String bassist Paul Keller is a Michigan jazz hero; he loves his life in Saline, MI where he lives with his wife and two kids and performs locally, in Detroit, and across his home state of Michigan. Paul wear many jazz hats: He leads several successful and busy jazz ensembles including his big band The Paul Keller Orchestra; he’s an in-demand side man, a prolific composer, a creative and skilled arranger, an enthusiastic and innovative jazz educator, a recording company owner and producer, and a nationally recognized recording artist. Paul can be heard every week at his home base – Zal Gaz Grotto in Ann Arbor (on Mondays with his PKO big band and on Tuesdays with the Easy Street Jazz Band). Keller spent several years on the road with guitarist Russell Malone and later with singer/pianist Diana Krall. Together with Russell and Diana, Paul recorded Diana’s Grammy-nominated All For You. These days, Paul performs frequently with guitarist/singer and jazz super-star John Pizzarelli – they just toured Brazil for a week. Paul travels the world to play special concerts and festivals with a myriad of jazz stars including Jackie Ryan, Scott Hamilton, Larry Vuckovich, Benny Green, and Warren and Alan Vache.
Singer/songwriter/educator/actress & radio host Ramona Collins was born in Toledo OH but grew up in Lansing MI where her mother was a jazz pianist and singer. Ramona is a premier entertainer whose fun, sassy, sultry & swingin’ shows have made her an audience favorite at clubs, concerts and festivals wherever she goes. She covers all the flavors from honey to hot sauce whether she is half of a duo or fronting an orchestra. Ramona is a past president of the Toledo Jazz Society, considered a jazz activist by many who know her, and she was the driving force for renaming Toledo’s former jazz festival in honor of the late, great Art Tatum.
She has worked with a who’s who of jazz musicians in the Midwest and beyond, and been honored for her contributions to the arts in her hometown of Toledo. In 2011 she was also nominated in the female jazz vocalist category for the Detroit Black Music Awards, is currently a Motown Ambassador and was recently voted “Best of Toledo in Jazz/Blues”, among other honors. She has performed in the Vocal Summit at the East Lansing Summer Solstice Jazz Festival, the MSU Martin Luther King celebration “Prayers, Spirituals & Protests.”
Ramona was a fixture at the 40 year-old Rusty’s Jazz Café in Toledo before it was sold, and she was in the regular rotation at Toledo’s Murphy’s Place and a a crowd favorite at the old Bird of Paradise Jazz Club in Ann Arbor. She has performed many times at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and other great jazz venues in Detroit including The Dirty Dog Jazz Café, Bert’s Jazz Club, and Moriarty’s Pub in Lansing and the Kerrytown Concert House. She currently leads her own groups is often the featured vocalist with the Toledo Jazz Orchestra.
She has produced and recorded two independent albums, “Everything Old Is New Again” (1997) and “Live & Lovin’ It” (2004). She loves live music and showcased two of Toledo’s historic landmarks, Rusty’s Jazz Café and The Toledo Museum of Art by recording her albums in those venues. Both albums are available for download @ cdbaby.com. Bass master Ralphe Armstrong recently asked her to be a guest vocalist on his latest cd “Detroit Rising”. She is currently working on original material for her next recording project.
This singer views her performing career as part entertainment, part educational. To that end, she has taken aspiring young performers under her wing, supporting and encouraging them. “There are a number of young people who have talent and a great respect for jazz,” she says. “I’m thrilled they view me as a mentor…it’s inspiring.”
Cliff Monear is a professional jazz pianist and has performed all over the world with some of the biggest stars in show-business. His YouTube channel, “CMonear1”, features solo and group performances that spotlight many of the finest jazz artists in the Midwest. He is a faculty member at Wayne State University, and a sales consultant for Steinway & Sons, Michigan and Ohio region.
“Monear’s breathy ideas leave lots of space, girding the music with exquisite tension. What gives the music personality is Monear’s suave touch, relaxed swing, fresh melodic and harmonic turns and the unpretentious way he draws on familiar influences.”
~ Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press Music Critic
Well-versed in the musical styles of bebop, swing, latin, blues, and ballads, Doug has been performing for 41 years in Michigan and around various parts of the world. His style reflects influences from such jazz giants as Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon, and Stan Getz. Though known for his love of hard-swinging bebop, he is also a gifted balladeer. His solos are emotional and harmonically lush, and often laced with musical quotes from other songs. Doug’s array of instruments include alto, tenor, and soprano saxes, flute, alto flute, and piccolo. Among the notable musicians he has performed with are Phil Woods, Jimmy Forest, Clare Fisher, Claude Black, Eddie Russ, Clark Terry, Marcus Belgrave, Jack Mcduff, Bill Watrous, Don Menza and Dizzy Gillespie. Doug’s group is available in several formats, including duo, trio, quartet, quintet, and six piece mini-big band. Doug has been featured at the Detroit Montreaux Jazz Festival, Kalamazoo Wine Festival, Paw Paw Wine Festival, Northport Wine Festival, Allegan Jazz Festival, Petoskey Festival of the Arts, Ypsilanti Heritage Festival, and WEMU Fundraiser Parties.