B. New York, NY, 1991. Isabel Alvarez, aka Velise, is a singer and songwriter. Influenced by jazz, Motown, opera, and hip-hop, Isabel blends many times and places. Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Whitney Houston, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Atarah Hazzan, Jazzmeia Horn, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Bob Marley, Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Van Morrison, Buena Vista Social Club, Nirvana, The Cranberries, Julie Andrews, Edith Piaf, Maria Del Tango, and Pink Floyd are major inspirations.
Growing up, Isabel’s family moved from Woodside, Queens, to Ossining, NY, and in 2001, to Southold, NY. Their differences significantly shaped the musician she is today. Isabel joined her schools’ choirs, drama clubs, and community theaters. She was supported by loved ones early on to pursue music as a way of life. Her grandmother has played piano for over 80 years.
In 2015, Isabel joined Starlight Girls as a backup vocalist/keytar player. Since 2016, she has studied voice with Metropolitan soprano, Ms. Atarah Hazzan. In February 2020, Isabel released her debut single as Miss Iz, “Sweet Life (Unfolds)”. Later that year, Isabel released her first single as VELISE, “Same Soul (Lost in Paradise)”.
She has recorded with Starlight Girls, PENPALS, Thonio, and Evan Crommett. In 2021, Isabel began studying music at Borough of Manhattan Community College. She is focused on her lifelong love, jazz. She regularly performs with Evan Crommett’s band. She also works in a New York City florist and has a passion for learning. Isabel is in the beginning stages of studying to fight against mass incarceration in the United States. In 2022, production began on her debut album. It is set to be released in late 2023. The album’s purpose is “to inspire those who listen to persevere under any circumstances, with the ultimate motivation being love.”
Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer Amanda Ekery creates music filled with imagery and strong narratives. Her work has earned support from New Music USA, Chamber Music America,
and the Jerome Foundation, has been featured at the Arab American National Museum, Portland Jazz Festival, Panama Jazz Festival, and The Kennedy Center, and spans theater, film, and studio recordings.
Amanda’s 2018 album “Keys With No Purpose,” was written as a reaction to the sexist culture women continue to face in jazz and informed by her research on females in jazz education which is soon to be published in the 2023 Routledge Companion to Women in Music Leadership. Her most recent album, “Some (more) Short Songs,” released in 2021 was praised in Downbeat Magazine saying, “her compositions are great” and “full of moments of amazingness.” Árabe is Amanda’s ongoing genealogy composition/research project that focuses on Syrian immigration to El Paso/Mexico, her family’s history, and the influence these mixed cultures had on film, food, economy, and music
She was awarded the 2022 Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalist Association for her dedication to gender equity work with El Paso Jazz Girls, a nonprofit organization Amanda founded in her hometown. Learn more at aekerymusic.com.
Born in Brooklyn, raised in Washington Heights, and growing up in almost all parts of NYC, singer-songwriter Yancyabril’s captivating energy, sweet melodic voice, and diverse sounds dazzle her audience members every time fusing Pop, Folk, Jazz and R&B into her music.
In 2022, Yancyabril became a contestant on Season 2 of The Voice Dominicana. She has sung and worked with legendary artists like Bonnie Raitt, Smokey Robinson, Full Force member Paul Anthony, and Drummer Carmine Appice. This year she has partnered with RocNation’s independent distribution company, Distro EQ. She was also a featured singer for the Aretha Franklin tribute concert at Carnegie Hall.
In 2017, Yancyabril won Popular voice for the YoungArts competition singing her original song “Ain’t Nobody.” In 2018, she was a featured singer for the well renowned gospel show, “Too Hot to Handle: The Gospel Messiah” at the United Palace. Following in the footsteps of another New York born and bred jazz singer, Ella Fitzgerald, she also got a chance to sing at the Apollo Theater Amateur night.
She started her college career at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and later transferred and graduated from SUNY Purchase’s Jazz Conservatory with a focus in voice where she was the recipient of the Ella Fitzgerald Scholarship.
