The College of Arts and Architecture

Penn State Jazz Festival: Centre Dimensions and Guest Artists

Jazz Festival 2018
Saturday, April 7, 2018 - 7:30pm
State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College

General $8.50 (+$1.50 ticketing fee); Students $3.50 (+$1.50 ticketing fee). Tickets are available for purchase at the State Theatre box office or online at

The 19th annual Penn State Jazz Festival features the multi-award winning vocal quartet New York Voices, world renowned jazz pianist Xavier Davis, and trombonist Jay Ashby.

Saturday night's concert brings together the New York Voices, Xavier Davis, and Jay Ashby with Centre Dimensions Jazz Ensemble under the direction of jazz studies director Marko Marcinko.

This concert is available on livestream at Penn State School of Music.

During the day on Saturday, April 7, hgh school jazz and stage bands will be adjudicated by the guest artists from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. in 128 Music Building II. A jazz masterclass will be presented at 4:00 p.m. following the adjudication in the same room.

All Penn State Jazz Festival activities are open to the public. The festival is generously supported by the University Park Allocation Committee (UPAC).  For more information, please visit

The year 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of New York Voices, and they show no signs of slowing down. This critically acclaimed vocal group has refined their musical story to a high art.  They are known for their New York voicesclose-knit voicings, inspired arrangements and unparalleled vocal blend.  Their chameleon-like musicianship allows them to move seamlessly from setting to setting, be it orchestral/big band to the intimate trio lineup. The art of survival as a group in the music business is as much testimony of their success as their vocal finesse’.  That, and say still coming to mind to the great creative forces out there that want to play with the vocal stacking idiom.  They are first call from great arrangers and conductors like Bob Mintzer, Don Sebesky, Michael Abene, Keith Lockhart, and Rob Fisher who all know and admire the complexity of what they do and want something out of the ordinary when developing new projects.  Like the great jazz vocal groups that have come before — Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Singers Unlimited, and the Manhattan Transfer — they are firmly a part of that legacy and are dedicated to passing it on to generations to come.

Formed by Darmon Meader, Peter Eldridge, Kim Nazarian, Caprice Fox, and Sara Krieger, New York Voices had their first performances in 1988.  Darmon, Peter, Kim, and Caprice attended Ithaca College in NY and were part of an invitational alumni group formed to tour the European Jazz Festival circuit in the summer of ’86. In 1989, they signed their first record deal with GRP Records and released their self titled debut album, New York Voices. The group received rave notices and quickly received domestic and international recognition in the jazz world.

While recording for GRP, they underwent personnel changes.  In 1992, Sara Krieger retired her chair, and after auditioning over 60 vocalists from all over the United States, the group found Lauren Kinhan.  There was an immediate chemistry, allowing the group to make a quick transition and become the “new” New York Voices.  Lauren’s first musical contributions can be heard on NYV’s third CD, What’s Inside, released in May 1993.  In early 1994, Caprice Fox left the group, forever fixing NYV as the quartet it is today.

In addition to their own CDs, NYV has made many guest appearances on recordings and live performances that have earned them critical acclaim and demand in a variety of settings.  You can find their performances on such CDs as the Grammy Award winning Count Basie Orchestra with New York Voices, Live at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG Records), the Latin Grammy Award winning Brazilian Dreams with the great Paquito D’Rivera, the contemporary classical Visions Within (Robert Lepley – EarthBeat Records), Heirs to Jobim (BMG Records), Don Sebesky’s, I Remember Bill (BMG), Jim Hall’s By Arrangement (Telarc), A Love Affair – the Music of Ivan Lins (TELARC), Louisiana Purchase (DRG), and many more.  They have had the pleasure of performing with a number of influential jazz artists including Ray Brown, Bobby McFerrin, Nancy Wilson, The Count Basie Orchestra, George Benson, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, The Manhattan Transfer, the Boston Pops, The Metropole Orchestra, Ivan Lins, Paquito D’Rivera, Bob Dorough and many more.

