At 46 Years old, Joe Gransden has already performed worldwide and released 16 CDs under his own name. Renowned first for the hard bop approach of his trumpet, Gransden’s singing voice has been compared to that of Chet Baker and Frank Sinatra.
"When I first heard Joe nine years ago, I immediately thought of Chet," says Jazziz magazine critic James Rozzi, “but lately his voice has taken on its own style with a deeper resonance. His trumpet has always alternated lyricism with an aggressive, angular approach. He has the ability to cover the gamut of emotions."
Joe is from just north of Manhattan, New York. Coming from a family full of musicians, Joe’s introduction to music came early on through his father, a gifted singer and pianist. His grandfather was a trumpeter of merit, playing professionally his whole life throughout New York.
Not long after high school, Joe was on the road as a sideman with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. A number of A.F.M. contracted sideman gigs include Barry White, The Moody Blues, Kenny Rogers, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, The Whispers, etc. Eventually moving to New York City, he performed with numerous groups, including sub work with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Chico O’Farrill at the famous Birdland Jazz Club.
A widening schedule has found Joe performing the 1st and 3rd Mondays of every month at Café 290 in Atlanta w/his 16 Piece Big Band , The Blue Note in New York City, The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head SC, The Ritz-Carlton at Reynolds Plantation W/Michael Fienstein, The Museum of Art and Design in midtown Manhattan, Spivey Hall in Atlanta, Ga and Tehema Golf Club in Carmel, California (where Joe plays occasional events for Clint Eastwood). Joe also released his cd “Close To My Heart” produced by Saxophone great Kenny G. The cd is a collection of smooth jazz covers and originals written by Joe and Kenny. His brand new project entitled “Songs of Sinatra & Friends” features Joe w/his 16 piece Big Band & Strings Celebrating the music of Frank Sinatra! The CD and has been getting great reviews and lots of airplay around the country. Pick your copy up today on Joe’s website, ITUNES, CDBABY etc.... www.joegransden.com
Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Lee Watts has been an active part of the Atlanta music scene since 2000. Lee came to Atlanta after graduating from the University of Kentucky. While at Kentucky Lee won the Eastern Trombone Workshop (Division III) solo competition. In 2003, Lee was a recipient of the International Trombone Association’s Kai Winding Award as a member of the Piedmont Trombone Society. Lee earned his Masters degree at Georgia State from 2004-2006, where he served as the graduate assistant to Tom Gibson. Lee currently serves as the bass trombonist for the Atlanta Pops Orchestra, the Joe Gransden Big Band, Russell Gunn’s Krunk Orchestra, LaGrange Symphony, and Macon Pops. Lee was bass trombonist for the “One and Only” Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, under Buddy Morrow, from 2006-2010. He has also performed with the Cab Calloway Big Band, the “World Famous” Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Nick Hilscher Big Band, the Marcus Lewis Big Band, and is a founding member of the DiMartino/Osland Jazz Orchestra. As an orchestral musician, Lee has performed with the Alabama, Augusta, Carrollton, Charleston, Columbus (GA), and Macon Symphonies. In 2011, Lee was chosen to perform in the original band for the show “Come Fly Away”, under the direction of Dennis Mackrel. Lee can be heard on dozens of recordings, ranging from jazz, orchestral, to period music. Lee has been a side man for countless artists including Arrested Development, Michael Feinstein, Wycliffe Gordon, Jennifer Holliday, John Driskell Hopkins, Wynona Judd, Gladys Knight, Johnny Mathis, Doc Severinsen, Francine Reed, Frank Sinatra Jr, Three Dog Night, and Chris Tomlin. As a soloist, Lee Watts has been featured soloist the Georgia Music Educators Association Conference, as well as the UGA Midfest and Janfest concert band festivals. Lee has performed at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Great American Brass Band Festival, the International Trombone Association, International Trumpet Guild Conference, the Jazz Educators Network Conference, the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the National Black Arts Festival. An avid educator, Lee Watts works regularly with band programs in the Georgia Public Schools. Lee currently works with Cambridge High School in Milton, Georgia, as a jazz and winds specialist. He is also works regularly with Drew Charter School and North Atlanta High School. Lee Watts’s trombone students are members of his North Fulton Trombone Cartel, one of the few pre college trombone ensembles in the country. The Cartel has performed at the University of Georgia Trombone Summit, the International Trombone Festival, and this summer at the Great American Brass Band Festival and the Southeast Trombone Symposium.
