The Vail Jazz Foundation
2013 Vail Jazz Festival Artists

WYCLIFFE GORDON  |  website

Musical ambassador and interpreter of Americaʼs music, Wycliffe Gordon experiences an impressive career touring the world performing hard-swinging, straight-ahead jazz receiving great acclaim from audiences and critics alike.  His unmatched modern mastery of the plunger mute and his exceptional technique and signature sound, has solidified Gordon a place in musical history known as one of the top trombonists of his generation.  Jazz Journalists Association named him “Trombonist of the Year” again in 2011 as well as previous years 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, and 2008.  He is a past recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Vanguard Award, among others. In addition to an extremely successful solo career, Gordon tours regularly leading the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet, headlining at legendary jazz venues and performing arts centers throughout the world. Gordon is a former veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and has been a featured guest artist on Billy Taylor's "Jazz at the Kennedy Center" Series. Gordonʼs extensive performance experience includes work with many of the most renowned jazz performers of the past and present.  Gordonʼs recordings include fourteen solo CDs and seven co-leader CDs. Wycliffe Gordon is also a gifted composer and arranger. He is commissioned frequently by renowned jazz groups and organizations and has an extensive songbook of original compositions that span the various timbres of jazz music.  His music is performed throughout the world by musicians and ensembles of every caliber. Gordon is one of Americaʼs most persuasive and committed music educators, and currently serves on the faculty of the Jazz Arts Program at Manhattan School of Music.  He was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2006 from the University of Scranton, for his tireless dedication to the field. 


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BENNY GREEN  |  website

Born in NYC in 1963, Benny grew up in Berkeley, CA and began classical piano studies at 7. Listening to his father’s Monk and Bird records while trying to play along, jazz and improvisation soon captured his interest. As a teenager he worked with Eddie Henderson and got some big band experience with a group let by Chuck Israels. After graduation and some freelance experience around the Bay Area, Benny moved back to NYC where veteran pianist Walter Bishop Jr. helped him develop his own sound and style. After a short stint with Bobby Watson, Benny worked with Betty Carter and joined Art Blakey’s band for a couple of years before making the switch to Freddie Hubbard’s quintet. In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the Glen Gould International Protégé Prize, after which Benny replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown’s Trio for 4 years. In addition to a prolific career as a sideman, Benny has released many albums in solo and trio settings. Some of his main influences include Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Hank Jones, Bud Powell and Ahmad Jamal. His latest recordings are Source, featuring Benny in a trio setting, and Prelude, a quintet outing.


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JEFF HAMILTON  |  website

Los Angeles-based Jeff Hamilton’s versatility and dynamic drumming have won him rave reviews for decades. Jeff is featured with some of the top names in jazz and pop on more than 200 recordings, 21 of which received Grammy® nominations, with 10 of those garnering Grammy® awards. He also performs and records frequently with his own trio and as co-leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. His own albums include the recently released Red Sparkle, and earlier efforts Symbiosis, and From Studio 4. Additionally, he teaches, arranges and composes. Of his work with the Clayton Brothers on the release of The Music, JazzTimes writes, “Always evident is ...the sensitivity and sizzle of Jeff Hamilton’s seasoned drums.” Born in Indiana, Jeff listened to big band records and began playing drums at eight to Oscar Peterson’s music. Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Mel Lewis, “Philly” Joe Jones, and Shelly Manne were important influences. His first big break came with the New Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He then played in Lionel Hampton’s Band until 1975 when he joined the Monty Alexander Trio with bassist John Clayton. A childhood dream was fulfilled when, in 1978, he joined Woody Herman and the Thundering Herd, making many recordings with them. From 1983 to 1987, he performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie & His Orchestra, and Rosemary Clooney. Prior to forming his own trio in 1995, Jeff played with the Ray Brown Trio. The Los Angeles Jazz Society named Jeff and his musical partner John Clayton 2006 Musicians of the Year. He has toured with Diana Krall and appeared in Natalie Cole’s Great Performances special on PBS. Jeff is part owner of Bosphorus Cymbals.


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KAREN HAMMACK  |  website


A native Californian, and daughter of a studio pianist and arranger, Karen discovered blues piano at 14 which led her into the worlds of jazz, gospel, funk, soul, rock, pop and singing/songwriting. She has performed and recorded with Michael McDonald, Bill Frisell, Jackson Brown, Niki Haris, Tierney Sutton and Kate McGarry, among others. Karen is busy as a performer, composer, teacher, arranger, and recording artist. Her highly intimate, personal style is evident on her latest recording My Beating Heart, featuring 14 pieces written by and performed by Karen, featuring Richard Stekol, Greg Leisz, Chris Connor and more musicians. 



