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.
photo by Jack Sasson
Ron Bland has been a professional musician for over forty years, playing virtually all styles of music in every setting from concert hall to theatre to the recording studio. At home on both the electric and double basses, he has performed with jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Eddie Daniels, Billy Taylor and Doc Severinson. Ron has appeared with the Colorado Symphony and Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestras as well as in performance with Earth Wind and Fire, Yes, Andrea Bocelli, Pavarotti, Marvin Hamlisch, Linda Ronstadt, Rosemary Clooney, Billy Crystal and many others. He is often in the pit for touring Broadway shows, including “Legally Blonde,” “A Chorus Line” and “The Color Purple.”
In 2003, with the Denver Jazz Quartet, Ron performed as a featured headliner at the Queenstown International Jazz Festival in New Zealand. As part of the Rocky Mountain Trio & Park Hill Brass Nonet, Ron has performed at the Jazz in the Vercors Festival in Villard de Lans, France several times. He has also been a clinician for the workshop associated with the festival. With Moment’s Notice Entertainment and other groups Ron has performed extensively throughout the United States, including the 2001 Inaugural Ball in Washington D.C. Internationally, he has performed in Canada, Mexico and Europe.
Ron is on the music faculty at Colorado Christian University & the University of Colorado at Denver. He has also taught at Metropolitan State University of Denver, DIME Denver & Colorado School of Mines. He teaches private applied lessons on acoustic and electric bass, ensembles, music theory and a sightreading and improvisation class. Since March 2022 he has been the director of the Wednesday combo and big band ensembles at the Colorado Jazz Workshop. He is regularly invited to be an adjudicator/clinician at the Mile High Jazz Festival and Auraria Jazz Celebration. Ron has played on numerous recording projects including albums, jingles & soundtracks. He has played on the jazz demo recordings for Kendor Music for more than thirty years.
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.