Cuban born Axel Tosca Laugart is one of the most dynamic young pianists on the scene.
Laugart's family influenced his musical interests at an early age. Both his father and stepfather were musicians and his father's guitar playing sparked an early interest in the instrument. He began playing guitar around the age of four and piano at the age of seven, accompanying his parents. Laugart's mother, Xiomara Laugart, is a world-famous singer, whom he still performs with today.
Laugart benefitted from a wide range of musical experiences growing up in Cuba. Dennis & Swing was a group that Laugart credits for "giving me the real timba groove." Laugart also played with the Afro Cuban All Stars, Teresa Garcia Caturla, Sexteto Sendito, Jose Miguel Crego (known as “El Greco”), and a Latin Jazz group called the Bobby Carcases Group, where Laugart says "I learned a lot about the language of music."
Laugart was also part of the Hip-Hop scene in Cuba and had the opportunity to play with The Roots while they were in Cuba. He has also worked in the studio with Cuban conductor Miguel Ceruto.
Amadito Valdez, the great timbalero with the Buena Vista Social Club, was a musical mentor and an important part of Laugart's decision to come to the United States in July of 2005. His arrival came with the opportunity to perform with “Havana Night” in Las Vegas for two years.
Now based in New York, Laugart continues to grow musically. Of his future, he says "my goal is to just keep upgrading my talent and my soul. I love the world."
Those who have entered Cuba through Jose Marti International Airport in Havana will know that upon arrival, they are greeted by beautiful video images of Old Havana on TV screens and the sultry voice of Xiomara Laugart singing “Hoy mi Habana”. And it is no coincidence because Xiomara Laugart is “The Voice of Cuba”. She has been representing her country and her people, performing at venues around the globe for over 30 years and with the greatest of international talents. She is a living legend in her native Cuba where she has recorded more than 15 albums.
For many years, Xiomara Laugart “La Negra” as she is popularly known, was Muse to the Nueva Trova artists and recorded and shared stages with the likes of Omara Portuondo Pablo Milanes, Silvio Rodriguez, and Raul Torres. However, though Xiomara had been performing in the largest of venues in Cuba for years, she longed for a deeper sense of artistic expression, which she found difficult to develop in the oppressive political climate of Cuba. Her dream was to live in the United States and fill the creative void in her soul with her music.
Upon arriving in New York, Xiomara was invited as a featured guest vocalist on two jazz albums, “Deep Rumba” by Kip Hanrahan and “Latin Lullaby” by Ellipsis Art, and on Jacky Terrason’s album “What it is” [Blue Note Records]. By 2002, Laugart's monthly showcases at New York City's famed underground Zinc Bar were being widely acclaimed as “legendary”.
In 2007, Xiomara embarked on an adventure that held the enormous responsibility of representing one of the most important figures in Latin culture, Celia Cruz, the Queen of Latin Music, in the first ever theatre production based on the legendary late Cuban artist. CELIA: The Life & Music of Celia Cruz, raised its curtain on September 26, 2007 at New World Stages on Broadway, with a massive critical acclaim, highlighting the amazing portrayal and incomparable voice of Xiomara Laugart.
Xiomara is both the essence of the old Cuba, with its rhythmic folk songs, fused with a blend of today’s directness and clarity of voice, which is eventually matched with her deep laugh. It is that distinctive laugh that captivates audiences from all walks of life with her swing style in all of her Cuban splendor.
Of Brooklyn-based saxophonist Noah Preminger, The New York Times declares: “Mr. Preminger designs a different kind of sound for each note, an individual destiny and story.” Preminger, just 31 and the winner of Downbeat Magazine’s Rising Star Best Tenor Saxophonist, has recorded numerous critically acclaimed albums. Three new recordings were released in late 2016/early 2017, including an all-ballads date on the French vinyl label, Newvelle Records, a recording inspired by Delta Mississippi Blues musicians, Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground and on Inauguration Day, 2017, Preminger released his 8th album as a bandleader, Meditations On Freedom, as a musical protest at ominous political developments in America. A duo recording with pianist, Frank Carlberg, a Quartet recording on Criss Cross Records, and a Preminger Plays Preminger album – the music of Otto Preminger’s films – on vinyl-only label, Newvelle Records, will all be released in 2018.
