IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CP1104
Street Date: 3/16/2010
Drummer/Composer Vinson Valega and his group release
new CD titled, "Biophilia," from Consilience Productions.
Drummer/Composer Vinson Valega offers up one the most creative releases of 2010 with his new CD titled Biophilia from Consilience Productions. Valega is joined here by an extraordinary ensemble made up of Anton Denner on alto saxophone & flute, Chris Bacas on tenor and soprano saxophones, Mark Miller on trombone, Matthew Fries on piano & fender rhodes, & Gary Wang on bass. Valega delivers mind-blowing arrangements and originality through his inventive compositional brilliance and his personal interpretations of classics from Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, & Thelonious Monk among others. Biophilia is a musical crossing by one of the most inventive musicians and composers to come along in some time –Vinson Valega. The recording is released by Consilience Productions, a non-profit organization that promotes a "dialogue BEYOND music" through their website, liner notes, social networking sites, concert performances, and education. They bring citizens together with jazz music to inspire participation in the issues of the day, increasing civic engagement with their message of "Live Jazz for Social Change!"
"Valega is a spectacular drummer...but obviously much more than a drummer. He is a composer, able to invent interesting
and engaging melodies and harmonies, which provide the perfect vehicle for extended improvisations. He is a band leader
with the considerable skills to know how to pick the musicians that will make his music as effective as possible."
- Dave Miele, Jazz Improv Magazine
Vinson Valega grew up in a musical family near Washington, D.C., studying classical piano from age seven until switching to the drums when he was 12. He played drums for three years in the All-County Jazz Ensemble during high school and subsequently held the drum chair in the University of Pennsylvania Big Band during college.
After graduating from UPENN with a B.A. in Economics, Vinson came to New York City in the early 90's to study music at the New School in Manhattan, where he studied with Marvin “Smitty” Smith (of The Tonight Show Band) and Norm Freeman (of the New York Philharmonic). Vinson has performed in many clubs in the New York Metropolitan area, including the Blue Note, Smoke, 55 Bar, Birdland, Smalls, Cornelia Street Cafe, The Jazz Gallery, Cleopatra's Needle, and Trumpets of Montclair, NJ. An avid composer, Vinson also teaches privately and served on the staff of the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California from 1999-2001. He has toured throughout North America and Europe with his groups and others, and he appears on Matthew Fries' CD, Song For Today (TCB) and the Ganz Brother's release, First Steps (Extravaganza). Vinson also has four CDs out as a leader, “Live@147, Consilience, Awake and the most recent Biophilia.
In addition, Valega has also worked with or played alongside with many of the great musicians in jazz, such as Grover Washington, Jr., Dakota Staton, Clarke Terry, James Williams, Donald Brown, Harold Mabern, Jr., Jamil Nasser, Ron McClure, Bob Mintzer, Peter Bernstein, Terrel Stafford, Eric Alexander, Jim Rotundi, David Hazeltine, Joel Frahm, Dena DeRose, and Vincent Herring, among others.
For more information on Vinson Valega and Consilience Productions go to: www.cslproductions.org
Bios of the other musicians on the CD:
Born in New York City in 1961, Anton Denner began playing the saxophone in 1974. After early studies with Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano, he began to freelance in the New York area in the early '80's, performing at The Village Gate, Visiones, The 55 Bar, Birdland , and many other venues.
Anton has also worked with or played alongside with many of the great musicians in jazz, such as Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Clifford Jordan, Mel Lewis, Al Foster, Norman Simmons, Brad Meldau, Bill Carrothers, Larry Goldings, Terell Stafford, Dave Stryker, and Bill Stewart, to name only a few. Anton has also been a featured soloist at The Napa Valley Jazz Festival, the Istanbul Jazz Festival (with the NY Jazz Giants) and the LaVillete Festival in France (with the Bill Carrothers Trio).
Recorded work includes the critically acclaimed Bill Carrothers Trio CD, Ghost Ships, Happy Apple's, Blown Shockwaves & Crash Flow, and John McKenna's Apparition, to name only a few. As an educator, he has served on the faculty of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, and has been an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University since 1999.
Anton is married to Nicki Denner, the Latin Jazz pianist and composer, and resides in Bloomingdale, New Jersey.
