Musicians: Biographies with Photos
A native of South Carolina, drummer Xavier Breaker came from a musical family, with his mother being a singer, and his father, a drummer. Xavier began developing his musical abilities at an early age in church, and later on in life he realized that music was his passion.
Xavier has played with numerous artists including Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, Howard Hewitt, Lalah Hathaway, Ernie Watts, and Bob Mintzer. He has also played for some of Chicago’s finest including Corey Wilkes, Kahil El Zabar, Dee Alexander, Eric Schneider, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Chicago Yestet, and many others.
Xavier Breaker received his Bachelor’s in Percussion Performance from the University of South Carolina, where he studied under Professor Scott Herring and drummer, Jim Hall. Xavier has also received his Master’s in Jazz Studies from Northern Illinois University, under Professor Ronald Carter. Along with being a sideman, Xavier Breaker is also a bandleader, arranger, and composer for his own group, the Xavier Breaker Coalition.
Saxophonist Geof Bradfield was born in Houston, TX, where he attended the renowned High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. He lived and worked for periods in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington before settling in Chicago in 2004. Along the way, he has been fortunate to work alongside many jazz luminaries and to perform throughout the United States, Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. He is featured on numerous recordings, including his critically acclaimed 2010 release African Flowers, which was named one of the top 10 CDs of 2010 by the Los Angeles Times. His septet performed this 10-part suite in 2011 at Chicago’s Millennium Park to an audience of 8,000 as part of the celebrated series Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz. Mr. Bradfield and his ensemble also presented the suite at the DuSable Museum of African American Art as the Artist-in Residence of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in the fall of 2011.
Saxophonist, composer, and educator Chris Madsen hails from the Chicagoland area. After graduating from DePaul University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s in Jazz Studies, he attended the Juilliard School’s Jazz Program in New York City, performing there for three years with such artists as Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Short, and Barbara Lea. In 2006, he moved back to Chicago and, in addition to leading his own groups at venues such as the Jazz Showcase, Andy’s, and the Chicago Jazz Festival, has also performed with the Chicago Yestet, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Ron Perrillo quartet, and the Rob Parton, Tom Matta, Mulligan Mosaics, and Joe Clark big bands. He has released four albums under his name and been involved with countless other recording projects. Madsen is a published composer with Kendor Music Inc, Walrus Music, and the UNC Jazz Press and is an in-demand clinician for jazz groups of all ages. Madsen currently serves as Jazz Faculty at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and Jazz Program Director at Midwest Young Artists in Highwood, IL.
Saxophonist John Wojciechowski has performed or recorded with The Chicago Jazz Orchestra, The Chicago Jazz Ensemble, The Woody Herman Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Clark Terry, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Charlie Haden, Kurt Elling, and Kenny Burrell. John was also a finalist in the 1996 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition.
Trumpeter Marques Carroll graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Jazz Studies Performance. While in school Marques shared the stage with many local Chicago acts as well as many world renowned acts such as Dick Oates, Nicholas Payton, Carl Allen, Byron Stripling, Tom Harrell, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Jon Faddis, Clark Terry, Louie Bellson, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Treologic, World Class Noise, Orchestra Super Vitesse, R. Kelly, Bobby Vinton, The Ohio Players, Kimotion, Gary Senise, Vinnie Colluta, Guy King and the Little Big Band, Rob Parton Big Band, Tom Matta Big Band and many more musicians that spans from jazz to world music. Marques can be seen throughout Chicago performing with his own quintet and with a wide arrangement of musicians on a weekly basis.
Trumpeter Russ Johnson recently relocated to the Chicago area after spending 23 years as an important member of the New York City jazz community. He is an active performer in the jazz, improvised, and contemporary classical music scenes and has had the opportunity to perform in over 40 countries. In addition to leading his own groups, and co-leading The Other Quartet, the Co Streiff/Russ Johnson 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. In addition, Russ has performed with a long list of musical heavyweights including; Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Kenny Wheeler, Richie Beirach, Mark Ribot, Charles Earland, David Liebman, Joe Maneri, Oliver Lake, Tony Malaby, Jenny Scheinman, and Mat Maneri.
