Internationally renowned bassist and Mack Avenue recording artist, Rodney Whitaker is one of the world’s renowned double bass performers, educators, mentors and is
dedicated to inspiring and growing the next generation of jazz educators and musicians.
A Detroit native, he grew up in the city soaking in the sounds of jazz and classical
music and working with the finest musicians in the city. Building on his Detroit
roots and enormous talent, Whitaker went on to earn an international reputation as
one of the world’s finest jazz double bass performers. He completed a seven-year tenure
as bassist with the Wynton Marsalis’ Sextet, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and
has toured the world over the last twenty-six years, collaborating with over 100+
legendary performing jazz artists such as Dianne Reeves, Hank Jones, Mulgrew Miller,
Junko Onishi, Yutaka Shiina, Kenny Burrell, Diana Krall, John Lewis, Kathleen Battle,
Marian McPartland, Wycliffe Gordon, Kenny Garrett, Bradford Marsalis, Bob James, Roy
Hargrove, Jon Carl Hendricks, Tommy Flanagan, Frank Morgan, Terence Blanchard, Betty
“Be-Bop” Carter, Chick Corea, and leading symphony orchestras across the world—just
to name a few. He has appeared and presented master classes at the International Association of Jazz
Educators (IAJE) conferences.
Featured on more than 100+ recordings - from film to compact discs - Whitaker’s film
scores, China, directed by Jeff Wray, was released on PBS Fall 2002 and Malaria and
Malawi, released on PBS Fall 2010. Also, Whitaker has a DVD release featuring Michigan
State University’s Jazz Department entitled, “Inside Jazz” and three new compact discs
entitled, “Get Ready” & “Work To Do”—both on Mack Avenue Records and “Better Than
Alright” by Michigan State University College of Music. In 2011, he was nominated
for an EMMY for the ‘Original Music’ category, “Malawi and Malaria: Fighting to Save
the Children” produced by Robert Gould and Sue Carter. Whitaker collaborated with
musicians Phil Dwyer and Alan Jones on “Let Me Tell You About My Day,” produced by
Alma Records and was nominated for a Juno Award in 2006 for Traditional Jazz Album
of the Year, Canada's equivalent to the United State of America’s Grammy.
He is a full professor of jazz double bass and director of jazz studies at Michigan
State University where he has built one of the leading jazz degree-granting programs,
offering both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Jazz Performance.
Ben Markley is a pianist, composer, arranger, author, educator, and leader of the
Ben Markley Big Band, a daring ensemble known for their creative takes on beloved
modern and contemporary jazz classics. Fresh off the heels of Clockwise: The Music
of Cedar Walton, Markley tackles his most ambitious project yet: Ari’s Funhouse, a
big band album featuring the music of drummer Ari Hoenig, with Hoenig himself in the
drum chair. The album received great critical acclaim and was selected as one of the
best 4 star rated albums of 2022 by DownBeat magazine.
Markley is active as a composer and arranger with many big band and vocal jazz charts
published through UNC Jazz Press as well as his own website. Recent arranging commissions
include the Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia, and Wyoming
Jazz Educators All-State Jazz Band.
In 2023 Markley published Cedar. The Life and Music of Cedar Walton (University of North Texas Press). Markley conducted more than seventy-five interviews
with friends and family members, musicians who played with or were otherwise influenced
by Walton, and industry figures such as club owners. Musicians interviewed include
such stars as Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson, and Ron Carter. Walton’s wife Martha shared
her extensive archives of photos, ephemera such as fliers and tour itineraries, and
letters to inform Markley’s writing which is the definite biography on Walton.
Markley’s book A Practical Approach to Improvisation - The David Hazeltine Method was published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz in December of 2014. It documents David Hazeltine’s
process of creating etudes from transcriptions.
Markley is an active performer in the Denver-metropolitan area and along the front
range. He currently teaches jazz piano and serves as department chair of the music
department for the University of Wyoming.
Kyle Swan@Grammy Award winning drummer Kyle Swan has been working on mastering his craft for
over 15 years. He has demonstrated true dedication to enhancing his artistry in every
way. He has participated in many music festivals across the world which include the
Montreal Jazz Festival(Canada, 2016), Jazz Cruise(2017), Port Au Prince Jazz Festival(Haiti,
2018), Dromos Jazz Festival(Italy 2018) Guatemala Jazz Festival(Guatemala 2019), Menorca
Jazz Festival(Spain 2019), and many others. He has had the honor of playing with many
esteemed artists such as, @Grammy Award winning artists Brian Lynch, Gonzalo Rubalcaba,
and Paquito D’Rivera. He has also had the privilege of playing with other phenomenal
artists such as Bobby Broom, Orrin Evans, Alex Brown, Sean Jones, Eric Reed, etc.
