NYO Jazz 2020 Faculty
Sean Jones, Trumpet/Artistic Director
Music and spirituality have always been intertwined in the artistic vision of trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator, and activist Sean Jones. Mr. Jones sang and performed as a child with the church choir in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, and switched from playing the drums to the trumpet at the age of 10.
Mr. Jones is a musical chameleon, comfortable in any musical setting no matter the role or genre. After a six-month stint with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis offered him a permanent position as lead trumpeter of the ensemble, a post he held from 2004 until 2010. In 2015, Mr. Jones was tapped to become a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. During this time, he has managed to keep a core group of talented musicians together under his leadership, forming the foundation for groups that have produced and released eight recordings on Mack Avenue Records. His most recent is the 2017 release Sean Jones: Live from Jazz at the Bistro.
Mr. Jones has been prominently featured in recordings and performances with many major figures in jazz, including Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson, and Marcus Miller. He was selected by Mr. Miller, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter for their A Tribute to Miles tour in 2011. He has also performed with the Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown symphony orchestras, as well as Soulful Symphony in Baltimore and a chamber group at the Salt Bay Chamberfest.
Mr. Jones is an internationally recognized educator. He was recently appointed the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair in Jazz Studies at The John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Previously, he served as chair of the brass department at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Obed Calvaire, Drums
Obed Calvaire, a Miami native of Haitian descent, holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in music from one of America’s premiere private music conservatories, the Manhattan School of Music. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2003, completing the undergraduate requirements in three years, and received his master’s in 2005.
Mr. Calvaire has performed and recorded with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Seal, Eddie Palmieri, Vanessa Williams, David Foster, Mary J. Blige, Stefon Harris, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Peter Cincotti, Musiq Soulchild, Nellie McKay, Yellowjackets, Joshua Redman, Steve Turre, and Lizz Wright, to name a few. He has also performed with large ensembles that include the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Metropole Orchestra, and the Mingus, Roy Hargrove, and Bob Mintzer big bands. Currently, Mr. Calvaire can be found playing with the SFJAZZ Collective, Dave Holland, Monty Alexander, Sean Jones, Yosvany Terry, The Clayton Brothers, and Mike Stern, among others.
Tanya Darby, Trumpet
A native of Seaside, California, Tanya Darby is a current and veteran member of such groups as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Roy Hargrove Big Band, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Michel Camilo Big Band, and Rufus Reid Large Ensemble, among others. She has performed and toured with artists who include Dianne Reeves, Clark Terry, Jon Faddis, Paquito D’Rivera, and Gladys Knight, and ensembles such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Count Basie Orchestra, Ron Carter’s Great Big Band, Duke Ellington Orchestra, and Mingus Big Band. She has appeared on BET on Jazz as part of the T. S. Monk Sextet and performed with Aretha Franklin as part of the “Arista Records 25th Anniversary Celebration” on NBC.
Sought-after for her accomplishments as a trumpeter, Ms. Darby has played lead in numerous bands, including Paquito D’Rivera and the United Nation Orchestra, George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band, Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, and Jimmy Heath’s Queens Jazz Orchestra, among many others.
An experienced educator, Ms. Darby is a former assistant professor of lead trumpet at the University of North Texas. She has also served as adjunct faculty at Temple University and New York City’s New School.
Wycliffe Gordon, Trombone
A musical ambassador and interpreter of “America’s music,” Wycliffe Gordon is one of the world’s most renowned and award-winning jazz trombonists. The Jazz Journalists Association named him Trombonist of the Year for the 11th time in 2018. DownBeat magazine’s Critics Poll named him Best Trombone in 2018, a distinction he also received in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. Mr. Gordon’s signature sound and mastery of the plunger mute have helped solidify his impressive musical career.
Mr. Gordon tours as a soloist and with his quintet, headlining legendary jazz venues and performing arts centers worldwide. Mr. Gordon has recorded or been featured on more than 300 recordings; composed and arranged hundreds of compositions, including the theme song for NPR’s All Things Considered; and is a passionate and sought-after educator. Mr. Gordon is a former veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. He was a featured guest artist on the series Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.