Wes Funderburk has performed across the United States and Europe and is currently one of the most sought after trombonists and arrangers in Atlanta and the Southeast. He is the author of Funderbone.com and the inventor of Blog Songs! Wes has written, performed, recorded with a wide array of national and internationally-renowned artists including John Driskell Hopkins, the Stiletto Brass Quintet, Jennifer Holliday, Band of Horses, Spoon, Jermaine Dupri, Cee Lo,The Boston Brass, Natalie Cole, Dallas Austin, Joe Gransden, The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Pops Orchestra. He has also been a featured performer at The Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Atlanta Jazz Festival, Atlanta Black Arts Festival, Candler Park Festival, Inman Park Festival, Montreux-Atlanta Jazz Festival, Jacksonville Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival. Wes' recording credits include So So Def Records, Atlantic Records, Verve Records, Colombia Records, Universal Records, Arista Records, Giant Step Records, the Cartoon Network and the Weather Channel. His arranging credits include music for Russell Gunn's Krunk Jazz Orchestra, Jennifer Holliday, Ben van Dijk, Natalie Cole, Joe Gransden Big Band, The Georgia Brass Band, The Atlanta Jazz Orchestra, Kenessaw State University jazz ensemble, Georgia State University jazz ensemble and brass band, the Piedmont Trombone Society and the Tempest Little Big Band. Wes is also the leader and co-founder of The Funderhorns - a freelance commercial horn section that has recorded in some of the finest recording studios in the country.
As an educator Wes has given clinics and master classes at University of Georgia, Francis Marion University, The University of North Florida, Georgia State University, Columbus State University (Ga), the Mars Hill Low Brass Retreat, Tanglewood Music Camp and numerous high schools across the Southeast.
In 2007 Wes joined the faculty at Kennesaw State University as a jazz band director and in 2010 joined the faculty at Georgia State University as visiting lecturer in jazz studies. Wes earned his Bachelor's Degree in trombone performance from the University of North Florida and his Masters' Degree in trombone performance with a concentration in jazz studies from Georgia State University.
Wes is a former governor for the Atlanta chapter of the Recording Academy and a clinician and performing artist for Rath trombones.
Hailing from the “Home of the Blues” Memphis, Tennessee, Melvin Jones’ first professional recording opportunity came in 1998 while enrolled at Morehouse College when he appeared on TLC’s triple platinum hit album “Fanmail,” most notably on their smash hit No Scrubs. During that same year, Melvin along with other classmates formed a wildly successful Latin Jazz Ensemble named Rio Negro that went forward to record three albums under their own name, while performing nationally before audiences that would later include two sitting U.S. Presidents. After graduating Cum Laude from Morehouse College in 2001, Jones went forward to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Master's Degree in Music from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University (New Jersey). At Rutgers, he received the potent and intensive instruction of the late, world-renowned educator and trumpet impresario, William “Prof" Fielder, whose student roster includes such prolific musical figures as Wynton Marsailis, Terence Blanchard, Mike Mossman, and Terrell Stafford.
Melvin is a favorite at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Club in Doha, most recently hosting and performing for a small, private evening for the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Concurrently, Jones serves as an Artist in Residence for the “Mentoring Through the Music Arts” Program co-sponsored by the United Jazz Foundation and the US Virgin Islands Department of Education. With a work ethic that does not rest until the job(s) are done, Jones spends the rest of his “time off” either arranging, composing, contracting horn sections, or with his beautiful family. It's clear that he is walking his musical path with no intentions of turning back.
