Festival 2018

Announcing the Sixth Annual Jazz Festival at Yale!

We’re thrilled to announce the Sixth Annual Jazz Festival at Yale, a student-organized celebration of jazz, to be held April 13-15. All concerts and talks are open to the public and free of charge with no tickets required.

All events are funded by our sponsors, the University, local New Haven businesses, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Learn more about the incredible artists in our lineup below!


The Nicholas Payton Trio:

Friday 4/13, 8pm performance

Nicholas Payton, Barry Stephenson, Joe Dyson

Sudler Recital Hall (William L. Harkness Hall) — 100 Wall St., New Haven

Discussion: Black American Music and the Jazz Tradition

Saturday 4/14, 3pm talk

With Nicholas Payton

Venue TBD

Steve Wilson & Pete Malinverni

Saturday 4/14, 8pm performance

Steve Wilson, Pete Malinverni

Saybrook Underbrook Theater — 242 Elm St., New Haven, Entryway H

Melissa Aldana Quartet

Sunday 4/15, 3pm performance

Melissa Aldana, Sam Harris, Tommy Crane, Pablo Menares

Yale University Art Gallery (Robert L. McNeil, Jr Lecture Hall) — 1111 Chapel St., New Haven





Parking Information:  Nearby parking lots can be found on Elm Street (272 Elm), on the median on Broadway, or near The Shops at Yale (255 Crown).  Limited street parking is also available on Chapel and York street.


2018 LINEUP:


Nicholas Payton

New Orleans-born trumpeter, keyboardist, singer, and composer Nicholas Payton is a dynamic performer, steeped in acoustic jazz and post-bop, whose music often finds him exploring genres beyond the confines of the jazz tradition. Born in New Orleans in 1974, Payton grew up the son of Walter Payton, a well-known bassist on the Crescent City jazz scene. His mother also played piano. Around four years old, he started playing trumpet after asking his father to get him one. Soon, he was accompanying his father to shows at local clubs, where he had the chance to hear many great trumpet players. The turning point for the young Payton came around age ten, when he heard a Miles Davis quartet album that was in his parents’ record collection. He started performing publicly, working everywhere from jazz funerals to weddings to bar mitzvahs, and even played on the streets for tips.

During this period, he attended New Orleans’ High School for the Creative Arts and studied with Clyde Kerr, Jr.; he later studied briefly at the University of New Orleans with pianist Ellis Marsalis. However, his college career at UNO was interrupted by the chance to go on the road with drummer Elvin Jones. Previously, he had spent time on the road with Marcus Roberts and other touring musicians, but those were shorter stints. Through the years, Payton has recorded and performed with Wynton Marsalis, Dr. Michael White, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Doc Cheatham, and Joe Henderson, among others.

As a solo artist, he began his recording career with Verve Records, releasing From This Moment in 1994, followed by 1995’s Gumbo Nouveau. A year later, he gained even more attention appearing alongside a handful of his jazz contemporaries in acclaimed director Robert Altman‘s film Kansas City, for which he also appeared on the soundtrack. In 1997, he received a Grammy Award for his playing on Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton, a collaborative album with then-nonagenarian trumpeter Doc Cheatham. Also that year, he joined bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Mark Whitfield for Fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Hancock. He then rounded out his Verve contract with several well-received, tradition-steeped efforts including 1998’s Payton’s Place, 1999’s Nick@Night, and 2001’s homage to Louis Armstrong, Dear Louis.

In 2003, Payton signed with Warner Bros. and marked the move by shifting away from his acoustic-based sound and delivering the ’70s fusion-influenced Sonic Trance. However, an auto accident briefly sidelined his career as he took time to fully recover. He returned with Mysterious Shorter on Chesky in 2006 and Into the Blue on Nonesuch in 2008, both of which found him delving into an eclectic mix of straight-ahead jazz, post-bop, funk, and R&B-influenced sounds. Increasingly known as a risk-taker, Payton took one of his grandest on 2011’s Bitches, a concept recording that detailed the stages and ending of a romantic relationship. He composed and arranged all 16 songs (which included lyrics), played every instrument, sang, and played trumpet throughout, and produced the entire set as well. Also featured on the album were special guest vocalists Cassandra Wilson, Esperanza Spalding, N’Dambi, ChinahBlac, and Saunders Sermons.