Chris began his career at age fifteen as a sideman with a club band in York, PA, and after attending North Texas State, he began his jazz performance career in earnest. Beginning in 1983, Chris played in the Glen Miller Band, The Tommy Dorsey Band, the Artie Shaw Band, and Buddy Rich's legendary Big Band until Rich's passing in 1987.
Over the past twenty years, Chris has appeared at festivals all over the world, including the Nice, North Sea, Cork, Santiago, Montreal, Moers Texaco, Annapolis, JVC New York, and Central PA Jazz Festivals. He has performed in Copenhagen at the Tivoli Gardens; in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Bowl and LA's Comedy Store; in New York's Blue Note and Birdland; at Chicago's Jazz Showcase; and in Washington D.C. at Blues Alley and One Step Down.
Chris was a member of the Smithsonian's Jazz Masterworks Orchestra under conductors David Baker and Gunther Schuller. The orchestra's concert series was broadcast on NPR, and a CD sampler was released in 1996. In 1999 Chris was soloist on both flute and saxophone in the Mary Lou Williams' "Mass" (which was performed and recorded in the National Cathedral) and also toured Russia and Siberia with a group of Russian and American musicians.
Since 1989, Chris has appeared on over thirty recordings, including three ("Two Choices," "Leave a Message," and "Exits") as leader/co-leader. Since moving to Brooklyn, NY, in 1999, Chris has performed and recorded with Stefan Bauer, The Sound Assembly, and Christoph Sweitzer. In 2004, he attended Brooklyn College on a full tuition scholarship and received a saxophone performance degree with honors.
Chris teaches privately and has been on the staff at Towson State University in Baltimore, MD.
Trombonist Mark Miller grew up in Racine, Wisconsin and attended nearby Carthage College. In 1992 he moved to Minneapolis to study at the University of Minnesota with Tom Ashworth and Ron McCurdy. An ever-present sound on the Twin Cities music scene in the 1990s, he played with and composed for Motion Poets, Slide Huxtable, Happy Apple, and Jeanay Say Qua. Mark also performed with the Latin Sounds Orchestra, Salsa Del Soul, and the Intergalactic Contemporary Ensemble.
Mark was a founding member of the jazz sextet Motion Poets, in which he and the other members each composed an eclectic repertoire of hundreds of pieces during their eight-year tenure (1993-2000). They recorded three albums: “Truth And Consequence”, “Standard Of Living”, and “Lose Your Mind And Come To Your Senses”. Motion Poets also traveled extensively, performing in 37 states and were featured at many jazz festivals, including: San Jose Jazz Festival, Iowa City Jazz Festival, Discover Jazz Festival, and the BYU Jazz Festival.
In 1999 Mark moved to New York City where he began playing with the city’s best salsa artists, including: Adalberto Santiago, Tito Gomez, Jose Fajardo, Raulin Rosendo, Hector Tricoche, Wayne Gorbea y Salsa Picante, Tito Puente, Jr., and Charlie Zaa. Mark also counts among his credits performances with Billy Joel, Doc Severinsen, Ernie Watts, Frank Foster, Cy Coleman, Birdland Big Band, Gloria Gaynor, Lucille Arnaz, Jill Gioia, Funk Filharmonik, Allen Vizzutti, Byron Stripling, Pete Christleib, Jason Lindner Big Band and Haiti’s Magnum Band.
In 2002/03 Mark hit the road for ten months with the Broadway musical “Swing!” which featured Mark as a soloist and an integral part of the production. In January of 2007 he completed a three year tour of the Tony award winning hit Broadway musical “Movin’ Out”, which featured the music of Billy Joel and the choreography of Twyla Tharp. A featured vocalist and member of the nine-piece rock band, Mark and his colleagues received rave reviews across the U.S., Canada and Japan.
Thrilled to be home after years on the road, including stops in 46 states and 17 countries, Mark is again pursuing his more creative interests. He has just released the debut CD of his long time Minneapolis based jazz quartet Slide Huxtable, entitled 'The Return of Slide Huxtable'. The album contains nine tracks, four of which are Mark’s original compositions. Now back in New York City, Now back in New York City, he is also appearing in the band of the new Broadway musical, Come Fly Away, conceived, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp, set to the vocals of Frank Sinatra.
