The Sultans of Swing
David Berger, conductor
Acclaimed for their superior musicianship and a sound that is both sophisticated and earthy, the Sultans of Swing create a natural bridge from the great bands of the 1930s and '40s to hip 21st century jazz and swing audiences. This 16-piece band includes experienced veterans along with fiery young jazz musicians who have formed a powerful team that addresses the blues and swing with style.
Berger's compositions and arrangements have garnered the band a diverse list of performance credits coast to coast, from premier swing venues like The Derby (L.A.), the Crystal Ballroom (Portland, OR), the Century Ballroom (Seattle) and Swing 46, Irving Plaza, the 92nd Street Y, Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing, the World Trade Center and Pier 25 in New York, to jazz festivals like Jazz on the River (Hood River, OR), to The Harlem Nutcracker (10 cities) and Ellington: In a Different Light (Donald Byrd/The Group) and the New York City Ballet.
Berger and the Sultans maintain a close relationship with Quincy Jones who has conducted them on the David Letterman Show, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and with the French National Symphony. The band also plays for corporate and private functions, universities and high schools as well as appearing frequently at the Kaplan Penthouse in Lincoln Center as part of the Meet The Artist programs for both school children and seniors (AARP).
The Sultans of Swing
Conductor: David Berger
Reeds: Jerry Dodgion, Matt Hong, Dan Block, Mark Hynes, Jay Brandford
Trumpets: Bob Millikan, Brian Pareschi, Irv Grossman, Mike Rodriguez
Trombones: Wayne Goodman, Pat Hallaran, Noah Bless
Rhythm: Isaac ben Ayala (piano), Dennis Irwin (bass), Jimmy Madison (drums)
Vocalist: Aria Hendricks
Jazz composer, arranger and conductor David Berger is recognized internationally as a leading authority on the music of Duke Ellington and the Swing Era. Conductor and arranger for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra from its inception in 1988 through 1994, Berger has transcribed more than 500 full scores of classic recordings including over 350 works by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.
In 1996 Berger collaborated with choreographer Donald Byrd to create the Harlem Nutcracker, a full-length 2-hour dance piece that expands the Tchaikovsky/Ellington/Strayhorn score into an American classic. The 15-piece band assembled to play this show has stayed together and continues to play Mr. Berger's music for listeners and swing dancers all over the United States and Europe. The Sultans of Swing featuring vocalist Aria Hendricks have 2 cd's out and carry on the tradition of the great bands of the 1930's and '40's bringing swinging jazz to a new generation.
Berger has written music for television, Broadway shows, including Sophisticated Ladies; films, including The Cotton Club and Brighton Beach Memoirs; dozens of singers, bands, orchestras and dance companies, including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. He maintains a close association with Wynton Marsalis through collaborations for Jazz @ Lincoln Center, National Public Radio, Public Broadcasting System and Columbia Records. Berger's expertise in arranging and performing Ellington's music brought him to the attention of Quincy Jones with whom he continues to work on several projects per year.
Berger's jazz compositions and arrangements and transcriptions are played by hundreds of bands every day all over the world. A seven-time recipient of National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Berger resides in New York City where he teaches at the Julliard School.
Starting with her father's group, Jon Hendricks & Co., the successor to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Aria Hendricks has appeared all over the world in concert halls, jazz clubs and festivals including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Blue Note Jazz Clubs in the United States and Asia, the Paris Jazz Festival, North Sea Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival, Montreux Festival, and Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival.
Hendricks has also appeared on CDs including Freddie Freeloader, Jon Hendricks and Friends and Boppin At The Blue Note with such luminaries as Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis, The Manhattan Transfer and Count Basie Orchestra, all of whom she has also appeared with on television or in concert. She has also performed with Chaka Khan, Nancy Wilson, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Dianne Reeves, Joe Williams and many others.
