The late Mel Tormé said, “Since the advent of Benny Goodman, there have been too few clarinetists to fill the void that Goodman left. Ken Peplowski is most certainly one of those few. The man is magic.” He’s been delighting audiences – most certainly OCJP ones – for over 30 years with his warmth, wit, and virtuosic musicianship in all styles of jazz. Ken’s newest CD, released in May, is a duo record with Brazilian guitarist Diego Figuereido entitled “Amizade.” “I love all kinds of music, andI’d like to find more opportunities to bridge the gaps between different musical styles,” says Ken. “Basically, I like a challenge, I’m a sucker for a good melody, and I love playing for audiences, big or small.” He is currently the artistic director of the Sarasota Jazz Festival and the Newport Beach Jazz Party – and OCJP warmly welcomes him as co-music director this year. More about Ken
Ken Peplowski – Clarinet, Tenor Sax
Houston Person – Tenor Sax
A South Carolina native, Houston’s big soulful tenor sound has given him legendary status all over the world in a career spanning five decades – and 75 albums. He first became known for a series of albums for Prestige Records in the 1960s. Contrary to popular belief, he was never married to the vocalist Etta Jones (they first met playing in organist Johnny Hammond’s band), but did spend many years as her musical partner, recording, performing and touring, and for much of his career this association was what he was best known for. Known for his unique selections from the Great American Songbook – and his incredible OCJP dance parties – Houston is a Newport favorite. View clip of Houston performing at the 2017 Oregon Coast Jazz Party
Randy Porter – Piano
A pianist, composer and arranger, Porter has a refined understanding of improvisation and the spontaneous communication between musicians. A teacher and recording artist living in Portland, Randy is a revered talent in the Northwest, and has toured extensively in the US, Europe and China. Currently, Porter performs with Charles McPherson, Madeline Eastman, the New York Voices, Rebecca Kilgore and Nancy King; he also teaches jazz piano and jazz theory at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. More about Randy
Charles McPherson - Alto Saxophone
Charles McPherson was born in Joplin, Missouri and moved to Detroit at age nine. After growing up in Detroit, he studied with the renowned pianist Barry Harris and started playing jazz professionally at age 19. He moved from Detroit to New York in 1959 and performed with Charles Mingus from 1960 to 1972. While performing with Mingus, he collaborated frequently with Harris, Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet), and George Coleman (tenor sax).
Mr. McPherson has performed at concerts and festivals with his own variety of groups, consisting of quartets, quintets to full orchestras. Charles was featured at Lincoln Center showcasing his original compositions 15 years ago, and once again joined Wynton Marsalis and J@LC Orchestra in April, 2019 honoring his 80th Birthday where they arranged and performed 7 of Charles’ iconic original compositions. Charles has toured the U.S., Europe, Japan, Africa and South America with his own group, as well as with jazz greats Barry Harris, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, Nat Adderly, Jay McShann, Phil Woods, Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.
McPherson has recorded as guest artist with Charlie Mingus, Barry Harris, Art Farmer, Kenny Drew, Toshiko Akiyoshi, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. He has recorded as a leader on Prestige, Fantasy, Mainstream, Discovery, Xanadu, Arabesque, Capri and several smaller labels in Europe and Japan.
Charles was the featured alto saxophonist in the Clint Eastwood film “Bird,” a biopic about Charlie Parker. Charles has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Don Redman Lifetime Achievement Award and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from California State University San Marcos. Charles performed this past April at the NEA Jazz Master’s 2019 performance during Stanley Crouch’s tribute. Widely recognized as a prolific composer, Charles is now Resident Composer for the San Diego Ballet, where he has written three original suites for chamber music and jazz combos. In the summer of 2019, Dr. Donnie Norton will compile the entire book of Charles’ compositions for publication.
