Aron Kaufman and the Dream Ensemble Aron Kaufman and the Dream Ensemble





Aron Kaufman and the Dream Ensemble


  • Aron Kaufman, congas/cajon/drums
  • Paul Vornhagen, saxophone/flute/vocals
  • Sam Clark, guitar
  • Brandon Cooper, trumpet
  • Jeff Dalton, bass/vocals
  • Olman Piedra, percussion/timbales

Event Details


This performance is generously sponsored by Anonymous.

This past year, Mr. Kaufman has formed a new group, Aron Kaufman and the Dream Ensemble, in order to fulfill a life-long dream to perform concerts and record CDs of music he has been composing the past 30 years including many new works that have never been performed. His debut performance with his Dream Ensemble at the Thread Festival in Ypsilanti this past March was enthusiastically received by a packed house.

Mr. Kaufman’s work is influenced by the modal approach of Miles Davis, the folk-jazz of Oregon the Cuban groove of Mongo Santamaria and numerous rock, funk and soul artists. His compositions feature a strong rhythmic foundation with evocative melodies. Mr. Kaufman is particularly intrigued with odd meter landscapes. Mr. Kaufman’s work is full of soul and surprise and features strong motifs, dynamic group interplay, and inspired improvisation by his fiery group of musicians: Paul Vornhagen on saxes and clarinet, Brandon Cooper on trumpet, Olman Piedra on percussion, Jeff Dalton on bass, Sam Clark on guitar and Aron Kaufman on congas, percussion.

Mr. Kaufman’s lifelong quest to expand his musical horizons led him to explore a brand new instrument, the Rav Vast steel hand drum made in Russia. Mr. Kaufman will premier some brand new pieces at Kerrytown on this extraordinary instrument.

Aron Kaufman

Aron Kaufman is a nationally honored educator, percussionist and composer. Mr. Kaufman’s musical odyssey began in NY where he was born and in Puerto Rico, where he lived from ages 9-13 and was entranced by the intoxicating rhythms of salsa. While pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, Mr. Kaufman was hired as a drummer by the University of Michigan Dance Department and began accompanying classes taught by faculty members Vera Embree and Congolese Choreographer Biza Sompa. At the Dance Department, Mr. Kaufman worked with Detroit master drummers Modibo Keita, Fahali Ibo and Tani Tabbal. As a senior, Mr. Kaufman played congas with the University of Michigan Jazz band led by trumpeter Louis Smith. Mr. Kaufman’s passion for various world drumming traditions led him to pursue learning opportunities with numerous master musicians. Mr. Kaufman has studied Afro-Cuban drumming with Los Munequitos De Matanzas, Pepe Espinosa, Chembo Corniel, Vince Cherico, Norman Shobe and Adam Rudolph. Mr. Kaufman learned frame drumming with Glen Velez and Layne Redmond and jazz drumming with Sean Dobbins.

Mr. Kaufman pursued his interest in music composition with University of Michigan Professor Jane Heirich, and began his journey as a composer. For more than thirty years, Mr. Kaufman has performed his original works with various ensembles based in Michigan including the rock band Quick City, the fusion group Pangaea, the folk ensemble Montage, and the world beat jazz ensembles Lunar Glee Club and Lunar Octet. Mr. Kaufman’s compositions have been featured on NPR, WEMU, WDET, Channel 4 “Good Afternoon Detroit,” and on the soundtrack Cuba’s Forgotten Jewels, a documentary film that has been screened internationally. Mr. Kaufman’s composition Heart of Congatar was featured on a CD honoring Michigan Jazz Artists produced by WGVU. His compositions Subway Tension and Dancing in the Doghouse have been received enthusiastically at venues all over Southeastern Michigan including The Ark, The Kerrytown Concert House, The Flint Jazz Festival, the Michigan Jazz Festival and the Detroit Jazz Festival in Hart Plaza. Mr. Kaufman’s composition Highway Fun was the title cut on the CD recorded by the Lunar Octet on the Schoolkids label.

Mr. Kaufman has performed with numerous bands and musicians in Michigan, Ohio, New York and California including Tumbao Bravo, Charged Particles, Ted Curson, Craig Taborn, Marcus Belgrave, Eddie Russ, Rick Margitza, Larry Nozero, Ruben Rodriguez, Paul Carlon, Peter Brainin, Oriente Lopez, Pete Seeger, Peter Madcat Ruth, Deborah Henson - Conant and Karim Abdul Bader. Mr. Kaufman has performed and recorded with critically acclaimed children’s folk ensemble Gemini for over 30 years. He directs various hands-on drumming workshops for children in schools and libraries in Michigan including Hillel Day School, the Ann Arbor Public Library and the Ypsilanti Library.  

