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MP3 Vinson Valega - Awake

Funky and Sexy Original Jazz Sextet from New York''s Finest, featuring Terell Stafford (trmpt), Anton Denner (alto sax), Chris Bacas (tenor sax), Jon Cowherd (piano) & Josh Ginsburg (bass).

12 MP3 Songs
JAZZ: Bebop, JAZZ: Latin Jazz


Consilience Productions announces the release of Awake, a new CD by the Vinson Valega Group. The recording highlights ten original compositions and continues the tradition of jazz activism, stressing the music as a vehicle to stimulate civic involvement. The project, in all of its aspects, reflects Valega’s strong belief that the principles of jazz and democracy are linked. As he states in his liner-notes essay, “When We Fall Asleep, Democracy Suffers”:

"Jazz is a direct by-product of the American ideal – founded upon individual expression and freedom, yet devoted through participation to the greater good. Just as the music on this CD was only made possible through the intense participation of each musician, our society is only able to function when its citizens become involved – actively involved."

The sextet features accomplished New York City musicians in a rich instrumentation, including Terell Stafford on trumpet, Anton Denner on alto sax, flute and piccolo, Chris Bacas on tenor and soprano saxes and clarinet, Jon Cowherd on piano, Josh Ginsburg on bass and Vinson Valega on drums. Recorded in late May, 2005, it represents Valega’s third project as a leader and producer.

To commence his democratic concept, Valega invited each band member to contribute a composition to the project. This approach yields a diverse and entertaining mix of musical styles. Anton Denner’s tune is a bluesy, straight-eighths groove, while Chris Bacas’ “Sputnik” is a quirky melody written on the changes of John Coltrane’s “Satellite.” Josh Ginsburg wrote a ballad-like song, “Undertow,” that moves lyrically through three different episodes, and “Fog” is a hauntingly beautiful melody with a Latin feel written by guitarist Sheryl Bailey (not appearing on this recording).

The title track is one of the first songs Vinson ever wrote, and he also includes his tunes “The Trend is Your Friend” (a fun and funky romp), “Stacked Sienna” (a ballad recreating the lines and colors from Utah’s Zion National Park), and “Ed Blackwell” (a tribute to the late drummer). Chris Bacas arranged all of the compositions (except for “Luftmenschen” and “Take Time for Love,” arr. by Anton Denner, and “Undertow,” by Josh Ginsburg).

Valega’s topical suite, “This is What Democracy Sounds Like”, divided into three segments, binds the tracks thematically. It is a unique, amusing, and inspired musical interpretation of sounds Vinson heard while participating in a political rally. The jazz and politics connection is further explored in his liner notes, along with a poem by the “Poet of Democracy,” Walt Whitman.

In the spirit of a true democracy, where every member’s voice is heard, the sum is made greater than its parts through the impeccable work of the recording engineer, Frank D. Fagnano (https://www.tradebit.com). Recorded at Bennett Studios in Englewood, NJ, the sound is remarkably clear, while his mixing and mastering achieve a perfectly balanced ensemble blend beautifully highlighting each instrument.

Artwork is by the renowned artist, Sharon Louden (https://www.tradebit.com), and the dedication is to the late pianist James Williams, who is also honored on the closing track with his tune, “Take Time for Love”.

More information about each musician can be found at:

Enjoy the CD and let us know what you think!


Vinson Valega
September 2006.


Bios --

Vinson Valega

Vinson grew up in a musical family near Washington, D.C., studying classical piano from age seven until switching to the drums when he was 12. He played drums for three years in the All-County Jazz Ensemble during high school and subsequently held the drum chair in the University of Pennsylvania Big Band during college.

After graduating from UPENN with a B.A. in Economics, Vinson came to New York City in the early 90''s to study music at the New School in Manhattan, where he studied with Marvin "Smitty" Smith (of The Tonight Show Band) and Norm Freeman (of the New York Philharmonic).

Vinson has performed in many clubs in the New York Metropolitan area, including the Blue Note, Smoke, Sweet Rhythm, 55 Bar, Birdland, Smalls, Detour, Cornelia Street Cafe, Cleopatra''s Needle, and Trumpets of Montclair, NJ. An avid composer, Vinson also teaches privately and served on the staff of the Stanford Jazz Workshop in California from 1999-2001. He has toured throughout North America and Europe with his groups and others, and he appears on Matthew Fries'' CD, "Song For Today" (TCB) and the Ganz Brother''s release, "First Steps" (Extravaganza). Vinson also has three CDs out as a leader, "Live@147," "Consilience," and "Awake."

