The Northcoast Jazz Collective (NJC) is one of the best jazz groups in Cleveland and is fast becoming one of the better known. The band plays straight-up modern jazz that is creative, accessible and emotional.
Personnel include leader Mark Grey on drums, John Gallo on acoustic bass, Dan Maier on piano and Dave Frank on tenor sax, soprano sax and flute. All grew up and live in the Cleveland area.
Gallo started on violin at age 7 and switched to bass 10 years later. He played the New York jazz scene for some years, starting in 1961, working with Larry Elgart, Sal Salvador and other big bands. He then played in post-bop and "free" jazz groups that included saxophonists Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders, pianists Carla Bley and Chic Corea, drummer Charles Moffett, and trombonists Kai Winding and Bill Watruss. He left the music business, and after a 30-year "vacation", returned to playing and writing better than before.
Dan Maier attended Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory, studying with Lennie Tristano, Madame Chaloff and Ran Blake. Over the years he has worked with Gary Burton,Clark Terry, Junior Cook, Melvyn Sparks, Urbie Green, Howard Roberts and Dakota Staton, among others. He's also been a member of Philip Glass and Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, The Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and numerous jazz vocalists. Many say he is one of the best, if not the best, jazz pianists in the Cleveland area.
Dave Frank, the youngest band member, studied music performance, composition and recording at Ohio University and was prominent in the jazz scene there. In addition to playing regularly with the Northcoast Jazz Collective, where he is also musical director, Dave plays and records with three other bands in the Northeast Ohio area: Stone Pony Band (Bruce Springsteen Tribute Band), Harrison Fjord (rock/fusion/comedy) and Impromptu (completely improvised music).
Mark Grey, born into a family of drummers, learned to play drums on his father's Gene Krupa model Slingerland Drums from the 1950s. He began at age ten and played from elementary school through college, playing with jazz trios while in graduate school at the University of Hawaii. He has also played with the Smart Set (big band) and the Equinox Jazz Quartet. In addition to driving the NCJ with a strong presence, he has also been most responsible for getting gigs for the group.
The Northcoast Jazz Collective has been together as a unit for 5 years. They’ve recorded two albums of original compositions and have played at most of the jazz clubs in the Cleveland area, including Nighttown, Bop Stop, Fat Fish Blue and Boulevard Blue. They have gotten great reviews from noted jazz critic Harvey Pekar, the Plain Dealer and Cool Cleveland.com., and appeared on public radio and TV.