Paul Vornhagen

Winner of Six Detroit Music Awards, sax/flutist/vocalist Paul began playing the flute at the age of 22 in Ann Arbor Michigan. Self-taught for the first 5 years of his study he then enrolled at City College of San Francisco for one year where he took courses in music theory, woodwinds, piano and played sax and flute in the Big Band. Returning to Michigan, Paul then played with jazz and R & B groups throughout the Detroit Metro area including the exciting ensemble, The Lunar Glee Club and Domino. He also formed his own quartet. Appearances at Jazz Festivals and nightclubs furthered his career which resulted in several Detroit Music Awards. He continues to return to San Francisco where he became a regular headliner at the famous club, Jazz at Pearls and other jazz hotspots. Since 1991 he has recorded over seven of his own jazz Cds to critical acclaim as well as forming the award winning cuban jazz band, Tumbao Bravo with conguero Alberto Nacif, that has recorded four Cds and has won three Detroit Music Awards. He also recorded three critically acclaimed new age albums in the late 1980s with guitarist Paul Sihon. All of his recordings have been featured on nationally syndicated public radio stations including the #1 Show, “Jazz After Hours.” This April 2014, Paul releases his 8th jazz recording, entitled “In Our Own Way” with pianist Gary Schunk, bassist Kurt Krahnke and drummer Randy Marsh. Paul continues to tour the Midwest and west coasts with his Trio/Quartet and Tumbao Bravo. Some of his performing credits include Detroit, Michigan, Birmingham, Lansing, River Raisin, Berkeley, CA and Ann Arbor Jazz Festivals. Also Orchestra Hall, Pine Knob, Hill Auditorium and Chicago jazz clubs. He has shared the stage with the Temptations, Four Tops, Charles Earland, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Mark Levine, Marcus Belgrave and Abbey Lincoln. 

Sam Clark

Sam Clark has explored a wide range of musical idioms during his years as a performer and composer. Originally an acoustic guitarist as a youngster, his approach to the instrument was influenced by folk and country artists such as Doc Watson and David Bromberg.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Mr. Clark became enamored with jazz fusion music, especially that of Larry Coryell, John McLaughlin, and Pat Martino. He also became familiar with the compositions of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and Wayne Shorter. His performances during this period often involved adaptations of these composers' works to the guitar, as well as interpreting jazz standards on solo acoustic and electric guitars in unconventional, rock-influenced styles. Mr. Clark also performed with a variety of blues and rock-oriented groups, writing a range of vocal compositions for these ensembles. During these years, Mr. Clark studied music theory and guitar with Junior Dixon, Cory Mullen, and Bruce Dunlap, an alumnus of composer/keyboardist Bob James.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Clark co-organized a weekly jazz jam session in Ann Arbor that became a regional institution for many years.

In this context, he was exposed to a wide range of musical approaches to jazz, and he found himself having to orchestrate the performance of each composition to fit the talents of the performers on hand. Thus, he became an expert at what might be dubbed "improvisational composition." The results of Mr. Clark's efforts at these jams were always provocative and entertaining, regularly attracting large contingents of interested players and listeners.

Since joining the Lunar Octet in 1983, Mr. Clark's composing became more formalized and structured. He wrote a number of pieces for the group, including the ambitious Quasimodal, an elaborate work including sections emphasizing bossa nova, funk, and up-tempo samba. Evident in these compositions are the influences of Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, and Pat Metheny, as well as strong blues and rock components derived from his playing and listening experiences in the 1970s. Mr. Clark's compositions were featured prominently in the Lunar Octet's performance that won them the WEMU-Depot Town Jazz Competition in 1985, and they were mainstays in the band's repertoire ever since.

Brandon Cooper

Trumpeter Brandon Cooper is a freelance musician and educator in Metro Detroit. A graduate of Hastings High School, Brandon has a Bachelor’s degree in music and trumpet performance from the University of Michigan, with a concentration on music education, performance, history, and theory. He also got a Secondary Teaching Certificate from the Jazz program at Henry Ford Community College. He plays with the Paul Keller Orchestra, the Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra, The Groove Council (A Detroit Music Award Winning R&B Funk and Blues Band), Nouveaute, Generations - A Trio/Plus, the Rhythm Society Orchestra, and the Metro Detroit Jazz Orchestra.