Trey Wright is a jazz guitarist, composer, and recording artist based in Roswell, Ga. Initially inspired by the blues, Trey was exposed to jazz early in his development by a private instructor. While studying Sociology at the University of Georgia, Wright furthered his study of jazz improvisation with pianist and composer Steve Dancz. In 1994, he co-founded the Athens/Atlanta based jazz band Squat. The group is a six-time winner of Best Jazz Band at the Flagpole Athens Music Awards and has been a featured artist at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Bel Chere, the Twilight Athens Jazz Festival, the Cherry Blossom Festival, Harvest Midtown, and Athfest. Several of Trey’s compositions with the group have received international airplay and have been featured on Sirius radio and NPR’s All Things Considered. Trey also performs freelance in the Athens and Atlanta area and has performed with Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, Corey Christiansen and Darmon Meader of the New York Voices. Trey has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazz A Vienne, and the World Sacred Music Festival in Bangalore, India. As a solo guitarist and with his trio, Trey has been a featured performer at the Athens Music and Arts Festival, the Lake Oconee Jazz Festival, and the Atlanta Jazz Festival. In early 2008, Trey began playing with the Georgia Symphony Jazz Orchestra. In December of 2002, Trey completed a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies at Georgia State University and he currently teaches Applied Jazz Guitar, Jazz Theory and Composition, Jazz Guitar Ensemble, Jazz History, Jazz Improvisation and The History of Rock at Kennesaw State University. Trey has also taught at LaGrange College, Gainesville College, the Atlanta Institute of Music and was a Jazz Artist in Residence at the University of Georgia. In addition, Trey writes a column on Jazz Harmony for the Guitar for the quarterly print magazine Just Jazz Guitar. In 2006, Trey released his first CD Where I’m Calling From, receiving rave reviews and airplay throughout the United States, New Zealand, England, Australia, Germany, Italy, Canada, Luxembourg, Scotland, and the Netherlands. The Trey Wright Trio released Thinking Out Loud in the summer of 2009 on Blue Canoe Records. In 2010, The CD was included in the first round Grammy Nominations for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. In the Fall of 2012, the Trey Wright Trio’s version of Thom Yorke’s “Analyze” was included on the compilation Head Radio Retransmissions: A Tribute to Radiohead on the German label ESC records. Trey’s long awaited collaboration with Grammy winning saxophonist Mace Hibbard The Hibbard/Wright Project was released to rave reviews in May 2013 and Trey will release a new CD titled Songs From Oak Avenue on Blue Canoe Records in March 2015.
Grammy award winning tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams is one of contemporary music’s whirlwind improvisers. The imaginative multi-instrumentalist/ composer/producer/arranger/ teacher resists categorization. His innovative sound dives, blends and jumpstarts all music genres. Kebbi bends it to his will with his robust, distinct blasts. His playing and compositions create a sound that is uniquely and undeniably his own. Avant-garde jazz, hip-hop, Afro-beat, gospel, electronica, classical and fiery rock are all loops that Kebbi interweaves with passion and edge. The Atlanta native received both an undergraduate degree and Master's in Jazz Studies from prestigious Howard University. At the age of 22, he won the Jazz Instrumental Soloist Category (college division) award from Downbeat Magazine. Kebbi launched his professional career as a much in demand studio and touring musician. Outkast, the legendary Donald Byrd, Cee-lo Green, Mos Def, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, Bilal, Oteil Burbridge, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Russell Gunn, Julie Dexter and iconic Betty Carter are among the elite musicians and vocalists who jumped off of Kebbi’s unique horn. He is also an original member and presently touring for the sixth year with the Tedeschi Trucks Band (with whom he won the Grammy in 2012 in the Blues Album category.) "Kebbi Williams is a truly unique soul. His ability to step away from the norm and willingness to think outside the box makes him one of the most adventurous and creative saxophonists around. His playing is as free as his spirit and it's inspiring to see him continue to chart his own path.” Maurice Brown: Trumpeter/Grammy Award winner. Additionally, he fronts his own Atlanta band, The Wolf Pack. “When determining how badass a band truly is, its live show can’t just be good. The sheer physicality of its performance must force patrons to shut up and listen. No