Craig Alston Group
with special guest vocalist Marianne Matheny-Katz
Craig Alston, saxophone
Michael Raityk, guitar
Jeff Reed, bass
Eric Kennedy, drums
Performing original works and arrangements of familiar songs done with a unique twist.
Tickets: $12/$10 students
ABOUT THE MUSICIANS:
Craig Alston is a multi-instrumentalist from Baltimore who is best known as the saxophonist for Fertile Ground. Craig began performing with Fertile Ground while attending Morgan State University. As the band became more successful, Craig chose to leave college and pursue his passion. Fertile Ground’s sound was influenced by Sade, Fela Kuti, Miles Davis quintet and Art Blakey and the jazz messengers. As a member of Fertile Ground, Craig has traveled to the United Kingdom (UK), Japan, Belgium, France, Croatia, Austria, and elsewhere sharing it's unique blend of jazz, soul and world music. The broad exposure has allowed him to learn and grow from the various musicians and styles encountered.
In addition to being the saxophonist for Fertile Ground, he also performs under his own name. As an independent artist, Craig plays the saxophone, bass, or keyboard. As a saxophonist, Craig has played with jazz legends such as Larry Willis, David Murray, Oliver Lake, John Hicks and Jimmy Heath. He has recorded with artist from various musical genres such as the Basement Boys, vocalists Angela Johnson, Julie Dexter and Deborah Bond and many others. He has played at Artscape, the African-American Heritage Festival, the Baltimore Museum of Art and many other places locally and nationally. He recently won the Chick-Webb Jazz Combo competition.
However, his talents extend beyond his ability to play instruments. He has been leading Eubie Blake Legacy Band for the past seven years. Under his leadership, the Eubie Blake Legacy Band has also performed at Artscape, the African-American Heritage Festival and other festivals in Maryland. Although Craig is a jazz musician at heart, he is able to play rhythm and blues, soul, hip-hop and gospel. Craig studied Music Education at Morgan State University. Although Craig left college to perform, he has never forgotten his roots in education. Craig is the music director and instrumental music teacher for the Maryland Summer Arts Center. The program focuses on teaching gifted and talented students to understand and play jazz. He also taught music at SAX, Summer Activity Extraordinaire and the Timothy Baptist Summer Music Program where students with little to no instrumental experience begin learning to play an instrument. Craig’s goal is to finish his education degree and open a music school in the Baltimore metropolitan area.
Marianne Matheny-Katz has been performing throughout the /Baltimore/DC area in a variety of blues and jazz groups for 16 years, including her own M2K Jazz Ensemble. A two time award winner in the Billie Holiday Vocal Competition (2nd place 2000 and 2002), her sound has been likened to a combination of great vocalists (who have influenced her), including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrae, Annie Ross and Anita O’Day. She studied vocal jazz with Jay Clayton at Peabody Institute and received additional training over the years from Vince Evans, Ronnie Wells, Sheila Jordan and JD Walter. She has had a long musical association with saxophonist Craig Alston and considers him one of her most important mentors. Marianne has appeared on stage with many accomplished jazz artists including Vince Evans, Craig Alston, Lafayette Gilchrist, Warren Wolf, Tim Green, George Colligan, Todd Marcus, Alan Blackman, Tim Warfield, Terell Stafford and Nicholas Payton. A presenter and producer, as well as a performer, Marianne and her husband Howard Katz have run the highly acclaimed jazz house concert series, Jazzway 6004 (www.jazzway6004.org) since 2007 which has received national coverage in Downbeat and Jazz Times.
Marianne is about to release her first full length jazz CD “Open the Door” in late 2012 or early 2013, which features songs in tribute to her mentors and arrangements by Baltimore jazz heroes Todd Marcus and Warren Wolf. She is currently working on her next project, a jazz interpreted suite of Joni Mitchell tunes with the band assembled this evening.
Michael Raitzyk has been one of the top jazz guitarists in the Baltimore-Washington area. Acclaimed for his solid rhythm chops and improvisatory imagination, Raitzyk has played with everyone from Pepper Adams and Mel Torme to Clifford Jordan and Bill Hardman. Raitzyk's versatility has allowed him to play in a variety of settings--from solo recitals to bop combos to big-band dates.
