betty and Carl, Xavier has performed and recorded with many other world-famous Jazz artists like the legendary Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Stefon Harris, Abbey Lincoln, Wynton Marsalis, Don Byron, Nat Adderley, Nicholas Payton, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Greene, Steve Turre, Al Foster, and Jeremy Pelt among others. During the 1999 - 2000 season, Xavier worked with the Boy's Choir of Harlem as their Musical Director. He also played keyboard for the television series "Cosby." His talent has been featured on more than 50 albums. Xavier is part of the Christian McBride Big Band and was featured on Christian's album 'The Good Feeling', which won a GRAMMY award in 2012.
As a bandleader, Xavier has released two critically acclaimed albums - 'Dance of Life' and 'The Innocence of Youth'. "The pianist [Xavier Davis] simply knows how to make every note on his instrument sing, and he invariably finds the richest area of the keyboard for voicing his chords." says writer Bob Blumenthal. Jazz Times reviewer John Murph writes "...the music exudes a mature, nonchalant ease and cozy empathy that make this...a rewarding listen." Down Beat gave the CD, "Dance of Life," four stars, stating, "Davis steps out with an accomplished debut." Xavier is currently working on his long awaited follow-up to these albums.
In 2005, Xavier became the first person to receive the prestigious "New Works Grant" twice from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation under the auspices of Chamber Music America. He has won awards at several festivals as well as in Down Beat magazine.
Being a gifted composer, arranger, and producer of music, Xavier has composed and arranged music for outstanding artists like Carl Allen, Regina Carter, and Hans Schuman. He has co-produced the album "Wise Children" by Tom Harrell and recently produced the new album of singer Lizzie Thomas. Xavier is also a passionate and experienced film and commercial music composer/producer.
GENE KNIFIC TRIO
"Gene Knific is a multi-talented and unique pianist/composer, whose music fuses varied elements in fascinating and compelling ways. He is an engaging artist on a great trajectory."
-Shelly Berg, Grammy©-nominated pianist, composer, and arranger
Gene Knific is a pianist, composer, and producer based in Chicago, IL. Knific has performed worldwide presenting an extensive and diverse repertoire with a wide array of artists. Recent highlights include performances with saxophone
legend Joe Lovano in 2014, Macarthur Genius Grant recipient Miguel Zenón in 2015, and three performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. with the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. His talents have brought him on tours
to Russia at The St. Petersburg Conservatory and Jazz Philharmonic, the Copenhagen Opera House and Montmartre Jazzhus in Denmark, the Xiquitsi International Music Festival in Mozambique, and The Schlern International
Music Festival in Italy.
Knific’s own band, The Gene Knific Trio, is an adventurous group dedicated to original works and unique explorations of classical and modern genres. The GKT has performed at the Elkhart Jazz Festival twice in 2014 and 2015, the
Fontana Chamber Arts Summer Series in Kalamzoo Michigan, and the Amelia Island Jazz Festival in Florida, along with countless other venues in the Midwest and South Florida areas.
Gene is the recipient of 8 Down Beat Music Awards for his performances and compositions in jazz and contemporary categories, Two ASCAP Young Jazz Composers awards, and the University of Miami’s Patricia Frost Top Graduate
award in 2014. Knific also has been awarded numerous grants, including funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for his documentary “Mitten” premiering in Spring 2016.
Knific graduated with highest honors from the University of Miami Frost School of Music with degrees in jazz performance and composition, where he studied with Shelly Berg, Martin Bejerano, Lansing McLoskey, and Terence Blanchard.
A world class talent, Matthew Ball is already described as “Michigan’s leading boogie-woogie pianist!” by The Farmington Patch, "A boogie-woogie master!" by The Romeo Observer, and “A rising giant in the field!” by Metroland. A graduate of Oakland University and The University of Detroit, Matthew holds degrees in Music, History and Law. He trained classically at Oakland University with the internationally renown classical pianist Flavio Varani, a graduate of The Paris Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music, who traced his own pedigree of study back to Chopin himself!
