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Vermont Jazz Center Presents: Wycliffe Gordon and his International All Stars

Wycliffe Gordon and his International All Stars to perform at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, January 13th

Wycliffe Gordon is one of the leading jazz trombonists in the world and he will be performing at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, January 13th at 8 PM. Although he is the recipient of numerous awards, Gordon is best known for his long tenure with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. For his Vermont performance, Gordon will be joined by his touring ensemble, “The International All-stars.” They are a group modeled after trumpeter Louis Armstrong’s All-stars. Their music draws from and builds on Armstrong’s rich and varied repertoire as demonstrated in their 2017 recording, Hello Pops, which features a varied repertoire influenced by or dedicated to Louis Armstrong. The recording even includes a New Orleans second-line brass-band tune called “Pops for President.”

Ever since his youth, Gordon has been enamored with traditional jazz. In an interview with Jazz Times magazine, he reminisced about learning jazz as a teen: “I gravitated to New Orleans music because I was playing trombone and tuba at that time. Even though we as teenagers were listening to a lot of pop
music… I had a five-record jazz collection that I got from my recently departed great aunt, I loved that jazz. My friends used to say, ‘We all love jazz, but Wycliffe, he loves that deep jazz’…Yeah man…I would go in my garage and listen to Sonny Rollins, James P. Johnson and a whole lot of Louis Armstrong.”

All the musicians in Wycliffe Gordon’s International All-Stars play traditional jazz with comfortable assurance. Their improvisations are playful, yet they stylistically honor earlier versions of classics like Armstrong’s Keyhole Blues and jazz standards such as When You’re Smiling and Basin Street Blues. Even their originals swing hard and feel like traditional classics. Members of the International All-stars include Wycliffe Gordon (from Georgia, US) on trombone, trumpet and vocals; Adrian Cunningham, (Australia) on clarinet, flute, saxophone and vocals; Ehud Asherie (Israel) on piano: Ben Williams (Washington, DC) on double bass and Alvin Atkinson (North Carolina) on drums. Gordon says “It’s easy to go anywhere musically with this group. Most of what we’re doing is improvising and everyone understands the language. When you have the ability and the freedom to do that, the music can be great.”

Wycliffe Gordon has been recognized as “a superior technician” and “one of the premier trombonists of our time” by Nate Chinen of the New York Times. He was the winner of the 2017 International Trombone Association (ITA) Award. On their website, ITA offers this reasoning: “His unmatched modern mastery of the plunger mute and his exceptional technique and signature sound, has solidified Gordon a place in musical history.” Wycliffe’s fascination and internalization of the development of the trombone throughout the evolution of jazz has resulted in his mastery of a vocabulary informed by the sounds of the instrument’s earliest progenitors all the way to today’s most current techniques.

In an interview with ITA in 2006, Wycliffe discussed his primary influences. Not surprisingly, many of the trombonists where members of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra: “I first got into plunger-mute playing by listening to a recording of Bubber Miley on Duke Ellington’s Black and Tan Fantasy.  I worked and worked at re-creating this sound. I was later turned on to “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Al Grey, Tyree Glenn, and more and then began transcribing those solos as well, developing a vocabulary of various plunger styles and approaches to playing mutes.” Gordon went on to discuss how listening to and transcribing other trombonists helped him develop his own voice and dynamic variety: “I rely on my imagination as well as ideas I got from listening to musicians that have come before me, such as Dickie Wells and Vic Dickenson. They utilized the trombone to emulate their personalities and characters. Vocalization was at the core of their approach. When they played, you would hear the sound of people talking, laughing, crying, screaming, as well as many other effects that can only be created with the human voice. I may hear something as simple as the way someone laughs; and if it is distinct, I’ll try to imitate it and make something musical of it.”

It is clear that Gordon has worked diligently at his craft and relies more on listening and persistent study than on raw talent to achieve his goals. In a recent Jazz Times, interview he recalls being asked by a student “what’s the shortcut?” His reply was - “Shortcut? The shortcut is the straightest line between where you’re standing and the practice room. There’s no app for your ability. You have to actually do that work. You can’t Google that. You have to practice.” Gordon wrote a book describing his method called Sing It First. In the promo for this method he states: “If you can sing it, then you can play it, [that is my] philosophy on everything from double-tonguing to doodling to scatting. If you’re having trouble executing something…work on singing it first.” This tendency toward vocalization helps define Gordon’s sound and is immediately apparent when listening to him improvise. Gordon’s solos feel inseparable from his persona. It is as if the trombone is an extension of his voice; the instrument becomes a means to ornament his singing with mutes, growls and bends.

Gordon is also an acclaimed composer and arranger. He has published dozens of works for a variety of instrumentations including small jazz ensembles, big bands and orchestras. He has composed two film scores for silent films that were created in the 1920s by Oscar Micheaux, regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker. Micheaux sought to create films that would counter white portrayals of African Americans, which tended to emphasize inferior stereotypes. Gordon composed film scores for Micheaux’s silent films Within These Gates of Mine (1920) and Body and Soul (1925).

