Skip to main content

Susquehanna Life

Jazzing Up the Region

Jul 15, 2014 04:58PM ● By Erica Shames
Jazz musicians regularly heard in the region are both embedded in the local jazz scene and regionally based. Some of the highlights include:

A longtime San Francisco resident, Grammy-award winning drummer Steve Mitchell has been playing regularly with Greg Burgess since 2001. Steve Mitchell received a Grammy award in 1976 for his performance in the original “Charlie Brown Christmas” on television. In the studio, working with composer Ed Bogas, he produced music for 25 years of Charlie Brown TV specials, as well as for Garfield the Cat, Sesame Street, Nova, the PBS documentary American Experience, and thousands of commercials. He also contributed music to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” with Jack Nicholson, “Eddie Macon’s Run” with Kirk Douglas, the NBC special “End of the Rainbow,” David Byrne’s “True Stories”, “Walker” with Joe Strummer of the Clash, appeared as a bandleader in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tucker”, and composed two soundtracks for comedian Liz Scherr. For eight years he was a featured soloist with the Joffrey Ballet, and he had a band with Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead called Too Loose to Truck. He toured with Mose Allison, Van Morrison, the Smothers Brothers, Joy of Cooking, and the Coasters, and he played or recorded with Joe Henderson, Blue Mitchell, Herb Ellis, Vince Guaraldi, Cal Tjader, Leon Russell, Albert King, Esther Phillips, Lou Rawls, Maria Muldaur, Roy Rogers, Norton Buffalo, David Grisman, Sally Kellerman, Freda Payne, Les Elgart, and Earl Van Dyke of Motown’s Funk Brothers.

Upon returning to his native state of Pennsylvania, Steve has contributed music to the Bieber and Brafa films “All Is Normal” and “Neck Deep” and playing and recording with EG Kight, Ann Rabson, and Kenny “Blue Boss” Wayne, as well as with Averie Clark, Steve Adams, Arthur Goldstein, Flora Eyster, Ann Kerstetter, Jack Fries, Sascha Feinstein (editor of Brilliant Corners), John Johnson, the Gypsy Lizards, Infinite Bliss, the Mid-Life Cowboys, Kimbo, Tom Patton, E.D. Ward, and the Reverend Ann Keeler Evans.

Early in his life, Steve recorded with songwriter Pat Ballard and was a touring member of the do-wop group the Skyliners. With a degree in music education, Steve has taught at the University of California and the Wilmington Friends School and was a founder of the Children’s Media and the Academy of Rhythm.

Bassist Andy Seal has been playing with Greg Burgess and Steve Mitchell since 2002 (and is the recording engineer on two of the trio’s albums). Andy has performed with national artists Perry Robinson (clarinetist with Dave Brubeck), David Darling (Grammy-nominated cellist, formerly of the Paul Winter Consort), and Kenny “Blue Boss” Wayne, and continues to perform and record with EG Kight and Ann Rabson. He was a founding member of the acid jazz quartet ’72 Flood, the jazz/rock/world ensemble The Threads, the Lip Smackin’ Blues Band (semifinalist for the 2003 International Blues Challenge in Memphis), and the Electric Volcano Experiment. He is also a member of the Bloomsburg University Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, and has a degree in music from Bloomsburg University. Andy has contributed bass music and compositions on the Moog synthesizer to the WVIA-TV documentary “Voices from Vietnam” and to the Bieber and Brafa films “All Is Normal” and “Neck Deep.”

Andy has played with many other central PA musicians, including Jonathan Edwards, Mary Knish, John Johnson, Averie Clark, Ann Kerstetter, Sascha Feinsein, Infinite Bliss, Flora Eyster, Jack Fries, Steve Rudolph, Arthur Goldstein, Terry Rogers, Terry Wild, and the Reverend Ann Keeler Evans.

Greg Burgess has been singing and playing the piano ever since, as he says, he “first felt the pangs of unrequited love.” He is the pianist, vocalist, songwriter, and musical leader of Burgess, Mitchell & Seal, a piano, bass, and drums trio which performs a wide variety of jazz, blues, swing, Latin, bop, and R & B. In the ‘80s he was a sideman with nationally known bluesman Joe Beard, and during his tenure, backed up blues legends Big Joe Turner, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Taj Mahal, soul artist Roy C, and opened for Millie Jackson. Greg has performed often at the Billtown Blues Festival and has been recorded numerous times by George Graham of WVIA through the Homegrown Music Series, including a solo TV broadcast and one with singer/guitarist Debbie Davies. Since 1992, Greg has been performing with his wife, Fiddler Woman Beverley Conrad, at the historical Penn’s Tavern in Fisher’s Ferry, Pennsylvania. Greg has contributed music to the film documentaries “Gettysburg: The Boys in Blue and Gray” and “The People’s Bridge”, a WHP-21 TV production which included his original composition “Sans Souci.” His solo album, “I Am Not Alone!” was selected by Joe Miklos of Billtown Blue Notes as his top pick for best blues CD of 1999.

