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The Vermont Jazz Center Presents: The Clarence Penn Quartet

Contact: Eugene Uman at or 802 258 8822

Clarence Penn Quartet kicks off 2015 with performance of the music of Thelonious Monk at the VJC

Short Summary
Who: Clarence Penn (drums), Chad Lefkowitz-Brown (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano) and Yasushi Nakamura (bass)
What: 21st Century interpretations of the music of Thelonious Monk
When: Saturday, January 17th at 8:00 PM
Where: The Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222, Brattleboro, VT 05301
Tickets available: online at by phone 802 254 9088, in person at In The Moment, Main St., Brattleboro, VT.

Clarence Penn plays Monk and celebrates release of new CD

On Saturday, January 17th, The Vermont Jazz Center will present drummer Clarence Penn in concert with his Quartet, “Penn Station” performing the music of Thelonious Monk. The group includes the leader with young New York heavyweights Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano and Yasushi Nakamura on bass. This working ensemble displays a telepathic level of communication, a mastery of dynamics and a remarkable degree of facility while playfully navigating challenging tunes, often in odd meters.

The quartet will feature the music of Thelonious Monk in a way listeners have never heard before. Clarence Penn has created arrangements of Monk’s venerable gems that are new, fresh and adventurous, while still retaining and paying homage to Monk’s indelible melodies and harmonic genius. These arrangements can be heard on the quartet’s new, highly acclaimed CD: Monk, the Lost Files. Tom Wilkens of WBGO states: “The album’s beauty is found in the way it unpacks the rhythmic potential inherent in Monk’s compositions and infuses the band with this spirit.” James Hale of Downbeat Magazine notes that these rearrangements of Monks music “reinterpret Monk as 21st century material…In the hands of Penn’s quartet, Monk comes off sounding like dance music.” Although purists may balk at the idea of Penn reinterpreting Monk’s classic compositions, once they have heard the music, they will find Monk’s melodies are treated with reverence and their essence is undiluted. In the end, the musicianship and hard-swinging, joyful performances will draw listeners to the original source material and honor Monk’s deserved reputation.

Drummer Clarence Penn is familiar to many Vermont Jazz Center listeners- he is the drum instructor for the VJC’s summer jazz workshop and has performed on the VJC’s stage with Dave Stryker and Steve Slagle in 2011 and the Grégoire Maret Quartet in 2013. Since 1991, when he arrived in New York City, Penn has worked or recorded with Ellis and Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Stanley Clarke, Steps Ahead, Makoto Ozone, Michael Brecker, Dave Douglas, Maria Schneider, Luciana Souza, Richard Galliano, and Fourplay. His discography includes several hundred studio albums including three Grammy-winning recordings. He has toured extensively throughout the United States, the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Southeast Asia. He’s composed music for films and commercials, and produced tracks for numerous singers in the pop and alternative arenas. He earned a “Ten Best of 1997” accolade from the New York Times for his first leader recording, Penn’s Landing. Penn was a protégé of Ellis Marsalis and is now an active educator and clinician. He has served on the faculty of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, Stanford Jazz Workshop, the Saint Louis College of Music in Rome, Italy, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Intensive Jazz Institute.

The saxaphonist of Penn Station is Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, a graduate of the Brubeck Institute in California, and a multiple DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award winner. Chad has shared the stage with some of the most influential names in jazz including Dave Brubeck, McCoy Tyner, Christian McBride, Amina Figarova, Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Chad has performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Super Bowl, the GRAMMY awards, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola and Blues Alley.

Pianist Matt Mitchell leads his own quartet with Chris Speed, Chris Tordini, and Dan Weiss; he co-leads Normal Remarkable Persons with Tim Berne, Herb Robertson, Shane Endsley, Travis Laplante, Tyshawn Sorey, Ches Smith, and Dan Weiss; the duo Fourth Floor with Dan Weiss, and Snark Horse with Kate Gentile. Mitchell is a member of Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls, the Darius Jones Quartet, Dan Weiss’s Fourteen, the Kate Gentile Trio, the Ben Perowsky Quartet, Mario Pavone’s Blue Dialect Trio, the Anna Webber Trio, Ches Smith’s We All Break, Michael Attias’ Spun Tree, and Quinsin Nachoff’s Flux. Musicians with whom he performs include John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet + 1, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green’s Apex, Rez Abbasi’s Invocation, Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Alessi, Dave King, Marc Ducret, David Torn, Jonathan Finlayson, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Allison Miller, Donny McCaslin, Jamie Baum, Brad Shepik, Bobby Zankel, John Swana, and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. Mitchell is a 2012 recipient of a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Bassist Yasushi Nakamura was born in Tokyo, Japan and grew up in Seattle. In 2004, he received a full scholarship to the Juilliard School’s AD Program. He was invited to perform with the 2003 Jazz Aspen Snowmass academy led by Christian McBride, the 2004 Ravinia Jazz Festival, and 2004 Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead at Kennedy Center. He’s performed or recorded with jazz stars Carl Allen, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Wess Anderson, Darren Barrett, Ron Blake, David Berger, Brian Blade, Jimmy Cobb, Xavier Davis, Wycliffe Gordon, Victor Goines, Benny Golson, Benny Green, Jon Hendricks, Hank Jones, Winard Harper, Romero Lubambo, Wynton Marsalis, Bernard Purdie, Clarence Penn, Wallace Roney, Herlin Riley, Loren Schoenberg, Lew Tabackin, Richard Wyands and Myron Walden.

The Clarence Penn Quartet will perform at the VJC on Saturday, January 17th at 8:00 PM. This concert is made possible due to generous financial support from Dave Snyder of Guilford Sound. The VJC is grateful for ongoing support from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hospitality for our artists is provided by the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW and WFCR.

Clarence Penn is riding a wave as the go-to-drummer of his generation. He is the first call drummer for many of New York’s most enduring, creative artists like Maria Schneider, Dave Douglas and Stanley Clarke. Now hear him in the context of his own group, leading strong, young players interpreting his own mind-bending arrangements.
Tickets for the Clarence Penn Quartet at the VJC, January 17th are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1.

“Clarence is a charismatic player, with great dynamic range and drama and musicality. He’s an intricate and heady drummer who thinks compositionally, but uses his gut and instincts towards the end result of making something exciting, that feels alive, and is full of energy and passion. He doesn’t have a limited conception of what the drummer is. Of course, he drives the band and pushes the time, but he also knows how to stop and allow things to happen—to be a colorist.”—
Maria Schneider