The music composed and performed by Eugene Uman, pianist and leader of the Convergence Project, achieves a difficult feat: it balances on an artistic tightrope between fresh, innovative and exploratory on one side, and accessible, understandable, exceedingly enjoyable and fun to listen to on the other. What keeps the project unified is the integrity of the compositions, the shared vision of the group’s members and the careful balance of jazz harmonies with Colombian rhythms.
The Convergence Project is aptly named. Led by Uman, artistic director of the Vermont Jazz Center, the group is a convergence of six extraordinary musicians, each of whom brings individual influences and flavors to Uman’s rich compositions. The Convergence Project concert will take place on Saturday, June 8th at 8 p.m. at the Vermont Jazz Center, Brattleboro.
Now in its fifth year as a core group, the Convergence Project, in addition to Uman on piano, features:
Drummer Satoshi Takeishi has appeared on over 75 recordings including those by Latin giants Nestor Torres, Ray Barretto, Hector Martignon and Eliane Elias. Satoshi has also performed with Laszlo Gardony, Badal Roy, Erik Friedlander, Colombian saxophonist, Antonio Arnedo, Paul Winter, Anthony Braxton, Theo Bleckmann/Ben Monder, Joel Harrison and Rob Brown. Satoshi’s roots are deep in jazz, Latin and experimental music; he can be found on recordings including Marc Johnson, Eddie Gomez, Randy Brecker, Dave Liebman, Mark Murphy, Herbie Mann, and the Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band. His unique style incorporates ethnic percussion and electronics along with the traditional drum set. He currently works with pianist/conceptualist, Shoko Nagai.
Electric bassist Stomu Takeish has been praised by critics for his sensitivity to sound and timbre. He has played in many international jazz festivals and at major venues throughout the world. In Downbeat’s 57th Critics Poll, Stomu was the winner in the category of Electric Bass, Rising Star. He has appeared on over 45 recordings including those with Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band, Lazlo Gardony, Dave Tronzo, Henry Threadgill & Make a Move, Badal Roy, Erik Friedlander, Cuong Vu, Myra Melford’s Crush, Steve Gorn, John Zorn and many others.
Saxophonist Michael Zsoldos has performed with Paquito D’Rivera, Sheila Jordan, Ernie Watts, Matt Wilson, Rebecca Parris, and Jerry Bergonzi and has opened for piano legend McCoy Tyner. Michael has arranged for and performed with the horn section of the Dartmouth Gospel Choir and Chicago’s One Accord. They performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Umbria, Napoli, Rome, Chicago’s House of Blues, Jazz at Lincoln Center and at the Obama Inauguration. Zsoldos plays with the Discover Jazz Festival Big Band in Burlington, VT and the Vermont Jazz Center Big Band in Brattleboro, VT. For six years, Michael was the Band Director at Woodstock Union High School and Middle School and is currently on the teaching faculties of Castleton State College and Interplay Jazz Camp.
Trombonist Steve Davis performed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers for two years after which he joined the faculty at Hartt school of music. Steve gained further recognition playing in his mentor Jackie McLean’s Sextet from 1992–97 and in Chick Corea’s Origin (1997–2001). Davis has played and recorded with a long list of jazz greats including Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson’s New Jazz Octet, Hank Jones, Avishai Cohen, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Jazz Orchestra, Cedar Walton, Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, Eddie Henderson, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band among many others. Davis has appeared on over 100 recordings as a sideman and has recorded 15 albums as leader.
Guitarist Sebastian Cruz often mixes musical elements from his Colombian roots with those of New York City life. He focuses on teaching, writing for film and writing and performing with own group, “Cheap Landscape,” which has released three acclaimed CDs. Sebastian has performed throughout the U.S., Europe and Colombia including the Mozart-Saal from Vienna’s Kozerthaus, Joe’s Pub, BAM Cafe, Symphony Space, Summer Stage-Central Park in New York, A-Trane in Berlin, among many others. Sebastian has taught Colombian music at Columbia University. As a composer Sebastian won theVan Lier Fellowship from Meet The Composer, and an ASCAP award.
“Each of these musicians brings vast knowledge and wisdom to musical performance,” says Uman. “I aim to give them opportunities to express themselves through my music.” In putting together the Convergence Project, Uman was “looking for a situation in which I could effectively express all the styles that influence my composition,” he explains. “All the musicians I found complement that objective. It’s extremely exciting that I’ll be playing with these guys.”
Uman’s music draws from a panoply of styles and forms: Latin rhythms from Colombia, the driving energy of rock, an underpinning of jazz. But Uman’s music is also laced with modal echoes from India and North Africa, and always allows for wide interpretation and free expression.
The Convergence Project at VJC, Saturday, June 8, at 8 p.m., is made possible with generous financial support from the McKenzie Family Charitable Trust and the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hospitality provided by the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro and underwritten by VPR and WFCR.
Tickets for the Convergence Project at VJC, June 8, are $20 general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at www.ntjazz.org. Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1.
A Musical Balance
The Convergence Project
Saturday, June 8th, 8 p.m., at Vermont Jazz Center