To celebrate our heritage as America’s leading purveyor of fedoras and classic caps, we’re celebrating America’s artform, capturing three contemporary talents and one living legend against some of New York’s most iconic backdrops.
Trends come and go, but the classics endure.
It’s true in music as it is in style, and to prove it we hit the streets of NYC with contemporary jazz talents Wallace Roney Jr., Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, and Sasha Berliner, plus legendary sax player Houston Person, all styled in our signature fedoras and classic caps. After catching some inspiring impromptu performances at Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace and Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem, we came away convinced that jazz’s future is as vibrant as its past.
Get to know our cast below.
“I don’t want to say it was destiny,” says 25-year-old trumpet player Wallace Roney Jr. about becoming a jazz musician, “but it was bound to happen sooner or later.” His roots in the genre run deep. The son of the late great trumpet player and Miles Davis protégé Wallace Roney Sr., his extended family includes “so many musicians it’s crazy.” Perhaps it’s less destiny than natural birthright.
“I’ve been playing trumpet for as long as I can remember. But as I got more serious, it became a deep love and admiration for the people who came before me.” Growing up with a father fully in the scene, Roney Jr. got to study more than a few legends up close. Seeing Freddie Hubbard play at the Iridium as a 12-year-old was “like meeting Superman.”
“A lot of the elders see the importance in paving the way for young musicians like myself,” he says, “so I want to do right by respecting the history and culture while trying to move it forward in my own way.”
And so if it is a birthright, he takes it seriously. “Without getting too dramatic, this is life or death for me,” he says. “There’s the way we communicate using words, and the way I communicate thoughts and feelings with my instrument. When I’m in that state. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s an out-of-body thing.”
“Jazz is dance music. It’s music to make you move and have fun with it. Instead of trying to intellectualize it.” — Houston Person
“New York is the epicenter of jazz,” says saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown. “After all these years, it’s still the place to be.”
But good luck catching him in the city. In high demand as a touring sideman and session player—in addition to leading his own band—he’ll likely be in Havana one day and Texas the next.
“I just try to jump around as much as I can as both a leader and sideman,” explains the 33-year-old, who once had a fellowship working with the great Dave Brubeck. “I’ve toured with Taylor Swift in her band. I’ve backed up Chris Botti. I’ve played with the Grammy-winning Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which explores all kinds of Latin jazz. For me, it’s been really enriching to learn about so many types of music…but on the job, so to speak.”
Lefkowitz-Brown’s versatility and inventiveness are also evident on recordings with his quartet, in the way he tears down the house on “Mack the Knife” or takes “Watermelon Man” from laid-back groove to hard-bop banger.
As evidenced on her lush, swirling 2022 album “Onyx,” 24-year-old vibraphonist Sasha Berliner is one of the most exciting voices in jazz today. Naturally percussive, with an ever-expanding grasp of harmony and counterpoint, the Bay Area native studied at the New School in NYC’s Greenwich Village. “I always wanted to move to New York. Once I saw the music, I thought, this is the place for me.” She caught everything from the avant-garde jazz played by European students at small cafés to seeing one of her first influences on the vibraphone—the four-mallet innovator Gary Burton—at the famous Blue Note.
Soon she was playing the clubs, leading a quintet with a group of younger musicians, and occasionally sharing the stage with a legend. “There’s a beautiful chain of mentorship and teaching here,” she says. “There’s a lot of differences between how it was back then and how it is now and how it will be in 20 years, and certainly, the definition of jazz has grown. But ultimately, everyone has the same goal of studying the same throughlines and language. Getting to experience that is incredible.” Now pushing her compositions into more conceptual realms, Berliner seems bound for another intense period of growth.
“Every great musician will say they’ll remain a student for the rest of their lives,” she says “and it’s true.”
In his 88 years, Houston Person has released some 75 albums and performs regularly. He embraces his elder statesman role and finds energy “from playing and sharing this music with young people. It makes it a lot of fun to cross generations. It shows that jazz is alive and well.” Anyone needing a reminder of the genre’s kinetic potential need only throw on his 1972 soul-jazz classic “Houston Express” and watch the party get started. His biggest piece of advice to the next generation: “To put some of the old qualities back into jazz…like dancing. Jazz is dance music. It’s music to make you move and have fun with it. Instead of trying to intellectualize it.”