Berklee World Jazz Nonet Performs in DC

By
Nick Balkin
May 19, 2010
The Berklee World Jazz Nonet, from left: Takeshi Ohbayashi, Marina Satti, Jonathan Nellen, Noam Wiesenberg, Marcos Lopez, Grace Kelly, Joseph Manzoli, Diego Joaquin Rivera, and Ali Amr.
Photo by Tony Luong

Berklee's renowned World Jazz Nonet is headed to the DC Jazz Festival to perform four free concerts on June 2, 3, 4, and 5. With unique instrumentation (including qanun, tabla, and timbales) and students hailing from Canada, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the Palestinian territories, Puerto Rico, and the United States, the Nonet's rich, improvised music reflects the multicultural diversity of its members.

The ensemble is also an intensive course at Berklee, team-taught by pianist Alain Mallet (Paul Simon, Paquito D'Rivera, Madeleine Peyroux, Phil Woods) and percussionist Jamey Haddad (James Taylor, Paul Simon, Yo Yo Ma, Paul Winter). The Nonet performs compositions by Mallet, current ensemble members, and Berklee alumni.

The band's first performance, at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will be webcast live and archived at the Kennedy Center website.

Full schedule:

Wednesday, June 2
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F Street NW
6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 3
Bossa
2463 18th St NW
Sets at 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Friday, June 4
Sculpture Garden/National Gallery of Art
Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW
5:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 5
The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street NW
2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

About the Berklee World Jazz Nonet:

Qanun virtuoso Ali Amr was born in 1991 in Morocco and moved to Ramallah, West Bank at the age of 6. A talented musician from early on, Amr attended the Edward Said Conservatory in Ramallah for 11 years, graduating in 2007.

A three-time first-prize winner for Best Arabic Music Performer in the Marcel Khalifé Competition (2004, 2005, 2007), Amr has performed countless times at various cultural sites in and around the Palestinian territories. In 2008, he had the honor of performing for the president of the Palestinian Authority and in 2005 for the princess of Jordan. Internationally, he performed in Sweden and Dubai during high school; in 2006, he completed a two-month tour of the United States with ensembles from the Said Conservatory, performing for the United Nations in New York, before an audience of 40,000 at San Antonio's Alamodome, and at universities, theaters, high schools, churches, and hospitals in 13 states.

With the personal support of world-renowned Arabic musician Simon Shaheen, Amr began his studies at Berklee in January 2009. His most recent international appearances with Berklee have been in Norway, Germany, and Holland. In the United States, he has performed at the BeanTown Jazz Festival with Jack DeJohnette, the International Folk Festival, and the first Middle Eastern Festival at Berklee with Bassam Saba, the Berklee Middle Eastern Ensemble, and world-renowned artists such as Simon Shaheen, Hüsnü Senlendirici, and Joel Smirnoff.

Grace Kelly is the youngest musician ever named Down Beat Rising Star alto saxophonist, earning the honor in the magazine's annual Critics Poll in 2009. Now just 17, she has recorded and/or performed with many notable musicians, among them Dave Brubeck, Lee Konitz, Wynton Marsalis, Marian McPartland, and Phil Woods. Kelly has recorded five albums as a leader, including GracefulLee, featuring alto legend Konitz, which received four-and-a-half stars from Down Beat in 2008. She is a recipient of three ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Awards and 12 Down Beat student music awards.

Kelly has toured in Europe, East Asia, and South America. Selected United States venues include Carnegie Hall, Birdland, the Kennedy Center, Tanglewood Jazz Festival, and Boston Symphony Hall. She is now in her second year at Berklee after having receiving a full scholarship at age 16, upon completion of the four-year jazz studies program at New England Conservatory Preparatory School. In addition to her primary instrument, Kelly sings and plays soprano and tenor saxophones, piano, clarinet, and flute.

Marcos Lopez, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a full-tuition scholarship student at Berklee and one of the most acclaimed young percussionists in both Puerto Rico and Boston. He has played with superstars including Victor Manuelle, Wyclef, Cachao, Sheila E., and Alex Acuña.

Lopez is a member of La Timbistica, a new band rooted in Latin jazz with global influences. The group has performed at the Heineken Jazz Festival in Puerto Rico, the Monterey Jazz Festival, Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, and the Saratoga Jazz Festival. La Timbistica was named Down Beat's 2008 College Jazz Group of the Year; the band has been heard in concert on Sirius XM Radio and NPR's JazzSet. Lopez is in his final year at Berklee, majoring in music business/management.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Joseph Manzoli, 19, began playing guitar at age 12. While in Toronto, Manzoli was fortunate to be a part of the Humber Community Music School, where he studied with distinguished jazz musicians such as Pat LaBarbera and Kirk MacDonald throughout high school. During those years, he was chosen for the CISMF All-Ontario Jazz Band as well as the TD Bank National All-Star Jazz Combo. Manzoli also won various scholarships and awards at the MusicFest Canada Jazz Competition, including the National Musician Honor Award for three consecutive years. Now attending Berklee on scholarship, he is studying with guitarists David Gilmore and Jon Damian, amongst others. Manzoli is in his second semester at Berklee, majoring in performance.