McPherson remains a strong, viable force on the jazz scene today. Throughout his six decades of being an integral performer of the music, Charles has not merely remained true to his Be Bop origins but has expanded on them. Stanley Crouch says in his New York Times article on Charles, “he is a singular voice who has never sacrificed the fluidity of his melody making and is held in high esteem by musicians both long seasoned and young.” Charles is a frequent guest at universities all over the world and also teaches privately. Many of his former students have gone on to have careers of their own in jazz, and have earned National Jazz Student Awards. Charles had the honor of being the subject of the Ph.D. candidate Dr. Donnie Norton’s Doctoral Dissertation: “The Jazz Saxophone Style of Charles McPherson: An Analysis through Biographical Examination and Solo Transcription.”
Ingrid Jensen - Trumpet
Born in Vancouver and raised in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Ingrid Jensen has been hailed as one of the most gifted trumpeters of her generation. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 1989, she went on to record three highly acclaimed CDs for the ENJA record label, soon becoming one of the most in-demand trumpet players on the global jazz scene.
After a teaching stint in Europe in her early twenties – as the youngest professor in the history of the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz, Austria – Ingrid settled in New York City in the mid-1990s where she joined the innovative jazz orchestras of Maria Schneider (1994-2012) and Darcy James Argue (2002-present). More recently, Ingrid has performed with the Grammy-winning Terri-Lyne Carrington and her Mosaic Project, Helen Sung’s Sung with Words project and the highly acclaimed all-star ensemble, Artemis.
Ingrid is a featured soloist on the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra’s Juno-award-winning album, Treelines (2011), and its successor, Habitat (2013). She has performed with a multi-generational cast of jazz legends ranging from Clark Terry to Esperanza Spalding; Ingrid has also performed alongside British R&B artist Corrine Bailey Rae on Saturday Night Live, and recorded with Canadian pop icon Sarah McLachlan. In addition to her busy sideman and featured soloist schedule, Jensen leads her own quintet, quartet and organ trio. Her own bands have garnered glowing reviews and earned her a loyal fan base around the globe.
Jensen is also a dedicated jazz educator, having taught trumpet at the University of Michigan and Peabody Conservatory, performing and lecturing as a guest artist with the Thelonious Monk Institute High School group featuring Herbie Hancock, and performing and teaching at the Centrum Jazz Workshop, The Dave Brubeck Institute, the Banff Centre Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music and the Stanford Jazz Camp and the Geri Allen Jazz Camp for young women. She is currently on faculty at both Purchase College, and is serving as Interim Associate Dean and Director of Jazz Arts at Manhattan School of Music.
Since her victory at the Carmine Caruso Trumpet Competition in 1995, Jensen has since sat on the judges’ panel twice for said competition. She is regularly invited to trumpet festivals around the world and recently served as Artist-in-Residence at the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival, performing with her own quintet and giving tribute to the great Geri Allen, with fellow Artist-in-Residence, Tia Fuller.
One of Ingrid’s most frequent and closest collaborators is her sister, saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen. The sisters release, Infinitude, featuring the brilliant guitarist Ben Monder, received heavy praise from the Jazz Community as did Ingrid’s latest recording, Invisible Sounds. The album, honoring the late great Kenny Wheeler, received critical acclaim and let to a feature on NPR’s Jazz Night in America hosted by Christian McBride.
Most recently Ingrid was chosen as the 2019 recipient of the Jazz Journalists Trumpeter-of-the-Year award.
Ingrid plays a custom Monette trumpet, built personally by the master builder Dave Monette.
Russell Malone - Guitar
Russell Malone’s first guitar was a plastic green toy his mother bought him. Only four years old, Malone strummed the little guitar all day long for days on end trying to emulate the sounds he had heard from guitarists at church in Albany, Georgia. As a child, Malone developed an interest in blues and country music after seeing musicians on television like Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, Son Seals, and B.B. King. Then, at age 12, he saw George Benson perform with Benny Goodman on Soundstage. Malone has said, “I knew right then and there that I wanted to play this music.”
