Ten Years at the Blue Note

Nick Balkin
April 25, 2008
Berklee's Blue Note Ensemble 2008
Photo by Nick Balkin

For the 10th straight year, a group of Berklee's top student instrumentalists and composers will play New York City's legendary Blue Note Jazz Club, on Monday, May 19. Berklee's Blue Note Ensemble, directed by Bill Pierce, chair of the Woodwinds Department, will perform original compositions and jazz standards. The band, like the institution it hails from, is a melting pot of different music and cultures, featuring a saxophonist from Chile, a bassist from South Korea, a drummer from Israel, and three players from Dallas, Texas. The group will play two shows, at 8:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. For ticket information, contact the Blue Note Jazz Club at 212 475-8592, or visit bluenote.net. The Blue Note is located at 131 West 3rd Street, in Greenwich Village. General admission tickets are $10.

On Tuesday, May 20, Berklee's Blue Note Ensemble will visit WBGO 88.3 FM to give a live in-studio performance and interview from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. Listen to the broadcast at wbgo.org.

Berklee's Blue Note Ensemble 2008

Bill Pierce, saxophone. Pierce, chair of Berklee's Woodwinds Department, has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a music educator and performer. He has been a Berklee faculty member for more than three decades and has performed and recorded with some of the indisputable masters of jazz-Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Jones, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, James Williams, and Tony Williams, to name a few. Pierce's sinewy tenor and soprano saxophone lines can be heard on countless albums on which he was featured as a sideman or leader.

Melissa Aldana, saxophone. A native of Santiago, Chile, Aldana, whose father and grandfather are both highly regarded saxophonists, was born into a musical family. She started playing saxophone at age 6, taking lessons from her father, and by 12 she had already formed her own band. Aldana is a recipient of Berklee's full-ride Presidential Scholarship and has performed with George Garzone, Ingrid Jensen, Joe Lovano, Bob Mintzer, and Danilo Perez, and has toured with Randy Brecker.

Jeonglim Yang, bass. A native of South Korea, Yang, influenced by Ron Carter and Paul Chambers, at 16, decided to pursue a career as a jazz bassist. Though she had little formal education in jazz, her natural talent won her gigs with many of the finest musicians in Korea. In the fall of 2005, she applied to Berklee and was accepted on the college's World Scholarship Tour. Yang is currently in her second semester at Berklee.

Michael Palma, piano. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Palma has been playing professional gigs since 1998. In 2004, he received a full, four-year scholarship to Berklee, where he is currently studying professional music. Palma has performed with the college's Scholarship Ensemble, directed by David Santoro, and is an active jazz and pop composer, jingle writer, and sound designer. [michaelpalma.net]

Dan Pugach, drums. Born in Raanana, Israel, Pugach began playing the drums at 11. He studied at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, while serving three years of mandatory military service playing in the Air Force Big Band. In 2003, he won the Rimon Jazz Contest and was chosen to represent the school in the IASJ meeting in Freiburg, Germany. Pugach has performed with many of the finest jazz ensembles in Israel, including The Tel-Aviv Jazz Big Band, The Israel Kibbutz Orchestra, and The Holon Jazz Big Band. [myspace.com/danpugach]

Jeremy Sinclair, trumpet. From Dallas, Texas, Sinclair began playing trumpet at 11. He enrolled in 2004 at Berklee where he has studied with Dave Santoro, Hal Crook, Tiger Okoshi, Greg Hopkins, Ed Tomassi, and Phil Wilson. After completing his degree at Berklee, he plans to pursue a career in performance and education. [myspace.com/jsinclair2]

Nadia Washington, vocals. From Dallas, Texas, Washington is a recipient of Berklee's full-ride Presidential Scholarship. An accomplished vocalist, her many awards include Best Jazz Vocalist 2004 and 2005 in the National Down Beat Awards for the Performing Arts High School Division; NAACP/ACT-SO bronze medal in 2004 and silver medal in 2005; and Best Jazz Vocalist for the Dallas Jazz Orchestra Big Band in 2004 and 2005. Washington has worked with Herb Alpert, Terence Blanchard, and Destiny's Child, among others. [nadiawashington.com]