June 30, 2008



Courtney Bryan, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, is a prolific and eclectic composer, pianist, and arranger. Her overall ambition in life is the "creation of uninhibited beauty." Her compositions are wide-ranging, including Solo Works, Jazz Quartet, Jazz Orchestra, Symphonic Orchestra, and even collaborations of dancers, visual artists, writers, and actors.

Courtney Bryan currently performs in and around New York with the Courtney Bryan Trio at venues like St. Nick's Pub, Nuyorican Poets Café, The Jazz Spot, Cecil's Jazz Club, A Gathering of Tribes Gallery, and Casa Frela Gallery. The Courtney Bryan Trio has also headlined at the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro and Sweet Lorraine's Jazz Club of New Orleans, Louisiana. Courtney Bryan co-leads Duet, with vocalist TreZure Mone performing a mix of Jazz and Rhythm and Blues. She co-developed and co-leads the Courtney Bryan/Ez Weiss Jazz Orchestra in New York, a Big Band organization that is composed of volunteer musicians who are particularly interested in the revival of Big Band. Courtney works frequently with Rome Neal and the Marvtastic Ladies. In addition, she freelances with various jazz and R & B artists.

Recently, the Courtney Bryan Trio featuring saxophonist Donald Harrison opened for the Curtis Fuller/Louis Hayes Quintet and the Chico Hamilton Sextet at the Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York. Also, Courtney performed as part of Stanley Cowell's Piano Choir in the spring of 2006. Courtney's compositions have been performed at Lincoln Center’s Rose Studio and commissioned by Cleveland State University's Jazz Heritage Orchestra, Dennis Reynolds’s Brass Choir, Conrad Herwig's Scarlet Knight Trombone Ensemble, and by saxophonist Devin Phillips for his 2006 release Wade in the Water, which was titled after her arrangement. She was featured as composer with Kathy Randel's Artspotproductions in The New Orleans Suite performed at the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005. Courtney was also recently a finalist in the Beyonce Knowles All-Girl Band competition for her B-Day tour. Courtney Bryan has recently released her debut recording entitled Quest for Freedom featuring famed trumpeter Marcus Belgrave.

Courtney, a proud graduate of the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Jazz Camp of New Orleans, has academic degrees from the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) '00, Oberlin Conservatory '04 (bachelors in music composition), Rutgers University '07 (masters in jazz piano). Currently, Courtney is a Faculty Fellow at Columbia University of New York pursuing a doctorate of musical arts in music composition.

Courtney was featured along with Jason Marsalis and Irvin Mayfield in Geoffrey Poister's documentary Jazz Dreams. Courtney Bryan has performed in the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2000-2002, in the Detroit Ford International Jazz Festival 2003 and 2004, in the Lansing Jazz Festival 2004, and in the Detroit Taste Fest 2005. She has also performed at the Cleveland Bop Stop and Nighttown of Cleveland, Ohio; the Serengeti Gallery of Detroit, Michigan, among other venues. In 2002, Bryan was selected as a NOCCA (New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts) All-Star along with such musicians as Nicholas Payton, Donald Harrison, Adonis Rose, and Clyde Kerr, Jr.


Every generation or so, some enterprising soul comes along determined to haul the concert harp out of the orchestra pit. Today, there's Joanna Newsom, the anti-folk singer and songwriter who just released the characteristically harp-intensive Ys. Before her, there was the mellow Debra Hanson-Conant, and before her, the New Age freak Andreas Vollenweider. Go back another few generations, and you run into the late Dorothy Ashby, the Detroit-born harp master who stands as one of the most unjustly under-loved jazz greats of the 1950s.
Ashby swings, plain and simple. When she plays some mid-tempo scooting-along tune, like her own
"Rascallity" (audio) all the stock riffage and jazz bravado common on so many records of this era disappears. Leading her chamber group, Ashby operates in an unassuming way, leaping through intricate arpeggios that no other jazz instrumentalist could attempt. Her single lines may not be terribly fancy, but she selects her notes carefully, and plays each one with a classical guitarist's stinging articulation. Ashby accompanies flautist Frank Wess on "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To" (audio), sometimes snapping off chords as if the harp were just a bigger guitar, and at other times using its immense range to conjure an enveloping wash of sound in the background.
Given all the peak jazz experiences recorded around 1957 and '58 (Sonny Rollins' Live at the Village Vanguard, Miles Davis' Milestones, and so on), it's easy to understand why Ashby's In A Minor Groove didn't attract a massive audience. She and her groups of the day including Roy Haynes on drums, play pleasant, utterly typical and hardly earth-shattering chamber jazz. Still, it's a notably smart and polished version of typical, and anyone who can make a massive instrument like the concert harp dance — and use it to swing in such a cool, low-key way — deserves to be more than a footnote.