Raitzyk learned his big-band education by working in such outfits as the Gene Walker Big Band, Blue Unity, Ed Goldstein's Baltimore Jazz Orchestra, and Hank Levy's Towson State Jazz Ensemble. He honed his small-combo skills in such bands as the Sir Thomas Hurley Trio, Society Red, the Coffee Club and the Mack Rucks Ensemble.
Although he is best known for his jazz work, Raitzyk has been welcome in many different musical environments. He backed up Mary Ann Price, former vocalist with Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks and Asleep at the Wheel, when she led her own group, Sophisticated Swing. He played lead guitar on "Then Again," an album by singer-songwriter Anne Louise White. From 1990 to 1993 he was leader of Pachamama, a reggae-funk ensemble which played throughout Maryland.
Raitzyk started playing at six years old when he inherited his father's unused guitar. He began with the usual folk tunes but when he was 11 years old he saw Pat Metheny with the Gary Burton Quartet at a concert in Baltimore and he was an instant convert to jazz. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School, the performing-arts magnet school in Portland, Oregon, where he studied music and resolved to become a professional musician. In 1981, Raitzyk moved to San Francisco and became a full-time musician. He studied Latin American music at La Penza Cultural Arts Center and sat in with many of the local Latin-jazz bands. Other local jam sessions included collaborations with a then-obscure Bobby McFerrin and members of the local hard-bop scene.
Raitzyk returned to Baltimore in 1982 where he joined the Creative Artists Music Ensemble, led by pianist Abdul Rasheed Yah-Ya, a protégé of McCoy Tyner. The John Coltrane connection was further strengthened when the young guitarist joined the Carl Grubbs Quartet. One of the biggest influences on Raitzyk, however, was Baltimore's thriving organ trio scene where the guitarist is required to reinforce the groove even as he fattens the sound of the small group. By playing with such organists as Thomas Hurley, Chico Johnson and David Ross, Raitzyk developed an unshakable sense of rhythm and a down-to-earth bluesy approach to improvisation
Michael is also involved with Jazz guitar education and is teaching at Howard Community College, Friends School of Baltimore & the Waldorf School of Baltimore. He also teaches private lessons and enjoys it.
Alan Blackman is a Baltimore based pianist and award-winning composer. He and his ensembles have performed at Blues Alley, the Kennedy Center, and many festivals and venues from San Francisco to New York. Recent performances have been with Donny McCaslin, Vardan Ovsepian, Ferenc Nemeth, Mike Pope, Warren Wolf, Tim Green, Alex Norris, and Sunna Gunnlaugs among others.
He was selected to be part of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center and has received grants from the Maryland State Arts Council in jazz composition, performance and world music as well as the Chamber Music of America’s prestigious New Jazz Works multi-year commission. Arrangements and performances of his music have been featured on NBC’s Parenthood, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and the new Hawaii Five-O, as well as Stephen King’s movie, 1408.
"Turning Point" featuring Donny McCaslin was released in 2011 on Top Floor Records and his latest recording "Alone Together: The 2 Piano Project" is now available as of January 2012!
Jeff Reed is an acoustic bassist, composer, and educator, currently residing in Baltimore, MD. As a 2002 graduate of Towson University, studying under Victor Dvoskin and earning a Bachelor of Music degree, Jeff now primarily performs and records as a sideman for various groups in the Baltimore – Washington D.C. area.
With the acoustic bass as his instrument, Jeff has played in almost every major Baltimore and D.C. jazz venue. Due to the versatility and respect he has gained as a musician, Jeff has performed extensively throughout the east coast and in Thirty countries worldwide, including Italy, Spain, Egypt, Turkey and Bahrain. He has had the distinct privilege to share the stage with musicians such as Billy Hart, Ben Monder, Steve Davis, Tim Hagans, Shelia Jordan, Eddie Henderson, Paquito D’Rivera, John Hicks, Bunky Green, Larry Willis, Ronnie Mathews, Gary Thomas, and George Colligan.
Reed is also an accomplished electric bassist. Having played the instrument more than half his life, he has had the opportunity to perform with such notable acts as Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave) and Lester Chambers of the Chambers Brothers.
