The following description was submitted by the event organizer.
Part of the 2020 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival.
Even before moving to New York City in 2013, pianist James Francies had generated a well deserved buzz in the jazz arena. He is the youngest recipient of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) President’s Youth Award, DownBeat Magazine awarded him twice for Composition and Jazz Arrangement, his band opened for the legendary Jazz Crusaders reunion and he performed at Monterey Jazz Festival. Grammy-nominated pianist Taylor Eigsti describes Francies as “poised to become a major voice on the instrument. He has the passion, creativity and ability to be a real leader amongst his generation.”
At 22, he keeps moving forward. Since he’s been in N.Y.C., James has toured and recorded with the likes of with Eric Harland, The Roots, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, Chris Dave and Drumhedz, and fronts his own band, Kinetic. Francies can often be seen on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC with the Roots. He is currently in the process of recording his debut album for the legendary Blue Note Record Label. And he was just named one of “8 Artists You Should Know” by the genre-bending website Revive Music. Francies has also been featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Uproxx, Downbeat Magazine and other publications. Mr. Francies also works with drummer and producer Questlove of the Roots on numerous projects such as music for commercials, film scores and singles for different artists. Francies recently was apart of the film score for Vincent N’ Roxxy with Questlove that stars Zoe Kravitz, Emile Hirsch and Kid Cudi. The film can currently be viewed on Netflix.
Encouraged by his parents to learn by experience, James reveled in the rich Houstonian culture exploring the arts and gaining early exposure to music in church and through formal lessons at age five. While assimilating the contemporary music of his peers he also developed a distinct interest in jazz. Three years attending Houston’s Summer Jazz Workshop helped solidify his foundation and set a clear path as a standout at HSPVA, the renowned performing and visual arts high school whose alumnae include Beyoncé, Jason Moran, Chris Dave and Eric Harland. During that time he won the Ruth and Eli Nadel Scholarship Award at Stanford Jazz Workshop (2012-2013), earned a full scholarship to Skidmore Summer Jazz Institute in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and was awarded the Moran Scholarship Award from pianist and 2010 MacArthur Fellow, Jason Moran. It was also evident that James was a talented composer. Bolstered by his inquisitive mind and synesthesia, the ability to hear in colors, James’ music is insightful and purposeful with a distinct melodic styling that is forward looking and comforting. He explores the full spectrum of keys from acoustic piano to Fender Rhodes to synthesizer. “I enjoy being able to describe life through sound . . . To me, that’s what makes music relevant; speaking on a subject with out words.”
Francies’ impressive performance/recording credits include The Roots, Pat Metheny, Eric Harland, Bilal, Kodak Black, Chris Potter, Robert Glasper, Jeff Tain Watts, Jose James, Chris Dave and many others. Francies was also a part of Chance The Rapper’s hit single “No Problem” which went on to win two Grammy Awards in 2017. In his high school years, Francies was a member of the Grammy Jazz Session Combo, The Thelonious Monk Institute All-Star Jazz Sextet, The Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and the Texas Music Educators Association’s (TMEA) All-State Jazz Ensemble. Francies has performed and toured extensively throughout five different continents. Francies recently graduated from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music on full-scholarship. James Francies is a Blue Note Recording Artist, endorsed by Yamaha Pianos, Korg Keyboards, and he is an IWC Brand Ambassador.
Hailed by DownBeat Magazine for his “quick-witted harmonic reflexes, fluid command of line and cut-to-the- chase sense of narrative logic,” Aaron Goldberg has made his name as one of jazz’s most compelling pianists, both as a bandleader and frequent collaborator with Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guillermo Klein and many more. On his most recent release The Now, Goldberg reunites with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, the virtuoso rhythm team going all the way back to his 1998 debut Turning Point. On their fifth outing together, the trio foregrounds a central truth about the art of playing jazz: That no two performances will be the same because the music is created, in Goldberg’s words, “in the dynamic plane of the present.”
Goldberg became a jazz devotee in Boston during high school. After spending a year in New York City at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, he enrolled at Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude in 1996 with a concentration in Mind, Brain and Behavior. A founding member of Betty Carter’s famed and indispensable Jazz Ahead program, he continued his ascent performing in bands led by Al Foster, Freddie Hubbard, Nicholas Payton, Stefon Harris and Mark Turner among others. By the late 1990s, he was garnering wider attention, and an incessant touring schedule found him both inspired by music from around the world yet appreciative of the zen creativity that only jazz demands.
Jazz has a way of summoning that kind of spirit from musicians, and Goldberg knows exactly how to capture it, surrounding himself with kindred spirits in pursuit of the highest expression. He and the trio embody the best of what jazz can be today: the ability to speak from deep within the tradition while putting their own collaborative imprint upon it. Combined with his personal take on jazz’s intangible and viscerally uplifting heritage, this makes Goldberg just the player to share all he knows about The Now.