2018 Judges

Greg Tardy - Saxophone
Bruce Barth - Piano
Jaimeo Brown - Drums
Sean Conly - Bass
Alex Norris - Trumpet

Greg Tardy

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"Truly an awesome leader-performer and you'll revel in his inventiveness and finesse." Jazz & Blues Report

Saxophonist, multi-reedist, and composer Gregory Tardy is one of the most versatile jazz musicians of his generation, equally comfortable in a variety of musical and improvisational situations. Born into a musical family, he began his musical career studying classical clarinet. In his early 20s, while preparing for a symphony career he discovered jazz saxophone and hasn't looked back. In 1992, he started playing with the legendary drummer, Elvin Jones, and he recorded his first CD, Crazy Love. As a sough after sideman he has played with many prominent jazz artists including: Andrew Hill, Tom Harrell, Dave Douglas, Wynton Marsalis, Jay McShann, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman, Berry Carter, Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Rashied Ali, Ellis Marsalis, Brian Lynch, John Patitucci, and many more. He has also performed and/or recorded along with many other notable saxophonists, such as Joe Lovano, Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Dewey Redman, Ravi Coltrane, and others. In more recent years, Tardy has gone full circle, by focusing on his clarinets more, using them on recordings by Tom Harrell, Ohad Talmor/Steve Swallow, Stefan Harris, Chris Potter, and Andrew Hill.

His performance schedule has taken him all over the world, playing at all of the major jazz festivals and on some of the biggest stages in jazz. As a sideman, he has been featured on several Downbeat Albums of the Year and also several Grammy nominated recordings; including a Grammy winning CD with Brian Lynch in 2006. He also has recorded fourteen CDs under his own name featuring his unique compositions, blending his love of traditional jazz with a more modern seeking style. His latest release "Chasing After The Wind" was released in the fall of 2016.


Bruce Barth

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Jazz pianist and composer Bruce Barth has been sharing his music with listeners the world over for more than twenty-five years.  In addition to traveling widely performing his own music, he has also performed with revered jazz masters, as well as collaborated with leading musicians of his own generation. And in a recent review in the Newark Star-Ledger, Zan Stewart writes "No one sounds quite like Barth. His solos are characterized by robust swing, his ability to tell a story, and by his rich, beguiling sound."

Bruce has performed on over one hundred recordings and movie soundtracks, including fourteen as a leader.  He is equally at home playing solo piano (American Landscape on Satchmo Jazz Records), leading an all-star septet (East and West on MaxJazz), and composing for a variety of ensembles.  His trio has recorded live at the legendary Village Vanguard in New York City, and his duo recording with saxophonist Steve Wilson, Home, was chosen by Down Beat magazine as one of the best recordings of 2010. His current CD is “Daybreak,” on the Savant label.

Originally from Pasadena, California, Bruce arrived on the New York jazz scene in 1988, and soon started working in the bands of Stanley Turrentine and Terence Blanchard. While in Terence’s band, Bruce recorded his first two CD’s as a leader, In Focus and Morning Call for the Enja label; both were chosen for the New York Times’ top ten lists.  These recordings displayed not only Bruce’s powerfully fluent piano playing, but also the scope of his own compositions and his imaginative arrangements of jazz standards.

As a leader of his trio and larger ensembles, Bruce has performed at major venues in the United States, Europe, and Japan; he has led bands  at many major venues in  New York, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC,  and major festivals in UK, Spain, Sweden, and Portugal.

Throughout his professional life, Bruce has had extended collaborations with Terell  Stafford, Steve Wilson, Luciana Souza, Steve Nelson, and Tony Bennett.  He has performed with James Moody, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Branford Marsalis, Art Farmer, and the Mingus Big Band.

Finally, Bruce is a dedicated teacher, currently on the faculties of Temple University and Columbia University.  He has also given master classes around the globe.

Recent Recordings:  
Daybreak, Savant, 2014 (#1 on Jazz Radio Charts)
Three Things of Beauty, Savant, 2012 (#1 on Jazz Radio Charts)
Live at Smalls, Smalls Live, 2011
Live at the Village Vanguard, Maxjazz, 2003


Jaimeo Brown

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Jaimeo Brown (pronounced jah-mayo) has established himself as one of the preeminent composers and drummers on the NY music scene and has worked with Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, Q-Tip, Carl Craig, and Bobby Hutcherson. Being inspired by early African American spirituals and work songs, Jaimeo’s band Transcendence, combines some of the earliest forms of African American music with contemporary music with cutting edge technology to produce a revolutionary unique experience world wide. As a jazz ambassador for the US State Department, Jaimeo gained extensive experience performing and educating various audiences from Europe, Asia and Africa. Jaimeo contributed music for PBS’s original film production of Ralph Ellison’s “King of The Bingo Game” and the acclaimed documentary “Twenty Feet From Stardom”. Jaimeo received his master’s degree from Rutgers University.

