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Jay Hoggard: PRESS



From the files of A Deeper Groove. Perception And Perspective®™, this is...

SONG RINGING OUT TRUTH Thoughts on vibraphonist Jay Hoggard.

by Michael F. Hopkins © All rights reserved

Since his recording debut in the 1970s, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard has proven a game champion of Music. His Jazz is impeccable, running a daring gamut from solo performance to ensemble explorations,from swing and bop to straight-ahead romp and beyond. His forays into Gospel are awe-inspiring as they are refreshing; appealing to open minds & hearts while devoid of stiff-necked dogma.

 Likewise for Hoggard’s grasp of Jazz legacy, eschewing the rigid but hyper-publicized fundamentalism that obscured the idiom’s artistry during the 1980s in particular. Hoggard’s reach is extensive, full of down-home groove and essential jam, balladry as evocative as the paths he forges to get there.

 The roads Jay Hoggard travels these days are more self-determined than ever, largely due to his establishing a CD label of his own. This is JHVM Recordings (take a moment and check for details and prices), and it’s a rewarding site for anyone in search of exceptional Music. This label made its debut in 2003 with a memorable landmark entitled The Right Place, and Hoggard has shown no sign of slowing down since.

 Recent releases bear the artist’s vitality out with vigor and fortitude. Soular Power features Hoggard’s working unit (pianist/organist James Weidman, bassist Belden Bullock, drummer Yoron Israel) in a crackling-spirited collection of classics (both original and standard), while Christmas Vibes All Thru The year features Hoggard and Weidman with drummer Bruce Cox in a priceless collection of time-honored hymns and newly-offered testimonies to put wings to each listening.Solo From Two Sides features Hoggard in stirring solo performance on both vibraphone and marimba. Quite the treat!!!

The vibraphonist’s most recent set, Harlem Hieroglyphs, is a 2-CD travelogue of wonderful song. Here, Hoggard’s working quartet is joined by pianist/organist Nat Adderley Jr. and the ever-inspiring Gary Bartz on alto and soprano saxophones. Standards and originals rise and take flight once this unit comes to play! If I Were A Bell and Everything Must Change take their place alongside resplendent tone portraits such as A Walk Through The Colorful Forest. Sonny Rollins’ Airegin and Duke Ellington’s My Love unveil whole new calibers of majesty, even as Pleasant Memories haunt our senses with delight and promise.

Music. Whole, Honest, Beautiful. Jay Hoggard, keeping the culture true.

Michael Frank Hopkins - A Deeper Groove. Perception And Perspective®™, (Jun 9, 2017)




Owen McNally - (Apr 27, 2016)





Cynthia Rockwell - Wesleyan Alumni Magazine (Apr 5, 2016)


Diane Orson - WNPR (Apr 14, 2016)




Dortha Cool Wiletts - Middletown Chronicle (Oct 8, 2015)

Sonic Hieroglyphs from Wood, Metal and Skin at the 11th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend in Crowell Concert Hall at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, on April 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm.

Jay Hoggard, one of the world’s leading vibraphonists, will present the Premiere of his compositional suite Sonic Hieroglyphs from Wood, Metal and Skin at the 11th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend in Crowell Concert Hall at Wesleyan University ,Middletown, CT, on April 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm. In this performance, Jay Hoggard’s stellar quartet, with pianist James Weidman, bassist Santi Debriano  and drummer Yoron Israel will be joined by woodwindists Anthony Braxton and  Marty Ehrlich, percussionist Kwaku Kwaakye Martin Obeng,  and harpist Brandee Younger. The first half of the program will  feature Mr. Hoggard's compositions from his JHVM Recordings, Soular Power, Solo From Two Sides, Swing ‘Em Gates and The Right Place (please visit The second half will feature the world premiere of the new suite ,Sonic Hieroglyphs From Wood, Metal, and Skin. This multi part suite is dedicated to the inspiration of the late Nobel  Peace prize recipient from Kenya, Wangari Mathai .

Jay Hoggard’s music has touched the hearts and souls of listeners around the world for 35 years. Jay draws on traditional and contemporary musical vocabulary to develop new directions for the vibraphone, seamlessly blending jazz and gospel roots with African marimba rhythms. His performance repertoire represents the three B’s of the jazz tradition (Blues, Bop, Ballads) with original innovations. Jay has recorded 21 CDs as a leader, including the recent Solo from Two Sides, Soular Power, Swing Em Gates, The Right Place, and Songs of Spiritual Love. 

The son of a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Church, he was born in Washington, DC and reared in Mt. Vernon, NY. At age 15, Jay began playing the vibraphone. “One night I had a dream that I was playing the vibes. I asked my father to rent me a set and from the first moment, I knew that this was what I was supposed to do.” Jay majored in the World Music program at Wesleyan University and toured Europe and played at Carnegie Hall during his freshman year. In his junior year, he traveled to Tanzania to study East African xylophone music. He graduated in 1976 and returned to New York in 1977 to be proclaimed a young lion on the vibraphone.