Recently welcomed twice on Fox 2 News Detroit's 'The Nine Show' and also on Channel 20 News Detroit's 'Concert on the Qube' Matthew Ball has established himself as one of the leading entertainers around Detroit. Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition as well as Michigan Public Radio’s Ann Delisi's and Rob Reinhart's Essential Music Programs, The Craig Fahle Show and WMUK’s The Art & More Show, Matthew performs a fast-paced program of Boogie-n-Blues, Jazz & Ragtime piano favorites from the Swing-dancin' era of the 20’s 30’s & 40’s, with arrangements of American classics like Ain't Misbehavin, When the Saints Go Marchin In, Over the Rainbow, Basin Street Blues, Bumble Boogie, The Entertainer, Glory of Love, and more! There is also a dash of originals and song too.
Remarkably Ball's start in Jazz only began in 2001! A former attorney, Matthew left the practice after he attended a hometown boogie-woogie festival. He was so awestruck by the performances he saw that night, he left his career as an attorney to become a blues & boogie-woogie performing artist. With a lot of time, work, and effort over the next few years Ball would reach a breakthrough in 2005 with a career launching performance at the exclusive Arches Piano Stage in Cincinnati where he shared the stage with some of the same musicians that first inspired him to play back in 2001.
Today Matthew is known online and on-stage as THE BOOGIE WOOGIE KID with a performance history that spans everything from symphony appearances to Jazz and Blues festivals, and descriptions of his performances as "Awesome!" "Crushing!" and "Fantastic!"
Now with over 3.7 million YOUTUBE views of past performance footage he has distinguished himself as an internationally recognized practitioner and authority on these treasured American art-forms.
MOLLY KONZEN JAZZ BAND
The Molly Konzen Jazz Band, consisting of 4 members, formed in winter of 2016. Their sound is classically jazzy, reminiscent of the good ol’ days of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Molly Konzen is from Mattawan, MI and studied biology and communications at San Diego Mesa College and Western Michigan University. Though she has been playing piano and singing for over 20 years, she is almost entirely self-taught. She also writes her own music and released 2 full length original albums in December 2016. They were recorded in Chicago with well-known Chicago musicians, including Buddy Guy’s Legends’ own Brother John Kattke & Marty Binder, and jazz professor, Cory Biggerstaff. Max Brown, originally from Ann Arbor, studied jazz guitar at Western Michigan University and has played with everyone from Joe Lovano to Victor Wooten. Max can be seen out on stage with a variety of acts almost every day of the week and can play pretty much any genre you throw at him with incredible expertise. Mike Horrigan is an exceptional upright and electric bassist and was raised in Grand Rapids, MI. Mike graduated from Western Michigan University school of music in 2006 with a bachelors in performance and jazz studies. Mike is highly sought-after in the Kalamazoo area for his skillful bass solos and strong sense of rhythmic foundation. Steven Perry, hailing from South Bend, IN, graduated with a bachelors in jazz studies from Western Michigan University in 2016. There he studied with drum pedagogy extraordinaire Keith Hall, who helped cultivate Steven’s playful and always innovative drumming techniques. Steven is comfortable playing all kinds of genres, and is a busy guy, playing for many groups in the area and performing all over the midwest.
DOT ORG JAZZ ORGAN COMBO
Dot Org is a trio in the OGD (organ, guitar, drums) tradition. Members include Clifton Metcalf, sophomore in college, Jacob Metcalf, Junior in high school, and Carlos Melendez, professional musician. The group formed in the winter of 2014, in preparation for a jazz festival at a local college. In February 2014, after meeting Jim Alfredson, Randy Scott Marsh, and Larry Barris of the jazz organ group Organissimo, their passions for the OGD genre were ignited. Dot Org has earned several awards at local and regional jazz festivals and has performed in a variety of settings including the Dow Diamond, Central Michigan University, Alma College, and Hope College Park Theater. They are regular contributors to the Jazz Jam at the SpeakEZ Lounge in Grand Rapids and entertain in a number of brew pubs around the state, including Our Brewing Company of Holland, Alma brewing company of Alma, Northport Brewing of Northport, Mountain Town Brewing of Mt. Pleasant, and StormCloud Brewing of Frankfort. In April of 2014, Dot Org was fortunate enough to meet and perform with Tony Monaco, internationally renowned jazz organist and Artist-In-Residence at Hope College, Holland Michigan. Since that time, Clif has continued his studies with Mr. Monaco at Hope College. Dot Org hopes to play a role in revitalizing the OGD jazz tradition and have a great time doing it!
