dlj entertainment family
World-Renowned Drummer| Composer | Arranger | Recording Artist
Drummer WINARD HARPER is passionate about jazz. “This music is powerful,” he says. “It can do a lot of good for people. If they’d spend some time each day listening to it, we would see many changes in the world.”
Inspired by the musicianship of greats such as Clifford Brown, Max Roach, Jackie McLean, Cannonball Adderley, Dr. Billy Taylor, Art Blakey and Billy Higgins, Harper has been the leader and musical inspiration for a vibrant sextet for almost a decade. The group appears regularly all over the United States from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to Yoshi’s, the legendary West Coast jazz club. Although clearly the dominant force behind this extraordinarily gifted ensemble, Harper has surrounded himself with superbly talented young guardians of the jazz tradition (including Lawrence Clark, Ameen Saleem, Josh Evans, Stacy Dillard and Alioune Faye), who are as entertaining to watch as they are to listen to.
Born in Baltimore in 1962, Winard had a natural affinity for drumming. He was encouraged to play the drums by his father, who noticed him beating on cans when he was three or four years old. At the age of five, Winard was developing his skills and making guest appearances with his older brother Danny’s nightclub band. A turning point was reached when Winard heard a recording of Clifford Brown and Max Roach. It was then that he was irreversibly inspired to play jazz. “I was fascinated hearing Max do the things he did playing with mallets and everything,” he remembers.
“Early on,” Harper continues, “I transcribed a couple of Max solos, but I really just loved listening to him. He was a big influence as well as Art Blakey, and more so than anybody, Billy Higgins. The joy and the passion and his love of playing really made an impact on me. I could see similarities between myself and him, and then we became such great friends. A lot of the concept of my band was inspired by Billy. A lot of the African influences and different instruments I use in the band, Billy was always exploring as well.”
Constantly in reverence of his predecessors while remaining innovative in his own right, Harper has become one of the most celebrated drummers in jazz. He is a virtuoso on the drum set as well as the balafon, the West African equivalent of the marimba. Critics have written that Winard is as pleasing and entertaining to watch as he is to hear. “As tasteful a drummer as one could ask for,” according to Jeff Kaliss of JazzTimes. Franz Matzner recently wrote in All About Jazz that the sextet’s performance “culminated in an evening of fireworks with a sustained display of percussive pyrotechnics by Harper so rapid fire, so mind bogglingly dexterous, and so expressively diverse, as to be truly awe-inspiring.” And in a Washington Post review, Mike Joyce said, “Winard Harper’s wonderfully orchestrated solos alone might have forced a corpse to grin!”
Harper’s first major gig was with Dexter Gordon in 1982, and shortly thereafter with Johnny Griffin. It wasn’t long before his drumming skills captured the attention of Betty Carter. He spent four years working with Ms. Carter’s band, inevitably honing his jazz-as-entertainment sense of showmanship.
“With Betty I learned consistency and persistence,” Harper recalls. “Working with her prepared me to become a bandleader; I learned a lot about the business from her. When I left Betty’s band, I came out with enough information to get the Harper Brothers on the way. She gave me the inside track on bookings, clubs, most of the places we worked were the same places I worked with her.”
During the 1980s while Winard worked as a sideman to such jazz legends as Ray Bryant, Abdullah Ibrahim, Pharoah Sanders and Clifford Jordan, he also laid the foundation for what would become The Harper Brothers band. He and his brother Philip launched a band that would blaze a brilliant trail both on the charts and on the international touring circuit.
“Man for man, The Harper Brothers Quintet … is the most brilliant new jazz group of the new decade,” declared Leonard Feather in his review of the band’s Los Angeles performance in early 1990. Remembrance, the band’s second album went to #1 on Billboard’s jazz chart in 1991.
Piadrum recording artist Winard Harper is one of the hardest working drummers in jazz today, not only leading his very exciting and hard-swinging sextet, but also continuing as an in-demand sideman. When not touring with his band, Harper continues to work and record with such artists such as Joe Lovano, Avery Sharpe, Steve Turre, Wycliffe Gordon, Frank Wess, Ray Bryant, and Jimmy Heath. His newest CD, Make It Happen, goes further than any of his previous six releases to highlight his talent as drummer, composer and bandleader.
And now the Winard Harper Sextet moves to a new level of success. Not only is the band gaining increased air play around the globe, they regularly appear in festivals, on jazz cruises, in concert halls and in top jazz clubs, the Winard Harper Sextet is doing their part to bring the power of jazz to audiences everywhere. The response has been nothing short of remarkable. But then again, so is Winard Harper.