The International All-stars are aptly named. Along with Gordon, we will be hearing Australian saxophonist Adrian Cunningham who has been called “indispensable to the New York jazz sceneby Hot House Magazine.  He leads a band called Professor Cunningham and His Old School, which has been highly successful in its tours in the International Swing dance scene. He is a member of Grammy Award winning Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, who recorded the soundtracks for Boardwalk Empire.  He has toured/recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Jonathan Batiste, Chris Potter, Geri Allen, Bucky Pizzarelli, Herlin Riley, Nate Smith, Adam Rogers, Reginald Veal, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Mintzer, Lew Soloff, Harry Allen and many others.

The pianist in the group is Israeli-born and Italian-raised Ehud Asherie, who is considered "a master of swing and stride" (The New Yorker). He has since worked with a broad range of musicians including: Eric Alexander, Roy Ayers, Peter Bernstein, Jesse Davis, Bobby Durham, Vince Giordano, Wycliffe Gordon, Scott Hamilton, Ryan Kisor, Jane Monheit, Catherine Russell, Ken Peplowski and Clark Terry. He has 12 albums out as a leader, including a solo album, Shuffle Along, which is a tribute to Eubie Blake. He also appears on the 2010 Grammy Award winning soundtrack of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Bassist Ben Williams is the winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk Competition on bass. He is also the recipient of a Grammy Award for his work with Pat Metheny’s Unity Band; he was voted as top overall rising star in Downbeat’s 2015 Critic’s Poll. Williams was chosen as bassist for the Obama White House’s 2015 celebration of International Jazz Day, where he accompanied Chucho Valdéz, Paquito D’Rivera, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling, Trombone Shorty, Lionel Loueke, Robert Glasper and Herbie Hancock. Williams has appeared on recordings with Pat Metheny, Jacky Terrasson, George Benson, The NEXT Collective, Eric Reed and many more. He is an in-demand sideman and has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Mulgrew Miller, Chaka Khan, Terrence Blanchard, Stefon Harris, Pharrell Williams and Herbie Hancock; he appears with Don Cheadle in a recent tribute to Miles Davis called Miles Ahead.

The drummer for the group is Alvin Atkinson, Jr. As the leader of The Sound Merchants, he participated in several tours as a U.S. State Department Jazz Ambassador; as such he presented his music in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, South America, Haiti, and Africa.  Atkinson also toured with an all-star group from Jazz at Lincoln Center, which performed in the Mid-East, Russia, Mali, India, and China. He has performed with Freddie Redd, Steve Wilson, Jimmy Heath, Ellis Marsalis, Barry Harris, Frank Wess, Oscar Brown Jr., Ernie Andrews, Don Braden, Houston Person, Roby Hargrove and many others.

Come find out why Wycliffe Gordon has won the Down Beat Critic’s Poll as “Best Trombone” four out of the last five years, and “Trombonist of the Year” for nine years in a row from the Jazz Journalists Association. The VJC is honored to present Mr. Gordon’s project honoring the great Louis Armstrong. It is likely that this concert will sell out in advance, so reserve your tickets now. The VJC is especially grateful for the sponsorship of this event by Ed Anthes and Mary Ellen Copeland, as well as a friend of the Vermont Jazz Center Summer Jazz Workshop. Their generous contributions have made this concert possible. The VJC is also thankful for the ongoing support from the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW, WFCR and Olga Peters of WKVT’s Green Mountain Mornings.

Tickets for Wycliffe Gordon at the Vermont Jazz Center are $20+ general admission, $15 for
students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, online at www.vtjazz.org, and by email at ginger@vtjazz.org.  Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line at 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC at 802
254 9088.

I practice singing everything that I play and vice-versa. This gives me a connection to music; and the instrument becomes what it is intended for, an extension of my voice. I practice all of the vocal inflections that I may want to emulate when I play—and I do them right away.

Wycliffe Gordon

Jazz at Lincoln Center – A Night in the Life


Featured with Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra


Duo Performance of Precious Lord, demonstrating use of plunger mute while playing a heart-felt gospel standard (my favorite!)


More Gospel, beautiful!


Promo for recording with International All-Stars


Other videos to enjoy:






Press Release – Please give author’s credit to Eugene Uman

Vermont Jazz Center, 802 254 9088, eugene@vtjazz.org 


Wycliffe Gordon to Perform at the Vermont Jazz Center on Saturday, January 13th, 2018 at 8:00 PM

Short Summary

Who: Wycliffe Gordon and the International Jazz All-stars

Musicians: Wycliffe Gordon, trombone, trumpet and vocals; Adrian Cunningham, clarinet, flute, saxophone and vocals; Ehud Asherie, piano: Ben Williams, double bass; Alvin Atkinson on drums. 

What: Jazz music influenced by traditional jazz in the spirit of legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong

WhenSaturday, January 13th, 2018 at 8:00 PM

Where: The Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301

Tickets available:  online at www.vtjazz.org, by email at ginger@vtjazz.org, by phone 802 254 9088, in person at In The Moment, Main St., Brattleboro, VT.


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