Ronnie Ray Padilla is a San Francisco Bay Area musician having played a rich blend of positive original varieties of pop, funk, jazz, afro and several global styles. He is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and vocalist for the band Raydience, where he plays guitars, flutes, oud and does vocals. Born in Oakland, California; Ronnie Ray began working as a sideman/guitarist and flutist in 1970 and performed with ensembles throughout the Bay Area and around the U.S. for rock, blues, latin, funk, gospel,folk, West African, Reggae, Avant Garde, and as a solo performer. He has recorded with Billy Young (formerly of Earth, Wind and Fire), Kenneth Nash (formerly with Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and many more), Lion of Juda (Jamaican reggae band), Rocker-T (dance-hall recording artist), and many other artists. He studied improv with Joe Henderson, guitar with Bill Conners (formerly of Return to Forever), Dave Creamer (formerly of Miles Davis), and with Steve Erqianga (formerly with Joe Henderson). Ronnie Ray received a B.A. from San Jose State University in Jazz Studies. Ronnie Ray's many influences include: (compositionally) Mozart, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Airto, Stevie Wonder, Samuel Barber, John McLaughlin, and Debussy. His guitar inspirations are: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pat Matheny, George Benson and Jeff Beck. Instrumentally he's been influenced by Joe Henderson (saxophonist), Hubert Law s (flutist), Paul Horn (flutist), Bill Evans (pianist), Kenneth Nash (percussionist), Maurice White (vocalist for Earth, Wind and Fire).
Celso Alberti was born in Curitiba, Southern Brazil. The driving rhythms of his country's music led him to develop an early interest in the drums and by the age of 17, he was performing regularly as a professional. In 1982 he decided to expand his musical horizons and move to New York City. Celso's dynamic style combining elements of samba, jazz, funk and rock quickly caught on and he played with numerous artists in the Big Apple. He moved to the Bay Area in 1984 to join Terra Sul, a Brazilian band based in San Francisco which was signed to the MoJazz label, a division of Motown Records. By 1986, he had joined Batucaje which won that year's "Jammies" Music Award for "Best Brazilian Band" in the Bay Area. He also started his first major tour as a drummer with world renowned percussionist Airto Moreira and his wife, singer Flora Purim. They traveled extensively throughout Europe, the United States and Brazil and recorded the album "The Magicians" for Concord Crossover Records and "The Flight" for B&W Records. In 1989, he toured with jazz flautist Herbie Mann and formed an original instrumental power trio called No Man's Land which performed as a supporting act for guitarist Eric Johnson. From 1990 to 2005 he toured and recorded with many artists, including guitarists Joyce Cooling, Danny Heines, singer John Lucien, bassist Michael Manring, keyboardist Kit Walker (Kitaro), Frank Martin (Narada Michael Walden),Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico and seminal English rocker Steve Winwood. The years 2006 to 2008 brought him to Russia and Ukraine, performing with ace Russian keyboardist Andrei Kondakov. In this period, he and keyboardist Kit Walker formed the World Music jam band Kundalini Boombox, incorporating a blend of computer technology and acoustic elements. Throughout the years, Celso also honed his recording skills and has become a respected audio engineer. His credits behind the board include albums by Airto Moreira, Mary Fettig, Steve Winwood, and numerous others.
An accomplished guitarist and vocalist, Vernon "Ice" Black spent most of the past 20 years touring, recording and film tracking with music legends like Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Chakka Kahn and Lionel Richie. More recently, he's performed and recorded with contemporary artists including Ashanti, Mariah Carey, India Aire, Busta Rhymes and Celine Dion. His work can be heard in films like "The Bodyguard," "License to Kill," and "Beverly Hills Cop II;" in advertising jingles for Jaguar, Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan, Mattel and Levi's; and in songs and sound effects on video games for Sony Play Station, Nintendo, Sega and EA Sports (Electronic Arts). And at the Jimi Hendrix Festival at Bumbershoot Stadium in Seattle Washington he was the co-music director and opened the show with the legendary "Experience" (Jimi Hendrix's original band) - Mitch Mitchell (drums) and Noel Redding (bass). Vernon is also a producer, composer and music director. Credits include; The Spice Girls (music director), Regina Belle (composer), Phillip Bailey (composer), Lenny Williams (composer, producer) and his 1st solo record "Sneak Previews" (composer, producer) {guest artists including Herbie Hancock, Steve Smith, Tom Coster, Phillip Bailey} and for multiple artists on his "Ice Black Productions" production company / independent record label. Also an innovator of musical instrument design, Vernon designs his own electric guitars. He is the co-designer of the MP2 digital guitar preamp, which won the award for best guitar processor of 1993. He also received an award from the DVD Association for co-designing the DVD on CD (multi layered enhanced cd) in 2000. In the year 2004, Vernon took a break from the "guitarist for hire" market to create a situation that would allow him to pursue and develop his own producing and writing career as well as being a solo artist. Equally so, he was motivated to create a place that gave artists a more fair and friendly (artist based business) environment. This led to the creation of his production company / independent record label "Ice Black Productions".