Mimi Jones, Bass
For more than two decades, bassist, vocalist, producer, label owner, and filmmaker Mimi Jones has reigned supreme as sidewoman to an impressive coterie of musicians and as a bandleader. She has released three CDs on her own label, Hot Tone Music: A New Day (2009), Balance (2014), and, most recently, Feet in the Mud—her most powerful, propulsive, and personal recording to date. Hot Tone Music has produced nine albums since Ms. Jones launched the label in 2009. Born Miriam Sullivan in 1972 in New York City to parents from Barbados, she was raised in the Bronx.
As a Jazz Ambassador, Ms. Jones toured Africa, Europe, Russia, China, South and Central America, and the Caribbean for the US State Department. Her vast work as a sidewoman includes gigs with Kenny Barron, Lizz Wright, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Dianne Reeves, Tia Fuller, Roy Hargrove, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx, Marc Cary, Sean Jones, and Terri Lyne Carrington.
Ms. Jones co-directs (with ArcoIris Sandoval) The D.O.M.E. Experience, a multimedia project created to inspire its audience to learn about environmental and social issues through original compositions performed by a 20-piece jazz orchestra with dance and video. This project has been awarded five grants and commissions, including invitations to perform at the APAP Conference NYC, ShapeShifter Lab, Pregones Theater as part of the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Educations’ South Bronx Culture Trail Festival, and The Bronx Museum of the Arts. The interdisciplinary group is currently in residence with The Bronx Museum of the Arts’ Dance and Visual Arts Collaborative Residency Program (BxMA Co-Lab), created by Christine Licata and sponsored by the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.
Ms. Jones was voted a No. 2 Rising Star in DownBeat magazine’s Critics Poll for two years straight, and in 2018 was named No. 1 Rising Star. She is currently working on a new project called Black Madonna, featuring strings, percussion, and voice, and hopes to record later in 2019.
To learn more, visit mimijonesmusic.com.
Erica von Kleist, Saxophone
Renowned flutist, saxophonist, composer, and educator Erica von Kleist has been a performing artist and teacher worldwide for over two decades. A native of Connecticut and an alumna of Essentially Ellington Jazz Academy, Ms. von Kleist moved to New York to hone her skills at The Juilliard School, and in 2004 earned the first bachelor’s degree in jazz in the school’s history. After graduation, she launched her career as a sidewoman through touring, recording, and performing with the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chris Potter, Bebo Valdés, Cachao, Celia Cruz, Kristin Chenoweth, and Seth MacFarlane, among many others. Ms. von Kleist is the recipient of several honors that include the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composer Award and Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award. She has also been named a Rising Star and Critic’s Pick in DownBeat Magazine.
Ms. von Kleist has taught private lessons for over 15 years. She has been a guest educator at The Juilliard School, Stanford University, University of Montana, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others, and has done outreach work at conservatories in Havana, Cuba. Ms. von Kleist has released three albums as a bandleader: Project E in 2005, Erica von Kleist & No Exceptions in 2009, and Alpine Clarity in 2014, which she recorded in her new home of Whitefish, Montana. Ms. von Kleist recently started two companies that aim to provide employment for musicians based in the Flathead Valley—the Northwest Artist Syndicate and Groovetrail—which have booked hundreds of paid performances for talented local musicians since their inception.
Shamie Royston, Piano
Denver-born Shamie Royston is a pianist, composer, and educator. The New York Times has called her “a rhythmic vanguardist …who channels Kenny Kirkland, Geri Allen, Ahmad Jamal and McCoy Tyner.” She received her master’s degree in music composition from the University of Denver with top honors.
Ms. Royston has been commissioned to compose and arrange works for Tia Fuller, Dianne Reeves, and other prominent musicians; she has also been commissioned to arrange her original works for New York’s Penfield Central School District, Denver’s Metropolitan State University, the Colorado Music Educators Association, and Boston’s Berklee College of Music. She was a key figure in Berklee’s first annual State of Jazz Composition Symposium and Concert Series, where her works were performed alongside such jazz luminaries as Terence Blanchard, Geri Allen, and Maria Schneider.