Since then, Jay Hoggard has performed in major venues, jazz festivals, colleges, universities, churches, galleries, libraries, and clubs around the globe. Jay has been featured on radio and television nationally and internationally. He led a quintet on an extensive tour sponsored by the United States government to  North Africa, the Middle East and India. Jay performed in special concert collaborations with vibraphone masters Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Tito Puente and Bobby Hutcherson. He has recorded and toured with creative artists such as Kenny Burrell, Dr. Billy Taylor, Max Roach, James Newton, Hilton Ruiz, Oliver Lake, Bennie Maupin, Bill Cosby, Sam Rivers, Anthony Braxton, Jorge Dalto, Terumasa Hino, Dwight Andrews, Geri Allen, Anthony Davis, Henry Threadgill, Vishnu Wood, Chico Freeman, Muhal Richard Abrams , Sherry Winston, Ahmed Abdullah, and was a guest artist with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. Jay has accompanied singers, instrumentalists, and poets and has performed with gospel, theater, dance, percussion, and orchestral ensembles.

In 2009, Jay Hoggard was commissioned by the Sankofa Kuumba Dance Consortium and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra to compose THE OTHER SIDE OF THE OCEAN and LET ME MAKE IT CLEAR. Previously, Jay collaborated with Denver based choreographer Cleo Parker Robinson by composing THE WISDOM OF THE BAOBAB TREE commissioned by Lincoln Center Out of Doors. He was commissioned by the Hartford Festival of Jazz to compose LA TIERRA HERMOSA, dedicated to Tito Puente. In 2000, Hoggard was commissioned by Wesleyan University to compose JOYFUL SWAMP and CROSSING POINT for Max Roach and percussion ensemble, and VIBARIMBALA for symphonic and jazz orchestras.

Jay Hoggard is currently a professor of music at Wesleyan University, where for the past 22 years he has directed the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra and has taught and mentored hundreds of young musicians. 

Sonic Hieroglyphs Crowell Hall Wesleyan University (Apr 28, 2012)

Review: Jay Hoggard and the Sonic Hieroglyphs Ensemble

May. 2, 2012 by Jack Chelgren Jack Chelgren ’15 attended the Jay Hoggard Quartet concert as part of the 11th annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend, and reflects on his impressions.

Last Saturday night, vibraphonist, composer, and Adjunct Professor of Music Jay Hoggard gave a concert that found Crowell Concert Hall more crowded than any performance I have been to all year.  The room was unambiguously packed, inundated with a healthy blend of students, families, friends, faculty, and a host of others scarcely connected to Wesleyan beyond their interest in the performance.  A student combo of musicians from the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra (which Mr. Hoggard directs) opened the show, playing faithful but lively renditions of standards by Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Jordan, and Sonny Rollins.  There was a short lull, and then Mr. Hoggard’s band took the stage, the man himself with a theatrical strut, sporting an ultramarine suit and a flashy silver vest.  Silence reigned after the initial applause had died down and the band readied its gear; you could hear people fidgeting in their seats as Mr. Hoggard took out his glasses case and slipped his spectacles inside.  Then he glanced up at the audience, as if just realizing we were there.  “Thank you, and goodnight,” he said flatly, and the ensuing chuckles broke the ice.

The group opened with “Swing Em Gates,” a bluesy, up-tempo chart Mr. Hoggard wrote for Lionel Hampton, one of the most significant voices in big band and an early pioneer of jazz vibraphone.  Mr. Hoggard shared the melody with Marty Ehrlich, who played soprano saxophone, and each member of the group improvised.  “Overview” followed, a slower, more expansive piece for which Mr. Ehrlich switched to bass clarinet and delivered one of his best solos of the night, a dextrous, well-crafted display that showcased his rich, vivid tone on the instrument.  The next song, “Joyful Swamp,” brought out harpist Brandee Younger and hand percussionist Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng, kicking off at a breakneck pace with a scurrying marimba and percussion intro before dropping into its slinky, meandering melody, again in the vibes and soprano.  This piece, Mr. Hoggard revealed, he wrote for another jazz great, the monumental drummer Max Roach.  Next came “Soular Power,” an off-kilter, lilting tune that smacked heavily of Dave Holland’s quintet work with vibraphonist Steve Nelson.  This, in turn, was followed by “You’re In My Heart All the Time,” a duet for piano and vibes and the most candidly gorgeous piece of the evening.  The song had a stunningly spontaneous quality, floating in the air like a cloud between the performers, who, though not rhythmically or melodically in sync with one another, played with an astounding understanding and singularity of purpose.  The subsequent medley “The Right Place / Lessons from My Dad” gamboled from a nostalgic, shimmering opening into a desolate solo by bassist Santi Debriano, whose hoarsely melancholic tone recalled the throatier, more progressive side of cellist Erik Friedlander, before giving way to yet another sinuous groove led by the soprano and vibes.  “Convergence of the Niles” closed the first half of the show, a driving McCoy Tyner-esque bop on which Mr. Hoggard let loose with a fiery solo, pulling farther and farther away from the stormy rhythmic and harmonic structures of the song without for a second coming unmoored.

The group was joined by one last guest for the shorter second half of the concert, saxophonist-composer and Professor of Music Anthony Braxton, who kicked off the song “Piety and Redemption” with a soprano sax solo of his own, lashing out flurries of thirty-second notes and blur-like glissandi. Mr. Hoggard then lead the group into the world premiere of his multi-part composition Sonic Hieroglyphs From Wood, Metal, and Skin, the title of which sounds like a cross between Sun Ra and a Fluxus score.  The group played only three of its four movements, beginning with the brightly optimistic “Let Me Make It Clear (We Need Nuclear Peace This Year)” before proceeding into “Live, Breath”—a serenely open piece with brooding and dissonant undertones which featured qigong artists performing onstage alongside the musicians—and then finally to “The Mutilation of Our Mother, Earth, by Perpetual War and DISPOSABLE CONSUMPTION,” a jaggedly collapsing tune à la Michael Formanek.

