Piers Playfair is the Artistic Director of the 23Arts Initiative, which he founded with his wife Lucy in 2011. The 23Arts Initiative is a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting world-class performing artists and programmes. 23Arts has a history of presenting year-round artist residencies, community outreach, educational visits and both pop-up style as well as traditional concert hall performances spanning across countless unique locations and venues. Featuring internationally recognised artists across all genres with a focus on classical, jazz, gospel, and blues, the mission of 23Arts is to provide a platform for the creation of new forward-thinking and ground-breaking independent productions.
Piers' work at 23Arts has included the curation of programmes and major productions for multiple venues and festivals, including the Fisher Center at Bard; the Kings Theatre, Brooklyn; the New York Botanical Garden, the Bronx; and, The New Generation Festival, Florence.
Gavin Sutherland born in Chester-le-Street, is a conductor, composer/arranger and pianist. He studied conducting, piano and orchestration at Huddersfield University and graduated with first-class honours being awarded the Kruczynski prize for piano and the Davidson prize for distinction brought to the Institution. He was staff conductor for Northern Ballet Theatre, Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and has also conducted for New National Ballet of Japan, Norwegian National Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, New Adventures and South African Ballet Theatre. In June 2008 he was appointed Music Director of English National Ballet, becoming Principal Conductor in 2010. He has also orchestrated many of their productions, most recently the hugely successful Akram Khan Giselle. He made his BBC Proms debut in 2016 conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra in the Strictly Prom at London’s Royal Albert Hall. In 2017 he conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as part of the Last Night of the Proms celebrations, from Swansea’s Singleton Park. In 2017 he made his debut at the Royal Opera House, conducting Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde as part of the celebration of the life and work of Sir Kenneth Macmillan. He is much in demand as composer/arranger and has supplied arrangements and orchestrations to all of the major BBC orchestras and leading orchestras throughout the world. Recent compositions include a musical, Little Women, and received two West End revivals, a clarinet concerto, several chamber works and a one-act ballet, Revolting Rhymes. 2007 also saw him contribute a ten-minute medley of Carry On film themes for the BBC/BAFTA Film Music Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. He was awarded the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Creative Contribution (2020)
Gavin Sutherland has made over a hundred recordings in the UK and abroad, with among others, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the BBC Concert Orchestra and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, for labels including Decca, Universal, Sony, Warner Classics, Naxos Records’ Marco Polo imprint, Hyperion Records and Dutton-Vocalion. He has recorded works as wide-ranging as Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, two chart-topping albums featuring scores from the Carry On films, and the single release of the Radio 4 UK Theme. From 2009 to 2018 he was Chairman of the Light Music Society, taking over from the President, the late Ernest Tomlinson. His concert appearances include Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra (particularly on BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. the London Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Münchener Rundfunksorchester, Tokyo Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, Auckland Philharmonia, the National Orchestra of Colombia, Macao Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, Aalborg SO and Johannesburg Festival Orchestra
As a pianist he performs regularly as a concerto soloist, often directing from the keyboard, and appears as a recitalist, accompanist and chamber musician. He has released live recordings of improvisations and compositions, Piano Pastimes, and has made reconstructions of works whose materials have been lost or destroyed, including TV and film scores, classical ballet and symphonic orchestral works. As a speaker and broadcaster he has frequently spoken on BBC Radio and Television, and is renowned as an expert on ballet music, British Light Music and the music of British Television.
Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts has often been hailed as “the genius of the modern piano”. He is known throughout the world for his many contributions to jazz music, including the creation of an entirely new approach to the jazz trio. He is known for his remarkable ability to blend the jazz and classical idioms to create something wholly new while retaining the authenticity of each art form.
Roberts grew up in Jacksonville, FL where his mother's gospel singing and the music of the local church left a lasting impact on his musical style. He began teaching himself to play piano at age five after losing his sight but did not have his first formal lesson until age 12 while attending the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. At age 18, he went on to study classical piano at Florida State University with the great Leonidas Lipovetsky. In 2014, his remarkable life was featured on a segment (“The Virtuoso”) of the CBS television show, 60 Minutes.
