Press Release by Eugene Uman (please give author’s credit)
Who: Jonathan Barber and Vision Ahead
What: Live stream jazz concert and interview
Artists: Jonathan Barber (drums), Godwin Louis (alto sax), Andrew Renfroe (guitar), Taber Gable (piano) and Matt Dwonszyk (bass).
When: Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 8:00 PM
Where: On line at www.vtjazz.org and https://www.facebook.com/VermontJazzCenter/live/
Access to the Event – online at www.vtjazz.org and https://www.facebook.com/VermontJazzCenter/live/
Cost – Free and Open to the public, donations accepted
Jonathan Barber’s star has been on the rise since his auspicious 2018 debut, Vision Ahead, and a 2019 tour in Pat Metheny’s trio… an abundance of heightened energy and new ideas executed with pristine precision by the bandleader and his future-facing ensemble.
Bill Milkowski, Downbeat Magazine
Vermont Jazz Center Presents Drummer Jonathan Barber and Vision Ahead in a Live Stream Performance on Saturday, February 20th at 8:00 PM
On February 20th at 8:00 PM, drummer Jonathan Barber’s Vision Ahead will perform a livestream concert at the Vermont Jazz Center which will be viewable on line at www.vtjazz.org and https://www.facebook.com/VermontJazzCenter/live/. All About Jazz, an online music website claims: “Wise beyond his years, Jonathan Barber carries and commits to the very notion of a legacy holder in his every gesture. On Barber’s newest recording, Legacy Holder, he pays tribute to the great drummers who have come before him, especially Tony Williams. But his voice is fresh and informed by the new trends laid out by a new generation of trend-setters like Makaya McCraven, Mark Guiliana, and Corey Fonville.
The Jazz Center’s performance will feature Barber with the band he has been playing with for years: Vision Ahead. They met at the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in Hartford, Connecticut before moving to New York City to network and cut their teeth. Each member is now recognized as a leading voice in a city full of remarkable players. Vision Ahead is Jonathan Barber (drums), Godwin Louis (alto sax), Andrew Renfroe (guitar), Taber Gable (piano) and Matt Dwonszyk (bass). Thirty-one year-old Barber has also been working as a sideman with Kenny Barron, Buster Williams and Wallace Roney. Now on his third album as a leader, he and Vision Ahead were touring the world with when Covid-19 brought their journey to a halt.
In interviews and reviews Barber presents himself as someone with his eye on the prize. He has the tranquil assurance of a person with his desired future clearly mapped out. He also knows from experience what it takes to create the reality he envisions. His work as a side-person with jazz legends like Pat Metheny, Jeremy Pelt and Nick Payton demonstrates that he has the skills and talent to play with those in the top tier, but Barber also knows that the path to his dreams was a combination of factors: growing up in the gospel scene, the presence of a musical family, and his laser-focused dedication to studying, planning, and networking.
As the leader of Vision Ahead Barber has molded his compositions and group concept into a unique and compelling sound. Acknowledged by Downbeat Magazine as “a future facing ensemble [with] pristine precision,” Barber’s clean drumming is the band’s heartbeat and conscience. His compositions are carefully arranged to feature soloists away from the typical melody-solo-melody construction common in swing and bebop styles. He employs ostinatos (short repeating structures), ensemble hits and harmonic contrasts to envelope improvised solos into the structure of the piece itself. As a drummer, his playing is the antithesis of boisterous; his approach is compositional, not flashy. He develops ideas gradually, building ideas architecturally, using space and sound to build rooms where listeners can explore and abide.
The musicians in Vision Ahead respect Barber’s concept, they understand their roles as both creative individuals and team members contributing to a greater whole. They all improvise with imagination and dexterity and are capable of sculpting their sound to achieve soaring arcs. But amidst all that virtuosity there’s a sense of patience in the presentation of the material that brings to light a humble vibe that is transmitted to the listeners. Everyone in the group works together to serve the music. The unity is especially evident in the tight ensemble sections where their cohesiveness is a reflection of their years together.