Born Dorothy Jeanne Thompson on
August 6, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan, Ashby grew up around music in Detroit where her father, guitarist Wiley Thompson, often brought home fellow jazz musicians. Even as a young girl, Dorothy would provide support and background to their music by playing the piano. She attended Cass Technical High School where fellow students included such future musical talents and jazz greats as Donald Byrd, Gerald Wilson, and Kenny Burrell. While in high school she played a number of instruments (including the saxophone and string bass) before coming upon the harp.
She attended
Wayne State University in Detroit where she studied piano and music education. After she graduated, she began playing the piano in the jazz scene in Detroit, though by 1952 she had made the harp her main instrument. At first her fellow jazz musicians were resistant to the idea of adding the harp, which they perceived as an instrument of classical music and also somewhat ethereal in sound, into jazz performances. So Ashby overcame their initial resistance and built up support for the harp as a jazz instrument by organizing free shows and playing at dances and weddings with her trio. She recorded with Ed Thigpen, Richard Davis, Jimmy Cobb, Frank Wess and others in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During the 1960s, she also had her own radio show in Detroit.
Ashby's trio, including her husband John Ashby on
drums, regularly toured the country, recording albums for several different record labels. She played with Louis Armstrong and Woody Herman, among others. In 1962 Downbeat magazine's annual poll of best jazz performers included Ashby. Extending her range of interests and talents, she also worked with her husband on a theater company, the Ashby Players, which her husband founded in Detroit, and for which Dorothy often wrote the scores.
In the late 1960s, the Ashby’s gave up touring and settled in
California where Dorothy broke into the studio recording system as a harpist through the help of the soul singer Bill Withers, who recommended her to Stevie Wonder. As a result, Dorothy was called upon for a number of studio sessions playing for such popular recording artists as Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Barry Manilow. Her harp playing is featured in the song "Come Live With Me' which is on the soundtrack for the 1967 movie, Valley of the Dolls. One of her more noteworthy performances in contemporary popular music was playing the harp on the song "If It's Magic" on Stevie Wonder's 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. She is also featured on Bill Withers' 1974 album, +'Justments.
Her albums include The Jazz Harpist, In a Minor Groove, Hip Harp, Fantastic Jazz Harp of Dorothy Ashby with (Junior Mance), Django/Misty, Concerto De Aranjuez, Afro Harping, Dorothy's Harp, The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, and Music for Beautiful People. Between 1956-1970, she recorded 10 albums for such labels as Savoy, Cadet, Prestige, New Jazz, Argo, Jazzland and Atlantic. On her "Rubaiyat" album, Ashby played the Japanese musical instrument, the
koto, demonstrating her talents on another instrument, and successfully integrating it into jazz.

Dorothy Ashby, died from cancer on April 13, 1996 in Santa Monica, California.

June 25, 2008


Ahmad Jamal (born Frederick Russell Jones, was born on July 2, 1930, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A child prodigy who began to play the piano at the age of 3, he began formal studies at age 7. While in high school, he completed the equivalent of college master classes under the noted African-American concert singer and teacher Mary Caldwell Dawson and pianist James Miller. He joined the musicians union at the age of 14, and he began touring upon graduation from Westinghouse High School at the age of 17, drawing critical acclaim for his solos. In 1950, he formed his first trio, The Three Strings. Performing at New York's The Embers club, Record Producer John Hammond "discovered" The Three Strings and signed them to Okeh Records (a division of Columbia, now Sony, Records). He began using the name 'Ahmad Jamal' after his conversion to Islam in the early 1950s.

Considering his trio "an orchestra", Mr. Jamal not only achieves a unified sound, but subtly inserts independent roles for the bass and drums. The hallmarks of Mr. Jamal's style are rhythmic innovations, colorful harmonic perceptions, especially left hand harmonic and melodic figures, plus parallel and contrary motion lines in and out of chordal substitutions and alterations and pedalpoint ostinato interludes in tasteful dynamics. He also incorporates a unique sense of space in his music, and his musical concepts are exciting without being loud in volume. Augmented by a selection of unusual standards and his own compositions, Mr. Jamal impressed and influenced, among others, trumpeter Miles Davis. Like Louis Armstrong, Mr. Jamal is an exemplary ensemble player -- listening while playing and responding, thus inspiring his musicians to surpass themselves. Audiences delight in Mr. Jamal's total command of the keyboard, his charasmatic swing and daringly inventive solos that always tell a story.