Pianist | Composer | Arranger | Recording Artist
Award-winning jazz pianist, composer and accordionist Ben Rosenblum has been described as “mature beyond his years,” (Jon Neudorf, Sea of Tranquility), and as an “impressive talent” (C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz), who “caresses [the music] with the reverence it merits” (Bob Doerschuk, Downbeat Magazine). Ben is based primarily in New York City, and is a graduate of the Columbia-Juilliard program (in 2016). His original music combines his extensive knowledge of the history of jazz with a free-wheeling, modern melodic sensibility and powerful narrative approach to the piano. His profound passion for jazz, swing and world music genres finds expression in his unique fusion of harmonic and rhythmic elements from a wide array of sources, and gives rise to a signature compositional sound and style at once iconoclastic and deeply rooted in such figures as Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly. Ben’s first priority in his composition and in his playing is always narrative – to tell a compelling story with his music, while reaching the hearts of his audience, connecting on an emotional, an intellectual and a spiritual level.
Reviewers of his debut album Instead – released in 2017 with bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Billy Hart – have been impressed by his musicality and his tasteful playing in light of his immense technical skill. Bob Doerschuk of Downbeat Magazine gave the album four stars, and wrote, “He has the chops to shoot off a few fireworks, … but that doesn’t seem to be a priority when covering sacred material.” C. Michael Bailey notes approvingly: “there do emerge conservatoire aces with grit in their imagination and a facility to express such in their playing. Ben Rosenblum is one such performer/composer. The Julliard-Columbia trained pianist brings a freighter of technique to the keyboard, while still maintaining enough earthiness in his playing to satisfy even the fussiest listener.” Fred Stal of RG Magazine most recently described his experience of listening to Ben’s live CD release performance: “The music keeps you on your feet and not wanting to miss a single moment of magic. … Raindrops from heaven poured down with style and grace from Rosenblum’s piano.”
Born and raised in New York City, Ben had the opportunity to study with some of the most influential figures in jazz piano, including Frank Kimbrough, Bruce Barth, Ben Waltzer and Roy Assaf. At the early age of sixteen, the originality of his work was already being recognized with numerous awards, including the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award (2010), the Downbeat Student Music Award for Best Original Song (2010) and the Downbeat Student Music Award for Best Arrangement (2011). As a result, even before entering Columbia, Ben was commissioned by the XIBUS World Orchestra to write a piece for performance at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in 2012. Ben has continued to earn numerous distinctions and honors in recent years. In 2015, he was a finalist at the American Jazz Pianist Competition in Melbourne, Florida, and in 2016, at the Jacksonville Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida.
In addition to his own work, Ben often collaborates with other musicians. He has worked extensively with Grammy-nominated singer Ryland Angel on several compositional projects, including the project Unspoken, which premiered at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, in November of 2016. His debut album Insteadhas received very favorable reviews from a wide range of sources throughout the world, including Downbeat Magazine, All About Jazz, Drumset Magazine (Italy) and The Jazz Writer (Germany).
Ben performed with the Bachiana Brasileira Orchestra at Lincoln Center (conducted by Joao Carlos Martins and featuring Dave Brubeck), and he was a featured soloist at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium with the New York Harmonic Band (conducted by Reona Ito). He traveled to New Delhi, India, to perform at a Max India Benefit, and was a participant at Il Grande Veggio, in Perugia, Italy. He has played at the Masten Jazz Festival (Buffalo), the Richmond Jazz Festival (Richmond), the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival (Maryland), Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival (Manhattan), the DUMBO Arts Festival (Brooklyn), Musikfest (Bethlehem, PA) and the Music Mountain Festival (Connecticut). He has also appeared at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Appel Room at Lincoln Center, Ryles Jazz Club, Webster Hall, Symphony Space, The Blue Note, Mezzrow, Smalls and a host of other music venues throughout the northeast.
Ben has worked extensively with such jazz luminaries as Curtis Lundy, Neal Smith, Winard Harper, Wayne Escoffery and Deborah Davis, and he has performed in bands led by Bobby Watson, TS Monk, Chris Washburne and Warren Wolf. In addition, he has shared the stage with many other jazz legends, including Wycliffe Gordon, Brian Lynch, Phil Woods, Houston Person, Jerry Dodgion, Eliot Zigmund, Clarence Penn, Craig Handy, Dave Stryker, James Cammack, Ameen Saleem, Bob Nieske, Steve Nelson, Yasushi Nakamura, Essiet Essiet, Willie Williams, Patience Higgins, Josh Evans, Kenny Davis and Rogerio Boccato.
While at Columbia University, Ben founded the Columbia Jazz House, a student-run jazz advocacy group that promotes jazz on campus through concerts, educational workshops and jam sessions. On December 28th, 2015, the Columbia Jazz House was featured in a New York Times article titled “Melodies Night and Day in this Columbia Dorm.”
