Jim grew up in the north-Bay Area town of San Rafael and began learning guitar at age twelve. He explored various styles (folk, pop, rock and blues) and began studying jazz guitar in high-school with well-known Bay Area teacher and performer Dave Smith.
After graduating high school Jim attended San Francisco State University, completing a Creative Arts Interdisciplinary (Music Emphasis) Bachelor of Arts degree. During college he focused on film scoring and composing for jazz combos. While attending SF State he was fortunate to study with Bay Area alto-saxophonist legend John Handy.
After graduation Jim free-lanced extensively around the Bay Area, working clubs and concerts as both a leader and sideman with such players as Mark Isham, Art Lande, Mike Clark, Delbert Bump, Michael Barsimanto, Glenn Cronkite, Mike Formanek, Chris Amberger and Todd Dickow. During this period he joined the “Life is Color” band along with vocalist Jesse Foster and vibist Jon Ericson. Jim hosted and performed on his weekly television series “Jazz After Midnight”, leading a quartet with featured guest performers. Soon afterward he received a National Endowment for the Arts Travel Study grant, studying with guitarists Jack Wilkins (New York) and Howard Roberts (Los Angeles)
Moving to Los Angeles Jim teamed up with singer-songwriter Joyce Yarrow, exploring the 'jazz-pop' side of the L.A. music scene. Jim also worked clubs and concerts with saxophonist Dave Lefebvre's six piece jazz-fusion group and played on Dave's “Marble Dust” album. He free-lanced with such notable players as Bob Sheppard, Scott Colley, Henry Butler, Richie Cole, Casey Schuerell and Clay Jenkins. Jim recorded a trio album (“Up Until Now”) with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Ralph Penland.
While teaching privately and studying with guitarists Joe DiOrio and John Abercrombie, Jim helped form and co-lead a quartet with pianist Phil Aaron, Eric VonEssen and Tony Jones. “Hyperion” played a mix of jazz standards and originals composed by band members, working clubs around the greater LA area.
Before moving back up to the Bay Area Jim recorded his first recording of all original music (“Give and Take”) featuring an all-star cast including Ernie Watts, Russ Ferrante, Marc Johnson, Ralph Penland and John Abercrombie. After relocating to the Bay Area he formed a new band performing the material from “Give and Take”. His group, featuring saxophonist Dann Zinn, drummer Wally Schnalle and pianist Murray Low performed at the San Jose, Monterey and Stanford Summer Jazz festivals. Later Jim toured Italy multiple times with both the San Jose Jazz Festival Quartet and the Gulio Capiozo Quintet. Currently Jim is a faculty member (Professor of Jazz Guitar Studies) at both San Francisco State and Santa Clara Universities. He also teaches through the Google Corporate Arts program (CSMA) and has a private teaching studio located in downtown Mountain View. Jim continues to work as both a leader and sideman with such Bay Area musicians as Adam Shulman, Akira Tana, John Worley, Matt Clark, Lorca Hart, Dann Zinn, Wil Blades, Andrew Speight, Jason Lewis, Brian Ho and others. from www.jimwitzelmusic.com
Aki Kumar left his home in Mumbai with the intention of working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. Then he discovered the blues, and his life dramatically changed. Singing and playing harmonica, he steeped himself in the music and became a fixture in blues clubs throughout Northern California, where he developed an unique, audacious blend of Chicago-style blues which then led to playing retro Bollywood songs mixed with the blues.
When he began performing, Kumar initially attempted to downplay his ethnicity and perform straight, Chicago-style blues. “I wanted to make a statement that I was a traditional blues man, so I wanted to be playing blues and have nobody even wonder where I came from.” His approach to music soon changed, and with his Little Village Foundation debut, Aki Goes to Bollywood, he began integrating elements of Indian music into his musical and visual presentation, making for a multi-cultural mash-up that sounds like no one else, yet never loses touch with its blues-inspired foundation.
That unique blend of East and West reached a new creative high on Aki’s second Little Village Foundation album, Hindi Man Blues, which boasts an ambitious cross-cultural fusion and features liner notes by veteran blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite. “My first album was really about my identity,” the artist states. “Now I feel it is time to be more direct about what’s happening out there in the world. The blues scene is my home, and the scene can be pretty conservative, but I want people to know where I stand. There’s a good amount of focus on Bollywood classics on the new album, and I even throw in a song about President Trump called ‘All Bark No Bite.’
In 2020, Kumar made major news with the world-wide launch of his album Dilruba on Sony Music India. Dilruba is an Indian Pop record that showcases his signature sound on a number Hindi/bilingual originals and covers. In 2021, he released an uplifting reggae-inspired single Zindagi under the Little Village Foundation label.
Kumar’s visionary stylistic mix, called Bollywood Blues, has already won him widespread attention. In addition to the local live music venues where he’s built an enthusiastic audience, he’s performed at the prestigious Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, been featured on PRI “The World,” and toured in India, Russia, Scandinavia and South America. Now, after spending more than a decade developing his sound with the help of some of the Bay Area’s finest musicians, Aki Kumar continues to take his love for the blues to new and fascinating place.
"...defies labels and language barriers"- Tucson.com
"...breathtaking..."- Living Blues Magazine
"a must know artist!" - DissDash.com
"We like!" - SoundBox India
"joyfully innocent, energetic, enthusiastic..." - Bandook.com
"Check it out. I wouldn't steer you wrong."