He attained his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from University of Miami’s Frost
School of Music from the years 2013-2018. He studied Criminology and Jazz Studies
in his undergraduate degree and became the Teaching Assistant for the Jazz Drum Department
during his graduate studies. As a student of the Black American Artform that is Jazz,
Kyle has devoted quality time to his musical evolution, instruction, and mastery.
Wil SwindlerComposer and saxophonist, Wil Swindler currently resides near Denver, CO where he
leads Wil Swindler's Elevenet, the modern bop quintet GoodRattle, and the Wil Swindler
Quartet. In addition to his own bands, he is an active performer with the Peter Sommer
Septet, Al Hood’s H2 Big Band, Colorado Symphony, the Ben Markley Big Band, the Colorado
Jazz Orchestra, the Adam Bartzcak Republic, and many more. In addition to receiving
IAJE's Gil Evans Fellowship in 2008, Wil has completed numerous commissions from jazz
ensembles, military bands, and symphony orchestras around the world. Wil has three
CDs available under his own name, Universe B (OA2 Records 2010), the Right Riot (2014)
with GoodRqattle, and Chamber Jazz Ensemble (NohJoh Music 2006), and can be heard
on numerous other albums including Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs for the Season, Steve
Owen's Stand Up Eight, Peter Sommer’s Happy-Go-Lucky-Locals, Al Hood/Dave Hansen's
You're It, Bob Washut’s Journey to Knowhere, and David Caffey’s Enter Autumn and All
Wil is an Instructor of Music and the Associate Director of Jazz Bands at Colorado
State University, a position he has held since 2009. He is a frequent adjudicator
for high school and college jazz festivals around the country and maintains a private
saxophone/composition studio in the Denver area. Wil has served as an adjunct saxophone
teacher and Jazz Ensemble director at Denver University, instructor at the University
of Northern Colorado, composition teacher for the Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz
Arts, faculty at the Yellowstone Jazz Camp, as well as the University of Northern
Colorado Jazz Camp, and the Rocky Mountain Summer Music Camp. Originally from Central
Texas, Wil began studying music at age five, and picked up the saxophone at age nine.
He earned a B.M. in Jazz Studies from the University of North Texas in 2001 where
he played in, composed for, and recorded with the 1:00 Lab Band. While at North Texas,
he studied with Jim Riggs, Paris Rutherford, Neil Slater, and others. In 2000 he attended
the Henry Mancini Institute on a full scholarship from BMI, and received a commission
the following year from HMI for a piece premiered at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
In 2001, Wil relocated to New York City, where he played with Toshiko Akiyoshi and
Bill Warfield's NY Fusion Ensemble, among others. During his time in N.Y., Wil studied
saxophone with Dave Pietro and composition with Michael Abene and Jim McNeely as a
member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. In 2003, he returned to his hometown of
Austin, Texas, where he co-founded the 10-pc Chamber Jazz Ensemble and served as musical
director for vocalist Kevin Ahart. Mr. Swindler has lived in Colorado since 2006 with
his wife April Johannesen and daughter Annika.
As an educator, Wil is in demand as a saxophone and jazz clinician and joined the
music faculty at Colorado State University as an adjunct Jazz instructor in the fall
of 2009. He is a frequent adjudicator for high school and college jazz festivals around
the country and maintains a private saxophone/composition studio in the Denver area.
Wil has served as an adjunct saxophone teacher and Jazz Ensemble director at Denver
University, instructor at the University of Northern Colorado, compositionteacher for the Colorado Conservatory of the Jazz Arts, faculty at the Yellowstone
Jazz Camp, as well as the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Camp, and the Rocky
Mountain Summer Music Camp.
Originally from Central Texas, Wil began studying music at age five, and picked up
the saxophone at age nine. He earned a B.M. in Jazz Studies from the University of
North Texas in 2001 where he played in, composed for, and recorded with the 1:00 Lab
Band. In 2000 he attended the Henry Mancini Institute on a full scholarship from BMI,
and received a commission the following year from HMI for a piece premiered at the
Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. In 2001, Wil relocated to New York City, where he played
with Toshiko Akiyoshi and Bill Warfield's NY Fusion Ensemble, among others. During
his time in N.Y., Wil studied saxophone with Dave Pietro and composition with Michael
Abene and Jim McNeely as a member of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. In 2003, he
returned to his hometown of Austin, Texas, where he co-founded the 10-pc Chamber Jazz
Ensemble and served as musical director for vocalist Kevin Ahart. Mr. Swindler has
lived in Longmont, Colo. since 2006 with his wife April Johannesen, and daughter Annika.
