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On Center: Touring Monterey Jazz Festival to feature McLorin Salvant, other rising talents at Penn State

by on February 01, 2019 2:25 PM

California’s Monterey Jazz Festival is the longest consecutively running festival of its kind. In celebration of its six decades, the festival’s touring arm will bring to Penn State a diverse roster of millennial talent representing the future leaders of jazz.

The March 22 concert at Eisenhower Auditorium stars vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who enchanted a Schwab Auditorium audience in 2017. She will be joined by trumpeter, singer, and songwriter Bria Skonberg, who made her State College premiere in 2016; tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana; pianist and music director Christian Sands; bassist Yasushi Nakamura; and drummer and vocalist Jamison Ross.

McLorin Salvant, who won the 2010 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition, is a Miami native who injects her singing with a theatrical flair and a contemporary sensibility that have made her irresistible to audiences and critics alike. Her 2018 release, The Window, is nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Each of her previous two recordings, For One to Love and Dreams and Daggers, won a Grammy.

A New York Times reviewer describes Skonberg as “the shining hope of hot jazz, on the strength of a clarion trumpet style indebted to Louis Armstrong, a smooth purr of a singing voice inspired by Anita O’Day, and the wholesome glow of youth.” Skonberg, who grew up in Chilliwack, British Columbia, earned a Canadian Juno Award for her eponymous major label debut in 2016. Her next album, With a Twist, came out a year later. Her newest collection of songs is scheduled for release in the spring.

In 2013, Aldana, who was born in Santiago, Chile, became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American to win the Thelonious Monk competition. The saxophonist, who attended Berklee College of Music, has released four albums as a band leader. A Chicago Tribune reviewer writes that her latest, Back Home, “balances technical bravura with musical depth, a hallmark of her playing.”

Five-time Grammy nominee Sands, who grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, started playing professionally at age 10. Sands earned two degrees at the Manhattan School of Music. A former member of bassist Christian McBride’s band, the pianist has performed at jazz festivals and clubs worldwide. His recent album, Reach, “showcases his significant talents as an imaginative composer, a clever arranger, and a skillful technician with a fluid style,” writes a DownBeat critic.

Nakamura, a Tokyo native who grew up in Seattle, earned a jazz performance degree from Berklee and an artist diploma from The Juilliard School. He has recorded and performed across the planet with Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Hank Jones, and others. His first album as a leader, A Lifetime Treasure, was released in 2016. His follow-up, Hometown, came out in 2017.

Grammy nominee Ross, who has a bachelor’s from Florida State University and a master’s from the University of New Orleans, took first place at the Thelonious Monk competition in 2012. Jamison, his debut recording, was nominated for a Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy in 2015. Jazziz named All for One, his 2018 release, one of the best jazz albums of the year. The Jacksonville, Florida, native’s “roots in jazz and gospel give him thrilling chops and unfailing feel,” observes an NPR reviewer.



Richard and Sally Kalin sponsor the presentation. The Glenn and Nancy Gamble Endowment provides support. For tickets or information, go to or call (814) 863-0255.

John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts.





John Mark Rafacz is the editorial manager of the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State.
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