2015 Performer Bios

Thursday, July 2

United Jazz Ensemble
Every May, this collaborative high school ensemble comes together to prepare for the Iowa City Jazz Festival. Directed by Rich Medd and Ryan Arp, the band is composed of students from Iowa City High School and West High School in Iowa City. For 20 years, this group has served as of one of signature elements of the Jazz Festival’s commitment to education outreach. The deep immersion of students in jazz over the summer not only strengthens their musical growth, but builds a strong bond between the programs at the two schools.


Brian Charette Trio
New York City organist/pianist Brian Charette has established himself as a leading voice in modern jazz. Charette is a Grammy-nominated, Hammond-endorsed artist who was just named the winner of the 2014 Downbeat Critics’ Poll in the "Rising Star: Organ" category. On his newest recording, Good Tipper, (Posi-Tone, 2014), Charette presents elegantly lyrical original music and fun, funky covers with a great trio featuring Will Bernard on guitar and Rudy Royston on drums. Charette was born in Meriden, Connecticut in 1972, and was introduced to music by his mother. By the age of 17, he was playing with jazz luminaries Lou Donaldson and Houston Person. After graduating on the Dean's List from UConn in 1994 with a BA in Classical Piano Performance, Charette began touring Europe and was drawn to the culture and scene of Prague, Czech Republic, where he now lives half the time.Besides being a critically acclaimed composer and bandleader, Brian has worked with notable artists such as Joni Mitchell, Chaka Khan, Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper, and many more. Charette is also an active author and educator, writing for Keyboard magazine, DownBeat, and the Czech magazine Muzikus.


Becca Stevens Band
“I wanted to use the word ‘animal’ in the album title, because writing and recording this set of songs was like taming something that had a life of its own,” says singer and guitarist Becca Stevens of her revelatory new album Perfect Animal (out early 2015). ”The title came from the track ‘Imperfect Animals’ which I wrote about the instinct to strive for perfection pulling against the understanding that such a condition is not humanly possible. That’s a big theme for me, and it’s something that I go through in my daily life, in my relationships, and every time I write a song.”

Perfect Animal marks a quantum musical leap for the North Carolina-bred, New York-based artist. It boasts her most personally charged songwriting and her most urgent, impassioned singing to date, along with vivid, adventurous arrangements that show off her fiercely expressive guitar work as well as the talents of her longstanding band: keyboardist/accordionist Liam Robinson and bassist Chris Tordini, both of whom Stevens has worked with since 2005, and drummer/percussionist Jordan Perlson, who joined three years later.

Although Perfect Animal was recorded in five different studios in three states, with Stevens and band recording with producer Scott Solter (renowned for his work with the likes of St. Vincent, Spoon, and the Mountain Goats), the album’s seamless intensity remains consistent throughout.



Friday, July 3

North Corridor Jazz All Stars
The North Corridor All-Star Big Band is returning for its third performance at the Iowa City Jazz Festival. Like the United Jazz Ensemble, this group is composed of some of the most talented high school jazz musicians of the corridor from Cedar Rapids to Cedar Falls. Under the direction of Steve Shanley, the North Corridor Jazz All Stars will present a musically diverse program featuring the many facets of Big Band repertoire. Always ensured to be a romping and swinging live jam, the North Corridor Jazz All Stars will certainly have the crowd moving to the beat and grinning with local pride.



COLOSSUS, a 17-piece modern jazz orchestra, contains the most incredible music talent from all across Iowa. Along with award-winning composers Dave Chisholm and Levi Saelua, Mike Conrad (of Bettendorf, IA) co-founded this band made up of current and former students of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

After finishing his Master's Degree at Eastman and moving back to Iowa, Conrad rebuilt the band and filled it with Iowa's very best, including Chris Merz and Anthony Williams of the University of Northern Iowa, as well as Steve Grismore of the University of Iowa, and Dave Rezek of Des Moines. COLOSSUS has really taken off since the release of its debut album June of 2013. The band has astounded audiences at the Rochester International Jazz Festival, the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, New York, and several Iowa venues. In January, the group performed at the 2015 Jazz Education Network Conference in San Diego, California.

While the initial incarnation of COLOSSUS played the music of all three founding members, this Midwest version of the band has been developing an identity of its own playing more and more of Mike Conrad’s original compositions. It's very rare these days to find a large jazz ensemble devoted to playing new and original music. COLOSSUS is proud to be on the cutting edge.