It was, in all, a highly memorable evening.  There were times when I wished the orchestration had been a little lighter—it could have been the room or where I sat in it, but the ensemble sound often felt rather cluttered and muddy.  I also noticed that communication among the musicians often seemed a little disjointed.  Mr. Hoggard would frequently look up to cue transitions or solos and have to struggle to get the rest of the band’s attention.  Yet the group held together nicely through these rough patches, in large part thanks to the indefatigable rhythm section of Yoron Israel, Mr. Debriano, and Mr. Obeng, giving a show at once through-provokingly erudite and fundamentally accessible.


Latoya West 8-16-12 - Journal News (Lower Huson0 (Aug 16, 2012)
by Scott Yanow

A very significant vibraphonist for for over 30 years, Jay Hoggard has long ranked with the greatest innovators of his instrument including Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, Milt Jackson, Terry Gibbs, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton, Khan Jamal and Walt Dickerson, as well as his contemporaries Steve Nelson, Joe Locke, and Stefon Harris. The release of five of his CDs, including SOULAR POWER and SOLO FROM TWO SIDES, gives listeners an opportunity to experience some of the many sides of this vital musician, and they document the vibraphonist's musical language during the first ten years of the 21st century. This is a major event!

Jay Hoggard, who was born in Washington D.C.,grew up in a religious family in Mt Vernon, New York. He began playing the vibraphone when he was 15. At Wesleyan University in Connecticut he studied in the World Music program including traveling to Tanzania to study firsthand East African xylophone music. Soon after he graduated in 1976, Jay was recognized as an increasingly important force on his instrument, able to display his own voice in settings ranging from the avant-garde to swing, from unaccompanied solo performances to work with a wide variety of all-star performers.

While his work was well documented in the late 1970s, '80s and '90s, by 2003 Jay Hoggard came to the conclusion that it was time for him to own his own music and take charge of documenting his musical dreams. “By then it had become a lot less expensive to make one's own records,” says the vibraphonist. “With the collapse of the record industry, it made perfect sense to have my own label.” Adding to the logic was that Hoggard had stored up many fresh ideas and concepts that deserved to be recorded.

Jay Hoggard's current working band is documented on SOULAR POWER (2008),an exciting release consisting of 11 of his original compositions plus “On A Clear Day.” With James Weidman, Belden Bullock and drummer Yoron Israel inspiring him, Hoggard stakes his claim as one of the major vibraphonists of today, performing music that is full of subtle surprises, covers a wide range of moods, and is never predictable. Among the many highlights are the forceful post bop of “Soular Power,” the touching ballad “You're In My Heart All The Time,” the soulful “Blues Bags,” a catchy boogaloo “Sweet Potato” and the driving “Mystic Winds/Tropic Breezes.” Jay really stretches himself during a set that has the feel of a live recording.

The same can be said for the frequently-stunning SOLO FROM TWO SIDES (2009). Performing unaccompanied on vibraphone and marimba, Jay Hoggard creates music that is hypnotic, intriguing, melodic, thoughtful, surprising and thoroughly original. While a handful of vibraphonists have recorded solo sets in the past (including Gary Burton, Khan Jamal and Walt Dickerson), none have sounded like this. There are many rich melodies (“Kalila's Smile” and “Riverside Dance”are two strong examples), pieces that display the African heritage (“Ujamaa”,"The Golden Ashanti", and “Rain Forest”) and new spirituals such as “In The Spirit” and “Worship God In Spirit, Truth And Love.” Each of the 13 selections is memorable in its own way. But that is to be expected for Jay Hoggard has developed his own personal voice, both as an improviser and as a composer.

SWING EM GATES (2007) is a tribute to Lionel Hampton which, although featuring some of the songs that Hampton made famous (including “Flying Home,” “Memories Of You” and “Air Mail Special”), finds Jay Hoggard sounding very much like himself. “I crossed paths with Lionel Hampton on a few occasions early in my career including sharing the stage during an all-star concert. He was always very encouraging and inspiring to me, telling me to always be myself in my playing.” So close was their relationship that, when Hampton was ailing later in his career, Hoggard often substituted for him. Swing 'Em Gates has Jay Hoggard swinging his way through standards with the assistance of a trio that on three songs includes the legendary pianist Dr. Billy Taylor.

SONGS OF SPIRITUAL LOVE (2004) is a set of vibraphone-organ/piano duets by Hoggard and James Weidman in which they explore the African American sacred musical vocabulary. “Since I grew up in the Afican Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, I am hard wired for these melodies which are second nature for me.” The emotional versions of such songs as “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” John Coltrane's “Dear Lord,” “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” and “The Lord's Prayer” are very respectful but also full of exciting melodic improvisations. Especially memorable is a rendition of Hoggard's best known melody, “God Will Guide.”