Hailing from Richmond, California, Jerry Dodgion gained early experience in the 1950's with the bay area bands of Rudy Salvini, John Coppola-Chuck Travis and Gerald Wilson as well as brief appearances with the Vernon Alley Quartet which included backing Billie Holiday in 1955. He joined Benny Carter on Gerald Wilson's recommendation for the opening night of the Moulin Rouge in Las Vegas. As a member of the Red Norvo Quintet (1958-61) which included long stints in Las Vegas at the Sands Hotel, he also played tours accompanying Frank Sinatra (1959-60) and as part of the Benny Goodman groups of 1959 through 1961.
Upon settling in New York in 1961 Dodgion began a long career of associations, performing and recording with some of the foremost and diverse names in jazz, including Quincy Jones, Tadd Dameron, Thad Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Dinah Washington, and Sarah Vaughn; many of which continue to this day.
Alto saxophonist Matt Hong graduated from Harvard, A.B. in history in 1986, Manhattan School of Music M.M. 1995. In the early 1990s, he taught jazz history at Harvard and worked as a freelance musician in Boston. Hong has lived in NYC since 1993, and played around the world with many bands including Guillermo Klein, the Mingus Big Band, and Illinois Jacquet . He is currently featured with the Gotham City Gates in the Broadway hit musical Swing! as well as leading his own quartet.
Dan Block came to New York from St. Louis to earn his Masters degree at Julliard, with the intention of becoming a symphonic clarinetist. He has worked in the big bands of Charles Mingus (with whom he recorded) Toshiko Akiyoshi and Maria Schneider as well as the Orchestra of St. Luke's, Orpheus and The New York Chamber Symphony.
Much of Block's work is in traditional jazz. He was with Vince Giordano's Nighthawks for seven years, has been a member of Marty Groz' band for a number of years and has played at various festivals and jazz parties along Warren Vache, Ralph Sutton, Dick Wellstood and Jack Lesberg.
Block's diverse history includes a three-year stint in Haitian popular music, known as Compas, playing and traveling with a number of bands and arranging and playing on 12 albums. Currently he plays in the pits of Broadway shows like Fosse and Chicago. His clarinet has been heard frequently on various TV and radio jingles. Block has recorded for Atlantic, Concord, Angel and Music Master as well as traditional labels like Arbers, Jazzology and Stomp Off.
A native Chicagoan, Mark Hynes spent several years in Detroit as a member of the Rodney Whitaker Octsemble/Sextet and the Bobby Battle Quartet. In addition to the Sultans of Swing, Mark currently performs with Art Baron's Duke's Men. His recordings include Rodney Whitaker Children of the Light (DIW/Columbia).
As a freelance saxophonist based in New York City, Jay Brandford has performed extensively with many jazz big bands: The Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra directed by David Baker, The Count Basie Orchestra directed by Grover Mitchell, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band directed by Jon Faddis, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, as well as the bands of Jon Hendricks, Bill Mobley, Clifford Jordan, Maria Schneider and others. He has recorded with Mercer Ellington, Cleo Laine & John Dankworth, Antonio Hart, Bill Mobley, David Taylor and Ken Schaphorst.
In the 1980's Brandford lived in Boston and studied with Eduard Fiorenza and Jerry Bergonzi. He freelanced extensively and led a septet that recorded (Seven Point Perspective on Accurate Records) and performed at all the major jazz venues in Boston. Several of Branford's big band arrangements were recorded by Ken Hadley, Craig Ball, and the Artie Shaw Orchestra and are still performed.
Branford was a semifinalist in both the 1991 and 1996 Thelonious Monk Institute International Saxophone Competitions. He also received grants from Meet The Composer in 1997 and 1998 to facilitate performances of original works.
Bob Millikan is one of New York s top lead trumpet players, noted for his range, interpretation, sound, accuracy and endurance. His versatility keeps him in demand as a studio musician and a sideman. He began his musical studies when he was only six years old, and by age twelve he was playing professionally with the Indianapolis Symphony Band. Upon graduation from high school, Millikan began his first tour of the United States with the Warren Covington band. A year later he moved to New York City where his career progressed rapidly.
By the age of 18, he was working with numerous big bands, doing television, Broadway shows and nightclubs, playing lead trumpet for such performers as Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Diana Ross.