¡RIMTOMCANO! is a 6 - 7 piece Latin jazz group from Iowa City led by percussionist James Dreier (formerly of Orquesta Alto Maiz) that features some of the best jazz musicians in the Midwest. ¡RIMTOMCANO! plays many styles from various regions of Latin jazz, including mambo, cha cha chá, rumba and bembé from Cuba, samba, bassa nova and maracatú from Brazil, merengue, calypso form the Caribbean and much more. Of course, American jazz elements also play an important part of this energetic and entertaining genre. Although ¡RIMTOMCANO! is not a “salsa” band (strictly for dancing), it is hard to sit in your seats through entire performance.

Dreier was a founding member of Orquesta Alto Maiz from 1986 until 2012. Dreier has long had a dream of forming a more jazz-oriented Latin group. ¡RIMTOMCANO! is the realization of that dream. Although born and raised in Iowa, Dreier has been a life-long student of Latin music, studying it at Berklee College of Music in Boston, traveling to Cuban and Brazil numerous times and of course, playing and touring for 26 years with Orquesta Alto Maiz. The formation of ¡RIMTOMCANO! is simply the latest path on this long road of discovery.


Rudresh Mahanthappa Bird Calls
Few musicians share the ability of saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa to embody the expansive possibilities of his music with his culture. What has materialized is a sound that hybridizes progressive jazz and South Indian classical music in a fluid and forward-looking form that reflects Mahanthappa’s own experience growing up a second-generation Indian-American. The manifestations of that trajectory include the latest version of his quartet setting, currently named Gamak.

Mahanthappa has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, and commissions from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, Chamber Music America and the American Composers Forum. He has been named alto saxophonist of the year for three years running in Downbeat Magazine’s International Critics Polls (2011-2013) and for five years running by the Jazz Journalists’ Association (2009-2013). In April 2013, he received a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, one of the most prominent arts awards in the world.


Dave Douglas & High Risk featuring Jonathan Maron, Mark Guiliana & Shigeto
Dave Douglas is a prolific trumpeter, composer and educator from New York City. His unique contributions to improvised music have garnered distinguished recognition, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award and two Grammy nominations.
High Risk is an exciting new electro-acoustic quartet led by Douglas. At the vanguard of modern jazz and electronic music, High Risk incorporates elements of improvisation into its sound, beat and song. On bass and drums, current scene leaders Jonathan Maron and Mark Guiliana explore new territory through groove and electronic manipulation. With the addition of up-and-coming DJ and remixer Shigeto, the group fuses melodic lyricism, stuttering, textured electronics, deep bass lines and driving drums. Building on the excitement of the pioneering ensemble Keystone, this quartet is the latest chapter in Douglas' involvement in electronic jazz—an exciting and colorful new exposition of improvised possibilities.



Whirlpool with Ron Miles
Whirlpool is a trio founded in Chicago and features Caroline Davis (saxophone, vocals), Jeff Swanson (guitar), and Charles Rumback (drums). In 2012, the trio was formed for a house concert series honoring drummer Paul Motian. His vision for a bass-less trio was the impetus for Whirlpool, but the music has to form a new voice since its inception. Given the diversity of the musicians in this outfit, the music explores boundaries between genres and includes some covers by Paul Motian, Steve Winwood, and Thelonious Monk.

Ron Miles is an American trumpeter, cornetist and composer who has performed at the Jazz Festival leading his own group and as part of one of Bill Frisell’s groups.




Saturday, July 4

Atlantis Quartet
The Atlantis Quartet has emerged as a leading voice in the twin cities’ burgeoning modern jazz scene since its inception in 2006. The group features four of Minnesota’s most exciting young jazz artists, saxophonist Brandon Wozniak, guitarist Zacc Harris, bassist Chris Bates, and drummer Pete Hennig; who have come together in this setting to create and explore fresh and organic sounds in the heart of and on the edges of jazz idiom. The ensemble’s blend of complexity and accessibility has proven a perfect fit for all listeners. The group headlined the opening night of the 2014 Minneapolis Jazz Festival.


Julian Lage Trio
Julian Lage is an American guitarist, composer and arranger living in New York. Often categorized as a jazz musician, his music is rooted in both traditional and acoustic forms. He was the subject of an Academy Award nominated documentary "Jules at Eight."