Born in New York City, George Brooks began his early musical studies with saxophonist and arranger, Frank Foster. His musical education continued at the New England Conservatory of Music where he received his Bachelor of Music in 1979, specializing in Saxophone/Jazz Studies. His teachers included renowned saxophone guru, Joe Allard, and composer/theorist George Russell. While living in Boston, Brooks performed regularly with Jaki Byard's Apollo Stompers. He was also featured in ensembles led by Gunther Schuller, Jimmy Guiffre, and Slide Hampton. In 1979, Brooks moved to California where he met composer Terry Riley and sitarist Krishna Bhatt. Improvising with these musicians ignited an interest in Indian music. Brooks' fascination with this music took him on two extended trips to India where he met and studied with master vocalist, Pandit Pran Nath. Throughout the 1980's and 1990's, Brooks regularly toured and concertized with Terry Riley. Together they performed in the U.S., Europe and Japan, often with sitarist Krishna Bhatt. Brooks was a founding member of the unique Khayal ensemble, Riley's polyrhythmic improvisational chamber group. He premiered and recorded Riley's "June Buddhas" with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and premiered Riley's "New Islands" at P/N Hall in Tokyo. In 1996, Zakir Hussain and Moment Records released LASTING IMPRESSION, Brooks' CD debut as a leader. This highly acclaimed recording sparked a relationship between Brooks and Hussain that has led to concerts worldwide and the recording of NIGHT SPINNER, co-produced by Brooks and Hussain for Moment Records. These CDs, featuring Brooks's original compositions, have been touted as the best Indian/jazz fusion since John Mclaughlin's Shakti. The success of these recordings has propelled Brooks to perform with many of India's top classical artists including Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Sultan Khan, Aashish Khan and Swapan Chauduri as well as most of India's best known fusion artists. Brooks also maintains a high profile in the jazz and blues worlds. He has toured with and arranged for blues diva, Etta James and has worked with such distinctive artists as Anthony Braxton, Albert Collins, Turtle Island String Quartet, Larry Coryell and Henry Kaiser. He was recently featured on the Yo Miles CD (Shanachie) with Kaiser and Leo Smith. These diverse and demanding experiences give him a deep intuitive understanding of the world's many musical forms. His unique melodic voice, expressed through rich tone, technical fluency and dynamic stage presence makes him a much sought-after performer.