The earliest of the JHVM releases is THE RIGHT PLACE (2003). Featured with his quintet (the late pianist Hilton Ruiz or James Weidman on piano and organ, bassist Belden Bullock, drummer Pheeroan akLaff and Dwight Andrews on reeds) plus both Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng and Asher DeLerme on percussion, Hoggard performs nine of his originals plus Ruiz' “Guataca.” Highlights include such gems as the upbeat “The Right Place,” the Mid-Eastern feel of “ Joyful Swamp ,” “Startin The Blues En Clave,” the mysterious “Crossing Point,” and the heartfelt “Lessons From My Dad.”

Also of strong interest is SOMETHING "BOUT BELIEVING, a 1999 CD put out by the Twinz Records label and made available from JHVM that features Hoggard (along with Weidman, Bullock and akLaff) performing Duke Ellington's sacred music including “Come Sunday,” “The Shepherd” and “Heaven.” Back in 1967 the youngster accompanied his father to one of Ellington's sacred concerts and the performances changed his life, inspiring him to become a musician and ultimately a major vibraphonist.

The release of these diverse but consistently rewarding CDs are a major event in 21st century jazz. Not only do they feature Jay Hoggard at the peak of his powers, but they add rich melodies and superb vibraphone solos to the legacy of jazz.

For more information about the Jay Hoggard or his recordings, contact Carolyn McClair Public Relations at or
(by Michael F. Hopkins, c. 2007)

For the deeply spirited Jay Hoggard, this special album is a signature statement in a distinguished career filled with many such bright moments.

This, however, is even more. THE RIGHT PLACE bears the burning urgency of a master artist taking charge of his expression, a musician of great Faith and touching Joy making the most joyful of noises to uplift the heart and the mind. The debut album for the vibraphone master's own JHVM Recordings, THE RIGHT PLACE sings and swings with gleeful authority bearing a calm, winning impact.

A rhapsodic travelog of the Black aesthetic at its globespanning finest, Hoggard and friends weave a potent dance which takes us from tropic mist and sprawling veldt, through the challenge of urban prance and the finely measured breath of coming Home.

The malleteer is joined by stalwart colleagues here. The multifaceted Dwight Andrews is outstanding on reeds and flute, as Belden Bullock on bass provides a splendid discourse in the art of finger-talking. Legendary pianist Hilton Ruiz can be heard on a delightful tear, as percussion wonder Pheeroan AkLaff makes tempo-juggling merry amidst a team of percussion wizards (Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng on donno and congas, Asher De Lerme on timbales, bata and guiro).

The ever-ready, always steady James Weidman kindles a hearty flame on piano and organ, a persistent excellence which always makes his work stand out with conviction. Engineer Alec Head delivers the whole sound of this bountiful music with exceptional care and heightened grace.

Through compositional talespinning, playful daring and a determined focus which is second to none, the vibraphonist radiates the sheer fun and precious need of creativity as a human calling. Too, with reflections upon the work of Tito Puente as well as Bobby Hutcherson, Hoggard's own nimble malletry strikes resonant summons from the marimba, stirring Sun to rise and twilight to prepare devout enchantment to fortify the soul..

JHVM Recordings mark a fresh chapter in the ongoing tale of a great artist. SONGS OF SPIRITUAL LOVE and SWING 'EM GATES show the malleteer's vision and drive to be as powerful and magnificent as ever.

Meanwhile, from 2003, discover the intimate might and majesty of this master musician, and thrill in this landmark statement of cultural splendor.

Enjoy the loving welcome of THE RIGHT PLACE.
By Michael F. Hopkins - "A Deeper Groove" Buffalo, NY (May 15, 2007)

Jazz Improv Magazine’s New York Jazz Guide & Directory • January 2007 page 75
By Dan Bilawsky

Jay Hoggard’s music, which feeds off of jazz tradition and mixes in ethnic influences, world percussion, and classical traits, has always stood out from many other vibraphone players. I can recall listening to his Solo Vibraphone album and marveling at his wondrous rhythmic elasticity, energy-driven use of ornamentation and general spirit that traveled through his music. While Hoggard’s work has taken him to many exotic locales, geographically and musically, his roots in the straight-ahead, jazz vibraphone tradition are strong.

Lionel Hampton, credited as the “Vibes President” in Hoggard’s new CD, was a trailblazer for all vibraphone players who followed him and he’s paid a fitting tribute on Hoggard’s latest album. Hoggard often subbed for Hampton, in Hampton’s own band, during the 1990’s. The level of respect and admiration clearly comes through in this recording. Swing ‘Em Gates focuses, largely, on material that is associated with Hampton. Hoggard puts his own unique stamp on the music.

Take The A Train starts the proceedings and things seem fairly tame at the outset. Hoggard’s true colors come through after his initial run through the melody. The high point of the track comes when Hoggard, pianist James Weidman and Winard Harper, the talented drummer on board for the album, trade solos amongst each other. Flying Home,” became a signature song for Hampton, and Hoggard and his musical cohorts romp through a rousing rendition. Weidman’s piano work perfectly accentuates Hoggard’s soloing, and the descending run at the start of his solo is a terrific smile-inducing moment.

