Featured Performer: Tarus Mateen

Tarus Mateen will be performing with the Jazz and Freedom Quartet on Saturday, January 14th, 2017 from 9:10 – 10:00 pm at Tropicalia.

Bio taken from: http://www.tarusmateen.com/


Tommy Hilfiger. Monica. Betty Carter. Common. Terence Blanchard. Outkast. Goodie Mob. Korn. Bernard Purdie. The Roots. Sly and Robbie. Jason Moran. Speech. Ice Cube. Milt Jackson. George Benson. Joe Clausell. Marc Cary. Sean “Puffy” Combs. Christina Aguilera.

What reads like the front-row seating arrangement at a previous year’s Grammy award show is actually a partial membership list of a very elite group. Members of this group have received international acclaim for their contributions to popular culture and music. They have transformed the way we envision, appreciate, play, and hear music. All superstars in their own right, each member of this group sought the light of Tarus Mateen so that they could shine their brightest.

Tarus’s creative genius and mastery of acoustic bass, electric bass, rhythm guitar, and piano make him one of the most sought-after musician/producers in hip-hop, house, blues, rock, reggae, soul, and straight ahead jazz. He is quite possibly the only musician to receive critical acclaim in all these musical genres at once. Since 1996, there has not been a Top 10 jazz album that didn’t feature Tarus Mateen. This is a phenomenal feat for any artist, certainly for one of only 48 years in age.

Tarus began his journey as a professional musician with his two older brothers Roy (drums) and Radji (sax) who toured Jamaica with their group, opening for Freddie Mc Gregregor, as well as Judy Mowatt, formally with the Itrees backup for Bob Marley. By the time Tarus was a teenager, he was a studio musician for some of California’s early rappers and had toured nationally with his brothers.

In 1985 Tarus moved to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Morehouse College, majoring in Music. Setting the local club circuit on fire, Tarus sharpened his skills on both the upright and electric bass. While playing in Savannah, Georgia, Art Blakey encouraged Tarus to move to New York and join his band at the recommendation of front liners Javon Jackson and Philip Harper.

Upon arriving in New York in 1988, Tarus landed a new artist’s dream gig – a one and a half-year stint with legendary jazz master Betty Carter, with whom he recorded a Grammy nominated CD. Touring in Europe and Asia with Ms. Carter afforded him an incredible experience, as well as life long lessons. The cumbersome size of the upright bass made it impossible to keep one on hand for part of the tour. So, at each stop on the tour, Tarus met a new bass. Ms. Carter responded, “It’s not the bass, dear, it’s the bassist.” At this instant, he recommitted himself to artistic mastery.

It is this early commitment to mastering his craft to which Tarus remains true. Known in the jazz world as a genius on bass, his first instrument was actually the piano. A consummate artist, Tarus isn’t afraid to explore any musical genre. His repertoire says it all. Two of hip hop’s shining southern stars, groups Outkast and Goodie Mob, can credit their critical acclaim, and platinum commercial success with Tarus’s contributions to their albums. He is consistently requested for performances and studio sessions with R&B and hip hop artists including Q-Tip, Lauryn Hill, Ghostface, Ice Cube and The Roots. Tarus was the bassist of choice for Lauryn Hill in 2002 to jumpstart her studio performances.

Tarus has also made his mark on film with trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard on the scores for Sugar Hill, and for the Spike Lee film Malcolm X, as well as the Grammy nominated Malcolm X Jazz Suite. Tarus’s original score for the upcoming documentary film, King George: a King Runs for President, about George Weah an international soccer star, is gaining pre-screening momentum in Hollywood. As well as having featured music on RFK Goes to South Africa a documentary about Robert F. Kennedy fighting Apartied.

Playing as part of a new generation of jazz crusaders, with award winning artists such as Jason Moran, Nasheet Waits, Marc Cary and Roy Hargrove, Tarus is the world’s bestbassist. There’s no doubt that blowing up the music world would keep even the most talented musician busy.

Tarus performs and records most regularly with pianist. , Jason Moran He also worked with vibraphonist Stefon Harris, as well as the New Directions band, which includes, Greg Osby and Mark Shim. In 2000, along with drummer Nasheet Waits, he appeared on two stellar piano trio albums: Marc Cary’s Trillium and Jason Moran’s Facing Left.

Tarus is due to release his first and long awaited artistic statment “Arising Saints”The Art of Solo, in May as well as his production on Brittany Tanner’s new CD.Riding on a grammy nomination, this year looks promising to say the least. Stay on board and enjoy the rise.

Featured Performer: MBOWIE and Blast!

