Arisa White, librettist, is a Cave Canem fellow, an MFA graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is the author of the chapbooks Disposition for Shininess and Post Pardon, as well as the full-length collections Hurrah’s Nest and A Penny Saved. Her debut collection, Hurrah’s Nest, was nominated for a 44th NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the 82nd California Book Awards and 2013 QBR Wheatley Book Awards. Member of the PlayGround writers’ pool, her play Frigidare was staged for the 15th Annual Best of PlayGround Festival. Co-editor for HER KIND, an online literary community powered by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, and the editorial manager for Dance Studio Life magazine, Arisa has over 15 years of arts administration experience, having worked with Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Urban Bush Women, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She has co-produced two events for the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco: Out of Necessity in 2011 and Mixed, Blended & Whole in 2012. She is a board member for the Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley, and an advisory board member for Flying Object, a nonprofit arts and publishing organization in Hadley, MA.
Arisa has received residencies, fellowships, or scholarships from the Center for Cultural Innovation (Investing in Artist Grant), Headland Center for the Arts, Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, Rose O’Neill Literary House, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Hedgebrook, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Prague Summer Program, Fine Arts Work Center, and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2005, her poetry has been widely published and is featured on the recording WORD with the Jessica Jones Quartet.
Jessica Jones, composer, is a tenor saxophonist and pianist and has worked with Joseph Jarman, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, and Peter Apfelbaum as well as a variety of Haitian, Caribbean and African bands. These influences helped form her compositional direction which is grounded in the jazz tradition and, as is truly traditional in jazz, reaches for new directions and a unique sound. The primary outlet for her compositions for the past twenty years has been the Jessica Jones Quartet, a piano-less quartet founded with fellow tenor player and husband Tony Jones. She has released four albums of her band, including guest artists from the community of innovative East and West Coast musicians and poets. Jones received an NEA study grant, and has been profiled in Jazz Times magazine.
The Jessica Jones Quartet has played in the Knitting Factory Festival in NYC, the Bay Area Jazz Poetry Festival (with Arisa White), and the Eddie Moore Jazz Festival in Oakland, California, where the group headlined with special guest Don Cherry. The group has been featured in venues on the East and West Coasts of the U.S. and released four CDs to critical acclaim: Family (Nine Winds Records, 1997); Nod (New Artists Records, 2004) featuring Tristano-lineage pianist Connie Crothers and Joseph Jarman of the Art Ensemble of Chicago; Word (New Artists Records, 2008), featuring vocalist Candace Jones and poets Arisa White and Abe Maneri; and Live at the Freight: Jessica Jones & Mark Taylor (New Artists Records, 2012) in collaboration with French hornist Mark Taylor.
Media coverage includes reviews in Wire, JazzTimes, Jazziz, Jazz Now, All About Jazz, New York City Jazz Record, Signal to Noise, Nashville City Paper, Bay Guardian, East Bay Express, Cadence and several jazz websites and blogs.
Jones is also as an innovative jazz educator and consultant, working with children on improvisation, composition, and oral traditions. She has worked with Cazadero Performing Arts Family Camp as a co-director, Jam Camp West, founded and directed Youth Jazz Camp at Feather River and Winter Jazz Camp as Alice Arts Center in partnership with the City of Oakland Cultural Arts, and Jazz at Lincoln Center developing music programs for youth. She currently teaches jazz to students at the Brooklyn Friends School, where she also runs a creative music concert series.
Jeannine Anderson, a Bay Area native, is a classically trained mezzo-soprano. At home on the operatic and theater stage, she delights in exploring all forms of creative music. Jeannine has sung in many operas and musical theater roles, such as the leads in La Bohème, Dido and Aeneas, The Marriage of Figaro, Suor Angelica, and Madama Butterfly, to name a few. In the past few years, Jeannine has performed the title role of Mahalia Jackson, in UC East Bay’s production of Halie!: A Musical. Jeannine has a passion for children and helping them to discover music. She has taught opera and musical theater for the past 15 years to children of all ages, in local schools and at UC Berkeley’s [CA] Young Musicians Program. Jeannine has expanded her horizons and has been invited into gospel and jazz settings with noted Bay Area jazz and blues musicians such as Howard Wiley, Faye Carol, Sista Monica Parker, and Marcus Shelby.
Vocalist Larena S. Burno has written music and performed solo, as well as with jazz combos, big bands, choirs, and other ensembles in Virginia and the Bay Area for over 15 years—although she’s been singing for many more. She earned her bachelor’s degree in vocal music performance from Norfolk State University. In addition to vocal work, she was featured in two stage plays, Middle Passage America and New Orleans Anonymous, written by Mona Webb. Larena embraces music and other avenues of art as medicine that challenges and renews us, and as a direct connect to the spirit of loving transformation.
Courtney Knott is a vocalist, pianist, composer, and music producer, and recent graduate from Berklee College of Music with a degree in professional music and a minor in conducting. At the age of sixteen, she performed at the White House, singing her own arrangement of “America the Beautiful,” receiving a standing ovation led by First Lady Laura Bush. She studied classical voice and jazz piano with the Young Musician’s Program at the University of California, Berkeley, under the tutelage of David Tigner and piano instructor David Michael-Ruddy. Courtney was a featured vocalist in the Singer’s Night and the Michael Jackson Tribute, presented by Quincy Jones, and on the video game Tekken. In 2012, she was invited to perform with legendary conductor, Arnie Roth and his orchestra for the Final Fantasy XI: 10th Anniversary Concert at Zellerbach Hall. She writes, composes, and produces for Atlantic Records, Ncredable Entertainment, SoundtRec, and Curry Money Entertainment on various projects. Courtney is currently working on her debut solo album soon to launch in 2015.