Born into a family of musicians Gary Brown's inevitable musical career began at an early age. By his eleventh birthday Gary was already performing in jazz bands with his two brothers and his father, jazz trumpeter Wilbert Brown. Gary went on to form his own bands and develop a talent and reputation as a skilled and versatile bassist. While enrolled in San Jose State University's Art/Design program Gary came to realize that music was his true calling and made the decision to make it his life and his career. After leaving school he continued to study privately with the renowned Skip Parnell, a teacher and lecturer from the esteemed Philadelphia Academy of Music. In the past 20 years Gary has toured extensively in the United States, Europe, Asia ,South America and the Middle East where he has recorded and shared the stage with Flora Purim & Airto, Pharaoh Sanders Jeff Beal, Steve Winwood, Narada Michael Walden, Dianne Reeves, Lou Rawls , Ernie Watts, John Lucien, Torninho Horta , Eddie Henderson , Joyce, Alex Acuna, Dori Caymmi, George Duke, Roy Ayres ,Oscar Castro Neves , Lyle Mays, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Shrieve, Paul McCandles, Alphonse Mouzon, Andy Narrell, Pete and Sheila (Sheile E.) Escovedo, Jose Neto Quartet. As a member of Terra Sul he composed and co produced on their CD "Kindness of Strangers" (Motown jazz label MOJazz). In addition to the co-writing and arranging Gary also shares a producer credit with drummer Celso Alberti for recording artist Zaza's ambitious CD "Book of Kings". Gary is one of the three members of Pray for Rain, a film and soundtrack production team whose credits include Sid & Nancy, Straight to Hell, Trust Me, Zandalee (with Judge Reinhold and Nicholas Cage) and The Linguini Incident (starring David Bowie). Their projects include work with famed Parliament keyboardist Bernie Worell on the movie Car 54 Where Are You? and the theme and dramatic underscore for the Fox television series Key West. They continue to compose underscore for various projects for the major cable networks including HBO, Lifetime, Showtime and Cinemax, as well as for the major television networks ABC, NBC and CBS. Currently dividing his time perfoming with Flora Purim & Airto, Anamandara Trio and the Rebeca Mauleon Group, Gary continues to compose, perform and produce with various artists and is writing music for his first solo project.
Kai Eckhardt is a Liberian / German bassist known through his work with guitarist John McLaughlin in the late 80's, Billy Cobham in the 90's and Garaj Mahal in the new millennium. Other career highlights include performances and recordings with: Trilok Gurtu, Stanley Clarke, Wayne Shorter, Patrice Rushen, Dewey Redman, Donald Byrd, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, Robert Walter, Karl Denson, Michael Franti, Larry Coryell, Warren Hill, Al Di Meola, Zakir Hussain, Vital Information , John Scofield and Bill Frisell. His active career spans 3 decades. Kai is currently a professor at the Jazz School Institute in Berkeley, CA who frequently teaches clinics and workshops world wide. Teaching engagements include the Berklee School of Music in Boston, the Bass Collective in New York City, BIT in Hollywood, the Anton Bruckner Conservatory in Austria, the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, the Amsterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands and Victor Wooten's Bass and Nature camp. Kai Eckhardt's current projects: -Fusion Band Garaj Mahal, winner of the 2007 Independent Music Awards, and Chicago Music Awards nominee for 2009. -San Francisco Rock Band Kbrandow -Indian Jazz Band Summit featuring George Brooks and Zakir Hussain -Turkish Diva Sertab Erener -Funk Band RAD featuring Rose Ann Dimalanta -Euro-fusion trio with Alex Machacek and Marco Minneman.

A child prodigy, Mic Gillette picked up the trumpet and was reading music by age four. At 15, he joined the Gotham City Crime Fighters (which later evolved into the Tower of Power), playing both trumpet and trombone (as well as baritone and tuba). Gillette took a brief break from TOP to tour and record with the band Cold Blood, but re-joined TOP a year later, hitting the road and opening for Santana and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Mic has appeared on countless CDs and record albums, spanning five decades, for some of the biggest names in the business, including a dozen members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Mighty Micster is best known for 40+ years of stellar horns work with Cold Blood, Tower of Power, and the Sons of Champlin. But not as many people realize that he has appeared on countless albums and CDs for some of the biggest names in the music business--Santana, The Rolling Stones, Quincy Jones, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Jefferson Starship, Huey Lewis and the News, and numerous others. Mic also enjoyed brief stints with Blood, Sweat & Tears and The Fundamentals, an R&B/Motown band. He released a solo CD entitled "Ear Candy" (2005) on the BKA Records label. An original member of the legendary Tower of Power Horn Section, Mic has also established an enviable reputation for his work with youth and school bands. In particular, his affinity for working with middle school and high school students has endeared him to a whole new generation of fans in the 21st century. In August 2009, Mic rejoined Tower of Power on a full-time basis after a 25-year absence.

