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Acoustic jazz bassist Peter Mack has been a mainstay on the Central New York jazz scene for the past 4 decades, where he holds forth as one of region’s most beloved bassists and veteran jazz men.
In the1970s, Peter served as house bassist for the famed Casa Di Lisa jazz club in Syracuse, where he had the opportunity to play with a host of legendary jazz greats from all over the world on a weekly basis. In the 1980’s, he was also a founding member of Nancy Kelly’s Little Big Band. Ever since Peter has been an in-demand, much sought after, irst-call acoustic bassist who has toured and traveled the world extensively for the past 40 years.
No stranger to the M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest stage, – where he has appeared with various units on multiple occasions, – Peter continues to be active as a player, producer, leader and sideman, and over the past few years he’s produced, performed and recorded 2 critically-acclaimed CD’s with his own big band, featuring a roster that reads like a “Who’s Who” of jazz, including Lew Tabackin, Barry Harris, John Mosca,Greg Gisbert, Eric Alexander, Danny D’Imperio, Ralph Lalama and many others. His recent concerts at the Auburn Public Theater have also become legendary for the great jazz he continually brings to the Central New York region on a regular basis.
Jazz trombonist Melissa Gardiner has shared the stage with several legendary musicians including Aretha Franklin, Geri Allen, Wycliffe Gordon, The Temptations, Vulfpeck and Dave Matthews Band. As a bandleader, she performs regularly with her award-winning jazz organ trio, MG3, and brass band Second Line Syracuse. In addition to an active performance career, Gardiner is a trombone instructor at Le Moyne College and Cornell University, and also maintains a private teaching studio in the Syracuse area. BFA – The University of Michigan; MM – The Juilliard School.
Mike Melito started playing drums at age four and that was the start of his musical career. Coming from a musical family, there was never any doubt in what he would do with his life. His older brother got him started on drums and the bandstand became his training ground for jazz. Mike studied with John McNeill, a great percussionist in the local orchestra as well. He started playing along to Charlie Parker records at age twelve and that hooked him on jazz. He memorized a lot of Bird’s solos as well as being amazed by Max Roach who was the drummer on those records. Mike started to try to imitate Max and Max became a big influence on him. His Dad has a big record collection which helped guide him even more. His father would go on to play Miles Davis records with Philly Joe Jones on them and he quickly became a Philly Joe freak. He then started seeking out all kinds of different jazz records and over time reallygot into the history of jazz. Other drummers who had a big impact on Mike were Papa Jo Jones, Art Blakey, Art Taylor, Jimmy Cobb, Billy Higgins and Elvin Jones. Mike started his professional career at age 16 with the likes of Joe Locke and Joe Romano who gave him his first gigs. From those gigs, other gigs started to happen for him around town and upstate NY. He would travel to Syracuse and Utica to work with upstate legends JR Monterose and Sal Amico. He then started leading his own gigs. Over the years Mike has backed jazz legends such as James Moody, Benny Golson, Junior Mance and Barry Harris. He has also worked with Harry Allen, Chris Potter, Vincent Herring, Peter Bernstein, Danilo Perez, Ken Peplowski, Cyrus Chestnut, Eric Alexander and many more. Mike has released six critically acclaimed CD’s that caught the ear of Downbeat which in turn did a feature article on him. He is also a sideman on close to 30 records. He has been the house drummer for the Rochester International Jazz Festival since it started and is on the faculty of The Eastman Community Music School where he teaches jazz drumset.