Word is Law, all life is vibration, and intention dictates experience. These words have shaped and guided Amber McZeal’s artistic and creative maturation over the past decade. Beginning in the swampy halls of New Orleans, Amber began her journey under the tutelage of Mr. Ellis Marsalis and Leah Chase, studying jazz vocalization. Her passion for harmony and humanitarianism led her down a path of scientific inquiry: an inter-disciplinary intersection of neuroscience, quantum theory, and acoustic art. Amber has recently received her bachelor of arts with a focus on vibrational theories and sacred intellectualism. Her current body of work, Mudzimu, is a combination of original music compositions and cultural, futurist mythos that is committed to expanding the discussion of trauma, life and identity from the purview of matter as vibrating energy. Amber is currently a PhD student at Pacifica Graduate Institute and resides in Oakland, CA.
Phoebe Anne Thomas Sorgen began a piano major, switched to composition, and then settled on opera in France. She earned degrees in musicology and music education at l’Université de Paris (La Sorbonne.) Her first gigs were with Good Taste Singing Telegrams! Shesang in the San Francisco Opera Chorus, the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and on the soundtrack of Amadeus. She snagged solo roles in local companies, including the title role in La Calisto. She focused on sacred music while raising children when that, plus being an ardent activist (Outstanding Woman of Berkeley 2005), precluded heavy rehearsal schedules. She sang professionally for five years in a synagogue, for 25 years (and currently) in Orthodox churches, for seven years at St. John’s Presbyterian in Berkeley and at UUCB and other spiritual centers. In 2014, she sang Carmina Burana at the Lincoln Center in NY. She’s reviving her Christmas Presence business featuring a cappella trios. Audible Light, her trio with piano and koto, has tracks on the Imagining Peace and Hiroshima’s 60th CDs, and has just recorded their second CD with lyrics by Rumi. Phoebe teaches voice and piano in private lessons. She loves to dance and is a bouncer/greeter at Barefoot Boogie.
Cynthia Webster, soprano, received her music therapy degree from the University of Pacific. A fan of comprimario roles, favorites include Fransquita in Carmen, Ida in Die Fledermaus, and Giovanna in Rigoletto. She has performed with San Francisco Lyric Opera, Goat Hall Productions, Golden West Opera, San Francisco and Dublin Fringe festivals. She is first place champion of the 2013 International Musical Saw-Off competition. An admirer of classical music and musical theater, Cynthia has been known to perform in a variety of settings including Radio Valencia, Mutiny Radio, International Musical Saw Festival, New York Saw Festival, Y2L Loop Festival, Summer Solstice Festival, rooftops, closets, trees, film libraries, and BART. Cynthia has been described as “one who does more with her voice and saw than you have ever done with anything else.” She has recorded and toured with Irish Cabaret Artist Beau, can be heard on June Levine’s CD, Folkspeare: The Bard in a Nutshell, and the Punk Rock Orchestra’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Recently, she performed in George Crowe’s, Shakespeare Night at the Blackfriars. Cynthia is thrilled to sing the part of Nona in Post Pardon: The Opera.
Vijay Anderson is a freelance drummer, bandleader, composer, and teacher who lives and works in Oakland, California. He has been performing professionally in the Bay Area since 1997. Anderson holds an MFA in music performance from Mills College and a BA in music performance from San Francisco State. He has performed and recorded with such diverse, outstanding musicians as Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalists Lynn Johnston and Vinny Golia; Bay Area composers/performers Ben Goldberg, Sheldon Brown, John Schott, Graham Connah, Darren Johnston, Smith Dobson V, Lisa Mezzacappa, Aaron Bennett, Ava Mendoza; and Austria-based saxophonist/composer Marco Eneidi. Anderson’s recorded work can be found on Cadence Jazz Records, Clean Feed, CIMP, Pax Recordings, Edgetone, Evander Music, 3 Beads of Sweat, NotTwo, Nine Winds, and NoBusiness Records. He additionally leads two of his own bands, the Vijay Anderson Quartet, and the Touch and Go Sextet.
Lisa Mezzacappa is a San Francisco Bay Area-based bassist, composer, and bandleader whose music spans the vast terrain between free improvisation, contemporary composition, and creative jazz. An active collaborator in the San Francisco Bay Area music community, she performs constantly as a side person in original jazz groups, and leads many of her own celebrated bands, including her garage jazz quartet Bait & Switch (voted Best Debut, Village Voice Jazz Critics’ Poll), the electro-acoustic chamber ensemble Nightshade, and a trio with Brooklynites Chris Welcome and Mike Pride. Lisa has released her own recordings on the Clean Feed, NoBusiness, Leo, NotTwo, Evander and Edgetone record labels, and has also recorded for Tzadik, Kadima and Porto Franco Records. In 2013 she launched Queen Bee Records, a new label to disseminate her work and the music of her illustrious Bay Area peers. She also organizes concerts for jazz and experimental music in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and collaborates frequently on cross-disciplinary projects in sound installation, experimental film, and visual art.
Mark Wright, trumpeter, flugelhornist, composer, arranger, has been an active part of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene for over 16 years. Born in Berkeley, his first teacher was Vernon Carlson; he later studied music formally at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Pacific. Strongly versed in the jazz tradition, Mark places an emphasis on performing his own compositions, of which he has written over 250. He has performed with many greats, including Clark Terry, Ray Charles, Plas Johnson, John Handy, Pharaoh Sanders, Louie Bellson, Herb Geller, Grover Washington Jr., David Murray, Steve Turre, Rodney Franklin, Freddie Redd, Dave Ellis, Joshua Redman, and Don Carlos.