He has performed with the Harry James Orchestra, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, as well as The Temptations and the Four Tops, The Return of the Rat Pack Show, the Bayou River Band (the House New Orleans Band of The Detroit Princess and Michigan Princess Riverboats).

His performances include the Detroit Jazz Festival, the Flint Jazz Festival, the Michigan Jazz Festival, the Detroit Festival of the Arts, the Columbus Jazz Festival, the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, the Firefly Club, the Bird of Paradise Jazz Club, Cliff Bells Jazz Club, the Dirty Dog Jazz Club, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, the Windsor Blues Festival (Canada), and the Thornapple Arts Council Jazz Festival.

He toured Spain and Switzerland in 2001 and 2003 with the Paul Keller Orchestra.

He was a brass instructor for 20 yrs. at Milford Music, Milford, MI, for 30 years at his own Private Studio in South Lyon, MI, and a Clinician/Instructor at Muir/Oak Valley Middle and Milford HS and various other schools. 

Jeff Dalton

Jeff Dalton was born into the traveling musical family, “The Dalton Family Singers,” a group he describes as “the Partridge Family - Unplugged” due to their folk-music roots. By the time he was a teenager, he had performed hundreds of shows and recording multiple albums alternating between bass, banjo, and guitar while touring with the family in a big red station wagon.

After attending the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy for high school, where he studied classical double bass and vocal arts, he attended the Peabody Institute of Music at Johns Hopkins University as a double-bass major. Embarking on a career in classical music, Jeff held positions with the Madrid, Seville, and Mexico City Symphonies before re-settling in the late 1980s in Michigan to perform, conduct musicals, and record with small groups while exploring be-bop, modern jazz, and salsa.

Jeff has performed with a long-list of artists since the late 1980s including Shelia Landis, J.C Heard, and Dan David, as well as performing under Seiji Ozawa with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Glenn Bloch with the Orquesta de la Ciudad de Sevilla. He has made numerous appearances at the Detroit Jazz Festival, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Arts, Beats, and Eats, as well as at popular area venues such as The Ark in Ann Arbor, Orchestra Hall, Bakers Keyboard Lounge, the Bird of Paradise, Chene Park, and more. He was the Lunar Octet’s bassist from 1991-1994 playing fretless electric bass, where he helped to contribute to the group’s high-intensity, modern jazz sound that defined them during the period.

An avid performer and recording engineer, Jeff makes music these days at Lakeside Studios, a state-of-the-art recording studio.

Olman Piedra

Dr. Olman E Piedra is Assistant Professor of Percussion and Drum Set at The University of Toledo.

He has performed with a variety of ensembles, including the Sphinx Orchestra (principal percussion), the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, the Waco Symphony Orchestra, the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, the Toledo Jazz Orchestra, the Ensamble de Percusión Costa Rica, the Toledo Symphony Percussion Trio, Italian pop artist Patrizio Buanne, NOMO (toured around the United States, Canada, and Europe), Roland Vazquez' Latin Jazz Combo (Percussive Arts Society International Convention), vocalist Lauren Kinhan (from The New York Voices), Ken Thomson and Slow/fast, David Bixler’s I-75 ensemble, and the University of Toledo jazz faculty group at the third annual JEN convention in Louisville, KY. Olman has also been performing alongside Grammy Award winning artists The New York Voices at Bowling Green State University’s vocal jazz camp since 2009.

As an active and versatile jazz, contemporary, Latin American, and concert musician, he can be heard on William Bolcom's Grammy award winning album "Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience" with Leonard Slatkin, conductor, on His Name Is Alive's "Detrola”, and “Sweet Earth Flower, a tribute to Marion Brown”, NOMO’s “New Tones”, “The Dreamer” by jazz guitarist/composer Paul Cohn, “Reaching for the Moon” with Morgen Stiegler, “Above the Sound” by pianist/guitarist Ariel Kasler, “Gran Danzón” with Martha Councell-Vargas, and with the University of Toledo Jazz Faculty ensemble CrossCurrents on their debut album on Summit Records.

Dr. Olman E Piedra received his DMA from Bowling Green State University. He also received two Master's in Music degrees, in Percussion Performance and in Improvisation from the University of Michigan, and a BM from Baylor University. Dr. Piedra is an educational artist/clinician for Amedia Cymbals, Meinl Percussion, Remo Drumheads, and Innovative Percussion.