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Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist. An authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ for over five decades, he has been featured on over seventy albums, and has recorded and performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of the greatest jazz, blues and R&B giants in the industry. Consequently, he has often been hailed as a “Legend,” a “Living Musical Icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications. Jazz Times magazine describes him as “a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a turban!” His unpredictable, insatiable musical taste illustrates that no genre is safe, as Lonnie has recorded everything from covers of the Beatles, the Stylistics and the Eurythmics, to tribute albums of Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane and Beck–all by employing ensembles ranging from a trio to a fifteen-piece big band. Always ahead of the curve, it is no surprise Dr. Smith’s fan-base is truly worldwide.
Andy Bey’s silky baritone has become one of the finest instruments in jazz, resonating through decades of American standards. A lyrical storyteller, he possesses “a film noir voice: languid, mysterious, and surpassingly beautiful” (The New York Times). Bay’s four-octave range starts at a low C and he is virtually alone today in his ability to summon the deep, manly burnish of some of the great band baritones, like Billy Eckstine. But singing softly seems to be his comfort zone now, and his voice often has a kind of musical iridescence, slipping between croon and falsetto. He extends a word by letting the tone trail off in a long exhalation or through a springy vibrato that shakes all the accumulated meaning from a phrase built up by years of interpretation.Though well known and respected among musicians, Andy Bey was not all that well represented on records until 1996’s “Ballads, Blues and Bey,” at that time his first solo recording in 22 years. He feels that his obscurity is partly due to not going along with what he calls the ”black male singer syndrome” — record producers and club owners expecting him to sing nothing but the blues, and he explains, he holds a de facto role as a natural outsider in jazz. Bey’s roots are in the era before categories.
Jeff Watts, the drummer they call “Tain,” spent his formative years with Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and his compositional skills now command equal attention. Jeff initially majored in classical percussion at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, where he was primarily a timpanist, followed by enrollment at the Berklee School of Music. Jeff joined the Wynton Marsalis Quartet in 1981 and proceeded to win three Grammy Awards with the ensemble for Black Codes From The Underground, J Mood and Marsalis Standard Time – Volume 1. Watts left Wynton Marsalis in 1988. After working with George Benson, Harry Connick. Jr. and McCoy Tyner, he joined the Branford Marsalis Quartet in 1989, winning Grammy’s for I Heard You Twice the First Time and Contemporary Jazz. In the film and television industry Jeff has appeared as both a musician on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as an actor, Rhythm Jones in Spike Lee’s “Mo Better Blues”. Jeff joined Kenny Garrett’s band after returning to New York in 1995 and continued to record and tour with Branford Marsalis as well as Danilo Perez, Michael Brecker, Betty Carter, Kenny Kirkland, Courtney Pine, Geri Allen, Alice Coltrane, Greg Osby, McCoy Tyner, Steve Coleman, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Harry Connick Jr, and Ravi Coltrane.
Camille Thurman, multi-talented saxophonist, flutist, vocalist, composer and educator is a young musician emerging on the horizon, acquiring an impressive list of accomplishments that extend well beyond her years. Her lush, velvety, rich & warm sound on the tenor saxophone has eluded others to compare her sound to the likeness of tenor greats Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon and Lester Young to name a few. Camille’s ability to sing 4 octaves and perform vocalese has given her the capability to influence audiences with melodies reminiscent to the sounds of Minnie Riperton, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. Her ability to take the sounds evocative of yesteryear’s legends and creatively pair them with the nuances, edge ad freshness of today’s music has not only expanded the possibilities of jazz in the upcoming generation but also gained her the respect of audiences in Israel, Switzerland and around the world.
Norma Miller is one of the creators of the acrobatic style of swing dancing known as the Lindy Hop. As a child, she watched the dancers at the legendary Savoy Ballroom perched on the fire escape outside her mother’s Harlem apartment. When she was 12, she was “discovered” dancing outside the Savoy, and in 1934 was invited to join Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, soon to make an extended tour of Europe. Upon her return, she appeared in the Marx Brothers’ movie A Day at the Races (1937), and from 1937 to 1940 Miller performed with Ethel Waters. Pursuing a career in both dance and comedy, she began working with comedian Redd Foxx in 1963 and later joined him on the 1970’s television series Sanford and Son serving as both a stand-up comic and choreographer. In addition to a rich and long career as a dancer, Miller has become a seminal historian of swing dance. Her biography, Swingin’ at the Savoy: A Memoir of a Jazz Dancer, documents the swing dance era, and her recollections on Ken Burns’s Jazzdocumentaries provided a first-hand account of the Harlem music and dance scene. She has taught swing dance, including master classes at Stanford University and the University of Hawaii, and has choreographed dance scenes in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Debbie Allen’s Stompin’ at the Savoy.
Samuel Coleman is an Alvin Ailey School trained dancer and teacher, with a focus on lindy hop (swing) dancing. Coleman teaches in Harlem and Albany, and performs with the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers and the Rhythm Stompers. Coleman was a 2011 Frankie Manning Ambassador scholarship recipient.