Vision Ahead’s alto saxophonist is Godwin Louis, a finalist in the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Saxophone Competition in 2013. He attended Berklee College of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz Performance. A world traveler, Louis has performed in Mali, Senegal, Togo, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Venezuela, Colombia, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Australia. He has studied and performed with Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry, Roger Dickerson, Ron Carter, Al Foster, Jack DeJohnette, Jimmy Heath, Billy Preston, Patti Labelle, Toni Braxton, Babyface, Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Barry Harris, Howard Shore, David Baker, Mulatu Astakte, Mahmoud Ahmed, Wynton Marsalis, and Terence Blanchard. As a composer, Louis has received the Jerome Foundation Emerging Artist Grant and the Jazz Gallery’s “New Works Commission.” As an educator, humanitarian, and ambassador, he has traveled from Ghana to China to help promote cross-cultural understanding through music. Louis is the founder of Experience Ayiti, a nonprofit educational multidisciplinary arts organization doing work in Haiti.
The pianist of Vision Ahead is Taber Gable who recently received his Masters in Music from Juilliard School of Music. He has performed or toured with Marcus and E.J. Strickland, Terrace Martin, Trevor Lawrence, Braxton Cook, and many others. He has appeared on recording projects with Jonathan Barber, T@NE, Josh Bruneau, Matt Dwonzyck and others and recently released his first album as a leader called Hidden Driveways.
Guitarist Andrew Renfroe received his undergraduate degree from the Jackie McLean Institute at Hartt and his Masters in Music from Juilliard. He attended the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program in 2013. Renfroe has performed in the bands of Steve Davis, Nat Reeves, Javon Jackson, Terrace Martin, Mike LeDonne, and J.D. Allen. Currently, he is a member of many working groups, including those led by veterans Carmen Lundy and David Weiss, as well as groups led by his peers Braxton Cook, Jonathan Barber, Jonathon Pinson, Luke Sellick, Arnold Lee, and others. Renfroe’s own projects include a re-imagining of Delta Blues legend and originator Son House’s music through the aesthetic of the John Coltrane Quartet, as well as a project which takes traditional music from Burkina Faso and Mali, West Africa and places it in a modern jazz quartet setting. Both of these projects were presented at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Bassist Matt Dwonszyk has shared the bandstand with world-renowned jazz musicians such as Steve Davis, Harold Mabern, Jazzmeia Horn, Bennie Wallace, Dr. Eddie Henderson, Herlin Riley among many others. In 2018, Dwonszyk toured through Russia as part of the Rainy Days Jazz Festival. In 2019, he toured through Canada with the Oleg Butman. He frequently performs at some of the top jazz clubs in New York City including Smalls Jazz Club, Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, Smoke and The Blue Note. His debut recording, Wonderful World, was released May of 2019.
In a recent interview on Bernie’s Bootleg Podcast, Barber states “you’ve got to set goals and give yourself reminders about the goals. Don’t just write them down and forget about them. Review them and figure out how to achieve those goals. The process is subject to change, but at least it gives you an idea on how to work towards them. Set goals, be patient, be a good person.” This simple recipe reflects how Barber organizes his life and leads his group. It is fascinating to hear a band led by a person with such conviction. Tune in on line at www.vtjazz.org and https://www.facebook.com/VermontJazzCenter/live/ to Vision Ahead’s concert on Saturday, February 20th to discover the intentionality of this young group’s trajectory.
The VJC is grateful for the generosity of dear friend and long-term supporter, Dave Snyder, owner/manager/engineer of Guilford Sound who is this concert’s sponsor. An accomplished drummer himself, Snyder has been encouraging the VJC’s programming for years. Over the years his sponsorships have supported appearances by such legendary drummers as Terri Lyne Carrington, Louis Hayes, Matt Wilson, Billy Hart, Johnathan Blake, Carl Allen and Jimmy Cobb. Publicity is underwritten by The Commons and The Brattleboro Reformer. The VJC is also grateful to the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Humanities Council for their support, and increased efforts to stabilize the existence of arts organizations during the pandemic.
Live streaming for this event is cost-free and open to the public. Donations to the Vermont Jazz Center will be gratefully accepted. Admission to VJC in-person concerts is usually offered on a sliding fee scale from $20 to $40 per person. The VJC now offers our events without charge on line, but donations are welcome and just a click away. Please give generously and support live music.