Jen Allen, keyboard
Kris Allen, sax
Matt Dwonszyk, bass
Ben Bilello, drums
Ricardo Reyes, guitar
Jen Allen, keyboard
-- Originally from Foxboro, Ma, Jen Allen was a cellist who started playing jazz piano as a favor to her high school band director, little knowing that she was finding her true artistic voice.
She went on to study with Jackie Mclean, Steve Davis, Andy LaVerne at the Hartt School of Music, and quickly became a busy working pianist and composer. Jen is presently a piano instructor at Trinity College and a theory and ensemble coach at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.
She has performed worldwide and can currently be heard with Nat Reeves, Kendrick Oliver’s New Life Orchestra, Charles Flores, Kris Allen, the collaborative New Unity Quartet and other jazz and creative music ensembles.
Jen’s debut album as a leader “Pieces of Myself” will be released in the Spring of 2011.
Matt Dwonszyk, bass
-- Matt Dwonszyk is an upcoming acoustic bass player in the Hartford area. Starting on the electric bass at age 11, Matt grew up playing numerous types of music stemming from rock and roll. When he entered high school he was fortunate to attend the Academy of Performing Arts in Hartford where he began studying jazz with teachers such as Jimmy Greene, Kris Allen, Paul Brown, and Doug Maher. Through friends at the Academy, Matt started attending the Artist Collective and playing in the Youth Jazz Orchestra Band. He soon started performing around the Hartford area and was fortunate to perform in Russia through the Academy of the Arts. His senior year, Matt started performing with Ed Fast’s Conga Bop where he was exposed to Latin music. He continues to perform with Ed Fast and is now attending the Hartt School of Music where he is studying with Professor Nat Reeves and Professor Steve Davis.
Kris Allen, Saxophone
-- Saxophonist and composer Kris Allen was a young protege of the great Jackie McLean, with whom he studied at the Artists Collective and the University of Hartford. He went on to perform and/or record with jazz legends such as Illinois Jacquet, Gerald Wilson, and Curtis Fuller, as well as with modern starts such as Winard Harper, Andy Laverne, Mario Pavone and the Mingus Dynasty. Kris can be found appearing as the leader of his own quintet, in duo with percussionist Rogerio Boccato, and as both saxophonist and artistic director of the Hartford Jazz Society New Directions Ensemble. He is also very involved with education, as a part time faculty member of The Hartt School, Trinity College, and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Performing Arts. Kris has also been been a teaching artist with the Litchfield Jazz Festival since 2001.
Ben Bilello, Drums
Originally from Narragansett, Rhode Island, Ben began playing the snare drum in the fifth grade school band. As time passed, Ben became interested in learning the drum set. It was not until age fourteen that he received his first drum set. Ben spent hour upon hour in his basement, learning Led Zeppelin songs. One day, Ben’s sister left the album “When Harry Met Sally,” by Harry Connick, Jr., on the kitchen table. He listened to a song called “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” and was immediately drawn to jazz music. After graduating from Narragansett High School in 1995, Ben moved to West Hartford, Connecticut to begin college.
In the autumn of 1995, Ben entered The Hartt School of Music as an eager freshman, majoring in jazz studies. The jazz students were under the watchful eye of master saxophonist Jackie McLean. Hartt afforded Ben numerous opportunities in the areas of performance and study. While at Hartt, Ben studied drums and percussion with Ben Toth, Tony Leone, and Michael Carvin. He also studied frame drum and riq with master drummer Glen Velez. During his time at Hartt, Ben was frequently called upon to perform with students, faculty members, and guest artists. In 1997, Ben won the Hartt Award of Excellence in Jazz Studies, presented by Professor McLean. Ben graduated cum laude from Hartt in the spring of 1999 with a BM in Jazz Studies.
Since graduation, Ben has forged a career as a noted performer and as a much sought after private instructor. He has performed and recorded with many of the biggest names in the field of jazz; Mulgrew Miller, Eddie Henderson, Joe Wilder, Branford Marsalis, Anthony Braxton, Charles Flores, Steve Davis, Eddie Bert, Nat Reeves, Doug Wamble, Aaron Goldberg, Greg Tardy, Phil Bowler, Jimmy Greene, Shelton “Fatman” Laster, and Wayne Escoffery, among many others. In addition to performing with noted jazz musicians, Ben has toured with the South American folk groups Viva Quetzal and Markamusic.
Since his senior year of college, Ben has maintained a full roster of private students. From 1998 to 2000, Ben was on faculty at the Artists Collective, a non-profit arts school in Hartford’s north end. From 1999 to early 2004, Ben was on staff at Riccardo’s Music Center, teaching in both their East and West Hartford, Connecticut locations. Currently residing in Durham, Connecticut, Ben is a self-employed private instructor and clinician. He maintains a schedule of twenty to twenty-five students that study with him on a weekly basis. Ben has taught classes and workshops at many local public and private schools as well as at many local colleges and universities. As of July 2004, Ben is a member of the percussion/jazz faculty at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Connecticut’s top performing arts magnet high school.
As one of the most in demand freelance jazz drummers in New England, Ben can be seen at numerous clubs, concert halls and festivals with a wide variety of artists. At this time, Ben can be seen performing with his own trio, the Josh Evans Quartet, the Bill Lowe/Andy Jaffe Big Band, the Rich Goldstein Quartet, and vocalist Charmaine Clamor, as well as many others.
Ricardo Reyes, Guitar,
Cosmic Jibaros Leader Sitting In
FAN MAIL: Rick Reyes writes soulful rockin songs that his band tears through like music gods...Great good-time music with intelligence and an edge to it!
-- DominiQue "Ms. Q" Padilla is an independent R&B / Soul vocalist from Connecticut who's made a name for herself as the DominiQue with the capital Q. She is a graduate of Litchfield High School and studied at the Hartford Conservatory, majoring in music production / engineering & voice. DominiQue writes her own music and performs all over the state at public and private events including clubs, parties, competitions and sporting events. She performed at year's W.O.W. seminar as a positive role model for the high school girls. DominiQue is pursuing a career in entertainment and also has plans to start her own production company. She continues working toward a bachelor's of science in music business.
- Sara Normandin is a senior at Litchfield High School and The Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Sara is trained in classical, jazz, opera and musical theater repertoire. Sara is a member of the Litchfield High School Choraleers and also a member of the Academy's "Real Ambassadors" a competition jazz choir. She also sang in a production of La Boheme with the New Britain Symphony Orchestra.
Cassie Martin, Hartford Conservatory
- Cassie studied vocal performance at The Hartford Conservatory. She has studied musical theater, classical, and jazz. She sang with vocal ensemble at the conservatory as well as a madrigal group. Cassie has also been in music theater productions such as The Producers and Oklahoma!- as well as straight theater including Graceland and Top Girls.