Award-winning jazz singer-songwriter Diane Nalini has performed at jazz festivals around the globe and given gala performances for President Bill Clinton and Sir Paul McCartney. “She captures jazz at its most sophisticated and joyous level,” writes Elle Magazine Canada. “I just love Diane Nalini’s voice. This is a sassy, ‘ripe plum in the Italian sun’ kind of voice… She has such sweet and effortless pitch, it’s beautiful.” (Katie Malloch, host of CBC radio’s Jazzbeat and Tonic). Diane was nominated for the Grand Prix de Jazz General Motors at the 2002 Montreal International Jazz Festival and won second prize in the UK’s Young Jazz Vocalist of the Year awards for 2001. She has recorded and produced five critically-acclaimed albums and her original songs have been featured in television programs, video games and films. Diane fell in love with the ukulele a few years ago, studying intensively with Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee. She has taught at ukulele festivals and also offers online group Zoom workshops. She created the website Ukulele For Jazz Singers as a resource for people who want to learn more about jazz uke comping for voice. She developed video lessons for two recent Ukulele Guides published by Ukulele Magazine: Baby Songs and Lullabies for Beginning Ukulele and Traditional Songs for Beginning Ukulele.
Sarah Maisel & Craig Chee
When Sarah Maisel first walked into a local ‘ukulele jam, she was fascinated by the instrument and the joy that surrounded it. Studying under Frank Leong, Sarah dove into the jazz stylings of golden age Hawai’i songs and arrangements inspired by ‘ukulele legends like Lyle Ritz, Benny Chong and Byron Yasui. Sarah found a passion for teaching and performing with the ‘ukulele and was quickly featured at many ‘ukulele festivals around the world. Even though Craig Chee was born and raised on Oahu, he matured as an ‘ukulele player and musician on the mainland. While at University of Oregon, Craig focused on teaching a myriad of different styles with the tiny instrument. He has had the honor of working under Jake Shimabukuro and Troy Fernandez, and has become a world renowned teacher and performer.
As a couple, Sarah and Craig have made an incredible splash in the ‘ukulele scene with their complementing styles and vocal harmonies, and have been featured at ‘Ukulele Festivals and events all over the world. Their love of teaching has blossomed into a successful Online ‘Ukulele School with ArtistWorks and their YouTube live streams have become must-see events.
Adrian Cho leads a life of creativity at scale in multiple disciplines. As a musician who has been performing for decades, he works as a jazz bassist, educator, and the Artistic Director of the Ottawa Jazz Orchestra, a unique, critically acclaimed symphonic jazz ensemble he founded in 2006. Alex Hutchinson of the Ottawa Citizen labelled Adrian “a cool guide to hot jazz” while Doug Fischer, also of the Ottawa Citizen, referred to him as “a musical missionary.” John Kelman of All About Jazz wrote that “Cho’s intentions were clearly to educate as much as entertain, and he succeeded on both fronts.” Since 2011 he has been teaching at Carleton University’s continuing studies program. The range of topics he has taught include jazz history and appreciation, creativity, and nature photography. His highly informative, improvisational, and impactful approach to teaching has been highly praised and has made him a favourite with audiences. With a deep background in technology and photography, Adrian recently created the online platform Syncspace.Live, which allows musicians to play and perform together in real time from their homes across the internet.
Once every generation or two, a unique performer emerges who makes an indelible mark in music. In the field of solo ‘ukulele playing, that artist is Benny Chong. His pioneering contributions are many and they all represent hallmarks of his playing. These include novel left and right hand techniques, a repertoire made up of harmonically challenging compositions that only the most seasoned jazz musicians would attempt to play, sophisticated chords and chord substitution voiced in a way never before heard on the ‘ukulele, improvised jazz solos that are on par with the very best anywhere, an ability to play intricate chord/melody and single line melody solos at virtuoso speeds and effective musical gestures executed flawlessly with a rare brand of passion, soul, interpretation, and musicianship. He is arguably the world’s impressive jazz ‘ukulele player.
Born on April 25 1943 of Hawaiian, Chinese and Portuguese ancestry, Benny was introduced to the ‘ukulele at the age of 11. Passion and hours of dedicated practice has given Benny an exciting and influential style of his own. He has taken jazz ‘uke playing to a new level which will be very difficult to surpass because of the musical challenges of his repertoire and the complexity of his left and right hand technique. His harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic sense is on par with the very best jazz musicians in the world. Noted musicians who hear him for the first time walk away in awe. Nobody would expect that jazz could be played on the ‘ukulele in the manner that Benny plays. Above all, Benny is a master with no peers.