Geof Bradfield was born in Houston, TX, to a musical family. His father and uncle played classical flute and piano at family gatherings, and his mother and stepfather, both amateur musicians, introduced him to jazz and R&B through a vinyl collection that ranged from Art Tatum and Miles Davis to Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. As a student first at the renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston and later at DePaul University and Cal Arts, he refined and developed this foundation. After intervals in New York and Washington, Bradfield settled in Chicago in 2004. He has been fortunate to work alongside many jazz luminaries and to perform throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. He has also toured Russia, Africa and the Middle East with Jazz at Lincoln Center’s The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad. Bradfield is featured on numerous recordings, including his own critically acclaimed CDs African Flowers, named one of the top 10 CDs of 2010 by the Los Angeles Times, and Melba!, selected as one of the best CDs of 2013 by DownBeat Magazine. Named a Rising Star Arranger in the 2015 DownBeat Critics Poll, Bradfield has received commissions from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and grants and fellowships from DCASE, the Illinois Arts Council, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. He is currently Associate Professor of Jazz Saxophone and Jazz Studies at Northern Illinois University.
Brooklyn based trumpeter Russ Johnson is an active performer in the jazz, improvised, and contemporary classical music scenes throughout the U.S. and abroad. In addition to leading his own groups, and co-leading The Other Quartet and New Math, Russ is currently touring as a member of Lee Konitz' new nonet and the Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor "L'Histoire du Clochard" sextet, and has toured with the Michael Musillami Trio. In addition, Russ has performed with a long list of musical heavyweights including; Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Richie Beirach, Mark Ribot, Charles Earland, David Liebman, Joe Maneri, The Jazz Passengers, Oliver Lake, Myra Melford, Anthony Davis, Mick Rossi, Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, Michael Bublé, Curtis Fowlkes, Roy Nathanson, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Brian Blade, Dick Oatts, Aretha Franklin, Tony Malaby, Jenny Scheinman, and Mat Maneri.
Russ is also active as an educator/clinician, having taught at colleges and universities across the U.S. and in Europe. He is currently teaching at The Center for Preparatory Studies in Music (CPSM) at Queens College, and is a member of the faculty at the Maine Jazz Camp.
His new recording, Save Big has recently been released on the OmniTone label to enthusiastic reviews. It is available online at OmniTone and amazon.com, as well as at Tower Records and other jazz outlets.
Russ Johnson is an Endorsing Artist for New York Trumpet Company, and plays NYTC by Possegger Bb trumpet exclusively.
"beautifully melodic and yet harmonically challenging" — AllAboutJazz
"Russ Johnson is simply amazing. His melodicism, energy and tone make him sound like the best new trumpet voice since Dave Douglas." – cadence magazine
"Johnson's sterling sound and quicksilver mind place him firmly in the modern jazz tradition." – Down Beat
"Johnson is a player with crisp articulation and intriguing ideas." – JazzTimes
Brooklyn born drummer Dana Hall has been an important musician on the international music scene since 1992. After completing his education in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University, he received his Bachelor of Music degree from William Paterson College and his Masters degree in composition from DePaul University. He is presently a distinguished Special Trustees Fellow completing his Doctorate in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.
The list of exceptional artists that Mr. Hall has performed, toured, and/or recorded with includes Branford Marsalis, Ray Charles, Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Orbert Davis, Horace Silver, Michael Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Kurt Elling, Benny Green, Frank Foster, Betty Carter, Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, Bobby Hutcherson, Wallace Roney, Diana Krall, Renee Rosnes, Clark Terry, the Mingus Big Band, Steve Lacy, Muhal Richard Abrams, Buster Williams, Gary Bartz, Ira Sullivan, Lester Bowie, Slide Hampton, James Moody, Shirley Scott, Joe Williams, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Patricia Barber, Ralph Bowen, Bud Shank, Phil Woods, Von Freeman, Kenny Barron, Maria Schneider, Jackie McLean, Mulgrew Miller, the Woody Herman Orchestra, Joe Henderson, Curtis Fuller, and Oliver Lake, among others. Mr. Hall is a member of the Terell Stafford Quintet and the Music Director of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Additionally, he is a former regular member of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band under the direction of Jon Faddis and has served as an extra in the percussion sections of the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids Symphonies.