A self-taught player, Malone progressed well enough to land a gig with master organist Jimmy Smith when he was 25. “It made me realize that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was,” Malone recalls of his first on-stage jam with Smith. After two years with Smith, he went on to join Harry Connick Jr.’s orchestra, a position he held from 1990-94, appearing on three of Connick”s recordings. Malone also worked in a variety of contexts, performing with artists as diverse as Clarence Carter, Little Anthony, Peabo Bryson, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Barron, Roy Hargrove, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, The Winans, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Jack McDuff.
Malone is one of the most commanding and versatile guitarists performing. He can move from blues to gospel to pop to R&B and jazz without hesitation, a rare facility that has prompted some of the highest profile artists in the world to call upon him: Diana Krall, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, David Sanborn, Shirley Horn, Christina Aguilera, Harry Connick, Jr, Ron Carter, and Sonny Rollins.
Clairdee - Vocalist
Soulful, swinging, and stylish, the music of San Francisco-based jazz singer Clairdee epitomizes jazz’s empowering imperative. More than a masterly interpreter of lyrics with a lustrous, velvety tone, she embodies the tradition’s twinned legacy of standing for social justice with glamor and guts. Deeply informed by the music’s departed masters, Clairdee puts a personal stamp on whatever she sings, a gift aptly described by the inimitable Nancy Wilson. “In the tradition of all great vocalists,” Wilson said of Clairdee, “she infuses each song with her own unique style while always remaining true to the song itself.”
Clairdee covers a lot of stylistic ground on her latest project, which celebrates the iconic star Lena Horne, one of the 20th century’s most consequent performers. Released in the winter of 2020, her critically hailed album A Love Letter to Lena is a deeply personal tribute to the barrier-shattering African-American actress, singer, nightclub entertainer, World War II pin-up, and civil rights activist who died in 2010 at the age of 92.
“From the time I was four years old, I heard so much about Lena Horne from my parents. Beyond her extraordinary talent and beauty, they marveled at her determination to stand up for what’s right. Using Horne as an example, my parents taught their children the importance of excellence versus perfection; quality versus quantity; and purpose versus popularity.”
Clairdee’s soulfully alluring vocal style has been featured in concert halls, festivals and nightclubs from Monterey, Edinburgh, Tokyo, Bangkok, Toronto, Paris, Moscow and St. Petersburg Russia, to New York, New Hampshire, San Francisco and points in between. In addition to leading her world-class touring band, she has performed with some of America’s most notable jazz masters including Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Houston Person, Cyrus Chestnut, Ken Peplowski, and the late Nancy Wilson.
A 2018 recipient of the Bay Area Jazz and Blues Artist Lifetime Achievement Award, Clairdee has a long track record as a passionate advocate for music education. She
is a professor of Jazz Voice at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, has taught at the University of California Berkeley Jazz Department, Diablo Valley College, and teaching artist for San Francisco Symphony’s “Adventures in Music” education program for children.
Since moving to the Bay Area in 1986, she’s performed almost every style of music, from R&B and cabaret to country and soul. But in the mid-90s she decided to focus on jazz, honing a singular sound while working with jazz luminaries such as trumpeter Eddie Henderson, saxophonist John Handy and pianist Roland Hanna. She gained national attention when legendary bassist, manager and NEA Jazz Master John Levy built a show around her and guitarist/vocalist Henry Johnson.
Whether she’s celebrating Lena Horne or delivering a carefully honed program of standards, her aim is the same. “My mission,” Clairdee says, “is to engage, uplift and build community through music —creating narrative that inspires beyond the stage.”
Jason Palmer - Drums
Drummer Jason Palmer is a percussionist and educator who is active throughout Oregon, the United States, and internationally. His performances include appearances at St. Peter’s Church and the Knitting Factory in New York, the Rochester Jazz Festival, the High Sierra Music Festival, The Sitka Jazz Festival, and Jazz Festival Calgary. Regionally, he has performed at The Waterfront Blues Festival, the Cathedral \Park Jazz Festival, the Portland Jazz Festival, and the Oregon Festival of American Music.