Among others Julian has collaborated with Jim Hall, Mark O'Connor, Nels Cline, Chris Eldridge, Scott Colley and Antonio Sanchez. In addition to his own quintet he has recorded with Gary Burton, David Grisman, Eric Harland, Anthony Wilson, Martin Taylor, Joshua Bell and Yoko Ono. Lage’s album Sounding Point was nominated for a Best Contemporary Jazz album Grammy in 2010.

Some of his most recent albums are Room , a duo album with fellow guitarist Nels Cline (Wilco, Nels Cline Singers), Free Flying with pianist Fred Hersch, which received a coveted 5 star review in Down Beat magazine.


Ben Allison Think Free
Bassist/composer Ben Allison is one of a few band leaders working in jazz today who has developed his own instantly identifiable sound. Known for his inspired arrangements, inventive grooves and hummable melodies, Ben draws from the jazz tradition and a range of influences from rock and folk to classical and world music, seamlessly blending them into a cinematic, cohesive whole.

Called “one of today’s best young jazz musicians” by the Boston Globe and a “visionary composer, adventurous improviser, and strong organizational force on the New York City jazz scene” by JazzTimes, Allison has released eleven CDs of original music, including 2013’s The Stars Look Very Different Today (on his own Sonic Camera Records).

Ben’s album Action-Refraction, reached #1 on the CMJ National Jazz radio charts and remained in the top 20 for over three months, making it one of the most-played CDs of 2011. Action-Refraction was named one of the Best Albums of 2011 (of any genre) by NPR and Time Out New York.


Charles Lloyd featuring Gerald Clayton, Joe Sanders and Kendrick Scott
Charles Lloyd was born March 15, 1938 in Memphis, Tennessee. From an early age, he was immersed in that city's rich musical life and was exposed to jazz. He began playing the saxophone at the age of 9. Pianist Phineas Newborn became his mentor, and took him to Irvin Reason for lessons. Lloyd worked in Phineas Sr.’s band, and from the age of 12 worked as sideman in the blues bands of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnnie Ace, Bobbie “Blue” Bland, and others. His closest friend in high-school was trumpeter, Booker Little.

In the intervening sixty years, Lloyd has become a true giant of the jazz world, playing with Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Bobby Hutcherson, Chico Hamilton, Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and many more.

In 1970, Lloyd moved to California and entered a state of semi-retirement. He practically disappeared from the jazz scene, but can be heard on recordings with the Doors, Canned Heat, and the Beach Boys. Occasionally during the 1970s Lloyd played with The Beach Boys; both on their studio recordings and as a member of their touring band.

Upon being approached by pianist, Michel Petrucciani in 1981, he resumed playing actively for two years and then retreated again. Upon his recovery from a near death experience in 1986, Lloyd decided to rededicate himself to music. He started performing occasionally in 1987 and 88. In 1989, Lloyd reestablished an active touring schedule and began recording for ECM Records. The ECM recordings showcased his sensitivity as a ballad player and composer. In 2014, Lloyd received the 2014 Monterey Jazz Festival Jazz Legend Award.




KROM with Gabe Medd
Described as “The real deal” by All About Jazz, and “a sensational pianist, and brilliant young musician” by the Buffalo News, pianist Adam Kromelow is making a strong name for himself in today’s music scene. Originally from the north suburbs of Chicago, Kromelow grew up listening to all kinds of music, and fostered a love for playing piano at an early age. When he was 18, he moved to New York City to study at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music from which he graduated in 2011, and where he studied with modern jazz piano icons Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer.

His trio, KROM, has been turning heads with the release of their debut album Youngblood on ZOHO Records. This album, which was produced by GRAMMY-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill, reached number 14 on the College Music Journal radio charts and has been widely acclaimed by critics. It was picked as one of the Top Ten CDs of 2012 by the Philadelphia Inquirer, named the Debut Album of the Year by Nippertown Magazine, and hailed as “one of the most captivating discs by a jazz trio in years” by the Toledo Blade.

The trio will be joined by Coralville native Gabe Medd on trumpet. Medd began the trumpet at age three. He played his first jazz gig at the age of ten, and he has been performing on trumpet ever since. In the eighth grade, he was introduced to the world taking third place in the National Trumpet Competition. Medd is well known for his role in the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Ensembles. He was also a member of the inaugural Jazz Band of America and Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. Gabe is also the first trumpet player to be accepted to the Frost School of Music’s "Stamps Ensemble."


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