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A product of the Berklee College of Music – Cliff’s jazz group, “The Cliff Monear Trio,” is one of the busiest performing rhythm sections in the Midwest.
In addition to this very full private and public performance schedule, and teaching commitments at Wayne State University, Cliff is the exclusive Steinway & Sons representative for the Michigan jazz community.
Chris Collins is a professional jazz woodwind player who has toured throughout Japan, South Africa, Europe and North America as the leader of his own ensembles and as a featured soloist. In 2007-08, Collins performed his original works in 7 countries on 4 continents. He has played professionally with artists including the Phil Collins Big Band, Doc Severinsen, Mel Torme, Michael Feinstein, Lou Rawls and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He has performed at jazz festivals including: Cork, Ireland; Montreux-Switzerland; Pori, Nice, North Sea and Glasgow. His CD release “Electo-Monk, Acoustic-Funk” (2009), fuses techno and acoustic jazz with stunning originality. His successful “Jazz from the Shamrock Shore” (Harriett Jazz/ASCAP) features extended compositions which artistically combine the instrumentation, musical vocabulary and repertoire of the Irish folk tradition with American jazz. In addition to his work on commercial recordings and film soundtracks, including the soundtrack for the award winning Paramount Pictures release “The Big Night”, Collins’ jazz solo work can be heard on the CD releases “A Hot Night In Paris” The Phil Collins Big Band (Atlantic), “Twilight: Collins Quartet with vocalist Harvey Thompson”, “Urban Solitude” Chris Collins Quartet (Harriett Jazz), “A Time To Mourn, A Time To Dance” (Harriett Jazz/ ASCAP), and “Watching For Watchung Plaza” The John Cooper Quintet. Collins’s work has received recognition from Billboard Magazine, Detroit Jazz Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit News, and the International Association of Jazz Educators.
Prof. Collins is director of jazz studies at Wayne State. He has presented numerous workshops around the world including presentations at Ishimori’s in Tokyo Japan, the Rampone Saxophone Museum in Quarne, Italy, the South African Jazz Educators Conference in Durbin, Capetown, and Grahamstown, South Africa, the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and at numerous national I.A.J.E. conferences on topics including jazz saxophone/improvisation and distance jazz education. He has also contributed several articles to the Jazz Educators Journal including cover stories on Joe Lovano, Chick Corea, David Liebman, and Joe Zawinul.
Jazz drummer Sean Dobbins got his start as sought-after Detroit area jazz sideman at a young age, when he would regularly play with Blue Note artist Louis Smith. As Sean’s Career progressed, he found himself the recipient of many awards and accolades including the “Woody Herman Jazz Award”, an award for outstanding musicianship, as well as the Louis Armstrong Scholarship. Due to Sean’s great talent both as a player and an educator, he has been the focus of countless news articles and jazz radio programs.
Though still young by jazz standards, Dobbins has amassed an impressive list of playing companions. He has performed/toured/recorded with Johnny Basset, Benny Golson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Frank Morgan, Joey DeFrancesco, George Cables, James “Blood” Ulmer, Marcus Belgrave, Larry Willis, Rodney Whittaker, Claude Black, Johnny O’Neal, Paul Keller, Tad Weed, Kurt Krahnke, Jon Hendricks, David “Fathead” Newman, Donald Walden, Cyrus Chesnut, Barry Harris, David Baker, Randy Johnston, Marion Hayden, Mose Allison, and a host of other great musicians.
Sean’s sound can best be described as hard-driving, solid rhythm with refreshing melodic sensibility. Some of Sean’s influences include Art Blakey, Jeff Hamilton, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Ed Thigpen, Sonny Payne, and also Detroit area greats Gerald Cleaver and the one and only Elvin Jones. A product of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Sean has stayed devoted to education throughout his life. Early mentor Louis Smith, an Ann Arbor Public Schools band teacher, impressed the importance of a good education upon Sean at an early age. Sean is known in his community as a band director, drum teacher and positive influence for many.
