Born: February 10 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
While most girls were interested in playing with dolls at the tender age of eight, Sharel Cassity (pronounced sha-REL) was begging for a saxophone. Thankfully, she received an old Conn alto for Christmas the following year, and as the saying goes, the rest is history, because clearly she is developing into one of the most vibrant jazz saxophonists to come along in quite sometime.
Born in, Iowa City, Iowa, Cassity traveled extensively and eventually settled in the Oklahoma City area for the majority of her adolescent years. It was in that city's diversity--it's Jazz history, Native American culture (a part of her lineage), nature and environment--that formed indelible influences on the young musician. Her parents also inspired the music within, as she recalls her father playing jazz and classical repertoire on his Hammond B3 organ, piano, or trumpet; and her mother filling the house with the sounds of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and other pop artists.
Torn between jazz and classical music in high school, her decision was solidified when a friend gave her a mix tape of Count Basie's Freckle Face, Miles' E.S.P, and Cannonball Adderley's--At the Lighthouse--and as Cassity states, I knew I had to play this music. After attending the University of Central Oklahoma's Jazz program on full scholarship, she performed in the small but musically rich Oklahoma jazz scene before relocating to New York City in 1999.
After living two years in New York, Cassity earned a Scholarship to the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music to complete her BA. It was there that she she studied with saxophonist Vincent Herring, Steve Wilson and Jimmy Greene as well as receiving inspiration from fellow classmates and alumni such as brothers Marcus & E.J Strickland, and Robert Glasper, who were all in attendance at the New School around the same time period.
In 2005 Cassity was awarded a full scholarship to the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies and completed her MA under the direction of Victor Goines. It was there that she formed strong relationships with fellow classmates (Michael Dease, Tom Barber, and Alum Adam Birnbaum) who also appeared on her first solo album, Just for You (DW Records, 2008).
Dedicated to playing jazz with the highest level of creativity and execution possible, Cassity articulates her mission statement: My art is an improvised form of music that is steeped in the tradition of blues, swing, bebop and post bop; I am interested in using that history to help reflect the sound of my generation and the time we are living. I hope that I can be a positive example and make a lasting contribution to this great art form.
These contributions continue to materialize in a growing number of rewarding experiences: the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Jimmy Heath's Big Band, Roy Hargrove Big Band, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Sextet and All Star Big Band; small group group work with Harry Whitaker, Ingrid Jensen, Mark Whitfield, and Michael Dease; recordings which include Jason Hainsworth Jazz Orchestra, Kaleidoscope (DW Records), Adam Birnbaum, Travels (Smalls, 2008), Fat Cat Big Band, Angels Praying for Freedom (Smalls, 2009) and Snow Road, by Tom Barber's Janus Block (DCleff Records, 2009).
Cassity's sophomore release, Relentless (Jazz Legacy Productions), is a testament to her abilities as a performer, writer, and leader, featuring rising jazz luminaries--Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone), Orrin Evans (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums). It is a shining example of her poise, song-bird lyricism, and purpose.
Awards:2007 Ascap Young Jazz Composer's Award, Downbeat 2008 Student Musician Award, Iaje Sisters in Jazz 2007, Betty Carter Jazz Ahead 2006
...This altoist's flights are positively Bird-like. --Jazziz Magazine
Beautiful sense of economy in her note choices, and a highly personal tone --Benny Green
Clarity, Michael Dease
Above and Beyond, Juilliard Jazz
Live @ Dizzy's Club, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra Travels, Adam Birmbaum (Smalls Records, 2008) Angels Praying, Fat Cat Big Band (Smalls Records, 2008) Meditations on the War, Fat Cat Big Band (Smalls Records, 2008) Face, Fat Cat Big Band (Smalls Records,2008) Snow Road, Thomas Barber (D-Clef 2009) Kaleidoscope, Jason Hainsworth Jazz Orchestra (D-Clef, 2009)
Disclaimer: All About Jazz is not responsible for the accuracy of the discographical data at the website(s) provided. If a link is no longer valid, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
New York, NY
Sharel Cassity Jazz Saxophonist, Composer, Educator alto, soprano and tenor saxophones; flute & clarinet Education 2005-2007 • The Juilliard School, Master of Music 2002-2005 • New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, Bachelor of Performance Teaching History 2005-2007 As Instructor: • The Jazz Foundation As clinician: • The Earth University; Guanacoste, Costa Rica • The University of Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica • Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra; New York, N.Y • Montclair Kimberly Academy;Montclair, N.J • Nagaoka Lyric Hall; Nagaoka City, Japan • Cal State Arts & Lecture series; San Marcos, California As private instructor: • Studio of 3-8 students at any given time, all ages and levels. 2002-2005 • The Harmony Program, Saxophone Instructor • Chelsea Prep School PS 33, Music Director (2 years) • The Earth School PS 364, Piano Instructor (1 semester) • International Brass & Woodwind, Saxophone Instructor (2 years) contact for rate info and scheduling; all levels accepted
Logic and Jazz Improvisation This course will present the necessary fundamentals required to achieve success in beginning jazz improvisation. It is intended to give the student an introduction to the language of jazz, an understanding of the traditional blues form, and theoretical knowledge of the tools required for jazz improvisation. An overview of jazz styles and the key figures who developed them will be given, as well as a discussion on efficient practice techniques. The main goals of this seminar are for the students to develop an understanding of the inner workings of improvisation and an increased appreciation for jazz music. With some of the basic skills within grasp, this course will give the students the knowledge and confidence to improvise in a logical and meaningful way. The steps outlined in this workshop are: 1. listen to many different styles of jazz 2. understand jazz fundamentals 3. learn the blues form 4. learn chord/scale relationships 5. learn how to apply harmonic theory to jazz improvisation 6. listen analytically