Mike Assad, percussion

[B.M., University of Kentucky; M.M., University of Memphis]
Mike Assad has performed as a freelance drummer and percussionist for more than a decade. Since moving to Memphis in 2001, he has performed regularly with local artists such as Neptune‘s Army featuring Ed Finney, the Charlie Wood Trio, and the Michael Jeffery Stevens Trio. He has also performed with various big bands and orchestras including the New Memphis Hepcats, the Memphis Jazz Orchestra, and the Corinth Symphony Orchestra. Mike has studied with Miles Osland, Steve Davis, Donnie Patterson, Ed Murray, Jack Cooper, and Tim Goodwin. He has performed in master classes for clinicians such as Michael Brecker, Benny Golson, James Moody, John Riley, Stanley Cowell, Stanley Turrentine, Jerry Coker, Sir Rolland Hanna, and Clark Terry. Mike was also chosen by audition for the Richard Davis Jazz Residency Workshop Series presented by the Lexington Arts Council. Currently, Mike also teaches drum set at the University of Memphis and the Memphis Drum Shop.


John Bass, guitar

[B.M., University of Southern Mississippi; M.M., Ph.D., University of Memphis ]
John Bass serves as Program Manager for the Mike Curb Institute for Music and Assistant Professor of Music. In addition to directing the Rhodes Jazz Ensemble and instructing jazz guitar students, Dr. Bass teaches classes on the Music of Africa and African American Music. He has been an active jazz guitarist in the Memphis area for over 10 years and has performed on stage with Bob Berg, Ira Sullivan, Bob Brookmeyer, Pat Bergeson, Mundell Lowe, and Kirk Whalum. He is a founding member of the Bluff City String Project, an acoustic jazz group that focuses on American and European jazz from the 1920s and 1930s.

Dr. Bass holds two degrees in jazz performance from the University of Southern Mississippi (B.M.) and the University of Memphis (M.M.), and a Ph.D. in historical musicology from the University of Memphis. The focus of his doctoral work and scholarship has centered on the improvisatory practices of the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods; he has presented scholarly papers at national and international conferences and his articles have appeared in Early Music and Performance Practice Review.  Dr. Bass is also an early music performer on lute, theorbo, and baroque guitar, and appears regularly with local early music ensembles.


Gerald Stephens, jazz piano

[B.F.A. and M.M., University of Memphis]
Gerald Stephens began piano lessons at age 7 and continued with classical piano throughout high school and into college at Memphis State, where he also began learning jazz. He played trombone for eight years in high school and college marching and concert bands. Gerald learned the recording studio in college, and received a BFA in Commercial Music/Recording Technology in 1995 from the University of Memphis. He began teaching piano lessons and performing professionally in 1994, and taught piano with Germantown Baptist Conservatory from 1997 until 2007.  He began teaching at the University of Memphis in 2002, first in the Community Music School, and since 2005 in the Jazz department. In 2011, he became adjunct professor of jazz piano at Rhodes College in Memphis. Mr. Stephens has been in demand as a blues and jazz pianist in the Mid-South area since 1995, and has performed with many notable musicians of local and international fame, including Levon Helm, Hugh Masekela, The Memphis Horns, Antonio Hart, Annie Sellick, and Valerie June. Currently he continues to teach part-time at Rhodes and U of M, while performing solo, collaborating with various groups, and recording his own music. Gerald has returned to classical studies in piano, and received a Master′s degree in Piano Performance in 2014 from the University of Memphis. He has been on many local album releases, including Red Trio (2005) and Groundspeak’s Local Language (2007).  Cycles (2013) is his first solo release, bringing together jazz, jam rock, and world music influences.


Bob Sunda, jazz bass

[Western Michigan University, Ohio State University, Capital University]
Bob Sunda is a versatile musician with over twenty years of professional experience, from orchestras to trios, performing a wide variety of musical styles utilizing an extensive repertoire of classical, top 40, rock, rhythm and blues, and jazz.  He has performed in concerts with jazz greats including Mose Allison, saxophonist Ritchie Cole, trumpeter Randy Brecker and pianists Elaine Elias, Patti Braun and Carmen Cavilero and has toured internationally with his own jazz quartet, Chromazone.  Mr. Sunda has worked with a variety of musicians, recording and performing with Cajun, Jazz, Zydeco and Blues artists from the Mississippi Delta area and has taught music clinics and workshops in various universities and privately throughout his career in the U.S. and overseas.


Carl Wolfe, saxophone

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr. Wolfe began his musical career performing with local “Philly” groups and worked as a studio musician. In the spring of 1964 he enlisted in the United States Navy and began as a Navy musician. During his tenure he became a featured soloist with the Navy’s premier jazz ensemble, the “Commodores” in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Wolfe’s post-Navy solo career includes performances with Ray Charles, Doc Severinsen, James Williams, Marvin Stamm, Arturo Sandoval and many other jazz artists, as well as solo performances with several symphony orchestras including the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Wolfe works as a studio musician, arranger/composer and is co-founder and co-director of the Memphis Jazz Orchestra. They have recorded two CDs, Life on Beale Street (featuring several of his arrangements) and Big Band Dance Party. Mr. Wolfe’s 1997 Jazz CD release Reed Between The Lines received critical acclaim in several media publications including Jazz Times magazine and was nominated for a Grammy.

Also a music historian, he has researched, arranged and authentically re-orchestrated Music Aboard The Titanic, which is featured at the Wonders, Inc. Traveling Titanic Exhibit, and W. C. Handy’s Beale Street (Way Down South Where The Blues Began) which recreated Handy’s Beale Street band using the exact instrumentation and style of the period.