Neos gathers the cumulative experience of five versatile musicians, each with broad backgrounds in classical, jazz, popular, ethnic, and improvisatory forms, and trains it on the task of creating something entirely unexpected. Vital, physical grooves, beautiful lines, intricate counterpoint, and luminescent textures come together in a style that appeals to young and old alike. What began as musical experimentation by five friends in an Eastman School of Music practice room in 2001 has grown into what critics have noted as an "energetic and forward looking" and "strikingly original" ensemble, whose debut album Mackerel Sky, was described by one critic as "definitely worthy of a Grammy."
Founder and artistic director Matt Curlee has developed a reputation as a fresh voice in the organ world. Winner of the 1996 Grand Prix de Chartres, one of the most prestigious organ competitions in the world, he has performed throughout North America and Europe in live, radio, and TV appearances, with symphony orchestras, and to debut new instruments, and has been listed in International Who's Who in Music and Musicians. Since the release of Neos' debut album Mackerel Sky in early 2005, Matt has also been recognized for his talents as the producer of a record that has been called "terrific" and "definitely worthy of a Grammy" by reviewers. Matt's other recording credits include Syntax (2001), and An Austrian Neurotic in Graf Kaiserling's Court (1999), of which Bernard Durman (The Diapason) worte, "This CD contains some of the finest Bach playing I have ever heard, from any artist, on any organ, period...prize-winning playing from a prize winning artist!" A graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he was a student of David Higgs, Matt holds Bachelors in organ with the Performer's Certificate, and a Masters in Pedagogy of Music Theory.
Violinist Courtney Orlando is widely regarded as a versatile and forward-looking musician, and has been a member of Neos since its inception in 2001. Her involvement with the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, of which she is also a founding member, led to her recent Carnegie Hall debut with the Steve Reich Ensemble. Other projects with Alarm Will Sound include the 2002 premiere recording of Reich's "The Desert Music" on Cantaloupe Records, a project directed by the composer himself, and performances at the Bang on a Can marathon, Columbia University's Miller Theatre, and Merkin Hall for the WNYC "New Sounds Live" radio series. Courtney has collaborated with a who's who of other contemporary and early music greats including John Adams, Michael Gordon, David Lang, David Liptak, Brad Lubman, Paul O'Dette, and Helmuth Rilling. A native of Allentown, PA, Courtney is a graduate of Temple University (BM) and the Eastman School of Music (MA, DMA). She currently resides in Baltimore, where she is on the faculty of the Peabody Institute of Music.
Percussionist Ian Fry, finished his studies at the Eastman School in 2005 with degrees in both Jazz and Classical performance. Ian's musical experience ranges from orchestral to improvisational to world percussion, and his current projects include an intensive study of tabla music. He remains the only member we've had who's ever jumped out of an airplane, and is a spectacular photographer who contributed significantly to the look of the band's website.
Vibraphonist and composer Lalo joins Neos for the first time in the 2005-2006 season. Her original sound and approach to the vibraphone makes her a perfect fit for the ensemble, and has drawn international media attention, including a recent feature on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday. Lalo's debut CD, featuring legendary bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer/percussionist Todd Isler, was released January 2003 at the Blue Note in New York City, and her second offering, entitled Half Moon, will be available in October 2005. Dubbed "the Vibe Queen" by The Village Voice, Lalo has received rave reviews in numerous publications including Bass Player Magazine, All About Jazz, Indie-Music.com, and Sounds of Timeless Jazz. Womanrock.com has featured Lalo as a cover story, and Jazziz Magazine has listed her among the "20 Fine Vibists in the world." A native of Savannah, Georgia, Lalo commenced her studies with world-renowned vibraphonist Mike Mainieri and began performing in festivals and clubs in the southeastern United States while still in high school. She subsequently enrolled in Berklee College of Music, graduating Summa Cum Laude, and is now a resident of Brooklyn.
A founding member of Neos, drummer Ted Poor graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 2003 where he earned his BM in Jazz Performance and taught on the faculty of the Community Education Division. While at Eastman, Ted studied drum set Rich Thompson and percussion with John Beck. Now a resident of New York City, Ted performs and records a variety of music with many different ensembles. For the past year he has worked with the guitarist Ben Monder's Quartet and played on Monder's most recent CD to be released later in 2004 (featuring Kermit Driscoll, Skuli Sverrison and Theo Bleckman). Ted is also a member of trumpeter Cuong Vu's trio (with bassist Stomu Takeishi), with whom Ted tours Europe and the US. A recent gig featured guitarist Bill Frisell at Seattle's Earshot Jazz Festival. In addition to tours throughout the coming year, including a European tour, featuring guitarist Marc Ducret, the trio plans on recording an album for Pat Metheny Records. In March of 2004, Ted accompanied saxophonist Chris Potter to Frankfurt, Germany to perform and record Potter's music with the HR Big Band and will return as a guest soloist in July 2005 to perform and record the music of Ornette Coleman.
Another founding member of Neos, bassist and composer Ike Sturm is a creative and influential member of New York's jazz community, and has been noted in particular for his collaborative work with his sister, visual artist Madeline Sturm. The 10-piece Ike Sturm Ensemble released its debut CD Spirit in 2003, and continues to present original music paired with original artwork in churches and concert venues throughout New York. Ike has performed with dozens of jazz greats including Bobby McFerrin, Maria Schneider, Gene Bertoncini, and Kenny Wheeler, and can be heard on four Downbeat Award-winning recordings. Formerly a member of new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, Ike is also featured on composer Steve Reich's most recent chamber music releases on Canteloupe and Nonesuch Records. Ike studied jazz and classical bass with professors Jeff Campbell and James Vandemark while earning both Bachelors and Masters degrees at the Eastman School of Music, and has also studied with the legendary bassist Dave Holland. Ike lives in Brooklyn with his wife, soprano and teacher Misty Ann Sturm, and is the director of Jazz Ministries at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York.