Biography Union

Laurence Hobgood - Piano
Best known for his collaboration with vocalist Kurt Elling, multiple Grammy nominee and 2010 Grammy winner Laurence Hobgood has enjoyed a multi-faceted and dynamic career. Musical director for Elling since 1995 he’s played on, composed/arranged for and co-produced all of Elling’s CDs (6 for Blue Note and 3 for Concord), each Grammy-nominated. 2009’s “Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings The Music Of Coltrane and Hartman”, recorded live at Lincoln Center, won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Vocal Jazz Record.

Hobgood was awarded three consecutive fellowships (‘90, ’91, ’92) to perform in the Aspen Music Festival. The Chicago Tribune honored him as a 1995 Chicagoan Of The Year in the Arts. In 2003 he received a Deems Taylor Award, given by ASCAP for the year’s outstanding music journalism, for his article, “The Art Of The Trio”, published by JazzTimes magazine.

He has performed both with Elling and with his own trio at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Chicago’s Symphony Center and Ravinia, Sydney Opera House, London’s Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Halls, as well as the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals including Montreaux, North Sea, Monterey, Spoleto USA, Newport, Umbria, Montreal, JVC festivals in Paris and Japan and many others. Elling and Hobgood also appeared at the 2009 State Dinner given at the White House where President Obama welcomed India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He has played and/or recorded with Larry Coryell, Lee Konitz, John Pattitucci, Jon Hendricks, Stefon Harris, Richard Galliano, Terreon Gully, Terrence Blanchard, Bob Sheppard, Ernie Watts, Marc Johnson, Joe Lovano, Benny Maupin, Paul Wertico, Bobby Watson, Clark Terry, Kurt Rosenwinkle, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Von Freeman, Peter Erskine, Paul McCandless, Gary Burton and Eddie Daniels, to name a few.

His latest solo CD, 2008’s “When The Heart Dances”, a duet recording with iconic bassist Charlie Haden, has received worldwide critical acclaim, garnering 4-star reviews from Down Beat and the UK’s Mojo magazine among others.

And Elling’s third Concord CD, “The Gate”, co-produced by Elling and Hobgood with music legend Don Was, has already received much critical praise since its February 2011 release.

A long time Chicago native, Hobgood moved to New York in 2006 and now lives on the south shore of Long Island.

Paul Wertico - Drummer
Born in Chicago, Illinois on January 5, 1953, Paul Wertico started playing drums at the age of 12 and became a professional by the age of 15. Self-taught on the drumset, he developed his unique musical concept by listening not only to jazz and rock, but to a variety of musical styles from all over the world. He then applied elements of these styles to his drumming in a melodic, as well as a rhythmic fashion. His playing has been compared to that of "an Impressionist painter", while he has also been described as "an inspired madman" and "a restless innovator". Paul was voted "Fusion Drummer Of The Year" in the 1997 DRUM! Magazine Reader's Poll, and placed in the top five in the"Electric Jazz" category of Modern Drummer Magazine's 1997 & 1998 Reader's Polls. In 2004, Paul was named one of the "Chicagoans of the Year" by the Chicago Tribune.

In 1983, Paul became a member of the Pat Metheny Group. During that time he won seven Grammy Awards with the PMG: three for Best Jazz Fusion Performance: "First Circle" - 1984, "Still Life (Talking)" - 1987, and "Letter From Home" - 1989; three for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance: "The Road To You" - 1993, "We Live Here" - 1995, and "Imaginary Day" - 1998; one for Best Rock Instrumental Performance: "Roots Of Coincidence" - 1998; as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance: "Follow Me" - 1998. He also played on Pat Metheny's Grammy winning solo project: "Secret Story" - 1992. Paul played on the Group's videos "More Travels" and "We Live Here - Live In Japan 1995", and on Pat Metheny's "Secret Story - LIVE" video. He also played with Pat on the score and soundtrack for the movie "The Falcon and the Snowman", which included the hit song "This Is Not America" featuring David Bowie; and on the score to the movie "Twice In A Lifetime". In February 1986, Paul joined Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, and Ernie Watts in Argentina for a week of critically acclaimed engagements, and the summer of 1988 saw a revival of the 'Special Quartet' with performances in California, Japan, and Hong Kong. During 1993, Paul and his wife, Barbara Unger-Wertico, toured together as members of Pat's 'Secret Story' band, performing in 18 countries around the world. In October 1997, the Pat Metheny Group released their latest recording entitled "Imaginary Day". Paul left the PMG in February of 2001.

Brian Torff - Bassist and Composer
is a renowned jazz double-bassist and composer. He is currently music program director at Fairfield University in Connecticut. The Fairfield Arts Council named him its 2008 Artist of the Year.

Brian is a featured bass soloist leading his own trio, and is the musical director for the Django Reinhardt New York Festival, which has appeared at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and Birdland in New York City. He has performed at Carnegie Hall for Fiddle Fest where he appeared with Mark O’Connor, Dave Grusin, Regina Carter, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman. He performs in jazz festivals around the U.S., has founded the Fairfield University Summer Jazz Workshop and has served as co-chair person for the music advisory board for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Brian’s professional career began in 1974 when bassist Milt Hinton offered him the opportunity of touring with Cleo Laine. During the late 70’s, he recorded and performed with pianists Mary Lou Williams and Marian McPartland, and toured Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong with the jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. He played in pianist Erroll Garner’s last group and worked in the big bands of Oliver Nelson, and The Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra.

In 1979, Brian joined in a duo with pianist George Shearing. In the course of their 3 1/2 year collaboration, they toured throughout the U.S., Europe, Brazil, and South Africa and were featured on The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and their own PBS special from the Cafe Carlyle in New York City. They received worldwide acclaim, and were invited to perform at the White House in 1982 for President Ronald Reagan. Their third album won a Grammy for vocalist Mel Tormé.

Brian has composed works for records with George Shearing and Larry Coryell, and his own recordings “Life in East Bumblepuck,” “Hitchhiker of Karoo,” “Manhattan Hoe-Down,” and “Workin’ On a Bassline.” He has composed scores that have been performed by the Boston Pops, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony, and has appeared as conductor, composer, and clinician for numerous high school and college jazz festivals.

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