Below are the "regulars" that make up the Water Gap Jazz Orchestra. Many have been part of the group since Phil Woods and Rick Chamberlain led the band, and a few others have joined more recently.
Nelson Hill is a saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist from Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania. He has studied privately with Phil Woods, Hal Galper, Eddie Daniels and James Caruso. Nelson graduated from the Eastman School of Music in 1981 with a B.M. in Saxophone Performance. At Eastman, Nelson studied with Ramon Ricker, Bill Dobbins, Rayburn Wright, William Osseck and Mardelle Marcellis. He performed with the National Jazz Ensemble. Upon graduation, he toured for three years with Maynard Ferguson, playing lead alto saxophone. During his stay, he recorded on the albums Storm and Hollywood.
After he left Ferguson in 1984, Nelson worked at Tamiment Resort, Harrah's Marina and Mount Airy Lodge where he performed with Tony Bennett, The Spinners, The Temptations, Wayne Newton, Jay Black, Frankie Valli and many others.
In 2002, Nelson released his first solo CD titled Lethal. He works with his quartet and with pianist Eric Mintel. Nelson released his second solo CD in the fall of 2004. Nelson has also taught saxophone and jazz improvisation at Lafayette College Blair Academy, and privately. His students have enrolled in schools such as Eastman, Berklee, Ithica, NYU and Manhattan School of Music.
In 2002, Nelson became a Performing Artist and Clinician for the Yamaha Corporation of America. When not on the road with the EMQ, Nelson is father to his 4 daughters Jessica, Danielle, Talia and Kendall.
Dr. Wetzel is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Moravian College; his duties include teaching saxophone, directing the Moravian College BIG Band, and overseeing the jazz studies program. He holds both a Bachelor of Music (Jazz) and Master of Arts in Teaching degrees from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He received his EdD at Teacher's College, Columbia University; his studies there focused on learning theories and jazz pedagogy. His text for teaching jazz to beginners, Learning Jazz Language, will be released in 2010 by Northeastern Music Publications. As founder and music director of Moravian College’s summer music camp, July Jazz Getaway, Mr. Wetzel has worked and played with many jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Ravi Coltrane, Al Grey, Terrel Stafford, Milt Grayson, Stanley Turrentine, and Bobby Watson.
Dr. Wetzel has been featured performer and guest clinician at festivals in the U.S. and Europe. He has appeared as soloist at the PMEA Conference (2007 and 2008); and the IAJE Conference in Toronto (2003). He has also played and taught at the Lana Jazz Festival in Lana, Italy (2005) as well as the Karel Velebny Jazz Workshop in Frydlant, Czech Republic (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010). He has performed in many jazz clubs including: The Deerhead Inn (PA), Shanghai Jazz (NJ), Zanzibar Blue (Phila.), Agharta, U Maleho Glena, and Jazz Dock jazz clubs (all three in Prague, Czech Rep.).
Wetzel’s first CD as leader, Misunderestimated, was released in January 2010, and is available through his website: www.neilwetzel.com. The CD features original jazz compositions presented in a variety of textures, styles and instrumental combinations.
Mexican-American saxophonist Abel Mireles is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the most promising saxophonists of his generation in the New Jersey and New York area. He has also developed a unique voice as a composer and as an arranger, concentrating his efforts on perfecting a fine mix between Mexican American Folkloric Music and Jazz. A graduate of the esteemed jazz programs of the University of Texas at El Paso (undergraduate) and William Paterson University where he received his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance. Abel had the opportunity to study with jazz legendary pianists and Grammy award-winning directors of the program such as Bill Charlap, Cecil Bridgewater, James Weidman, and Armen Donelian. Along with some of his mentors and saxophonists Rich Perry, and Vincent Herring.
David Demsey is Professor of Music and Jazz Studies Coordinator at William Paterson University. He is has appeared with Clark Terry's big band and small group, with bassists Milt Hinton and Rufus Reid, pianists Mulgrew Miller, Jim McNeely and Bill Charlap, and drummers Alan Dawson, Steve Smith, Bill Goodwin and John Riley. He has performed with the Metropolitan Opera since 1997, with the New York Philharmonic since 1994, toured with the Kirov Orchestra, and is on six recordings with the American Saxophone Quartet and the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet.
His “Improvisation and Concepts of Virtuosity” is the final essay in the Oxford Companion to Jazz, and he published John Coltrane Plays “Giant Steps” (Hal Leonard) and two books on composer Alec Wilder. His articles have appeared in Down Beat, Instrumentalist, Jazz Educators Journal, JazzED and Journal of Jazz Studies, and he wrote liner notes for five Verve compact discs. He is a Selmer Clinician and has been a guest lecturer, performer or conductor at over 90 universities and public schools. His undergraduate degree in music education is from the University of Maine; his graduate degrees are from the Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School.
