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Manhattan, NYC native, trumpeter and composer Jonathan Saraga has been said by All About Jazz to possess the musical “wisdom and maturity of veterans more than twice his age,” and that “his chops, lust for musical life and don't-box-me-into-a-stylistic-corner mentality make him seem like the musical offspring of trumpeters Dave Douglas and Ambrose Akinmusire."
Jonathan's professional music career officially began in 2002 when he was cast as an orchestral trumpeter in the Paramount film, Changing Lanes. That same year he would begin performing at the Jazz Standard (NYC) with their Youth (jazz) Orchestra. In '05, after receiving the Fred Mazart Music Award as he began his collegiate studies, Jonathan Saraga would win the 2007 International Trumpet Guild Jazz Solo Competition, and shortly after receiving his Bachelor of Music degree, he competed again, this time as one of five finalists in the 2009 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Competition. Saraga was also one of two trumpeters selected from an international pool to participate in the 2010 School for Improvisational Music summer intensive program, just before completing graduate school.
Since obtaining his Master's degree as a performing artist in 2011, Jonathan received an audition for the 2014 Juilliard Artist Diploma in Jazz Trumpet, having been one of only two trumpeters even considered. He also has gone on to participate in the 2015 Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music summer intensive program in Alberta, Canada, another organization with international selectivity and acclaim. Even on the jazz scene in NYC, Saraga is uniquely recognized, performing as a featured musician as part of the Young Emerging Artists Series and the Night Artist Series at the Bar Next Door, as well as the Emerging Players Series for Festival of New Trumpet Music. He has been subject to interview by FONT, The Trumpet Blog, and has had his life and work featured by Fluke Productions in London, the International Trumpet Guild, and All About Jazz.
Jonathan has performed his original music with his own groups at the Shapeshifter Lab and Smalls, which Down Beat consideres to be two of the best jazz clubs in the world. His ensembles have also appeared at Seeds, Sycamore, the Douglas St. Music Collective, iBeam, the University of the Streets, to name only a few other venues. As a leader he has produced two albums so far,Contrumplation, which features trumpeter Adam O'Farrill, and First Vision, which features his quintet.
First Vision showcases all Saraga-penned original works, and has been stated by All About Jazz to be "...a skillfully conceived and exquisitely realized debut that brings to mind the edgy, envelope-pushing hard bop of many a Blue Note record in the early 1960s." They have even hailed it as a "...stand up and take notice musical offering...," and speak of it's "...rare blend of individuality and maturity..." World-renowned trumpeter Jim Rotondi deems Jonathan's playing on the album as "unique" and "inventive", and says that it breaths "soul, intelligence, great technique and acute musical awareness." The album, which features all original compositions by Saraga showcases "...highly creative playing and writing...all done with a strong and fresh ensemble concept," as declared by award winning saxophonist Jon GordonThe album has received air-play throughout the east-coast on stations like 90.3 FM the Core, Weaa 88.9, and BreakThru Radio's show the Jazz Hole. It has since been adopted by the Blue Truffle Music record label, and continues to circulate.
Jonathan's small-group formats have included the likes of Jeff Hirshfield, Scott Lee, Matt Brewer, and Gerald Cleaver, but he has done more than perform his own compositions and arrangements, he's had them featured by other ensembles, including The Erica Seguine/Shannon Baker Jazz Orchestra, the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Orchestra, and the Eco-Music Big Band. In addition, Helix, a piece he co-wrote with Israeli pianist Avishai Darash was recorded in Israel on Avi's record the Helix Kweentet.
Aside from gigging around the big apple as a leader, Jonathan works as a side-man at clubs such as Birdland, the Blue Note, Smoke, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, The Jazz Standard, and the Curring Room to name only a few venues. Jonathan has made appearances at some of the larger performance spaces around the city as well, including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Rose Hall, Symphony Space, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Barclay's Center. He has also worked extensively as a lead-trumpeter in the off-Broadway pits of shows like Guys and Dolls, Sweet Charity, A Chorus Line, the Wild Party, and Anything Goes, to name a few productions. Beyond the 5-borrows, Saraga's trumpet playing has reached audiences at numerous jazz festivals throughout NY State, including Cadence, Peekskill, Rochester, Albany, and Blue Note; but his musical travels don't stop there. In addition to having toured the U.S. as a lead trumpeter with an off-Broadway production of Damn Yankees, Jonathan's abilities have taken him throughout Panama, Malaysia, Haiti, France, and the Caribbean Isles.
Besides professing a passion and skill-set for the playing music within the "jazz" idiom, Jonathan has had the experience of presenting music inspired by other genres, cultures, and walks of life. He has performed many times at the New Life Expo, and has musically aided art exhibitions, Yoga, and Meditation classes, poetry readings, and has even coriographed and scored modern dance pieces, reaching audiences at St. Peter's Church at the Citicorp Center, The Tibet House, Triskelion Arts the Firehouse Space, the Jewish Community Center, and the New York Insight Meditation Centerm, to name only a few venues.
As he continues onward along the path of a performing artist, Jonathan also makes time to coach aspiring musicians, both younger and wiser. In addition to continuing his service as an educator at the Gramercy Brass Band Camp, going on 6 years, Jonathan leads multi-instrument ensembles and group trumpet classes at public schools throughout the five boroughs as part of the Afro Latin Jazz Academy of Music. On his own, he presents master-classes and workshops at public and private institutions; prior schools include Wagner Middle School, PS 126/MAT, and the Lyceum Kennedy School.