In 1951, Mr. Jamal first recorded Ahmad's Blues on Okeh Records. His arrangement of the folk tune Billy Boy, and Poinciana (not his original composition), also stem from this period. In 1955, he recorded his first Argo (Chess) Records album that included New Rhumba, Excerpts From The Blues, Medley (actually I Don't Want To Be Kissed), and It Ain't Necessarily So -- all later utilized by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on the albums "Miles Ahead" and "Porgy and Bess." In his autobiography, Mr. Davis praises Mr. Jamal's special artistic qualities and cites his influence. In fact, the mid-to-late 1950's Miles Davis Quintet recordings notably feature material previously recorded by Mr. Jamal: Squeeze Me, It Could Happen To You, But Not For Me, Surrey With The Fringe On Top, Ahmad's Blues, On Green Dolphin Street and Billy Boy.

In 1956, Mr. Jamal, who had already been joined by bassist Israel Crosby in 1955, replaced guitarist Ray Crawford with a drummer. Working as the "house trio" at Chicago's Pershing Hotel drummer Vernell Fournier joined this trio in 1958 and Mr. Jamal made a live album for Argo Records entitled But Not For Me. The resulting hit single and album, that also included Poinciana -- his rendition could be considered his "signature". This album remained on the Ten Best-selling charts for 108 weeks -- unprecedented then for a jazz album. This financial success enabled Mr. Jamal to realize a dream, and he opened a restaurant/club, The Alhambra, in Chicago. Here the Trio was able to perform while limiting their touring schedule and Mr. Jamal was able to do record production and community work.

Clint Eastwood featured two recordings from Jamal's album But Not For Me — "Music, Music, Music" and "Poinciana" — in the 1995 movie The Bridges of Madison County.

Renair Amin was born September 13, 1975 in Philadelphia, Pa. Renair wears many hats. A prolific author, her works have appeared in various publications including GBF (Gay Black Female) Magazine, SABLE Magazine (of which she is a board member) and DEEP HUES e-zine. She has also been a featured columnist on the Nghosi Books, Femme Noir, Sistahs for Sistahs and Soulful Pen Xpressions websites and also appears in the Nghosi Books anthology, Longing, Lust & Loving.

As a spoken word artist, Renair has performed nationally, gracing the stage in cities including Rochester, NY, New York City and her hometown of Philadelphia, PA. She is also active in her church’s ministry. A member of Unity Fellowship in Brooklyn, N.Y., Renair is co-chair of the Performance Arts Ministry and chair of the David’s Poetry Ministry.

Recently, Renair Amin added entrepreneur to her list of talents with the forming of Pmyner, Ltd., a company created to provide services to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender literary community. The website includes an online community forum and a radio station, Invisible Verse Radio, on which she hosts Myne Myc, a talk show showcasing LGBT spoken word artists, musicians and other community-related issues.

When I asked Renair what inspires her writing she responded, “My inspiration for writing is living. Whenever I had no one, I always had a pen.”
She currently resides in Bronx, NY.

June 22, 2008


Jeanette Harris

Jeanette Bertha Harris, was born on March 9, 1979 in Fresno, California, to Floyd and Annette Harris. She showed an interest in music at an early age and by her 5th birthday she was playing the guitar in the church she attended. At age 6, she began taking piano lessons, and at age 9, during her 4th grade year, she started playing the saxophone. While other kids were spending their time playing video games and watching television, Jeanette could be found in her room practicing her saxophone.

Jeanette’s interest in music was supported and encouraged by her parents and her older brother Michael. Her father, Floyd Harris, Sr. plays the tuba and her brother, Michael, is a percussionist. In 1994, Jeanette, along with her father and her brother formed “The Harris Family Ragtime Band”. The band performed throughout California, from homeless shelters to big Dixieland festivals.

Jeanette was introduced to Latin Jazz while attending Roosevelt High School where she played the lead alto in the school’s Latin Jazz Band. She also played the piano in the Fresno City College Latin Jazz Band. During her high school years, she auditioned and was chosen to play in various honor bands, and while attending Bullard High School, she was the featured Saxophonist at one of Bullard’s appearances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Upon graduation from high school, Jeanette received a number of scholarships which enabled her to pursue her dream of attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

She continued to hone her skills on the saxophone while broadening her understanding of music. She was the lead Saxophonist in the Berklee College Female Big Band and played in various venues in Boston, New Hampshire, New York and Maine. She graduated from Berklee in 2001 with a Bachelor of Music with a major in Performance. Jeanette’s love of music and musical performance did not diminish. After her graduation from Berklee, she returned home to Fresno, California to start a smooth jazz band with her brother Michael Harris. Getting started was not easy, she would go to local clubs and ask if she could play at no cost to the club, but was turned down repeatedly. The “No Thank You" responses did not discourage her. She became more determined than ever and continued to master her saxophone and develop her own sound.