The seed of origin for the album title, Swing Em Gates, is an interesting story and Hampton anecdote. Hoggard asked Hampton about what songs to learn for one of his subbing dates. Hamp told the vibraphonist to “just swing ‘em gates.” Hoggard’s one original composition on the album is the title track. This tune fits in snugly with the standards on the album. The stylistic vein of the song draws from the same source as the other album material. How High The Moon is the first of three album tracks that feature the great Dr. Billy Taylor on piano. This track is also a standout because of Leon Lee Dorsey’s bass solo. Dorsey’s solid presence and terrific walking lines help to really anchor the ensemble throughout the entire album.

Hoggard begins Memories of You with gently floating sounds that are further buoyed by Dr.Taylor’s piano work. This duo performance, while strikingly different from the other performances on the album, contains the most delightfully nuanced and stirring music on the album.

James Weidman’s writing contribution to this release is a comfortably paced swing tune entitled Uptown Vibes. It returns to the musical territory that the band established on the first four tracks. Hoggard covers Air Mail Special, here, which he also performed, in an exciting and vastly different way on Solo Vibraphone. The current track has a bit more rhythmic thrust than the previous one.

In a Mellow Tone features some galloping phrases during solos from Weidman and Hoggard. Stardust begins with Dorsey’s firm, yet gentle, arco statement and the reins are then taken over by Hoggard’s vibraphone playing.The band takes a pleasant stroll through this song and this leisurely paced performance is delightful in its relaxed atmosphere. Winard Harper, while maintaining a low profile throughout the majority of the album, is to be commended for providing solid timing, crisp stick and brushwork, and a general sense of musicality that helps the music to swing. A nice run through Shiny Stockings with some energetic interaction and fills from Harper’s drums and the conga playing of Willie Martinez, ends the album with the spirit that is carried throughout.

Hoggard’s most straight-ahead recording to date is an appealing trip through nostalgic favorites that is sure to find a place into the collection of swing-era jazz fans and vibraphone lovers.
A Spiritual Connection
Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard talks music
by John Adamian - July 2005

Jazz composer, educator, vibraphonist and marimba player Jay Hoggard turned 50 last fall, and the big birthday milestone got him thinking about his career, his music, his life and his future.

In a rehearsal room at Wesleyan University, where he teaches in the music department and leads the jazz orchestra, Hoggard spoke with Preview recently. Jazz fans know the vibes -- the xylophone-like instrument of Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Tito Puente (all of whom Hoggard has collaborated with); the warm glowing sound, the haunting vibrato and sustain. But Hoggard jokes that the vibes' place in the instrumental hierarchy of jazz as "somewhere between the cello and the bagpipe."

Performing with his quintet on Friday, July 15, at 8 p.m. at Wesleyan's Crowell Concert Hall in Middletown, Hoggard is one of the leading jazz vibes and marimba players. As bandleader he's recorded over a dozen records. He's appeared on stages around the world. Hoggard has performed and recorded with everyone from Billy Taylor, Kenny Burrell, Geri Allen, Anthony Braxton, Chico Freeman and Henry Threadgill.

Hoggard, whose father was a bishop in the AME Zion church, has a commanding way of speaking. He punctuates funny lines with a roaring "ahh-HAH!" His speech can roll with a preacher's zeal or the headiness of an academic. His words can take on the playful riffing one might expect from a jazz musician. And he often clamps his eyelids down when concentrating, talking with his eyes tightly shut.

Hoggard is moving into a new phase of creativity. In addition to long-lived jazz icons like Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton, he's inspired lately by artists like Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Vassily Kandinsky. "The painters in particular are very helpful to me in seeing that at a certain point you learn the vocabulary of the art form and then you start making your statement in that vocabulary," says Hoggard. "So, at 50, I've reached the point where I've learned the vocabulary, and I've been fortunate to make some statements all along in that cycle. Now, all the statements I'm trying to make are things with the stamp of my perspective, in the context of the larger vocabulary of jazz."

With classes over, summertime isn't slow for Hoggard, whose plans through August include work on three new CDs and performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center and elsewhere. Busy as he is, Hoggard remains careful about what he plays and records, in part because he knows the music's potency. Hoggard frequently plays drums at Middletown's Cross Street AME Zion Church, and he reveres rhythm, the backbeat in particular. "That really comes from a sacred African-American rhythm -- that sanctified shuffle [singing] ding chick-a-ding is a basic rhythm, then, of jazz. It's a transformed African rhythm, whether it's specifically from Ghana, Nigeria or Mali -- there's a whole tradition that has that rhythm." And popular music has made the most of the rhythm's appeal. Hoggard says the backbeat now is like processed sugar -- it's in everything. "I have learned certain things about the sacred rhythms -- I only really want to play in the context of a sacred situation because I know its power."

As a masters student, Hoggard studied the rich African and African-American xylophone traditions. His work naturally bridges the traditional and experimental, the sacred and the secular, the global and the local -- distinctions Hoggard doesn't entirely acknowledge.

"I think of it not as worlds that need to be resolved," he says. "I think of it as the spectrum of musical vocabulary." His most recent CD, Songs of Spiritual Love, features duos with Hoggard on vibes and James Weidman on piano and organ. The songs, which range from Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now" to James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing," all have a spiritual message, but to Hoggard, every time he plays, he makes a deep connection.

"The sacred stuff -- whether it's explicit or not that its intention is of a spiritual nature -- it's always fundamental every time I touch the instrument."
John Adamian - Preview Magazine (Jul 1, 2005)
At times such as these, when the news headlines and accompanying photographs are so shocking, people often turn to religion to help them through. Some of us turn to spiritual music for solace and/or meditation.