Other bands and musicians that Greg has performed with include Artie Renkel (and friends going back to ’72), Nate Myers, the Beale Street Blues Band with Augie, Jr. (who opened up once for Dr. John), Eric Ross, Billy Joe and his Foot, the Impromptu Blues Band (who helped to inspire the formation of the Billtown Blues Association), Mumbo Jumbo, the Uncles of Funk, Outland, Joe DeCristopher and Jamie Ernest, blues singer James Peterson (for one long weekend), the Cruel-4-Days blues band, John Johnson, Terry Rogers, Dicky Adams, Gene Minnaugh’s All That Jazz, Terry Wild, the Selinsgrove High School Symphonic Band directed by Ed Smith, the Bloomsburg Orchestra, and the Ann Kerstetter Band.

Tim Breon, a bass player and guitarist, who is a former member of The David Rose Band and studied guitar in NYC with Ben Sher, and later with Dave Brumbaugh. After leaving the band, he returned to orchestral playing with the Williamsport Symphony where he is currently principal bassist, and stage manager. Over the last 15 years, Tim has backed dozens of great performers including: Clay Aiken, Olivia Newton-John, Davy Jones, and jazz great David Liebman. Other current musical activities include The Johnny Jolin Band, Doug McMinn Quartet, and The Kristin Fisher Band. Tim is also the guitar/bass instructor at Lycoming College, and director of the electronic music lab.

Bill Stetz, from Lewisburg, who performs with Phil Haynes, Ann Kerstetter’s "All Star Band of Cronies," and with Steve Adams of Adams, Stetz & Haynes, considered the premier jazz trio of the greater Susquehanna Valley. Adams, Stetz & Haynes bring to life the entire history of jazz piano literature from ragtime, New Orleans, and swing, to be-bop and beyond. The trio began working together in the fall of 2004 after drummer Phil Haynes moved to Lewisburg from New York City. He brought his 20-plus years experience of international recording and touring to central Pennsylvania, where he first heard Stetz and Adams in local jazz, blues and pop groups. Haynes was drawn immediately to their artistry and the trio was born.

Phil Haynes is featured on nearly 50 CD releases by International record companies. His debut, The Paul Smoker Trio - QB, featured Anthony Braxton and was named the No. 1 recording of 1985 by critic Kevin Whitehead. In addition to three CDs with the collective Joint Venture, Haynes' recordings as a leader include: Continuum with violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Dave Kikoski; the ground breaking quintet 4 Horns & What? with saxophonists Ellery Eskelin and Andy Laster; his romantic standards trio, A Couch in Brooklyn featuring Israeli pianist Micu Narunsky and bassist Drew Gress; The Hammond Insurgency with B-3 virtuoso Jeff Palmer and trumpeter Paul Smoker; Free Country with cellist/vocalist Hank Roberts and guitarist Jim Yanda; Ritual, duets with multi-brassman Herb Robertson; and his solo drumset recording Sanctuary. Since moving to Lewisburg, Haynes is frequently heard with regional artists such as Joshua Davis, David Liebman, Barry Long, Steve Rudolph, Eddie Severn, Tim Warfield, and the collective Adams/Stetz&Haynes. He serves as Bucknell University's Jazz Artist-in-Residence, a lecturer in music, and produces the Jazz at Bucknell international chamber series.

Joshua Davis, bassist, composer and director of jazz studies at Susquehanna University. He was a full-time faculty member and the Director of Jazz Studies at Towson University between 2002 and 2006. Before Towson, he was an awarded leader of curriculum development at Berklee College of Music where, as one of the youngest faculty members, he taught for six years. Joshua spent two years as a member of the faculty at the University of Maine at Augusta and has taught numerous performance skills clinics at Berklee, Koyo Conservatory (Kobe, Japan), the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival (AK), and various schools of all grades throughout the United States. Vardan Ovsepian, Tim Miller, Ben Monder, Peter Erskine, Mark Ferber, Jordan Perlson, Sean Rickman, Marcello Pellitteri, Dan Weiss, Ted Poor, Ari Hoenig, Ole Mathisen, Jerry Bergonzi, Donny McCaslin, Taylor Haskins, Dave Ballou, Greg Hopkins, Randy Brecker, Timucin Sahin, JD Walter, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Artie Shaw Band, and The Ritz, are among the many groups and musicians with whom Joshua has performed. He is founder of the Joshua Davis Band, directs the Susquehanna University Big Band, also teaches jazz history, improvisation, music theory, ear training, double bass and composition.

