Jazz Appreciation Month: Meet the Neal Smith Jazz Ensemble, A Worldly Unit From Berklee

Apr 6, 2018

Helmed by  Neal Smith, a drummer, professor and ensemble coach at the Berklee College of Music, The Neal Smith Jazz Ensemble is a handpicked ensemble featuring some of the top players from the school, all of whom separately play around the Boston area.

The Neal Smith Jazz Ensemble consists of Garyfallia (Gary) Despoina Kerkezou from Greece (drums), Oren Hardy from Israel (bass), Giuseppe Cucchiara from Italy (bass), Dabin Ryu from South Korea (piano), Rina Yamazaki from Japan (piano), Tobias Meissl from Austria (vibraphone), Samuel Batista from Panama (alto saxophone), and Milena Casado Fauguet from Spain (flugelhorn and trumpet).

The ensemble performed classics by Irving Berlin, Bobby Hutcherson and Oscar Peterson.

"Russian Lullaby" (Irving Berlin): Rina Yamazaki on piano, Oren Hardy on bass, Garyfallia Kerkezou on drums.

"Farallone" (Bobby Hutcherson): Samuel Batista on alto saxophone, Milena Casado on flugelhorn, Tobias Meissl on vibraphone, Oren Hardy on bass, Garyfallia Kerkezou on drums.

"Thag's Dance" (Oscar Peterson): Dabin Ryu on piano, Giuseppe Cucchiara on bass, Garyfallia Kerkezou on drums.

Another ensemble organized, directed and conducted by Neal Smith at Berklee is the Jazz Ahead Ensemble, featuring drummer Julian Pardo-Valdez. They perform Emmet Cohen's "You Already Know." 

The Unity Ensemble of Berklee College of Music

Finally, we feature a track by The Unity Ensemble, a female fronted group formed last year by drummer Ivanna Cuesta Gonzalez, of the Dominican Republic. Along with Gonzalez, the band features saxophonist Carla Restivo, from Italy; bassist Dana Roth, from Israel; and pianist Kento Tsubosaka, from Japan. They performed "Cuban Exchange," by 2018 NEA Jazz Master Joanne Brackeen.