Craig Yaremko is a dynamic performer on all saxophones, flutes and clarinets. “An artist who…has a powerful musical personality. (Whose) originals, which touch on the jazz tradition while also looking forward, are rife with musical adventures.” (Newark Star-Ledger) As a leader, Craig has released three recordings to critical acclaim. His latest project, the Craig Yaremko Organ Trio features organist Matt King and drummer Jonathon Peretz. Their recording CYO3 (OA2/Origin) featured the late great Vic Juris on guitar, and finds them exploring originals and contemporary arrangements of classics by Monk, Strayhorn and Fats Waller. This recording follows the 2007 release, Sync (Jazz Excursion), which was named one of the Top Ten CDs of year by Hot House magazine. A constantly in-demand sideman, Craig has performed alongside noted jazz Jerry Bergonzi, Randy Brecker, Paquito D'Rivera, and Rufus Reid. Known for his impeccable section playing, he has worked with some of the New York area's finest big bands, including a nine-year run as the lead alto saxophonist with the Cecil’s Big Band (directed by Mike Lee) at Cecil’s Jazz Club. Other big band performances include Pedro Giraudo, Diane Moser's Composer's Big Band and Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band.
Jay Rattman, a multi-instrumentalist improvisor and composer in New York City, has performed at Jazz @ Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Coachella Festival, in addition to appearing on NPR's Sound of Young America, WNYC's Soundcheck, The Late Show, and The Tonight Show. A recipient of an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award, Rattman holds bachelors and masters degrees from Manhattan School of Music, which presented him with the William H. Borden award for outstanding accomplishment in jazz. In demand in settings as diverse as traditional jazz, klezmer, big bands, free improvisations, creative jazz, and classical chamber music, he has performed or recorded with artists as disparate as Bob Dorough, Feist, Nellie McKay, Stefon Harris, and the José Limón Dance Company. A member of the klezmer band “Zlek” and Phil Woods's Festival Orchestra, he leads a jazz quartet that plays members' original music. As a member of the Manhattan Saxophone Quartet, he has premiered pieces by David Noon, Marc—Antonio Consoli, Jeffrey Nytch, and J. Mark Stambaugh among others.
Nathan Eklund was born near Seattle, Washington and began his musical journey by studying piano at the age of six. Inspired by his grandfather's big band and military trumpet playing during the World War II era, Nathan picked up the trumpet at eleven and soon became interested in jazz through the trumpet voices of Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Clifford Brown.
Nathan began his serious musical training at Central Washington University, where he studied classical trumpet performance under the direction of Thomas Gause. Uncertain at this stage as to what role music would play in his life, Nathan became immersed in the world of jazz at CWU and decided to make it his focus. In 1998, Nathan moved to the New York City area to study jazz at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. He attained his Bachelor's degree from WPU and his Master's degree from New Jersey City University, while studying with NYC area professionals Dave Rogers, Scott Wendholt, Joe Magnarelli, Rich DeRosa, John Mosca, Paul Meyers, and Andy Eulau.
Today, Nathan Eklund has established himself inside New York City's upper echelon of jazz trumpeters. His meticulous attention to detail allows him to adapt to any musical situation, making him in high demand as a performer, composer, arranger, and teacher.
Professionally, Nathan leads his own quintet, the Nathan Eklund Group. The NEG has released two albums, most recently “The Crooked Line”, released in January 2007 on Jazz Excursion Records. Nathan also co-leads the Nathan Eklund/Tim Horner Quartet and is involved in many additional musical projects including Richie Cole's Alto Madness Orchestra, Craig Yaremko's Sync, Mariel Berger's Obsidian Nonet, and Cecil's Big Band. (West Orange, NJ) Nathan has performed with Joe Lovano, Claudio Roditi, Eddie Daniels, Don Friedman, Jack Walrath, Tim Horner, Kermit Driscoll, and The Newyorkestra. He recorded for Spyro Gyra's 2006 Grammy nominated album Wrapped In A Dream, and has performed on recordings for Richie Cole, Chuck Loeb, Gerald Veasley, Craig Yaremko, and Dave Noland. Nathan has performed at the New York City clubs Birdland, The Blue Note, The Jazz Standard, Smoke, Cornelia Street Café, B.B. King's, Louis 649, and La Lanterna.
