Virginia Mayhew

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About Virginia Mayhew


Saxophonist-composer-arranger VIRGINIA MAYHEW has been an active participant in the New York jazz scene since 1987. In the course of her career, Virginia has worked with such renowned artists as Earl "Fatha" Hines, Cab Calloway, Frank Zappa, James Brown, Norman Simmons, Al Grey, Junior Mance, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Doc Cheatam, Joe Williams, Leon Parker, Clark Terry, Kenny Barron, Chico O'Farrill, Ingrid Jensen, Claudio Roditi, Nnenna Freelon, and many others.

Virginia has appeared in most of the City's jazz venues, as well as performing throughout the United States, Europe, the Newly Independent States, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Australia, and Southeast Asia.
Virginia has performed at many jazz festivals as a leader, including the Monterey Jazz Festival, JVC Jazz Festival, Floating Jazz Festival, Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Jazz Festival, San Jose Jazz Festival, Guinness Cork (Ireland) Jazz Festival, Perth International Arts Festival, Melbourne Jazz Festival, Llangollen International Music Festival, Jazz At Sea, and many others.

Virginia has traveled twice as a representative of the United States as a Jazz Ambassador. The first tour (2001 to the Newly Independent States, formerly the USSR...Kazakhstan, Moldova, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine) featured the music of Louis Armstrong, and the second (2003 to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh) demonstrating the Latin and Brazilian influence on Jazz Music.

In addition, Virginia has established her credentials in the field of jazz education, both as a teacher of private students, as faculty at numerous jazz camps, (including Stanford Jazz Workshop, Monterey Jazz Festival summer camp, Litchfield Jazz Camp, and Jazz Camp West), and as an experienced clinician and Artist-In- Residence, (including Univ. of Mass, Univ. of Louisville, Bloomington Univ, Williams College, and others). She has worked with the exceptional program in Newark, NJ, "Jazz For Teens," and the innovative, "Jazz House Kids". She has traveled around the U.S.A. working as an adjudicator, teaching master classes, and working with school ensembles large and small. In addition, Virginia founded the very successful Jazz Workshop at the Greenwich House Music School in NYC.

For several years, Virginia worked with veteran trombonist Al Grey. She is featured on his 1992 release, FAB (Capri), and contributed several arrangements to his 1995 CD, "Centerpiece" (Telarc). Her arrangements were also performed during the "Battle Royale: Trombones and Alto Saxophones" concert, which was part of Jazz At Lincoln Center.
Virginia is the Musical Director and saxophonist of the Duke Ellington Legacy, a 9-piece group led by Ellington's grandson, Edward Kennedy Ellington II. The Ellington Legacy is dedicated to keeping Ellington's music through performances in schools, retirement communities, prisons, public concerts, and clubs. The group features piano great, Norman Simmons.

For several years, Virginia worked with Brazilian trumpet and flugelhorn player/ composer/arranger Claudio Roditi, as is a long-time member of the Howard Williams Big Band, Carl Thompson and Friends, and other NYC groups.

In addition to her small groups and septet, Virginia is also part of an exciting new project, “Dreamin’ the Duke”, featuring Nnenna Freelon and classical soprano, Harolyn Blackwell, rhythm, 3 horns and a string quartet. “Dreamin’ the Duke” had it’s debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and appeared recently at Tanglewood.



Virginia’s latest recording,"Mary Lou Williams - The Next 100 Years" honors an under-appreciated giant of Jazz, pianist/composer/arranger Mary Lou Williams. "MLW - The Next 100 Years" features trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, guitarist Ed Cherry, bassist Harvie S, drummer Andy Watson, and Virginia on tenor saxophone. Virginia did extensive listening and other research for this project, and wrote exciting new arrangements specifically for this group. The CD includes eight Mary Lou Williams pieces, including Cancer from the Zodiac Suite, What's Your Story Morning Glory, Medi I and II. Virginia was inspired to compose two pieces in honor of Mary Lou. This music has already been performed in Europe, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at Smalls Jazz Club in New York City, and many other places.
"Virginia Mayhew has excelled in every setting…offers a different perspective…intimate…robust…The leader’s originals also shine." The New York City Jazz Record Oct. 1, 2011
"…(two of the most) incisive minds in contemporary jazz…" Tim Wilkins, New Jersey Star Ledger
For more information on this and other Virginia Mayhew recordings, please go to

“ A Simple Thank You” (2008) with the Virginia Mayhew Septet, and The Ellington Legacy’s “Thank You Uncle Edward” (2008), are both larger ensembles.
The Virginia Mayhew Septet is the “Sandan Shuffle” rhythm section (Kenny Wessel, Harvie S, and Victor Jones), and a 4-horn front line. The Septet plays almost all originals, with a few of Virginia’s arrangements of standards. As with all of Virginia’s music, this is classic jazz with a twist. Downbeat calls “ A Simple Thank You” a “first-rate outing, ...a small big-band feel, a mainstream-with-twist sensibility, solid writing and inspired playing.”