Professor Hall is also a clinician and educator. In 2004, Mr. Hall joined the faculty of the University of Illinois AT Urbana-Champaign as an Assistant Professor of Music. He has served as a faculty member at the University of Chicago teaching courses in world music and at Columbia College Chicago, teaching private students. Mr. Hall is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Band Director's Academy and Essentially Ellington faculties, both under the directorship of Wynton Marsalis, providing jazz pedagogical resources, mentoring, and practical tools for band directors. Recently, Mr. Hall completed a four-year association with the Ravinia Festival's Jazz in the Schools Mentoring Program, educating public school students on music fundamentals and their associated jazz applications. In the summer of 2000, Mr. Hall joined the faculty at the Merit School of Music, continuing his mission to assist in bringing quality music education to students in Chicago. Mr. Hall is a member of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz's Jazz in America Program and the Jazz of Chicago's Artists Residency Program. In each, he mentors secondary school students in the fundamentals of jazz, Latin, and popular musics. Mr. Hall also maintains a private studio.
Concurrent with his national and international recording and touring projects, Mr. Hall can be seen and heard in Illinois performing and recording with his own groups and as an artist with other ensembles. Mr. Hall uses, endorses, and is artistically supported by Yamaha Drums, Bosphorus Cymbals, and Pro-Mark Drumsticks.
"Geof Bradfield has drawn plenty of praise for his work as a reed soloist, and it's all deserved But in the last few years, Bradfield has made just as much impact with his precise and colorful writing, in compositions that evoke a vivid sense of place through the same mixture of detail and sweep." Neil Tesser
On saxophonist/composer Geof Bradfield's new CD Our Roots, which Origin Records will release on October 16, his chordless quintet delves into the sacred and profane music of the rural South. The ensemble premiered the music at the 2014 Hyde Park Jazz Festival and a few months later gave its first European performance at the Made in Chicago Festival in Poznan, Poland.
Joining Bradfield on Our Roots are trumpeter Marquis Hill (winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk Trumpet Competition), trombonist Joel Adams, drummer Dana Hall, and bassist Clark Sommers, all long time collaborators on the vital Chicago jazz scene. Sommers, Bradfield and Hall form the freewheeling trio Ba(SH), which released its first CD on Origin in 2013. That same year, Adams and Sommers contributed to Bradfield's critically acclaimed suite Melba! for the label. Hill and Bradfield are the frontline of Greenleaf recording artist Matt Ulery's chamber jazz quintet, Loom.
Inspired by Clifford Jordan's These Are My Roots: The Music of Leadbelly, Our Roots offers new interpretations of four pieces from that 1965 recording. "I first heard Clifford in person alongside Von Freeman at the Green Mill in '91," says Bradfield. "Though completely distinctive, they both embodied this combination of sophistication with gutbucket that defines the great Chicago tenors." Bradfield and company summon the spirit of Jordan's original recording, but don't necessarily adhere to the letter: the trio rendition of "Black Girl," for example, owes as much to Albert Ayler as to Jordan, while the harmolodic conversation between trumpet and tenor on "Yellow Gal" evokes Ornette Coleman.
Alongside the Lead Belly pieces are Bradfield's arrangements of spirituals from the Georgia Sea Islands and songs by Texas blues singer and itinerant preacher Blind Willie Johnson. Three new pieces by Bradfield round out the album. "'Meshell,' 'Clinton Hill,' and 'Mbira Song,' are dedicated respectively to Meshell Ndegeocello, Randy Weston, and Oliver Mtukudzi, all master musicians with the deepest roots," writes Bradfield in the CD notes. "I've had the good fortune to play a little with each of them, and they all had a powerful impact on my musical thinking."
Our Roots is Bradfield's first recording as a leader since Melba! in 2013. In the interim, he has been engaged in numerous performances as both leader and sideman as well as teaching at Northern Illinois University, where he recently became an Associate Professor. His septet performed Melba! on the main stage of the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival with special guest Randy Weston joining them on Bradfield's arrangement of Weston's "African Sunrise." The ensemble was also featured in a live performance of Melba! on NPR's The Jazz Set hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater.