Ms. Royston is known as an exemplary educator, for which she has been honored with several awards. At the prestigious Berklee School of Music, she held a full-time a professorship in the jazz composition department. She is currently assistant director of the New Jersey Youth Symphony Orchestra’s jazz program. She has also adjudicated high school and college jazz festivals and served as clinician for major ensembles in the US and abroad.
Since her arrival in the New York City area in 2006, Ms. Royston has been a steady member of the Tia Fuller Quartet and has performed and recorded with many other great artists, including Christian McBride, Ralph Peterson, Terri Lyne Carrington, John Patitucci, and Sean Jones. She has performed in the world’s top jazz venues and festivals, including the North Sea, Montreal International, and Dominican Republic jazz festivals.
Ms. Royston’s most recent CD, entitled Beautiful Liar—released on the Sunnyside label in June 2018—has received rave reviews from Downbeat, JAZZIZ, NPR, and others. This recording appeared in the first round of voting for the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Her debut CD, Portraits, was released in 2014 by Hot Tone Music.
Matthew Stevens, Guitar
Born in Toronto in 1982, Matthew Stevens began studying the piano when he was seven years old and switched to the guitar when he was 11 years old. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2004, Mr. Stevens became an essential contributor to new work by artists who include Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Terri Lyne Carrington, Harvey Mason, ERIMAJ, Sean Jones, Walter Smith III, Linda Oh, NEXT Collective, and Esperanza Spalding. Stevens was a key player in Spalding’s recent albums Emily’s D+Evolution and Exposure.
In 2016, DownBeat Magazine included Mr. Stevens in its “25 for the Future” issue, and has placed him in the rising guitar star category of its Annual Critics Poll for the past two years. Mr. Stevens’s performances have been lauded in Billboard, The FADER, The Guardian, Guitar Player, Jazz Times, Mojo, The New York Times, Pitchfork, PopMatters, Stereogum, Vice, Noisey, and NPR, among others.
Mr. Stevens released Woodwork (Whirlwind Recordings and Crystal Math), his debut album as a bandleader, in 2015. Woodwork received numerous enthusiastic reviews, and has been described as “an amalgamation of modern jazz and neo-fusion elements which showcase … sonic versatility and savvy producing chops” (LA Weekly). His 2017 release, Preverbal (Ropeadope Records and Crystal Math), has been called “honest and soulful” (Pitchfork) and “music [that] advances the ideals of modern jazz” (NPR). Mr. Stevens currently lives in Harlem.
Reginald "Reggie" Thomas, Piano/Ensemble
Reginald Thomas can be seen fronting his own groups—the Mardra/Reggie Thomas Ensemble and organ trio OGD—on both piano and Hammond organ, and performing as sideman with great artists that include Hamiet Bluiett, Ann Hampton Callaway, and the Carl Allen / Rodney Whitaker ensemble. He often performs with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra as accompanist at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.
Mr. Thomas appears as guest artist at collegiate jazz festivals around the country, including those at Lawrence University, the University of South Florida, and Texas Tech University. He has also performed internationally, in Tokyo, Bangkok, Macau, Jakarta, Calgary, Milan, Warsaw, Poznan, Senegal, and London. In recordings, he has collaborated with Clay Jenkins, Kim Richmond, and Clark Terry / Mike Vax. His latest recording with his wife, Mardra—Matters of the Heart (MRT Jazz)—was released in 2015. Mr. Thomas has been awarded the Excellence in the Arts Award from the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis, and was named best jazz artist by the Riverfront Times in 2005.
After almost 20 years as professor of music at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and three years at Michigan State University as professor of jazz piano, Mr. Thomas now leads the Northern Illinois University School of Music’s jazz studies program. He also works as consultant and clinician with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Program and Band Director Academy. He is an active member of summer jazz faculties in the US and abroad, and a frequent director of all-state jazz bands, combos, and choirs. Mr. Thomas earned his master’s degree in music education from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University.
Lead Donors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Kovner Foundation, and Beatrice Santo Domingo.
Global Ambassadors: Hope and Robert F. Smith, and Maggie and Richard Tsai.
Major support has been provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Clive and Anya Gillinson, Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Howard Solomon, and Joyce and George Wein Foundation, Inc.
Additional support has been provided by Sarah Arison, Bank of America.