Along with performing, from 2011 to 2013 he held the position of Distinguished Artist and Visiting Lecturer at Tulane University. During this period, he began self-releasing albums on his own BMF label, including #BAM: Live at Bohemian Caverns (recorded at the historic Washington, D.C. club) and Sketches of Spain (a live re-recording of the classic Miles Davis and Gil Evans album), featuring Simphonie Orchester Basel. Two instrumental albums followed with 2014’s Numbers and 2015’s Letters, both of which showcased Payton on keyboard and piano. In 2016, Payton returned to more of a full band-oriented approach with the hip-hop and spoken word-inflected The Egyptian Second Line. A year later he delivered another highly inventive hip-hop and world music-influenced production, Afro-Caribbean Mixtape.

Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson has attained ubiquitous status in the studio and on the stage with the greatest names in jazz, as well as critical acclaim as a bandleader in his own right. A musician’s musician, Wilson has brought his distinctive sound to more than 150 recordings led by such celebrated and wide-ranging artists as Chick Corea, George Duke, Michael Brecker, Dave Holland, Dianne Reeves, Bill Bruford, Gerald Wilson, Maria Schneider, Joe Henderson, Charlie Byrd, Billy Childs, Karrin Allyson, Don Byron, and Mulgrew Miller among many others. He has eight recordings as a leader.

Starting his formal training on saxophone in his native Hampton, Virginia, Wilson also played oboe and drums in school bands while performing in various R&B/funk bands throughout his teens. After a year-long stint with singer Stephanie Mills he majored in music at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he performed and/or studied with Jimmy and Percy Heath, Jon Hendricks, Jaki Byard, John Hicks, Frank Foster and Ellis Marsalis. During those years he was also in constant demand for recording studio work, and as backing musician for touring shows such as The Four Tops and Sophisticated Ladies. Landing a chair with O.T.B (Out of the Blue), a sextet of promising young players recording on Blue Note Records, Wilson moved to New York in 1987 and the following year toured the U.S. and Europe with Lionel Hampton.

Becoming a first-call choice for veteran and emerging artists alike, Wilson was the subject of a New York Timesprofile “A Sideman’s Life”, highlighting his work with Ralph Peterson, Jr., Michele Rosewoman, Renee Rosnes, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Joanne Brackeen, The American Jazz Orchestra, The Mingus Big Band, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, and Buster Williams’ Quintet “Something More”. In 1996 he joined the acclaimed Dave Holland Quintet, and from 1998-2001 he was a member of Chick Corea’s Grammy winning sextet “Origin”. Wilson documented his first four recordings as a leader on the Criss Cross label – New York Summit, Step Lively, Blues for Marcus and Four For Time. He then recorded two projects for Chick Corea’s Stretch Records label – Generations, and Passages. In 2003 Wilson’s recording Soulful Song was released on MAX JAZZ launching the label’s Horn Series.

In 2009 Wilson was a member of the Blue Note 7, an all-star septet assembled to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. The project culminated in a 50-city tour of the U.S. and their recording Mosaic. Also in that year Wilson made his orchestral debut performing Heitor Villa Lobos’ Fantasia for Soprano Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra with the Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra. By popular demand he returned to the VMF in 2010 performing a commissioned work Sweet For Duke (for Saxophone & Chamber Orchestra) by Jonathan Ragonese.

In February 2011 Wilson celebrated his 50th birthday with a six-night engagement leading six different bands at Jazz Standard, NYC’s premiere jazz club. The all-star line-up included Mulgrew Miller, Bruce Barth, Karrin Allyson, Lewis Nash, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Carla Cook, Geoffrey Keezer, Christian McBride, Linda Oh, Ed Howard, Adam Cruz, Diane Monroe, Joyce Hammann, Nardo Poy and Troy Stuart. In a major interview feature preview, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed, “The Sideman Becomes the Star.” The WSJ article by award-winning journalist Larry Blumenfeld added, “Mr. Wilson is essential to this city’s jazz landscape.” Since the 1990’s Wilson has been regularly cited in the Downbeat Magazine Critics and Readers’ Polls in the soprano and alto saxophone categories. The Jazz Journalists Association as Best Alto Sax Player nominated him in 2008, and for Best Soprano Sax Player 2010. His work in film has included being artistic consultant to Harvey Keitel for “Lulu On The Bridge” as well as being featured on the soundtrack.

