Since 1998 James has been leading the Masked Marvels, assembling an ever expanding core of energetic and razor-sharp musicians, ranging from three to nine pieces, to showcase the masterworks of legendary bassist/composer Charles Mingus. James and The Masked Marvels break open Mingusâ€™ compositions and bring them to life before live audiences throughout the area and on record with the 2002 release, Live at the Block. Merenda and the MMs donâ€™t treat the works like something to be seen and not touched, but instead use them as a launch pad for innovative and incendiary improvisation. The Masked Marvels have performed at Bostonâ€™s Hatch Memorial Shell, WGBH radio, WERS radio, Ryles Jazz Club, Zeitgeist Gallery, The Acton Jazz Cafe, the Gardner Museum and many more venues and have been featured in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Cadence Magazine.
James also performs on piano with the James Merenda Trio and in a duo setting with vocalist Vanessa Morris. He currently collaborates on the experimental, improvisational project Noise is Musicâ€™s Dream of Us and with bassist John Voigtâ€™s Something Different Series. James has also led and performed with Portrait of Mingus, Tribute to Horace Silver, Phenus Khaben and Perilous Foil.
Creating a thriving jazz scene for musicians of all levels to play live and make connections, James has been hosting weekly and monthly open jam sessions at Costelloâ€™s in Jamaica Plain, the Center for Arts in Natick and Matt Murphyâ€™s Pub in Brookline since 2001.
Always active, James has performed with; Ran Blake at the Knitting Factory, the Darmstadt Jazz Festival in Germany and recorded on Hatology Records; with Roswell Rudd and Beat Science, Cameron Brown, Joe McPhee, Joe Hunt, former Ornette Coleman keyboardist Dave Bryant, Grammy Award winning pianist David Maxwell, the Either/Orchestra, the Ardvark Orchestra, the Slip, contemporary guitarists Marc Ribot, David Fiuczynsdi, Dave Tronzo and with drummer Bob Gullotti. James has also performed on Radio France, Radio Europa in Italy and in Holland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium with Perilous Foil.
As an educator James has created a curriculum infusing classic music instruction with third stream concepts to students ranging in age from infant to age twelve at Paige Academy in Boston. Heâ€™s led jazz ensemble classes at New England Conservatory of Music and Northeastern University and is currently on the staff of the N.U. Department of Music. Since 1992 James has taught privately and since 1994 he has taught piano at the Brookline Music School. A native of Brooklyn, New York, James is a 1991 graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, studying with Ran Blake, George Garzone, Geri Allen and George Russell.
- See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/camd/music/people/james-merenda/#sthash.4eqmVW6B.dpuf
About the Jam:
The jam balances high level playing with a spirit of welcome and
community. Five host bands take turns making your visit to the jam a
rewarding and enjoyable experience. Each week a different group and each
week a different feel. Here you can hone your skills and trade lick's
with some of the finest players in the area. Whether you're a pro or a
student, you'll have a great time.
"Back in the days before jazz education moved into the conservatory,
kids who wanted to watch a jazz performance or sit in with the band had
to sneak into the smoke-filled bars where the musicians congregated. Now
the access to the material is much more immediate through the multiple
sources of media that are immediately accessible to us. Unfortunately
the jazz club environment that spawned and nurtured American jazz has
almost completely died out and young musicians have virtually no outlet
for performance in front of a live, non-academic audience. We have
created just such an environment minus the booze and cigarette smoke, on
Tuesday nights where a high level group of professional jazz musicians
comes in and performs a set and then opens things up for people to sit
in." Jamie Stewardson director of Jazz Rivers Music School, Weston MA
Our Jam Leaders
1st Tuesdays Daryl Lowery w/ Berklee College Faculty
2nd Tuesdays Ted Knowlton
3rd Tuesdays Joe Raia
4th Tuesdays James Merenda
5th Tuesdays Kaoruko
Bill Jones (sax) Rick Stone (sax) Jason Yeager (piano); Dan Fox (Trombone) ; David Eure (Violin)