(alto saxophone, clarinet, arranger, composer, producer)
Joey “G-Clef” Cavaseno started his professional Jazz career as a prodigy, as he was discovered initially by Lionel Hampton from within the ranks of the McDonald’s Tri-State Jazz Ensemble at the age of 17. Hampton featured Cavaseno on clarinet mainly performing the Benny Goodman / Lionel Hampton duet material, and he took a young Joey with him, along with drummer Kenny Washington, on various concerts and TV Shows in the New York area. From there he began performing regularly with legendary trumpeter Doc Cheatham, with whom he recorded the live album “Echoes of Harlem” (Stash Records) at 18 years old. Cheatham impressively proclaimed at the time, “The kid is tearing up New York!” Joey began making rounds, and being hired by a Who’s Who in Jazz History, by names including Clark Terry (Duke Ellington), Carrie Smith, Major Holley, George Kelly, Frank Lacy, Art Baron and the Duke’s Men, Aaron Bell (Duke Ellington), Henry Butler, Weldon Irvine, Jimmy “Preacher” Robins, Bill Doggett, Melvin Sparks, Bross Townsend, and many others. He also performed regularly as part of Bobby Forester’s organ trio/quartet for years, including a residency at the famous Showman’s Cafe in Harlem, with legendary Joe Dukes as the drummer.
His main longterm stints were with Illinois Jacquet Big Band, Panama Francis and the Savoy Sultans, and Arvell Shaw and the Louis Armstrong Legacy Band, where he put in about 12 years with each band. With the legendary jazz master Jacquet, Cavaseno performed in the lead alto saxophone chair, and did some assistant arranging work as well. He was also featured on the grammy-nominated album “Jacquet’s Got It” (Altantic Records), and worked with him intermittently between 1986 and 1998. On that particular album, Cavaseno was a featured soloist alongside luminaries such as Marshall Royal, Milt Hinton, Duffy Jackson, Jon Faddis, and others. With Panama Francis, he replaced Bobby Watson as lead alto saxophone, and also became the band’s musical director, as well as penning some arrangements. With Arvell Shaw, he played both soprano saxophone and clarinet, as well as appearing on the group’s only official recording, “Arvell Shaw and the Armstrong Legacy”, released in 1992 (Victoria Records).
Cavaseno’s work with his own groups, and with jazz greats as well, have taken him to over 39 countries, and various historic venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Supper Club, The China Club, Windows on the World, Sweet Basil, the Blue Note, Sonny’s Place, The Village Gate, The Village Vanguard, Carlos I, Swing 46, DeFemmio’s, The Cornerstone Pub, The Showman’s Cafe, as well as countless others.
In Cavaseno’s early career, he presented his own group at the young age of 19 for a week-long engagement at Carlos I Jazz Club and received favorable reviews in both the New York Times and New York Post. Around this time he was also given a very positive writeup by Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice, “an exceptional young musician with strong roots….so much feeling.” In 1991, Cavaseno was featured in 2 concerts at the J.V.C. Jazz Festival in New York City. At these concerts, he shared the stage with stars such as Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, Jon Faddis, Buddy Tate, Harry “Sweets” Edison and various others.
Cavaseno’s musical style, jazz-wise can be described as soulful, melodic, hard-swinging, within the traditions of swing and be-bop, but he is not limited in scope nor direction, as he has long had a parallel career in the Hip-Hop musical genre, as both an emcee and producer. He became known for pioneering an innovative blend of Jazz and Hip-Hop from within the Rap Music world, but by 1998 he was ready to embark on the same, but this time from within the Jazz side of things.
In 1998, several members of the Illinois Jacquet Big Band began jamming on their own to create a smaller group. Tapes were sent out, and the Yalloppin’ Hounds were born. Doors swung open like mad for the Hounds, as it was the height of the modern swing craze and young people were rediscovering Swing culture. Gigs were abundant, and in no time, Cavaseno found himself working 6 shows per week, with little or no time for his straight jazz or hip-hop careers. He was now a musical pioneer in a strange new idiom: Modern Swing. Joey knew what his contribution had to be, and he began, for the first time, combining his talents as a rap lyricist/producer and jazz composer/arranger, writing complete songs in a style he called “ghetto swing”.
The Yalloppin’ Hounds have since possessed the distinction of being the first band in the world to combine the elements of traditional Swing with Hip-Hop stylings, creating a unique and excitingly fresh hybrid. The band, currently weighing in at seven pieces, sounds like a much bigger group, due to the tight section riffing by the horns, and the constant driving beat. Contrary to many early misconceptions, the Hounds are neither neo-craze jump band nor a rap crew; they are a group of musicians and vocalists of the highest caliber who swing and/or groove hard with relaxed precision. Since their first incarnation in 1998, the Hounds have grown from a vibrantly authentic swing/jazz band to producing some of the most universal original music of the new millennium.
A key factor, and perhaps the most important of all, is the wealth of original material brought forth by the Hounds. With a focus on material with decidedly less trite subject matter than one would come to expect from today’s Modern Swing, songwriter/arranger Cavaseno chooses to portray real-life scenarios more-so than a retro tone. Strong, catchy melodies, as well as a hard-driving rhythm are the vibe, sparked by the raw abandon of the Hounds. “G-Clef” has penned songs that have become underground hits. Their music has been heard two Motion Picture Films, “Nola” and “Dead Pet”, as well as commercials by Planned Parenthood, and on Showtime, on the show “Weeds”. The group, which remains active today in 2013, has released a total of 6 albums to date, and still available via retail as well as digital distribution.
As of 2016 Joey “G-Clef” Cavaseno has been bringing out his Jazz Quartet, playing at traditional jazz venues such as home base “Smalls” in New York City. Featured in the group are legendary bassist Gene Perla (Elvin Jones, Frank Foster), Jeremy Bacon (Don Pullen) on piano, and drummer David Gibson (Illinois Jacquet/Frank Foster).