About the Artists
Co-founder of the pioneering chamber ensemble The String Trio of New York, virtuoso guitarist and composer James Emery has received international recognition for his distinctive and highly original approach to both improvisation and composition. Drawing upon a full range of musical information, his sensibility draws in nearly equal measures upon formal notions of structure and technique and a robust willingness to improvise, experiment, and follow his musical intuition – both as composer and player.
Artistic Director of the highly accomplished Sound Directions, Inc, James has been highly active as virtuoso performer, oft-commissioned composer and inspiring educator on the international jazz and contemporary music scene since 1975 with over two dozen CDs as a leader or co-leader and live performances in more than 25 countries worldwide. His recordings have been described as “innovative and imaginative” and “utterly distinctive” by the Penguin Guide to Jazz, which selected his orchestral recording, Transformations for its edition titled “The History of Jazz in the 1001 Best Albums.” He has received international critical acclaim for his work leading various ensemble formations of jazz and creative music, particularly the String Trio which is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2018.
His unique artistic expression has resulted in many awards, grants, and commissions including a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also received awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cary Trust, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His compositions have been commissioned with funding from the Cary Trust, Chamber Music America, the Meet the Composer/Rockefeller/ AT&T program, Meet the Composer’s Commissions USA program and the MTC/Lila Wallace Jazz Program.
As a distinguished sideman Emery has performed and recorded with a variety of contemporary music heavyweights, including Steve Reich, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Joe Lovano, Leroy Jenkins, and many others. A composer of great scope and depth, he has composed for chamber groups, jazz ensembles, solo guitar, chamber orchestra and symphony orchestra.
Emery has composed over 150 works, his most recent being a double concerto commissioned by the Skidmore College Orchestra. One of his proudest moments was performing the piece with his daughter, clarinetist Hannah Emery.
Bassist Tony Marino has made a serious and significant contribution to the world of acoustic bass music. His sound is magnificent, roaring with energy in one passage, and whispering with tremendous subtlety in the next. His imagination is open, being at home in both forward-looking new expressions of improvisation and traditional modern jazz. He has a wide-ranging, unrestricted vocabulary, equally relaxed in using extended techniques as in accompanying and soloing conventionally.
He began his professional music career as the house bass player at clubs and resorts in the Pocono and Catskill Mountains accompanying a myriad of well-known entertainers such as Vic Damone, Joan Rivers, Robert Goulet, and Nell Carter. Tony also played with such jazz greats as the late Al Cohn & Zoot Sims, Mose Allison, Phil Woods, Hal Galper, Urbie Green and John Coates Jr.
In later years, he began a collaboration with tenor giant Dave Liebman, which became Tony’s most visible partnership. He performed with Liebman throughout Europe as well as Russia, Japan, Thailand, Israel, and South America. He also toured with Liebman throughout America, including performances at Newport Jazz Festival and North Sea Jazz Festival.
He values his thirty-year musical trip with David Liebman, recording and touring internationally with Liebman’s groups “Expansions” and the Liebman Big Band. His versatility and wide range of musicality has afforded him opportunities to accompany and record with numerous artists from folk to pop to jazz. In 2018, Tony joined the distinctive chamber jazz ensemble, the String Trio of New York, with guitarist James Emery and violinist Rob Thomas.
Born and raised in Scranton, PA, Tony’s first musical experiences were singing in a barbershop trio led by his father. His siblings were also in the group and Tony sang the bass parts. His grandmother studied opera and he heard her singing in the house. Tony’s first instrument was the guitar, which he began playing when he was eight years old. He studied guitar with Pete DiMarzo and John Mascione. He switched to bass when he was 13, playing in his school orchestra. He was influenced by hearing Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, Stanely Clarke, Dave Holland and Steve Gilmore.
Rob Thomas is regarded as one of the most impressive contemporary jazz violinists. His breadth of ideas, stunning technique and total command of the jazz vocabulary inspire all who hear him.
JazzTímes calls him “a violinist of exceptional creative resources… riveting as a solo voice with a rich complex tone that can sing or shriek.” Thomas has been singing and shrieking in and around New York City since moving there from Oregon in 1991. Thomas has held the violin chair in the String Trio of New York, being the fifth in a series of notable violinists to join guitarist James Emery and bassist John Lindberg in that enduring group, whose presence on the scene spans four decades.
His recent work includes projects with Andy Summers, Lee Konitz, the Jazz Passengers and the Mahavishnu Project. He has also been featured on recordings by Lee Konitz, Andy Summers, and Glen Moore, among many others. Recent performances include appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center.with John Handy’s “Monterrey Quintet” and Paquito D’Rivera’s “Bird With Strings” project.
Rob travels the world with Jazz Education Abroad, teaching annually at workshops in Thailand, Lebanon, and Cyprus. His new book “A Modern Method for Violin Scales” (Hal Leonard/ Berklee press) is a foundational method for gaining fluency in all twelve key signatures and laying the groundwork for improvisation.