Then one day, a gentleman named Lionel Hawkins called to ask her if she would play his cigar shop, “Smoke Affair”. She accepted the invitation and made the most of it. During this same time period, the brother-sister team, (which consisted of Jeanette on saxophone and Michael on percussions), decided to put together their own show on a small stage at a local pizza spot on Fresno’s Fulton Mall. Long lost friend Patrick Olvera (bass) decided to Venture back from Boston to reunite with the brother sister duo for this show. With the help of family members, this night was a major success. Local clubs started calling and the local smooth jazz radio station, KEZL 96.7, invited Jeanette and her band to play at the Riverbend Jazz Festival. The Jeanette Harris Band has played in a number of Jazz Festivals, including the “The Hollywood Park Jazz Festival”, “The Inglewood Jazz Festival”, “The San Diego Street Festival”, the “Riverbend Jazz Festival”, the “China Town Jazz Festival” and the “African Village Festival”.

She’s opened for and/or played with the following smooth jazz greats; The Rippingtons; Eric Marienthal; Kirk Whalum; Eloise Laws; Denise William; Phil Perry; Howard Huit; Andre Fischer; Everette Harp; Paul Jackson Jr.; Veretta Hathaway; Debra Laws; Najee; Michael Ward; and Will Barrow. She is currently playing at different spots across the country and hopes to add international venues to her schedule soon. Jeanette released her first CD, “Here and There” on the J&M Record label. Her second CD, “Jeanette Harris Live at Platinum Live” and her newest release, “Down Route 99”, are on the Sweet Music record label. If you like good music, you will enjoy these CD’s.


ELISE WOOD - a flutist who hails from Philadelphia, has appeared as featured soloist, band-leader and band-member with such notables as David Murray, Archie Shepp, Butch Morris and Arthur Blythe, Sir Roland Hanna, Spirit of Life Ensemble and most frequently with her partner of two decades, John Hicks. She has recorded for Mapleshade Records, Landmark Records, Evidence Records and the recently established record company with John Hicks, HiWood Records. International festivals and tours include Japan, Finland, Italy, France, and most recently Taiwan. Documentary films such as "Femme du Jazz" and books "Madame Jazz" as well as magazine articles in WindPlayer and Fa La Lut and Jazz Hot place Ms Wood in the cutting edge of this creative American art form, Jazz. With Mr. John Hicks was a further collaborative album called "Beautiful Friendship," a duet cd which is composed of standard love songs and was also released on their label HiWood. A further Sextet recording called "Sweet Love of Mine" (Highnote) with John Hicks was released in Jan. 2007 - the first album to be released in his memory.

For the last two years Ms. Wood has dedicated herself to memorializing the life and music of her late-husband/partner with creation of the John Hicks Legacy Band. This five- to six-piece band is composed largely of alumni of the John Hicks ensembles and plays exclusively the repertoire of John Hicks. A recording of his music as performed by the Legacy Band will soon be released on Highnote records.
Ms. Wood also works with Jazz Foundation of America in the Education program with children from the ages of 8 - 14. She is also and active member of the NY Jazz Flutet, a six flute jazz ensemble that includes an instrumentation from contra-bass flute to piccolo w/drums (to be featured in the National Flute Convention 2006).

The Star Ledger "With Elise's flute sound and the way Curtis (Lundy) works from the bass bottom, I … let them surround me with the sound…

"John Hicks, Zan Stewart The Washington Post"…best revealed with Hicks' well-known ballad, "Naima's Love Song" which fully integrates the sound of the trio, flute and string section creating a lovely weave of colors and texture and heartfelt emotion.
Mike Joyce The Washington Post "Hicks eloquently collaborating with flutist Elise Wood, who was largely responsible for a haunting alto flute reprise of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark"
Amsterdam News "Wood overwhelmed the audience with her rendition of Billy Strayhorn's Star-Crossed Lovers and (Bobby) Watson's extraordinary tendering of the classic " Soul Eyes" provided one of the great performance highlights of the festival".- Clarence Atkins

June 17, 2008

Jazz Vocalists Vol 1 - SUSAN KREBS

There’s a growing buzz about vocalist Susan Krebs’ just released studio recording of Jazz Aviary - a celebration of birds and of the universal music that we share. Conceived and performed by Suze in collaboration with the Soaring Sextet, some of L.A.’s finest musicians, Jazz Aviary is the culmination of three years of various concert incarnations.