Since 1995, Jason has performed and recorded with such artists as Danilo Perez, John Clayton, Ben Monder, Ron Miles, Dave Frishberg, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Zorn, Steve Wilson, Lizz Wright, Sheryl Bailey, Chuck Redd, Dick Hyman, Ken Peplowski, Randy Porter, and George Colligan. His recordings have been reviewed in Cadence, All About Jazz, and the All Music Guide.
He attended the University of Oregon, where he received both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Music. As a student, Jason had the opportunity to perform in a variety of student ensembles as well as with guest artists such as Nancy King, Bobby Shew, John Hollenbeck, and Gary Versace. His pop and rock music experience includes work with Allen Toussaint, Mason Williams, Sonny Turner of the Coasters, Ruth Brown, and Satin Love Orchestra.
Active in education, Jason is currently the Department Chair of Music, Dance, and Theater at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus in Oregon. Recently, he has also taught at Western Oregon University, Umpqua Community College, and Lane Community College.
Katie Thiroux - Bass / Vocalist
There’s a special pleasure to be had when a promising artist not only fulfills all expectations but then dashes ahead to produce a rare work of outstanding beauty. With her new recording, Off Beat, Katie Thiroux, a world class bassist and charismatic singer, proves that all the initial critical attention she garnered from both her debut album and subsequent live appearances was merely a spur for her to quickly surpass her laudable achievements. Utilizing the contributions of pianist Justin Kauflin and drummer Matt Witek, as well as saxophonist Roger Neumann and saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Peplowski (and once again employing the skillful production of Jeff Hamilton), Thiroux has conjured up a dream project that certifies the wellbeing of exceptionally crafted mainstream jazz.
What first strikes an attuned listener on hearing Off Beat is that while Thiroux’s gifts as a bassist are at the top level, her singing has evidently matured, taking on a mellow, yet eminently swinging, expressivity. Her sly interpretations of “Off Beat,” an overlooked gem from the catalogue of the great June Christy; “Some Cats Know,” a Leiber and Stoller favorite of Peggy Lee; and Benny Carter’s classic “When Lights Are Low,” as well as her scat line on Ray Brown and Walter Fuller’s bebop prize, “Ray’s Idea,” are telling examples of her rhythmically shapely vocals. But three additional performances truly exhibit how thoroughly Thiroux has evolved as an assured vocalist. “When the Wind Was Green,” a seldom visited Frank Sinatra track from 1965, finds Thiroux’s vocals supported only by her formidable bass and Peplowski’s lyrical clarinet; on the chestnut, “Willow Weep For Me,” Thiroux forgoes additional assistance, her own bass and vocals relaying the whole vivid story. And in the album’s biggest (and happiest) surprise, Thiroux lays down her instrument altogether for the emotional standard, “Why Did I Choose You?,” Kauflin’s supportive piano cradling her gently nuanced vocal. These sublime tracks send a clear message: Thiroux is taking her singing as seriously as she is her remarkable bass playing.
Of which, let there be no doubt, there are plenty of marvelous examples. On swinging performances including “Brotherhood of Man (from the Frank Loesser musical, “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”), or the easy grooving Thiroux original “Slow Dance With Me,” and the sensually intoned Duke Ellington masterpiece “Happy Reunion” (once a feature for star tenorist Paul Gonsalves, here a showpiece for the gorgeous weave of Peplowski and Neumann’s horns), Thiroux exhibits her rock solid technique, embracing tone and intuitive support. Swinging like crazy, Thiroux drives the music, no matter the tempo, displaying a balance of superior technical skills and exquisite taste. Her well-chosen features–like only the best of leaders, Thiroux knows when not to solo– are stunning instances of melodic inventiveness wedded to badass chops.