Michael Bowie and BLAST! will perform on Saturday, January 14th at 4:30 – 5:20 pm at Tropicalia as part of the Jazz and Freedom Festival.


From Michael Bowie:

I am

in love with music;



a doer

not a follower

an educator

serious… and silly at the same time

complicated ….but easy going

a believer in truth

not fond of politicians

Washington DC to the bone!

4ever hopeful for a DC sports championship…

making music 4 U


Featured Performer: Sarah Hughes

Photo cred to Diriki Rice

Sarah Hughes will be playing with the Jazz and Freedom Quartet on Saturday, January 14th from 9:10 – 10:00 PM at Tropicalia.

Sarah Hughes Bio

Taken from: http://www.sarahmariehughes.com/bio/

Sarah Hughes is an alto saxophonist, composer, improviser, educator, and art adventurer hailing from Maryland. She obtained her MM in Jazz Saxophone at the New England Conservatory in May of 2015 and currently freelances in and around Maryland, DC, Virginia, and New York.


Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Maryland in 2008. While there she studied privately with world-renowned classical saxophonist Dale Underwood. After graduating Sarah taught beginning band and strings in Prince George’s county schools for five years and also maintained two private studios in Maryland and Virginia. During that time she performed in and around DC and New York City with ensembles including the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra and the Brad Linde Ensemble, a Washington D.C.-based collective dedicated to exploring and expanding the styles of jazz that emerged in the 1950s including bebop, cool jazz, third stream, and free jazz. As part of these ensembles, Sarah shared the stage with jazz greats such as Lee Konitz, Ted Brown, Freddie Redd, Matt Wilson, and Michael Formanek.


While at the New England Conservatory, Sarah studied privately with Jerry Bergonzi, Ran Blake, Donny McCaslin, and Anthony Coleman, all of whom impacted Sarah’s unique approach to improvisation and music-making. Sarah performed on Coleman’s latest album, “You” and has performed with Coleman in concerts at the New England Conservatory as well as Roulette and The Stone in New York. Sarah studied composition in classes with Ken Schaphorst and also Ben Schwendener, with whom she has performed several duo concerts in Boston.


In September of 2015 Sarah toured Sweden as part of Amy K. Bormet’s “Ephemera” and performed in Sweden’s first Women in Jazz festival. She also recently taught an improvisation workshop, “Improvisation for Everyone: Games and Storytelling” for beginning, intermediate, and advanced instrumentalists in the 2016 Judith Lapple Summer Woodwind Camp in Fairfax, Virginia. Most recently, she went on tour with an improvising trio “Lead Bubbles”, playing venues in New York, Montreal, and Toronto. Sarah hopes her music and teaching will continue to introduce her to new people, places, and art.

Featured Performer: Akua Allrich

Featured performer: Akua Allrich

5:40 PM – 6:30 PM

Saturday, 1/14/17 @ Tropicalia

Akua will be joined by Zach Pride on bass and Tyler Leak on drums.

Jazz vocalist and DC-native Akua Allrich has proven herself to be a musician of extraordinary talent and crowd-moving passion. With finesse and charisma, this vocalist, composer and teacher, has successfully etched out a place for her unique musical expression, electrifying audiences in and around the nation’s capital with sold-out performances.

With the launch of her independently produced albums, A Peace of Mine, in 2010, Uniquely Standard, Akua Allrich Live!  in 2012, and her latest release Soul Singer, the young artist’s music and concerts created a significant buzz with critics and music-lovers alike. Said Franz Matzner of All About Jazz, “Akua Allrich’s music flows with a free, natural energy as engaging as her equally ingenuous personality.” Her appeal soon reached across US borders and attained international attention. In early 2011, Allrich signed a distribution deal with Japanese record label AGATE/Inpartmaint Inc. Her debut CD, A Peace of Mine, was released in Japan during their “Golden Week” of May 2011. Music lovers and tastemakers from around the world expressed their appreciation and excitement for this new music.

Allrich’s style is fluid and ever evolving. Her musical roots run deeply into blues, soul and rhythm and blues, with a clear grounding in jazz and pan-African music. She sings in many languages including Portuguese, French, Spanish, English, Xhosa, and Twi. Given her ability to capture the essence of a broad range of musical genres, Allrich is often likened to legendary artists such as Oscar Brown, Jr., Miriam Makeba and Nina Simone. She has developed popular tribute programs involving the latter two women and other great African American women of jazz.

