Renowned Harmonica Virtuoso, Grégoire Maret to Perform with his quartet at the VJC

On January 19th at 8:00 PM, the Vermont Jazz Center will present a concert led by Grégoire Maret, one of the greatest jazz chromatic harmonica players in the world. A dedicated collaborator, Maret, is an A-list musician who can be found on recordings by Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Cassandra Wilson, David Sanborn, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Charlie Hunter, George Benson, Jacky Terrasson, Marcus Miller, Meshell Ndegeocello, Lionel Loueke and many, many others. He will be performing with his working quartet on January 19th, a band that includes his long-standing collaborator/pianist, Federico Gonzalez Peña, Ben Williams on bass (winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition) and Clarence Penn on the drums. This is a stellar collaboration!

Maret receives accolades from everyone with whom he makes music - Herbie Hancock, his former boss, stated: "Gregoire is an amazing player...there's no one else out there that comes close on the harmonica and he rivals the best on any instrument." Marcus Miller claims "Gregoire Maret possesses the most original voice on harmonica since Toots Thielemans and Stevie Wonder. He is carrying the instrument into the 21st century with prowess, passion, and creativity." In 2005, Maret worked with Pat Metheny, recording the Grammy-award winning album, The Way Up. Metheny commented: "Gregoire has the special communicative spirit that is rare and absolutely essential to jazz itself, and yet within that spectrum he is able to find a timeless quality that speaks to any kind of listener and attracts just about every kind of musician to his playing."

Gregoire Maret's music is completely distinct from traditional jazz, but its roots are steeped in the lineage because Maret grew up performing blues and older jazz styles. His exposure was initially nurtured by his father (a professional jazz musician) and many other mentors, including harmonica master, Toots Thielemans who took Maret under his wing when he was 17 years old. He also holds a degree in jazz studies from the New School. Yet Maret's music is influenced by the various rhythms and songs he has heard on his journeys around the world; it is also affected by the open, expansive approach with which he views the world; his music goes beyond the jazz of his father and Toots Thielemans, it absorbs and embraces world-music as well as the modern elements of his collaborators and teachers. Maret has chosen to follow his own path. He states: "The kind of musical situation I was invited to participate in with guys like Steve Coleman and Ravi Coltrane kind of forced me to find something personal, to explore things that nobody else has tried on the harmonica. Playing with them required that I investigate and incorporate different kinds of metrics, and get into real angular phrasing." In a recent interview he stated that his concept of creating music is also directly related to singing, and this is why he often invites vocalists such as Cassandra Wilson to join him on his recorded work. He said that he hears the harmonica as "very close to the human voice" so that "when I write I hear a melody that is written for vocalists; it makes a lot of sense for me to then interpret the melody on stage as if I were a singer."

Maret's compositions are "episodic" journeys. He often composes with his musical partner, the pianist in the group, Federico Peña. Together they create lush, complex pieces that evolve with numerous sections that build slowly, gradually opening up using careful-paced structures. The listener experiences a sense of development that is almost like Western classical musical in concept; nothing like the bebop-jazz structure of head-solo-head, but more like a flower, slowly forming a bud and then erupting in the hot summer sun. The built-up energy that is created often resolves over a long period into an ecstatic release. Each composition extends an open invitation to the audience to journey with this remarkable band to experience new, glistening worlds.

For his bands, Maret chooses musicians like himself, those who share a love for the jazz lineage but who aren't afraid to push the envelope that defines the music. Pianist, Federico Gonzalez Peña was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. After moving to Buenos Aires, Argentina, Federico studied Western classical piano intensely until the age of 17. He traveled to the US, and after attending Berklee, moved to Washington D.C. where he met Me'shell N'Degeocello - together they have had a musical relationship lasting over 20 years including various albums, Grammy nominations and world tours. Federico has also worked with Maxwell, Angela Boffill, Rare Essence, Pieces of a Dream, Digable Planets, Alana Davis, George Howard, Roy Hargrove, Chaka Khan, Cassandra Wilson, Marcus Miller, SMV (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller & Victor Wooten) and many others.

The band's bassist is the young lion Ben Williams. A native of Washington, DC, Ben received scholarships and distinctions from the Fish Middleton Scholarship Competition, International Society of Bassist, Steans Music Institute, Duke Ellington Jazz Society, International Association of Jazz Educators and others. In 2009, Ben was the winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, a prestigious and important award that has launched many successful music careers. Williams received a Bachelors degree in Music Education from Michigan State University in 2007 and a Master of Music degree from the Julliard School in 2009. Throughout the course of his career, Ben has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Terence Blanchard, Christian McBride, Nicholas Payton, Paquito D'Rivera, Cyrus Chestnut, Benny Golson, George Duke, Eric Reed, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Roy Hargrove, Mulgrew Miller and many others. He has also recorded and performed regularly as a member of bands led by saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Jacky Terrasson and vibraphonist Stefon Harris.

The group's drummer is Detroit-born, Clarence Penn. A graduate of Interlochen, Penn headed to Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) to attend grad school at the suggestion of Wynton Marsalis, whose father Ellis, was a faculty member. In 1990, Penn accompanied Ellis and Wynton Marsalis to Japan, where he met Lewis Nash who recommended him to Betty Carter. Penn was hired and moved to New York City in 1991. After remaining with Betty Carter for several years, Penn went on to play with Stanley Clarke. Since then, he has toured, performed and recorded with a wide range of different artists, including Christian McBride, Michael Brecker, Dizzy Gillespie, Luciana Souza, Gary Burton, Joshua Redman, Richard Galliano, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Charlie Haden, Makoto Ozone, Dave Douglas and Maria Schneider and many others.

Come enjoy a show that will demonstrate what is new in jazz today, experience an evening of inventive yet highly listenable compositions performed by young musicians of the highest caliber. Grégoire Maret at the Vermont Jazz Center is made possible with generous financial support from William Schutt of Matcor Inc. as well as ongoing support of the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, The Hampton Inn of Brattleboro and VPR and WFCR.

Date:
Saturday, January 19th
Time:
8:00 PM
Location:
Vermont Jazz Center
Admission:
General Admission $20.00, Students $15.00
Tickets:
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