Nicholas Payton, the Jazz Festival headliner, graduated from N.O.C.C.A. and studied with Ellis Marsalis at the University of New Orleans.
"He's the greatest of the New Orleans-style trumpet players that I've ever heard," trumpet legend Doc Cheatham said of Payton in DownBeat. "And every time I hear him, he sounds better and better. I haven't heard anybody like him since Louis Armstrong."
Payton has played with Clark Terry in nightclubs and on cruise ships, and has toured and recorded with legendary drummer Elvin Jones.
Payton toured Europe with Jazz Futures II, a group of today's youngest and brightest musicians. He played the works of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington through the Jazz at Lincoln Center Program.
"GUMBO NOUVEAU" is his latest Verve-label recording which pays respect to the musicians he listened to in his youth.
Howie Smith was praised by the New York Times as being an "electrical and versatile soloist."
Smith has worked with a diverse group of musicians like Louie Bellson, Aretha Franklin, Abraham Laboriel, Mike Nock, Elvis Presley, Sarah Vaughn, Luciano Berio and John Cage.
His big band and small group recording range from Phil Wilson and Frank Mantooth to the Australian Quartet. He has performed saxophone concertos by Edward Miller and Salvatore Martirano. Concerts and workshops have taken him throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe and Australia.
Smith's talent for compositions brought about the creation of works for big band, combos, string, wind and percussion ensembles. He did work for electronics and mixed media as well. As an educator, Smith has served as the co-ordinator of jazz studies at Cleveland University. In 1970, he initiated a state-sponsored program, titled "Jack Rock Teaching Assistance," to improve the quality of jazz instruction in Illinois public schools.
The New Hope Gazette has proclaimed Denis DiBlasio as, "One of the world's best saxophone players, flautists, and scat-singers."
DiBlasio, after receiving his master's degree from the University of Miami, served as musical director for the Maynard Ferguson Band for five years. DiBlasio is currently the director of the jazz department at Rowan College, where he also serves as conductor for the Jazz Lab Band.
His popularity in educational circles stems from combining education, positive motivation, and fun. He holds an attitude that making music fun will allow kids to feel confident and take risks.
The Denis DiBlasio Quartet is in demand both national and international. In addition to U.S. tours, they have played in Japan, France, Spain, Canada, Denmark and Switzerland besides his U.S. tours.
Bob Bowman, who graduated from North Texas State University, has toured with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and recorded several of their albums, including "Live at Munich," which was Grammy-award winning.
In 1979, Bowman moved to Los Angeles and recorded albums with the Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band that was nominate for Grammy-awards. He freelanced on the west coast with Bud Shank, Freddie Hubbard, Eric Marienthal, to name a few. Howman currently resides in Kansas City, where he is active in the local jazz scene.
Bob Bowman is the leader of a unique quartet named Interstring, which has earned critical acclaim for its interpretations of jazz standards, blue grass and Brazilian-flavored originals.
Bowman is also a fine educator and teaches at many workshops, in addition to being a member of the University of Missouri-Kansas City faculty jazztet.
Steve Erquiaga's music can be heard in movies such as "Deceived", "Forest Gump," "The Firm," "The Young Indiana Jones," and "Nina Takes A Lover." He also composed and produced the theme song to a Spanish television show, titled "Boulevard."
Erquiaga has performed with countless artists such as Joe Henederson, Bobby McFerrin, John Schofield, The Turtle Island String Quartet, David Byrne, The Joffrey Ballet, and The San Francisco Symphony. His own album, "Erkiology," made it to the No. 3 spot on the jazz airplay charts, after its release in 1991. His music can be found on the Windham Hill Jazz Label.
Steve Erquiaga can also be found teaching and doing workshops such as the Jamey Aebersold Clinics, and perfoming at festivals ranging from the Monterey Jazz Fesival to the Brevard Jazz Festival.
Ed Soph has been a sought-after clinician and performer for the last 20 years. He has also taught at the Jamey Aebersold Clinics. In addition to U.S. tours, Soph has traveled to England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Japan, Egypt, India, and Pakistan.
Ed Soph is now teaching drumset and rhythm section techniques at the University of North Texas. He is an artist clinician for the Yamaha Corporation of America, the Avedis Zildjian Cymbal Company, Zildjian Drumsticks, and Regal Tip/Calato Brushes.