Along with their extensive concert performances and recording schedules, NYV also works in the field of education, giving workshops and clinics to high school and college music students throughout the world.  In 2009, they launched the New York Voices Vocal Jazz Camp at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.  Now going into it’s 9th year, the camp moved it’s residency to the beautiful campus of Ithaca College in upstate New York in 2016 and continues on their mentorship and outreach in this region.   Also in 2016, they launched the first annual New York Voices International Vocal Jazz Camp in Ptuj, Slovenia.  Built on the friendship formed with Vox Arsana, a Slovenian vocal jazz quartet that attended the domestic camp, they conspired to bring the camp across the Atlantic to rest in this charming medieval town and the graciousness of their community.  They are wildly successful ventures that admit students from all over the world at different ages and stages in their musical lives.  They have cultivated this philosophy of teaching over their storied career and designed a roster of electives that students choose from while also participating in one of four jazz choirs directed by one of the New York Voices and the all camp piece directed by Greg Jasperse.  It is a six-day summer intensive that is instructive while also being personal and nurture based.  To learn more about it, visit our Camp page at our website.

Individually, the four members are involved in a variety of projects including solo performances and recordings, teaching, writing and arranging. 

Xavier DavisXavier Davis is an associate professor of jazz piano at the Michigan State University College of Music. Before coming to Michigan State, he taught for six years at the Juilliard School.

Davis’ professional career as a jazz pianist took off when the legendary vocalist Betty Carter spotted his outstanding talent at the 1994 International Association of Jazz Educators convention in Boston while he was performing with his college ensemble. It was Carter who brought Davis to New York, hiring him exclusively as the pianist of her working trio. Today, he is one of the most accomplished jazz pianists world wide. Having led master classes and clinics all over the world and coming from a family of music educators, passing on knowledge and skills to young musicians is very important to Davis. 

His development as a musician has been greatly influenced by the inspiration and guidance he has received from Carl Allen, James Williams, and Billy Hart, whom he sees and respects as his great mentors. He has performed and recorded with many other world-famous jazz artists including the legendary Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Stefon Harris, Abbey Lincoln, Wynton Marsalis, Don Byron, Nat Adderley, Nicholas Payton, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Greene, Steve Turre, Al Foster, and Jeremy Pelt. Davis has worked with the Boy's Choir of Harlem as their musical director and he also played keyboard for the television series "Cosby." His talent has been featured on more than 60 albums. Davis is part of the Christian McBride Big Band and was featured on McBride's album The Good Feeling, which won a GRAMMY award in 2012. 

As a bandleader, Davis has released two critically acclaimed albums - Dance of Life and The Innocence of Youth. "The pianist [Xavier Davis] simply knows how to make every note on his instrument sing, and he invariably finds the richest area of the keyboard for voicing his chords," says writer Bob Blumenthal. Jazz Times reviewer John Murph writes "...the music exudes a mature, nonchalant ease and cozy empathy that make this...a rewarding listen." DownBeat gave the CD Dance of Life four stars, stating "Davis steps out with an accomplished debut."

In 2005, Davis became the first person to receive the prestigious New Works Grant twice from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation under the auspices of Chamber Music America. He has won awards at several festivals as well as in DownBeat magazine. Being a gifted composer, arranger, and producer of music, he has composed and arranged music for outstanding artists like Carl Allen, Regina Carter, and Hans Schuman. He has co-produced the album Wise Children by Tom Harrell, and he recently produced the new album of singer Lizzie Thomas. He is also a passionate and experienced film and commercial music composer/producer.

Oberlin College associate professor of jazz arranging Jay Ashby believes strong arranging is as important as strong composing. Even more important, he adds, is “the ability to put your music in the best possible light.”Jay Ashby

A five-time Grammy Award-winning producer, Ashby has received nominations in other categories including arranging and engineering. He is known for his performances with such music icons as Paquito D’Rivera and Paul Simon, making him an exceptional musician and one of the most highly regarded performers and arrangers working in the field today.

Ashby has performed, toured, and recorded with some of the most renowned jazz artists in the industry for over 25 years. As a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra and Dizzy’s Alumni All-Star Big Band, Ashby forged long lasting musical relationships with jazz greats including Jon Faddis, Monty Alexander, James Moody, Jimmy Heath, Randy Brecker, Slide Hampton, and Bennie Green, among many others.

Through his association with trumpet master Claudio Roditi, Ashby developed a strong affinity for Brazilian Jazz, which led to a 10-year stint as soloist with Astrud Gilberto, as well as arrangements, tours, and recordings with numerous Brazilian artists including Tania Maria, Kenia, Ivan Lins, Trio Da Paz, and the fathers of Bossa Nova Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

A YAMAHA artist, Ashby conducts master classes, residencies, and clinics worldwide, including annual events in Germany, Brazil, and Russia.

In addition to Oberlin Conservatory, he is an adjunct faculty at Duquesne University, where he maintains private studios in both trombone and percussion.