In 1999 Sean was asked to become the director of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Summer Jazz Program. This program was designed to help educate and inspire young artist as they began their quest of learning jazz. In 1998, a year before Sean’s arrival, the program was in jeopardy of being cancelled due to low enrollment. In 2000, a year after Sean took over the reigns, the enrollment more than tripled and a year later, the group was featured on WEMU, a national jazz radio program.
As a father of three, Sean knows, understands, and accepts the challenge of continuing the art from through clinics, master classes, and concerts for up and coming musicians. Sean makes it a point of incorporating educational opportunities into all of his road trips.
Sean is no stranger to local or national headlines; he frequently plays at venues such as the Firefly Club (Ann Arbor), Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (Detroit), the Music Hall Jazz Cafe (Detroit), Murphy’s Place (Toledo) and Buddy Guy’s (Chicago). His recent recordings include “Odyssey” (PKO Records), “Revealing” (Reparation Records), and “Christmas Songs for Jazz Lovers” (PKO Records), and Blue Horizons featuring Sean and his quintet, the Modern Jazz Messengers.
Saxophonist, flautist, composer and arranger Russ Miller is currently an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where his duties include teaching jazz improvisation, jazz lab bands and jazz arranging and orchestration classes. His 30-year professional music career includes performances with Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy DeFranco, J.C. Heard, Rob McConnell, Jon Faddis, Joe Williams, Milt Hinton, Rosemary Clooney and Sammy Davis Jr. among others. In addition Russ has performed with his own group and with others at the Detroit International Jazz Festival, the Michigan Jazz Festival, Music on the Plaza in Grosse Pointe and at various local venues. Recorded performances include: J.C. Heard Orchestra – Some of This, Some of That (Hiroko Records), Bill Heid – Wet Streets (Savant Records), John Cooper Orchestra – Baecker Jazz Worship Service (Baecker Music Productions) and on Jeannine Miller’s recently released recording Two For The Road (PKO Records) which in addition to featuring Russ on sax and flute, features his arrangements of classic jazz standards for big band, woodwinds, brass, strings and jazz quartet.
Paul Matthew Keller was born March 11, 1962. He began studying the string bass at age 12. By age 16 Paul had played his first jazz gigs in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. He continued his classical music education at the University of Michigan and moved to Ann Arbor permanently in 1986.
Today, Paul is one of the busiest bassists in the Detroit area. He has earned the nick-name “The House Bass Player For The State Of Michigan” as each year, he logs so many miles traveling across the state to perform at various music venues. At his home-base, the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, MI, Paul leads the 15-piece Paul Keller Orchestra, which plays original, obscure and classic big band material from all periods of jazz history. Under Paul’s expert leadership, the PKO (formerly known as the Bird of Paradise Orchestra) has garnered critical and popular acclaim, accepting Washtenaw Council for the Arts “Annie Awards” and Detroit Music Awards for excellence in performing arts. Their CDs are: Hallelujah Train, Project X, BINGO!, Paris Blues, A Tribute To Count Basie and A Tribute To Benny Goodman. These recordings spotlight Paul’s fine compositions and arrangements. The Paul Keller Orchestra has enjoyed two tours of Europe. The PKO performs every Monday night from 8:00 PM till 11:00 PM at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor. PKO big band Monday nights at the Firefly Club are a beloved Ann Arbor tradition! Check out www.fireflyclub.com.
Paul is co-leader of the popular Keller/Kocher Quartet. Together since 1987, they recorded Midnight Sun and Pipe and Slippers. This group features the vibraphone wizardry of Cary Kocher. The KKQ tips it’s hat to George Shearing, Nat King Cole and Lionel Hampton.
The Paul Keller Ensemble is a three-horn sextet that features creative arrangements by Keller and his bandmates. The PKE’s 2005 CD Steady Gig features their vocalist Susan Chastain singing 11 of her favorite standards with memorable arrangements by Keller. The PKE’s 2003 CD Christmas Songs For Jazz Lovers contains 12 joyful performances of Holiday classics. The PKE’s 1997 CD, Tall Corn, includes seven original Keller compositions and showcases the band’s extraordinary improvising skills. Tall Corn celebrates through jazz the season of harvest and the beauty of autumn. The PKE performs every Wednesday night from 8:00 till midnight at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Check out www.fireflyclub.com.
