Jazz at LACMA features the art of jazz as practiced by leading Southern California artists. Celebrating over twenty years at LACMA, the program continues to be one of the museum’s most recognizable offerings. Jazz at LACMA is a celebration of L.A.’s finest jazz musicians and has featured such legends as Wayne Shorter, John Clayton, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, Billy Childs, Arturo Sandoval, Cannonball-Coltrane Project, and Ernie Watts. Over 42,000 visitors attend the program annually from April through November.
Award-winning and critically acclaimed jazz vocalist/lyricist Mark Winkler pairs up with multi-Grammy Award–winning vocalist Cheryl Bentyne, a member of the Manhattan Transfer, to form a dynamic duo that examines the “West Coast Cool” jazz scene of the 1950s. Together and separately they perform songs by Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, Julie London and Bobby Troup (to name a few).
Critical Jazz writes that Winkler and Bentyne are “One of the few male/female duets in vocal jazz that finds both participants working on equal footing. Cheryl Bentyne turns in her finest effort in a decade and Mark Winkler continues to wow audiences and critics alike with his spot on vocal performances which seem to grow by leaps and bounds with each subsequent release.”
Keyboardist Russell Ferrante and saxophonist Bob Mintzer are also known as members of Grammy Award–winning Yellowjackets. Individually, they are also prolific composers and arrangers, working with leading musicians and ensembles around the world, including Bobby McFerrin, Al Jarreau, Diane Reeves, the GRP Big Band, Lee Ritenour, and the Bob Mintzer Big Band. As dual performers, they have toured and recorded with Art Blakey, Jaco Pastorius, Randy Brecker, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joni Mitchell, and Take 6.
Violinist, composer, artistic director, educator, and scholar Lesa Terry is an artist who consistently brings distinctive innovation to her musical performances. Her accomplishments include lectures, clinics, and master classes with the Uptown String Quartet and Max Roach Double Quartet. Terry was also the 2006 music director for the Women’s Jazz Orchestra, with which she appeared at the Hollywood Bowl. She also performs in concerts around the globe, including an appearance at the United Nations.
Veteran guitarist Jacques Lesure has played all over the United States and abroad. He brings his sound to Jazz at LACMA. He has performed with many of today’s musical greats, including Kenny Burrell, Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Les McCann, Carmen Lundy and many others. Lesure has also collaborated in the creation of and performed in a variety of stage plays, movie scores and special projects made for television.
Legendary saxophonist and recording artist Azar Lawrence is best known for his work with Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner. Lawrence joined Tyner’s band as tenor saxophonist following John Coltrane’s death. Lawrence maintains a busy international touring schedule following the release of his most recent recording, “Mystic Journey.”
Vocalist Judy Wexler is “one of the most focused, unpretentious, no-nonsense, bop-oriented jazz singers around,” according to Jazz Times. Wexler has headlined at jazz festivals, performing-arts centers, and major jazz clubs both nationally and internationally. She released her fourth album, What I See, in September 2013 on the Jazzed Media label. The album received wide national jazz radio airplay and stellar reviews, showcasing Wexler’s close creative ties to her longtime pianist, arranger, and coproducer Jeff Colella.
Saxophonist, composer, and vocalist Grace Kelly has attracted audiences with her proficiency, creativity, and growth. At only 21 years old, Kelly has already shared the stage with legendary artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Phil Woods, and Harry Connick, Jr. in concerts around the world. In 2013, DownBeat Critics Poll named her one of the “alto saxophone rising stars,” the youngest artist ever named in the poll.
All about Jazz writes of Ernie Watts: “He is one of the greatest tenor saxophonists, at the top of his game.” Two-time Grammy Award winner Watts is one of the most versatile and prolific saxophone players working today. A 50-year veteran of the saxophone, Watts picked up the instrument at age 16. Since then, he has been playing professionally, initially while still attending school. Watts has been featured on over 500 recordings by artists ranging from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa, always exhibiting his unforgettable trademark sound.
Mancini enjoys a reputation as one of Los Angeles’s most in-demand players as both a vibraphonist and as a bandleader. He has written, produced, and recorded with Kitchen Sink (Everything but the . . . ), the Nick Mancini Collective (Live: New York), and Type II (Flexible Plan), which Cadence Magazine described as “full of drive and lyricism . . . music with pizazz and finesse. . . . There is a sense of another era embedded in this music; yet it is not dated.” Nick has performed around the world at such notable venues as Joe’s Pub, Birdland, and has played extensively in Europe.
Championed by some of music’s most celebrated figures, Sara Gazarek has emerged as a strikingly original artist with limitless potential. With three highly acclaimed CDs under her belt at the young age of 30, Sara and her trio continue to seamlessly combine the intimacy of singer/songwriter stylings with the musical and improvisational elements of jazz. Blessed with a gorgeous, translucent voice, excellent pitch, and supple sense of time, Gazarek is steeped in the jazz tradition, but is not afraid to embrace the music that moves her generation.