Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Regen, Jon (Jonathan Merrill)
Regen, Jon (Jonathan Merrill), pianist, composer and singer; b. New York, NY, 8 May 1970. He was raised in Maplewood, New Jersey. His father is Martin Regen, born May 30, 1939, New York, NY. His mother is Stephanie Regen, born February 13, 1940, New York, NY. He has one sister, Claudia Gabrielle Regen, born November 16, 1965.
Regen studied with Matt Krempasky (High School band Teacher, 1985-88) Jim McNeely (1987), Kenny Barron (1989-93) and Kenny Werner (1994). He attended Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz Program (1987), University of Miami School of Music (1988) and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University (1989-93). Regen began playing the piano professionally at age 17 after a stint at the prestigious Eastman School of Music. He then spent a year studying at the University of Miami, before leaving to apprentice the world-renowned pianist and composer Kenny Barron at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. "That's where it all began," Regen says of his apprenticeship with Barron. "He taught me not only how to play the piano, but about grace and humility. About musical elegance." It was just the beginning. After graduating Rutgers in 1993, Regen moved to New York City and began assembling a series of small groups that played in many local jazz clubs. "I led a duo, trio and quartet - trying my hand at a variety of different playing situations to broaden my musical range," Regen says of those early days."In a given week you'd see me playing duo in the village, leading my trio at Smalls, my quartet at Metronome, and sitting-in at the late-night jam session at Visiones. I was determined to play." One of those who took a liking to Regen's piano work was the legendary, late guitarist Ted Dunbar, who replaced John McLaughlin in Tony Williams' Lifetime, and taught Regen jazz improvisation at Rutgers. "Ted called me, literally from the beach in the Bahamas, and told me that he was forming a new band, and he wanted me in it. It was a huge honor, and my first major sideman gig." Regen joined the Ted Dunbar Quartet, featuring Earl May on bass, and David Jones on drums. The band played to sold-out crowds at New York's Blue Note and other clubs, and brought Dunbar back into demand before his untimely passing in 1998. 1996 found Regen as one of five pianists worldwide to be chosen as a finalist in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. Eventually chosen Runner-Up, Regen was selected by Steinway & Sons to become one of the only 2,000 pianists in the world to be named a Steinway Artist. The prestigious honor helped Regen garner even more local attention, performing with Kenny Burrell at the 1997 JVC Jazz Festival, and with his own trio at the world-famous Blue Note. As Regen continued his solo career, sideman opportunities began to arise. Bassist Kyle Eastwood chose Regen to anchor his quintet, touring in support of his 1998 Columbia release "From There to Here." Alongside young titans Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi and Yoron Israel, Regen toured the U.S., Canada and Europe with the Kyle Eastwood Quintet, performing with David Sanborn, Joshua Redman, Freddy Cole, Paco de Lucia, and the Cowboy Junkies. Regen remains an integral part of the band, composing new works with Eastwood for an upcoming CD and world-tour. 2000 saw Regen forming a new trio, with Paul Gill on bass, (Diana Krall, Jon Hendricks), and Sunny Jain on drums, and taking them on the road. He played a month straight at the Blue Note in Fukuoka, Japan, and then flew-off to sold-out shows in Toronto, Canada and Paris, France. Regen also added a new twist to his act: singing. "The truth is," Regen confides, "I've been singing since I first started playing, but it wasn't until I went to Japan that I had the nerve to try it live. And the crowd went crazy." With comparisons to a young Tony Bennett and Chet Baker the buzz of the town, Regen takes it all in stride. "That's a huge compliment - I've always been big fan of both of them. The truth is, it was Shirley Horn's album 'Close Enough for Love' that got me seriously thinking about playing and singing." The added vocal dimension has brought a whole new audience out to Regen's live shows , and has put him on the radar screens of many major record companies. In 2001, Regen toured Europe with Kyle Eastwood's Band, accompanied legendary vocalist Jimmy Scott, and performed to standing-room only crowds with his own trio as well. Backed by a stellar, all-Israeli band, Regen showcases his unique playing, writing and singing, throughout this mixture of original compositions and standards." We try to mix it up," says Regen, "playing straight-ahead trio tunes, originals of mine, and swinging vocal arrangements. Something for everyone. Because if you don't leave our shows feeling entertained, we haven't done our job!"
From Left to Right (1996, unreleased); Live at the Blue Note (1998); Various Artists: Swinging at the Blue Note (2000); David Reardon: Not a Superhero (2000); Tel Aviv (2001); Jimmy Scott (2003)
Radio and television broadcasts:
Appeared on Fox & Friends (Fox NewsChannel: 2000)
Appeared on BET on Jazz with Jimmy Scott (2001)
Featured on The Jazz Songbook with Ron Della Chiesa, NPR (WGBH Radio/Boston: 2002)
Appeared alongside Jimmy Scott in Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen (TRIO Network 2003)
Music from his three CDs will be featured in the upcoming Indie Film "Long Story Short" (2002)
Features on me appeared in DownBeat (July 2002), TORONTO JAZZ, and will appear in upcoming issues of JazzHot and JazzIt.
Recipient of Louis Armstrong National Jazz Award, 1987.