In addition, Vinson has also worked with or played alongside with many of the great musicians in jazz, such as Grover Washington, Jr., Dakota Staton, Clarke Terry, James Williams, Donald Brown, Harold Mabern, Jr., Jamil Nasser, Ron McClure, Bob Mintzer, Russell Malone, Peter Bernstein, Mark Turner, Terrel Stafford, Eric Alexander, Jim Rotundi, David Hazeltine, Joel Frahm, Dena DeRose, and Vincent Herring, among others.


Terell Stafford

Terell Stafford has been hailed as “one of the great players of our time, a fabulous trumpet player” by piano legend McCoy Tyner. Known for being a gifted and versatile player with a voice all his own, Stafford combines lyricism and a deep love of melody with a spirited, adventurous edge. This uniquely expressive, well-defined musical talent allows Stafford the
ability to dance in and around the rich trumpet tradition of his predecessors while making his own inroads.

Stafford picked up his first trumpet at the age of thirteen, and even though he was drawn to jazz, initially studied classical music. While pursuing a music education degree at the University of Maryland, Stafford played with the school’s jazz band. It was during this time that he began to immerse himself in jazz, listening to everything that he could get his hands on. He cites as one of his most profound musical influences Clifford Brown’s rendition of Cherokee.

In 1988, Stafford had the good fortune to meet and receive advice from Wynton Marsalis who suggested that Stafford study with Dr. William Fielder at Rutgers University. During his time at Rutgers, Stafford was invited to join Bobby Watson’s group, Horizon. Over the next five years, Stafford was able to balance his offstage education with the incredible knowledge and
experience he gained from performing alongside Watson, co-leader Victor Lewis, and Shirley Scott. Stafford credits this time with teaching him to be an effective arranger, a composer, and a bandleader, all things that Bobby Watson himself learned from his time with the late Art Blakey while performing with the Jazz Messengers. Stafford’s time with Horizon led to his joining McCoy Tyner’s Latin All-Star Band which featured some of the best Latin jazz players, including trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Dave Valentin and percussionist Jerry Gonzalez.

Since the mid-1990’s Stafford has performed with groups such as Benny Golson’s Sextet, McCoy Tyner’s Sextet, the Kenny Barron Sextet, the Frank Wess Quintet, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, and the Jon Faddis Orchestra. He has also been an integral part of bands led by such venerable artists as Cedar Walton, Sadao Watanabe, the Clayton Brothers, Herbie Mann, and Matt Wilson. He has appeared on television (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and You Bet Your Life with Bill Cosby) and can be heard on the soundtrack for the feature film, A Bronx Tale. He has also performed as a guest artist with the Billy Taylor Trio on National Public Radio’s Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.

Stafford has recorded four albums as a leader with his debut album in 1995 entitled "Time to Let Go" (Candid). In 1997, he followed this album with the critically acclaimed "Centripedal Force" (Candid). His third album as a leader was the popular "Fields of Gold" (Nagel-Heyer) featuring the talents of Bill Cunliffe, Kiyoshi Kitagawa, Antonio Hart, and Rodney Green. His
latest release is the enthusiastically received "New Beginnings" (MaxJazz 2003) and features Mulgrew Miller, Derrick Hodge, Dana Hall, Steve Wilson, Dick Oatts, Harry Allen, and Jesse Davis. As a sideman Stafford has been heard on over 40 albums.

An educator as well as a performer, Stafford currently holds the position of Director of Jazz Studies at Temple University in Philadelphia and is a clinician for the prestigious Vail Foundation in Colorado and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Essentially Ellington Program. He has also served as a member of the faculty for the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies in New York.

Stafford was born in Miami and raised in Chicago and Silver Spring, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from the University of Maryland in 1988 and a Masters of Music from Rutgers University in 1993.


Anton Denner

Born in New York City in 1961, Anton Denner began playing the saxophone in 1974. After early studies with Lee Konitz and Joe Lovano, he began to freelance in the New York area in the early ''80''s, performing at The Village Gate, Visiones, The 55 Bar, Birdland , and many other venues.

