2022 Performer Bios

Friday, June 17, 2022

Al & Beth Cafagna Founders’ Stage

Dwight Adams Quartet (5:30-6:30 p.m.)

Trumpeter Dwight Adams is now one of the brightest stars on the Detroit jazz scene. Adams earned a full scholarship to Kentucky State University, where he majored in music education and performance. He has since played and recorded with musicians including Marcus Belgrave, Rodney Whitaker, James Carter, Shawn Wallace and Donald Walden, and tours with Stevie Wonder. He has served as a jazz trumpet instructor at both The Ohio State University and Michigan State University and performs with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra.

The Larry Fuller Trio (7:00-8:00 p.m.)

Based out of New York City, Larry Fuller is an internationally acclaimed American jazz pianist, band leader, composer, and clinician known to "swing like a beast!”. He is a Yamaha-endorsed Artist. Harnessing extraordinary experience – Fuller now leads The Larry Fuller Trio. He presents a musical program rarely experienced live today, consistently praised for his emotive, swinging style, monster technique, and program versatility. From bop, to stride, to swing, to blues, Fuller's live performances are not to be missed! larryfuller.com

Lewis Nash Quartet (8:30-9:30 p.m.)

A Tribute to Barbara Sawyer-Koch

Lewis Nash played the drums in Phoenix, before moving to New York in 1981. In this jazz mecca, Nash had the incredibly good fortune to join Betty Carter’s band, giving him the opportunity to hone his chops with world-class musicians like Benny Green, Stephen Scott, and Don Braden.

In the late ’90s, Nash started branching out. He formed his own group, the Lewis Nash Ensemble, comprised of Nash, along with Jimmy Green on saxophone; David Finck on bass; Steve Nelson on vibraphone; and Steve Kroon on percussion. Providing inspiration and expertise to students is an important part of Nash’s career. In 2001, he became a member of the faculty at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music.

Orquesta Ritmo (10:00-11:00 p.m.)

In the late 70’s and in preparation for the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration, Mike Eyia formed Orquesta Ritmo to introduce and educate people in a different style of Latin music. In 1984, the group grew to its current 10-piece orchestra. Eyia is the director and sole active member from the original group. Eyia is also a founding member of Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan (JAMM), a local organization founded to promote Jazz music in the Mid-Michigan area.

MSU Outreach & Engagement Education Stage

Koji Cassetta Quartet (3:30-4:30 p.m.)

Koji Cassetta is an up-and-coming bassist, composer, bandleader, and educator. His mentors are Marion Hayden, Jeff Pedraz, and Rodney Whitaker, who he studied with for 6 years at Michigan State University for his undergraduate and master’s degree. At MSU, he performed alongside Louis Hayes, Kenny Barron, Mimi Jones, Harvey Mason, Charles Tolliver, John Clayton, Renee Rosnes, Stefon Harris, and Lewis Nash. He was also part of the first-place band at the national Jack Rudin competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Brandon Rose & Soul Therapy (5:00-6:00 p.m.)

The protégé of legends Marcus Miller and Rodney Whitaker, contemporary jazz musician Brandon Rose harnesses his gospel roots to create rhythm and blues, and soul-inspired compositions. His music seamlessly and effortlessly incorporates elements of jazz, funk, hip hop, and R&B into a full-bodied sonic experience. Rose’s compositions are inspired by his experiences with love and love lost, and by various social protests regarding the African American community and other efforts for equality.

Max Colley III Quintet (6:30-7:30 p.m.)

Max Colley III was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Colley has performed for 3 presidents, many entertainers, and with many internationally acclaimed musicians. In 2014, he was named Jazz Musician of the Year by the West Michigan Jazz Society. Colley is currently the Jazz Events Coordinator at Michigan State University and works closely with Byron Center High School Jazz Program and the West Ottawa Jazz Band.

Kevin Bujo Jones & Tenth World (8:00-9:00 p.m.)

Tenth World is a group formed by percussionist Bujo Kevin Jones and pianist/composer, Kelvin Sholar through a partnership created back in 1999 in New York City. Together Jones and Sholar formed a collective of young talented musicians on the cusp of realizing a new and creative sound that combined the harmonic sensibilities of Jazz and Soul with the rhythms of the African Diaspora.

Deon Yates Quartet (9:30-10:30 p.m.)

Deon Yates began his solo career in 2009. Yates has performed at the Capital Jazz Festival, became a regular fixture with the house band on the Capital Jazz Super Cruise. Yates’s latest release, “QUINTASTIC” is the culmination of nearly 10 years of paying dues, relationship building, and persistence. Deon Yates can now be heard every Sunday as the host of Discover Jazz on the New Jazz City Radio Internet Radio Station. The show features music from new and emerging artists as well as some of the more familiar names in Smooth Jazz. thenewjazzcity.com

Saturday, June 18, 2022                

Al & Beth Cafagna Founders’ Stage

Sean Dobbins Organ Quartet (4:00-5:00 p.m.)

Sean Dobbins got his start as sought-after Detroit area jazz sideman at a young age, when he would regularly play with Blue Note artist Louis Smith. Sean’s sound can best be described as hard-driving, solid rhythm with refreshing melodic sensibility. Some of Sean’s influences include Art Blakey, Jeff Hamilton, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ed Thigpen, Sonny Payne, as well as Detroit area greats Gerald Cleaver and the one and only Elvin Jones.

Rockelle Fortin Quartet (5:30-6:30 p.m.)