Along with his accomplishments as a performer, Nathan has made a commitment to furthering the development of music through teaching. Since early 2001, Nathan has been a private trumpet instructor, teaching throughout New Jersey. He has worked as an adjunct faculty member at New Jersey City University in Jersey City, NJ, taught at William Paterson University's summer jazz camp in 2006, and has given clinics at high schools nationwide. In February of 2002, Nathan presented a clinic on Jazz Brass Articulations at the New Jersey MENC conference.
Throughout his career, Jazz Trumpeter Chris Persad has been performing as a leader and sideman, and has been involved in numerous musical activities. He has been a freelance trumpet player in the New York area since 1996.
While attending the Eastman School of Music, Persad studied both classical and jazz music. After graduating from Eastman, he went on a world tour as a featured trumpet soloist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra which included tours of Canada, Iceland, Brazil and Japan. After moving to New York, Persad performed in various jingles and shows. He has performed in the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Phil Woods.
Chris has performed in the COTA, Montreal and Syracuse jazz festivals, and is currently leading and writing for his own jazz sextet that performs annually at the Hudson Valley Jazz Festival.
As an educator, Persad has taught Trumpet and Jazz Studies at Western Washington University, as well as in the public schools of New York. He has also served as a clinician and guest conductor in the summer music camps of the Eastman School of Music, Hartwick college and Ithaca college.
Vanessa is the HS choral, instrumental, and general music teacher at Lincoln Leadership Academy Charter School in Allentown, PA. She is a 2007 graduate of Lawrence University and Conservatory with her Bachelor's in Trumpet Performance and 2010 graduate of University of the Arts with a Master's in Music Education.
She served as the 2020 PMEA District 10 Curriculum Coordinator and is the current PMEA District 10 Jazz Coordinator. Vanessa performed previously with the Diva Jazz Orchestra, Phil Woods' Festival Orchestra, and is a current member of the Water Gap Jazz Orchestra as well as a freelance trumpet player in the NJ/PA area.
Sean grew up in Edmonton which, in addition to being the northern most city in North America, has a thriving cultural arts community. There are many different musical opportunities in the cosmopolitan city and Sean performed, toured and recorded with myriad ensembles such as the Alberta Repertory Jazz Orchestra, The Edmonton Symphony, Tommy Banks Big Band, etc. as well as with international stars including James Brown and Petula Clark. Although jazz and R & B are Sean’s main musical pursuits (which lead him to play with many jazz greats including Lee Konitz, Lew Tabackin, and Kenny Wheeler) he has also composed for television, radio and orchestra including “Excursions, A Suite for Jazz Quartet and Orchestra” which was performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra with Sean as soloist. Sean’s most successful early musical endeavor was with the Edmonton Jazz Ensemble (the EdJE). With Sean at the helm as the band’s leader and main composer the EdJE played across Canada and toured internationally, performing at the Paris Jazz Festival. The EdJE’s debut recording “Something’s Here” was nominated for a JUNO (Canadian Grammy equivalent) in the Best Jazz category. Since moving to the US in 1995 Sean’s musical career continues to evolve with performances with Kenny Barron, Ralph Bowen, and as a member of the Phil Woods Big Band.
Bio coming soon.
Bio coming soon.
Bio coming soon.
Spencer Reed, guitarist and vocalist, joined the Soul Distributers in 1972 and played a circuit of social clubs and private dances in Harlem and the South Bronx.
Then at age 19, he became guitarist for the Chris Towns Unlimited, perfoming in uptown night clubs and at the Brown Sugar on 50th St. and 8th Ave. This group contained some great and experienced musicians. Jimmy Lewis, bass player with Count Basie and legendary drummer Charles Honeyboy Otis were extremely generous of spirit and took on a mentoring role in Spencer's life and career. This experience included recording along side guitarist Cornell Dupree and going on the road for the first time.
Spencer toured with the USO throughout the Caribbean and Panama and after freelancing in New York settled in the Pocono Mts. of Pennsylvania where he resides and works often with his wife, singer and bassist Nancy Reed.
He performs often at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, a jazz landmark.
Spencer has accompanied many of the traveling acts that pass through the Pocono area including Billy Ekstine, the Fifth Dimension, Robert Goulet, Sergio Franchi, Frankie Laine, Julius LaRosa, Eddie Fisher, and Bobby Rydell.
Spencer has done some road time with the Bob Crosby Bobcats, in Iowa at the Bix Beiderbeck Jazz Festival in Davenport, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee in California, the Red Nichols Jazz Festival in Utah, the San Juan Islands Jazz Festival in Washington and many others.
