Dayna Stephens is globally recognized as a saxophonist, composer and arranger, and is the first place recipient of the 2019 DownBeat Critics Poll in the category Rising Star—Tenor Saxophone.
His highly anticipated 10th album, Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard, will be released on October 3, 2020 and features Aaron Parks, Ben Street, and Greg Hutchinson. Earlier this year he released his 9th album, Liberty, to critical acclaim. It is his first trio recording that features Ben Street and Eric Harland. Both 2020 albums were produced by Matt Pierson and released on Dayna’s own label, Contagious Music.
NPR’s Kevin Whitehead had this to say about Liberty, “Dayna Stephens can cry and rip it up on tenor, but at heart, he’s a streamlined melodic player. His handsome down-the-middle tone is not too heavy or light, though he can lean either way. His sound is sleek, with very light vibrato. And the lines he improvises are uncluttered and well-organized. His horn sings”. J. Hunter of Nippertown says,“Stephens’ latest outing—recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s history-filled studio—delivers an elegant, uncompromising look at how less can definitely be more.” In describing Liberty’s trio format Jay N. Miller from The Patriot Ledger applauds, “while the concept may seem esoteric, the triumph of Stephens’ latest work is how accessible and even intoxicating it is.”
Since his arrival on the New York scene in 2008, Eden Ladin has become a quiet force of harmonic complexity and lyricism. Playing with a sensitivity that only comes from embracing self-reflection and collective exploration, the pianist, keyboard player and composer has earned recognition from some of the music’s most prestigious publications and institutions, and collaborated with a range of artists, including Avishai Cohen (bass), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Kimberly Thompson, Ben Street, Joel Frahm, Nir Felder, Eli Degibri, Mark Guiliana, Donny McCaslin, Joe Martin, Justin Brown, Marcus Gilmore and Charles Altura. Eden also has recorded with a number of distinctive voices, including Wallace Roney, Eric Harland, Ben Wendel, Myron Walden, Darren Barrett, Gilad Hekselman, Ari Hoenig, Omer Avital, Philip Dizack, Joe Sanders, Dayna Stephens, Orlando le Fleming, Harish Raghavan, Marcos Varela, John Ellis and Camila Meza.
For nearly 15 years, having achieved international renown as a saxophonist (#1 Rising Star Tenor, 2019 Downbeat Critics Poll), Dayna Stephens has worked assiduously to create a musical voice on the Akai Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI). Following in the footsteps of Bob Mintzer and the late Michael Brecker, and like his EWI-exploring peers Morgan Guerin, Mark Shim and Seamus Blake, Stephens has featured the EWI in select contexts with his own bands, on Gilad Hekselman’s 2019 release Further Chaos and other projects. With Pluto Juice, co-led and co-produced by drummer and composer Anthony Fung, Stephens turns the spotlight fully on EWI for the first time, in an adventurous electric quartet setting with the stellar Canadian musicians Andrew Marzotto (guitar) and Rich Brown (bass).
One of the band’s first pieces, “Approaching Pluto,” was composed by Stephens when NASA’s New Horizons craft completed its long-awaited flyby of the dwarf planet in the summer of 2015. The music that followed was conceived specifically for the group, and the theme of space travel stuck. Stephens’ “Welcome to Our Snow Globe” leads off with a focus on Earth, while
Billy Mohler is an exploratory jazz bassist who has also amassed wide-ranging credits in the pop world as a GRAMMY-nominated writer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and session player, working with Dolly Parton, Macy Gray, Lady Gaga, Nile Rogers, Sia, Awolnation, Mavis Staples, Kelly Clarkson, Steven Tyler, Jon Brion and a host of others. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Mohler attended the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as one of only five students, studying with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and other luminaries. His 2019 debut Focus, hailed by Nextbop.com as “an incredibly free, unconstrained and inventive record filled with exciting twists and turns and constant detours,” marked the auspicious start of his quartet featuring tenor saxophonist Chris Speed and Kneebody members Shane Endsley (trumpet) and Mohler’s childhood friend Nate Wood (drums). The group has followed up with its 2022 sophomore release Anatomy, a sonically inventive effort that highlights the players’ loose, raw, indeterminate chemistry as well as Mohler’s rough-hewn, insistently rhythmic compositions.
Speed and Mohler also play together in the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, led by The Smashing Pumpkins drummer, as well as Black Friday TRiO, with a self-titled 2019 release. Collaborators with the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex include Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Rob Dickenson (Catherine Wheel) and the Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley (Mohler’s godfather). An avid skateboarder, Mohler served as musical director for Tony Hawk’s Boom Boom Huck Jam tour, leading a five-piece band on an arena tour and orchestrating the music for Hawk’s extreme sports show. Mohler’s other recording, writing, production and engineering credits include Allison Krauss, Pat Benatar, Miranda Lambert, Elle King, The Airbourne Toxic Event, Samantha Ronson, Kelly Clarkson, Lenka and Liz Phair. In addition, Mohler has composed for national commercials and campaigns including Sworavski, Finlandia Vodka and CSX Trains. In every situation, Mohler finds a way to forge something complete, in a category of its own.