Skip to main content

Single tickets are on sale NOW!
Subscribe and save! For new 4, 5, or 6 show subscriptions, please call 816-474-4444.
Deadline for Jazz Series subscription renewals is July 12

Benny Benack III (Trumpet, Vocals, Music Director)

By age 31, Emmy-nominated trumpeter and singer Benny Benack III has proven to be that rarest of talents: not only a fiery trumpet player with a stirring command of the post-bop trumpet vernacular in the vein of Kenny Dorham and Freddie Hubbard, but also a singer with a sly, mature, naturally expressive delivery in the post-Sinatra mold, performing standards and his own astute songs with a thrilling sense of showmanship. This duel-threat ability was recognized by the 2022 Downbeat Critics Poll where he appeared as not only the #2 Rising Star Male Vocalist, but a top Rising Star Trumpeter as well. His superb intonation and bracing virtuosity enable him to handle astounding feats of originally composed vocalese (complex solos with written lyrics). On top of it all, he’s a highly capable pianist as well.

Benny has performed internationally as an Emcee/Host for the YouTube sensation Postmodern Jukebox, and achieved his own viral success amassing millions of views for his crooning alongside the Grammy-award winning “8-Bit Big Band”. In early 2020 he released A Lot of Livin’ to Do, the follow-up to his well-received 2017 debut One of a Kind. This sophomore effort, richly varied in mood and brimming with bop inflection, features bassist extraordinaire and jazz ambassador Christian McBride (whose Grammy-award winning Big Band frequently calls upon Benny in the trumpet section) and drummer/producer Ulysses Owens, Jr., as well as the radiant Takeshi Ohbayashi on piano and Rhodes. His vocalese duet on “Social Call” from this album alongside fellow young star vocalist Veronica Swift became an instant smash hit single, being transcribed and learned by jazz vocalists around the world.

Alongside his global touring as a straight-ahead/contemporary bandleader, Benny has appeared as a trumpet soloist in more commercial circles alongside Josh Groban, Ben Folds, fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi, Ann Hampton Callaway and more. He’s been featured at Birdland, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Mezzrow, Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle and other leading New York venues and has also been a special guest with the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops Orchestra, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, and the Minsk Philharmonic Orchestra. He made his television debut in NBC’s short-lived, SNL-inspired variety show “Maya & Marty” playing in the in-studio band led by acclaimed bassist & Broadway arranger Charlie Rosen. His global recognition has been bolstered by recent live-streaming concerts at Smalls Jazz Club, where he maintains a weekly residency, as well as frequent appearances on fellow young lion Emmet Cohen’s “Emmet’s Place” weekly show.

Third in a generational line of Pittsburgh jazz notables, Benny follows in the footsteps of his trumpeter/bandleader grandfather, Benny Benack, Sr. (1921-86), and his father Benny Benack, Jr., a saxophonist/clarinetist who gave the young Benny his first professional experience. Benny, Sr. hailed from a Pittsburgh lineage that also produced Roy Eldridge, Earl Hines, Art Blakey, Billy Strayhorn and so many more. He recorded the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 1960 theme song “Beat ’Em Bucs” and toured with Tommy Dorsey and Raymond Scott, among others. Benny III returns to Pittsburgh often to perform, saluting his family forebears and the jazz heritage as a whole, nonetheless staking his bold and highly individual artistic claim. He is an endorsing artist with Torpedo Bags cases, CarolBrass flugelhorns, as well as various menswear fashion lines including X-Suit, Alain Dupetit, Proper Cloth & Vittone.

Stella Cole (Vocals)

To watch Stella Cole perform is to be transported back in time.  Her sense of joy and wonder is infectious – one look at her massive social media following makes this clear. Take a quick scroll through the comments of any of her many viral videos and you’ll see not only her irresistible charm, but an ability to expose fans of all ages to the wonders of the Great American Songbook, especially when these timeless stories are told honestly by an artist with an uncanny ability to transcend generations.

On her highly anticipated debut recording, Stella is presented performing interpreting a collection of classics in a variety of settings, including many featuring an orchestra arranged by multiple Grammy-winner Alan Broadbent. Featuring songs made famous by everyone from Barbra Streisand (“When the Sun Comes Out”) and Judy Garland (“The Boy Next Door” and a classic re-interpretation of “Over the Rainbow”) to Billie Eilish (“My Future”) and Audrey Hepburn (“Moon River” of course!), it is sure to be one of the most impressive vocal recordings of 2024.

Upon first hearing Stella Cole, one is immediately struck by her rich tone and extraordinary vocal control. However, what is particularly rare is her ability to interpret songs that were initially intended for actors in character in a direct, personally vulnerable way that connects to something within herself, placing her in the lineage of the greatest interpreters of the repertoire. Perhaps most exciting, to her many young fans, who have never heard these songs before, these are Stella Cole songs, which clearly makes her one of the most exciting artists of her generation.

Jabu Graybeal (Tap Dance)

From Pittsboro, NC, award winning artist Jabu Graybeal first studied with JUBA award winner Gene Medler and was a member for 9 years of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (NCYTE), one of the most renowned youth tap companies in the world. Jabu is a Jacob’s Pillow and YoungArts Foundation alumni who has worked and performed with a diverse group of companies, such as Caleb Teicher & Company, Emmy Nominee Chloe Arnold’s Apartment 33, Michelle Dorrance, Riverdance, and American choreographer Justin Peck. He is featured in Apple TV’s movie music “Spirited with Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds.  He was the first tap dancer to be accepted into the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Workshop at the Newport Jazz Festival and was included, under a nomination from Michelle Dorrance, in the December 2017 issue of Dance Spirit magazine as one of the dancers to look for in the next generation of tap dance. Jabu Graybeal is a touring star member of Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox and 1/2 of East Coast based music duo “SUMMERZOVR”.