Roberts has won numerous awards and competitions over the years, including the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement. His critically-acclaimed legacy of recorded music reflects this tremendous artistic versatility as well as his unique approach to jazz performance. His recordings range from solo piano and trio to large ensembles and symphony orchestra. One of his most popular is a DVD recording with the Berlin Philharmonic featuring his ground-breaking arrangement of “Gershwin's Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra”.
Roberts continues to tour with his long-standing trio with Rodney Jordan (bass) and Jason Marsalis (drums). This group sounds like they have been performing together for decades—and, in fact, Marsalis has held the drum chair in the trio for 26 years and Jordan has been with the trio for a dozen years. One of Roberts’ more recent endeavors was the founding of his 10-piece band, the “Modern Jazz Generation” (MJG). This multigenerational band is the realization of his long-standing dedication to training and mentoring younger musicians.
Roberts is also an accomplished composer. He has been commissioned by Chamber Music America, Jazz at Lincoln Center, ASCAP, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, among others. In 2016, Roberts premiered his second piano concerto (“Rhapsody in D for Piano and Orchestra”), commissioned by Seiji Ozawa and the Saito Kinen Orchestra. In 2019, he was commissioned by the American Symphony Orchestra to arrange two Duke Ellington pieces for orchestra, and in 2020, that same orchestra commissioned him to compose a suite of music for jazz band and strings. This suite was released in the form of a short film, United We Play in 2020. Most recently, Roberts has been awarded a grant by South Arts and the Doris Duke Foundation to write a new suite for his MJG band entitled Tomorrow’s Promises
Roberts is known for his generosity as a musician, providing support and mentoring to a large network of younger musicians. He is an Associate Professor of Music at Florida State University. He holds an honorary Doctor of Music degree from The Juilliard School and, in 2021, was awarded an honorary doctorate in “Civic Engagement through Music” by Brigham Young University. He is a Visiting Distinguished Professor of Music at Bard College
Jason Marsalis is widely considered one of his generation’s most gifted drummers.
Drummer Jason Marsalis is the youngest son of the late pianist and music educator, Ellis Marsalis. At the age of six, he began taking drum lessons with the legendary drummer, James Black, and by age seven, he had progressed so rapidly that his father started using him for some of his own shows. During high school, Marsalis studied at renowned New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and during his last year there, in 1995, he joined the new trio founded by the virtuoso pianist, Marcus Roberts. He began touring regularly with Roberts the next year while at the same time furthering his education at Loyola University in New Orleans. Marsalis has now held the drum chair in the Marcus Roberts Trio for a remarkable 26 years.
In addition to his renown as a drum, Marsalis began playing vibraphone and touring with his vibes quartet in 2008. At the same time remaining an critical member of the Marcus Roberts Trio. His skill at the drum set has been a critical part of the sound and philosophy of the trio for many years. Marsalis has been featured on all of Roberts’ recordings for the past 25 years. During that same time period, he continued to tour and record with his father and other groups.
Marsalis has released five of his own critically-acclaimed recordings both on vibes and drums and has been featured on at least two dozen other recordings. His recording, The 21st Century Trad Band, showcased his remarkably creative approach soloing while his later release, Melody Reimagined, Book 1 (Basin Street Records, 2019), highlights his creative imagination by reinventing a series of historic tunes, some famous and some obscure, for a modern audience.
Marsalis’ style is heavily influenced by the greats of both jazz and classical music. With his bandmates in the Marcus Roberts Trio, he has performed with symphony orchestras all over the world. In short, he is a versatile and extraordinary musician who has made enormous contributions to the jazz music genre. When he is not touring, he can be found working on music or helping to train other young musicians.
