“Electrifyingly new and strangely familiar at the same time…with his mix of modern sounds and old-fashioned feeling, Raymond is steering jazz in the right direction.”––Downbeat Magazine
Even as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, trumpeter John Raymond exuded an unusual degree of commitment to his craft, apparent in his playing with Jeremy Walker’s first edition of Jazz Is Now! And his commitment was obvious as he led increasingly sophisticated versions of the John Raymond Project on the stages of the Dakota and Artists Quarter, as he moved on to graduate studies at the State University of New York at Purchase, as he released his first full-length recording (Strength and Song) under the guidance of mentor John Faddis. Dubbed “a prepossessing young trumpet player” by the New York Times after that first release, John never stopped moving forward, refining his voice and his approach to composition as he continued to make his way in the New York jazz scene. Now, a decade after his first pro gigs, John has added a lauded quartet recording featuring the great drummer Billy Hart to his resume, (Foreign Territory, Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2015), and recently, added another recording with his new quartet, Real Feels (Real Feels, Shifting Paradigm Records, 2016). John returns “home” to Minnesota this week, meeting up with Twin Cities pals Bryan Nichols, Graydon Peterson and JT Bates in the Dunsmore Room at Crooners Lounge on Tuesday, April 26 (7 pm).
John Raymond Quartet
After starting trumpet in fifth grade in suburban Minneapolis, John Raymond moved on to playing in school jazz ensembles in junior high and high school. At the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, John played in the top ensembles from his first semester and toured China in late 2006; he also studied with Terell Stafford and performed with Jeremy Walker’s Jazz Is Now! Orchestra in Minneapolis during his freshman year, and with Maria Schneider at the 2005 UW-EC Jazz Festival. While balancing classes and college bands, John also found time to start his first edition of the John Raymond Project with cohorts from Eau Claire, releasing a self-titled recording in spring 2006. In the Twin Cities, John also played with the Yohannes Tona Band and founded the Twin Cities Horns, an ensemble that frequently joined Cuban piano dynamo Nachito Herrera, for whom John also provided arrangements; he toured with Darnell Davis and the Minneapolis-based gospel group, Remnant; and arranged and recorded on three Grammy-nominated songs for R&B singers Ann Nesby and Calvin Richardson. In 2008 and 2009, John was a finalist in the jazz category of the National Trumpet Competition.
After college graduation in 2009, John made the move to New York, enrolling in graduate studies at the State University of New York at Purchase where he studied with acclaimed trumpeter Jon Faddis. Just being in the vicinity of the Big Apple brought many gigging opportunities for the John Raymond Project, including the Iridium Jazz Club, Small’s, and Cornelia Street Café. John has also had a number of opportunities to test his wings as a jazz educator, including teaching summers at the SUNY Purchase Jazz Workshop and as part of the United Nations International School.
Mentor Jon Faddis produced Raymond’s debut, full-length recording, Strength and Song, and arranged to use the famed, now defunct Bennett Studios. For the recording, John called upon another Twin Cities’ native son and frequent collaborator, keyboardist Javier Santiago, then a recent graduate of the New School. Other New York-based cohorts–guitarist Gilad Hekselman, bassist Raviv Markovitz and drummer Cory Cox — rounded out the core quintet, with rising star, Grammy nominee Gerald Clayton sitting in on piano on two tracks, and alto sensation Tim Green contributing his horn to two more.
Other recent projects include an ensemble with Gilad Hekselman, Sullivan Fortner, Matt Brewer and Otis Brown III, serving as featured artist at the 2015 NYC Winter Jazz Festival, FONT (Festival of New Trumpet) Festival, and Center City Jazz Festival; leading ensembles at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Smalls Jazz Club and Chicago’s Jazz Showcase; performing with Orrin Evan’s Captain Black Band, performing at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and on NPR’s Toast of the Nation New Year’s Eve celebration; and recording with Grammy-nominated singer Sara Bareilles. His Real Feels trio (originally dubbed Roots Trio), with Gilad Hekselman and drummer Colin Stranahan, performed in the Big Apple and appeared at Studio Z in St. Paul shortly before going into the studio to record the album that became Real Feels. John has returned to Twin Cities stages frequently over the past few years, including gigs with Bryan Nichols, Chris Bates and JT Bates at the Icehouse, a “Chordless Quartet” with Chris Thomson, James Buckley, and JT Bates at the Dakota, the Minnesota CD release of Foreign Territory at the Dakota, and in February 2016, his Real Feels CD release at Vieux Carré.
Pianist Bryan Nichols returned to his native Minnesota after studies at Iowa State and gigging in Chicago. A member of the 2004 edition of Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead (“Jazz Stars of Tomorrow”), he performed at Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He’s played with Ari Brown, Maurice Brown, Von Freeman, and more, and has taught at the MacPhail Center for Music and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Locally Bryan is heard with his own trios, quintet and large ensemble, We Are Many; and has performed with the Zacc Harris Group, Bates/Nichols/Bates, Mancrush, Dave King, and other cutting-edge artists. He’s a frequent duo performer on weekends at the Icehouse. Bryan was a 2010 recipient of a McKnight grant and released Bright Places in 2011. A new solo recording is due for release this summer.
Graydon Peterson played electric bass in his high school pep band and dabbled in rock music before finding his way into jazz. At the University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he was a member of UWEC’s Downbeat Award-winning Jazz Ensemble I and performed with such guest jazz artists as Lewis Nash, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Marsalis, Chris Botti, and Christian McBride. In Minneapolis, Peterson is a first-call bassist who often works with top area vocalists, including Debbie Duncan and Connie Evingson. He performs regularly with the trio Firebell with Park Evans and Jay Epstein, the three-bass trio Mountain King, the Adam Meckler Quintet and Orchestra, and a long list of instrumentalists. Peterson launched his own quartet in fall 2011 as a means of focusing on his own compositions, and released the quartet’s first recording in 2013. He followed in 2015 with Duets, featuring each member of his quartet in duets with each other.
Just named “Jazz Artist of the Year” by City Pages, J.T. Bates is one of the busiest drummers in the Twin Cities, on and off the bandstand. He was a member of Motion Poets and has worked with a variety of Latin, electronic, and experimental ensembles, including Fat Kid Wednesdays, Low Blows, Bryan Nichols’ Quintet and Trio, Nichols-Bates-Bates, and Chris Bates’ Red Five, and leads his organ trio, Grain. In addition to curating his Jazz Implosion series on Monday nights (after the series ran for more than a decade in the Clown Lounge), JT often appears on the Icehouse stage with such musicians as brother Chris, Dave King, Brandon Wozniak and more. Noted Richard Brody in The New Yorker, “In free rhythm, his shimmering cymbals recall Sunny Murray’s work with Ayler; the tom-tom groove is like the one Ed Blackwell got with Coleman; and, when he plays on an ethereally introverted modernistic piece, he sounds like a one-man Art Ensemble of Chicago, ready to use anything for the right sound—chopsticks, chains, his hands, and even the nub of a drumstick, which he rubs on cymbals to make them whisper as if butterflies were beating their wings upon them.”
The Dunsmore Room at Crooners Lounge is an intimate listening room at 6161 NE Highway 65, just north of I-694 in Fridley, about 20 minutes northeast of downtown Minneapolis. The John Raymond Quartet plays two sets starting at 7 pm. Tickets $15 ($40 for dinner & show); reservations at www.croonersloungemn.com