Jeff currently is the acoustic and electric bass instructor at Towson University and Howard community college.
Eric Kennedy, a Baltimore native, is a drummer, vocalist, percussionist, educator and composer. Eric's introduction to all styles of music and early music training was initiated by his musical relatives, who also cultivated his love of jazz. Before the age of five, Eric began his development as a percussionist and singer performing with a family/neighborhood band and singing in the Timothy Baptist church choir.
Eric attended the Baltimore City Gifted and Talented Exploratory (G.A.T.E.) Program at Harford Heights Elementary School, where he began formal study of music and art. As a student of the GATE Program, he also co-composed, arranged and performed music for an award winning student short film. Eric continued his arts education at the Baltimore School for the Arts studying classical percussion and voice with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra percussionist John Locke, Donna Di Stefano and the late Dr. Nathan Carter. He later transferred to the Music Careers Programs at Frederick Douglass Sr. High School directed by Ms. Jewel Churn and received extra-curricular instruction from legendary Baltimore drummers Johnny Polite and "Peanut" Saunderlin. After high school, Eric moved to Philadelphia to work with the world music ensemble Our Time Is Now and continue his personal study in ethnomusicology. In Philadelphia, Eric came under the tutelage of Sun Ra and received private instruction from legendary drummer Edgar Bateman.
In 1990, Eric and Our Time Is Now moved to Holland to perform and travel across Europe and record their debut recording, The Pursuit of Happyness. Two years later, he found himself in French Guiana, playing with the Victor Sabas Trio and studying the rhythms of South America, Central America and the Caribbean. During this period, Eric discovered a passion for composition and began writing in myriad styles which reflected his diverse experiences. His current catalog of compositions boasts approximately 500 compositions and sketches of multifarious cultural influences and rhythm styles.
Upon his return to Baltimore, Eric's career began to blossom. As a freelance drummer he played with Mack Rucks, Moments Notice, the Eubie Blake Sextet and Big Band, Craig Alston, Ruby Glover, Gary Richardson, the Al Maniscalco Quartet, the Steve Carrington Quartet and the Kelly Shepherd Quartet, and co-founded the jazz ensemble Dreamworld. He studied voice with Odell Wilson and Timmy Shepherd, drums with Leroy Williams, fundamental technique with Jamal Wilson, brushes with renowned master Clayton Cameron and attended the jazz workshops of legendary teacher/musician Barry Harris. In the years to follow, Eric played, toured and/or recorded with, among others, Curtis Fuller, Phil Woods, Curtis Lundy, Joe Bonner, Larry Willis, Eddie Gale, Carl Grubbs (2009 Baker Artist Award Winner), John Hicks, Gary Bartz, TK Blue, Richard Wyands, Virgil Jones, Eddie Henderson, Bunky Green, Ronnie Mathews, Yusef Salim, Nnena Freelon, Xavier Davis, Orrin Evans, Charles Davis, Reggie Workman, Keter Betts, Valery Ponomarev, Gary Thomas, Shodekeh, Herman Burney and Cecil McBee. As a vocalist, Eric was runner up in the 2004 Billie Holiday Vocal Competition and showcased at Artscape 2010.
Eric broadened as an entertainer as well. He trained with Quest for Arts, a Maryland based not-for-profit organization whose educational work focuses on the use of visual theatre to enhance literacy. As Quest's inclusive membership represents a diverse ethnic, cultural, and artistic panorama, Eric accompanied a Deaf dance ensemble led by renowned Deaf choreographer Yola Roznek. He also composed and accompanied the multimedia ensemble piece, I Carry the Flag, performed at Gallaudet University, Towson University and the Baltimore Creative Alliance for a primarily Deaf audience. Eric's theater credits include a 25th anniversary tour with the cast of the Broadway musical revue Ain't Misbehavin' in 2003, a tribute to Billie Holiday "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" in 2006, Anunsi the Spider with the Sankofa Dance Ensemble, The Women of Brewster's Place and Nnenna Freelon and the Evidence Dance Company's " The Blueprint of a Lady" at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem in 2007. His film credits include a composition featured in the independent film "The Big Muddy".