Michéle Ramo World Jazz Orchestra
featuring Howard Alden & Heidi Hepler
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- $15 General Admission
- $5 Student
- Michéle Ramo, 8 string guitar/violin/mandolin
- Howard Alden, guitar
- Heidi Hepler, voice
- John Gallo, Cavaquingo & guitar
- Jeff Pedraz, bass
- Kayvon Gordon, pandeiro & drums
- Miguelito Gutierrez, cuica & percussion
This performance is supported by the Don Chisholm Friends of Jazz at Kerrytown Concert House.
Michéle (pronounced "Me-kel-ay) Ramo was born in the Italian Mediterranean fishing town of Mazara Del Vallo, Italy - on the coast of Sicily. He grew up in a small village of 300. His playgrounds were vast grape-vineyards, rocky hillsides and olive orchards. Michéleplayed guitar with the barbers in the little town square and hid his school books in the fields of ancient volcanic caves because he only wanted to 'play music' - not go to school! At age 13 he entered a music conservatory where he began violin studies. By 17 he had his first professional contract with the Italian State Opera House "Teatro Massimo" in Palermo. At age 23, after five years in various Italian state symphony orchestras, Michéle made musical shockwaves within his circles by quitting and moving to the United States to pursue his work as a composer and instrumentalist in jazz. His first stop: New York City. Unable to speak English and soon out of money, he went to Detroit where he knew a friend from his hometown. For the next twelve years Detroit was his home where he was befriended by Jazz greats such as trumpeter Marcus Belgrave; pianists Harold McKinney, Ken Cox and Teddy Harris Jr.; and drummers Roy Brooks and Lawrence G. Williams. It was here he continued on the guitar and put the violin away for ten years.
Ramo has performed at Jazz Festivals such as: The North Sea Jazz Festival (Holland), Molde Jazz (Norway), Fano Jazz (Italy) Montreal Jazz (Canada) Ottawa Jazz (Canada), Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Freiburg (Germany), Paris, Ile Del Re, Souillac, (France), Montreux-Detroit Jazz (USA), Cork Jazz (Ireland), Barcelona, Madrid (Spain), Republica de Andorra, International Jazz Guitar Festival (Wales, U.K.), Burlington Jazz, Arkansas Jazz (USA), Athens, Corfu, Corintos, Patras (Greece) and many more.
"He may be the best of his generation," writes Owen Cordle in JazzTimes. George Kanzler of the Newark Star Ledger proclaims that he is "the most impressive and creative member of a new generation of jazz guitarists." And Chip Deffaa of the New York Post observes that he is "...one of the very finest young guitarists working today."
It seems that the only thing regarding Howard Alden on which the critics have debate is whether the remarkable jazz guitarist is one of the best or simply the best.
Born in Newport Beach, California, in 1958, Howard began playing at age ten, inspired by recordings of Armstrong, Basie and Goodman, as well as those by guitarists Barney Kessel, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and George Van Eps. Soon he was working professionally around Los Angeles playing in groups ranging from traditional to mainstream to modern jazz. In 1979, Alden went east, for a summer in Atlantic City with Red Norvo, and continued to perform with him frequently for several years.
Upon moving to New York City in 1982, Alden's skills, both as soloist and accompanist, were quickly recognized and sought-out for appearances and recordings with such artists as Joe Bushkin, Ruby Braff, Joe Williams, Warren Vache` and Woody Herman.
He has continued to win accolades from critics and musicians alike, adding Benny Carter, Flip Phillips, Mel Powell, Bud Freeman, Kenny Davern, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie and George Van Eps, as well as notable contemporaries such as Scott Hamilton and Ken Peplowski to his list of impressive credits.
Howard Alden has been a Concord Jazz recording artist since the late '80s where his prolific recorded output as leader, co-leader, and versatile sideman, has captured an artist of consistently astonishing virtuosity and originality.
One of the many highlights in Howard Alden's fruitful association with Concord Jazz came in 1991 when, at the urging of Concord President, Carl Jefferson, Alden recorded with one of his all-time heroes, seven-string guitar master George Van Eps on the album Thirteen Strings .
As a result of his associating with - and inspiration from - George Van Eps, Alden has been playing the seven-string guitar since 1992. The seven string guitar imparts a greater range and harmonic richness to Alden's already colorful tonal palette, as evidenced on three remarkable follow-up albums with Van Eps, his critically acclaimed duo recordings with saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Peplowski, and the stunning interplay between Alden and special guest Frank Wess on Your Story - The Music of Bill Evans . Alden also teamed up with fellow guitarists Jimmy Bruno and Frank Vignola to record a three guitar outing entitled The Concord Jazz Guitar Collective , which was quickly called by some critics "an instant classic!"
