Hailey Niswanger Quartet Hits Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest

By 
Rob Hayes
May 23, 2011
Hailey Niswanger
Takeshi Ohbayashi, piano
Aaron Darrell, bass
Mark Whitfield Jr., drums
Photo Alexandria Pierre-Etienne
Photo Phil Farnsworth
Photo Alexandria Pierre-Etienne
Photo Alexandria Pierre-Etienne

The Hailey Niswanger Quartet, composed of some of Berklee's finest jazz talents, will perform at three venues in the Pacific Northwest, June 13, 15, and 17, and in Hawaii June 23, 25, and July 1 (dates and venue details below). Led by saxophonist Hailey Niswanger, a native of Portland, Oregon, the group features Takeshi Ohbayashi, from Hiroshima, Japan, on piano, Mark Whitfield Jr. of Brooklyn, New York, on drums, and Aaron Darrell, of Norfolk, Virginia, on acoustic bass. 

While in Kauai, Hawaii, the band will record in the studios at Steel Grass Farm, produced by Berklee music production and engineering professor Stephen Webber. The studio, designed by Webber, has been the site of projects by artists including Kathy Mattea, Jake Shimabukuro, and the Dixie Hummingbirds.

Hailey Niswanger's musical gifts and accomplishments far exceed her years. The saxophonist, just back from a May tour of Ethiopia with the Either Orchestra, has shared the stage with jazz greats Dee Dee Bridgewater, George Duke, Phil Woods, James Moody, Christian McBride, McCoy Tyner, Maceo Parker, Wynton Marsalis, and Mark Whitfield, among others.

Niswanger's June 2009 recording debut as a leader, Confeddie, established her throughout North America. The album was reviewed in Jazz Times and Jazziz and inspired veteran jazz critic Nat Hentoff to profile her in the Wall Street Journal. Confeddie appeared on the Jazz Week Top 50 chart three times and was among the top 100 jazz CDs in the country for two months. 

In 2008, Niswanger was a featured artist at the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where she won the festival's saxophone competition. At Berklee, where she attends on a full scholarship, Niswanger is enrolled in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), led by Grammy-winning jazz pianist Danilo Pérez. Performing with the BGJI, she has been featured at the Newport, Monterey, Puerto Rico, and Panama Jazz Festivals. In September 2009 she was selected as the new alto saxophonist for the internationally acclaimed Either/Orchestra, occupying the chair previously held by Miguel Zenon and Jaleel Shaw.

Hailey Niswanger Quartet summer tour dates:

June 13
Boxley's

North Bend, WA
7:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m.
No cover

June 15
ArtSpring
Salt Spring Island, BC
8:00 p.m.
$17.50/$5

June 17
Jimmy Mak's

Portland, OR
8:00 p.m., 9:45 p.m., 11:00 p.m.
$10

June 23
Kauai Marriott Aupaka Terrace
Kauai, HI
5:30 p.m.
No cover

June 25
Red Clay Jazz Festival
Kauai, HI
6:15 p.m.
$40

July 1
Atherton Studio @ HPR
Honolulu, HI
7:30 p.m.
$20/15

The Hailey Niswanger Quartet

Hiroshima-born Takeshi Ohbayashi 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 studied with JoAnne Brackeen, Hal Crook, Terri Lyne Carrington, Danilo Pérez, 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. In 2009, Ohbayashi was chosen for the inaugural class of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, under the artistic direction of Danilo Pérez. With the BGJI, hei has performed and recorded at such venues as Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, the Panama Jazz Festival, the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, the Blue Note, and WGBH-FM. Ohbayashi graduated from Berklee with a degree in performance in December 2010.

Bassist Aaron Darrell is a native of the Norfolk, Virginia area. After more than a decade of studying and performing vocal and piano music from the classical repertoire, he discovered the electric bass. Performing in numerous grungy basement parties eventually led to studies with Victor Wooten, and then a scholarship to Berklee, where he took up the double bass, and began studies with John Lockwood, Dave Santoro, and Hal Crook, and with Katy McGinn of the Milwaukee Symphony. As an instrumentalist he has performed at the Velvet Lounge, Jazz Estate, Sculler's Jazz Club, the Pfister Hotel, Blues Alley, Virginia Living Museum, Ryles Jazz Club, the Lily Pad, and the Chrysler Museum, among others.   He graduated from Berklee this spring.

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 was enrolled on full scholarship at Berklee, where he has studied with Hal Crook, Joe Lovano, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Ralph Peterson. He was a member of the inaugural class of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and graduated from the college in May of this year.