Yuko Kawasaki is an NYC-based vocalist, improviser, and composer.
She believes that music, her passion, expresses what is invisible, but definitely there. Characteristics in life such as emotions, smells, and memories that can only be felt and remembered, but never touched. It’s her mission to capture these invisible qualities through jazz composition and share them with audiences all around the world.
Like most passions, Yuko started off small, before even picking up a trombone, her first instrument, at the age of 9 to play in a local brass band. In those early years, her love for music instead took shape in drawings on the backside of newspaper ads as she listened to her father’s record collection, enjoying the stories within the sounds.
Yuko has been internationally performing at jazz venues and festivals, such as at Jazz at Lincoln Center, National Art Center in Canada, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Japan Society, and Smalls, as a vocalist and composer since she moved to New York City.
She recently performed with her trio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and shared the stage with Anthony Roth Costanzo and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. She performed with Grammy Award-winning pianist and arranger, John Beasley at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and also has performed with one of the great influencing saxophonists, Dayna Stephens at ‘North Cadence International Jazz Series’ at the National Art Center in Canada.
Yuko performed with the J’s Bee, a Japanese progressive jazz band, releasing five albums with the band. They performed at some of the best venues in Japan, including Blue Note, Bottom Line, and one of the biggest festivals, Metamorphose Festival. The album “Isotope” released by Far Out Recordings, U.K. in 2013 was highly acclaimed by DJs such as Giles Peterson and has been broadcasted around the world on media platforms such as BBC 6 Music, BBC 3, KCRW, PBB radio, Inter FM, to name a few.
Liany Mateo has traveled across North America, Japan, Africa, and the Middle-East performing, touring, and teaching music. Influenced by a mix of hard-hitting straight-ahead swing, Free Avante Garde, and music with deep pocket groove, Mateo deems herself a chameleon, fitting into many different types of musical situations.
You can find her playing all over New York City at a variety of venues including Birdland Jazz Club, The Django, The Jazz Gallery, and other notable performance spaces. Most recently. she became a member of the Grammy Award-winning “Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra” led by the esteemed Arturo O’Farrill.
She has performed with musicians such as Geoffrey Keezer, Fay Victor, and Brandee Younger. She holds a Jazz degree from the esteemed Michigan State University (2020) and a Master’s degree from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute(2021). Through these institutions, she has been mentored by Jazz giants Rodney Whitaker and Linda May Han Oh.
Taylor Moore, a Chicago native, is an award-winning, drummer, percussionist, actress and deejay.
Dubbed The Princess of Percussion, Taylor Moore has played with a multitude of great musicians like Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer Shirley Alston Reeves of The Shirelles, jazz fusion artists Roy Ayers and Shelia E, as well as jazz icons Kirk Whalum, the late Jimmy Cobb and Grammy Award-winning vocalist Cassandra Wilson.
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Taylor received her Bachelor's in Music Performance and Production.
In 2018, Taylor Moore toured extensively with Jay-Z’s personally signed Roc Nation artist, Victory Boyd, as well as toured Europe with indie group: The Richard Waters’ Blues Band. Before the COVID19 Pandemic, Taylor was recording and touring with Kandace Springs of Blue Note Records.
Also, with a number of acting credits to her name, Taylor was featured in the off-Broadway stage production Henry Box Brown: A Musical Journey. She has also been featured in various films as lead and supporting actress. Taylor’s acting and drumming talents were combined when she was called upon to shoot a commercial for an energy drink called, MAX by Maxwell House Coffee.
Adding disc jockey to her already extensive resume, Taylor Moore is affectionately called DJ Tay, The Drumming Deejay, when she's on the 1s & 2s. Also providing services as a virtual DJ due to the Covid-19 pandemic, DJ Tay has done numerous online fundraisers, birthday celebrations, anniversaries and even memorials. This exciting music phenom is also a recurring featured deejay on WBLS' Sunday Praise with Stellar Award-winning host, Dr. Liz Black, Sundays @ 7am est.