"While I love rhythmic puzzles and harmonic labyrinths as much as the next modern jazz musician, you largely won't find them here," writes Bradfield in the liner notes of the album "much of my favorite music is simple and direct, about singing a song with the right feeling, and that's what I hope to share with you on Our Roots."
“Like I said man, you’ve been chosen. You don’t know that. The African Ancestors chose you…no one is doing what you’re doing.” Randy Weston
“Randy Weston gives saxophonist and clarinetist Bradfield his blessing in the album’s liner notes, and the acclaim is deserved…Bradfield and a sympathetic group expound on each theme with elan and intelligence.” JazzTimes
“ A heartfelt tribute and an impressive statement.” **** DownBeat review of Melba!
“By invoking the spirit of Melba Liston in a highly personal, creative fashion, Bradfield honors her memory as he carries on her legacy.” New York City Jazz Record
“... touching and poignant, full of beauty and love… A magnificent recording” AllAboutJazz
“Bradfield turned in poetic work… the luster of his tone on saxophone is matched by the depth of his work as composer.” Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
“Stunning solos and subtle arrangements.” Longplay Poland
“Bradfield’s playing is perhaps only surpassed by his creative, intelligent writing.” Louisville Alt-Weekly
Trombonist Joel Adams is a performer and composer based in the Chicago area. Adams won the prestigious International Trombone Association Frank Rosolino Jazz Award and a Dallas Jazz Society Scholarship. While touring with the Woody Herman Orchestra, he performed with Clark Terry, Joe Williams and Dizzy Gillespie. He has also performed with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble with Jon Faddis and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, as well as Doug Lawrence, Jimmy Heath and Clyde Stubblefield. Adams also leads and composes for the Chicago Yestet, which features many of his compositions in the ensemble’s current CD “Jazz Is Politics?”
”Clark Sommers rings true and honest in tone. The golden color pours a solid foundation to the timber of the group.” – All About Jazz.
Bassist, Composer and Educator, Clark has toured and performed extensively throughout the world. He has had the privilege of performing with Cedar Walton, Darrell Grant, Brian Blade, Ernie Watts, Bennie Maupin, Von Freeman, Ira Sullivan, Frank Wess, Charles McPherson, Peter Bernstein, Lin Haliday, Dana Hall, Jodie Christian, Bobby Broom, Jeff Parker, Ron Perrillo, Geof Bradfield, Michael Weiss, George Fludas, Kevin Mahogany, Eden Atwood, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, The Mighty Blue Kings and The Chicago Jazz Orchestra among others.
Clark completed his undergraduate degree in Jazz Studies and World Music at California Institute of the Arts, where he studied with bass masters Charlie Haden and Darek Oles. While living in Los Angeles, Clark performed with Leo Smith, Vinny Golia, The Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra, Joe La Barbara and Larry Koonse. He continues to seek expansion of his craft by pursuing his musical studies with masters such as David Grossman of the New York Philharmonic, Mike Longo and Stefon Harris. He recently completed two residencies at the Brubeck Institute in Stockton California.
Clark is proud to be at home in the bass chair with vocalist Kurt Elling, with whom he tours the globe bringing jazz to everyone from Istanbul to the Canary Islands. Thus far he has been privileged to play on two GRAMMY nominated recordings with the band, one of which won the GRAMMY for best vocal jazz album in 2009.
When not on the road with Kurt Elling, Clark enjoys leading his own group “Ba(SH).” The group includes long time friends Dana Hall and Geof Bradfield. The groups first CD was released in August 2013 and has received critical acclaim. It was acknowledged on the “notable and not to be missed” list by All About Jazz in 2013.
Clark can also be heard performing with Portland’s Darrell Grant in his “Territory” ensemble which includes Brian Blade, Joe Locke and Steve Wilson. Other groups that Clark performs regularly with include Dana Hall’s “Spring” and “Black Fire,” Geof Bradfield’s “African Flowers Ensemble” and “Melba,” Chicago Yestet, Dan Cray Trio, Spin Quartet and many other musicians.