Northeast Ohio Playlist For Jazz Appreciation Month

Picture of trumpeter Sean Jones in performance [Sean Jones]
Trumpeter Sean Jones in performance [Sean Jones]
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April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and this playlist features players who grew up in Northeast Ohio and left the area to make names for themselves on the New York scene and beyond.

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Rich Perry-“Time Was”-“Summer Night”   

Born in Cleveland in 1955, tenor saxophonist Rich Perry became interested in jazz while in high school. After a brief period of study at Bowling Green State University, Perry moved to New York City in 1976. Within a year, he landed a chair in the celebrated Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. Perry has continued to play with that ensemble, which is now known as The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, as well as on recordings by the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra and John Fedchock’s New York Big Band. Perry has more than 20 recordings under his own name for SteepleChase Records, many of which find him in the company of Youngstown native and pianist Harold Danko.


Sean Jones-“Live from Jazz at the Bistro”-“The Ungentrified Blues” 

Trumpeter Sean Jones grew up in Warren, where he became involved in music in his church choir. He switched from drums to trumpet in fifth grade when his grandmother told him that his grandfather played the instrument in World War II.  Jones gravitated toward jazz when his band instructor gave him the Miles Davis recordings “Kind of Blue” and “Tutu.” Jones obtained his undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University and master’s from Rutgers University. Jones spent several years as a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, where he eventually held the chair of lead trumpet. Jones also served as artistic director of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective and as the head of the brass department at the Berklee College of Music. Jones is currently the chair of jazz studies at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The trumpeter has eight recordings as a leader, all made for Mack Avenue.


David Berkman-“Self Portrait”-“Serenity”  

Cleveland Heights native David Berkman has been playing piano on the New York City jazz scene for more than three decades. Berkman worked with numerous jazz greats during his career, ranging from bass player Cecil McBee to trumpeters Tom Harrell and Dave Douglas. Berkman has also been deeply involved in jazz education as a tenured professor of jazz studies at Queen’s College in New York. Berkman is the author of three books on jazz, including “The Jazz Harmony Book” in 2014. Berkman also has a number of dates under his own name, which range from solo sessions to recordings with his sextet.


Ken Peplowski-“Maybe September”-“Moon Ray”  

Born in 1959, Garfield Heights native Ken Peplowski  grew up playing clarinet in polka bands. By his early teens, he was playing jazz around Northeast Ohio before heading out on the road with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra led by Buddy Morrow. Peplowski made the move to New York City in 1980, where he established himself as one of jazz’s leading clarinet players. Peplowski has been prolific as a recording artist with 30 sessions as a leader. These dates, which ranged from solo sessions to big bands, showcased not only his clarinet work but his saxophone playing as well.


John Fedchock-“New York Big Band”-“Nightshades”  

Highland Heights native John Fedchock graduated from The Ohio State University (where he didn’t make the marching band!) with degrees in music education and jazz studies before obtaining a master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music. Fedchock’s trombone playing caught the attention of jazz fans when he joined the Woody Herman Orchestra in 1980. He stayed with Herman for the next seven years, eventually becoming the ensemble’s music director. In 1992, Fedchock recorded his first session with his own “New York Big Band.” He made four more dates leading that ensemble as well as several small-group sessions.


Booker Ervin (featuring Bobby Few)-“The In Between”-“Tyra”

Born in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood in 1935, pianist Bobby Few began studying classical piano, but then he turned to jazz after hearing his father’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic” recordings. Few worked in Cleveland clubs playing with musicians ranging from trumpeter Bill Hardman to saxophonist Albert Ayler. It was Ayler who encouraged Few to move to New York City. Few found himself living in the same Lower East Side building as saxophonist Booker Ervin. The tenor player gave the pianist his first opportunity to be on a recording when Few joined Ervin for his 1968 Blue Note session “The In Between.” Few moved to France in 1969, where he became a key part of the American expatriate jazz scene in Paris, most notably as a longtime member of saxophonist Steve Lacy’s group. Since 2001, Few made several recordings with saxophonist Avram Fefer.


Joe Lovano –“Live at Dizzy’s Club”-“Kids Are Pretty People”  

Joe Lovano, one of jazz’s most prominent musicians over the last few decades, grew up in Cleveland playing in clubs with his father saxophonist Tony “Big T” Lovano in the 1960s. Lovano is a Grammy Award winner and received multiple honors in DownBeat magazine’s critics’ and readers’ polls for his playing and recordings. Lovano has been in-demand as a collaborator making recordings with John Scofield, Bill Frisell, McCoy Tyner and Charlie Haden, among others. Lovano has some 30 recordings under his own name as a leader for such prestigious labels as Soul Note, Blue Note and ECM.


Jiggs Whigham –“Jiggs and Gene”-“My Foolish Heart”  

Trombonist Jiggs Whigham was born in Cleveland in 1943.  He came to prominence at age 17 as a featured soloist in the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1961. He  played with the Miller band for two years before moving onto Stan Kenton’s Orchestra. Whigham has spent most of his career in Europe, where he has led big bands and remains an in-demand guest artist for other ensembles and visiting musicians from the United States.

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