Atlanta band pulls off this feat with as much originality and force as The Wolfpack.” Kebbi was born into a musical family. His father Earl Williams, an inventive multi instrumentalist who plays bass, keys, banjo, harmonica, flute, and saxophone taught Kebbi music. The tenor saxophone that Kebbi plays is from Earl. A rarity from the 1920’s era, a CONN M, it’s the only saxophone Kebbi’s played. Earl also taught his brother, Milan Williams (Kebbi’s uncle) how to play music. Milan was an original member of The Commodores and composed their breakout hit “Machine Gun” as well as the pair of epic soul/funk classics, “Brickhouse” and “Easy Like (Sunday Morning)”. Family is a unifying theme for Kebbi, shared by his love for Atlanta. In 2010, Williams founded the non-profit organization, Music In The Park (MITP) Atlanta. Their mission: enlighten, educate, and galvanize young performers while inspiring vibrancy in the community through music and the performing arts. MITP Atlanta has supported nearly 6000 students, engaged over
400 professional musicians, and presented live music to 50,000 people since its inception seven years ago. MITP, begun in response to the absence of music education in schools and limited arts programming in his West End neighborhood, is constantly evolving and expanding for the next generation of musicians. Kebbi Williams continues to do what he has always done: break down barriers and push the boundaries with both his music and vibrant social consciousness for his hometown and beyond.
Tim Aucoin is a nationally recognized music educator and bassist. He is a native of New Orleans, but now resides in Atlanta, GA. Tim has performed internationally with many diverse acts such as Grammy nominated jazz vocalist - Nnenna Freelon, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Mamas and the Papas, Allen Toussaint, Pete Fountain, and Luther Kent and Trickbag. He continues to be active in the Atlanta jazz and commercial music community. He has released a CD of original jazz music, "Swing First, Think Later." Tim has served as President of the Georgia Association of Jazz Educators and is a past director of the Atlanta All-Star Grammy Jazz Band. Jazz ensembles under his direction have performed at the International Association of Jazz Educators and Jazz Education Network Conferences. While Performing Arts Department Chair and Orchestra Director, North Springs High School was named a “National Grammy Signature School.” In 2004, 2008, 2013, and 2017, the Northview High School Chamber Orchestra, under his direction was a featured performer for the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference in Savannah, GA. The Northview ensemble has performed at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago in 2004, 2010, and again in 2015. The Northview Chamber Orchestra represented the State of Georgia in Austria and the Czech Republic for "Mozart: 2006" - a 250th Celebration. The Northview Chamber Orchestra has also been featured at the National School Board Association Conference. Tim has several compositions for alternative style strings published by Alfred Music Publishers and Gamba Music. In addition to degrees from Loyola University in New Orleans, he holds an Educational Specialist Degree from Georgia State University. He has served as adjunct faculty at Loyola University of New Orleans, Georgia State University and the University of North Georgia. Tim presently serves as the director of orchestras at Northview High School and is the Chairman of their Fine Arts Department.
Grammy nominated Sammy K has performed or recorded with Artists including: Bob Hope, The Coasters, Dave Brubeck, Disneyland, Michael Orland (American Idol), Engelbert Humperdinck, Wes Anderson, Lucy Lawless, Burt Bacharach, Jon Hendricks, The United States Air Force Band of Flight, Jimmy Heath, Alan Paul (Manhattan Transfer), Zara (Dire Straights, Bob Geldof), True North, The Platters, Buselli/Wallarab Big Band,Lucy Lawless, Bobby Vinton, Levi Kreiss (Tony Winner), The Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Steve Turre, David
Pomeranz, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Los Angeles Laker Band and Harry Connick Sr.
Grammy award winners Ray Bardani, Ted Perlman and Mike Acosta utilize Sammy’s grooves for their recording and live projects. He is a 6 time Down Beat Award Winner, Dove Award winner for Song and Album of the Year, and has appeared on the Emmy Award winning
“Wayne Brady Show”, “Ally McBeal”
with KC and the Sunshine Band and Josh Groban, “Unsung Heroes”
on CMT and in the films “The Fast and the Furious” and “The Spaces In Between: On The Road With Amy Cook”. His Drumming is heard on “The L Word”, “Mythbusters”, “Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist” “Dali Lama-Awakening” as well as several Disney holiday DVDs.
