Global Jazz Ambassadors and Adam Cruz Play Newport

By
Rob Hayes
June 27, 2012
From left: Alex Hargreaves, violin; Spencer Stewart, bass; Lihi Haruvi, saxophone; Christian Li, piano; and Matthew Halpin, tenor saxophone.
Adam Cruz, guesting on drums with the Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival, Sunday, August 5, at 11:00 am.
Photo by Marc Beaulieu
Photo provided by the artist

The Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors, the premier music ensemble of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), will play the main stage of the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival at 11:00 am on Sunday, August 5, joined by special guest drummer Adam Cruz.  The group's performance, the first for a Berklee student group on the Newport main stage, will be heard worldwide on NPRmusic.org and on WBGO-FM in New York.

The Berklee Global Jazz Ambassadors are: Matthew Halpin, tenor saxophone, Ireland; Alex Hargreaves, violin, U.S.; Lihi Haruvi, saxophones, Israel; Christian Li, piano, U.S.; Spencer Stewart, bass, U.S. They represent the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI), a program designed to foster creativity and musicianship through interconnective teaching and thinking, with Danilo Pérez as its artistic director. The Ambassadors produce original music and social projects in the pursuit of peace, intercultural dialogue, social change, and democracy through music. This specially selected group of young musicians travels and performs internationally, representing the core values and teachings of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute.  

The Ambassadors will be joined at Newport by special guest Adam Cruz.

A creative force on the international jazz scene for the last two decades, drummer and composer Adam Cruz is best known for his work with Danilo Pérez, Steve Wilson, David Sanchez, and Edward Simon. In recent years Cruz has forged a steady musical relationship with pianist Danilo Pérez and is a member of the Danilo Pérez Trio, which also features bassist Ben Street. Cruz's remarkable musicianship has made him one of the most in demand drummers of today.

In 2010 he was awarded a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music to record his much anticipated debut solo recording as a composer and bandleader entitled Milestone. Milestone was released in 2011 on Sunnyside Records and received great critical acclaim by the Los Angeles Times, DownBeat magazine, and Jazz Times. The New York Times describes the album as "Informed by several strains of Latin music but just as meaningfully by brisk post-bop and lyrically minded free jazz."

At the age of 20, Alex Hargreaves is an active performer, playing on stages around the world including Austin City Limits, A Prairie Home Companion, Grand Ole Opry, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Panama Jazz Festival, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, as well as venues in Canada, France, Italy, and the U.K. He is a member of world-renowned mandolinist Mike Marshall's Big Trio, along with bassist Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers) and has toured with the trio extensively following the 2008 release of their self-titled album on Adventure Music. Matt Glaser, artistic director of Berklee College of Music, American Roots Program, states simply, "Truly, Alex Hargreaves is the best young jazz violinist in America."

Born and raised in Israel, saxophonist Lihi Haruvi is now living in Boston studying on a full-tuition scholarship at Berklee. Haruvi studied in the prestigious Thelma Yellin High School of the Performing Arts, was awarded with the America Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship, and the Tel Aviv Conservatory scholarship.  During her military service she was chosen to represent Israel—performing as a soloist around the world—and she received a scholarship to study in the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Matthew Halpin is a tenor saxophonist from Dublin, Ireland, currently pursuing a degree in performance at Berklee College of Music as one of the two international recipients of the all-expenses Presidential Scholarship in 2009. 
Before beginning at Berklee, Halpin studied classical music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. 
He has been playing with small ensembles since the age of 14, many of which were under his own name, as well as larger ensembles such as the RTE National Concert Orchestra and the Dublin City Big Band. In 2008 he was the youngest musician to take part in the Banff Centre's three-week workshops in jazz and creative music in Canada, directed by Dave Douglas.

Pianist Christian Li was born in Montreal, Canada, and grew up in the town of Horseheads, New York. Largely self-taught in the jazz discipline until his college years, Li has won several DownBeat Student Music Awards and has been chosen for the Skidmore Jazz Institute, the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony, and the Vail Jazz Workshop. In 2008, he received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Berklee. Li has also played the Monterey, Newport, Montreux, Detroit, and Panama jazz festivals, and the Blue Note NYC.  

Spencer Stewart was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington. His passion for music began when he was given his first electric bass at the age of 12, and he quickly began to dig into the music of several classic and contemporary rock groups. In his high school band program he learned to read music, was exposed for the first time to jazz and classical music, and met the upright bass for the first time. In his junior year, Spencer joined Thara Memory's highly regarded American Music Program— alumni include Esperanza Spalding and Hailey Niswanger—and the Alan Jones Academy. During a tour with the American Music Program, he auditioned for Berklee, and was awarded the Presidential Scholarship. In his time at Berklee he has shared the stage with Jack DeJohnette, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Dave Fiuczynski, and George Garzone, among others.