Trombonist Tom Garling has played with such greats as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, and Randy Brecker. He joined Maynard Fergusons Big Bop Nouveau Band, and toured with Maynard as Musical Director and trombonist for six years. Tom currently resides in the Chicago area, and is highly sought after around the world as a recording artist, composer and arranger, teacher, clinician and professional musician.
Trombonist Joel Adams won the International Trombone Association Frank Rosolino Memorial Scholarship in 1986. He toured with The Woody Herman Orchestra performing with Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, and Diane Schuur. He has also played with Rich Perry and the Gary Morgan Latin Big Band while living in New York City. Locally, he has performed with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble with Jon Faddis, Doug Lawrence, Jimmy Heath, Arturo Sandoval and Clyde Stubblefield as well as his own groups.
Pianist/Composer and Motéma recording artist Ryan Cohan has performed at esteemed venues worldwide and has led his quartet on four international tours sponsored by The U.S. Dept. of State as a cultural ambassador. Cohan has released five critically acclaimed CD’s; his latest, The River (2013), was inspired by a tour of Africa and was called “epic...his deepest work” by The Chicago Tribune. His range and inventive vision have earned Cohan a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship as well the opportunity to work with many prominent artists and ensembles across genres including Freddie Hubbard, Ramsey Lewis, Joe Locke, Paquito D’Rivera, Otis Clay, Kurt Elling, Andy Narell, Gregory Porter, Victor Lewis, Joe La Barbera, The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW Ensemble, and The Chicago Chamber Musicians among others.
Bassist Clark Sommers is featured on the Grammy Award winning album "Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman." Clark has toured and performed extensively throughout the world with Cedar Walton, Kurt Elling, Kevin Mahogany, Peter Bernstein, Von Freeman, Bobby Broom, Michael Weiss, The Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra, and the Joe La Barbara Sextet. From 1997 to 1999 Clark performed and toured with Sony Recording Artists The Mighty Blue Kings. He has also performed at international jazz festivals in the US, Ireland, France and Canada, sharing bills with Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, B.B. King, Dr. John, The Staples Singers, Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy.
Guitarist Mike Allemana's performing credits include 1997-2012 with the late tenor sax legend Von Freeman at his famous Tuesday night gig at the New Apartment Lounge. Mike toured with Von to Berlin in 2002, which was released as Vonski Speaks on Nessa Records in 2009. He can also be heard on Von Freeman’s 2002 release The Improvisor on Premonition Records. Other highlights include 1996-1997 with organ great Charles Earland, 1995-1999 with tenor saxophonist Lin Halliday, appearances from 1997-1999 with organ master Lonnie Smith, 1998-2002 with tenor saxophonist Ron Dewar, a 2005 performance in Philadelphia with Von Freeman and drumming legend Mickey Roker, a 2006 performance with Von Freeman and drum-master Jimmy Cobb, and in 2008 with alto saxophonist Steve Coleman. Mike toured to Poznan, Poland in 2010 to perform with fellow Chicago guitarists Bobby Broom and Jeff Parker. The Jazz Institute of Chicago along with the Chicago Cultural Center commissioned him to arrange Von Freeman’s original compositions for a 10-piece ensemble, featured in the summer of 2011 for the Made in Chicago concert series at Millennium Park with special guests Eric Alexander, Julian Priester, and Steve Coleman. Later that same year, he travelled again to Poznan to perform an original 4-part suite dedicated to Von Freeman written for a 9-piece group. In 2014, drumming legend Bernard Purdie joined Mike and George Freeman for a weekend at the Green Mill in Chicago.
Vocalist/Poet Rob Dz combines elements of jazz, R&B, funk and gospel and has rocked with Nas, Talib Kweli, Blackalicious, Black Eyed Peas, The Dave Matthews Band, Naughty By Nature, Bone Thugs and Harmony, Afroman, and others. He was a national semi-finalist on MTV's Ultimate Hip Hop Talent Search.