Russ Johnson New Quartet
Saturday, February 18 at 8 PM
The Jazz Estate
2423 N Murray Ave
Aruán Ortiz – Piano “An avatar of creative and progressive improvisation,” Cuban-born, Brooklyn-based pianist, violist, and composer Aruán Ortiz has written music for jazz ensembles, orchestras, dance companies, chamber groups, and feature films. His work incorporates influences from contemporary classical music, Cuban-Haitian rhythms, and avant-garde improvisation; and consistently strives to break stylistic musical boundaries. He has been called “the latest Cuban wunderkind to arrive in the United States” by BET Jazz. Although Aruán tours predominantly with his own trio, he has also played, toured, or recorded with Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wadada Leo Smith, Don Byron, Greg Osby, Wallace Roney, Nicole Mitchell, Steve Turre, Cameron Brown,and Nasheet Waits, to name a few.
Michael Formanek – Bass One marker of bassist Michael Formanek’s creativity and versatility is the range of distinguished musicians of several generations he’s worked with. While still a teenager in the 1970s he toured with drummer Tony Williams and saxophonist Joe Henderson; starting in the ’80s he played long stints with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Fred Hersch and Freddie Hubbard. (As a callback to those days, Formanek recorded with hardbop pianist Freddie Redd in 2013). The bassist has played a pivotal role on New York’s creative jazz scene going back to the ’90s when he notably led his own quintet and played in Tim Berne’s barnstorming quartet Bloodcount. Nowadays Formanek’s in the co-op Thumbscrew with Brooklyn guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Tomas Fujiwara. Formanek is also a composer and leader of various bands. His principal recording and international touring vehicle is his acclaimed quartet with Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Craig Taborn on piano and Gerald Cleaver on drums, which records for ECM; 2010’s The Rub and Spare Change and 2012’s Small Places both earned coveted five-star raves in Down Beat.
Gerald Cleaver- Drummer Gerald Cleaver, born May 4, 1963 and raised in Detroit, is a product of the city’s rich music tradition. Inspired by his father, drummer John Cleaver, he began playing the drums at an early age. He also played violin in elementary school and trumpet in junior high school and high school. He gained early invaluable experience with Detroit jazz masters Ali Muhammad Jackson, Lamont Hamilton, Earl Van Riper, and Pancho Hagood. While attending the University of Michigan as a music education major, he was awarded a Jazz Study Grant, from the National Endowment for the Arts, to study with drummer Victor Lewis. He graduated in 1992 and began teaching in Detroit where he worked with Rodney Whitaker, A. Spencer Barefield, Marcus Belgrave, Donald Walden, Wendell Harrison, and with visiting musicians Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, Frank Foster, Cecil Bridgewater, Ray Bryant, Eddie Harris, Dennis Rowland, Howard Johnson, Diana Krall, and Don Byron. In 1995 he accepted an appointment as assistant professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Michigan, and in 1998 also joined the jazz faculty at Michigan State University. He moved to New York in 2002.
He has toured and/or recorded with Henry Threadgill, Roscoe Mitchell, Lotte Anker, Matt Shipp, William Parker, Craig Taborn, Kevin Mahogany, Charles Gayle, Mario Pavone, Ralph Alessi, Jacky Terrasson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Tim Berne, Jeremy Pelt, Ellery Eskelin, David Torn, Miroslav Vitous, Terje Rypdal, Michael Formanek, Tomasz Stanko, Charles Lloyd, and Bill Frisell, among others.