Rising Stars: Temple’s Rhythm Section

January 1, 2023

Pianist Anthony Aldissi discovered jazz in his freshman year at Gibbs High School in Clearwater, FL. “My biggest ongoing inspiration is the great pianist Chick Corea,” he said. “I would like to share the joy of music with people the same way Chick Corea makes me feel.”

When bassist Dan McCain (photo above) was a sophomore at Philadelphia’s Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, he discovered the power of jazz when his band director handed him charts like Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train” and Sammy Nestico’s “Wind Machine”. On bass, “Christian McBride has always been the biggest inspiration to me and has had a major influence on my playing.”

Drummer Maria Marmarou “always loved” Elvin Jones when she was attending Kutztown (PA) High School. “Elvin Jones played with so much power and beauty at the same time.”

Aldissi, McCain, and Marmarou, students at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, won the Outstanding Rhythm Section award at the 2023 Jack Rudin Championship, held January 14 and 15 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall. They competed in the two-day invitational competition with students from eight other university jazz programs.  All three were also ‘Outstanding’ on their individual instruments. Aldissi and McCain were the only award winners in their category. Marmarou shared her “Outstanding Drums” award with Nygel Anderson of Florida State University and Pete Zimmer of Northern Illinois University. But she took home one additional prize – the Earl Hines Outstanding Musician Award. “It feels great to have been awarded the Earl Hines Award,” she said. “It means so much, and I’m very grateful for that.” 

Marmarou has one year left until she finishes her master’s degree at Temple and plans on a jazz performance career. She has been a member of the big band directed by Terell Stafford, Temple’s Director of Jazz and Instrumental Studies, and can be heard on its 2021 BCM&D Records album, Without You, No Me, dedicated to the late tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath. 

On February 11, Marmarou will be playing with a quintet led by saxophonists Tim Warfield and Steve Wilson at Cincinnati’s Café Vivace. Over the past several months, she has played with trombonist Michael Dease, pianist Orrin Evans, and vocalist Kurt Elling. During her visit to New York for the Jack Rudin Championship, she was able to lead her own trio for the late set at Dizzy’s Club.

McCain is in his first year as a graduate student at Temple. He’s studying jazz and classical bass and believes being in Philadelphia provides him the opportunity to “play in classical ensembles and network with some of the highest-level jazz musicians.” He leads his own jazz ensemble at several Philadelphia venues including the Kimmel Center, Chris’ Jazz Café, and the South Jazz Kitchen. After he receives his graduate degree, McCain plans to “enter the world of education in whatever way I can. I see myself teaching high school students, giving back to them the opportunities I received at their age that changed my life.” As for the Jack Rudin Championship, “I very much enjoyed being able to connect with and meet so many great musicians from all over the country. It was also my first time spending time in New York City, experiencing the scene and its differences compared to Philadelphia.”

Aldissi is a junior at Temple. He came north from Florida because “I was drawn to the incredible faculty.” His biggest musical heroes, in addition to Corea, are pianists Joey Calderazzo and Mulgrew Miller and saxophonist Kenny Garrett. He recently toured with saxophonist Ryan Devlin and can be heard on Devlin’s album, The Shape of Light. The Jack Rudin experience, he said, “was great in that we got to see what jazz sounded like by people our age from across the country. It was also great to hear the judges talk and give their opinion.”

The JRC overall First Place award of $10,000 went to North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC; followed by Temple in Second Place ($7,500); and Michigan State University College of Music, East Lansing, MI, Third ($5,000). Other schools invited to the competition were: Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL; Ithaca (NY) College; Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, IL; The Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

The Jack Rudin Championship honors the legacy of Jack Rudin, a longtime supporter of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He was also a founding supporter of JALC’s Essentially Ellington competition. Winners were selected by a panel of judges that included trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who is JALC Managing and Artistic Director; drummer Jeff Hamilton, saxophonist Ted Nash, vocalist Catherine Russell, and trumpeter Bijon Watson.—SANFORD JOSEPHSON

Photos below: Anthony Aldissi and Maria Marmarou. Aldissi photo by Jayne Drooger

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