Sean Conly

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Born in Gunnison, Colorado, raised in Topeka, Kansas, bassist and composer Sean Conly has been obsessed with music for his entire life. At age six, Sean began playing guitar and writing songs trying to emulate the music his parents loved such as the Beatles, The Doors and Harry Nilsson. In school band Sean played percussion but as his teen years began and he wanted to start a band he picked up the electric bass. "My grandmother bought me a bass for Christmas when I was thirteen. It came with a Mel Bay method book which I stayed up most of the night devouring and then the next morning I went to a band tryout."

Within a few months Sean started to play around town. For the rest of his teens he played in numerous bands performing in venues across the Midwest. Sean was already a voracious listener and was spending many nights glued to the radio discovering any and all kinds of music. It was thru these nighttime binges that he became more and more attracted to jazz and improvised musc from such artists as Charle Mingus The Revolutionary Ensemble and Ornett Coleman and Jaco Pastorius.

After high school, Sean moved to Kansas City to attend the UMKC Conservatory of Music where he began to study the Contrabass, but his real education happened on the bandstand with local legends such as Ahmad Alaadeen, Tim (Timbone) Williams, Jay McShann, Claude “fiddler” Williams Rich Hill, Norman "Bishop" Williams, Horace Washington and many others. 

Studying in the days and working 4 or 5 nights a week helped him solidify his playing, He also started to write and arrange music for his own groups, and for the university's jazz orchestra and for mentor Ahmad Alaadeen. Kansas City had a lot to offer but Sean had always had his eyes set on moving to New York City, so in an attempt to learn more and to bridge the gap between NYC and KC, he moved to Paterson New Jersey to study under Rufus Reid at William Paterson University.

A year later he moved to Manhattan, where he has resided ever since. Since then he has gone on to tour the world and/or record with a diverse list of artists such as Gregory Tardy, Freddie Hubbard, Regina Carter, Ray Barretto, Charles Blenzig, Michael Franks, Tom Harrell, Andrew Hill, Nicholas Payton, Stefon Harris, Yoron Israel, Eric Lewis, Deidre Murray, John Mcneil, Timucin Sahin, James Moody , Mike Stern, Rick Margitza, Michael Attias,  Tony Malaby , Myron Walden, Phillip Harper, Russ Lossing, Anthony Coleman, Avishai Cohen (trpt), Ayelte Rose Gottleib, Vana Gehrig Trio, Darius Jones, Ken Vandermark/Steve Swell Quartet, The Newport Millenium Celebration with Cedar Walton, Randy Brecker, Howard Alden , Lou Tobackin and many many others.

As a band leader or co/ leader he has performed with several stellar groups over the years starting with The Invisibles featuring Ben Monder, Tony Malaby, John OGalliger and Tony Moreno, Re:Action with Michael Attias Tony Malaby and Pheeroan Aklaff, Grassroots with Darius Jones, Chad Taylor and Alex Harding, High Low Brow with Mike Pride and Mary Halvorson, Think Shadow with Michael Attias and also as a solo performer. Recently he has unveiled a new piano trio, Far North, featuring Tom Rainey and Kris Davis.

Sean is also an in demand Teacher. He has given clinics on four continents and has been on the faculty of The Collective School of Music since 2009.

Alex Norris

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Dr. Alexander Norris is a veteran Jazz Trumpeter of the New York scene. He is also a highly experienced educator, composer, and arranger. performs all over the world with his own jazz group and with Ron Carter's Great Big Band, the Mingus Big Band, Pat Martino, Alan Ferber, Kyle Eastwood, Miguel Zenon, Amina Figarova, Helen Sung, Michele Rosewoman, and Chris Potter. He has also done recent stints with Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, Samuel Torres, and the Woody Herman Orchestra. Additionally, he has performed with the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Maria Schneider Orchestra, Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, and many other musical artists.

He holds a Bachelor's Degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Master's Degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Miami. He is a former faculty of the University of Miami Frost School of Music, and currently serves on the music faculties of the Peabody Conservatory, University of Arkansas at Monticello, and the City College of New York. Furthermore, he is a very active clinician and guest artist.

Alex's recording entitled “Alex Norris Organ Quartet- Extension Deadline” on Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records, received a 4 and 1⁄2 star rating from Down Beat Magazine and was voted one of the Best Records of 2015 by Down Beat. As a sideman, Alex has recorded on over 80 CD's; several of them for labels such as Blue Note, Verve, Impulse, Palmetto, Fresh Sounds, Steeplechase, and Sunnyside; four of which were nominated from Grammys. 

Visit his website, www.alexpopenorris.com , to keep up with his various musical endeavors.