Ekep Nkwelle is a 23 year old Cameroonian-American vocalist and songwriter. Born in Washington, DC, she began her musical journey while studying Classical Voice and Jazz Performance at Duke Ellington School of the Arts High School. She received her undergraduate
degree from Howard University in 2021, studying Jazz Voice. Her gift and years of musical training have led her to the world-renowned Juilliard School in New York to receive a master’s degree in Jazz Voice this coming spring. She has been blessed to perform at many venues and events, some notable ones being The Kennedy Center, Dizzy’s Jazz Club, DC Jazz Fest, Tri-C Jazz Fest, The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and International Jazz Day. With her music, Ekep strives to share her deep passion for Black music and the history and culture of the African diaspora to people all over the world.
With West Indian roots and a Brooklyn, NY upbringing, jazz vocalist and 2X Downbeat Magazine award winning artist, Faith Quashie, is a recent graduate of Western Michigan University’s vocal jazz program. Whilst earning her Bachelor's , her musical growth has been formed by esteemed jazz artists and educators who she closely worked with such as the New York Voices, säje, Carla Cook, to Roxy Coss, Xavier Davis, Sara Gazarek, and many others!
Faith also possesses extensive touring experience as a bandleader, sideman and ensemble member. Not only does she mark herself as a versatile vocal artist, but a pivotal member of her community. Faith is currently holding an internship position with the Women In Jazz Organization (‘21-’22) with where she has worked and curated spaces to amplify female voices in the industry with women like Cyrille Aimee, Candice Hoyes, Sasha Berliner, Jocelyn Gould, Lessive Vonner and many more! She has also recently been selected to participate in The Woodshed Network Residency program working with a team of established women in our industry to advance and launch her career through networking and workshops.
In addition to her performance career Faith is a beloved educator and clinician in the City of Kalamazoo having taught over 150 students in several genres ranging of all ages. She continues making her
Midwest debut that weaves holistic musical practices into community outreach. Her musical philosophy involves seeking and manifesting vocal and spiritual liberation through her artistry for
current, past and future generations alike.
Yvonne Rogers is a pianist, composer, and multimedia artist from Penobscot, Maine, based in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up on the rural Maine coast, Yvonne began writing music that followed the meditative patterns and systems of nature before having any conventional understanding of theory or harmony. Fascinated by the sonic landscape and acoustics of her home, she carries this influence with her no matter where she is. Curious about the relationship between music, space, and human experience, Yvonne’s work interacts with and is inspired by the people and places that surround her.
Yvonne was a member of the 2021/2022 Focusyear Band in Basel, Switzerland. The band performed regularly with jazz masters including Kris Davis, Sullivan Fortner, Linda May Han Oh, Tineke Postma, Ingrid Laubrock, Cuong Vu, Jorge Rossy, Larry Grenadier, Lionel Loueke, Chris Cheek, Elena Pinderhughes, Miguel Zenón, and more. Their album of original music was released in May 2022.
A 2021 graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester, Yvonne holds two degrees: a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Piano Performance from the studio of Gary Versace and a Bachelor of Arts in African and African American Studies. Yvonne has performed at venues including the Deer Isle Jazz Festival, the Rochester International Jazz Festival, Lincoln Center, the Blue Note, the Birdseye Jazz Club, Porgy and Bess, Jamboree, and more.
Yvonne has been awarded a variety of opportunities including the Next Jazz Legacy program (semi-finalist), the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, and the Sisters in Jazz Combo. In September 2022 she was awarded the Hylan Fund for the Performing Arts for the production of her forthcoming album, “Seeds.”
In October 2022 she was commissioned by the Big Basel Festival and Fondation Beyeler to compose and conduct a piece for large ensemble.
DARA STARR TUCKER
Dara Starr Tucker is making her mark in the world of music and activism as a singer and social commentator. Her latest album, Dreams of Waking: Music For A Better World (2021), was featured on Grammy.com and in American Songwriter Magazine. On the album, Tucker embraces the urgent, topical works of songwriters of the protest era, along with her own compositions, as vessels for justice awareness, instruction and healing. Last summer, the album reached #7 on the Jazzweek National Radio Charts.