Steve KovalcheckGuitarist/composer/educator Steve Kovalcheck has a diverse musical background. Hailing
from Nashville, Tennessee, Kovalcheck grew up in a rich musical environment. While
his roots are in hard rock, he became interested in jazz in his late teens, and has
gone on to work with well known artists including Jeff Hamilton, Joey DeFrancesco,
Terrell Stafford, Grammy Award winner Howard Levy, Jeff Coffin, Pat Bianchi, Lewis
Nash, Danny Gottlieb, Adam Nussbaum, Chris Potter, Nicholas Payton, and Ingrid Jensen,
to name a few. Outside of the jazz world, Kovalcheck has worked with artists and producers
including Robinella and the C.C. String Band, Carrie Rodriguez, Tommy Sims, Charles
“Wigg” Walker, Russ Titelman, Don Williams, and many others. While Kovalcheck’s main
focus has been on jazz guitar and jazz education, he maintains an active involvement
in rock, blues, funk, country, and bluegrass styles on the guitar.
While having worked professionally in Nashville and New York, Kovalcheck has called
Colorado home since 2007. He is active as a performer in Colorado, across the US,
and internationally, having performed in China, Sweden, France, and Romania. While
in Colorado, Kovalcheck serves on the faculty for the DownBeat award-winning jazz
studies department at the University of Northern Colorado where he teaches jazz guitar,
jazz improvisation, small jazz ensembles, and jazz composition. He is also active
giving clinics nationally and internationally.
Kovalcheck recently released Ghost Orchid, a quartet recording of all original music
performed by some of Colorado’s finest jazz musicians; Paul Romaine on drums, Peter
Sommer on tenor sax, and Ken Walker on bass. Kovalcheck also has a number of creative
projects to look out for in the coming months (planned releases in 2022). These projects
include a new trio recording that is a step in a different artistic direction. This
recording, Nine Mile Hill, is a musical homage to Kovalcheck’s roots in Nashville.
Blending country, blues, rock, and jazz influences, this recording features the drummer
Danny Gottlieb (Pat Metheny Group, Gary Burton, Mahavishnu Orchestra) and bassist
Jon Hamar (Jeff Hamilton trio/Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra). Kovalcheck also participated
in a collective recording with bassist Jon Hamar and pianist Dawn Clement, release
date pending. He also recently recorded with the Ari Hoenig and the Ben Markley Big
Band, an album that will be released in June of 2022.
Gilad Hekselman is one of the leading voices in jazz guitar. Only a few years after his arrival to
NY in 2004, this native Israeli was already sharing stages with some of the greatest
artists in the New York City jazz scene including Chris Potter, Eric Harland, Fred
Hersch, Mark Turner, Anat Cohen, Ari Hoenig, Esperanza Spalding, Jeff Ballard, Ben
Wendel, Gretchen Parlato, Ben Williams, Avishai Cohen, Tigran Hamasyan, Aaron Parks
and Becca Stevens among many others.
In May 2019, Hekselman featured his quartet at the legendary NYC venue The Village Vanguard. He has also been playing all other major jazz clubs in New York City, including
the Blue Note, The Jazz Standard, Dizzy's Club and Smalls. He is constantly touring
world-wide and has played most noteworthy jazz festivals and venues including Montreux,
North Sea, Montreal & SFJazz to name a few.
Hekselman has released 9 critically-acclaimed records as a band-leader, many of which
have made it into 'best of the year' lists on NY Times, Downbeat Magazine, Amazon,
All About Jazz and many other publications. His 10th record, Far Star, was released on Edition Records in May 2022. It's an all-original album in which Hekselman plays many instruments, and it features
special guests such as Eric Harland, Shai Maestro, Ziv Ravitz and more. The record
release will be celebrated with a week-long engagement at the Village Vanguard in
NYC at the end of March 2022.
Gilad is the recipient of several prestigious awards and recognitions. In 2017, Gilad placed first in the Rising Star category of Downbeat Magazine. That same year, he won the 7 Virtual Jazz Club international competition
2017. In 2018 Gilad was asked by guitar legend Pat Metheny to perform as part of his
NEA Award ceremony at The Kennedy Center, alongside some of Metheny's other favorite
young guitar players. Gilad is also the winner of the 2005 Gibson Montreux International Guitar Competition, which led to a string of performances including opening for guitar legend Paco de
Lucia with his trio at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2006.