He was a member of the American Jazz Orchestra (John Lewis, conductor) performing with many of the jazz greats, and can be heard on the American Jazz Orchestra recordings Ellington Masterpieces, The Music of Jimmy Lunceford, and Benny Carter/Central City Sketches as well as hundreds of other recordings with such artists as Tony Bennett, Jimmy Heath, Chick Corea, Buddy Rich, Clark Terry, and Gerry Mulligan.
Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Brian Pareschi received his Bachelor's degree in Biology in 1992 from University of Rochester/Eastman School of Music, after which he spent 3 years traveling all over the world as both a sideman and as Senior Musician Supervisor with Carnival Cruise Lines, leading an 11-piece show-band as well as supervising all the entertainment aboard the ship.
In 1996 Pareschi relocated to New York City where he received his Master's in Jazz Composition/Arranging from the Manhattan School of Music under the tutelage of David Berger. Pareschi also performs with the Swing Mavens and leads his own 15-piece group which performs his original compositions and arrangements.
He has played with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Louis Bellson Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, the New York Voices, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Flying Neutrinos, the Blue Saracens and George Gee and His Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra. Pareschi can also be found performing in various Broadway shows and arranging for numerous entertainers and acts in Las Vegas, including the Platters, Darlene Love, and Lou Rawls, as well as various shows for Carnival Cruise Lines.
A native New Yorker, Irv Grossman studied trumpet with Vince Penzarella, John Dearth, and Lew Soloff. He earned his Masters degree at the Manhattan School of Music, and since then has been freelancing in New York. He has performed with the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akioshi and Woody Herman.
Born in Queens, New York, at the age of 8, Michael moved to Miami, FL. A member of the 1995 and '97 All American High School Jazz Ensemble and a recipient of the Stan Getz/Clifford Brown award in 1998. After attending the University of Miami for two years, he transferred to the New School University in New York City, where he received his B.A. Rodriguez is currently performing and traveling with pianist Eric Reed's quintet and septet and has performed with Jon Faddis' Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, Harry Connick, jr., and recorded with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
Wayne Goodman began playing the trombone at age 11. A student of Steve Turre and David Taylor, he received his Bachelor of Music degree from William Paterson College and his Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music where he performed with Wynton Marsalis. Soon afterwards he was asked by Mr. Marsalis to perform in the world premiere of his Pulitzer Prize-winning composition, Blood on the Fields. For the next six years Goodman performed, recorded and toured regularly as a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. Marsalis.
Goodman leads his own New Orleans Jazz Band, which focuses primarily on the music of Jelly Roll Morton and Joe "King" Oliver. The band has performed frequently throughout the New York metropolitan area and has been featured in the Reel to Real, and Meet the Artist series at Lincoln Center.
He has also performed with such jazz greats as Jon Hendricks, Wayne Shorter, Frank Foster, Lionel Hampton, Rufus Reid, Cassandra Wilson, Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, and Jon Lewis. His television credits include numerous performances in the Live From Lincoln Center series and The Late Show with Conan O'Brien. His recording credits include They Came To Swing, Big Train, Blood On The Fields, Sweet Release and A Tribute To Duke. He has also appeared with Barry Harris in a jazz instructional video and has been a featured clinician in numerous jazz master classes and workshops around the country.
Trombonist Pat Hallaran graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with a B.M. in 1989. After a year on the road with the Glenn Miller Band, he spent four years in Cleveland, Ohio freelancing and serving on the jazz faculty at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. Upon returning to New York in 1994, he has been a regular member of the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Other groups he has played with include Maynard Ferguson, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Woody Herman Orchestra. In addition to touring with these groups, Pat is actively freelancing in New York City, working in a variety of commercial and jazz settings.
Noah Bless has been a busy free-lance trombonist in New York City since 1990. He has toured the world with many of the top artists in Latin and Jazz music. Bless has recorded with Celia Cruz, Mario Bauza, Paquitio D'Rivera, and Don Braden among others. He holds a Masters in Jazz Degree from Manhattan School of Music.