Percussionist Jonathan Nellen was born in Mumbai, India in 1990. He took his first tabla class in New York with Samir Chatterjee at age 11. Shortly after, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and continued his studies with sitar master Ustad Imrat Khan. Ustadji and his son taught Nellen tabla, accompaniment, and composition, fostering in him a great love and appreciation for Indian music. Nellen began performing with Ustadji at 14. Since coming to Berklee in 2009, Nellen has been able to study with many great teachers, including Jamey Haddad and Alain Mallet, who have helped him to further broaden his musical horizons and apply his knowledge to many more types of music. He recently began studying tabla under master Pandit Anindo Chatterjee.

Pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1987 and started playing jazz piano at age 18. After establishing himself in Hiroshima, Ohbayashi won a scholarship to attend Berklee. In fall 2009, he was selected to be part of the first Berklee Global Jazz Institute class. Currently studying with Danilo Perez, Joanne Brackeen, and Doug Johnson, he has performed with Terri Lyne Carrington, Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, and Hal Crook, to name a few. Ohbayashi was the third-prize winner in the Jacksonville Jazz Competition and won the Best Player Award in the Yokohama Jazz Competition.

Percussionist Diego Joaquin Ramirez was born in Ireland in 1989. The grandson of the late Central American pianist/composer Emilio Ramirez Garcia, he has grown up within a musical and artistic tradition spanning four generations. Ramirez began playing and performing in Ireland and internationally when he was just 3 years old, standing behind a full drum set. Later, he began playing live in festivals and parades, and then with his father's rock, Latin jazz, and salsa bands in Ireland, the United States, the Netherlands, and Guatemala.

Still a youngster, Ramirez took the drum chair with virtuoso Congolese guitarist Niwel Tsumbu and world-renowned bassist Jerome Rimson (Van Morrison, Al Jarreau, Thin Lizzy, Jimmy Page). This led to opportunities to share the stage with and support acts such as Richard Bona, the Skatalites, the Feeling, and the Pussycat Dolls. He was recently awarded the Irish Artists Bursary Award and also received an award from the Native American Educational Fund for his outstanding dedication in representing his tribe—the Yaqui people—within the music world.

Vocalist Marina Satti was born in Athens, Greece and was brought up in Crete. Half Greek and half Sudanese, she has had many different musical influences from an early age, including Greek, Balkan, Arabic, African, and more. Satti began classical piano lessons at age 10. In 2004, she moved to Athens to study architecture. In 2008, after studying with the baritone Panos Dimas for several years, Satti earned her first degree in lyrical monody—a classical Greek poetic vocal form—with honors and a first prize. One year later she earned a second degree in advanced classical studies, all the while studying jazz at the Nakas Conservatory, a member of the Berklee International Network. In 2006, she won second place in Nakas's national singing contest and created the critically lauded jazz-rock-folk fusion band G-PLAY.

From 2004 to 2009 Satti worked with Disney, DreamWorks, and Mattel doing the Greek overdubs for animated films including The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, Bolt, and Shrek the Third. In 2008, she won a starring role in the weekly television series Steps, which is the Greek version of Fame. She has performed in the original Greek casts of the musicals The Sound of Music, Escape, and Little Shop of Horrors.

In April '09, Satti toured for almost a month with the European Jazz Orchestra; the shows were broadcast live on TV and radio throughout Europe. Later she performed at the European Union's Secretariat in Brussels with Alex Simu. Currently she is a second-semester student at Berklee, double-majoring in jazz composition and in contemporary writing and production, mainly focusing on jazz and folk music.

Growing up in a musical family, Israeli bassist Noam Wiesenberg was exposed to many musical genres from an early age, picking up his first instrument (cello) at the age of 8. After 10 years on the cello, Wiesenberg switched to the double bass and soon became a performer in great demand across the Israeli music scene. He has been a recipient of America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarships for 10 years (1998–2008). After winning second prize in the Israeli Jazz Player of the Year competition, Wiesenberg participated in the annual International Association of Schools of Jazz world convention in Latvia.

In August 2008, Wiesenberg moved to Boston to study at Berklee on scholarship, graduating in May 2010. He has performed/recorded with acclaimed artists including Roy Hargrove, Matisyahu, Mark O'Connor, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and string jazz supergroup Dr. Magpie.

About the DC Jazz Festival:

With more than 100 performances in dozens of venues across the city, the DC Jazz Festival is the largest music festival in Washington, D.C. and has become one of the most highly anticipated cultural events in the nation's capital. The festival also presents year-round music programs and performances by local, national, and internationally known artist; promotes music integration in school curricula; and actively supports community outreach to expand and diversify the audience of jazz enthusiasts.