Jazz at Lincoln Center's "Monday Nights with WBGO" Series to Feature Berklee Global Jazz Institute Octet

By 
Nick Balkin
October 18, 2010
The Berklee Global Jazz Institute Octet. From left: Takeshi Ohbayashi, piano; Kenji Herbert, guitar; Jeonglim Yang, bass; Eyal Hai, alto saxophone; Matthew Halpin, tenor saxophone; Alex Hargreaves, violin; Jorge Pérez, percussion; and Mark Whitfield Jr., drums.

Jazz at Lincoln Center's Monday Nights with WBGO series, which showcases talent from top U.S. college jazz programs, will feature the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Octet, Monday, November 1, at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. The octet is composed of students from Japan, Israel, Ireland, Korea, Spain, Portland, Oregon, and Brooklyn. The performance will be hosted by WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton. 

The Berklee Global Jazz Institute Octet will perform at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $10 with a valid student ID. For ticket information, visit jalc.org. Dizzy's Club Coca Cola is located at Jazz at Lincoln Center, 33 West 60th Street, Fl. 11, in New York. 

Under the direction of world-renowned pianist Danilo Perez, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI) is a unique focused area of study at the college designed to foster creativity and musicianship through various musical disciplines. Perez serves as its artistic director. Students may pursue a performance degree, diploma, or two-year certificate through the institute. 

The BGJI has three main goals: to provide an interdisciplinary music program where students may explore their creativity to the highest level; to explore the social power of music as a tool for the betterment of society; and to connect musical creative thinking with the restoration of nature. 

Berklee Global Jazz Institute Octet: 

Holon, Israel, native Eyal Shmuel Hai is majoring in performance at Berklee. After completing his military service as lead alto saxophonist for the Israel Defense Forces Orchestra, Hai studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. In 2007, he won second place in Israel's prestigious Jazz Player competition and was selected to attend IASA in Siena, Italy. The event yielded a live album that included one of Hai's original compositions.

Matthew Halpin is a tenor saxophonist from Dublin, Ireland, currently pursuing a degree in performance and jazz composition at Berklee. In 2009, he was one of only two international recipients of Berklee's full-tuition Presidential Scholarship. He has played in many bands as a leader and as a member of renowned large ensembles like RTE National Concert Orchestra, the Dublin City Big Band, and the Riam Big Band. He was a headlining performer at the 2009 Sligo Jazz Project, a festival at which he'd been a student for the two previous years. Halpin has studied with George Garzone, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Branford Marsalis, and Jamie Oehlers. Before coming to Berklee, he studied classical music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

At 18, violinist Alex Hargreaves of Corvallis, Oregon, has already received countless honors including the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin from Mark O'Connor's Strings Conference, and the Alternative Styles Award from the American Strings Teachers Association (ASTA). Hargreaves was also the youngest ever (age 15) to win the Grand Champion division at the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho. In 2009, he won the Grand Masters Fiddle Championship in Nashville and performed on the Grand Ole Opry. He has played on stages around the world including Austin City Limits, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Merlefest, Rockygrass, Wintergrass, and the Mandolines De Lunel Festival in Lunel, France.

Guitarist Kenji Herbert, whose mother is Japanese and father Austrian, was born in Vienna but grew up in Osaka and Kobe. In 2004, he attended Jazz and Improvised Music Salzburg, where he studied with renowned musicians Jim Black, Mark Dresser, George Garzone, Ingrid Jensen, Nguyen Le, Huw Warren, and his uncle Peter Herbert. From 2006-08 he was a student of Wolfgang Muthspiel at the City of Basel Music Academy in Switzerland, and in 2009, he began attending Berklee on scholarship. Herbert has toured Japan and Europe as a leader and sideman of various bands, and has performed at the Offbeat Jazz Festival Basel and JazzWerkstatt Wien in Vienna.

Takeshi Ohbayashi, from Hiroshima, Japan, is a pianist-turned-trumpeter who recently came back to the piano to pursue his love for jazz. After establishing himself in Hiroshima and Tokyo, Ohbayashi won a scholarship to attend Berklee, where he studies with JoAnne Brackeen, Hal Crook, Terri Lyne Carrington, Danilo Perez, Ralph Peterson, and Dave Santoro. In 2007, he was one of 16 finalists chosen from hundreds of applicants worldwide to compete in the Montreux Jazz Solo Piano Competition.

Though he has played music since the age of 4, Spanish percussionist Jorge Pérez was a track star and aspiring architect before he began pursuing music as a career. After enrolling at Escuela de Musica Creativa, a top jazz school in Spain, he started performing regularly in Madrid. He met several Cuban musicians at gigs, which led him to Cuba to study Afro-Cuban percussion with Jose Luis Quintana "Changuito." After his second visit to Cuba in 2008, Pérez recorded his debut album, Patax, and leaned flamenco singing and dancing from Brazilian vocalist Mario Toledo. The following year, he released his second studio album, Forced Emancipation. Since enrolling at Berklee, he has collaborated with Mariano Martos, Oscar Stagnaro, Nando Michelin, Rebecca Cline, and many others. 

Mark Whitfield Jr. is a drummer from Brooklyn. He made his first concert appearance at age 2 as a guest drummer with his father, guitarist Mark Whitfield, and clarinet legend Alvin Batiste, at the Varsity Theater at Louisiana State University. At 4, he appeared with his father's quartet on the Good Morning America 1994 Thanksgiving Day broadcast, and he would continue to perform with his father throughout his early years. Whitfield has opened shows for the likes of Peter Cincotti and Chris Botti, and performed at the Newport, Duke Ellington, and Monterey Jazz Festivals. He is currently on full scholarship at Berklee, where he studies with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Ralph Peterson.

Jeonglim Yang is an electric and acoustic bassist from Jeju, South Korea. After graduating from high school in 2002, she began playing with many of South Korea's finest jazz musicians and building her own reputation as a top-level player. She enrolled at Berklee in 2007, and has since performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club in a scholarship ensemble led by Bill Pierce, Berklee's Woodwind Department chair. Yang now performs regularly at Boston's iconic Wally's Jazz Café, where she is house bassist, as well as at other venues around the city.