Dara’s eclecticism is guided by the diversity of her narrative. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to a family of singers and ministers, she and her siblings traveled across the central plains and pacific northwestern United States as young children singing with their parents. Her fascination with musicals and particularly "The Sound of Music" piqued her interest in the culture of various German-speaking regions and the struggle for global human rights. After earning a degree in International Business and German Studies, Tucker moved to Switzerland to further study the German language and was reunited with her passion for music and began writing original songs. That passion for songwriting and singing led her back across the Atlantic to Nashville, Tennessee as a band leader, songwriter and featured vocalist for many years, then to New York, NY and now Philadelphia, PA.
Dara toured briefly as a member of hybrid guitarist Charlie Hunter's trio and appeared on NPR's Jazz Night in America’s episode on Nashville. Dara has performed at Central Jersey Jazz Festival, Newark Museum of Art Jazz Series, Birdland (VocalMania), Smoke Jazz Club, Saratoga Jazz Festival and Minton's.
Tucker's clever and information-packed cultural commentary on human rights, music, diversity, and political consciousness has earned her over over 864,000 followers as a social media influencer on the platform, TikTok.
Dara will release her new album on Green Hill Music in June 2023.
APRIL MAY WEBB
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Vocalist April May Webb hails from Newton, Kansas. April May’s unique vocal approach draws from various influences covering multiple genres. April May is the first African American female to graduate from The William Paterson University Jazz Education program, where she studied under the leadership of the late great pianist Mulgrew Miller. April May is also the co-founder of a jazz duo called Sounds of A&R, aka SOAR. She founded this group alongside Trumpeter Randall Haywood. Partners in music and life, April and Randall, have come together to create a distinct sound.
In 2022, SOAR was one of ten ensembles selected to become U.S. Cultural ambassadors a part of the American Music Abroad Program. In 2018, Sounds of A&R began to tour with the legendary Jazz drummer Thelonious Sphere Monk III, also known as T.S. Monk. In 2019, Sounds of A&R was Awarded and named “Best Jazz Group” at the NYC Reader’s Jazz Awards, presented by Hot House Jazz Magazine and Jazzmobile, held at the legendary Birdland Jazz Club in New York City.
In 2021, Sounds of A&R released their third studio album, “Questions Left Unanswered,” an album filled with an amalgam of lively original compositions and cover arrangements of time-tested classics. It peaked at #12 on The National Jazz Week Charts. Additionally, in April 2021, April May placed First Runner Up in the Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Competition. Also, In 2021, April May had the distinct honor of being inducted into The Newton Fine Arts Hall of Fame. A recognition that was presented from her hometown of Newton, Kansas, where her musical journey began.
"Enter April May! A young singer who is as naturally talented as she is cultivated…She is, at once, lyrical and soulful. April is definitely one to watch out for - a singer that can go in almost any direction. The future looks brighter because of the promise of April May.
My Joyful expectation..!" - Mulgrew Miller
Raised in North Carolina, New Orleans-based artist and composer Michelle Welchons seeks inspiration from a confluence of cultures and musical lineages. She began studying European classical music as a child, before transitioning into a vast exploration of West African and Latin American traditions, specifically music from Guinea Conakry and Cuba. Deep reverence for nuances of global cultural expression has taken her across the world. Each region where she’s lived — including Ecuador, Peru, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Europe, West Africa, and the States— adds layers and essence to her artistry.
A conceptual percussionist, Welchons invites a range of artistic disciplines into her work as composer and arranger. An openness and pervading curiosity has prompted collaborations with Gabrielle Cavassa, Weedie Braimah, Mahmoud Chouki, Cyrille Aimee, Andrea Ward, Eddie Fields, and SHAE Movement African Arts, among other distinctive artists. Welchons has performed at notable venues such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Snug Harbor, Purple Hatters Ball, the Stage Door Theatre, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. She currently leads acclaimed instrumental ensemble Orchidea.