Akua Allrich was educated at Howard University, where she obtained her BM in jazz vocals and a master’s degree in social work. She was taught, coached and mentored by talented musicians such as world-renowned singer Kehembe V. Eichelberger, singer/drummer Grady Tate, and pianist Charles Covington.

She is the child of a musical family (her father, Agyei Akoto, was a founding member of the jazz group, Nation, and recorded two albums during Allrich’s youth). Her home held a wealth of cherished recordings that she and her siblings were invited to explore. In fact, she did not buy any albums until her second year in college because her parents had such an amazing collection of jazz records. One of the first jazz albums she bought was John Coltrane’s Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes.

Allrich has already proven her abilities as a performer and bandleader by producing and performing many successful solo and group programs. In addition to focusing on her own engaging compositions, she keeps an ear to the rest of the world and to other eras and artists. Akua Allrich has inspired music lovers from all walks on an international scale, who enjoy her exceptional work and expect nothing short of brilliant artistry from each of her offerings.


Featured Performer: Allen Jones

Allen Jones will be performing with the Jazz and Freedom Quartet at 9:10 – 10:00 PM on Saturday, January 14th at Tropicalia.

Allen Jones is a well-known and much loved drummer from Washington, D.C. A former student of the highly-acclaimed Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, he has make himself indispensable to many different groups and genres within the District.

Featured Performer: Jazz and Freedom Quartet

The Jazz and Freedom Quartet consists of musicians who are performing for social justice: within our schools, our communities, and our lives. This year’s ensemble is made up of Tarus Mateen, Bass, Sarah Hughes, Alto sax, Allen Jones, drums, and Shannon Gunn, trombone. Art Blakey’s “Free for All” album will be a starting point, with Tarus leading a journey that will never be forgotten.


Featured Performer: Zack Pride

Zack Pride will be playing bass with Akua Allrich on Saturday, Jan 14, from 5:40 – 6:30 at Tropicalia.

Although he started playing violin at age seven, he learned music from watching his mother playing organ during church choir rehearsals. After being introduced to the church bassist, he immediately made the switch.

He went on to attend Oberlin Conservatory where he was introduced to jazz. He has never looked back. Since then, he spent time under the tutelage of such masters as: Buster Williams, Ray Brown, Lonnie Plaxico, Matthew Garrison, Peter Washington, and Rufus Reid. Rufus was so impressed with Zack’s talent that he suggested he perform for the memorial service of the late great Milt “The Judge” Hinton.

Zack later performed with the Winard Harper Trio, making history by accompanying Dave Chappelle for the first stand-up comedy performance at Carnegie Hall. To name a few of the artist he’s shared the stage with are: Takana Miyamoto, Kirk Whalum, Daniel Ho, George Cables, Cyrus Chestnut, Rene Marie, Jimmy Ponder, Charles Davis, Russell Gunn, Eric Reed, Donald Smith, Wycliffe Gordon, Lizz Wright, Carrie Smith, Mark Murphy, Marcus Printup, Mark Whitfield, Stefon Harris, Freddy Cole, and Johnny O’Neal.

Featured Performer: Tyler Leak

Photo credit: Darwyn M. Dave

Tyler Leak will be playing drums with Akua Allrich on Saturday, Jan 14, from 5:40 – 6:30 at Tropicalia.

Tyler Leak was born in “Winston-Salem, NC” on June 3 1989. It was only natural for Tyler to generate a passion for music being birthed into a family of Gospel
“Musicians” & “Singers”.

Tyler received a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from “North Carolina Central University” (NCCU) , and currently performs various venues, record sessions and instructs studio and private lessons on a frequent basis

Tyler provides stimulating Private Drum Instruction for beginner, intermediate level youth and adults.

Featured Performer: Shannon Gunn

Photo Credit Tom Williams

Shannon Gunn will be performing with the Jazz and Freedom Quartet on Saturday, January 14th, from 9:10 – 10:00 pm.

