"...a fluent composer and performer who is redefining mainstream jazz."
David Lewis, Cadence Magazine
Denver-based Saxophonist John Gunther is a composer and multi-instrumentalist playing Saxophones, Clarinet, and Flute. He has performed or recorded with Christian McBride, Bobby Watson, Dave Douglas, Ron Miles, Larry Goldings, Wallace Roney, Tom Harrel, Dewey Redman, Joe Williams, The Woody Herman Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and The Maria Schneider Orchestra.
Safari Trio is John's most recent musical adventure that explores sound and rhythm from around the world including Indian Raga, Arabic Maqam, Balkan dances, and African rhythms. With his partners Brad Shepik and John Hadfield, they explore an exciting range of melodies, rhythms, and textures all woven together with their sensibilities as jazz improvisors.
In his composition and performance, it's all about communication. Whether he is playing solo over one of his own mainstream jazz tunes, or "taking it out" with a reinterpretation of a 20th century classical composition, his music remains ever accessible, intelligent and connected. His interests are wide-ranging: World, Classical, experimental and Jazz music are all reflected in his work while remaining unified by his personal style and finely developed sense of structure.
"I got that sense of structure from my mother, who is a painter" he explains. "When I was very young I would look at a group of her paintings and she would ask me how my eye traveled through each one or how light and shadow would feel in relation to each other. I've found the concepts of balance, economy, contrast and contour to be equally important in music. Like the frame of a painting, time is the containing boundary that everything occurs within and the composer or improviser can shape this form or boundary and in a sense the listener's emotions and thoughts. It's a communication that transcends boundaries, and it's exciting when both performers and audience share in that experience together."
As part of New York city's "downtown" music scene for many years, he produced five recordings for Creative Improvised Music Projects (CIMP) and is a proud member of groups he helped co-found, "Spooky Actions" and "Convergence." John is an Associate Professor in Jazz Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and received a Ph.D. from New York University. In 2007 he received an "Innovative Seed Grant" to create the Boulder Laptop Orchestra to further explore the intersection of music, performance, art, and technology. His most recent recording, "Safari Trio" with Brad Shepik and John Hadfield, was released on the Dazzle Records label in 2013.
Brad Shepik - Guitar
In addition to his own groups, Brad Shepik has performed and/or recorded with Paul Motian, Joey Baron, Carla Bley, Charlie Haden, Dave Douglas, oud/violin virtuoso Simon Shaheen, Yuri Yunakov’s Bulgarian Wedding Band and others.
Born in Walla Walla, Washington and raised in Seattle, Brad Shepik began playing guitar at age 10, when he picked up his father's instrument. He continued to play both guitar and saxophone in school bands and studied guitar with Al Galante and Dave Petersen. He earned a B.F.A from Cornish College of the Arts and a Masters in Jazz Performance/Composition from New York University.
Since arriving in New York in 1990, Shepik has been involved several bands including Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio, Matt Darriau's Paradox Trio, Pachora w/Chris Speed, Jim Black and Skuli Sverrisson, and BABKAS. He has also performed with Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill, Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra and toured and recorded with Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band for 5 years. Concurrently, the guitarist extended his interest in world music idioms by performing and recording in such groups as Yuri Yunakov's Bulgarian Wedding Band and Simon Shaheen’s Quantara. Shepik’s first two records as a leader, The Loan and The Well, were praised for their marriage of world music styles and jazz.
Shepik also co-led two world music tinged trios; Triduga with accordionist Yuri Lemeshev and Tony Scherr on bass balalaika, and Lingua Franca with Peter Epstein and Matt Kilmer. In 2000 Shepik began re-examining the traditional guitar/bass/drums format with drummer Tom Rainey and bassist Scott Colley. They recorded two cd’s, Drip and Short Trip, both of which were critically acclaimed and featured on NPR.
Shepik's current working band is a trio with Gary Versace, organ and Rainey, drums. The band has performed at festivals across Europe and North America. Their latest release “Places You Go” received a 4 star review in Downbeat and appeared on several “Best CD’s of 2007” lists. Shepik also continues to tour with drummer Joey Baron’s Killer Joey, udist/violinist Simon Shaheen, George Schuller's Circle Wide, Matt Darriau’s Paradox Trio, Alexis Cuadrado Puzzles Quartet, Arthur Kell Quartet, Combo Nuvo, Bob Brookmeyer’s Quartet East and others.
"Human Activity Suite", a 10 movement piece about climate change for jazz quintet was released in February 2009 on Songlines Recordings. It features Shepik on guitars, saz and tambura as well as Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Gary Versace (piano, organ, accordion), Drew Gress (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums).
Shepik's latest band is the Brad Shepik Quartet with Tom Beckham (vibes), Jorge Roeder (bass) and Mark Guiliana (drums). The group released it's debut recording "Across the Way" in February 2011.
John Hadfield - drums/percussion
Percussionist John Hadfield's dedication to bending genres has taken him from the jungles of Indonesia to concert halls and clubs across the world. At home in New York, Time Out New York has recently pointed out "John Hadfield's percussion is so impeccable."
John Hadfield has released two records of his own compositions, mainly written for percussion instruments and electronics but also including guitar, harp, violin and cello –The Eye of Gordon (2008) and Displaced (2010). He is currently on the Jazz faculty of New York University, where he teaches drum set and the World Percussion Ensemble.
Bringing together distinct domains of expertise and traditions –including, but not limited to classical percussion, Hindustani and Carnatic music, jazz, rock, and electronic music, John has developed unique ways of performing with multiple percussion instruments simultaneously. He has been exploring the sonic and kinetic possibilities resulting from the combination of multiple instruments and electronics (such as Ableton Live). His compositions typically involve a wide range of sounds –from the most traditional such as the drum set to the classical Indian Kanjira or Ghatam to found objects such as bicycle wheels, pieces of metal and ventilation tubes.
John Hadfield's varied expertise has allowed him to perform with a broad range of ensembles and artists including: Yo-Yo Ma, The Silk Road Ensemble, The Saturday Night Live Band on NBC, Bang on a Can, The Michael Gordon Band, The HUM Ensemble, Sky White Tiger, Deep Purple, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, Combo Nuvo, Daniel Hope, The Bassam Saba Ensemble, Ethos Percussion Group and Gamelan Dharma Swara.
While performing with jazz groups, John Hadfield has worked alongside Lenny Pickett, Kenny Werner, George Garzone, Billy Drewes, Gil Goldstein, Andrew D'Angelo, Bobby Watson, Satoshi Takeshi, Brad Shepik, Mike Richmond and Erik Friedlander.
John Hadfield has also collaborated on more than 60 recordings as a guest artist, including the GRAMMY award winner Yo-Yo Ma and Friends, Songs of Joy and Peace (SONY BMG 2008).
As Downtown Music Gallery founder Bruce Lee Gallanter has summed up in one of his reviews of John's records, "[w]hat makes this special is that Mr. Hadfield knows how to use percussion in a more organic way that rarely deals with any sort of (logical or overused) beats, yet the music remains consistently fascinating throughout."