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John Kocur

“Alto saxophonist John Kocur isn’t called “The Smoker” for nothing. He’s simply one of the finest soloists the D.C. jazz scene has to offer-and, it turns out, one of its most promising composers and bandleaders, too.” -Michael J. West, Washington City Paper

Jazz saxophonist and composer John Kocur is captivating new audiences by putting an adventurous yet accessible spin on a classic tradition. Kocur’s compositions have been described as “mainly straight-ahead and clearly influenced by the playing of past masters such as Johnny Hodges and Cannonball Adderley, but they are not simply derivative. The ballads in particular display a maturity in writing and playing” (Bruce Lindsay, All About Jazz). While highlighting original music, the Quartet also creates unique interpretations of popular American songs from past and present. The group’s style is an intimate, all-acoustic format, where the music takes center stage. Recent performances by the John Kocur Quartet have included venues such as Blues Alley, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, the DC Jazz Festival, Twins Jazz, and the Phillips Collection. Kocur’s first album, “The Smoker” is available for sale online and at performances. The compilation of all original compositions was WAMMIE-nominated in 2009.

John fell in love with the possibilities of the saxophone at the age of 10 while performing in the school band program in Medford, NY. After studying music at the university level, John embarked on a full-time career in music performance and education. In 2008, John was one of six musicians selected as an Artist-In-Residence at the Strathmore Performing Arts Center in Bethesda, MD, through which he presented a series of solo concerts and lectures. In 2010, John was selected for the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency program at the John F. Kennedy Center, where he worked with jazz legends such as Curtis Fuller, Dr. Billy Taylor, Carmen Lundy, George Cables, and Winard Harper.

In addition to leading his own group, John has performed as a sideman with the Thad Wilson Jazz Orchestra, Capital Focus Jazz Band, and the Too Damn Big Orchestra. In addition, he frequently collaborates with musicians in other genres, playing with progressive hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon and bluegrass duo Herb and Hanson. John has proudly performed overseas at the Jazz Ascona Festival in Switzerland and the first annual Nagano Jazz Festival in Japan. Throughout his career, he has shared the stage with jazz artists such as Benny Golson, Fred Wesley, Jimmie Owens, Freddie Redd, and Buck Hill.

As an educator, John has given workshops and lectures at universities and high schools. He currently teaches jazz and saxophone at Northern Virginia Community College(NOVA) in Alexandria, VA. He is both founder and director of the NOVA Alexandria Jazz Ensemble. John continues to be grateful for the instruction and inspiration offered by his teachers: Dale Underwood, James Carroll, Charlie Young III, and Dr. Sais Kamalidiin. John holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from George Mason University and a Master of Music Degree in Jazz Studies from Howard University.

John is currently a member of the DC Federation of Musicians Local 161-710 and the Washington Area Music Association.