Possessing a warm, expressive sound, an energetic rhythmic feel, and formidable melodic and harmonic insight, saxophonist Scott Burns has been a fixture on the Chicago jazz scene since moving to the city in 1998. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Scott began his education and professional career in jazz in nearby Cincinnati. After graduating at the top of his class from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Scott became an in-demand player in the greater Cincinnati/Dayton area. Performance credits include regular appearances as both leader and sideman at the landmark Blue Wisp Jazz Club, performances with powerhouse drummer John von Ohlen & the Blue Wisp Big Band, the PsychoAcoustic Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. He also performed in concert alongside legendary jazz trumpeter Clark Terry as part of a Cincinnati jazz series.
In 1998, Scott moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University’s Masters of Music program. While playing with DePaul’s award-winning jazz ensemble, Scott was a prominently featured soloist alongside legendary jazz performers Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Kenny Werner, Louis Bellson and Nicholas Payton, and received an outstanding soloist award from Down Beat magazine in 1999. As an established member of the local jazz scene, Scott frequently shares the stage with veteran Chicago jazz musicians, including Jodie Christian, Ron Perrillo, Jeff Parker, George Fludas, Dana Hall, Kelly Sill, Paulinho Garcia, Bobby Broom, and others. He has performed with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble under the direction of the late William Russo, and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra with guest saxophonists Von Freeman and Charles McPherson, pianist John Campbell, and vocalists Judy Roberts and Kurt Elling. Scott has toured nationally, playing select dates with legendary singer Harry Connick Jr., as well as with the jazz/blues/soul band the Mighty Blue Kings, headlining major festivals & venues including JVC Jazz Fest, Newport Jazz Fest, the House of Blues, Chicago Blues Festival, and others. Recently, he has appeared with international jazz artists David Hazeltine and Ira Sullivan.
This past year, Scott’s debut CD as a leader, Passages, was released on Origin Records and features his original compositions. The album has received critical acclaim both locally and nationally, and has been broadcasted across the nation. Scott Burns can currently be seen and heard performing at festivals and venues throughout the Midwest region.
John Kregor - guitar
From the tender age of ten, John Kregor consumed a steady diet of Poison. He taught himself guitar with a diligence bordering on obsession. His metal intake got increasingly heavy, but he topped it with a little saccharine when he joined the show choir (to learn about vocal harmonies for use in his heavy metal garage band). Somehow, Rubber Band morphed from metal to funk, and John wound up in the jazz band senior year, which changed his life.
Kregor received a B.A. in composition at the University of Texas, where he had the opportunity to refine his technique as a jazz and classical player, his improvisational range, and his voice as a composer. As Michael Brecker told him there, "Nice solo, man." After graduating, he left the comfy confines of Austin for the edgy expanse of Chicago.
Kregor is a prized member of Chicago's jazz community, due to his versatility, his lightning-speed mastery of new music, his big ears, his attentive ensemble playing, and his ingenuity as a soloist. He has played with groups of all sizes and styles, including groups led by Jim Gailloreto, Rob Clearfield, Matt Ulery, and Grazyna Auguscik. Patricia Barber brought Kregor into her quartet in 2011, and he is featured in her performances every Monday at Chicago's famed Green Mill and at venues all over the United States and Europe. Jazz critic Howard Reich has praised Kregor's sensitivity, and critic Neil Tesser has dubbed him "edgy and arresting".
Rob Clearfield - piano, keyboards
Up and coming Chicago jazz pianist Rob Clearfield makes his triumphant return to Merriman's Playhouse with his new quintet, fresh on the heels on their debut album, "The Long and Short of It." Drawing heavily on his background in rock and classical music, Rob has created a sound which the Chicago Tribune describes as "making urgent lyricism its highest priority".
Throughout his career, Rob has had the privilege of performing and recording with such artists as John Wetton, Fareed Haque, Rakalam Bob Moses, Steve Gorn, Ernie Watts, Zach Brock, and Grazyna Auguscik, among others. In addition to his own projects, he is also a member of Matt Ulery's Loom, District 97, Hood Smoke, Outertown, and Greg Ward's Fitted Shards.
On the new quintet album, Rob says:
"This band was formed in the fall of 2010 for a performance at the Chicago Cultural Center. As the band has continued from there, I've tried to engage as a composer with the jazz tradition more directly than in past projects, without abandoning my rock roots. Some pieces are heavily composed, others very improvisational, but thanks to the musicians I'm fortunate enough to work with, we were able to sustain a consistent and focused group sound across these eight diverse compositions. This group features four of my favorite musicians in Chicago: Scott Burns (Chicago Jazz Orchestra), John Kregor (Patricia Barber, Grazyna Auguscik), Patrick Mulcahy (District 97) and Eric Montzka (Patricia Barber). This is our debut recording."
Patrick Mulcahy - bass
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Patrick Mulcahy has been professionally based in Chicago for 10 years. During this time he has had the opportunity to play at many of the top venues in the city including The Green Mill, Auditorium Theater and Vic Theater. He has performed with Patricia Barber, Fareed Haque, and John Wetton to name a few. His playing has taken him all over the world with performances in Turkey, Poland, Macedonia and Switzerland.
Xavier Breaker - drums
It was in the church around the age of five when Xavier Breaker started playing the drums. Then later on in his life, he realized that music was what he was made to do. Xavier received a B.M. degree in Performance from the University of South Carolina where he studied under Scott Herring, Jim Hall, Bert Ligon, and Craig Butterfield. He recently began playing for many artists such as Mike Allemena, Skip Pearson, and most recently Joe Sample, along with Randy Crawford, Howard Hewitt, and Lalah Hathaway. Xavier's influences are his father, Tony Sims, Brian Blade, Greg Hutchinson, Jeff Tain Watts, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Dennis Chambers, Sonny Payne, Jeff Elmore, and gospel drummers Calvin Rodgers and Ladell Abrams.