For the final night of our inaugural New Works Fest, we’ve scheduled four diverse artists that represent the diversity and quality of the SF Bay Area music scene. First we have San Jose’s Robbie Benson, a Hammond B3 player literally born into his deep appreciation for his hometown’s rich musical history. Next up is an artist new to SJZ, superb violinist/guitarist Justin Ouellet and Howard Wiley, a first-call saxophonist steeped in African-American idioms like gospel, blues, jazz, funk and R&B. We end the evening with Kev Choice, a classically-trained pianist and emcee who uses conscious lyricism to bring a positive message to his unique blend of hip-hop, jazz, R&B and soul.
Learning to play on a Wurlitzer electric piano while still in diapers, Robbie “Gwobs” Benson had a rich musical upbringing in San Jose, where a Hammond B3 organ was just an arm’s length away. Surrounded by the sounds of his dad & uncle’s R&B vinyl collection and their stories as bay area musicians, Robbie was born into a deep appreciation for his hometown’s rich musical history. Greatly inspired and mentored by the local legends he’d see perform (Clifford Coulter, Ron E. Beck, Russell Ferrante, etc.), Robbie has tried to keep that old-school San Jose “funk” alive for the next generation.
Robbie Benson – Hammond B3 Alex Popoff – saxophoneBrian Sheu – guitarRon E. Beck – drumsClay Bandy – drums
Robbie Benson“Sleeper” (Commission excerpt)
Robbie Benson (with Ron E Beck Organ Trio) “Cissy Strut”
Justin Ouellet, named 2019’s Best Jazz Instrumentalist by San Francisco Classical Voice, has garnered a reputation as a fearless performer and dedicated educator. In addition to an accomplished career as a classical musician on both violin and viola, Justin moves effortlessly between genres such as jazz, R&B, blues, rock and hip-hop, and has collaborated with an astonishing range of artists from Kev Choice and Jennifer Johns to Air Traffic Controller and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. Justin is a recipient of the Academy of Gospel Music Award for his achievement in arts education as co-director of Orchestral & Chamber Music Studies at Oakland School for the Arts.
Justin Ouellet – violin, guitarAaron Germain – bassMarina Elana – dancerJon Mendle – guitar Kev Choice – keysMarlon Aldana – percussionMiles Quale: violin
Justin Ouellet“Fervent Pulse”(Commission excerpt)
Justin Ouellet (with d’PaJo)“Alemberts”
Saxophonist Howard Wiley is a major force in the Bay Area music scene, steeped in African-American idioms like gospel, blues, jazz, funk and R&B. Howard is a certified prodigy, having been selected as a member of the Grammy All-American Jazz Band at age 14, later participating in the Herbie Hancock Institute program and winning a scholarship to Berklee School of Music. He’s gone on to tour regularly with Kamasi Washington and has performed with the likes of Miss Lauryn Hill, Sheila E, Christian McBride and more. He has performed at the Playboy Jazz Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Fest, SXSW and at prestigious venues worldwide.
Howard Wiley – saxophoneLJ Holman – organMichael “Tiny” Lindsey – bassThomas Pridgen – drums
Howard Wiley“The Never Ending Year”(Commission excerpt)
Howard Wiley & Extra Nappy“Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
Oakland native Kev Choice is a classically-trained pianist, emcee, composer and bandleader who uses conscious lyricism to bring a positive message to his unique blend of hip-hop, jazz, R&B and soul. Kev has worked with the likes of Michael Franti, Goapele and The Coup, to name a few, and has toured as music director with Ms. Lauryn Hill. He currently leads his own multi-genre blending band, the Kev Choice Ensemble and has composed for the Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies. His latest album is 2020’s Social Distancing. He currently teaches at Oakland School for the Arts and serves on Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Commission and the Governor’s Board of the SF Chapter of the Recording Academy.
Kev Choice – piano, vocalsGiulio Xavier Cetto – bassMike Blankenship – keyboardsDarian Gray – drums
Kev Choice“Kamala’s Groove”(Commission excerpt)
Kev Choice“No Worries”
Performances will stream on the San Jose Jazz website. Your ticket and emailed confirmation will include a “Watch” button that allows you to access the stream.
Blues, Hip-Hop, Modern Jazz, R&B/Funk, Soul
The New Works Festival, April 29–May 8, features four nights of performances by some of the most exciting artists in jazz, blues, R&B, soul and electronic music in the SF Bay Area and New York. The festival is an outgrowth of SJZ’s Jazz Aid Fund initiative, which provided crucial funds to 33 artists, each to produce a new work.
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