Ninety Miles with Stefon Harris, Nicholas Payton and David Sanchez
Heralded as “one of the most important young artists in jazz” by the Los Angeles Times, vibraphonist-composer Stefon Harris unquestionably developing what will be a long and extraordinary career. Stefon Harris’ passionate artistry, energetic stage presence, and astonishing virtuosity have propelled him into the forefront of the current jazz scene. Widely recognized and lauded by both his peers and jazz critics alike, the 35-year-old is committed to both exploring the rich potential of jazz composition and blazing new trails on the vibraphone.
A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, Stefon received a B.M. in Classical Music and a M.M. in Jazz Performance. He is a recipient of the prestigious Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center and has earned three consecutive Grammy® nominations including Best Jazz Album for The Grand Unification Theory (2003) and the 2001 release of Kindred (Blue Note) and his 1999 release of Black Action Figure (Blue Note) for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo. North Sea Jazz (Netherlands) named Harris for the prestigious International 2002 Bird Award for Artist Deserving Wider Recognition. He has been voted Best Mallet player by 2004 JazzTimes Critics Poll, and by the Jazz Journalist Association (2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 & 2000), Debut Artist of the Year by JazzTimes, Chicago Tribune’s Debut of the Year and Downbeat’s Critics Poll Winner for Vibraphone and Rising Star, Vibraphone (2006, 2004, 2003) Newsweek’s Best Jazz CD, Best New Talent and 1999-2000 Readers Poll Best Vibraphonist by Jazziz Magazine.
Mr. Harris has performed at many of the world’s most distinguished concert halls, including the Carnegie Hall debut of African Tarantella…Dances with Duke (2006 Blue Note), Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center, San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Chicago’s Symphony Center, Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. He has toured and recorded with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and performed his original compositions with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra in The Hague. He has toured South Africa, Brazil and Europe performing at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, and the Umbria Jazz Festival among others. He has also appeared at the legendary Playboy Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. In March 2005 Mr. Harris debuted Suite Moments a special commission from the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, Michigan State University.
In May 2006, he premiered “Portraits of the Promised,” commissioned by Fontana Chamber Arts for People’s Church Sesquicentennial Celebration in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He joined the San Francisco Jazz Collective in 2007 with whom he tours in addition to leading his band Blackout and special projects.
An active educator, Mr. Harris conducts clinics and lectures throughout the country. He currently teaches at New York University and is Artist in Residence at Fontana Chamber Arts (Kalamazoo) and University of Nebraska, Lincoln and has held similar posts with San Francisco Performances, the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and the Monk Institute in Los Angeles.
In 2009, Mr. Harris released the anticipated follow up CD to the acclaimed Evolution, the Top Ten recording with his band Blackout, a musical hybrid of acoustic and progressive sounds praised by the Washington Post for “pursing jazz on its own terms.” Evolution was also named to the 2004 JazzTimes Top 50 CDs.
He has also recorded and toured with many of music’s greatest artists, including Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, David Sanborn, Cassandra Wilson, Buster Williams, Kenny Barron, Charlie Hunter, Kurt Elling, Cyrus Chestnut, Steve Coleman, and Steve Turre, among many others.
Nicholas Payton was born September 26, 1973, in New Orleans, Louisiana, into a musical family. Encouraged by his mother, a pianist and vocalist, and his father the legendary bassist, composer and educator Walter Payton, Nicholas showed talent for music at a very early age. He received his first trumpet at age four and by age nine was sitting-in with local bands including the Young Tuxedo Brass Band. By the age of 12 he was a member of the All Star Brass Band that performed and toured extensively. As he grew up and studied, Nicholas successfully learned how to play several instruments including but not limited to the trumpet. He is an accomplished pianist, bassist, drummer, and plays tuba, trombone, clarinet and saxophone, et al. During his high school years, Payton attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts to study with Clyde Kerr, Jr., and after graduation attended the University of New Orleans where he studied with Ellis Marsalis.
Nicholas has toured with scores of musicians including Clark Terry, Marcus Roberts, Ray Brown, Elvin Jones, and Roy Haynes and many more. He has also performed and recorded with many musicians representing a multitude of musical genres from jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and is credited on well over 120 recordings as a composer, arranger, special guest or sideman.
As a leader, Nicholas has recorded eight albums under his own name including Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton -- a 1997 GRAMMY award-winning collaboration with the legendary trumpeter. He also released Dear Louis, Nick @ Night, Gumbo Nouveau, Sonic Trance, Payton's Place, and Into the Blue.
To that end, Nicholas has recently completed his ninth recording as a leader. Bitches is a bold autobiographical solo masterwork, released on his own imprint, BMF Productions in partnership with Independent label and distributor, In and Out Records.
David Sánchez began playing percussion and drums at age eight before migrating to tenor saxophone four years later. While a student at the prestigious La Escuela Libre de Música in San Juan, he also took up soprano and alto saxophones as well as flute and clarinet. The bomba and plena rhythms of Puerto Rico, along with Cuban and Brazilian traditions, were among the biggest influences on Sánchez’s early taste in music. Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane had the greatest impact on his playing. “Charlie Parker is also a major influence, of course, and many, many others.”
In 1986 Sánchez enrolled at the Universidad de Puerto Rico in Rio Píedras, but the pull of New York was irresistible. By 1988 he had auditioned for and won a music scholarship at Rutgers University in New Jersey. With such close proximity to New York City, Sánchez quickly became a member of its swirling jazz scene. Some of his first New York musical experiences were with piano giant Eddie Palmieri, Hilton Ruiz and trumpeter Claudio Roditi who brought Sánchez to the attention of jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. In 1991, Gillespie invited the young saxophonist to join his “Live the Future” tour with Miriam Makeba.
Sánchez has also performed and recorded with Kenny Barron, Roy Haynes, Charlie Haden, Lalo Schifrin, Tom Harrell and had the opportunity to perform with the legendary drummer Elvin Jones
Whether with Gillespie, Palmieri, Haden and his other jazz mentors, or under his own name, Sánchez has continued to tour extensively, bringing his mix of mainstream jazz with Afro-Latin influences to delighted audiences throughout the globe.
David has also proven to be a compelling presence with student musicians and continues to be in demand for workshops and master classes throughout the world. Sánchez’s passion for teaching and sharing his art with up and coming musicians has led him to conduct clinics with students around the world. He works with high school students, and has led clinics and workshops with music students which often culminate in performances with student and faculty orchestras and big bands. In 2007 alone, he gave master classes in Brazil, at the Peabody Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, Indiana University’s School of Music, University of Memphis, the University of Northern Iowa, Emory University, and Georgia State University. Sánchez has also completed year-long residencies, most recently at Georgia State University, at el Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico, and with the prestigious Quad City Arts program.
David Sánchez has been nominated for 4 Grammy Awards, and his album, Coral, won the Latin Grammy for Best Instrumental Album in 2005.