josh nelson

Born and raised in Southern California pianist-composer-bandleader Josh Nelson has performed with some of the most respected names in jazz, including Kurt Elling, John Pizzarelli, Benny Golson, Sheila Jordan, John Clayton, George Mraz, Jeff Hamilton, Dave Koz, Joe Chambers and Peter Erskine.


Nelson toured with legendary vocalist Natalie Cole for six years and continues to tour with vocalists Gaby Moreno, Freda Payne, Alicia Olatuja, Sara Gazarek, accordionist Richard Galliano, saxophonist Tom Scott, multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and violinist Christian Howes. He taught jazz for four years at Soka University and more recently at Cal State University Northridge. In 2006, Nelson was a semi-finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition.


Nelson’s latest release, 2017’s The Sky Remains, is his love letter to Los Angeles. The third in his Discovery Project series, it unearths hidden gems and little-known stories about the composer’s hometown. The Sky Remains blends narrative and music in persuasive fashion.


Nelson continues to write new music honoring his native Los Angeles, the most-recent of which was captured during his live recording session at Sam First in February 2022 with a stellar band comprising Walter Smith III, Larry Koonse, Luca Alemanno, Dan Schnelle and special guest vocalist Gaby Moreno.

“Nelson demonstrates his uncanny ability to possess crystal clarity and execution of original ideas that seem to spontaneously metamorphose in his mind, an instant before they are channeled through the piano.”

-Gary Fukushima

joe la barbera

Joe La Barbera is highly regarded in the world of jazz and has been in demand by some of the greatest names in the music for 5 decades. From his first professional appearance at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas with Frankie Randall and the Buddy Rich band in 1968 to his work with jazz great Bill Evans and up to the present, he has always been regarded by his peers as a tasteful, musical drummer and a supportive accompanist. Bill Evans summed it up best when he said: "Joe is very dedicated to playing quality music and he’s willing to make the concessions of dues toward that end. He’s a top soloist and he does the right thing at the right time".


As a performer the list of artists Joe has worked with is impressive across generations and continents including Woody Herman, Chuck Mangione, John Scofield, Mike and Randy Brecker, Toots Thielemans, Lee Konitz, Joe Locke, John Abercrombie, Gary Burton, Dado Maroni, Enrico Pieranunzi, Phillipe Catherine and Kenny Wheeler to name only a few.


Joe was on the faculty at California Institute for the Arts from 1993 until 2021 and stays busy as a clinician and guest artist at prestigious programs such as Centrum Jazz Camp in Port Townsend Washington, St. Louis Conservatory in Rome, Capbreton, France, McGill University in Montreal and Cornish College in Seattle.

"Joe is very dedicated to playing quality music and he’s willing to make the concessions of dues toward that end. He’s a top soloist and he does the right thing at the right time". 

-Bill Evans

rachel eckroth

Eckroth can lead with a bold vision or accompany with the subtle skills necessary to make another musician shine. Her combination of jazz experimentation and pop feeling form the engine behind her own work as a leader or co-leader on 20 albums, most recently The Garden on Rainy Days Records (2021). That same crossover talent is why she's been featured on voice and keyboards in the bands of Rufus Wainwright, St. Vincent, KT Tunstall, and Chris Botti. 


Eckroth can hold an audience's attention in an intimate jazz club or on a massive concert stage. She did the latter when she opened for Rufus wWainwright's All These Poses anniversary tour, standing on stage alone with just her keyboards and her voice, weaving a sonic landscape that kept audiences enthralled. Eckroth is no stranger to television, either, having been a member of the house band on the Meredith Vieira show and appearing on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers and Good Morning America with various artists. 


Eckroth has been a busy recording artist throughout her career, and the pace has only increased in recent years. In 2020, Eckroth appeared on the single "circling" by Donny McCaslin, the acclaimed saxophonist from David Bowie's final band. That same year, she released three singles of her own. This year (2021) she and her husband, bassist Tim Lefebvre (David Bowie, The Tedeschi Trucks Band) put out a duet album called The Blackbird Sessions Vol. 1. She also released the single "moot points" featuring Alassane, as well as an eponymous EP featuring four of her own songs. 

jeff babo / tim lefebvre / mark guiliana

When three friends get together, conversation, camaraderie, and cosmic communication can occur in the most special of cases. That unpredictable magic erupts every time keyboardist Jeff Babko, bassist Tim Lefebvre and drummer Mark Guiliana converge for a “hang”, or in this event, a musical evening of discovery. All three musicians were part of Guiliana’s “Beat Music L.A.” ensemble, and Guiliana and Lefebvre collaborated on David Bowie’s “Blackstar”, as well as in Donny McCaslin’s band. Babko has been in the house band at “Jimmy Kimmel Live” for nearly 20 years, and also is the music director for Steve Martin & Martin Short, as well as performing on many motion picture soundtracks, including the recent #1 hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto, as well as “Tenet”, “Toy Story 4”, “Frozen 2” and “Deadpool 2”. Guiliana was nominated for a Grammy for his own Beat Music! album in 2018, and Lefebvre produced Rachel Eckroth’s “The Garden” 2022 Grammy nominee as well.

justin kauflin

At 35 years young, Justin Kauflin has already produced eight albums as a leader, has appeared on at least 25 additional albums as sideman or guest artist and has recorded 48 original compositions for albums and film. It’s no surprise that Justin is both a Quincy Jones Artist and Yamaha artist.


While a student at William Paterson University in New Jersey, Justin not only had the great fortune of studying with piano icons Mulgrew Miller and Harold Mabern, but was also taken under the wings of legendary trumpeter, Clark Terry, who subsequently asked Justin to join his band. Justin's relationship with Mr. Terry was chronicled for five years to create the award-winning film, Keep On Keepin' On, a documentary that even made the Oscar's Short List.


Clark Terry is also responsible for having introduced Justin to one of his first students, legendary producer and music icon, Quincy Jones, who quickly signed Justin for management with the Quincy Jones Agency and has since been an integral figure in Justin’s musical journey.

"Simply beautiful Cat... You can feel it in every note he plays"

-Quincy Jones