MIKE FROST DUO
Mike Frost is a Chicago born saxophonist and working musician for 30 plus years. As a student attending DePaul University, he studied under jazz legend Joe Daley. For 22 years, Mike was the Director of Entertainment for Premier Yachts Inc., creating and directing all of the entertainment for their dinner cruise ships at Navy Pier in Chicago and the sister ships in Boston, Washington D.C.and New York. He performed with his own groups aboard the Odyssey cruise ship for much of that time. One of those groups, The MikeFrostProject, became nationally recognized and received rave reviews with the release of it’s first recording “Nothing Smooth About It”; the second CD, “Comin’ Straight At Ya," made the first round nomination ballot for the Grammy Awards. Next, the group released “LIVE" - a compilation of live recordings from their performances at clubs they make regular appearances at like Andy’s Jazz Club, The Jazz Showcase and Trio’s Jazz Club. All three of the bands recordings have received national airplay and were ranked in the Jazz Week jazz charts for several months respectively. For the past 26 years, Mike has been a voting member in the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences. In 2013, Mike made Grand Rapids his new home where he teaches and performs on a regular basis for private functions, festivals and more. Sunday brunches he can be found at the JW Marriott. It is here he and Mike Hyde have been able to develop and create a symbiotic musical relationship both enjoy and challenge each other with. Highlighted in their repertoire is straight ahead, bossa nova and classic swing tunes as well as originals.
Guitarist Mike Hyde has been an active performer and educator in the West Michigan area for over 30 years. He holds a bachelor's degree in music education from Aquinas College, a professional guitarist's certificate from the Guitar Institute of Technology (Hollywood CA), and completed graduate level studies at both Grand Valley State and Western Michigan Universities.
Mike has taught guitar and other courses over the years at Grand Rapids Community College, Aquinas College, and Western Michigan University. He is currently the contemporary and jazz guitar instructor at Hope College in Holland MI. Throughout his career, Mike has been an in-demand performer for casuals, clubs, studio work, and shows playing every style including rock, pop, jazz, country, and classical. He has been the Grand Rapids Symphony's first-call guitarist for several years.
In addition to numerous excellent local performers, some of the "name" acts he has appeared with include: Bob Hope, Neil Sedaka,Nancy Wilson, Denis DeBlasio, Ferrante and Teicher, Don Rickles, Randy Brecker, Three Mo Tenors, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Holliday and Bernadette Peters.
THE FERAL CATS
Feral Cats are coming to a place near you! Yes, we’ve been out in the shadows collecting a nice mix of early rock and blues. From Jimmy Reed to Elvis and much, much, more we want to bring our own picks and licks to you.
Monte Klein and Phil Coryell teamed up a couple of years ago with a shared love of harmonicas and the music produced by them. Himself an accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and harmonica player, Monte possesses a special sensitivity to wring out some of the best licks from Phil “harmonicas” in any given tune. If he’s not out howling at the moon Monte plays with “Bo White and the Bluezers” from Grand Rapids, and locally with “A Shore Thing”. Phil“harmonicas” Coryell also gets funky with “Lou Thunder Band” from the “left-coast” and in Benzie County with the indie-blues group “Barefoot”. The addition of the extraordinary styling of bassist Dave “the Professor” Grimes rounds out these cats as they “bring it” to you. Dave prefers building the bass as opposed to playing out so we’re lucky to be able to “un-domesticate” him for a while. Come and see for yourself, why these are the Feral Cats!