Alden's recording from 1996 Take Your Pick serves to underline Howard's wide scope of knowledge of jazz literature. Thoughout the disc, one is amazed at how skillfully Alden delivers interpretations with fresh surprises. Michael Moore, Bill Goodwin, Lew Tabackin, and Renee Rosnes combine with Alden to bring exciting interplay and thrills around every corner to the ten standard and lesser known gems hand picked for this recording. Released in honor of Concord's 25th anniversary was a duo recording with Jimmy Bruno, Full Circle teamed with the very first Concord recording Jazz/ Concord featuring Herb Ellis and Joe Pass.
Howard can be heard on the soundtrack to the 1999 Woody Allen movie "Sweet and Lowdown", starring Sean Penn, who was also nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a legendary jazz guitarist in the '30s. Howard not only played all the guitar solos, but also coached Mr. Penn on playing the guitar for his role in the film. The London Observer has this to say about Alden's new solo CD, My Shining Hour ; "If there is such a thing as a complete jazz guitarist, then Alden is it. Only a real virtuoso can sustain a whole CD of solo guitar with the aplomb he displays here." In 2004 Howard was the guitarist(and musical director) chosen for an all-star line-up commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival, touring 50 cities of the United States in addition to their appearance at the Newport Festival. The 2005-2006 season saw Howard adding his acoustic guitar voice to violinist Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing on his national concert tour. His 2009 recording, “I REMEMBER DJANGO”, once again features his distinctive acoustic sound, developing and expanding the warm and elegant spirit of his performance in “Sweet and Low Down”. Howard’s inimitable playing has also been sought out by rock/blues/pop icon Steve Miller for recording projects and live appearances.
Howard Alden was voted "Best Emerging Talent-Guitar" in the first annual JazzTimes critics' poll, 1990, and "Talent Deserving Wider Recognition" in the 1996, 1992, 1993 and 1995 Downbeat critics' poll. As jazz critic Wayne Thompson writes simply, in Jazzscene, "If there are better young jazz guitar players in America than Howard Alden, I have yet to hear them." Howard's growing base of loyal fans couldn't agree more.
Singer, Lyricist and Actress grew up in the Midwest outside of Detroit in Livonia, Michigan. At the age of nine she began singing in her church choir and studying cello. Always involved in school plays and vocal groups, Heidi would eventually meet and begin advanced vocal training with New York lyric coloratura soprano - Marjorie Gordon, who, lucky for Heidi, had moved to Detroit when her husband, the great violist Nathan Gordon became first violist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Heidi spent time in Los Angeles where she worked with the renowned vocal coach Seth Riggs. Theater and voice studies were continued with the University of Michigan Opera Theater at Interlochen National Arts & Music School. A former Miss Michigan who represented the state at the Miss America pageant, Heidi's musical theater/light opera, regional theater and summer stock include the roles of Marietta in "Naughty Marietta", Lauretta in "The Music Master", Fiona in "Brigadoon", Julie Jordan in "Carousel", Luisa in "The Fantastiks", Miss Fancy - Sly Fox', Veronica - 'Veronica's Room', Eve -'Apple Tree', Belinda in "Dido & Aeneas". She has sung with various opera/operetta groups including The Michigan Opera Theater, Piccolo Opera Company and the Comic Opera Guild of Ann Arbor.
Heidi Hepler is known for her lively spirit and beautiful voice as she combines the theater background and love of languages into her exquisite song interpretations.
Hepler sings with ease in English, Italian, French, Portugese, Spanish, German and other languages. From 1990-1994 while living and performing in Rome, Italy - Heidi was heard by the producer of large jazz festival as she sang in a Rome Jazz Club. He immediately booked her as a featured performer at the '15th Festival Jazz di Roma'. On top of performance, Heidi became Technical Producer and oversaw all production, artist contracts and worked with agents world wide for this 30 day festival which took place in the Roman Olympic Stadium. Her dual language ability and background as a performer was a huge plus as the artists she oversaw included, Archie Schepp, Ornette Coleman, The Manhattan Transfer, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Pat Methany, James Moody, John Faddis, Tower of Power and many other artists.
In 1994 Heidi and Italian guitarist, violinist and composer Michele Ramo began working together and were married the same year. They toured Europe for 9 months and received rave reviews. Heidi and Michele moved to NewYork in 1999, and were nominated Jazz Duo of the Year in by MAC - Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabaret. They have been heard together at Birdland Jazz Club, Iridium Jazz Club, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Duplex Theater, The Triad Theater, The National Arts Club for the Dutch Treat Club, as well as performing a double bill with the great guitarist/composer Jorge Morel in the Virgin Islands for Art D'Lugoff, owner and impresario of the world renowned 'Village Gate' Jazz Club. They have released 13 CD projects on their 'MoonBoat Records' label. 'Felicita' is a voice and guitar Duo CD of all original songs recorded live in studio.
Heidi teaches privately and also spent 5 years teaching voice at Five Towns College of Performing Arts in New York. Recently relocated back to Michigan after many years in New York City, Heidi continues to teach, perform, and is delighted to combine her love for yoga with the importance of 'the breath' and singing.