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NIKI HARIS  |  website

Singer, songwriter, arranger, dancer and choreographer Niki Haris’ dynamic performances reflect her love of music, dancing, and choreography. Daughter of Grammy®-nominated jazz pianist Gene Harris, Niki was born in Benton Harbor, Michigan and later pursued her education and singing career in Southern California. She has worked with Ray Charles, Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, David Sanborn, Michael Sembello, Leann Rimes, Michelle Branch, Santana, Kylie Minogue, Luther Vandross, All Saints, Wilton Felder of the Jazz Crusaders, Stanley Turrentine, the Righteous Bros., Julian Lennon, Anita Baker, Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston and has toured & recorded for 18 years with Madonna. Niki also toured with her father in promotion of their albums Down Home Blues and their inspirational CD In His Hands. After her father’s passing and the release of their live CD Jazz Alley Cats, Niki refocused on her love of jazz and today carries on her father’s legacy. Niki performs at a multitude of benefits for AIDS, cancer research as well as Camp Harmony for inner city children. She is also a strong supporter for the Music in the Classroom program and RAAD, Rockers Against Drunk Driving. She diligently lends her time in serving and is an annual participant in the Season for Non Violence. Niki’s latest albums include I’m Glad There is You (with Wycliffe Gordon) and Niki Haris And Friends.

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TAMIR HENDELMAN  |  website

Beginning his keyboard studies at 6 in Tel Aviv, Israel, Tamir moved to the United States at age 12 and within 2 years had won Yamaha's national keyboard competition. Tamir then studied at the Tanglewood Institute in 1988 and received a Bachelor of Music Composition degree from Eastman School of Music in 1993. He then became the youngest musical director for Lovewell Institute, a national arts education non-profit organization. Since moving to LA in 1996, Tamir has been steadily engaged as a pianist and arranger, having recorded and/or toured with Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, John Pizzarelli, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall and others. He joined the Jeff Hamilton Trio in 2000, contributing arrangements, recording and touring Japan, Europe and the US. He has performed with the Jeff Hamilton Trio, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Harry Allen, Warren Vache, Houston Person, Jeff Clayton, Phil Upchurch, Rickey Woddard, John Clayton and Barbara Morrison. Tamir also leads his own trio, with recent releases Playground and Destinations.


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ALPHONSO HORNE  |  bio

As a music student at The Florida State University, Alphonso Horne has played trumpet with renowned jazz musician Marcus Roberts at the Lincoln Center in New York City. "Alphonso is easily recognized as a rising star," Roberts said. "His success comes through hard work, and he is never satisfied with anything less than performing music at the highest level with creativity and technical perfection. Yet, he maintains a humble, warm, and personal approach with people." Most recently, Horne won first place in the jazz division of the National Trumpet Competition.


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TIM HORNER  |  website

Tim Horner began playing the drums at the age of ten. His influences rest primarily with musical parents. Upon entering Berklee College of Music in 1974 he made drumming and the goal of being a professional jazz drummer his dream. His first major professional work was with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, which he joined in 1978. After a year on the road Tim returned to Boston leading his own bands, finishing his Bachelors Degree in Performance @ Berklee, recording and performing with many artists including Miroslav Vitous, John Scofield, Jack Wilkins, Buddy Defranco and Bob Mover. For 26 years he has offered his experience, knowledge and skills as one of New York's in demand jazz drummers and has traveled extensively in the US, Europe, the Balkans, Asia, North and South America with some of the world's greatest jazz talents, performing concerts, clubs, recordings, teaching and master classes.


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JUSTIN KAUFLIN  |  website


Virginia Beach native Justin Kauflin’s unusual musical talent, recognized as early as age two, was nurtured with classical training on the violin and piano. From age six, he began performing in concerts, home visits and weddings, eventually becoming concertmaster for several orchestras. Blind since age 11, Justin switched to jazz piano in high school and began performing jazz professionally by age 15. Kauflin received a Presidential Scholarship at William Paterson University where he was mentored by Clark Terry, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in Music/Jazz Performance. He has performed with a wide range of musicians, including his own trio, in venues such as Blue Note, Village Vanguard, Kennedy Center, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jazz Standard, Blues Alley and many others. At 23, Kauflin was leader, producer, composer and player on his first CD Introducing Justin Kauflin, and is featured in an upcoming documentary about his mentor, trumpeter Clark Terry. Justin attended the Vail Jazz Workshop in 2003.


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GRACE KELLY  |  website

When it comes to saxophonist Grace Kelly, people seem to be divided into two groups: those who marvel at her proficiency, creativity and ever-accelerating growth, and those who have yet to encounter the 21-year-old wunderkind. Kelly has been voted "Best Jazz Act” in Boston four consecutive years in the FNX/Phoenix Best Music Poll, and then voted Best National Jazz Act in 2012. She has received the ASCAP Foundation’s Young Jazz Composers Award in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013 and won "Jazz Artist of the Year” at the Boston Music Awards in both 2008 and 2010. After releasing eight full length albums Grace released her first single "Sweet Sweet Baby" which has made it to #10 on the Billboard Magazine "Smooth Jazz Song Charts"


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