Spencer has performed and recorded with pianist/vocalist/songwriter Bob Dorough, on School House Rock Earth and others in this historic educational series. Spencer can also be heard as the voice of a rapping, cartoon Grizzly bear.
Spencer has received two state grants from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts as producer of the local television show Pocono Musicians Presents on cable TV13 BRC.
Spencer is currently the guitar instructor at Blair Academy in Blairstown, NJ and also maintains a schedule of private students.
Skip Wilkins was born in Massachusetts and raised in a musical family. He became interested in jazz at an early age and found his way to the stage in kindergarten. He learned to love singing, played drums for years, but then focused on piano, which became his main instrument by his late teens. As he was coming up in Boston, he worked with drummers Joe Hunt and Bob Moses and with saxophonists Jimmy Mosher and John LaPorta.
For many years, Skip has maintained an active international career as a pianist, composer, vocalist, workshop presenter, jazz choral director and college professor. He has many CD releases, including multiple international recordings, and has enjoyed performances with a host of international luminaries throughout his career. He performed often with Phil Woods, and is a featured soloist on Phil’s final big band release New Celebration. Wherever he has lived, he has performed with and collaborated with top stars whenever they came to town – Phil Woods, David Liebman, Plas Johnson, Mark Murphy, Clark Terry, David Sánchez, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Watson, Bob Dorough, Conte Candoli, Peter Erskine and Zuzana Lapčíková, among so many others.
Skip performs throughout Europe in a variety of ensembles, with regular tours to the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Italy, Greece and France. Stateside, he lives at Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA, surrounded by the great jazz community there. He is associate professor of Music at Lafayette College, where he teaches courses in music theory and jazz improvisation, and directs the Jazz Ensemble.
In 2019, Skip celebrated his 13th and 14th CDs as a leader or co-leader. Both 2019 CD releases feature his son Daniel, including Czech Wishes (Jan. 2019, recorded in Prague) & Someday (Sept. 2019, recorded in the U.S.). Some previous releases include Trio WUH Live at Jazzinec (2014), Czech Dreams (2013), Father & Son – with his son Daniel (2012), After (2011), I Concentrate on You (2011), Frýdlant Nights (2010), and many more. He looks forward to the spring 2020 CD release of In Morava, a trio project he recorded in Prague with Josef Fečo and Tomáš Hobzek, with guest performances by Rostislav Fraš.
Each summer since 2007, Skip has taught and performed at the Karel Velebný Summer Jazz Workshop in Frýdlant, Czech Republic. He has often led the Jazz Ateliér at the Summer Choral Workshop in Lomnice u Tišnova, and twice taught at the International Jazz Workshop, Kryoneri, Greece. Each summer, he teaches at COTA Camp Jazz and the Summer Jazz Camp at Moravian College, both in Pennsylvania, and gives workshops in Europe and the U.S.
Evan Gregor is an in-demand acoustic and electric bassist that performs with many world renowned artists in a variety of genres.
He has been hired as a sideman by masters including Gary Burton, Dave Liebman (working with his band “Expansions” as well as “Generations Quartet”), Phil Woods (appearing on multiple albums together including Phil’s second big band album), Bob Dorough, Phil Markowitz, John McNeil, Vic Juris, Ed Cherry, Urbie Green, and is a member of drummer Bill Goodwin’s working trio.
He has toured internationally with Grammy Award winning vocalist Patti Austin, playing in a variety of acoustic and electric styles with ensembles from the Baltimore Symphony to radio big bands.
He has also worked consistently with a broad range of artists including Christian Scott, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Justin Kauflin, Zach Brock, Michael Dease, Bobby Avey, Grace Kelly, Miho Hazama and M_Unit, Matt Hollman, Brad Shepik, Jennifer Wharton’s Bonegasm, Christian Howes, Pete McCann, The New York BMI Jazz Orchestra, Meg Okura, Jon Ballantyne, The Mahavishnu Project, Migiwa Miyajima, Jihye Lee, Erica Seguine, Lynne Arriale and many others.
He is a founding member and teacher at CampJazz in Delaware Water Gap, has taught at the Collective in New York City, has given a variety of clinics across the world.
Evan plays Moollon electric basses and Gallien-Krueger Amps
Bio coming soon.
Come hear the WGJO! July 2021 restarts the monthly residency at the Deer Head Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA on the last Monday of every month.
Learn the history of how the WGJO came to be, and more importantly learn about the incredible musicians that shaped big band jazz in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Learn about the members of the current WGJO
Listen and watch the current WGJO!