Last year, the Kranzberg Arts Foundation launched its Music Artist in Residence program, offering nearly a dozen local jazz artists and band leaders an opportunity to share the stages of their Grand Center Arts District performance venues while also gaining valuable resources that would help each expand and build their careers. The program made an impressive mark on the St. Louis music scene, expanding jazz into a younger audience and shining a light on some incredible up-and-coming local talent, like Tonina, Mo Eggeston, Owen Ragland, and more. So, when KAF announced the return of the program with a fresh new class–we were at the edge of our seats to meet the next trailblazing musicians who will lead the 2019-2020 season.
Andrew Stephen is a pianist, producer, and composer whose output comprises a variety of styles including jazz, pop, hip-hop, and futuresoul. He holds a bachelor’s degree in jazz piano performance from Webster University and also used his time there to study at the Vienna Conservatory in Austria. His compositions have been featured on several major television networks, and he is also the owner of Eightfold Studios where he has produced records for some of St. Louis’ finest local talent. In addition, he leads his own piano trio and will release his debut nujazz/ futuresoul album “Sample Kulture” (with vocalist Chrissy Renick) this year. He hopes to use his time as a Resident Artist to elevate his profile not only as a performing artist but also as a producer and composer.
Ben Wheeler is a bass player, teacher and father of three from University City. Hailing from a family in which his father and brother also played upright bass, he began playing jazz and orchestral music in high school and studied classical bass at Truman State and jazz bass at Webster University, eventually earning his Master’s in Jazz Bass Performance from SIUE. He currently teaches bass and music history at Webster and serves as the regular bassist for Dave Venn, the Kasimu-tet, Tango Underground, the Lustrelights and regularly performs with Dave Black, Tom Byrne, Paul DeMarinis, and many others. He plans to use his Residency as an opportunity to step out as a bandleader and composer.
Brady Lewis is a trumpet player from East Saint Louis, IL. Inspired by the prestigious lineage of trumpet players from his hometown, he has been a student of jazz and classical music since the 7th grade. He was a member of various high school and college jazz combos and big bands as well as programs such as Jazz St. Louis’ JazzU All-Stars. His natural appetite for musical knowledge led him to find work with groups performing styles as disparate as blues, hip-hop, Motown-era soul, indie rock, and even bluegrass. He melds all of these lessons into his own style as a jazz artist, leading the Brady Lewis trio and Brady Lewis Sextet on top of his work as an in-demand sideman, and still finds time to collaborate with independent artists such as PRYR and Looprat. Through the Music Artist-In-Residence program, he hopes to gain a better understanding of marketing to help him promote all of his various projects.
Brianna “Be.Be” Brown
Brianna Elise Brown, who performs under the moniker “Be.Be,” is a vocalist and pianist whose repertoire spans styles from traditional jazz to neo-soul, R&B, and new jazz. Born in Queens, New York, she relocated to St. Louis in 2002, where she graduated from Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, and is currently a Jazz Vocal Performance student and Psychology major at Webster University. She regularly performs with her own jazz trio, shares vocal duties as a member of event band the Lustre Lights, and presents electric original compositions- her focus as a Music Artist in Residence- with her band Be.Be and the Neo-Souls.
Carlos Brown Jr.
Alto saxophonist Carlos Brown Jr., is a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. From an early age, he was exposed to jazz and other styles through his father’s music collection and began his playing career in the 6th grade. He continued to develop his skills throughout high school as a member of Jazz St. Louis’ JazzU program, and later as a member of the Northern Illinois University Jazz Orchestra and Latin Jazz Band. He has since spent several years touring and performing at regional festivals with Dirty Muggs and Brian Owens and the Deacons of Soul and is currently putting the finishing touches on his debut album. An avid vinyl record shopper, he also serves as the program director for the Jazz Academy Program at Jazz St. Louis. He hopes to use his Residency as a vehicle to learn the finer points of the music business as well as an opportunity to network with new musical collaborators.
A native of Gloucester, England, Janet Evra is a jazz vocalist, bassist, and composer. Since relocating to western Illinois for college, she has made a home and a base for her musical endeavors in the St. Louis area. Singing in multiple languages, she performs standards from American, French and Latin jazz, while also blending bossa nova, samba, and pop influences to create her own original sound. She released her debut original album ‘Ask Her to Dance’ in 2018 and performs throughout St. Louis several times a week, along with shows throughout the region and festivals overseas.
Kaleb Kirby is drummer, teacher, and composer residing in St. Louis. He Kaleb majored in Jazz Performance and Composition at Berklee College of Music, and attended the Marcel DeSautels Conservatory in Winnipeg, Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Missouri- St. Louis. Maintaining an active performance schedule locally around St. Louis with his own groups such as the Kaleb Kirby Quartet and Kleb, a one-man electronic project, he also accompanies other artists and works as a teaching artist for JazzSTL. He sees the Residency as an opportunity to showcase new jazz compositions with musicians he admires and to bring more attention to the St. Louis jazz community.
Singer, pianist, producer, and composer Katarra is a self-taught musician and classically trained vocalist. Her progressive style blends jazz, soul, R&B, hip-hop, from influences as diverse as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan to Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder. Katarra has performed across the country, most recently collaborating with the Owen Ragland Quintet and local electronic hip-hop collective Farfetched. Her goal as a Resident Artist is turn her focus towards her own compositions, and she plans to complete her debut solo album this year.
Mark Harris II
Bandleader, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Harris II is a classically trained pianist with a background in gospel and jazz. While he is also an experienced drummer, his skill on the keyboard and as a musical director has led him to touring gigs with Chante Moore, the B.B. King All-Stars, and many others, taking him over the road not only in the United States but also throughout Canada and Australia. A true mover and shaker in the local scene, he frequently books and promotes events bringing outside artists to St. Louis, and his fresh take on smooth jazz adds a unique sound within the new group of Resident Artists.