Liya Grigoryan (Piano)

Liya Grigoryan is an Armenian born pianist who started her music career at the very young age of 5. Already then, she was actively participating in music competitions and performing at major music festivals in Russia, Ukraine, and Europe. Liya won her first award when she was 7 in 1998 at the International Jazz Competition for young jazz musicians in St. Petersburg. At 9, Liya took part at the Len- expo (Russia) contest where she won the main prize – a brand new piano – that allowed her to continue her music studies. She was part of a young jazz collective that toured as part of a cultural exchange in Germany, France and Scotland, performing at various prestigious music venues.

After graduating music school in 2009, Liya decided to continue her music education abroad and in 2010, moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands where she entered the Conservatorium van Amsterdam on a full scholarship and graduated in 2016 with a master’s in jazz performance. During her time there, Liya joined the East West Jazz Orchestra (based in Dortmund, Germany) touring all over Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, Russia, and the Netherlands. Liya actively performed as a sideman and as a leader of her own project. She’s performed all over Europe in the most prestigious concert halls and venues such as Bimhuis (Netherlands), Concertgebouw Hall (Netherlands), Mariinsky Theatre Hall (St. Petersburg, Russia), Jazz Philharmonic Hall (Russia) to name a few. She’s also had the opportunity to perform and tour with internationally acclaimed artists such as Theo Crocker, Randy Brecker, Chad LB, Dick Oats, John Clayton, Justin Dicoccio, and others.

In 2014, Liya received an award at the Getxo Jazz (Bilbao,Spain) where she had the opportunity to open for jazz legend, Jack DeJohnette. In 2017 she released her first record as a leader, which received high acclaim in the jazz community and gave her opportunities to perform at numerous jazz festivals. In 2019, Liya was selected as of one the finalist of the prestigious Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition.

Russell Hall (Bass)

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Russell Hall began his journey as an actor from the tender age of 3. Performing in Jamaican adaptations of popular musicals to serious prose, he was destined to take the stage. Everything changed when he migrated to the United States in 2007. Under the tutelage of The Commodores, he discovered the bridge between the world of drama and the world of music. He progressed quickly from the electric bass to the double bass through the rigorous programs of The Dillard Center for the Arts and The Juilliard School. Now, he is revered as one of the most in demand artist in New York City, performing with some of the biggest names in music, dance and film. His work is featured on the Grammy nominated album “My Favorite Things” by Joey Alexander, “Motherless Brooklyn”, a film by Edward Norton which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Score, and HBO’s “Masterclass Series” which feature Wynton Marsalis as a master teacher which was nominated for an Emmy. Russell’s own work has been acknowledged with prestige in some of the most renowned venues and festivals around the world such as The Appel Room, The St. Lucia Jazz Festival, The Apollo, The Marciac Jazz Festival and many more. His most recent album, “Deep Blue Sea”, is available on all platforms with the band he fronts Bessie and the Rainbowkids.

Joe Peri (Drums)

Drummer, percussionist, and educator Joe Peri is primarily known as a jazz drummer, but he has played with a diverse range of bands and performers all around the world since arriving in New York City in 2009. Joe performs regularly in New York City’s most renowned jazz clubs such as Smalls, Dizzy’s, the Jazz Gallery, Cellar Dog, Zinc Bar, and Birdland to name a few. Since graduating from the Manhattan School of Music in 2015, Joe has collaborated with numerous notable jazz artists like Kurt Rosenwinkel, Seamus Blake, Ed Cherry, Peter Bernstein, Dave Kikoski, and Aaron Goldberg among many others. In 2018, Joe recorded with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga on their Grammy Award-winning album “Love For Sale” released in October of 2021. The album, a tribute to Cole Porter, was Bennett’s final studio recording. Joe also performs regularly as the percussionist in the band of fashion designer and personality Isaac Mizrahi. Joe has significant ties to Finland, having lived in Helsinki for the years 2020 and 2021. He is married to Finnish jazz bassist, Kaisa Mäensivu, and has played in her band “Kaisa’s Machine” since 2021. They currently reside in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

As a passionate proponent of jazz education, Joe has maintained a highly sought-after private lesson studio in Manhattan, and he is currently the private instructor of Jazz Drum Set at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music Pre-College Division. A two-time graduate of the Manhattan School of Music (BM ’13 & MM ’15), Joe studied under the watchful eye of master drummer John Riley of the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Joe’s first album as a leader, “Perillä”, was released February 24th, 2023 on the Turku, Finland-based label Flame Jazz Records.

Jarien Jamanila (Saxophone)

Jarien Jamanila is a musician born and raised in San Diego, California. He resided there until he moved to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the Juilliard School. He settled in New York City after graduating in 2021 and has been freelancing since then. His musical voice ranges from all the common saxophones, clarinets, and flutes. Some of his key influences include Thelonious Monk, Johnny Hodges, and Sarah Vaughan. He stays very consistent in his daily life regarding expanding his craft, his health, and his philosophy. The past few years he’s developed an extreme affinity for reading. Some of the books that have recently shaped his thoughts include Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations”, Langston Hughes’ “Selected Poems”, and the Book of Psalms. His faith in God is a constant source of peace in his life. These attributes are fundamental in perpetuating his creativity.

Event Sponsors