Born: January 20, 1972 Primary Instrument: Drums
Alvin Atkinson, Jr., six-time Jazz Ambassador, drummer, bandleader and Jazz educator, has traveled the globe performing America’s classical music. As an ambassador of jazz, Atkinson possesses the characteristics of a diplomat whether he’s performing in front of a large audience in Saudi Arabia, working with college students in Jordan, or working with middle school children in New York City. Atkinson formed Alvin Atkinson and the Sound Merchants in New York City in 2004. The group combines jazz and blues influences with inflections of various rhythms and melodies from around the world. The group's first recording project, Alvin Atkinson and the Sound Merchants, received nominations for Best International Jazz Song from the First Annual 2007 Toronto Exclusive Magazine Awards and Best Jazz Song from the Seventh Annual Independent Music Awards in 2007 for the composition “Dance of the Emirates.” In 2007 and 2008, Alvin Atkinson and the Sound Merchants, traveled to the Middle East and Russia. In addition to the tours with his own group, Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad Program coordinators selected Atkinson to lead the Rhythm Road All-Stars Group. Native of North Carolina, Atkinson grew up in a musical family where both of his parents performed in touring gospel groups. He attended North Carolina Central University under the tutelage of Dr. Ira Wiggins. While a student, he performed with jazz notables Ellis Marsalis, Houston Person, Freddie Redd, Tom Browne, Maceo Parker, Shirley Scott, Branford Marsalis and Jimmy Heath.
The U.S. jazz quartet Alvin Atkinson and the Sound Merchants performed to an enthusiastic crowd of invited guests February 22 at the Dubai Community Theater and Arts Center (DUCTAC), earning a standing ovation for their mix of bebop, swing and classic jazz numbers. Consul General Paul Sutphin introduced the group, noting that blues and jazz music is a vital US contribution to global culture, and plays an important part promoting cross-cultural understanding, particularly between the Middle East and the United States. The Sound Merchants performance at DUCTAC was made possible through the generous support of the Dubai Cultural Council and the Dubai Community Theater.
The audience was treated to two 45-minute sets of jazz classics from Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Chick Corea, as well as to original compositions from Stacy Dillard and Alvin Atkinson. The original pieces included Ibn Battuta, reflecting the jazz ensembles' commitment to incorporating influences from their travels into their music. Another piece performed was in homage of the cooking of Alvin Atkinson's mother, eliciting a universal response through the shared experience of coming home to the aroma of a succulent meal.
The event was part of the Rhythm Road American Music Abroad Program, which allows performers of jazz and urban music to tour countries with limited exposure to live American culture to reach out across language, cultural and social barriers through the language of music. The Rhythm Road American Music Program is co-produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center, The United States Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and U.S. Embassies and Consulates General Abroad. The Dubai portion of the Sound Merchants' concert was organized by the Consulate General's Public Affairs Officer Marion Ram and the office's Program Assistant.
Alvin Atkinson and the Sound Merchants
Tracks: Dance of the Emirates; Aint Doris; Bolivia; Per'p; Journey of Ibn Battuta; Korinthis; Elite State of Mind; Adewale.
Personnel: LaKesha Benjamin: Sax - Ameen Saleem: Bass - Sean Higgins: Piano - Alvin Atkinson: Drums.
As A Side Musician
In the Cross
Criss Cross Jazz
Tracks: All Day Long; I'm Glad; I Want Jesus to Walk With Me.
Personnel: Wycliffe Gordon: Trombone.
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New York, NY
Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
As an educator, Alvin served as the Visiting Professor of Drum-set Studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada during the 2004-2005 school year. In addition to performing, he has taught at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Middle School Jazz Academy, The Bronx Academy and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City.
Alvin works with students on all levels, beginning to advanced.