The clients that have used his talents include: The Walt Disney
Company, Ferrari, NBC, The Hal Leonard Publishing Company, Much
Music Television, the Six Flags Corporation, Daimler-Chrysler, ABC, the
International Toys for Tots campaign and CBS.
Sammy is the Drum Set Instructor at multiple Jazz Camps around the US
and Canada, where he teaches his Groove Boot Camp program to
Educators and students. He is a proud Artist with Remo, Zildjian, Yamaha,
Vic Firth, Cympad, Kotz Cajons and Big Bang Distribution. You may learn
more about him at
Hal spent 1986 through 1991 in Los Angeles recording and arranging with top jazz and R&B groups (Tower of Power Horns, Buddy Rich Band, Billy Vera and the Beaters), and appearing in several major motion pictures (Bugsy, Dick Tracy, The Marrying Man, Mobsters, Parent Trap III, and others). He has also recorded with artists on several labels, including MCA Records and Positive Music Records, Inc.In the fall of 1991 Hal and s family returned to Dayton, Ohio, where Hal was founder and director of Miami Valley Jazz Labs, a jazz school for kids from middle school through high school. He also taught jazz at various schools and privately in the Southwestern Ohio area, while maintaining a rigorous regional performing schedule. During this time he attained his Masters Degree in Saxophone Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. From 1998 – 2004 Hal was Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and in Jazz Studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, where he resurrected a dormant Jazz Studies Program, working with jazz great Bobby Watson the last four of those years. During his time there, Hal became an integral part of the Kansas City jazz scene, performing and recording in a variety of venues, and serving as President of the Jazz Ambassadors, a jazz support organization in Kansas City. Hal now resides in Dayton, Ohio, serving as Assistant Professor of Music (Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, and Jazz Studies) and Director of Jazz Studies at Central State University in Wilberforce, OH. In addition, Hal serves as Musical Director for the Miami Valley Summer Jazz Camp, teaches privately, and performs quite often both regionally and nationally. He is also Secretary for Jazz Education Connection of Ohio (JECO), a support organization for jazz performance, teaching, and learning throughout the state of Ohio. Hal's premier CD, WADUYATHINK, was released in 1993 on Positive Music Records and was a top 25 jazz CD. The recording features straight ahead jazz music, including both original compositions and original arrangements of jazz classics and standards. Along with Hal on Soprano, Alto, and Tenor Saxophones and Flute, the CD features Dayton area artists Jeff Hufnagle on Piano, Bob Bowen (now in New York) on Bass, and Steve Barnes (now in Los Angeles) on Drums. Special guest artist Kenny Drew, Jr. on Piano appears courtesy of Antilles Records. Hal maintains a high profile as a performer, traveling across the nation as well as regionally doing Broadway Shows (most recently The Producers, Little Shop of Horrors in Kansas City and Columbus, OH), various jazz performances and recordings (Kansas City Boulevard Big Band, Columbus Jazz Orchestra, Blue Wisp Jazz Club in Cincinnati, OH), and serving as clinician and adjudicator for numerous jazz festivals. Hal is much in demand for club performances and recordings (Marilyn Maye and many others) both regionally and nationally.
Neal Starkey is an American jazz bassist residing in Atlanta, Georgia. He has had a long and varied career, performing with many of the most notable names in jazz, including Joe Gransden, Kenny Barron, Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt, Duke Pearson, Al Cohn, Charlie Rouse, Barney Kessel and many others. He is a regular featured performer at the W. C. Handy Music Festival, and a member of the W. C. Handy Jazz All-Stars. Originally from New York, he has made Atlanta his home for the past 25 years. Starkey has recorded with Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Freddie Hubbard with the CBS Jazz All-Stars, and has served as bass instructor in the jazz program at Georgia State University. He has also had extensive studio recording experience and is one of the most in- demand bassists in the Southeastern region, often working with notable Southeastern reigional jazz musicians such as Rick Bell (saxophone), Ken Watters (trumpet), Bill Anschell (piano), Gary Motley (piano) and Ray Reach (piano and vocal).