Isaac ben Ayala
From Brooklyn, New York Isaac ben Ayala served as music director of Generations (Ruby Dee and Ozzie Davis, producers), composer and conductor of The Swing Mikado, arranger for Preservation Hall's 1998 Greek Tour, and assistant conductor and pianist for the The Harlem Nutcracker. In addition, he has performed with a host of jazz artists, including Louie Bellson, Ray Charles, Eddie Harris, Frank Foster (The Count Basie Orchestra), James Spaulding, David Murray and Roy Hargrove. Currently he is the pianist for James Spaulding and holds a B.M. in Historical Performance (harpsichord) from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Originally from Alabama, Dennis Irwin started playing the double bass at age 19 while studying the clarinet at North Texas State University. After playing with Red Garland (1973-74), Irwin moved to New York where he worked with Ted Curson (1975), Jackie Paris (1975-76), Mose Allison (from 1975), and Betty Carter (1976). Irwin received special acclaim for a duo recording he made with James Williams in Italy in 1977. From late 1977 through 1980 he worked with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Recordings he made with Blakey include Irwin's composition, Kamal. Irwin then worked with Chet Baker, Horace Silver, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, Johnny Griffin and Bennie Wallace. A member of today's Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Irwin also works with Joe Lovano and John Scofield.
A musician since the age of four, and a professional since the age of twelve, Jimmy Madison left his native Cincinnati to join Miami trumpeter Don Goldie at age 19 and was quickly hired by Lionel Hampton after a gig at New York's world-famous Metropole. Two years later Madison re-located to New York City permanently.
Since then, he has worked on the road, in concert and on records with such diverse musical stylists as Marian McPartland, Bobby Hackett, James Brown, Gerry Mulligan, Nina Simone, Al Cohn, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Joe Farrell, George Benson, Richie Havens, Stan Getz, Hubert Laws, Lee Konitz, Anita O'Day, Art Farmer, Ray Baretto, Shirley MacLaine, Maceo Parker, Ron Carter, The Joffrey Ballet, Chet Baker, John Lewis, Dave Matthews and Red Rodney in addition to leading and co-leading his own groups.
Quincy Jones: David Berger is the expert on the music of Duke Ellington and the Sultans of Swing play Duke's music better than anyone.
Lavay Smith: The Sultans of Swing promise to set new standards of musical excellence and swing in the coming months and years.
George Avakian: The best Ellington music since Duke left for another gig. If David's band plays anywhere near you, race - do not drive slowly-to hear them. And if a traffic cop stops you, take him with you. He'll tear up the ticket.
From the Dancers:
David Berger is the cat's meow. Groovin' every moment of every tune, the Sultans' resurgence into the Swing scene was long awaited and long overdue. Lindy Hoppers beware: Guaranteed to blow up the spot, David Berger and the Sultans of Swing will move you, without mercy, all night long.
-Janice Wilson; The Grit Grinders
Absolutely fabulous! Swing dance music doesn't get any better than this!
- Ben Richmond
We've danced to just about all the New York bands, and the Sultans just leave the others in the dust!
- Tanya Marks & Ross McCallum
Wow! I just had to write and tell you what a great evening we had dancing to you last night . This is what swing dance is supposed to be!
- Maggie Spencer & David Schultz
As a music student, I especially enjoyed the great arrangements. They made us want to stay on the floor all night!
- Stan Kurtis
It doesn't get any hipper than the Sultans!
- Crystal Wood
From Swing Dance Web Chats:
"Last week I saw the Sultans of Swing and was blown away! The musicians were incredible, the arrangements were great, and they had a nice mix of tunes, popular and more unusual choices... I think they are the best big band on the scene."
"The Sultans seem to have the tightest arrangements in town, as well as some great improvised musical interactions..."
"The Sultans of Swing were amazing last night...[they] have a tight, yet pleasantly raw, sound. Their rendition of Black and Tan Fantasy was completely on point last night, and I found myself sitting out some songs for the purpose of watching and listening to them."