Jay Hoggard - Vibraphonist / Composer

Vibraphonist, Composer Jay Hoggard’s music has touched the hearts and souls of listeners around Planet Earth for  40 years. Jay’s music is positive, spiritual, uplifting, and happy. He masterfully draws on traditional and contemporary musical vocabulary to develop new directions for the vibraphone. Jay seamlessly blends 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 Hoggard has long ranked with the greatest vibraphone innovators. He has been one of the most enduring and innovative masters on his instrument since the 1970s.  A direct musical descendant of  Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Lem Winchester, and Bobby Hutcherson, Hoggard’s omni-directional artistry encompasses the myriad musical dimensions of the African Diaspora and its spiritual resonances 

 Born in Washington, DC, Jay Hoggard was raised in Mt. Vernon, New York in a religious family. His father was a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion denomination and his mother was an elementary school teacher with an MA in special education. Duke Ellington's music was a family affair that sparked his career as a musician. “My father was involved in presenting the premiere of the Second Sacred Concert in 1967 at  Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem. I was 12,” Hoggard says. “I got to meet Ellington, and that was a life-changing experience. That was before I started playing the vibraphone.” 

At age 15, Jay began his pursuit of 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 renown World Music program at Wesleyan University . He toured Europe and played at Carnegie Hall during his freshman year. In his junior year, he traveled to Tanzania to study East African marimba music. Jay graduated from Wesleyan in 1976 and returned to New York City in 1977 to be proclaimed a young lion of the vibraphone. 

 Jay’s newest recording, RAISE YOUR SPIRIT CONSCIOUSNESS, is his eighth release on the JHVM label. The album delivers 12 tracks, featuring eight original compositions along with stunning and swinging re-imaginations of compositions by Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington, Thad Jones and Stevie Wonder.  As Hoggard wrote in the  liner notes, “The music in this recording is intended to help you Raise Your Spirit Consciousness. It is grounded in African-derived global rhythms. The goal is to merge the sacred and the secular in the realm of thanksgiving for our everyday blessings. Let everything that has breath make a joyful noise to praise God.”   

Collaborating with Hoggard on this splendid recording is a cadre of  long-time associates:  DWIGHT ANDREWS  soprano sax and bass clarinet,  NAT ADDERLEY, JR  piano JAMES WEIDMAN organ and piano, PHEEROAN AKLAFF drums, and KENNY DAVIS bass.   “Nat, Pheeroan, and I were members of Dwight's band, Déjà Vu, based in New Haven when we were students, from 1975 through 1980”, Hoggard fondly remembers. “James used to sub for Nat in that group .....and Kenny and I have a long history going back to the mid 1980s. So, we've all been playing together for more than 40 years. We're all friends and colleagues. We all know each other's styles, and we're all still able to be really tight.”    

The tightness of this ensemble is evident throughout the album; both on the Hoggard-penned originals and the classic covers. Jay conceptualized this recording in the lineage of the many historic vibraphone/ saxophone/ organ/ piano/ bass/ drum collaborations recorded at the legendary Van Gelder Studios in New Jersey. RAISE YOUR SPIRIT CONSCIOUSNESS resonates with the innovations of so many of the master musicians who participated in those sessions.   

The lead selection, "Holy Spirit Consciousness", is a move your body, Praise Party groove. "Peace to You My Children"  bounces with a zesty, Afro-Bop bounce while "I Want Love, I Don’t Want Hate" is syncopated in reggae riddims. "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", swings with the joy of a Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, while Stevie Wonder’s "Bird of Beauty", soars with an infectious, carnival-rhythmed samba beat. "Toe Dance for a Baby" bops with a 12/8-time signature propelled in the styles of Art Blakey and Elvin Jones.   

 "In the Beginning / Praise God" are two selections from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts, played with a cool and compelling Afro-Cuban clave rhythm. "Worship God in Spirit, Truth and Love"  is a lyrical, contemporary gospel meditation. The ensemble maintains the classic jazz majesty of Wayne Shorter’s masterpiece, "Deluge".  "Both Feet On the Ground", as composer Hoggard  states, “goes one step beyond”, using his generation’s musical vocabulary. Thad Jones beautiful ballad, "A Child Is Born" is dedicated to Hoggard’s newborn grandson, while  "Primordial Aqua Mist" is a spontaneous textured composition, invoking more abstracted imagery.   