Rockelle Fortin is a vocalist, composer, and lyricist from Detroit.  As the eldest of Jazz bassist Rodney Whitaker, jazz is in her lineage. Rooted in gospel, baptized in the blues and an immensely inherited legacy of jazz. She has toured and played at jazz clubs/ festivals In the U.S., Europe, & Asia. Critics remark, "Rockelle is very good: clear and strong and settled." "She can set the mood on a lush ballad or rock the house with a bebop or a blues tune." “Her versatility, power and soulfulness showcase her vocal range and versatility in any genre of music.

Tiffany Gridiron (7:00-8:00 p.m.)

Vocalist Tiffany Gridiron learned to sing in the Black gospel traditions of her family church. Since that time, her sultry vocals and playful approach have excited audiences in the United States, Japan, Finland and South Korea. Her foundational jazz influences are three of the greatest jazz singers: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn, and her contemporary influences are Diane Reaves and Jill Scott. Her abilities as a jazz singer were developed under the tutelage of famed jazz vocal performer and educator Sunny Wilkinson and trumpeter, producer, and educator Kris Johnson.

Randy Gelispie Quartet (8:30-9:30 p.m.)

A Tribute to Bob Banks

Randy Gelispie has traveled on the road with Wes Montgomery, Sonny Stitt, Dinah Washington, Etta Jones, Lou Donaldson, and Gene Ammons. He has performed with Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Oliver Jones, O. C. Smith, Al Hibbler, and most recently with Geri Allen, Jimmy Witherspoon, John Lee Hooker, Big Maybelle, Donald Walden, Marcus Belgrave, Perry Hughes, Rodney Whitaker, Gary Schunk, Rick Roe, Marian Hayden, Bill Heid, Andrew Speight, and Wycliffe Gordon.

Aguanko (10:00-11:00 p.m.)

Conga player and composer Alberto Nacif and the superlative Michigan-based musicians who make up the sizzling Latin Jazz septet Aguanko have reached a 10-year milestone as a band in 2022. These tasteful musicians’ interpretation of the band’s original music is evocative and sensuous, and true to Cuban roots. Aguanko has received local, national and international attention, and their live concerts have dazzled capacity crowds at the multiple venues where they have performed.

MSU Outreach & Engagement Education Stage

Sofia Rabiela & Friends (3:30-4:30 p.m.)

Sofia Rabiela is an Arab/Latina bass player from the southwest side of Chicago. A recent graduate of Michigan State University, Sofia has been able to study with influential musicians such as Rodney Whitaker, Diego Rivera, Michael Dease, Xavier Davis, and Randy Napoleon. Being a resident of Chicago, she has played venues such as Andy’s Jazz Club, the Jazz Showcase, and the Ravinia Festival alongside renowned musicians such as Bobby Broom, Pharex Whitted, Ernie Adams, Pat Mallinger, and Willie Pickens. Along with her bass playing, Sofia is also an aspiring composer and arranger. Rabiela is currently pursuing a master’s degree in jazz at Michigan State University.

Jonathan Gerwitz Quartet (5:00-6:00 p.m.)

Jon Gewirtz has been a music educator around the Lansing area for over 20 years. He currently serves on the music faculties of Lansing Community College, Olivet College, and Hillsdale College. Gerwtiz’s first solo album, 2020 Hindsight, was released in March 2022, and includes all original music. 2020 Hindsight is a collection of pieces that reflect how life changed for Gerwitz when COVID shut the world down in March of 2020. Styles from each track range from straight ahead jazz to funk to latin to the avant garde. The Jon Gewirtz Quartet consists of Jon Gewirtz (saxophone), Neil Gordon (guitar), Ed Fedewa (bass) and Larry Ochiltree (drums).

Ben Turner Quartet (6:30-7:30 p.m.)

Turner, a graduate of the Boyer College of Music at Temple University, is a guitarist, composer, and educator based in the Detroit area. Turner received an award in Downbeat magazine for outstanding performance as part of the 2020 Downbeat Student Music Awards and was selected to participate in the 2020 JAS Academy in Aspen, Colorado. Most recently, Turner was awarded the 2022 BMI Future Jazz Master Award along with jazz musician Cler Diaz (a first ever tie), and the 2022 U.S. Army Blues Solo Competition. He was also a finalist in the 2022 International Strings Competition and 2019 Wilson Center Jazz Guitar Competition.

Ralphe Armstrong (8:00-9:00 p.m.)

Detroit bassist Ralphe Armstrong is an innovator and originator of fusion fretless bass. “Ralphe is the torchbearer of the Detroit bass tradition,” says fellow world-renowned Detroit bass player and educator Rodney Whitaker. “He studied with Ron Carter and James Jamerson, so he’s got it all.” A musician emblematic of Detroit’s diversity of style and capacity of talent, Ralphe Armstrong has always been an ambassador between the Detroit sound and the rest of the world. As Armstrong puts it, “Detroit keeps producing more great musicians than any other place on Earth, and that’s a true story.”

Kimmie Horne (9:30-10:30 p.m.)

Jazz singer Kimmie Horne layers sensibilities and cool vibes to the nostalgia of luscious, classic jazz through her rich, alto voice and sultry performances. A Detroit native, Horne developed her own style growing up while inspired by the legacy of her uncle, Cleveland Horne of the Fantastic Four and her great-aunt, the legendary songstress and movie icon Lena Horne. Horne has mesmerized audiences across North America, Europe and Asia with her immersive live performances. Her single rendition of “Feeling Good” by English composers Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, showcase Horne’s warm energy and artistic stylings brilliantly.