Gilad began his prolific recording career in 2006 with the release of his debut album, SplitLife (Smalls Records), recorded
with bassist Joe Martin and drummer Ari Hoenig. It received rave reviews from the
press as did his second album, Words Unspoken (LateSet Records), recorded and released in 2008 with Joe Martin, drummer Marcus
Gilmore and tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm.
In 2009, Gilad recorded three tracks for Walt Disney Records, one of which was included in the record Everybody Wants To Be a Cat (2011). The
album features versions of Disney songs played by a top-shelf lineup of musicians
including Dave Brubeck, Joshua Redman, Esperanza Spalding, Diane Reeves, Roy Hargrove,
Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Bad Plus and many other jazz legends.
Born in Israel in 1983, Gilad studied classical piano from age 6 and began studying
guitar at the age of 9. From age 12 to 14 he performed regularly with the band of
a weekly children's television show. He attended the prestigious Thelma Yellin School
of Arts, graduating with excellence from the jazz department at age 18. Gilad received
the America - Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarship for studies abroad to attend
The New School in New York, where he completed his BFA in performing arts in 2008.
ENDORSEMENTS: MOFFA GUITARS / VICTOR BAKER GUITARS / MOOLLON GUITARS & PEDALS /HEERES GUITARS / IBANEZ GUITARS & AMPS / EARTHQUAKER DEVICES
Led by drummer Andy Wheelock the WHEE3TRIO is a collaboration of close friends whose unique voices seamlessly blend into joyfully
captivating musical experiences that invite listeners into an intimate space where
friendship and artistry can be felt as one. With a rhythmic foundation rooted in Afro-Latin
and West African traditions, the trio builds infectious, percussive grooves that sculpt
undulating landscapes where melodies, that make you feel like home, soar effortlessly
The heart of the trio resides in Gonzalo Teppa's virtuosic bass mastery, its soul
intricately woven by Walter Gorra's extraordinary piano artistry, and its vitality
painted by Wheelock’s rhythmic ingenuity. Mix these with a dash of serene electronic
soundscapes, and you will feel the palatable joy of friendship and creativity, the
essence of the WHEE3TRIO.
Andy Wheelock is a Drummer, Percussionist, Composer, and Educator. Wheelock is an active performer
and can be heard performing regularly around the Front Range. He is a founding member
of the Live Edge Trio, the WHEE3TRIO, KEWO, and can be heard playing regularly with
the Gonzalo Teppa Quintet, Ben Markley, New Stream Brass Ensemble, the University
of Wyoming Jazz Faculty, and the Cheyenne Symphony. Wheelock has had the honor of
sharing the stage with Adam Birnbaum, Steve Nelson, Bill O’Connell, Craig Handy, Ernie
Watts, SK Kakraba, Jorge Glem, Bobby Shew, Chuchito Valdés, Joel Frahm, Henry Linarez,
Bob Bowman, Ivan Trevino, and William Moersch.
Gonzalo Teppa is a two-time Latin Grammy Nominee for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album” and “Best
Latin Jazz Album”, for work on the recordings “Tiempo” by Linda Briceño; and “3rd
Element” by Luisito Quintero. Teppa was named “Best Jazz Soloist” by Downbeat Magazine
in 2004, 2005, and 2006. He also received “Best Jazz Soloist” award at the Greeley
Jazz Festival in 2004 and 2005. Teppa has performed with: Wynton Marsalis, Jeff “Tain”
Watts, Matt Wilson, Ed Simon, Chris Potter, Tom Harrell, Ron Miles, Art Lande, Slide
Hampton, Don Byron, Jeremy Pelt, Ben Goldberg, and others.
Walter Gorra is an award-winning pianist, composer and arranger based out of the New York/New
Jersey metro area. Currently 28 years old, Walter graduated from the University of
Colorado at Boulder Magna Cum Laude and High Honors in May 2017 with the following
three degrees – MS Structural engineering, BM Jazz Piano and BS Civil Engineering.
He then pursued a master’s degree in Jazz Composition and Arranging at William Paterson
University in New Jersey, graduating in May 2019. In 2015, Walter was one of 30 young
artists selected by KUVO during their 30th Anniversary year, as part of their “30 Under 30” campaign given them the spotlight and opportunity to have their audience become acquainted
with them and their music. In February of 2015, Walter received a grant from the Boettcher
Foundation to present and play with NEA Jazz Master Paquito D'Rivera in a master class
and concert. The group, "The Walter Gorra Septet" played with Paquito D'Rivera at
the KUVO radio studios in Denver, at the University of Colorado Boulder during a masterclass,
and at the Mount Vernon Country Club in Denver. Walter has worked with Billy Childs,
Rufus Reid, Pete McGuinness