Fall 2012 Bios

WAMFEST Artist in Residence Wesley Stace
Wesley Stace/John Wesley Harding is the living embodiment of WAMFEST, a man truly dedicated to his own expression of words and music and to supporting the greater artistic communities in general.  His dual identity as a novelist and singer/songwriter has served him well; his impressively large song library successfully combines folk, rock, American roots and a little country while his latest novel, the titillating murder mystery Charles Jessold, Considered a Murderer, has been enthusiastically and positively reviewed by The New York Times and NPR. A born performer, his monthly variety show Cabinet of Wonders (held at City Winery in Manhattan) combines music, comedy and readings by topnotch artists like Eugene Mirman, Andrew Bird, Mary Gaitskill, Ted Leo and Gary Shteyngart.  Stace will be hosting each WAMFEST event in addition to performing alongside many of our visiting artists. Learn more about Harding’s “life’s project” of “putting music and literature together in new ways” at The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2-3 pm in Hartman Lounge: “WAMFEST Presents Chip Kidd: Graphic Historian”
Working primarily for Knopf publishing, Chip Kidd quickly became one of the most celebrated designers in the publishing field, having contributed to books written by literary luminaries like Cormac McCarthy, Dean Koontz, David Sedaris, Bret Easton Ellis, and John Updike. Publisher’s Weekly described Kidd’s work as “creepy, striking, sly, smart, unpredictable covers that make readers appreciate books as objects of art as well as literature.”  The comic book industry has also been greatly aided and graced by Kidd’s incredible eye for design.  He not only redesigned the packaging for classic DC Comics works like Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns but also designed the packaging for modern day classics like All-Star Superman and Final Crisis.  Kidd has dedicated a great deal of his time to creating books that both beautifully catalogue and celebrate the rich history of comic books all over the world (e.g., Bat-Manga, Batman: Animated and collections documenting the great cartoonistst Charles Schultz, Dave Gibbons, and Alex Ross).  In addition to being a graphic designer, Chip Kidd has written two novels, The Cheese Monkeys and its sequel, The Learners. As of this past summer, Kidd revisited his lifelong love of Batman and design in the novel Batman: Death By Design, featuring art by Dave Taylor.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 7-10 pm in Dreyfuss Theater: “WAMFEST Presents Readin’ N Rhythm’s Move on Up Showcase featuring the Yoni Gordon Orchestra, the Brooklyn Players Reading Society and Melissa Faliveno alongside current FDU students”
Yoni Gordon is a New York-based singer-songwriter who has been touring the East Coast for the last decade. Gordon’s catalogue includes both solo and full-band releases covering everything from folk and country to punk, pop and straight up rock-and-roll. His beautiful and versatile voice effortlessly winds through the various styles he tackles, while his live show is commanding and energetic, sometimes wild and wooly, other times reminiscent of a preacher at a Baptist church, yet other times quiet, soulful and reflective. Drummer Dave Fine-Firesheets and saxophonist Ben Jaffe will be joining him for this gig.

Experimental trio the Brooklyn Players Reading Society often describes their performances as “this weird spoken word thing we do,” but it goes much deeper than that. Having toured and performed for decades, tenor saxophonist Ben Jaffe draws from a rich personal history of musical styles and experiences then adds his own tricks and quirks to create a completely one-of-a-kind sound.  Think yelping melodies, shrieks and squeals that feel more like animals in the wild than a woodwind, and self-induced feedback that somehow simultaneously harmonizes with all of this. Vocalist Becky Fine-Firesheets and Ben play off of one another throughout a piece, she singing, screaming, grumbling or soliloquizing from various poems, songs, fiction and nonfiction pieces. Drummer Dave Fine-Firesheets keeps this weirdness all together in time, but don’t be fooled into thinking anything he plays for BPRS is “straight.”  His detailed style keeps everything rooted while exploring the same themes Ben and Becky bat back and forth; he only misses a beat when he means to (at least he makes it seem this way).