Kevin’s initial career move was to the University of North Florida and a budding if little-known jazz program. There he met and performed with, and went on to record and tour with, a number of monumental artists who had settled into that burgeoning North Florida jazz scene. Giants like Wynton Marsalis, Louie Bellson, Eddie Daniels, James Moody, Ben Tucker, Ira Sullivan, Sam Rivers, and Nat Adderley. He counts among his mentors bassist Ben Tucker, multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan, guitar legends Nathen Page and Jack Petersen, and the fiercely individual saxophonist Bunky Green. His meeting with Bunky Green led to five years of tours. His encounter with guitarist Nathen Page blossomed into 15 years of spot tours and four albums. And his work with trumpeter extraordinaire Marcus Printup has become a lifetime association that has included recordings on Blue Note/Capital records. Ten years touring and recording with vocal iconoclast Rene Marie culminated in the a Grammy Nominated album.
Few artists have the patience for teaching – as are few teachers accomplished players. But Kevin has amassed a reputation for his prowess in both professions. While still a senior at North Florida he was drafted into a full teaching load, and continued to be an integral part of the school’s jazz program for upwards of a decade. Today, Kevin manages his own jazz program, overseeing an ambitious schedule of ambitious jazz students. Kevin has amassed a long list of awards and a reputation as one of the finest jazz pianists performing anywhere. In 1994, less than a decade into jazz, he won the American Pianist Association’s Jazz Piano Competition. In addition to nearly every important jazz venue in the South, he has performed in some of the most acclaimed clubs and festivals in America and around the world: the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, The Bakery in Los Angeles, The Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center jazz series, the Toronto and Edinburgh jazz festivals, and the Moscow Center for the Performing Arts.
Luke Weathington, an Alabama native, moved to Atlanta five years ago to study with the best in the music. While beginning his education at Reinhardt College, Luke finished his undergraduate degree in saxophone performance at Kennesaw State University under the direction of Sam Skelton in Spring of 2013. In 2015 he graduated from Georgia State University with a M.A. in Jazz Studies under the direction of Mace Hibbard and Gordon Vernick. While at Georgia State, Luke held a graduate assistantship. He has also had the privilege of studying saxophone with Dr. Tony Logsden and Dr. Mitchell Henson. As a classical saxophonist, he has toured Italy as principal saxophonist with the Tara Winds Orchestra, was co-principal at the GMEA All-College Band 2009, and was principal saxophonist in both the KSU Wind Ensemble and the Reinhardt College Wind Ensemble. Luke has held the lead alto chair in the Reinhardt College Jazz Ensemble, KSU Jazz Band I, and Georgia State Big Band. At KSU Luke was a member of Jazz Combo I which was selected to perform all original compositions at the 2013 JEN conference in Atlanta. Luke is currently the applied woodwind instructor at Miles College and an instructor of saxophone at Kennesaw State University. As a freelance saxophonist being versed in any style, he has also had the privilege of performing around Atlanta with jazz combos, big bands, rock groups, party bands, and latin bands. His grasp of the flute and clarinet has kept him busy playing in the pit orchestra of the Fox Theatre since 2016, Atlanta Lyric Theater since 2013, as well as numerous high school theater productions throughout Georgia. He has also had the pleasure of playing second alto with GSO JAZZ since 2013. Luke has also played with Johnnie Mathis, Carmen Bradford, Alan Vache, Freddie Cole, Jackie Burns, Don Braden, Matt Cattingub, the Macon Pops Orchestra, the Cobb Symphony Orchestra Jazz, Joe Gransden’s Big Band, , Atlanta All-Star Big Band, Atlanta Latin Jazz Orchestra, the UNG Big Band, the Douglas Cameron Orchestra, and the Due West Celebration Orchestra.