Shannon Gunn Bio

Shannon Gunn, recently named D.C.’s best trombonist in the Washington City Paper’s Jazzies Award for 2015, is an active jazz trombonist in the DC metro area. Additionally, her “Firebird Organ Trio” was recently named “Best Small Ensemble” by the Washington City Paper 2016 Jazzies awards. You can find her on Monday nights with the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra as well as playing around town with her own all-female big band, “Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes” and her organ trio, “Firebird.” With the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, she’s had the privilege of playing with notable artists such as Oliver Lake, Cheryl Bailey, Yotam Silverstein, Wycliffe Gordon, Elliott Hughes, Erika Dohi, and for Miho Hazama. Additionally, as lead trombone player at Michigan State University, she was able to play with Billy Taylor, Rodney Whitaker, and Marian McPartland. She earned her Masters of Music in Jazz Studies from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and also attended James Madison University and Michigan State University for her music studies. She also produces “The JazzCast,” a podcast dedicated to curated listening sessions with jazz musicians. In addition to the ensembles listed above, Shannon Gunn has performed with the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra, Reunion Music Society, American Festival Pops Orchestra, Manassas Chorale, and at various venues such as the Kennedy Center, the Takoma Park Jazz Festival, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Center for the Arts in Fairfax, Westminster Jazz Night, Atlas Performing Arts Center, the Washington Women in Jazz Festival, and has subbed in with the DIVA! Jazz Orchestra for Maurice Hines’ “Tappin Thru’ Life.” She resides in Bristow, VA with her husband, Timothy, and her dog, Faith.


Featured Performer: Janel Leppin

Janel Leppin will perform for the Jazz and Freedom Festival on Saturday, January 14th, from 6:50 – 7:40 pm at Tropicalia.

Janel Leppin Bio (source: http://janelleppin.com/bio/)

With a musical style as unique as it is captivating, cellist, vocalist and composer Janel Leppin is a highly developed, innovative artist. Through intense devotion to craft, Janel fuses flawless technicality with boundless, creativity moving far beyond the conventions of her instruments to make music which exists in unchartered sonic territories.

Born and raised in Vienna, Virginia, Janel has spent over 20 years studying and performing classical repertoire on cello and studying voice. Janel’s hard work, virtuosity and proximity to Washington D.C. afforded her the opportunity to study with members of the National Symphony Orchestra throughout high school and college. Working with notable musicians such as Loran Stephenson (NSO) and Diana Fish (The National Gallery Orchestra and The White House Quarter), Janel’s skills developed enough to become Assistant Principal of the American Youth Philharmonic. There, she played among the most talented players in the Washington Metropolitan Area. After years of performance, Janel’s desire for musical growth and expansion coupled with disillusionment with the culture of classical music led her to pursue other means of nurturing and expressing her voice.

Janel’s search for new means of musical expression led her to Indian classical music. Studying in both Delhi, India (2009) and Amsterdam, the Netherlands (2004), she worked within the famed Maihar Gharana school of Hindustani classical music. The Maihar Gharana is responsible for making Indian classical music popular in Europe and America. It includes master sarod player Baba Allauddin Khan, who was the school’s primary teacher. Khan taught surbahar master Annapurna Devi, bansuri master Hariprasad Chaurasia and famed sitar master Ravi Shankar, who taught The Beatles. The time spent studying World Music was integral to Janel’s development and the shaping of her voice as it exposed her to more complex music styles and eclectic instrumentation.

Janel studied the North Indian Cello with her teacher Saskia Rao de Haas who who had developed a modified cello which incorporates eight resonant strings.  Janel bought Rao de Haas’s first model of the cello after her first Hindustani classical music study period in the Netherlands in 2004.  Since then she has performed and recorded with the instrument live and on several recordings including on Rose Windows Sun Dogs (Sub Pop) and Eyvind Kang’s Visible Breathe on “Thick Tarragon” (Editions Mego Ideologic Organ). It is one of only two modified cellos like it in the world.  She received a scholarship to present the North Indian Cello as a new instrument at the American Musical Instrument Society in 2005.

Deepening her interest in the music of the Middle East, Janel was hired to perform with a Persian classical orchestra called the Chakavak Ensemble during her study at George Mason University starting in 2003. In years of intensive preparations for these complex performances, Janel deepened her understanding of and appreciation for Persian classical music. She even learned how to sing ancient Persian poetry and ornamentation before playing them on the cello by studying with renowned ney player Dr. Hossein Omoumi in 2012. This study broadened Janel’s musical approach and vocal style. Today, she continues playing music in this genre, collaborating with master composer and tar player Dr. Nader Majd, who runs the School for Persian Classical Studies in Washington D.C. and recording and performing in small and large ensembles. Janel has emerged as one of the few cellists in the world who plays both Persian classical music Indian Classical music.

During her time at George Mason University, Janel studied with koto master Kyoko Okamoto.  Learning Japanese classical technique on the koto opened up Janel’s interest in playing multiple instruments.  This has proven important for her recordings with Janel and Anthony as well as her solo record Mellow Diamond and Songs for Voice and Mellotron.

After performing in these traditions she set her sites on expanding her musical horizons through improvisation. While many musicians approach improvisation with a jazz influence, Janel’s eclectic world music background and temperament give her improvisations an original harmonic and melodic sensibility. Her proficiency on the cello results in playing marked by clear and precise phrasing as she effortlessly incorporates many different styles and approaches into her performances. She has developed a unique and spellbinding approach to improvisation, which she has been invited to perform at multiple festivals worldwide.


