XAVIER DAVIS TRIO
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 Juilliard 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.
Tonotrope is a collaborative project between pianist-composer Michael Malis and drummer-composer Jonathan Taylor. Most often, it takes the shape of a trio, featuring eminent bassist Jaribu Shahid. Tonotrope searches for the inner logic of musical language by exploring the outer limits of the jazz repertoire.
Michael Malis (b. 1988) is a composer, pianist, and music educator based in Detroit MI. A multi-faceted
musical artist, he performs as a jazz musician, composes for the concert stage, and contributes to
2018 saw a wide proliferation of his catalogue of concert music. His trio for piano, percussion, and multireedist, Numerology, was commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Detroit. His first string quartet,
Emerge, was premiered at the Detroit Institute of Arts. His piece for piano and cello, Coda, was
commissioned by the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival.
Malis has been perennially active as a performer-composer, both as a soloist and in collaborative settings.
In August 2017, he released an album of duets with saxophonist Marcus Elliot, entitled “Balance.” The
album was praised by the Detroit Metro Times as “contemporary jazz of the highest order, a benchmark
for where the genre can go.” The duo was also named an Artist-in-Residence at the Chamber Music
Society of Detroit in 2017-2018, launching a new educational initiative which brought jazz to students in
public schools utilizing an innovative merger of technology and live performance. In July of 2015, Malis
self-released his debut album as a leader, “Lifted from the No of All Nothing,” featuring all original
music. The Detroit Free Press called it “an uncommonly mature and distinctive debut… The music is
loose and spontaneous, alert to dynamics and textural variety while balancing formal detail and discipline
with freedom.” It was described by Hot House Jazz Guide (NYC) as “cover[ing] a broad range of free
expression. [Malis] bridges the gap between original composed, complex material and the spontaneity of
improvisation.” In September 2016, his trio performed at the Detroit International Jazz Festival.
As a pianist, he has shared the stage with a diverse array of musicians, including notables such as Marcus
Belgrave, Tyshawn Sorey, William Hooker, Jaribu Shahid, Ken Filiano, JD Allen, John Lindberg, Dave
Douglas, A. Spencer Barefield, Andrew Bishop, and Marion Hayden. He has performed at the Yokohama
Jazz Promenade (Yokohama, Japan), the Kennedy Center, Birdland (NYC), and The Stone (NYC), among
In 2012, Malis wrote the score for the Fratellanza Theater Complany production “The Mute Quire,”
which was named “Best International Production” of the Galway (Ireland) Fringe Festival. His second
collaboration with Fratellanza, “String Up the Moon,” premiered in Detroit to critical acclaim in
September of 2013. In April 2019, Malis and Fratellanza’s Paul Manganello will be in residence at the
Cleveland Public Theater, developing and premiering a new two-person piece.
He started playing the piano at age five, and started writing music shortly thereafter. In high school, he
began his studies in earnest with Detroit jazz piano legend Bess Bonnier. After high school, he attended
the University of Michigan, where he studied with the eminent jazz pianist Geri Allen. In May 2018, he
received his Master’s degree from Wayne State University in Composition/Theory, studying with Jon
Anderson, Joo Won Park, and Karl Braunschweig. He currently teaches piano and music theory at the
Detroit Institute of Music Education (DIME).
ESTAR COHEN QUINTET
Estar Cohen - voice
Dan Palmer - guitar
Galen Bundy - piano
Aidan Cafferty - bass
Travis Aukerman - drums
[Estar’s] songs are spacious, impressionistic, and generous...”
— Christopher Porter, Pulp Magazine
Estar Cohen is an award-winning vocalist, lyricist, composer, and educator based out of
Ypsilanti, MI. She has performed alongside renowned musicians including Jon Hendricks, Peter
Eldridge, Tad Weed, Fabian Almazan, Pete Siers, David Bixler, Vinny Golia, and Ken Filiano,
among others. In 2018, she received the ASCAP Foundation’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz
Composers Award for her piece, “Endings," and made her debut at the prestigious Newport
Jazz Festival. She was also featured as an up and coming artist on the acclaimed Vocal Mania
series in New York City, opening for legendary Jazz vocalist Sheila Jordan.
