New Century Jazz Quintet (NEW YORK)
Co-led by pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., New Century Jazz Quintet (NCJQ) is a cooperative built on sustained excellence and leaving lasting impressions on its audience. Though co-led by Owens and Ohbayashi, each band member contributes equally as composers and arrangers. NCJQ has released two recordings, “Time is Now,” and “In Case You Missed Us,” in Japan and the U.S.
Bassist Yasushi Nakamura (Tokyo, JAPAN) has been featured on some of New York City’s most prestigious bandstands, including Birdland, Jazz Standard, Blue Note, Village Vanguard, and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. He performed in the 2013 Apollo Theatre production “Ellington At Christmas: Nutcracker Suite,” conducted by David Berger, alongside Savion Glover, Lizz Wright, Keith David, and the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir. His multi-discipline work has also included performing Susan Stroman’s “For the Love of Duke” with the New York City Ballet. Yasushi toured the Middle East in 2010 with Jazz At Lincoln Center’s “Kings of the Crescent City, and toured Asia in 2008 with the Juilliard Jazz All-Stars, led by Carl Allen. He has also performed with NEA Jazz Masters Benny Golson, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Wynton Marsalis, as well as such notables as Wycliffe Gordon, Benny Green, Wallace Roney, Ron Blake, and Victor Goines. Born in Tokyo and raised in Seattle, he achieved his Bachelor’s Degree in Performance at Berklee College of Music, and did his graduate studies work at The Juilliard School.
While listening to old jazz records growing up in the Maryland/Washington, DC area, the sound of the saxophone always stood out to Braxton Cook (Washington, DC) and he found himself wanting to recreate the sounds that he heard from the recordings. He began formal lessons with a private teacher and eventually starting performing locally. In 2011 he transferred from Georgetown University, where he’d been studying English, to The Juilliard School in NYC to study Jazz Saxophone. A chance to meet with Grammy Award nominated Christian Scott at a Donald Harrison concert led to Cook being flown to LA for a recording session and nearly four years later, playing saxophone in Scott’s group. Touring the world with Christian Scott, moving to Harlem, performing with the New Century Jazz Quintet, and exploring history and culture have been the biggest influences on his music now, which incorporates R&B and Soul music with classical jazz.
Trumpeter-vocalist Benny Benack lll (Pittsburgh, PA) is accomplished at both, having been a finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition, the Gentlemen Sing Competition, and the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival Vocalist Competition. He has won the Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Soloist Competition, the National Trumpet Competition, and the National Trumpet Guild Jazz Competition. Benny matriculated at the Manhattan School of Music, where he achieved both B.M. and M.M degrees. Professionally Benny has performed at Blue Note, Birdland, Smoke, Smalls, The Iridium, Jazz Gallery, Minton’s, and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.
Drummer Ulysses Owens Jr (Jacksonville, FL). is an in-demand musician, having performed and toured extensively with such greats as Christian McBride (including the Grammy winning album “The Good Feeling”), Kurt Elling (including the Grammy winning album “Dedicated To You”), Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Schuur, Renee Fleming, Monty Alexander, Russell Malone, Joey Alexander, and Mulgrew Miller. As a leader Ulysses Owens has released three albums, including “It’s Time For U,” “Unanimous,” and his most recent, 2014’s “Onward and Upward.” As a composer Ulysses composed “Stages of Us,” a seven-movement suite for the Museum of Modern Art Summergarden Series. Among his awards are the 2015 Jazz At Lincoln Center Swing Award, 2014 Global Music Award, 2013 ASCAP Plus Award, and a 2014 DownBeat Magazine Rising Star citation.
Pianist Takeshi Ohbayashi (Hiroshima, JAPAN) studied film scoring and composition at the Tokyo College of Music before being awarded a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where he was selected to be part of the inaugural class of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute led by Danilo Perez. Following graduation from Berklee Takeshi performed with vocalist Jose James, and his eventual NCJQ co-leader Ulysses Owens. Takeshi has toured to venues across Japan and the U.S., as well as abroad, including Montreal, Barbados, Martinique, Panama, Oslo, and Puerto Rico. His 2011 debut recording as a leader, “Introducing Takeshi Ohbayashi,” was followed by “Feelin’ Lucky” in 2013, nominated for best jazz album of the year.