Hugh Ragin – inspiring teacher, creative composer and trumpet virtuoso, has been named “a trumpeter with very few peers in terms of imagination or technical command” by jazz biographer Francis Davis in his notes for the “Live At The Knitting Factory” recording with Roscoe Mitchell. Ragin has also collaborated with musicians such as David Murray, Anthony Braxton, Dizzy Gillespie, Spencer Barefield, Fred Wesley, Leo Smith, Sun Ra, Maynard Ferguson, D.D. Jackson, Andrew Cyrille and poet Amiri Baraka, on both recorded and live jazz performances that range from bebop and freebop to the most “out” of avant-garde improvising.
His compositions have been recorded by David Murray, Roscoe Mitchell, D.D. Jackson and Fred Wesley, and yet despite his success as a performer and composer, Ragin insists on “being an educator first.” His life has formed as a compassionate gesture “to share the knowledge, and bring more people into music.” For all areas of his teaching, Ragin puts a strong emphasis on the fundamentals.
“I like to give enough material so that students can absorb what?s useful, disregard what is unnecessary, and add what is uniquely their own.” says Ragin. It is like Charlie Parker said, “first you learn the scales, then you forget them.”
Drawing from personal experience, Ragin also says, “technique includes the knowledge of the instrument a wall as knowledge of the language.” He attributes his astounding control of the trumpet to studying the basics.
Rex Matzke holds a B.M.E. and a M. M. from the University of Nebraska and has pursued a Doctor of Arts in Saxophone Performance and Pedagogy with a Secondary Emphasis in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Northern Colorado. Before coming to Colorado, Rex was Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Saxophone at the University of Missouri-St. Louis from 1976-1993 where his jazz ensembles enjoyed a national reputation winning the Wichita Jazz Festival twice, named an Outstanding Big Band at the Mid -West Collegiate Jazz Festival three times and having been invited to perform in China, Rumania, and at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Rex’s Big Band Express performed on the Admiral Riverboat 5 nights a week and his combo Jazz Express enjoyed year long engagements at Hannigans, Sirabellas and Al Bakers in St. Louis. Among others Rex has performed with Clark Terry, Louis Bellson, Bobby Shew, David Baker, Dominic Spera, Rich Matteson, Buddy Baker, Ed Shaughnessy, Milt Hinton, Bill Watrous, Denis DiBlasio and has toured with Big Band USA, the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, and the University of Northern Colorado Lab 1.
Rex currently resides in Colorado Springs with his family where he is an adjunct faculty member at Pikes Peak Community College, the saxophone studio teacher at Colorado College, and teaches improvisation and directs a big band for the Colorado Jazz Workshop. He is the co-founder of the Almagre Saxophone Quartet, a quartet that performs in the French classical tradition. Rex is a member of Colorado Bandmasters Association Executive Board and oversees the Colorado All State Jazz Bands.
Marc Sabatella is a jazz pianist, composer, and educator based in Denver, Colorado (USA). His music has been characterized as “happily subverting the mainstream,” combining the “unpredictability of Thelonious Monk and lyricism of Bill Evans.”
For two years, Marc could be heard leading the band every Friday night at Denver’s most famous jazz club, El Chapultepec, and he was the house pianist there for six years in all. He has also headlined at virtually all other Denver area jazz clubs over the years such as Dazzle, Vartan Jazz, Trios, and Sambuca. Marc has worked with the area’s top players, including Keith Oxman, Fred Hess, Ron Miles, Art Lande, and Hugh Ragin, as well as jazz greats such as Delfeayo Marsalis, Bobby Shew, John Fedchock, Allan Harris, Greg Abate, Red Holloway, Pete Christlieb, Marcus Printup, Wessell Anderson, Javon Jackson, Chico Freeman, Mel Martin, Sunny Wilkinson, and others. Marc has released several recordings as a leader in addition to appearing as a sideman on CDs by Hess and Ragin. His latest release is Determination, a quartet session.
Marc received an MM in Composition (Jazz Emphasis) from the University of Denver. He currently teaches Jazz Theory and Aural Skills there at DU, and he leads the jazz ensemble and teaches music at Regis University. He also leads ensembles for Colorado Jazz Workshop and has done so for the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts as well.
Marc is recognized internationally as the author of A Jazz Improvisation Primer. This work is perhaps the oldest and best known online jazz reference in the world. It has been translated into several other languages and is published in printed form as A Whole Approach To Jazz Improvisation. Marc has also published The Harmonic Language of Jazz Standards, and both books are distributed by jazz education legend Jamey Aebersold. Marc has worked as an arranger and editor on the acclaimed Real Book series from Hal Leonard, and he is a technical contributor to MuseScore, the free and open source music notation software project.
Keith Oxman, a Denver, Colorado native, has gigged steadily as a leader and as a sideman for more than 25 years — including a stint on the road with the Buddy Rich Big Band. He has also appeared with artists such as Sonny Stitt, Art Blakey, Jack Mc Duff, Tom Harrell, Jon Hendricks and Mel Tormé. His sound and style are original, and his abilities as a writer make him a force to be reckoned with. And while his original compositions have the qualities to make them standards for tomorrow’s musicians, his arrangements breathe life into little heard standards. An excellent improviser, with a fine sound, agile technique and sure harmonic sense, Keith Oxman can swing like crazy.
Keith is currently the director of bands at East High School in Denver, Colorado.
In addition Mike Marlier and Drew Morell act as substitute directors from time to time.