A valued pianist, James Weidman has been a sideman and accompanist in many settings over the past 30+ years, from Abbey Lincoln, Cassandra Wilson, Steve Coleman to Kevin Mahogany and the Grammy-nominated Joe Lovano Us Five. In addition, James has also proven to be an increasingly significant bandleader and composer/arranger. His latest recording on Inner Circle Music “Spiritual Impressions” has garnered critical acclaim. It was selected by Cadence Magazine as one of the top ten albums of 2018.
Pianist James Weidman is indisputably an essential addition to whatever bandstand he graces. A partial list of Weidman’s affiliations is staggering in-depth & breadth: Max Roach, Woody Herman, Archie Shepp, James Moody, Greg Osby, Bobby Hutcherson, Slide Hampton, Jay Hoggard, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Gloria Lynne, Dakota Staton, MBase Collective, Cassandra Wilson, TK Blue (co-leader of TaJa), Abbey Lincoln, Ruth Naomi Floyd (Producer), Kevin Mahogany (Music Director), Joe Lovano, Marty Ehrlich, and Ray Anderson.
Weidman’s music fits into the modern mainstream of jazz without being predictable. With original chord changes and voicings, his mastery is demonstrated with various changes in rhythm and time. Adroit in myriad styles, Weidman’s resourcefulness has served him well. “The more genres you’re comfortable with, the deeper your understanding of music,” is how Weidman characterizes his broad range of associations. Such versatility has helped Weidman develop his brilliant technique and, as his mantra to his students at the University of Georgia suggests, “the better your technique, the better your communication.” However, the content of that communication is the most important thing. “You’re really telling a story to your audience,” he says. “It’s a shared journey.”
A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Weidman was born into a musical family, learning jazz from his saxophonist-bandleading father at age seven. At 14 he was playing organ in his father’s band. Throughout his years at Youngstown State University (graduating cum laude with a degree in classical piano & music education), Weidman divided his time between studies and performance, becoming a first-call player. “I’ve never forgotten my father’s advice the first time I ever played with him: ’Keep the time, stay out of the way, and tell a story.’”
Weidman’s move to the jazz cauldron of New York was inevitable. Not long after relocating, he found himself on the bandstand with jazz greats Cecil Payne, Harold Ousley, Bobby Watson, and Pepper Adams, before aligning himself with conceptualist Steve Coleman and the MBase Collective. “Steve’s compositions force you to think differently; playing his very demanding rhythms and harmonies is really challenging. It gave me a freer outlook on music.” Challenging himself musically continues to be of paramount importance to Weidman.
James Weidman has been a welcomed presence on myriad bandstands, including the world’s major venues and festivals; just a partial listing includes the Montreux, Monterey, Newport, North Sea, and JVC Jazz Festivals, Carnegie Hall, Birdland, Blue Note, Sweet Basil, Village Vanguard, Iridium, and Jazz Standard.
Weidman is an Assistant Professor of Piano and African-American Studies at the University of Georgia.
Pianist-composer Jeremy Siskind is “a genuine visionary” (Indianapolis Star) who “seems to defy all boundaries” (JazzInk) with music “rich in texture and nuance” (Downbeat). A top finisher in several national and international jazz piano competitions, Siskind is a two-time laureate of the American Pianists Association and the winner of the Nottingham International Jazz Piano Competition. Since making his professional debut juxtaposing Debussy’s Etudes with jazz standards at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Siskind has established himself as one of the nation’s most innovative and virtuosic modern pianists.
Siskind’s multifaceted career often finds him combining musical styles and breaking aesthetic norms. As the leader of “The Housewarming Project,” Siskind has not only created “a shining example of chamber jazz” (Downbeat) whose albums often land on critics’ “best of the year” lists. He also established himself as a pioneer of the in-home concert movement by presenting well over 100 in-home concerts in 26 states. In 2020, the Housewarming Project was a winner of a $30,000 grant from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program (supported by the Doris Duke Foundation).