"Daniel Solberg is a staple in the professional music scene in Atlanta and has earned widespread respect as a pianist, organist, and arranger. Daniel Solberg performs for a concert at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA
At Georgia State University Daniel was collaborative pianist and coach for seven years and served as music director for the opera program.
From show choirs to symphonic ensembles, Daniel's orchestrations have been heard across the United States. Daniel regularly writes for the biggest churches in Atlanta, and most recently his orchestration can be heard on a CD release by the Atlanta Boy Choir. He also orchestrated and produced an album of inspirations songs that won the Global Music Award's "Award of Merit" in 2012.
Daniel's musical sensitivity as accompanist has led him to play for many distinguished performers including two-time Grammy award-winning singer, Sylvia McNair. For several years he accompanied La Musica Lirica, a summer opera program in Italy and works for a similar program in Brazil, FIO Americas. After Daniel Solberg, singing his own vocal show on a cruise shipgraduating summa cum laude from Millikin University, Daniel earned the title of "youngest director on the high seas" and played for many of the biggest cruise ship entertainers, including Mark Preston from the Letterman Trio. He has also played more than once under the direction of world-renowned conductor Don Neuen as well as under the direction of several members of the New York Voices. When Daniel is not playing the piano, he has also enjoyed being organist at several Buckhead area churches.
“The band takes a unique and academic approach to a rich combination of jazz and new music, combining a range of talent and experience in their young members, to create a sound original, exploratory, and all their own.”
Talking Ear is a Modern Jazz and New Music ensemble based out of Southern Michigan & Toledo, Ohio committed to providing a unique experience for listeners through composition, collaboration, and improvisation. The group consists of vocalist Estar Cohen, guitarist Daniel Palmer, pianist Benjamin Maloney, bassist Ben Rolston, and drummer Travis Aukerman. Each musician has a distinct voice as an accomplished composer and performer, contributing to an exciting and versatile, yet particularly cohesive sound.
Checkers Morton came together in the early autumn of 1972 on the shores of Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, Michigan. The power of the lake and the power of Free Music forged a bond that is still strong today. Though decades and members have come and gone, those of us who remain still get together to honor that Muse which brings us such beauty and deep meditation ... Free Music ... Checkers Morton.
GREEN ON BLUE QUARTET
Green on Blue is a jazz quartet based in West Michigan. The group enjoys presenting audiences a new twist on the jazz standards that have formed the backbone of America’s music culture. The members of the quartet include Sarah Dowell (violinist), Drew Mayhew (bassist), Makenzie Mattis (percussionist), and Steve Rothstein (guitarist). They perform a variety of jazz styles, including be-bop, traditional swing, Latin, and others. Several members have also been classically trained, performing at various competitions, winning a variety of scholarships, teaching students across west Michigan, and performing in professional local orchestras. As a group, Green on Blue performs around west Michigan. Individually, quartet members have performed across the country and abroad. Members of the group have also performed with notable Michigan and Chicago jazz musicians, such as Tim Froncek, Michael Drost, and Jordan Finn. The quartet has also been featured with well-known New York Jazz musician Chris Norton at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. Green on Blue has made it their goal to familiarize the public with the jazz genre, bringing audiences a pleasant, engaging, and memorable musical experience.
LAKESHORE BIG BAND
The Lakeshore Big Band has been entertaining audiences throughout West Michigan for over 25 years, developing into one of the area’s finest concert and dance ensembles.
Based in Spring Lake, MI, the LBB is a full-size (17 piece) traditional big band. The music they perform comes from a large library of tunes from the early days of jazz to present day, including great hits from the big band era by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and more, as well as contemporary jazz, ballroom dance and popular music.
In addition to frequent weddings, dances, parties and fundraisers, the group has made regular appearances at summer concert series throughout West Michigan and has been a regular feature at the summer dance series at the Grand Haven Waterfront. Highlights have included an appearance at Muskegon’s Summer Celebration and the Association of Concert Bands annual convention.