As a teenager, Paul Merrill was introduced to jazz by performing with upstate New York mentors Steve Brown, Joe Salzano, and Spiegle Wilcox. During high school years, he performed at the Goombay Jazz Festival (Bahamas) and later won a DownBeat award under the tutelage of Rufus Reid in 1995. These early experiences helped shape his career as a performer, composer, and educator, by instilling the importance of the jazz tradition and exploring the endless possibilities of improvised music. He has toured with a diverse set of groups that include Half Pint, John Brown’s Body, and the Grammy-nominated Phil Woods Big Band and recently performed with such notables as Natalie Cole, Javon Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Dennis Mackrel, and John Stetch. As a big band director, Merrill has commissioned works from Jim McNeely, Paul Smoker, and Rufus Reid and has hosted guest artists like Wynton Marsalis, Maria Schneider, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and Vincent Herring. He has recorded and arranged for Shanachie and I-Town Records and can be heard on such films as Suckerfish and The Substitute II (HBO). As a composer, he has been awarded multiple commissions from The Commission Project and his arrangements continue to be performed by professional, college, and high school ensembles. Merrill remains active as a clinician, Area All-State director, improvisation teacher, freelance trumpeter, and member of the Central New York Jazz Orchestra and Salt City Jazz Collective. He studied jazz at William Paterson University, trumpet and pedagogy at Ithaca College, and jazz and contemporary media at the Eastman School of Music. Former faculty at the Ithaca College, Merrill is currently the Gussman Director of Jazz Ensembles at Cornell University.
Guitarist, composer, arranger, percussionist, and Professor Emeritus, Steve Brown, hails from Rockville Center, Long Island, New York. For thirteen years, his father was the marimba player with the Latin band leader, Xavier Cugat while he was still music director for the Long Beach public schools. Steve also started working with the Cugat band with his father paying featured pieces with the band. After his father died in 1966, Steve played with the Cugat band in his place and toured extensively and performed on many TV shows at the time including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Mike Douglas Show, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Merv Griffin Show among others. In 1975, he received a phone call from the former bassist with The Bill Evans Trio, Chuck Israels, inviting him to become a member of The New York based big band called The National Jazz Ensemble. This was the start of a very long musical relationship with Chuck that still lasts till today. They have worked together in settings from a duo to a big band, and in 1980 did their first tour of Europe playing a US State Department tour of France, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. That trip to Europe opened up new chances to play and teach abroad, especially in Spain, and Steve still maintain those connections today.
During the latter parts of Steve’s teaching career, he performed nationally and internationally as a jazz guitarist, educator, composer, and arranger. He also participated in approximately 40 CD recordings either under his own leadership or with other artist such as Steve Gilmore, Chuck Israels, Danny D’Imperio, Hod O’Brien, Stephanie Nakasian, Ray Brown, Chuck Mangione and many others. Steve has also taught and played in Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, and other European countries. He has a 20 plus year history playing with his brother Ray’s “Great Big Band” in various trips to California.
One of the most rewarding aspects of Steve’s 40 year career teaching at Ithaca College has been the lasting friendships he has made with many of my former students and fellow colleagues. He has been staying active since retirement, writing, recording, publishing music, teaching and playing jazz in upstate New York and internationally, with his own groups, with “Peter Mack and the Macktet,” and monthly in Syracuse with a big band Steve is writing for called “The Salt City Jazz Collective” led by Angelo Candela.
Saxophonist Joe Carello is a Syracuse native and has performed in concert on many occasions having been a featured soloist with Symphoria and The Rochester Philharmonic. He has performed with Aretha Franklin, Diane Schurr, Maureen Mcgovern, and Jeff Tyzik to name a few. As lead alto saxophonist with the Central New York Jazz Orchestra he has performed with Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton, Joe Lovano, Bob Mintzer, Grady Tate and others. As a sideman Joe has worked with Chuck and Gap Mangione, Harry Connick Jr., Natalie Cole, The New York Voices, Randy Brecker, The Manhattan Transfer, Barry Manilow, Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra Jr. and The Temptations. He has recorded with Danny D’Imperio, Peter Mack, Eric Alexander, Barry Harris, Nancy Kelly, Ralph Lalama, and more. In addition to his performing career, Joe is a teacher at Onondaga Community College and Lemoyne College and co-director of The Band Bus School Music Service.
Pianist Dino Losito is a native of Elmira NY and began studies at age 4. He Furthered his education in music at William Patterson Unversity studying with Jazz notables Norman Simmons, Rufus Reid and Pete Malinverni. Dino had performed/ recorded with Dave Liebman, Houston Person, Jerry Weldon, Peter Bernstein, Eric Alexander and many others. Dino continues to be a first call pianist/organist on the scene today.
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