Vibraphonist and Wesleyan Professor Jay Hoggard has teamed up with his good friend and keyboard artist James Weidman for a new recording. Titled Songs of Spiritual Love and released on Hoggards JHVM label, its a collection of African American spirituals and popular songs that are played straight from the heart and soul of the duo. Opening with a lovely rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing, the disk is a joy from beginning to end. Whether its the sanctified soul of Bridge Over Troubled Water or the bluesy cry of God Bless The Child, these songs are meant to soothe the troubled soul.

Nothing is rushed and nothing is clich? Even the Bachrach/David chestnut What the World Needs Now is Love is performed with grace and caring. Perhaps its the bell-like tones of the vibraphone or the rich chordal background of the acoustic piano, but the music just soars. When Weidman switches to organ, one feels as if theyre in the front pew.

Its rare when two fine improvisers get together and pay more attention to melody than to their chops. There are certainly moments when they let loose (I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free for instance) but I believe that Hoggard and Weidman feels that their audience knows the words to many of these songs and will have an emotional reaction to these renditions. There is no proselytizing by the artists, just music from the heart and the soul and what a joyful sound they make. For more information, go to
Richard Kamins - Hartford Courant 1-6-05
Hoggard, Ruiz Strut Their Stuff At Festival

After a day of varied, but uniformly fine concerts in Bushnell Park, Saturday ended with a muscular and pulsating performance by the Joey DeFrancesco (organ) Trio. The Soul Syndicate, a jazz funk band, was scheduled to extend the party DeFrancesco started at the carousel in the park.

But it was Jay Hoggard's Africaribbean Vibes that provided the second day of the Greater Hartford of Jazz with the three-day event's most transcendent music. Hoggard's six-song, 65-minute set displayed his vibes mastery and the intelligence and scope of his compositions, which used familiar and accessible concepts to create fresh and compelling music.

Hilton Ruiz, who melds the sass of the blues and the spice of salsa in his playing, traded delicious licks with Hoggard. Asher DeLerme, Kwaku Martin Obeng and Willie Martinez explored the power of percussion instruments to drive and focus music. Belden Bullock contributed reserved yet stylish work on bass, as the ensemble melded musical influences from West Africa, the barrio, the 'hood, the carnival and even the sanctified church.

The group played with grace, energy, generosity and elan. They earned the standing ovation many in the crowd gave them.
Jeff Rivers - Hartford Courant July 18. 2004
Hoggard has been playing the vibes since the age of 16 and was once proclaimed the "most dazzling new vibraphonist in jazz." He has performed, collaborated and recorded with some of the masters: Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Tito Puente, Kenny Burrell, Bobby Hutcherson, Max Roach, and Dr. Billy Taylor . Hoggard is currently a professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and is in constant demand as a composer, performer and recording artist , a cultural affiliate of National Public Radio
The best recorded example of who Hoggard is and what he can do: This music will definitely make you feel better.

"The Right Place" (JHVM Recordings) is the first disc he has produced from start to finish. He wrote all but one of the 10 tracks, arranged them all, served as executive producer, chose the artwork and photography, and is negotiating the distribution rights.

From the get-go, the listener is bathed in a sensual percussive wash, courtesy of an active rhythm section. The producer chose to blend the African drums of Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng with the Latin percussion (timbales, bata drum) of Asher DeLerme, as well as the smart trap set work of Pheroan ak Laff. That mixture of sounds, when blended with Hoggard's marimba and the two-fisted approach of pianist James Weidman, creates a "Joyful Swamp" (track 2).

Hilton Ruiz, a master of modern Latin piano, appears on four tracks. "Guataca," written by Ruiz, has a delightful feel, from the bouncy conga work of Obeng to the silky soprano sax of Dwight Andrews to the leader's topsy-turvy solo. "Lessons from My Dad" has a lilting melody, more dusky marimba sounds and rhythms that hearken back to Africa. Ruiz's percussive piano leads the way on "Startin' the Blues en Clave" and pushes the leader with insistent chords on "La Tierra Hermosa."

Andrews, who has appeared on several of Hoggard's CDs and has written the scores for many of August Wilson's plays, shows his sweet soprano sax sound on several tracks. "Inner Rhythm" moves forward with the drive of a McCoy Tyner song as the soloists swoop above ak Laff's forceful playing. Talking drums, marimba and soprano sax lead the way on "Crossing Point." The solo section careers between a swift walking bass line and short, out-of-time releases. Andrews switches to bass clarinet and Weidman to organ for the slow, bluesy "Ring Shout" that closes the disk. The melody line feels as if it came to the writer on a slow walk through the city on an autumn day; no rush, no real worries - perhaps the effects of being finished with work after a long week.

