The Generations Band is a dynamic, all-star group of jazz artists brought together by the International Center for the Arts (ICA) at San Francisco State University to act as both ambassadors and mentors for ICA’s unique Generations International Competition and Fellowship for Emerging Jazz Combos.
Each year, ICA will hold in international competition to find the most deserving young jazz combo, musicians with Bachelors degrees or more, who are poised to begin full-fledged jazz careers. The winning combo will come to San Francisco State for a one-year fellowship, including an intensive mentorship by the members of the Generations Ensemble.
The musicians in this star-studded band are saxophonists Eric Alexander and Andrew Speight, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, pianist Ronnie Mathews, percussionist Jimmy Cobb and bassist Ray Drummond. And as they gathered to plan and then judge this year’s inaugural Combo Competition, the Generations Ensemble quickly coalesced into a powerful working band, an aggregate of three generations of musical masters working together to send sparks flying with explosive, tradition-rich jazz.
The ensemble spans three influential generations of contemporary jazz, with Cobb’s career reaching back almost 60 years. But regardless of age, there are musicians whose playing reflects the emotional and stylistic roots of jazz, from the blues-soaked fundamentals of the musical form itself to the joys, struggles and triumphs of the music’s long evolution. These are musicians who have been integral to the sounds of Miles Davis, Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Ray Charles, Benny Carter, the Marsalis Family and many other others.
The Generations mentors were selected because they learned their art playing with a group of like-minded musicians who nurtured and explored through collaboration. This vital part of jazz musicianship is what the Generations fellowship strives to provide its up-and-coming ensembles. Believing that the jazz tradition of inspired collaboration is learned through study and practice with a group, these mentors will lay a musical foundation through community. In the meantime, the Generations Ensemble has turned into a sparkling, hard-driving performance band themselves. That’s not particularly surprising, considering the musicians involved. Their inaugural concert on the San Francisco State campus was a rousing success, and they already have both a CD and an instructional DVD in the works.
These three generations of mentors spanning the 1940s to today have played with the best groups and honed their art with the jazz community's greats, said Speight, a San Francisco State faculty member and the Generations project’s artistic director. This is an opportunity unlike any other for a young ensemble to play with musicians who learned by collaborating with giants and are willing to pass along their wisdom. I can’t wait to hear what comes out of this first group of Generations musicians.
The Generations Band:
- Eric Alexander, a tough-toned tenor saxophonist known for his sophisticated hard and post-Bop style. He has performed and recorded with many leading artists, including Harold Maburn, Ron Carter, Horace Silver and Nicholas Payton.
- Marcus Belgrave, a trumpeter and vocalist whose career spans five decades of jazz styles. He has performed and recorded with many leading artists, including Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.
- Jimmy Cobb, an exciting and powerful drummer who has been the foundation of many of the greatest jazz combos and recordings. He has performed and recorded with many leading artists, including Miles Davis, Julian Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly and John Coltrane.
- Ray Drummond, a buoyant and percussive bassist who has been the heartbeat of many great jazz ensembles. He has performed and recorded with many leading artists, including Johnny Griffin, Billy Hart, David Sanchez and Stephen Scott.
- Ronnie Mathews, a virtuosic and sensitive piano stylist who has been an inspiration for many important artists. He has performed and recorded with many leading artists including Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon and Freddie Hubbard.
- Andrew Speight, a clear-toned hard driving alto saxophonist known for his incendiary bebop lines. He has performed and recorded with many leading artists, including Benny Carter, Nat Adderley, Ellis and Branford Marsalis.