Keller’s groups are well known and highly regarded throughout Michigan. His jazz groups have appeared at many regional music festivals, including the Detroit International Jazz Festival, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, the Ann Arbor Jazz and Blues Festival, The Michigan Jazz Festival and the Flint Jazz Festival. They have presented successful concerts for the Thunder Bay Arts Council, the Crooked Tree Arts Center, the West Michigan Jazz Society, The Dennos Museum Center at NWMU, the Windsor/Detroit Jazz Club, Bay City’s State Theatre, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Keller is a member of trumpeter Marcus Belgrave’s Salute to Louis Armstrong. This group plays about 30 dates a year in concert venues across the US.
Keller tours with his long-time bandmates drummer Pete Siers and vibraphonist Cary Kocher as members of clarinetist Dave Bennett’s Benny Goodman Tribute band. This band travels to all parts of the US and performs about 30 dates a year as a sextet as well as with various symphony orchestras. Keller wrote 13 original arrangements for full orchestra for Bennett’s 75-minute Benny Goodman Symphony Pops Show. Together they have performed this spectacle with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Kingston Symphony, the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the San Antonio Symphony. For more information about this symphony show contact Hugh Leal at [email protected]
Paul travels frequently to Jazz Festivals and Jazz Parties throughout the U.S. including the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, Dixieland Monterey (Monterey, CA), The Summit Jazz Party (Denver, CO), The West Coast Jazz Party (Irvine, CA), The Newport Beach Jazz Party (Newport Beach, CA) and The Cape May Jazz Festival (Cape May, NJ).
Paul has been recognized internationally for his association with pianist/singer Diana Krall and guitarist Russell Malone. From 1993 to 1997 he toured the world, first with Malone, then with with Krall and Malone. Together they performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Blue Note Jazz Clubs of Japan, the Algonquin Hotel and the JVC, Newport and Playboy Jazz Festivals, among many others. In 2006, Paul performed with Diana Krall for former US President Bill Clinton. Paul has played with Diana on national TV on The Late Show with David Letterman (CBS), The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (CBS), The Tavis Smiley Show (PBS) and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC).Keller appears on Malone’s CD Black Butterfly (Columbia) and on Krall’s Grammy-nominated recording All For You (GRP/Impulse).
In 1999, Paul formed BOPO Records, his own recording label. In 2002, the Bird of Paradise Orchestra became known as the Paul Keller Orchestra and BOPO Records became PKO Records. The PKO Records catalog has now grown to include 36 CDs by Keller and many other outstanding Midwest jazz performers. For more information about Paul Keller, his jazz groups and the other featured artists on the PKO Records label, log onto www.pkorecords.com.
Paul has played on over 60 CDs with artists such as Diana Krall, Russell Malone, Tom Saunders, Chuck Hedges, Eddie Higgins, Larry Fuller, Johnny O’Neal, Bess Bonnier, Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Barrett, Rebecca Kilgore, Phil DeGreg, Mr. B, Steve Wood, Rick Roe, Ellen Rowe, Marcus Belgrave, Franz Jackson, Pete Siers, Dan Faehnle and Larry Nozero. Paul has also performed in concert with jazz greats Joe Williams, Cab Calloway, Oliver Jones, Clark Terry, Red Holloway, Gene Bertoncini, Jeff Hamilton, Scott Hamilton, Ken Peplowski, Jake Hanna, Terry Gibbs, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mark Murphy, Doc Cheatham, Byron Stripling, Jay McShann, Barry Harris, Mulgrew Miller, Jessica Williams, Bill Mays, Kenny Drew, Jr., Herb Ellis, Bucky Pizzerelli, Mark Elf and James Moody.
Paul was honored by the West Michigan Jazz Society as their 2001 Jazz Musician of the Year and by the Detroit Music Awards as the 2002 Outstanding Jazz Instrumentalist.