New Orleans-based bassist and singer-songwriter, Roland Guerin, is influenced by a wide range of musical styles, including jazz, blues, American folk, and zydeco. His singular style involves telling compelling stories through multi-layered melodies, rhythm, and lyrics. Guerin was raised in a musical family – his father was a great lover of jazz and classical music, and his mother was a blues and zydeco bass player. He started playing the bass himself at the age of 11.
Guerin graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it was there that he joined the band of the legendary jazz educator and performer Alvin Batiste and his Jazztronauts. Guerin was heavily influenced by Batiste’s many musical innovations, and his early years in that band helped him to develop his own musical voice. Over the course of his career, Guerin has toured and performed with many legendary jazz musicians, including George Benson, Jimmy Scott, Frank Morgan, Vernel Fournier, Gerry Mulligan, Allen Toussaint, Dr John, John Scofield, Mark Whitfield, Ellis Marsalis and Marcus Roberts. He has also participated in the recording of numerous albums, including the Blind Boys of Alabama’s Grammy Award winning album Down in New Orleans, Marcus Roberts’s Grammy Award nominated recording of George Gershwin’s classic “Rhapsody in Blue” on Portraits in Blue (Sony Classical).
Guerin held the bass chair in the Marcus Roberts Trio from 1995 to 2009 and during that time, he performed with many symphony orchestras around the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, and the New Japan Philharmonic. Guerin brings a deep and resonant bass sound to the trio, and he was instrumental to the development of the Marcus Roberts’ unique trio concept that was first presented on his Time and Circumstance recording.
In 1998, Guerin released his first album, The Winds of the New Land, featuring Peter Martin on piano, Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Donald Edwards on drums, and Mark Whitfield on guitar. The recording was acclaimed for its innovative compositional style and arrangements. The JazzReview called it “a literal piece of art”, while the New Orleans Magazine called Guerin a Contemporary Jazz All-Star. He has released 5 more records in his own name since then, and he has continued to tour with his own band at major venues and festivals worldwide. Guerin’s most recent recording, Bridge to Open Waters, is due out soon. As Marcus Roberts has often said, “Roland Guerin enriches any musical environment with his musical wit, strong country groove, and relaxed feeling of swing. It’s always a pleasure to have him in the band.”
Wycliffe Gordon has an impressive career touring the world performing to great acclaim from audiences and critics alike.
Jazz Journalists Association named him 2021 “Trombonist of the Year” for the record-breaking 14th time, and he’s topped Downbeat Critics Poll for “Best Trombone” for an unprecedented six times (2020, 2018, 2016, 2014, 2013 & 2012). Recent awards include the “Louie Award”, the International Trombone Award, the Satchmo Award, and the South Arts Jazz Road Creative Residency Award among others. Wycliffe is a prolific recording artist and is extremely popular for his unmatched signature sound, plunger technique and unique vocals. He can be heard on hundreds of recordings, soundtracks, live DVDs and documentaries.
In addition to an exceptionally successful solo career, Gordon tours regularly leading his All Stars, headlining at legendary jazz venues and performing arts centers throughout the world. He is commissioned frequently, and has an extensive catalog of original compositions that span the various timbres of jazz and chamber music. Musicians and ensembles of every caliber perform his music throughout the world and his arrangement of the theme song to NPR’s “All Things Considered” is heard daily across the globe.
Gordon is a former veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and has been a featured guest artist on Billy Taylor's "Jazz at the Kennedy Center" Series. Gordon is also one of America’s most persuasive and committed music educators, and serves as Director of Jazz Studies at Augusta University in Augusta, GA.
Recent projects include several commissions including a piece marking the 100th anniversary of the historic Douglass Theater in Macon, GA, and two trombone ensemble works for Georgetown College. Recent guest appearances include concerts with the Boston Brass, the Brass Band of Battle Creek, Vail Jazz, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Newport Jazz Festival and numerous zoom masterclasses and concerts across the globe.
Wycliffe Gordon is a Yamaha Performing Artist and has his own line of Wycliffe Gordon Pro Signature Mouthpieces by Pickett Brass.