"The Right Place" is definitely where Jay Hoggard is right now. He's learned much from the masters of jazz, the truly American art form. All of his solos sound assured, and his marimba playing on several of the tracks hearken back to his early recordings on the India Navigation label. Yet the heart and soul of this music - and it is very soulful - comes from his own day-to-day living, his teaching, family life, and the need to express himself in ways that uplift his craft while entertaining and, yes, even educating others.
Richard Kamins - The Hartford Courant January 04
Mr. Hoggard, a vibraphonist, was first active in New York's loft-jazz scene in the late 1970's ; he became one of the first-call players on his instrument in mainstream jazz thereafter. He's leading a couple of bands these days; this interesting seven-piece group includes woodwinds, piano and organ, bass, drums, and two percussionists besides Mr. Hoggard's own melodic and percussive instrument.
Ben Ratliff. - The New York Times 1-9-04
Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard has appeared with everyone from Cecil Taylor to Luther Vandross in an eclectic career that's included forays into avant garde, mainstream and pop jazz. His new release comfortably combines elements of all of the above while adding a healthy dose of his passion for Afro-Caribbean music.

The Right Place, which Hoggard dedicates to his parents, is a mostly upbeat affair filled with simple, accessible melodies backed by more intricate Latin and African rhythms. Hoggard, a music professor at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, has assembled a fine septet here, including pianist/organist James Weidman, Dwight Andrews on woodwinds, Belden Bullock on bass, and a trio of drummers and percussionists.

The selections, all but one penned by Hoggard, range from the light, pleasantly pop-ish title tune to a Coltrane-esque exploration on "Inner Rhythm" to an impressive, though brief, workout for Hoggard on solo marimba. Most compelling are four songs in the middle of the album featuring the superb Latin jazz/bebop pianist Hilton Ruiz, including "Startin' the Blues en Clave", which exemplifies Hoggard's goal of exploring the shared paths of African American and Caribbean music.

For all the diverse elements that go into the mix here, there's a cohesiveness and ease to the proceedings that makes it all come together smoothly and makes Jay Hoggard's The Right Place a good place to be.
Joel Roberts - ALL ABOUT JAZZ New York January 2004 p 15
Get on up and shake your booty to some tantalizing Africaribbean vibes from Jay Hoggard, with his new cd "The Right Place". Then head on down to the Jazz Gallery 290 Hudson Street, (212) 242-1063, and catch the man live. I can sum this cd up in three words, Fab U LOUS. This is one of those albums where-by you catch yourself grooving with the beat long after everybody else sees you. But then who cares about another person's opinion when the music is this good. He has recorded 15 cd's as leader and over 40 collaborations. He has performed with vibraphone masters Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Tito Puente and Bobby Hutcherson. Also, Jay was a guest artist with Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. Currently he is a professor at Wesleyan University. Jay's artistry is hailed as rich with universal quality. He says his recordings reflect his musical vision: solo and ensemble; acoustic and electric; original compositions and standards.
Gatsby Melodi' - Afro American Syndicate Jan. 04

Hoggard Interprets Duke: A Sacrament Of Sound

RIFFS - JAZZ NOTES October 28, 1999|By OWEN McNALLY; Hartford Courant Staff Writer

Jay Hoggard, a celebrated modern jazz vibraphonist, was nurtured as a youth by the comforting, inspiring sounds of church music.

His father, J. Clinton Hoggard, is a retired bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. His grandfather was a minister in the same denomination, as is his brother, Paul. His late mother, Eva, a teacher, also devoted much of her time to the church. Hoggard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

So it seems only natural that Hoggard is ideally suited for interpreting the sacred music of Duke Ellington, both on disc and in church settings, or, for that matter, anywhere else good music and good will are welcome.

Hoggard's inspired way with Duke's sacred music can be heard Nov. 7 at the 10 a.m. service at Hartford's historic Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 155 Wyllys St. Hoggard, a music professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, will lead his trio in a selection of pieces from his recent CD, ``Something 'Bout Believing'' on Twinz Records. He'll be accompanied by pianist Fred Simmons and bassist and longtime Hartford favorite Paul Brown.

``The service is free and open to the public, and we'd be glad to have anybody,'' says the Rev. Richard Silbereis, rector at the Church of Good Shepherd. ``We have jazz at the 10 a.m. services a couple times a year,'' the jazz-loving rector says.

Recently, Hoggard made a similar offering of Ellington's sacred music in an appearance at Hartford's Metropolitan AME Zion Church. And last spring, he mixed selections of sacred music with such swinging secular sounds as Duke's ``Harlem Airshaft'' at a Hartford Jazz Society concert dedicated to celebrating the centennial year of Ellington's birth.

One of the great moments in Hoggard's childhood occurred when he met Ellington, who was performing his sacred music in a church.

``On April 23, 1967, my father, Bishop J. Clinton Hoggard, took our family to the performance of Duke Ellington's `Sacred Concert' at Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem,'' Hoggard recalls in his liner notes for ``Something 'Bout Believing.''

``When the Ellington Orchestra mounted the pulpit and Duke strode out to the piano, I experienced an epiphany. Here, in our church, was the greatest band in the world performing swinging themes dedicated to God. It was jazz and it was God's music.

``At intermission, Dad took my brother Paul and me to the pastor's office, which Duke was using as his dressing room. Dad said, `Duke, this is my oldest son.' I was awestruck. My 12-year-old eyes fixated on this giant in a purple paisley evening jacket when he shook my hand and said, `Glad to meet you, son. Do you like the music?' Over the next few years, I began studying the vibraphone and gained further perspective on this momentary but life affecting encounter.

``I have been intimately influenced by Duke Ellington's sacred music for the past 30 years. For me, this music ranks among the great achievements of the 20th century.'' Hoggard says.