Melissa Faliveno grew up in rural Wisconsin, where she spent most of her time in the woods. She received a BA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in DIAGRAMDinIsthmus, and Lumina, where it was a finalist for the 2011 Nonfiction Contest, judged by Vivian Gornick. Melissa has edited science fiction novels and Midwestern travel guides, and currently works on the editorial staff of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Wednesday, October 24th, 3-4:30 pm in Dreyfuss Theater: “WAMFEST Presents The Fight for Home (A New Orleans Story) with Donald Harrison Jr., Daniel Wolff and Jonathan Demme”
According to CBS Sunday Morning, “Donald Harrison Jr. is one of the most important musicians of the new millennium.” Having created the Nouveau Swing style, which merges acoustic swing and modern R&B with hip-hop, New Orleans African American roots culture and reggae rhythms, many of Harrison’s compositions are considered classics to be included in the standard jazz repertoire. The great singer-pianist Dr. John says of Harrison’s latest New Orleans recording, The New Sounds of Mardi Gras, “This is the freshest thing to come out of New Orleans in years.” Harrison has recorded dozens of albums, including the three-disc set 3D Volumes I, II, and II, which features a different genre of music on each disc (classic jazz, R&B/smooth jazz and hip-hop) and showcases Harrison’s ability to produce, write, sing, rap, and play multiple instruments. His influence on modern rap culture as an early mentor of The Notorious BIG was documented on VH-1’s hit series “Driven.” Harrison is also master singer/dancer in traditional New Orleans culture, making his own Mardi Gras costumes and serving as The Big Chief of Congo Square with his group the Congo Nation. In more recent years, Harrison has written and performed major orchestral works, toured with his own groups and played with The Head Hunters and Jennifer Holiday, among others. New York Times writes that Harrison is “the most interesting, most accessible, and most talented musician in the country right now.”

Daniel Wolff is a celebrated author, having most recently published The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back (Bloomsbury USA), as well as How Lincoln Learned to Read, 4th of July/Asbury Park (both Bloomsbury), and You Send Me: the Life and Times of Sam Cooke. He has also written multiple books in collaboration with photographers Ernest Withers, Danny Lyon, and Eric Meola, as well as two volumes of poetry. In addition to his written work, he also produced a documentary about New Orleans with director Jonathan Demme entitled, I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad, and The Beautiful.

Wednesday, October 24th, 7-9 pm in Dreyfuss Theater: “WAMFEST Presents Jonathan Demme’s I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad, And The Beautiful, with Jonathan Demme, Donald Harrison Jr. and Daniel Wolff.  Screening and discussion.”
Jonathan Demme is a highly acclaimed and regarded filmmaker, producer and screenwriter. Best known for directing The Silence of the Lambs, which won him the Academy Award for Best Director, he has also directed the acclaimed movies PhiladelphiaRachel Getting Married, the Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense, and a trilogy of Neil Young documentary/concert movies.  Demme has also directed music videos for artists such as Suburban Lawns, New Order, KRS-One’s H.E.A.L. project and Bruce Springsteen., in addition to producing a compilation of Haitian music entitled Konbit: Burning Rhythms of Haiti that was released in 1989.  Demme is on the Board of Directors at Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY, and curates and hosts a monthly series called “Rarely Seen Cinema.”

Thursday, October 25th, 3:30-5 pm in Lenfell Hall: “WAMFEST Presents POEMJAZZ with Poet Robert Pinsky, Bassist Ben Allison, Guitarist/Composer Dave Stryker and Saxophonist Steve Slagle
Robert Pinsky’s most recent collection, Selected Poems, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in March, 2010. His previous book of poetry, Gulf Music, was published in 2008. He edited Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud (Norton, 2009), with accompanying CD, and translated The Inferno of Dante (1994), which received both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award. His prose works include The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide (FSG, 1998) and The Life of David (Schocken, 2005). While serving as United States Poet Laureate, Robert Pinsky founded the Favorite Poem Project, an organization dedicated to “celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives.” He also wrote the libretto for Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant, an opera by Tod Machover. The opera premiered in Monte Carlo in September 2010 and was presented by the ART in Boston in 2011.

