FESTIVAL GUEST ARTISTS
LAKECIA BENJAMIN & PHOENIX –
Voted by 2020 Downbeat Critics Poll Rising star Alto Saxophonist and Up and Coming Artist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association ,Charismatic and dynamic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin fuses traditional conceptions of Jazz, HipHop, and Soul. Benjamin’s electric presence and fiery sax work has shared stages with several legendary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, and The Roots. A streetwise New York City native born and raised in Washington Heights, Lakecia Benjamin first picked up the saxophone at Fiorello LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. From there she joined the renowned jazz program at New York’s New School University. However, even at that early stage, Benjamin was already playing with renowned jazz figures like Clark Terry and Reggie Workman, which introduced her to opportunities to play and tour with an array of artists such as Rashied Ali,Christian Mcbride,Gregory Porter and James “Blood” Ulmer. With her deep jazz roots, she was soon in demand as an arranger and horn section leader, landing stints with such acclaimed artists as Anita Baker
Lakecia Benjamin’s album “Pursuance” is an intergenerational masterpiece that takes one on a journey through the lineage of the music with the works of John and Alice Coltrane. Benjamin pays homage to those who have come before by featuring innovative bandleaders of her generation, such as, Reggie Workman (Coproducer and playing ), Ron carter , Gary Bartz, Dee Dee Bridegwater, Meshell Ndegecello, Regina carter, Bertha Hope, Last poets, Greg Osby, Steve Wilson, John Benitez, Marc Cary, Marcus Gilmore, Keyon Harrold, Marcus Strickland, Brandee Younger, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Jazzmeia Horn.
On Lakecia Benjamin’s latest recording, “Phoenix,” the jazz saxophonist captures the fiery performance that has been realized at international festivals as well as on-stage with such acts as The Roots, Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder. Pulling from jazz, soul, and funk, Benjamin’s music soars live and on record. She was part of the Monterey on Tour show with revered jazz vocalists Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kurt Elling, which included a concert at the Lincoln Center.
The charismatic Benjamin routinely engages her audiences on the mic and she is usually the most stylish in the venue. A recent concert in Germany saw her dressed in gold from head to toe, matching her trusted sax. However, that fit still could not outshine her massively impressive live performance, which the Wall Street Journal called “assertive and vital.”
Read more at lakeciabenjamin.com
Etienne Charles –
Etienne Charles is an Associate Professor at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. Hailed by The New York Times as “an auteur” (Ben Ratliff), by Jazz Times as “A daring improviser who delivers with heart wrenching lyricism” (Bill Milkowski). According to Downbeat Magazine “Charles delivers his ebullient improvisations with the elegance of a world-class ballet dancer.” (John Murph). He has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions and knack for connecting with audiences worldwide. In June 2012, Etienne was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad & Tobago and the World. Perhaps more than any other musician of his generation or Eastern Caribbean origin, Etienne brings a careful study of myriad rhythms from the French, Spanish, English and Dutch speaking Caribbean to the table. Crucially, as a soloist, he fully understands the New Orleans trumpet tradition; which is readily discernible in his trademark instrumental swagger, and what famed Crescent City Pianist, Jelly Roll Morton so succinctly captured in the now immortal phrase, ‘The Spanish Tinge’. He has performed and or recorded with Monty Alexander, Roberta Flack, Frank Foster, Ralph MacDonald, Johnny Mandel, Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts, Maria Schneider, Count Basie Orchestra, Eric Reed, Lord Blakie, David Rudder and many others. He holds a Master’s degree from the Juilliard School and a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University.
for more information please visit etiennecharles.com
Nick Finzer –
Hailed as a “Rising Star” in the world of jazz (DownBeat Critics Poll), Nick Finzer is making waves in the music industry with his dynamic original compositions and trombone artistry. Finzer has toured the globe as a bandleader as well as sharing the stage with some of the most respected names in jazz. As both a headlining trombonist and an entrepreneur, Finzer is on a mission to spread the joy and power of jazz.
Finzer’s love for jazz began in his childhood, when he became captivated with the music of Duke Ellington. This passion led him to participate in the annual Essentially Ellington competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center, inspiring him to follow his dreams to move to NYC to pursue a life in music. Finzer went on to study at the renowned Eastman School of Music and then The Juilliard School, where he was mentored by trombone legend Steve Turre.
A highlight of Finzer’s recent accolades include a Grammy nomination with Anat Cohen’s Tentet, being named “Rising Star Trombonist ” in the Downbeat Magazine 2020 Critics Poll, and receiving an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award. As a bandleader, Finzer has released seven critically acclaimed albums, garnering features in the industry’s top publications and placements in the Top 10 of the JazzWeek’s charts. In 2020, he was awarded the prestigious New Jazz Works grant from Chamber Music America, resulting in his forthcoming album “Dreams, Visions, Illusions”(2023).
As a result of his artistry and innovation, Nick Finzer has become a highly sought out authority on jazz trombone and education. In 2018, Nick Finzer made history as the inaugural Assistant Professor of Jazz Trombone at the prestigious jazz program at the University of North Texas. As a leading figure in the world of jazz, Finzer brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the university, having previously served as a Visiting Professor of Jazz Trombone at Florida State University, a sabbatical replacement at Hunter College, and at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz Academy. Finzer has also made a name for himself as an author and educator, sharing his wealth of knowledge in jazz education and music business with the world through his wide breadth of books, masterclasses, courses, and active YouTube channel.
Read more at nickfinzermusic.com
The music of tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon is both respectful of tradition and free with expression and truly shows the musical diversity that is within Rob’s creativity. After matriculating from Hampton University and Indiana University’s School of Music, Rob moved to the top of the jazz scene in New York City working with legendary and popular artists such as the Count Basie Band, The Ellington Band, Slide Hampton, Dakota Stanton, The Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Rufus Reid, Akira Tana, Jonah Jones as well as Bill Lee (composer and father of Spike Lee), Weldon Irving, Producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad (DJ of Tribe called Quest) and The Skatalites. Returning to Indianapolis in 2003, Dixon has continued to work with internationally renowned artists such as pianist Steve Allee, drummer Steve Houghton, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks orchestra, drummer Mike Clark, the headhunters, Guitarist Dave Stryker and 7 string guitar virtuoso Charlie Hunter.
In 2018 Dixon recorded an album as a leader that was produced by 7 string guitarist Charlie Hunter. The album features Charlie Hunter on guitar and Mike Clark on Drums with Ernest Stuart on Trombone guesting on four songs. The album is titled “Coast to Crossroads”.
In August 2018 Mike Clark’s Indigo Blue band (featuring bassist Christian McBride, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Antonio Farao and Rob Dixon) released a live album recorded at the Iridium jazz club in NYC in 2013. The album features three original compositions penned by Dixon.
In 2005 Rob Dixon founded Triology, which has included bassist Brandon Meeks, keyboardist Steven Jones, and drummer Richard “Sleepy” Floyd. Additionally in 2012, Dixon founded the Indianapolis Jazz Collective, an ensemble that has recorded an album titled “Jazz on Canvas” and includes pianist Steve Allee, bassist Nick Tucker, Trumpeter Marlin McKay, and drummer Kenny Phelps. The Indianapolis Jazz Collective has featured guest artists such as vibraphonist Stefon Harris, Alto Saxophonist Bobby Watson and Trumpeter Randy Brecker.
Rob Dixon is an adjunct professor at IUPUI and is the artistic director for Indy Jazz Fest. He mentors the Jazz Futures, an Indianapolis Jazz foundation sponsored ensemble comprised of talented high school students. Dixon also continues to perform and tour frequently in the United States and abroad.