Charlie Parker Jazz Festival: Kenny Barron, Cindy Blackman Santana, Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, Brianna Thomas

When Kenny Barron first heard that the National Endowment for the Arts inducted him into its prestigious Jazz Masters class of 2010, he felt honored to be among the greats of the music who have also received the U.S.’s top honor in jazz. “I was excited at the acknowledgment of my service,” says the 66-year pianist whose solo career has also garnered him numerous awards in jazz critics and readers polls. “I’ve been playing music for a long time, and this award reflects that I’ve made a significant contribution.” One of the most renowned, most lyrical—and busiest—pianists in jazz today, Barron is a multiple-Grammy nominee, was honored with induction into the American Jazz Hall of Fame (2005), and received the MAC Lifetime Achievement Award (2005) and the Mid Atlantic Arts Living Legacy Award (2009). Also in 2009, Barron was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an esteemed honorary society and center for independent policy research. As a composer, arranger and bandleader, Barron has spent five decades at the forefront of the jazz piano aristocracy. An in-demand sideman in his early days on the jazz scene, the Philadelphia native launched his solo career in 1973 with Sunset to Dawn, released by Muse Records. He has recorded more than forty albums as a leader, including his latest, The Traveler, in 2008, on Universal France/Sunnyside.

Cindy Blackman Santana is a virtuoso drummer whose artistry spans the realms of jazz and rock. As a bandleader and as a musician, Cindy is a sound innovator with a passion for pushing creative boundaries and exploring movement and change. She is as known for the nuances and colors she brings to her beats and fills as she is for the sheer power of her soulful playing. Cindy has been creating magnificent musical time and space since the beginning of her career as a busking street performer in New York City in the ’80s through the present day, touring the globe and making albums at the top of her game— both with her own bands as well as artists like Pharoah Sanders, Cassandra Wilson, Bill Laswell, Joss Stone, Joe Henderson, Buckethead, Don Pullen, Hugh Masakela, Lenny Kravitz and Angela Bofill. Most recently, Cindy has been sitting in with Santana. While substituting for Dennis Chambers at a Santana show in early 2010, Cindy and Carlos sparked a relationship, on and off the stage, that led to their Marriage in 2010. In addition to her work with Another Lifetime, Cindy & Carlos plan to collaborate on projects that will no doubt reflect their shared passion for improvisation, and belief in the transcendent nature of music.
Born in Oakland, CA, as a music-hungry youngster, Craig Handy experimented on guitar, trombone, and piano before settling on his first true love, the saxophone. His distinctive sound and authentic instrumental prowess were immediately noticed by artists of stature. Handy moved to New York in 1986 and began several associations with formidable artists including Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, master drummers Art Blakey and Roy Haynes, South African melodist Abdullah Ibrahim, and the Mingus Dynasty Band. For the past several years, Handy has recorded or toured consistently with guitarist John Scofield, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, the John Hicks Legacy Band, and most notably The Cookers – a collective of stalwart leaders renowned for playing that simmers or surges to a boiling point – with brethren Billy Harper, George Cables, Eddie Henderson, Billy Hart, Cecil McBee, and David Weiss. In 2014, Handy returns as an original bandleader and party-starter for his new touring and recording project. Titled Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, Handy draws from his fondness for the music of New Orleans, smack attached to the groove-filled re-imaginings of originals and standards by the late, great organist Jimmy Smith. The release includes cameos by Dee Dee Bridgewater and Wynton Marsalis while filling a rotating drum chair with Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Ali Jackson, and Steve Williams. But the band at the core of the recording springs out of Handy’s current residence in Weehawken, NJ, and shines a light on organist Kyle Koehler, guitarist Matt Chertkoff, and sousaphonist Clark Gayton.

According to Will Friedwald at The Wall Street Journal, vocalist Brianna Thomas “… may well be the best young straight-ahead jazz singer of her generation.” Thomas was born and raised in Peoria, IL where she first cut her teeth as a performer. Initially taught and influenced by her Father, drummer and vocalist Charlie Thomas, Brianna comes from a rich background of diverse musical influences. Brianna moved to NYC in 2007 to attend college at The New School University and has since established herself as a talented vocalist on the scene today. Since graduating in 2011 she has performed with jazz greats Wycliffe Gordon, Wynton Marsalis, Russell Malone, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra and longtime hero Dianne Reeves. Thomas has also performed Nationally and Internationally ranging from the “Women In Jazz Festival” at Jazz At Lincoln Center to the prestigious Montreaux, Umbria, Bern and Sochi Jazz Festivals. Brianna recently released her debut album “You Must Believe In Love” Feb 17th 2014 on Sound On Purpose Records. The best illustration of Ms Thomas is given by the words of legendary trombonist and Jazz Messenger Curtis Fuller : “a marvelous new artist who has all it takes to reach the top of the jazz profession and music in general.”