Billy Johnson was born in Philadelphia, and was the beneficiary of the mentoring of fine players like Gerry Brown and Cornell Rochester on the local scene. He spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between Philly and New York, playing at one time in a band with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and his brother, trombonist Robin Eubanks. It's easy to see why the guitarist Carlos Santana enlisted Billy Johnson on three different occasions to man the traps for tours and albums. He did his first tour with Santana in 1990 and 1991, then rejoined the band in the summer of 1994 for about two-and-a-half years. Johnson is fleet around the kit, but his most spectacular quality might be his grounding. He throws his roots deep into the music, keeps the drive going while leaving room for the percussion to breathe around him. Billy Johnson is not so much smooth as solid - his grooves have an edge to them. His solos are built around ostinato patterns, repeating a phrase with the feet and adding onto it up top. There's always a connection to the funk in Johnson's grooves. Johnson performed on Santana's 'Milagro' album in 1992, and the 'Brothers' record featuring Carlos and Jorge Santana. He plays the opening cut on Santana's smash, 'Supernatural', the spirited romp (Da Le)Taleo. Billy Johnson has provided a hot rhythmic bedrock - a steady pulse on Put Your Lights On, the powerful tom work on Migra, some slinky funk on Love Of My Life, and the upbeat Latin-infused rock on Maria Maria and Smooth. Billy Johnson has played on four albums with Frankie Beverly and Maze, including 'Joy and Pain', 'Live In New Orleans', 'We Are One', and 'Back To Basics'. Billy Johnson has also been performing with contemporary jazz guitarist Joyce Cooling since late in '96 (and played one track on her second cd, 'Keeping Cool'), and has been playing with the Bay Area pop band Pablo Cruise when time permits.
Born in Chicago in 1974 to musician parents, Eric Levy was exposed to a variety of musical styles at an early age, including jazz, classical, and down home Windy City gospel and blues, which helped to shape his wide musical range. His father was a well-known local jazz flautist, and a preeminent early programmer of synthesizer sounds. In fact, Eric programs all of his own patches, a result of his father's teachings. His mother is a church singer and a guitarist in her own right. From the beginning, his parents gave musical direction to Eric, often sacrificing luxury so that Eric (and his sister) could receive the best training and access to the best equipment.What better training could Eric have found than that of master musician Fareed Haque, who became Eric's professor and mentor when Eric left to attend the Music School at Northern Illinois University. Who could have predicted that teacher and disciple would, years later, be sharing stages around the country. Perhaps because Eric learned from a guitar virtuoso, his keyboard style has grown to resemble that of a guitar, his classical and jazz training translating seamlessly into his unique sound, with a percussive style reminiscent of John Medeski mixed with the wailing, almost guitar-god-esque keyboard sounds of Jan Hammer. Told by his professors that 'you have nothing left to learn here,' he began his life as a working musician in the Chicago scene, performing with many local artists. Eric then departed for the high seas, and began a two year stint as the keyboard player on one of Premier Cruise Lines signature vessels. Returning to Chicago, Eric played with various groups including Galaxy (with Filter drummer Steve Gillis), the Fareed Haque Group, and the Blue Turtle Tea Party (which has recently received significant radio play on college radio stations), and other bands with styles ranging from straight-ahead jazz to Chicago blues, to funk 'n' groove. Entering the jam world with Garaj Mahal has opened up his playing tremendously, and he seems at times to be using far more than two hands with his notoriously eclectic melodic solos screaming, blisteringly fast, and deep in the groove. Eric Levy's Love Lounge album, entitled "QED", will be released soon.
Kenneth Nash is creating some of today's most rhythmically compelling music. Breaking out into a superbly syncopated realm all his own, this accomplished musician, composer, producer, arranger and author is building bridges of sound with compositions that unite numerous forms and idioms. Fusing jazz, pop and world-music elements, he creates an effervescent brand of music. He draws on a wealth of experience that stretches over two decades. The impact of his music is as refreshing as the compositions themselves. His sounds pay no heed to formulas; crossing cultural and international boundaries. "What I'm doing is taking my musical influences: classical, Cuban, African, jazz, pop, funk and hip-hop and expressing them within the melodic musical language I've developed," says Nash. Kenneth Nash heads up Nash Studio and Production Company and KENADE Music Publishing Company, in which he has produced and created a wide variety of musical productions for himself and artists and companies in the U.S. and in Europe since 1981.


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