An in-demand and passionate educator Wilson is an Associate Professor at City College of New York, and on faculty at the Juilliard School. He has been artist-in-residence and/or visiting artist at University of Michigan, University of Oregon, University of Maryland-College Park, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Delaware, Lemoyn College, North Carolina Central University, Bowling Green University, Lafayette College, University of Northern Colorado, SUNY New Paltz, Florida State University, California State University at Stanislaus, University of Manitoba, Hamilton College, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and for the award winning arts organization CITYFOLK in Dayton, Ohio. With the support of friend and mentor Dr. Billy Taylor, Wilson has been a frequent guest performer/educator at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He has been a featured performer, panelist, and clinician at conferences of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Chamber Music of America, and International Association of Jazz Educators. Wilson has been honored by New York University and The Richmond (VA) Jazz Society recognizing his outstanding service in jazz education. He is an active mentor in the nurturing and promotion of his former students’ emerging careers who have performed with The Count Basie Orchestra, Johnny Mandel, Beyonce Knowles, Roy Hargrove, and many others.

In March 2015 Wilson released his first live recording Wilsonian’s Grain Live In New York: The Vanguard Sessions. This dynamic quartet features Bill Stewart, Orrin Evan, and Ugonna Okegwo, and proclaimed as “… jazz at its finest – in conception, execution and spontaneity” by WBGO Radio. Wilson is one-half of a formidable duo with renowned drummer Lewis Nash as heard on their celebrated recording Dulogue, and he co-leads an elegant trio with pianist Renee Rosnes and bassist Peter Washington. Wilson also performs with several Grammy-winning ensemble: Maria Schneider Orchestra, Christian McBride Big Band, Billy Childs Quartet, Ron Carter Big Band, and the Buster Williams Quartet.

Melissa Aldana

Melissa Aldana is an award-winning jazz tenor saxophonist and leader of the Crash Trio, also featuring bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Francisco Mela. Born in Santiago, Chile in 1988, Aldana is the daughter of the renowned tenor saxophonist Marcos Aldana. Her father was also an instructor, and from the age of six she insistently began to request that he teach her how to play. After mastering the two notes he gave her to play, he got her an alto and her formal studies began. His primary method for her was transcription of solos from cassettes; the first artist she learned to play from was Charlie Parker. Though she learned from all the great alto masters, it was upon hearing Sonny Rollins that her musical course changed direction irrevocably and she requested to be given a tenor instead. She received a Selmer Mark VI from her grandfather Enrique (who had taught her father to play); she has used it ever since.

At the age of 16, Aldana was already headlining jazz clubs all over Santiago. When she learned that Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez was coming to Chile as part of the Wayne Shorter Quartet, she was determined to meet him — his wife had been a student of her father’s. That meeting proved fateful. After hearing her, he invited her to play the Panamanian Jazz Festival. She was not only well received, but Pérez brought her to the United States and arranged auditions for her at the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory. Though accepted by both schools, she won a scholarship to Berklee. There she studied under Joe Lovano, Greg Osby, Bill Pierce, and Ralph Peterson, to name a few. Upon graduation, she relocated to New York and was mentored further by George Coleman. She also woodshedded in clubs, sitting in and learning from other musicians.

Her first date as a leader, Free Fall, was issued by Osby‘s Inner Circle Music label in 2010. In support, she played not only clubs in New York but a host of European jazz festivals. Her sophomore effort, Second Cycle, was released in 2012. She formed the Crash Trio later that year — she had known Menares from the Chilean scene years before. The group quickly established a rapport and became a go-to straight-ahead unit known for both originals and standards.

At the age of 24, in September 2013, Aldana won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. The jurors were Jane Ira Bloom, Branford Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, Shorter, and Bobby Watson. She was the first female instrumentalist ever to win the competition. Part of her prize was a recording contract with Concord Jazz; the label issued Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio in the summer of 2014. The album earned wide critical notice and was invited to play some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world including the Playboy Jazz, Monterey, Umbria, Marciac, Pori, and Molde stages. She also played prestiigious clubs including the Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Smalls and the Regatta Bar. She performed with Jimmy Heath at the 2014 NEA Jazz Masters Award Ceremony. In 2015, Wynton Marsalis invited her to the Jazz at Lincoln Center.Aldana‘s second Crash Trio album, Back Home was issued by Wommusic in March of 2016, with drummer Jochen Rueckert replacing Mela.