Saxophonist | Clarinetist | Flutist | Composer | Arranger | Recording Artist
New Jersey native, James E. White is a skilled saxophonist who has traveled internationally for over two decades; dazzling the crowds and mesmerizing audiences near and far. James plays the soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, the clarinet, and the flute and has over 30 years of experience as a Jazz, Blues, Gospel and R&B musician.
At the impressionable age of 17, he received a young artist recognition award from Governor Thomas Kean which helped to inspire James’ passion for the woodwinds and his true love of the arts. Some highlights of his career include performing at Show Time at the Apollo, and performing with jazz artists Jimmy Scott and Leo Johnson. James has recorded and performed with various gospel artists, including Alvin Slaughter. In addition to performing abroad in various venues, James is a gifted minister of music who directs and performs regularly at churches throughout the Tri-State area.
Closer than a Brother, Mr. White’s debut CD, is played worldwide on Sirius/XM radio and on various U.S. and international stations. He performs regularly with the Dimensions Band Featuring Valerie Adams and The Gas House Gorillas.
James has studied classical clarinet with Phil Russo at the Hart School of Music, and studied jazz with the legendary jazz artists Jackie McLean, Grachon Moncour III and Duke Anderson. In addition to performing with the aforementioned bands, Mr. White also performs with The Amazing Grace Little Band, The Brothers 2+2, Plex Entertainment and the James White Band.
James is a true Gospel, Jazz, and R&B sensation. His soulful and captivating sound will inspire every listening ear to be moved by the power of music. James’ tantalizing style and stage presence commands attention and allows him to instantly connect with audiences. Let this multi-talented and gifted artist entertain you!
Pianist | Organist | Drummer | Trumpeter | Bassist | Vocalist | Recording Artist
This Chicago native makes his home in Newark, NJ. His musical studies began at age three, when his parents enrolled him in the Suzuki Method of Classical Piano. For the past 25 years, Brandon McCune has worked as a Professional Musician (pianist, organist, drummer, trumpeter, bassist, vocalist, and choir director) serving as a principal music instructor, composer, counselor, arranger, and performer with a special concentration in the jazz, classical, and gospel genres.
Brandon was selected through a national audition as a 1998-1999 U.S. Jazz Ambassador to Africa, where he traveled abroad representing the United States performing public and private concerts, master classes and workshops. He has worked as a band leader, music director, or as a sideman for artists such as Buster Williams, Abbey Lincoln, Terence Blanchard, Nneena Freelon, Betty Carter, Miki Howard, Wynton Marsalis, Bruce Williams, Freddie Hendrix, Chrisette Michele, Ted Dunbar, Larry Ridley, Russell Malone, Lenora Zenzalai Helm, Mark Gross, Antonio Hart, Orbert Davis and many others.
Brandon has served as Minister of Music for several congregations in NJ. He currently serves as Assistant Musical Director for all music ministry programs at Shiloh Baptist Church (Plainfield, NJ). His leadership acumen is demonstrated in his founding of BASIC Inc., a non-profit umbrella for Gospel Music entertainment, music education, and various other arts related entities. He, along with Pastor Amir Ballard, co-founded the “Just Cause” concert series which brings together the music departments from different congregations for an annual Praise & Worship celebration.
He can be heard on many recordings. A partial listing includes: Brandon McCune (“Tell the Story, MAC5 Records), Nneena Freelon (“Blueprint of a Lady”, “Live”, “Tales of Wonder” & “Home Free”, Concord Records), Abbey Lincoln (“Over the Years”, Verve Records), Charenee Wade (“Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron”, Motema) Kahlil Kwame Bell (“Duality”), Freddie Hendrix (“Jersey Cat” Sunnyside), Bruce Williams (“Private Thoughts, Passin’ Thru), Rondi Charelston (“Sings of Life”, “Resilience”, Motema), Lenora Zenzalai Helm (Voice Paintings, MidLantic Records), Alma Micic (“Introducing Alma” & “The Hours”), Gregory Kilpatrick (“Come On Over”), and Pam Purvis (“I Had A Ball”).
He has written music for choreographer Camille A. Brown’s “Matchstick”, “Groove to Nobody’s Business”, which has toured with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and “Tol E. Rance”, which won a Bessie Award. He has also written and arranged music for Nnenna Freelon and Ronald K. Brown and Evidence Dance Ensemble for the collaborative work “The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday”.
His education was garnered at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Brunswick, NJ, where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 1997. Privately he has studied with jazz luminaries Kenny Barron, Betty Carter, Mulgrew Miller, Abbey Lincoln, Larry Ridley, and Ted Dunbar.
Brandon is currently serving his community as the Music Production instructor at Newark Vocational Technical High School.