- Charlie Musselwhite
"Really really really hot stuff!"
- Elwood Blues aka Dan Aykroyd
"FOUR STARS...the integrity of his music marks
the difference between novelty and substance"
- Downbeat Magazine
"Kumar is on the cutting-edge of blues today."
- Michael Kinsman, San Diego Blues Festival
"...leaps off that bridge into the unknown, and I love the heck out of it"
- Jim Washburn / OCWeekly.com
Swing Wespelaar, Belgium 2
Heidi Evelyn’s New Orleans Jazz Band plays upbeat party music from the jazz age. The music is sure to bring a smile to your face and keep your feet tapping all night. Come dance to her full band featuring Clint Baker, Justin Au, Ryan Calloway, Benny Amon, Marty Eggers and Howard Miyata! You won’t want to miss this opportunity to experience authentic jazz from New Orleans in the 1920s.
In his extensive musical career, Danilo has played with extraordinary internationally known musicians such as Ray Barretto, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Dizzy Gillespie, and Carlos Santana. He demonstrates some of his best work on bongo and vocals on Ruben Blades' CD, "Ruben Blades and Son del Solar, Live!" In addition to having released three albums of his own original Salsa music, in recent years he has performed with Poncho Sanchez and Tito Puente, Jr. From his experience of playing with such notable artists, Danilo chose only top-notch musicians when it came to putting together his own band, Grupo Universal. They perform extensively at clubs and festivals, as well as for private parties, in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, playing a full spectrum of Latin music, including Salsa, Merengue, Cha Cha Cha, Cumbia, Reggaeton, Latin Jazz, as well as Swing, R&B, and Jazz Standards.
The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol is known as an icon in the Bay Area and beyond, highly regarded for her powerful voice, astonishing versatility, and gift of connecting with her audience. Equally at home in jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, funk, latin, and hip-hop, she has developed her own authentic sound and unique delivery, delighting audiences young and old across the globe. After beginning her career with gospel music, Faye Carol made her name singing with Oakland blues and funk legend Johnny Talbot & De Thangs before forming her own trio and gaining fame in San Francisco's jazz, blues, and cabaret clubs of the 1970s and 80s. Over a 60-year career in music, this living legend has developed her own unique acoustic sound and style in Black Music - drawing from funk, blues, gospel, and straight ahead swingin' - and cultivated an audience that remains as diverse as her uplifting music. She has maintained a high level of musicianship in her groups, mentoring some of the Bay Area's brightest young talent including pianist Benny Green, bassist/composer Marcus Shelby, saxophonist/composer Howard Wiley, and her daughter, pianist/compser Kito Kamili. Her vocal proteges include international superstars Kehlani and Ledisi.
Roy McCurdy is a living legend, having worked with some of the greatest artists in jazz including Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson, Art Farmer, and Benny Golson. Also devoted teacher, he is on the faculty of the Thornton School of Music at USC and the Pasadena School of Music.
Born in Rochester, New York, jazz drummer Roy McCurdy studied at the Eastman School of Music under Bill Street.McCurdy worked with the Mangione Brothers group (Chuck and Gap Mangione) in the early 60’s and later joined the Art Farmer Jazztet and then went with Sonny Rollins. Following Sonny Rollins he became a full time member of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet from the mid-60’s, traveling internationally with the group, including a particularly successful tour of South America in 1972.
In his spare times, McCurdy he does studio work for NBC movies of the week, and is featured on various record dates. When Adderley passed in July 1975, McCurdy started touring with Kenny Rankin. He also played on commercial jingles with Benny Golson and gigs locally with both Golson, Jerome Richardson, Pat Senatore, Peter Christlieb, Conte Condoli, Ruth Price, Jack Sheldon, Super Sax, Robin Ford and The Cunninghams to name a few.
He has toured and has worked with: Blood Sweat & Tears, The Pointer Sisters, John Klemmer, Toshiko Akiyoski-Lew Tabackin Big Band, Sonny Rollins, Art Farmer-Benny Golson, Betty Carter, Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Timmons, Ron Carter, Harold Land, Bobby Hutchinson, Kenny Burrell, The Count Basie Orchestra, Donald Byrd, Teddy Edwards, Herbie Hancock, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Henderson, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Jackie McLean, Carmen McRae, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Martial Solal, Sonny Stitt, Clark Terry, McCoy Tyner, Joe Williams, Larry Young, Ernestine Anderson, Chris Conner, Sonny Clark, Kenny Drew, Billy Eckstine, Chuck Mangione, Eddie Harris, Don Ellis, Shorty Rodgers, Stanley Turrentine, Dionne Warwick, Hubert Laws, Charles Lloyd, Hampton Hawes, Patrice Rushen, Joe Sample, Blue Mitchell, James Moody, Mark Murphy, Bud Shank, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vincent, Wes Montgomery, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Henderson.McCurdy has recorded with: Sonny Rollins, Art Farmer and Benny Golson Jazztet, Bobby Tmmons, Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Joe Zawinul, Blood Sweat and Tears, Kenny Rankin, Bobby Shew, Conte Condoli, Mark Murphy, Sarah Vaughn, Nancy Wilson, Scott Hamilton, Art Farmer Quartet, Benny Golson Sextet, Count Basie, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vincent, John Klemmer, Betty Carter, Kenny Burrell, Horace Silver and Chuck Mangione to name a few.