“Susan Krebs has nothing but fondness for our feathered friends - and expresses her joyous affection magnificently throughout this fascinating concept project... irresistible offerings from a formidable jazz artist.” (AMG)

“Krebs’ interpretive passion, intelligence and love for the project can be heard throughout.” (Jazz Improv/Bob Gish)

“Jazz Aviary is a fascinating musical presentation.” (LA Times/Don Heckman)

“One of the most refreshing, interesting, stimulating shows I’ve ever attended... Krebs and her amazing musicians created something of singular beauty.” (LA Jazz Scene)

Suze explains her long-time fascination with birds: “I remember as a kid, lying stretched out in a hammock between two grand sycamores, watching the birds, listening to the birds - digging the birds! Birds and humans have shared this planet for many millennia. Our impulse to sing and our desire to fly reflect this deep and ancient connection with the avian tribe. The eloquent biologist, E.O. Wilson, writes that the preservation of the world lies in understanding and appreciating the wonder and awe that nature arouses. With Jazz Aviary - a concert of musical ornithology, spoken word and birdsong - I want to express the wonder and awe specifically that birds arouse.”

Born and raised in Baltimore, Suze grew up in a home filled with the sounds of Bach, Beethoven, Gilbert & Sullivan, Broadway musicals and the blues of Bessie, Billie and Ella. Graduating from Hollins College with a BA in Drama & Dance, Susan went on to spend her twenties in New York City – studying acting with the extraordinary Uta Hagen, appearing in various Off-Broadway plays and musicals, TV commercials, and performing with the improvisational theater company, War Babies. The New York clubs offered her a jazz education, presenting the likes of Duke Ellington, Sheila Jordan, Jackie & Roy, Alberta Hunter, the Mel Lewis/Thad Jones Big Band, Carmen McRae.

In 1976, Suze and her fellow War Babies re-located to Los Angeles for a TV series. She chose to remain in L.A. and make it her new home – delighted that she could garden and hike – and that there were greater work opportunities. Over the years, Suze has appeared in dozens of TV shows (Numbers, The West Wing, ER), Films (Million Dollar Baby, 28 Days), Animation, TV & Radio commercials, and Theater, including her own solo musical revue, Lunar, the all-women’s improvisational company, The Wims, and the contemporary opera, A String of Pearls, both in L.A. and at Carnegie Hall.
Throughout Suze’s career as an actor and improviser, she was also occasionally performing as a vocalist, and studied for several years with the fine jazz singer and teacher, Sue Raney. – Then, in 1995, seeking clarity and artistic direction during a four month “middle years” retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Suze’s sense of herself as a “jazz gardener” came into being - which she explains as “being about the art of becoming - whether working with plants or music or with oneself - to dig down, to cultivate, to encourage growth, to thrive and flourish, and eventually to let go and begin the cycle anew.” And so, she returned to L.A. with the intent of devoting herself to the art of jazz singing both as a student and as a performer in order to tell her tale through song. She now performs regularly throughout Southern California.

“A talented singer with wit and energy...” (LA Times)

“For singer-actress Susan Krebs and her quartet of fine musicians, their goal has been simple: to be all-out entertaining whenever and wherever their gigs take them...” (LA Jazz Scene)

Her debut album was Jazz Gardener (Sea Breeze 1999)

“Categorizing Krebs’ voice is not easy; it is filled with emotion ranging from a deep, throaty hue to a girlish, higher-pitched tone. Krebs’ vocals swoop, drop behind the beat, and generally stay just a little off center... After she delivers a song, Krebs leaves nothing on the table.” (AMG)

Then came What Am I Here For? (GreenGig Music 2002).

“Krebs’ style suggests the influence of singers like Sheila Jordan, with a behind the beat approach that creates a sense of drama. As she has her way with each lyric, her slippery phrasing (check out “Out of This World’) creates an engaging presence. Further, there is a deep soulful emotionalism and Blues inflection that suits her alto range quite well. For example, Krebs is at her most distinctive on passionate, melancholy tracks like ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘Good Morning Heartache’. She also demonstrates her keen handling of lyrics on tracks like the ubiquitous ‘The Way You Look Tonight’. (Cadence)

Both recordings were created by Suze and her group of superb L.A. based musicians, including her longtime drummer/producer, Jerry Kalaf, and the saxophonist extraordinaire, Gary Foster.
Suze’s latest project is Jazz Aviary (GreenGig Music 2007) – veritable musical ornithology. A concert, conceived and performed by Suze in collaboration with the Soaring Sextet, Musical Direction by Rich Eames and Co-Produced with Jerry Kalaf, it is now a unique and beautiful recording.