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Keystone Jazz Collective, Co-Founded by Pittsburgh Trombonist Reggie Watkins & Philadelphia Bassist Nimrod Speaks, Announces New Organization & July Concerts
(Published: June 25, 2018)

The Keystone Jazz Collective is a tale of two Pennsylvania cities. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, not to mention the surrounding regions, have brought far more than their share of jazz to the world. Whether it's Billy Strayhorn and Art Blakey from Pittsburgh, Henry Mancini from the nearby town of Alquippa, or Benny Golson, John Coltrane, and McCoy Tyner from Philadelphia, the list rapidly expands to include dozens of the greatest musicians of all time periods. Now the newly formed Keystone Jazz Collective promises to bring musicians from these cities and towns together to honor both the traditions and the new music in the most exciting creative music, ensembles, formats, and venues in the state and internationally.

In addition to its important networking and educational functions, the Collective is convening an ongoing series of concerts and recordings. The Keystone Jazz Collective summer kickoff concerts take place on July 27 Alphabet City, Pittsburgh, 8pm, free; July 28 Philadelphia Clef Club, Philadelphia, 7pm, $15; July 29 Community Education Center, Philadelphia (presented by Leo Gadson), 5pm, $20.

Co-founded by Philly bassist/composer Nimrod Speaks and Pittsburgh-based trombonist Reggie Watkins, the Keystone Jazz Collective is, like the famed San Francisco Jazz Collective, a multifaceted performance ensemble. Uniquely, it is also a project of the jazz community. According to Speaks, "The KJC has the potential to grow by featuring prolific and inspiring artists within Pennsylvania, musicians and composers coming together to create something unique featuring the modern and historical contributions of the Keystone State's many artists. Every time I share the concept in the local music communities, people react with great interest and want to hear more about it."

Watkins adds his own reasons for taking on the project: "I love the feel and history of my home scene in Pittsburgh and have always admired the vibrant and legendary Philadelphia music scene since the 1990s, playing at Warmdaddy's and Ortlieb's and later at Zanzibar Blue and Chris' Jazz Café. Recently I've had the great fortune of performing with top Philadelphia musicians such as Nimrod as well as pianists Luke Carlos O'Reilly and Orrin Evans."

In addition to co-founders Speaks and Watkins, the group includes award-winning pianist Luke Carlos O'Reilly and in-demand drummer George Heid III. The Keystone Jazz Collective is:

Trombonist Reggie Watkins has toured and recorded with Maynard Ferguson, the Temptations, and pop artist Jason Mraz. Within the last year, Watkins has worked with Postmodern Jukebox, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Orrin Evans Quintet, and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra. Currently Watkins leads his own groups in the Pittsburgh area including the Reggie Watkins Quartet and the Steeltown Horns. Watkins has released three critically acclaimed solo albums: A-List (2004), One for Miles, One for Maynard (2010), and Avid Admirer (2016), a tribute to the great trombonist Jimmy Knepper. Watkins has gained a worldwide reputation for his strong, groove-minded playing.

Bassist/composer Nimrod Speaks began playing at the age of 14. After years of study completing his Master's degree in Jazz Studies from Rutgers University, Speaks entered the arena performing with prolific artists like Bootsie Barnes, Allan Harris, and Tim Warfield. He has performed at prestigious venues and festivals around the world including the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Blue Note in New York, the Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival in the U.K., and the Atlanta Jazz Festival.

Luke Carlos O'Reilly is an award-winning pianist influenced by jazz, soul, R&B, gospel, Latin jazz, and the classical repertoire. Residing in Philadelphia, he has toured with jazz masters like Curtis Fuller, Bobby Watson, Randy Brecker, Wycliffe Gordon, Dave Valentin, Billy Paul, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Red Holloway, Steve Turre, Chico Freeman, Roy Ayers, Musiq Soulchild, Bilal, Carol Riddick, K'naan, and many others.

Drummer George Heid III came of age in Aspinwall, PA where in his father's recording studio he was influenced by many music masters. Now fully matured as a musician, Heid leads ensembles that have toured extensively across the USA and in China, at venues and festivals such as Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (New York), JZ Club (Hangzhou), JZ Club (Shanghai), the Monterey Jazz Festival, Pittsburgh JazzLive, the Cleveland Jazz Festival, and many others.

More Information: https://keystonejazzcollective.com

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