Jay’s previous CD, released in 2016 on the JHVM label, is HARLEM HIEROGLYPHS. This two disc recording features Gary Bartz saxophones, James Weidman piano,organ, Nat Adderley,Jr piano,organ, Belden Bullock bass, and Yoron Israel drums. Noted jazz writer Owen McNally declared in his Jazz Corridor column for WNPR.org : “ Hoggard has created a triumphant jazz album, a dramatic showcase for his diverse composing skills… While the standards get royal treatment, Hoggard’s originals are the album’s crown jewels. Among these are the celebratory rent party special, "Harlem Jazzbirds Swingin’ and Swayin’"; "Sonic Hieroglyphs," an ode to jazz’s sophisticated sonic semiotics, signs and symbols expressing the sweet and bittersweet mysteries of life, and Disposable Consumption, landscaped with brilliant corners and a mysterious motif of sharp consciousness morphing in and out of an edgy, subconscious dream state… Throughout, there’s the underlying theme of the hieroglyphs of jazz, the music’s uniquely creative, emblematic lexicon, alive with nuance and layers of symbolic meaning. Hoggard’s striking gallery of sonic portraits reflects many inspirations, both artistic and personal, that nourish his imagination…Harlem Hieroglyphs is alive with open-ended potential, perhaps even as the foreshadowing of a historical and culturally-oriented musical theater work graced with evocative narrative pieces resonating with cultural relevance. Or the album could be the gateway to programmatic tonal suites as painterly as the works by such great African-American artists as Jacob Lawrence, a master chronicler of the African-American experience, including his celebrated Migration Series. … Part of what fuels Hoggard’s soaring, imaginative flights are his passion for jazz in all its historic and cultural breadth and depth, and his fascination with the legacy of Harlem’s Golden Age, its rich, vibrant social and cultural life from sacred churches to secular shrines for jazz…Along with a host of aesthetic, intellectual and psychological inspirations resides his deep-seated sense of family, pride in its roots and history. Moved by spirituality, scholarly intensity and uncompromising integrity, the composer/savant is on a mission to use his artistic gifts to spread the good word about the power and the glory of jazz’s hieroglyphs, those myriad, mysterious, sub rosa, miraculously redemptive messages that have left a profoundly expressive, ineffable yet indelible mark on America’s creative consciousness.”   

 Jay Hoggard’s other recordings on the JHVM label, THE RIGHT PLACE, SONGS OF SPIRITUAL LOVE, SWING ‘EM GATES, SOULAR POWER, CHRISTMAS VIBES ALL THRU THE YEAR, and SOLO FROM TWO SIDES, give  listeners an opportunity to experience the many sides of this  significant and vital musician.   

 About CHRISTMAS VIBES ALL THRU THE YEAR, Jay says "This recording is about the joy, peace, love, and happiness that should traverse the world during the holiday seasons and throughout the whole year. I am a Christian, and this recording is about the reason for the Christmas season: the observance and re-enactment of the circumstances of the birth of Jesus. But this music is also an offering to human beings of all faiths and non- faiths, of the beautiful sounds of which I am blessed to be one of many, many channeling spirits." This trio recording features James Weidman on organ and piano and Bruce Cox on the drums. 

 SOLO FROM TWO SIDES is a beautiful program of 13 Jay Hoggard compositions performed by the composer on both vibraphone and marimba, by way of digital overdubbing. SOULAR POWER, released  Fall 08, is an exquisite set of eleven Jay Hoggard compositions and one jazz standard. As Hoggard says, “this CD has the feel of a live performance with the benefit of studio quality sound. New tunes are combined with others that have evolved in performance over the years. I am about music that is both aesthetically pleasing for your mind and spirit, and physically healing for your body and soul. The power of soul is a mystical paradigm of consciousness transformation .” 

 SOULAR POWER swings with great sonic balance among its instruments and artists. Pianist/ organist James Weidman, bassist Belden Bullock, and drummer Yoron Israel have performed and recorded as an ensemble with Jay for more than fifteen years. Their performances here are of a caliber that can only be delivered by long associated, empathetic collaborators.   

 SWING 'EM GATES, is a tribute to the late vibraphone grand master Lionel Hampton. “Eight of the compositions on this recording are tunes that I played when Lionel Hampton sent me to sub for him with his band in the 1990’s…Once, when Hamp called me to play for him, I asked what tunes he wanted. He replied, ’Just swing ‘em,gates.’ ” That conversation was the inspiration for Jays’ composition of the same name as well as the direction of this musical tribute to Hampton in Hoggard’s musical voice The recording features stellar performances by top New York collaborators with a guest appearance by piano master, Dr. Billy Taylor on three tunes. 

 Jay Hoggard has been honored and commissioned as a composer in various contexts. In 2016 he collaborated with choreographer Nicole Stanton and writer Lois Brown on STORIED PLACES, premiered at Wesleyan University.  In 2009, he was commissioned by dance troupe Sankofa Kuumba and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra to write THE OTHER SIDE OF THE OCEAN and LET ME MAKE IT CLEAR. Previously, Jay collaborated with 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. He 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. 

 As a performer, Jay Hoggard has toured the globe to rave reviews. He has performed in many of the finest venues of music presentation throughout the United States , Africa Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Jay has performed in major venues (Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Schomberg Center) jazz festivals (St. Lucia. JVC, Montreux, Mt.Fuji, Pori, Hartford), colleges, universities, churches, galleries, libraries, and clubs around the globe. Jay has been featured on radio (NPR, Pacifica) and television (ABC Times Square, CBS Sunday Morning, BETJazz) 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, 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. 

Jay Hoggard is a tenured professor at his alma mater Wesleyan University, where for the past 32 years he has directed the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra and has taught and mentored thousands of student musicians. For him, RAISE YOUR SPIRIT CONSCIOUSNESS is a pathway to a higher awareness of being. “I'm trying to give my audience something that they can immediately grab on to, and then they'll be challenged to go into another space … that's what I'm trying to do with this record.”