Virginia is the band leader and saxophonist of the Duke Ellington Legacy, a 9-piece band led by Ellington’s namesake grandson, and featuring arrangements by Norman Simmons (and a few by Virginia).
The Legacy’s debut CD, “Thank You Uncle Edward," is a wonderful, fresh take on Ellington’s music, with new arrangements by Norman Simmons and Virginia. The Legacy has just recorded a new CD, yet to be titled, that will be released during the winter of 2011. The new CD features special guest Houston Person, with arrangements by Virginia and pianist Norman Simmons.
“Thank You Uncle Edward” is a “welcomed addition of arrangements and interpretation of the music of Duke Ellington” (Jazz Improv Magazine), and was chosen “New and Noteworthy” by JAZZIZ magazine.

"Sandan Shuffle” (2006) features Virginia's “new” quartet: Kenny Wessel on guitar, Harvie S on bass, and Victor Jones on drums. "Sandan Shuffle" has a more “modern” sound, the quartet is still straight-ahead Jazz, with a twist. Featuring originals and standards that are Latin-inspired, funky,
swingin’, ballads, or odd-meters that groove and re-arranged make this an accessible yet interesting and enjoyable outing. All About Jazz asks, “Who’s this Virginia Mayhew woman, anyway? Dexter Gordon’s daughter? Sonny Rollin’s niece? She plays the saxophone like a blood relative of those two giants”.

Phantoms 2003 Jazz Times: “Virginia Mayhew is a master of her arts.” Virginia's third CD as a leader, "Phantoms" (2003) on Renma Recordings features Ingrid Jensen, Harvie S, and Allison Miller. Members of Virginia's band over the course of 3 CDs and 7 years (10 for Ingrid), the group was a real, long-term ensemble.
"Phantoms" was chosen "Jazz Record of the Year" by Sound and Vision, and "CD of the Month" by FACE MAGAZINE, "Best 10 New Releases of the Year" by Royal Stokes of HYPERLINK "http://" With two horns, bass and drums, this group explored some less-well traveled Jazz territory..a more open sound, rhymic, funky, and beautiful, yet fresh.
Virginia and the "Phantoms" group were featured on NPR's "Jazzset" (an hour long feature), "Fresh Air", and on the web stream site, "All Songs Considered". "Phantoms" received a wonderful reception from all listeners/critics/musicians/radio hosts/etc. Virginia was also been featured this year in JazzTimes magazine and Jazz Improv magazine. Royal Stokes of the Jazz Journalists Association selected "Phantoms" as one of 2003's Top Ten Recordings.

Virginia's "No Walls"(2000) on the Renma Recordings label gathered rave reviews, and received a lot of airplay. “No Walls” features Kenny Barron, Ingrid Jensen and Harvie S, with Allison Miller on drums and Adam Cruz on percussion. "No Walls" was chosen Critics Pick 200l by JAZZIZ magazine, and one of the "Top
Ten of 2001" by Cadence Magazine. JAZZIZ: “My favorite disc of the young century...

About Virginia’s 1997 debut recording, “Nini Green,” Downbeat magazine said, “Four stars...a fresh, intelligent, polished player.” “Nini Green", on the Chiaroscuro label, received rave reviews from all corners of the jazz world. On this 1997 release, she is joined by long-time collaborators Ingrid Jensen, Harvie S, Adam Cruz, Leon Parker, and piano master, Kenny Barron. "Nini Green" was chosen "Best New Release” by both Cadence and JAZZIZ magazines.
For more on any of these recordings, please see the QUOTE page.


2011 - Duke Ellington Legacy, featuring special guest Houston Person - Renma Recordings
2011 - Mary Lou Williams - The Next 100 Years - Renma Recordings - Virginia Mayhew Quartet with special guest Wycliffe Gordon -
2010 - Urban Still Life- Lou Caputo - Jazzcat47 Records
2008 – Thank You Uncle Edward – the Duke Ellington Legacy – Renma Recordings
2008 – A Simple Thank You – the Virginia Mayhew Septet – Renma Recordings
2006 - Sandan Shuffle - Virginia Mayhew Group - Renma Recordings
2003 - Phantoms - Virginia Mayhew Group - Renma Recordings
2003 - New York Still Life - Lou Caputo Not-So-Big Band Jazzcat47 Records
2002 - Live At The Garage - Howard Williams Big Band
2000 - No Walls - Virginia Mayhew Group - Foxhaven Records
1999 - Intersect - Sharp Five - Consensus Records
1999 - Jazz Nativity - All-Star Jazz Christmas Extravaganza (featuring Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Jimmy Slyde, Dave Brubeck, Slide Hampton, etc.)
1998 - Deadlines and Commitments - Ursel Schlicht/Tony Romano Group
1997 - Leave It To Diva - Diva Big Band featuring Sherrie Maricle - Diva Ltd.
1997 - Nini Green - Virginia Mayhew Group - Chiaroscuro Records
1995 - Centerpiece (arrangements only) - Al Grey Group – Telar c
1994 - No Man's Band - Diva Big Band featuring Sherrie Maricle -
1992 - Fab - Al Grey Group (Capri)
1991 - Lady Bird - Sahib Shihab Big Band
1990 - It's About Time - Virginia Mayhew/Rebecca Franks Group - Philology Records

Virginia Mayhew joined the JazzTimes community on Oct 12, 2011