Known for his inspired arrangements, inventive grooves and hummable melodies, bassist/composer Ben Allison draws from the jazz tradition and a range of influences from rock and folk to classical and world music. With his groups The Ben Allison Band, Man Size Safe, Peace Pipe, and Medicine Wheel, Ben has toured extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Brazil. Called “one of today’s best young jazz musicians” by the Boston Globe and a “visionary composer, adventurous improviser, and strong organizational force on the New York City jazz scene” by JazzTimes, Ben has released ten CDs of original music, all of which showcase his hands-on approach and his forward-thinking vision as a producer, composer, arranger, and bassist. Ben has been cited in the Downbeat Critics Poll “Bassist” category (2010-2011), “Composer” category (2010) and won the “Rising Star Bassist” category in 2005, 2006 and again in 2007.  His album Action-Refraction reached #1 on the CMJ National Jazz radio charts and remained in the top 20 for over three months, and was named one of the Best Albums of 2011 (of any genre) by NPR and Time Out New York. At the age of twenty-five, Ben formed the Jazz Composers Collective — a musician-run, non-profit organization based in New York City that is dedicated to constructing an environment where artists can exercise their ideals of creating and risking through the development and exploration of new music. As the Artistic Director and a Composer-in-Residence, Ben has produced or co- produced over 100 concerts and special events, including the Collective’s annual concert series, an on-going Collective residency at the Museum of Modern Art, and an annual “Jazz Composers Collective Festival” at the Jazz Standard. Ben has also appeared on over 40 albums by various artists and has written music for film, national television and radio, including the theme for the NPR show “On the Media” and the score for Two Days, a play written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donald Margulies. He was a featured artist with the Jazz Sinfonica Orchestra in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2005 and 2008, and performed his Carnegie Hall debut in February, 2012.

Whether you’ve heard guitarist Dave Stryker fronting his own group or as a featured sideman with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, and Kevin Mahogany, you know why Gary Giddins in the Village Voice calls him “one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.” He was recently voted one of the top Jazz Guitarists in the 2012 Downbeat Critics Poll. Stryker grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, moved to New York City in 1980, and joined organist Jack McDuff’s group, traveling all over the U.S. for two years (1984-85). From 1986 to 1995, Stryker played with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine; he has also performed with Freddie Hubbard, James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Eliane Elias, Joe Lovano and many others. Dave currently performs with The Stryker / Slagle Band (with saxophonist Steve Slagle), The Dave Stryker Organ Trio and his Blue to the Bone Band. He has recorded and published over 130 of his compositions, recorded 23 CD’s under his own name and recorded as a sideman on over 60 others. He has performed at many great festivals and concert halls including Carnegie Hall, The Monterey Jazz Festival, and The Newport Jazz Festival. Dave is also involved in passing along his experience by teaching both privately and at many schools across the world, including John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University and The Veneto/New School Jazz Workshop in Italy. His book, Dave Stryker’s Jazz Guitar Improvisation Method (Mel Bay Publishing), is available at www.davestryker.com.

Saxophonist and composer Steve Slagle has released 10 CD’s as a leader, and performed as a sideman on countless others. He has played with Machito, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, Jack McDuff, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra , Milton Nascimento, Carla Bley, Ray Barretto, and Joe Lovano, to name a few. Steve was musical director of the Mingus Big Band for many years, and wrote many of the bands arrangements. He is the co-leader of the Stryker / Slagle Band and has recently written a well-received book entitled Scenes, Songs and Solo’s (Schaffner Press).  JazzTimes says, “Slagle ranks in the upper echelon of alto sax players on the scene today.”

WAMFEST would not  be possible without the extraordinary generosity of Bob and Patricia Pures.  For more information about our sponsors, click here.

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