Matthew Fries (pronounced FREECE) has been playing piano all his life. Born in central Pennsylvania, Matthew grew up in a musical home. His mother was a classical singer. His father was a professor of piano at Susquehanna University and was Matthew's first teacher, teaching him piano and music theory. During high school he played trumpet and sang in school choruses, but returned to piano after a college jazz history course awakened his interest in jazz piano. He switched his major to music and earned a Bachelor's Degree from Ithaca College. He then went on to earn a Master's Degree from The University of Tennessee, where he taught undergraduate classes and studied with jazz piano great, Donald Brown.
In 1994 Matthew moved to New York City, and has made the most of his musical experiences. In 1997 Matthew won first place in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition (part of the Jacksonville Jazz Festival). He placed 2nd in the event the year before. In 1998 he was a finalist in the American Pianists Association jazz piano competition.
Matthew released his debut CD as a leader, "Song for Today" (TCB Music) in June 2001 - a Jazziz Magazine critics pick. This album includes several original compositions, as well as interpretations of compositions by Leonard Bernstein, Thad Jones, James Williams, Donald Brown, and a reworking of a pop classic by James Taylor.
Matthew currently lives in New York City where he has begun to make a name for himself as a singer's accompanist. Described as "the best jazz accompaniment I've seen in a cabaret in years" (The New York Times) and "a distinct asset" (Variety Magazine), he tours and performs regularly with singers Curtis Stigers and Stacey Kent. He has also performed with artists as diverse as DeeDee Bridgewater, Vincent Herring, Tony Reedus, Charlie Persip, Walter Perkins, Jay Leonhart and many others.
Acoustic bassist Gary Wang has been living and playing professionally in New York for the past fifteen years. Growing up in the Boston and San Francisco areas, he studied classical piano for several years from the age of 6, but was more interested in playing guitar in local rock groups. As a young teenager, however, he became fascinated with jazz and switched to acoustic bass at age 17. While in high school, he competed twice in the Berklee School of Music High school jazz competition with the Andover High School small ensemble, winning 2nd place in 1989 and 1st place in 1990.
In 1991, Gary attended Columbia University. He graduated in 1995 magna cum laude with a B.A. degree in Computer Science. While in college, he studied classical bass with Linda McKnight of the Manhattan School of Music and played in some of the school classical and jazz ensembles. It was only after graduating from college, however, that he decided to
dedicate himself to pursuing jazz music full time.
Since 1995, Gary has worked with in the bands of T.S. Monk, Don Braden, Stanley Turrentine, Willie Williams, Dena DeRose, David Hazeltine, Jon Gordon, Matt Wilson, and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Ambassadors band, among many others. He has also worked with or played alongside with many of the great musicians in jazz such as, Steve Wilson, Eddie Henderson, Vincent Herring, Geri Allen, Mark Turner, Kenny Werner, Roy Hargrove, Nnenna Freelon, Dianne Reeves, Ben Monder, Patricia Barber, Jane Monheit, Eric Alexander, Bobby Watson, Howard Johnson, Ronnie Mathews, and Don Sickler, among others.
Gary has also appeared in many of the major venues in New York City, including Iridium, Sweet Basil, Jazz Standard, Birdland, Lincoln Center, and Town Hall, as well as many of the major clubs in other cities in the U.S., such as the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, The Kennedy Center and Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., and Yoshi’s in Oakland, among many others.
Gary has toured extensively with various bands in the U.S. and internationally, traveling to Europe, India, Canada, Japan, South America and the Middle East. He has played many of the major festivals in the world, including among others, Newport/JVC, Texaco, North Sea, Umbria, Montreal, Cork, Atlanta, Litchfield, Jazz Yatra in India and Montreux.
In 2002, Gary was selected, along with saxophonist Virginia Mayhew and drummer Allison Miller, to participate in a U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassadors tour. For seven weeks, the band toured many of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, such as Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, and Ukraine, among others.
Gary’s recording credits include: T.S. Monk, Monk on Monk (Encoded Music) and Crosstalk (Encoded Music); Derek Bronston Group, Longing (Hacate) and Ebb (Labor Records); Mark Taylor, After Hours (Origin Arts) and the Sunny Jain Collective, As Is (NCM East).