Anton has also worked with or played alongside with many of the great musicians in jazz, such as Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Clifford Jordan, Mel Lewis, Al Foster, Norman Simmons, Brad Meldau, Bill Carrothers, Larry Goldings, Terell Stafford, Dave Stryker, and Bill Stewart, to name only a few. Anton has also been a featured soloist at The Napa Valley Jazz Festival, the Istanbul Jazz Festival (with the NY Jazz Giants) and the LaVillete Festival in France (with the Bill Carrothers Trio).

Recorded work includes the critically acclaimed Bill Carrothers Trio CD, Ghost Ships, Happy Apple''s, Blown Shockwaves & Crash Flow, and John McKenna''s Apparition, to name only a few. As an educator, he has served on the faculty of the Stanford Jazz Workshop, and has been an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University since 1999.

Anton is married to Nicki Denner, the Latin Jazz pianist and composer, and resides in Montclair, New Jersey.


Chris Bacas

Chris began his career at age fifteen as a sideman with a club band in York, PA, and after attending North Texas State, he began his jazz performance career in earnest. Beginning in 1983, Chris played in the Glen Miller Band, The Tommy Dorsey Band, the Artie Shaw Band, and Buddy Rich''s legendary Big Band until Rich''s passing in 1987.

Over the past twenty years, Chris has appeared at festivals all over the world, including the Nice, North Sea, Cork, Santiago, Montreal, Moers Texaco, Annapolis, JVC New York, and Central PA Jazz Festivals. He has performed in Copenhagen at the Tivoli Gardens; in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Bowl and LA''s Comedy Store; in New York''s Blue Note and Birdland; at Chicago''s Jazz Showcase; and in Washington D.C. at Blues Alley and One Step Down.

Chris was a member of the Smithsonian''s Jazz Masterworks Orchestra under conductors David Baker and Gunther Schuller. The orchestra''s concert series was broadcast on NPR, and a CD sampler was released in 1996. In 1999 Chris was soloist on both flute and saxophone in the Mary Lou Williams'' "Mass" (which was performed and recorded in the National Cathedral) and also toured Russia and Siberia with a group of Russian and American musicians.

Since 1989, Chris has appeared on over thirty recordings, including three ("Two Choices," "Leave a Message," and "Exits") as leader/co-leader. Since moving to Brooklyn, NY, in 1999, Chris has performed and recorded with Stefan Bauer, The Sound Assembly, and Christoph Sweitzer. In 2004, he attended Brooklyn College on a full tuition scholarship and received a saxophone performance degree with honors.

Chris teaches privately and has been on the staff at Towson State University in Baltimore, MD.


Jon Cowherd

Jon Cowherd, the son of musician parents, grew up in Kentucky where he began singing and playing piano at an early age. While attending college and launching a music career in New Orleans, Jon studied jazz piano and improvisation with Ellis Marsalis, John Mahoney and Steve Masakowski and frequently performed with Tony Dagradi, Bill Huntington, Rick Margitza, Delfeayo Marsalis and Johnny Vidacovich.

In 1993 Jon moved to New York and earned a Masters Degree in Jazz Studies from Manhattan School of Music. In 1997 Cowherd teamed with Brian Blade and their friends Melvin Butler, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Christopher Thomas and Myron Walden and formed the Brian Blade Fellowship. They have recorded two albums on the Blue Note record label and toured internationally.

Jon has also performed with the bands of Dave Binney, Phillip Harper, Lage Lund, Donny McCaslin, the Bob Mintzer Big Band, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Jack Wilkins and vocalists Claudia Acuna, Carla Cook, Vanessa Rubin and Lizz Wright.

In 2003 Blade and Cowherd produced and arranged vocalist Lizz Wright’s debut Verve release entitled “Salt”. Cowherd was also assistant music director for the original Broadway show “Swing”.


Josh Ginsburg

Brooklyn, New York resident, Josh Ginsburg, has performed and/or recorded with Kenny Barron, Terence Blanchard, Tom Harrell, Bobby Watson, Harold Mabern, Ralph Peterson, Vanessa Rubin, Craig Handy, Mark Whitfield, Winard Harper, Mark Turner, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Eric Alexander, Marcus Strickland, and many other great musicians throughout the world.

Josh was a member of Jazz Ahead at the Kennedy Center and of the Thelonious Monk Institute''s Jazz Colony at Snowmass. He studied with Jackie McLean at the Hartt School of Music and graduated from the Mannes/New School University in New York City, having studied with Reggie Workman and Buster Williams.

Josh was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1976.

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