On a recent duo album, Impressions of Debussy, Siskind explores Debussy’s Preludes through improvisation with saxophonist Andrew Rathbun. Similarly, his 2019 book-CD project, Perpetual Motion Etudes for Piano, blurs the line between classical, through-composed, piano etudes and jazz-based improvisations and invites other pianists to do the same through a beautifully self-published work that includes “Optional Improvisation Instructions” for each piece. Siskind has been experimenting with performing the pieces in collaboration with classical pianists, including Grammy-winner Angelin Chang, and through university residencies. Other projects include writing concert arrangements for rising star soprano Julia Bullock, composing the theme song for the 2017 Obie Awards, and serving as musical director for noted comediennes Lea DeLaria and Sandra Bernhard.
A highly-respected educator, Siskind has written 13 publications with Hal Leonard, including the landmark instructional books Jazz Band Pianist and First Lessons in Piano Improv. His self-published instructional book, Playing Solo Jazz Piano, which includes an introduction from jazz piano legend Fred Hersch, is generally one of the top 50 best-selling jazz books on Amazon.com. He currently teaches at California’s Fullerton College, chairs the National Conference for Keyboard Pedagogy’s “Creativity Track,” and spreads peace through music in places like Lebanon, Tunisia, and Thailand with the non-profit organization, Jazz Education Abroad. Jeremy Siskind is a Yamaha artist.
As a pianist, composer, music consultant, producer, educator and music social activist, Leonardo Blanco have been an advocate for the inclusion of world music and music technology as fundamental elements for a more integral modern music education curriculum, as well as advocating for the role of musicians as active social members in the community.
He’s Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music since 2005, teaching in both the Performance and Writing division a broad curriculum and courses including: Advanced Rhythmic techniques for keyboardist, Ensembles: South American Ensemble, Odd Meters Ensemble, Latin Originals, Writing in South American styles, Studio Production & Performance, Contemporary South American Music, and Music of Africa and Latin America.
Blanco has been often invited as composer in residency by several universities and conservatories around the world such as: Cleveland State University, Boston University, University of Tennessee, New England Conservatory, Roxbury Community College, University of San Francisco (Quito, Ecuador), Instituto de Artes y Culturas (Bogotá, Colombia), Instituto Universitario de Estudios Musicales (Caracas, Venezuela), Universidad de los Andes (Merida, Venezuela), Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Symphony Orchestra (Caracas, Venezuela). - Aberdeen University, Scotland, UK, New School, New York City, Oberlin Conservatory, Ohio, Universidad San Francisco, Quito-Ecuador, Conservatorio de Música Simón Bolívar, Caracas-Venezuela, and University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
He holds a master’s degree on Composition and a Minor in Music Technology from New England Conservatory (Boston, MA), a BA Degree in Professional Music from Berklee College of Music, a Diploma in Performance and Composition Department from Ars Nova School of Modern Music (Caracas, Venezuela), and diplomas in Classical Piano and Traditional Harmony and Counterpoint from Mérida Symphony Youth Orchestra (Mérida, Venezuela).
Blanco received many awards and honors including: Artist fellowship Award by Massachusetts Cultural Council (2022), Awarded by the City of Houston for the contribution of Diversity and African American history through the lectures of The Sugar Road, “Angel Award” National Scottish Bank | “Best Musical Event” at Edinburgh International Festival 2014, Named one of the 40 most prominent public figures in Boston by Boston Magazine 2012, Recipient of an Endorsement by Billboard Magazine 2000, First Latin American artist to receive the Boston Jazz Society Award 2001, “Best Small Ensemble” by Jazz Time Magazine 1999, Massachusetts Cultural Fellowship Award 2021
“Blanco is a phenomenon, and a warmly engaging one; technical refinement of this unaccompanied repertoire, which he has hitherto mostly restricted to his house, can only take him from strength to strength.”
John Fordham / The Guardian (London, England)
“Leo is the type of person who inspires you to continue growing and doing this kind of work. When you listen to Leo play it just blows you away while motivates you. He just inspires and gives you new sensations.”
World Pianist and Composer Danilo Perez
“It is some of the freshest and moving music I've heard in a long time. Leo Blanco has a gift for melody and his playing is just as special.”
Donald Brown /Master pianist, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.
“When he addresses the audience about a quarter of an hour into the set, the genial Berklee graduate, whose new release is a live solo piano recording, Pianoforte, states that the rhythms of the ‘motherland’ that have invigorated South America are the lifeblood of his music.”
Kevin Le Gendre / Jazz Wise Magazine