SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Modern Marimba are collaborating to present an incredible evening of jazz featuring the Jalen Baker Quartet, with Jalen Baker on vibraphone, Paul Cornish on the piano, Gavin Moolchan on the drums, and Gabriel Godoy on bass (please see below for bios on Cornish, Moolchan and Godoy). The concert takes place on Saturday, September 9 at 7:30 p.m. in The Donelly Theatre at WBTT (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota).
Baker, born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Houston, Tex., is a vibraphonist, percussionist, educator, and composer whose early training involved both classical and jazz genres. Since 2019, he has continued to distinguish himself as a performer as a Ravinia Jazz Fellow, where he studied with Rufus Reid, Billy Childs, and Tim Haggins.
Baker has been an active performer with the Ulysses Owens Jr. Big Band, Jeremy Pelt, Michael Mwenso and The Shakes, Leon Anderson, and Amina Scott Quartet, while also leading his own band in venues in and around Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Chicago, Ill. Baker’s unique blend of original modern jazz compositions and standards makes for exciting live performances.
As a band leader, Baker received the prestigious South Arts Jazz Roads Touring Grant in 2021. He has been a featured artist with various organizations such as the Savannah Jazz Orchestra, Houston’s Da Camera, Miami’s WDNA Jazz Hour, Live Music Movement Houston, and Sarasota’s own Modern Marimba.
Since 2021, he has released two albums: “This is Me, This is Us” on Outside In Music in June of 2021, and “Be Still” on Cellar Live in July of 2023; both have garnered positive recognition from various jazz blogs and magazines.
He decided early on to focus on jazz and, in May 2017, received his Bachelor of Arts in Jazz Studies from Columbia College in Chicago. He was a graduate assistant in the Jazz Performance program at Florida State University and, in 2019, earned his Master of Music in Jazz Studies.
“We are thrilled to partner with Modern Marimba to present this talented quartet on WBTT’s stage,” said Nate Jacobs, WBTT’s founder/artistic director. “Jalen has serious performance and educational chops, and is an example of an artist who is relentless about honing his craft. We look forward to welcoming community members to what should be an exquisite and inspirational musical performance!”
Tickets are $27 (includes all applicable fees); visit westcoastblacktheatre.org or call the Box Office at 941-366-1505.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org for more information.
About Modern Marimba
Modern Marimba is a nonprofit arts collective based in Sarasota, Florida that celebrates music performances and education through the music of the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and all mallet percussion instruments. Created in 2019 by musician Tihda Vongkoth, the organization seeks to participate in the lifelong learning process by offering educational music programs and hope as they support and guide creative, resilient, and intelligent musicians. Visit modernmarimba.org.
Additional player bios – Jalen Baker Quartet:
After graduating from Houston’s prestigious High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, piano player Paul Cornish was one of seven jazz prodigies worldwide selected to be awarded a full fellowship to attend the esteemed Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz at UCLA. There, he completed his Master’s degree and studied and performed with some of the world’s most renowned jazz artists. He was the winner of the 2018 American Jazz Piano Competition. Since that time, Cornish has performed extensively across the globe with such notable artists as Herbie Hancock, Louis Cole, Theo Croker, Snoh Aalegra, Terrace Martin, Thumpasaurus, John Legend and HAIM; additionally, he played piano for Kanye West’s Sunday Service for more than a year. He also appeared on the TV series “Glee.” He is featured on both of Jalen Baker’s albums, “This Is Me, This Is Us” (2021) and “Be Still” (2023).
Gabriel Godoy has had a wide range of musical experience playing jazz, R&B, hip-hop, pop, Latin jazz, rock, and salsa. He attended the University of Miami Frost School of Music, where he was a member of many highly acclaimed ensembles such as the Studio Jazz Band and the Frost Funk/Fusion ensemble, for which he received the 40th Annual DownBeat Student Music Award for best Blues/Pop/Rock Group. His hard work culminated in earning the bass chair for the prestigious Frost Sextet. As a member of the Frost Sextet, he competed in the Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation Jazz Festival, and was able to travel to Guadalajara, Mexico to perform for the Jalisco Jazz Festival and teach young students at the Fundación Tonica Instituto de Jazz program. He graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Music degree in 2017. He continued to foster his musical passions in the fall of 2017 at Florida State University’s College of Music for his graduate studies, earned a Graduate Teaching Assistantship at FSU, and graduated with a Mast of Music degree from Florida State University in 2019. Most recently, he was selected for the invite-only Jazz Aspen Snowmass Combo/Small Ensemble Academy – a two-week intensive workshop, partnered with the Frost School of Music, focused on assisting the most talented artists in jazz explore a myriad of related and unrelated forms of music at the highest level of quality. He is featured on both of Jalen Baker’s albums, “This Is Me, This Is Us” (2021) and “Be Still” (2023).
Gavin Moolchan was born and raised in Houston, Texas. After graduating high school, he studied with Sebastian Whittaker, Daniel Dufour, and Will Kennedy, some of the most notable drummers in the region. He also began his career working as a freelance musician and private instructor, covering a wide range of genres. While living in Houston, he has had the opportunity to perform and tour both nationally and internationally with some of Houston’s most respected musicians and groups, such as David Caceres, Jalen Baker, Diunna Greenleaf, Stratus, Frank Lacy, Paul Cornish, and many others. He also works as a young artist for the Da Camera organization in Houston, which provides many educational and performance opportunities all over the city. He is featured on both of Jalen Baker’s albums, “This Is Me, This Is Us” (2021) and “Be Still” (2023).