Pianist Steve Rudolph, from Harrisburg, is past president and a founder of the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz. He regularly performs at the Hilton Harrisburg. Presented as an “Emerging Artist” at the Jazz Times Convention in New York City in 1998 and winner of the 1999 Jazziz Magazine - Seven Springs Jazz Festival Piano Competition, he also received the 2002 Harrisburg Arts Award for service to the community. Career highlights include seven European tours, appearing as soloist with Miami's New World Symphony and receiving the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Jazz Fellowship in 1995 and 2001. He has appeared in concert with Louie Bellson, Al Grey, Buddy Tate, Clark Terry, Paquito D'Rivera, Herb Ellis, Buddy DeFranco, Terry Gibbs, the Mills Brothers, Buddy Morrow and countless other jazz greats.

Nelson Hill, a saxophonist, clarinetist and flutist from Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania, who recently joined the faculty of Lock Haven University. 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 Bennet, The Spinners, The Temptations, Wayne Newton, Jay Black, Frankie Valli and many others. In 2002, Nelson released his first solo CD entitled Lethal. He is currently working with his quartet and with pianist Eric Mintel.

Paul Kendall is a tenor sax player from the Poconos. Recently, he has performed with Natalie Cole, The Temptations, Bill Watrous, Jimmy Bruno, Skip Wilkins, Dave Leonhardt, Rob Stoneback, Tony Gairo, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and Patrick Poladian.

“By bringing in [people of this caliber], it gives people a chance to see musicians they might not see otherwise,” notes Severn, “and gives them an appreciation for the music.”

British jazz musician Eddie Severn, trumpet and flugelhorn player, has a performing career spanning more than 25 years and is notable for his ability to adapt to many musical styles on the trumpet. From his extensive work as a lead trumpet player in the commercial music world to his innovative performances as a soloist playing his own compositions, he is equally at home playing rock, jazz and classical styles.

Severn has performed with many well-known musicians including Maria Schneider, Phil Woods, Dave Leibman, Clay Aiken, The Temptations, Kenny Rogers, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and the English Symphony Orchestra. He freelances as a solo performer and clinician, spending time both in Europe and the United States.

For six years lead trumpet player with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, he also has performed and recorded music for television, radio and theatre as well as on numerous pop sessions and touring shows. In addition to composing music for his own quartet, Severn has written several commissions for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the Scottish Composers Jazz Ensemble and the Scottish Arts Council. A notable commission was premiered in the Glasgow International Jazz Festival, where he wrote a piece for reknowned trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.

As an educator, Severn has extensive experience teaching both jazz studies and trumpet; he has been on the faculty at both the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama as well as the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in England. His long-standing association with the music scene in Prague has seen him performing regularly with the leading Czech pianist and composer Emil Viklicky. Recently, he performed at a special concert organized by the office of Czech President Vaclav Klaus at the Prague Castle, celebrating the 60th birthday of the leading Czech bass player and composer, Frantisek Ulhir.

Dave Brumbaugh – “It has been my fortunate experience to spend the last 28 years studying, performing, teaching and composing music. Along the way I have been lucky enough to make music with many great musicians both famous and relatively unknown.

“In the last 16 years, teaching has become my greatest joy. Through teaching I have shared my passion for music with hundreds of students, young and old, from all walks of life, many of whom have become musicians and teachers in their own right. I run the day-to-day operations, teach intermediate to advanced students, higher level theory classes and produce the two major student shows we hold each year.”

Who’s playing where

Dave Brumbaugh sits in with the Doug McMinn Jazz Quartet the first Wednesday of the month at the Bullfrog and fronts the jazz band, Transcendents. Severn’s big band, Zero Sum Gain, plays the first Tuesday of the month at the Ale House in State College; Sundays Burgess, Mitchell and Seal are at the Bullfrog, every other Thursday they are at La Fontana in Bloomsburg and Wednesdays they play at Puirseil’s in Lewisburg.

Other performance sites include the Rooke Recital Hall of the Weis Music Building at Bucknell University, where The Eddie Severn Quartet premiered two works earlier this year—“Moravian Suite,” by Czech Republic musician Emil Viklicky and Severn’s own composition, “Echos.” And Lock Haven University’s Durrwachter Alumni Conference Center, where Severn premiered his original jazz composition, “Eye of the Beholder.”

For current information on who’s playing where, visit

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Susquehanna Life's free newsletter to stay informed