Cohen's ensemble is dedicated to performing original music that reflects her exploration in
poetry, composition, and deep curiosity for the stories that define us. The project formed in
2011, and has since cultivated a rich, unique sound rooted in thoughtful songwriting and spirited
improvisation. They have released two albums (“Waiting For Dawn” 2014, “Live at Willis Sound”
2017) and have performed at festivals, recital halls, concert houses, & clubs throughout the
Midwest and East Coast.
Cohen graduated with a bachelor of music in Jazz Performance from the University of Toledo in
2015 where she studied voice, improvisation, and composition with pianist Tad Weed, guitarist
Jay Weik, and “father of vocalese” Jon Hendricks who has called her lyrics "beautiful." Since her
graduation, she has performed at notable venues and festivals including the Newport Jazz
Festival, a headlining set at Ann Arbor's Edgefest w/Tad Weed's Freedom Ensemble, and the
Toledo Museum of Art, among many others.
Cohen is also an avid writer and published poet, penning lyrics for Jazz artists including Tad
Weed, Travis Aukerman, Dan Palmer, and Benjamin Maloney. As an educator, she has
presented clinics in composition, improvisation, and voice at institutions including Albion
College, Hillsdale College, Spring Arbor University, and ChiArts Chicago. She has also taught
songwriting with Michigan label Earthwork Music in partnership with the non-profit SEEDS, and
is currently a private music instructor in the Ann Arbor area.
KENJI LEE TRIO
raised in southern california, japanese-american saxophonist kenji lee has already made his mark as a remarkable improviser, composer, and musician. a resident of detroit, michigan, kenji currently performs frequently as a leader with sakura - a creative music ensemble featuring string quartet, with juarez - lee - alvarez - a chordless trio, and with pauljams - a hip/hop electronic duo. kenji has also worked as a sideman in many groups including davy lazar's antigoat and with soul musician, allen stone.
kenji has had the great privilege to perform and work with some of his heroes including gary burton, carl allen, kendrick scott, michael formanek, jon irabagon, robert hurst, and benny green. in april of 2015, kenji traveled to new york city to perform a series of original compositions for large ensemble at Carnegie Hall as a part of the historic carnegie hall heritage festival. later that year, kenji was named the 2015 orange county register artist of the year in instrumental music.
kenji has performed at various venues across the country including carnegie hall (ny), the detroit jazz festival (mi), cliff bell's (mi), 2018 jen conference (tx), ziggy's (mi), jazz central studios (mn), bert's (mi), kerrytown concert house (mi), hill auditorium (mi), steamer's jazz cafe (ca), and renee & henry segerstrom concert hall (ca).
his debut recording, "darkhorse: the superhero", will be released in the Spring of 2019.
kenji currently splits his time between, performing professionally, teaching, and working as the canterbury house's concert series coordinator.
HARLOW FORMANEK DUO
Josh Harlow is a pianist and composer currently based in Chicago. He has performed around the United States with several musical projects: the creative Jewish roots music group Teiku, instrumental psychedelic band Submerser, his piano trio, and as a collaborator with a variety of likeminded musical peers and some of his elders including Nicole Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, John Lindberg, Michael Formanek, Jaribu Shahid, Dana Jessen, and Joo Won Park.
In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Josh is an experienced and committed teacher. He teaches private and group lessons and has an ongoing relationship with Make Music NOLA, a free music-for-social-justice afterschool and summer program for underserved children in New Orleans.
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!
IN THE BLUE
In 2016, In The Blue started creating music and playing gigs in Detroit. Recently, In The Blue Jazz Ensemble has been building a reputation as a great local talent in West Michigan. In The Blue Jazz Ensemble provides exciting live jazz music, including arrangements from the great American songbook, hard bop, Latin, and jazz fusion!