On the CD, Hoggard mixes familiar pieces, like ``Come Sunday'' and ``David Danced Before the Lord,'' with less familiar material such as ``Believing'' or ``Heaven,'' the CD's grand finale. The vibraphonist is at his most eloquent and expansive on ``Come Sunday.'' He creates a wide range of moods in his interpretations of the eight pieces. His CD soulmates are: James Weidman on piano and organ, Belden Bullock on bass and Pheeroan Aklaff on drums.

Hoggard is quoted on his boyhood idol in a new book called ``Duke Ellington: A Spiritual Biography'' (Crossroad, $19.99) by Janna Tull Steed. The book is billed as the first Ellington biography to delve deeply into the maestro's spirituality and sacred compositions.

Steed, an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, is an established authority on Ellington's sacred music. She was one of the producers of ``The Sacred Music of Duke Ellington,'' narrated by critic Stanley Crouch, an hourlong documentary that was part of the ``Duke Ellington Centennial Radio Project.'' 


Vibraphonist Brings Duke's Sacred Sounds

Riffs: Jax Notes May 20, 1999| By OWEN McNALLY; Hartford Courant Staff Writer

When vibraphonist Jay Hoggard was 13, his father took him to hear Duke Ellington perform his ``Second Sacred Concert'' at Harlem's Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

``During the break,'' Hoggard recalls, ``my father took me backstage to meet Ellington. He said, `Duke, I want you to meet my son.' 

``I remember looking up at Duke, and he seemed to be nine feet tall. I decided soon after that I wanted to play music.''

Now a little over 30 years later, Hoggard, one of the top-ranked modern vibraphonists, has come full circle by returning to his love for Ellington and for Duke's sacred music concerts.

Hoggard presents an all-Ellington concert Sunday at 3 p.m. for the Hartford Jazz Society at the Ramada Inn, East River Drive, East Hartford. The concert is the Jazz Society's way of celebrating the centennial year of Ellington's birth.

What promises to be one of Greater Hartford's finest Sunday jazz matinees in many years features Hoggard leading his quartet with James Weidman on piano, Belden Bullock on bass and Jesse Hameen on drums.

Vocalist Vanessa Rubin will make a cameo appearance. Even a cameo shot by this fine vocalist might well give you your money's worth. Rubin has a an album coming out soon called ``Language of Love,'' her debut on the Telarc label.

Hoggard's tribute to Duke will include selections from his new album, devoted to Ellington's sacred music, called ``Something 'Bout Believing.'' The disc, which will be available early next month, is being released by Twinz Records, a German label.

Hoggard has taken instrumental works from the Sacred Concerts and placed them in a quartet setting that is steeped in a classic 1940s-1950s small group ambiance.

While keeping the pieces' original orchestral sound in mind, Hoggard has fashioned lyrical combo renditions whose improvised lines are graced with something quite like vocal inflections.

``I keep the spirit of the music's words in mind when I'm playing. And I'm always trying to hear the melody in the same sense that Miles Davis did with his early and mid-50s recordings of pop songs or show tunes,'' Hoggard says.

To accentuate the melodic heart of the music, he keeps thinking, at least subconsciously, of a whole cast of great jazz singers, including such masters of lyrical inflection as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Carmen McRae, among others. 

If he could actually sing the lines he hears in his head, he would like to do it in a voice that would combine the best elements of ``maybe Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder or Luther Vandross, along with some Jon Hendricks kind of scatting.''

Because 1999 marks the centennial year of Ellington's birth, Hoggard has immersed himself in the ducal tradition.

An assistant professor of music at Wesleyan University in Middletown, he's been doing a lot of teaching about Ellington, the man and the music. And as director of Wesleyan's Jazz Orchestra, he has had his students working on the orchestral arrangements of the Sacred Concerts.

So cutting an album devoted to Ellington's sacred music is a natural step. And most particularly so for someone who was inspired to pursue music after meeting the great maestro himself at a sacred music concert.

Sacred music, whether of the Ellington brand or the classic spirituals of the black church, is a tradition Hoggard grew up with. Born Sept. 28, 1954, in Washington, D.C. (Ellington's hometown), he was raised in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., in a religious family.

His father, J. Clinton Hoggard, is a retired bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. His grandfather was a minister in the same denomination, as is his brother Paul. His mother, Eva, a teacher, has also devoted much of her life to the church.

As a youngster, Hoggard took piano lessons from his mother and studied alto saxophone in elementary school. It wasn't until he was 16, though, that he began playing the vibraphone. An odd looking, hard-to-lug-around instrument, it's not usually the first one to pop into the mind of a kid who's thinking about how to focus on music.

But for young Hoggard, the vibe of the vibes was literally the answer to a dream.

``One night I had a dream that I was playing the vibes. I asked my father to rent me a set. And from the first moment, I knew that this was what I was supposed to do,'' Hoggard says.

The vibraphonist has recorded prolifically, both as a leader and sideman, and performed throughout the world, including United States government-sponsored tours of North Africa, the Middle East and India.

The new disc opens with ``Something 'Bout Believing,'' the title tune. And, appropriately enough for sacred music, it ends with an entry into a work called ``Heaven.'' There's also an elegant rendition of ``Come Sunday,'' one of the best known themes from the Sacred Concerts, and a hip, eminently danceable romp, ``David Danced.''


Owen McNally Something Bout Believing - Hartford Courant