  In 2002, Janel began collaborating creatively with guitarist Anthony Pirog and her interest in improvisation intensified. She studied more conventional traditions of improvised music including bebop. Working, performing and recording with Pirog under the moniker Janel and Anthony, the two have played hundreds of shows and released two albums, selling thousands of copies. Their self titled record was rereleased as a fifth anniversary vinyl edition by D.C. hardcore label Cricket Cemetary.  The duo’s most recent record, Where is Home is critically acclaimed and available on Cuneiform Records.

Janel’s diverse musical interests, innovations and virtuosic ability have caught the attention of dozens of celebrated artists with whom she has had the collaborated. Some of these collaborators include Eyvind Kang, ethereal string player and composer; Oren Ambarchi, minimalistic guitarist and electronic composer; Marissa Nadler, gothic americana songwriter, vocalist and guitarist; Kyp Malone, psychedelic songwriter, singer and guitarist for TV on the Radio; Susan Alcorn, the legendary pedal steel player and composer; Skuli Sverrison, master bassist and composer; Gino Robair, innovative percussionist and electronic musician; and Randall Dunn, master producer and engineer. Because of her expertise and proficiency, Janel has recorded and performed with some of the most highly respected musicians in the world. She has appeared on albums for Touch, Sub Pop, Cuneiform, Tzadik and Editions Mego Ideologic Organ, Tompkins Square and many others. In addition to recordings, Janel is an active participant in the experimental music community, and when she isn’t touring internationally, she plays in a multitude of groups in Washington D.C. and up and down the east coast.

While she has much experience as a member of ensembles, Janel also has much experience leading ensembles. Two of these ensembles, The Janel Leppin Group and Ensemble Volcanic Ash include such diverse instruments as harp, bassoon, cello and saxophone. Ensemble Volcanic Ash made its debut at the Washington Women in Jazz Festival headlining a sold out concert at legendary D.C. jazz club, Bohemian Caverns. The group also headlined at the 2013 Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music and completed a successful residency at the famed Twins Jazz in May 2014.

Janel Leppin’s career is marked by performances at experimental music festivals. She has performed in every Sonic Circuits Festival since 2006 and she was the first Washington D.C. musician to be invited to the High Zero Festival, an international experimental music festival in Baltimore, MD. Additionally, Janel has performed at Skanu Mezs in Riga, Latvia, Flow Festival in Helsinki, End of the Road Festival in the UK and Way Out West Festival in Goteborg, Sweden. In the Spring of 2014, Janel began touring and collaborating with Marissa Nadler for whom she sings harmony vocals, plays synthesizer and cello with electronics live in duo formation internationally.

Though she keeps quite busy performing and leading touring ensembles, Janel’s musical expression goes beyond performing. In 2012, she was called to work as curator for the Issue Project Room as part of Susan Alcorn’s residency. Leppin selected a group of world class musicians with whom she rehearsed her own arrangements of Alcorn’s music. The project culminated with a concert at the Issue Project Room on May 31, 2012. In 2013, The Sonic Circuits Festival also used Janel as a curator for San Francisco based composer Gino Robair’s improvised opera, I Norton, which was performed at The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage as part of the festival. She also joined Eyvind Kang as a cellist in several of his ensembles during his residency at The Stone in New York City during July of 2013.

Janel keeps busy recording music, too. Currently, she’s working on an album of Classical Music, playing works by Villa-Lobos with soprano Meghan Whittier. Her group Ensemble Volcanic Ash has begun work on an album featuring her original compositions and her duo Janel and Anthony has begun working on a third album. Janel is also recording an album of turntablism, exploring her work in the realm of musique concrete, which has been a hallmark of many of her solo performances.

Amidst her many collaborations, Janel knows an artist has to make time for her solo work. For many years she has performed solo projects, often utilizing several instruments, record players and dozens of effects pedals to shape the sound of her performances. In 2012, Janel began work on a solo project which is very dear to her. She recorded an album of vocal and instrumental works with master engineer Mike Reina at The Brink Analog Studio in Virginia. Then, working with mixing engineer Randall Dunn, she recorded additional tracks and mixed the album before sending it to Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Services for mastering.  The album incorporates Leppin’s technical proficiency across a wide range of instruments, myriad stylistic influences and her voice to create a sound unique to Janel as a soloist, a sound representing Janel Leppin’s next steps as a truly innovative artist.