Roy Guzman Quintet Plays (and Blogs) the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival

Rob Hayes
June 12, 2009
From Berklee College of Music, the Roy Guzman Quintet. From left: Michael Sachs, saxophone; Mark Whitfield Jr., drums; Roy Guzman, guitar; Greg Chaplin, bass; and Billy Buss, trumpet.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

The Roy Guzman Quintet, from Berklee College of Music, will perform three times during the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival in Washington, DC. Mentored by the cream of Berklee's jazz faculty as well as alumnus/MacArthur "genius" grant recipient Miguel Zenón, Guzman and his quintet have been chosen to play the 2009 Duke Ellington, Newport, and Monterey Jazz Festivals.

Get behind-the-scenes stories—read the Berklee on Tour blog.

The group can be heard:

  • Thursday, June 11 at 6:00 p.m. on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage
  • Friday, June 12 at 9:00 and 11:00 p.m. at Busboys & Poets, 14th and V Street NW
  • Saturday, June 13 at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m. at Busboys & Poets, Fifth and K Street NW

The Roy Guzman Quintet was formed by five of the finest creative musicians at Berklee, who together share the drive to explore, learn, and present their view of jazz improvisation through composing and playing new music. The group's approach has been compared to the guitar/horn bands co-led by Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner, and to the knotty, searching sound of the Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano trio.

Guitarist/composer Roy Guzman Rodriguez is 21 and hails from Cupey, Puerto Rico. He is the recipient of the Billboard Endowed Scholarship, presented each year to Berklee's most promising musician headed into their final year at the college. He is also the recipient of the Jimi Hendrix Award, presented to the college's top guitarist; at any one time, there are more than 1,000 guitar principals at Berklee. Guzman began playing popular Latin guitar at the age of 8, followed by studies of classical guitar in the conservatory. At age 13, influenced by the Latin jazz in Puerto Rico, he began studying jazz. Since age 16, Guzman has been part of the growing jazz scene in the San Juan metropolitan area.  

As a member of Orbits Quintet he has recorded: 12-6-5 (Fall 2005) and Desahogo (October 2008). The group attended jazz seminars at the Banff Centre in Canada with full scholarship support provided by Dave Douglas, Miguel Zenón, and the Banff Centre. Other performances include the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Fest, Carolina Jazz Fest, and Xalapa Jazz Fest.

Guzman has been attending Berklee thanks to a scholarship received at the Berklee in Puerto Rico summer program. His teachers include Hal Crook, Mick Goodrick, Tim Miller, Greg Osby, Dave Santoro, and Dave Tronzo. In July, he will be a semifinalist in the Gibson Montreux International Guitar Competition in Switzerland; in August, he will lead the group at George Wein's Jazz Festival 55 in Newport, Rhode Island; and in September, the group will perform twice at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

Playing trumpet since the age of 9, Berkeley, California native Billy Buss has received numerous awards, including Berklee's full-tuition Jimmy Lyons Scholarship, two Outstanding Performance/Soloist Down Beat Student Music Awards, the Gold Award in Jazz from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and recognition from the White House as a 2006 Presidential Scholar in the Arts. He has been fortunate to perform at the Monterey, Umbria, Montreal, Montreux, and JVC jazz festivals; the Dubrovnik Summer Music Festival in Croatia; numerous festivals in Japan; and a variety of clubs in New York.

This past May, Buss graduated from Berklee, where he played in a variety of ensembles, including the Berklee Rainbow Band under the direction of Phil Wilson, the Joe Lovano Octet, the Dave Santoro Berklee Scholarship Jazz Ensemble, Terri Lyne Carrington Ensemble, and Greg Hopkins's Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra. At the end of August, he will join the eighth class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance in New Orleans, along with four other Berklee alumni.

Greg Chaplin began studying music at the age of 7, started performing regularly when he was 12, and hasn't stopped since. In February 2007, he was selected as the bassist for the Gibson/Baldwin Grammy Jazz Combo, where he played with Patti Austin, James Moody, Tom Scott, and Phil Woods, and in 2008 with Eric Marienthal, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, and McCoy Tyner. He has performed original music at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Ravinia Park in Illinois, and IAJE in Toronto.

Chaplin is fortunate to have studied with, among others, Winard Harper, George Cables, Carmen Lundy, Nathan Davis, Chip Jackson, Curtis Fuller, and Dr. Billy Taylor, James Moody, David Baker, Nathan Davis, and Billy Childs. He was part of the five-week Berklee Summer Jazz Workshop in 2007, where he worked with Rick DiMuzio and Terri Lyne Carrington. Chaplin is a full-scholarship recipient at Berklee, where he began his college career last fall. Dave Santoro, Joe Lovano, and Hal Crook have been particularly influential in his first year at the college.

Michael Sachs, from Los Angeles, started out playing clarinet when he was 6 years old. He switched to the saxophone in the ninth grade, when his jazz band at the Colburn School needed an alto player. He studied privately and on an instructive ensemble basis with saxophonist Lee Secard throughout his elementary and high school career. Other major influences were his band directors Derek Finch and Megan Foley.

Sachs has performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival with the Colburn High School Quintet, and at the Los Angeles County Spotlight Awards. Awarded a full-tuition scholarship, he entered Berklee in 2006, where Shannon LeClaire, Greg Hopkins, George Garzone, and Joe Lovano have been strong influences. A performance major, Sachs's goal is to become a professional musician after he completes his Berklee studies this summer.

Since his first concert appearance as a 2-year-old guest drummer with his guitarist father at Louisiana State University's Varsity Theater, Mark Whitfield Jr. has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN Lifestyle, and CBS Sunday Morning. Whitfield studied drums and bassoon as part of the Jersey City University Visual and Performing Arts Program, and performed with its main ensemble in the fall of 2005 at a major jazz festival in Berlin.

He has performed with his father's group in several venues in New York City, including the Iridium, as part of the JVC Jazz Festival, and occasional appearances at the Smoke jazz club. Other appearances include the Newport Jazz Festival, opening for Peter Cincotti and Chris Botti. Most recently, Mark participated in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center under the direction of Dr. Billy Taylor and Dr. Nathan Davis, and performed at the Blue Note and on WBGO-FM as part of Darren Barrett's Berklee Scholarship Sextet.

Follow the trip at Berklee on Tour.