Born in 1986, Preminger grew up in Canton, Connecticut. Preminger released his debut album, Dry Bridge Road, just after his 21st birthday and was named Debut of the Year in the Village Voice Critics Poll. Preminger’s second and third albums as a leader came in 2011 and 2013 while signed to the Palmetto Records label. The Boston Globe hails Preminger as “A master with standards and ballads, as well as an adventurous composer.” The saxophonist has performed on key stages from the United States to Europe and Australia, and he has played and/or recorded with the likes of Dave Holland, John Patitucci, Fred Hersch, Dave Douglas, Billy Hart, Rob Garcia, Joe Lovano, Victor Lewis, John and Bucky Pizzarelli, Cecil McBee, George Cables, Roscoe Mitchell, and Dr. Eddie Henderson.
Christian McBride's New Jawn
Six-time GRAMMY®-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride can be likened to a force of nature, fusing the fire and fury of a virtuoso with the depth and grounding of a seasoned journeyman. Powered by a relentless energy and a boundless love of swing, McBride’s path has described a continuous positive arc since his arrival on the scene. With a career now blazing into its third decade, the Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, most recorded, and most respected figures in the music world today.
Raised in a city steeped in soul, McBride moved to New York in 1989 to pursue classical studies at the Juilliard School. There he was promptly recruited to the road by saxophonist Bobby Watson. Call it a change in curriculum: a decade’s worth of study through hundreds of recording sessions and countless gigs with an ever-expanding circle of musicians. He was finding his voice, and others were learning to listen for it.
In 2000 the lessons of the road came together in the formation of what would become his longest-running project, the Christian McBride Band. Praised by writer Alan Leeds as "one of the most intoxicating, least predictable bands on the scene today," the CMB—saxophonist Ron Blake, keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, and drummer Terreon Gully—have been collectively evolving McBride's all-inclusive, forward-thinking outlook on music through their incendiary live shows, as chronicled on 2006’s Live at Tonic. Part excursion, part education, the CMB is a vehicle built on a framework of experience and powered by unfettered creativity: a mesmerizing dance on the edge of an electro-acoustic fault line.
In 2009 McBride began focusing this same energy through a more traditional lens with the debut of his critically-acclaimed Inside Straight quintet, and again with the Christian McBride Big Band, whose 2012 release The Good Feeling won the GRAMMY for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album. As his career entered its third decade, McBride added the role of mentor, tapping rising stars pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. for the Christian McBride Trio’s GRAMMY-nominated album Out Here.
He is also a respected educator and advocate, first noted in 1997 when he spoke on former President Bill Clinton's town hall meeting "Racism in the Performing Arts." He has since been named Artistic Director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions (2000), co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem (2005), and the Second Creative Chair for Jazz of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (2005).
In 1998 he combined roles, composing "The Movement, Revisited," a four-movement suite dedicated to four of the major figures of the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece was commissioned by the Portland (ME) Arts Society and the National Endowment for the Arts, and performed throughout New England in the fall of 1998 with McBride's quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir. For its tenth anniversary, "The Movement, Revisited" was expanded, rewritten, and revamped to feature an 18-piece big band and four actors/speakers in addition to the gospel choir. It was performed in Los Angeles at Walt Disney Concert Hall, and praised by the Los Angeles Times as "a work that was admirable—to paraphrase Dr. King—for both the content of its music and the character of its message."
Currently he hosts and produces “The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian” on SiriusXM satellite radio and National Public Radio’s “Jazz Night in America,” a weekly radio show and multimedia collaboration between WBGO, NPR and Jazz at Lincoln Center, showcasing outstanding live jazz from across the country. With his staggering body of work, McBride is the ideal host, drawing on history, experience, and a gift for storytelling to bridge the gap between artist, music, and audience. He brings that same breadth of experience to bear as Artistic Advisor for Jazz Programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC).
Completing the circle is his work with Jazz House Kids, the nationally recognized community arts organization founded by his wife, vocalist Melissa Walker. Exclusively dedicated to educating children through jazz, the “Jazz House” concept brings internationally renowned jazz performers to teach alongside a professional staff, offering students a wide range of creative programming that develops musical potential, enhances leadership skills, and strengthens academic performance. This shared celebration of America’s original musical art form cultivates tomorrow’s community leaders and global citizens while preserving its rich legacy for future generations.
Whether behind the bass or away from it, Christian McBride is always of the music. From jazz (Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, to R&B (Isaac Hayes, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Lalah Hathaway, and the one and only Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown) to pop/rock (Sting, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Don Henley, Bruce Hornsby) to hip-hop/neo-soul (The Roots, D'Angelo, Queen Latifah) to classical (Kathleen Battle, Edgar Meyer, Shanghai Quartet, Sonus Quartet), he is a luminary with one hand ever reaching for new heights, and the other extended in fellowship—and perhaps the hint of a challenge—inviting us to join him.