With the release of Off Beat, Thiroux has found herself in a pleasing conundrum. The only thing that can divert attention from her auspicious bass playing may be her praiseworthy vocalizing. It’s a tough position to be sure, but it’s obvious this multi-talented savant can handle it.
Studying both bass and voice since her pre-teenage years, Thiroux continued her musical education at the Berklee College of Music where she performed with Branford Marsalis, Greg Osby, Dr. Billy Taylor, Terri Lyne Carrington and others. In 2013, a year after receiving her master’s degree in jazz studies from California State University, Long Beach, Thiroux organized, and has since maintained, her own touring ensembles. Her 2015 debut album, Introducing Katie Thiroux, earned broad acclaim including a place on the best debut lists of the NPR Music Critics Poll, Huffington Post and All About Jazz. Performing throughout the United States and various international venues, Thiroux has worked with, among others, Eric Reed, Terell Stafford, Brian Lynch, Tierney Sutton and Patti Austin. This summer, she will be Artist-In Residence at Quincy Jones’s new jazz club, Palazzo Versace in Dubai.
Darrell Grant - Piano
MJ New Quartet
Since the release of his debut album Black Art, one of the New York Times’s top ten jazz CD’s of 1994, Darrell Grant has built an international reputation as a pianist, composer, and educator who channels the power of music to make change. He has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe in venues ranging from Paris’s La Villa jazz club to the Havana Jazz Festival. Dedicated to themes of hope, community, and place, Grant’s compositions include his 2012 Step by Step: The Ruby Bridges Suite honoring the civil rights icon and The Territory which explores Oregon’s landscape and history. Since moving to Portland, Oregon he has been named Portland Jazz Hero by the Jazz Journalist Association, received a Northwest Regional Emmy, was an Oregon Community Foundation Fields Fellowship finalist, and received a MAP Fund grant and the Governor’s Arts Award. He is a Professor of Music at Portland State University where he directs the Artist as Citizen Initiative. darrellgrant.com
Marcus Shelby - Bass
MJ New Quartet
Bassist, composer, arranger, educator and bandleader Marcus Shelby is a figure synonymous with Bay Area jazz and the spirit of collaboration. A recipient of the Charles Mingus Scholarship, Shelby attended Cal Arts and studied with Charlie Haden and James Newton while working simultaneously with the all-star jazz ensemble Black/Note, who released a series of highly regarded albums in the 1990s. Since moving to the Bay Area, he has led a highly regarded jazz orchestra and numerous small groups, with large-scale commissions focused on the history, present, and future of the African-American experience. More at marcusshellby.com.
Mike Horsfall - Vibraphone
MJ New Quartet
Vibraphonist Mike Horsfall has performed with Chuck Redd, Leroy Vinegar, Rebecca Kilgore, and Gary Hobbs, and has recorded with Pink Martini, the Nu Shooz Orchestra and with Tall Jazz, a trio he co-founded in 1989 which was voted into the Jazz Society of Oregon’s 2010 Hall of Fame. He serves on the music faculty at Willamette University and Mt. Hood Community College.
Todd Strait - Drum
MJ New Quartet
Drummer Todd Strait is thrilled to be back at Oregon Coast Jazz Party this year as a member of MJ New! Todd spent the past five years in Kansas City playing nightly at KC’s Green Lady Lounge and traveling with Marilyn Maye. Todd spent many years on the road and recording with both pianist Eldar and vocalist Karrin Allyson and has enjoyed being involved in several recordings with pianist Randy Porter. He also spent 5 years on the road with vocalist Kevin Mahogany, was a member of Marian McParlantland’s Trio (1982-1989), Tal Farlow’s Trio (1984-1986), and did a 3-month tour with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd (1986). Todd is returning to the Northwest this fall and the Oregon Coast Jazz Party kicks off his next chapter.