VJC closes out season with performance by Eugene Uman’s Convergence Project

BRATTLEBORO-Vermont Jazz Center (VJC) director and pianist Eugene Uman will close out the Vermont Jazz Center's season of concerts with a new version of the Convergence Project, a group he put together 15 years ago to perform his original compositions.

For their performance Saturday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m., Uman will present a sextet with Haneef Nelson (trumpet), Jason Robinson (saxophone), Cameron Brown (acoustic bass), Brian Shankar Adler (drums), and Joel "Pibo" Márquez (percussion).

Uman says the Convergence Project is a window into his musical experiences, which were forged playing blues, R&B, funk, and jazz as a youth in New York and central Vermont.

He later moved to New York City and then Colombia, South America, where "the pulse of rhythm and dance permeates everyday life." The blues has been an essential element of Uman's musical palette since his early teens.

Colombian rhythms are foundational elements of Uman's compositions, he says. "The melodies and chords are derived more from the language of blues, rock, fusion, gospel, and jazz." This melding of sounds and cultures provides Uman with a multi-hued pallet to work from as a composer, and led to the formation of the Convergence Project.

The musicians that make up this mutable ensemble are hand-picked and empathetic to Uman's vision; each player is well-versed in numerous styles and encouraged to weave the sounds of their own personal voices into the group's musical fabric.

Convergence members Nelson, Brown, and Adler are on the faculty of the VJC's summer workshop. Robinson is a colleague of Uman's from Amherst College, and Venezuelan percussionist Pibo Márquez specializes in Colombian rhythms.

Another less obvious inspiration to Uman's sound, he says, is his connection to the land. His friend, poet Verandah Porche, writes, "Before dedicating his life to music, Eugene was a forester. The well-being of the biome was his beat. He brings this deep attunement to his work as a composer."

One composition that demonstrates the intersection of musical styles with the influence of nature is "La Cosecha," which translates to "The Harvest."

Uman wrote this piece during a Vermont harvest season, and he composed it over a Colombian Currulao rhythm, an African-influenced style from Colombia that has its roots among the Afro-Colombian people of the Pacific Coast.

The Currulao rhythm is "based on accents similar to the triplety jazz-shuffle beat that can also be heard in old-school piano boogie," says Uman.

He noted these similarities and composed "La Cosecha," which switches back and forth between the Currulao rhythm and a piano-boogie bassline.

Composing is a form of expression when words won't do, he says.

"Composing gives me the opportunity to take ideas or feelings and put them into an expressive format that can then be repeated and developed over time," he writes. "I love the open-ended accessibility and freedom that music provides."

* * *

In-person tickets are offered on a sliding scale from $25 to $60 per person. Visit to purchase. For educational group discounts, email [email protected]. For reservations call the Vermont Jazz Center at 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Mobility access is available by emailing [email protected]. This concert will be livestreamed for free at and at Donations are welcome.

This Arts item was submitted to The Commons.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates