Born: June 2, 1971 Primary Instrument: Keyboard
Born June 2, 1971, in Bellflower, CA, Michael ‘Whitty’ Whittaker is one of the people let alone musicians that is an actual product of southern California. Both Whitty’s father and grandfather were huge jazz fans, playing him Fats Waller, Jerry lee Lewis, Cal Tjader, and even ragtime, which led to Whitty beginning to take piano lessons at the young age 7 years old. Little did they know that their love for music would be the force behind the developing of a great musician and composer. As Whitty advanced in age and skill he began to practice upwards of 6-8 hours a day and was able to get his first playing ‘gig’ playing gospel in a church. It wasn’t apparent to Whitty that he wanted to play this music for a living, until he heard the band Koinonia with Abe Laboriel. After listening to the band he knew that music would play an intricate part in his life. After realizing that music would play a large role in his life, Whitty became both a jazz performance student and film scoring student at UCLA. The classical training and knowledge of orchestration that he obtained through his schooling at UCLA enabled him to become a staff composer for Fox for over 6 years. He has composed the score for over 300 television episodes and TV movies. Currently Whitty is independently scoring and producing for companies like Disney, Sony, NBC and Lions Gate Films. Whitty has won many awards such as the Telly award for his score to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, a Bank of America Musical Achievement award, International Association of Jazz Educators player excellence award, and the Clarence Brown Memorial scholarship for jazz. With all of his prior successes Whitty found himself desperately wanting to create a music that was more challenging intellectually, which led to the recording and creation of Michael Whittaker and The Modern World Project. Michael Whittaker and The Modern World Project first came together in late 2005 when Whitty started to record and work with a friend of his, Jimmy Branly, a world renowned drummer from Cuba. Born in Havana, Cuba in 1972, Branly began playing drums at the age of 13. He has performed with nearly every major group in Cuba in virtually every musical genre from straight-ahead jazz to fusion to hardcore dance music. With Branly’s experience in percussion instruments and complex multiple meter music made him the perfect choice as co-producer and thus they began to record in his studio. Shortly after beginning to record, Whitty knew that he had to call upon the cream of the crop in the industry to make what he heard in his head a reality. So he began with a referral to the virtuoso of African bassist, Andre Manga from a friend. Manga hails from Yaounde, Cameroon where he was the musical director for Manu Dibangu for several years and played electric bass guitar for the group. He is well known as a producer with accolades for Wakafrika (Manu Dibangu) and is sought out by musicians for his musicianship and production skills. Adding Manga to the project it brought an element of authenticity to all the African bass grooves. On a mission to find the best musicians they came across Katisse Buckingham. Buckingham, jazz flute and sax, was an easy choice for the project. His work around LA was starting to get well known and from the first time they heard him play they knew he would fit in perfectly. Originally chosen for his extraordinary jazz flute abilities, it turns out that he plays the sax just as well, as he occasionally sits in for Bob Minzer of the Yellowjackets. On percussion, Whitty used both the Puerto Rican percussionist Joey De Leon, who most true Latin players in LA feel is the best conga player anywhere, along with the World music specialist Brad Dutz. De Leon earned a Bachelor's Degree in Classical Percussion from the prestigious Manhattan School of Music where he won the conservatory's highest award for outstanding musicianship. Since1999, De Leon has played with artists such as renowned guitar duo Strunz and Farah; the Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars, Joey Defrancesco, legendary organist Jimmy Smith; pop superstar Ricky Martin; former Earth Wind and Fire guitarist Al McKay, multi-Grammy award-winning singer Al Jarreau and many others Brad Dutz has eleven CD’s to his credit, including his solo and duet CD’s and band member CD’s by Submedia, OtherParts, and Sleight of Hand; he has also done a series of eight instructional videos for Interworld Music. In addition he has worked on Beverly Hills 90210, Mission Impossible, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek V, Little Mermaid, Nightmare on Elm Street. Dutz brought a huge array of African instruments adding to the authentic flavor of the project. Many portray the forecast of contemporary jazz as gloomy, but with the strength of the musicians that were brought together to compose The Modern World Project, it looks as though the forecast is looking warm, sunny, and filled with the variety of ingredients that drew people to the music in the first place.