Project O is a New York City based Jazz Group founded by Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen
Organist Gary Versace, and Drummer Jon Wikan and usually includes Saxophonists
Seamus Blake, Steve Wilson or Christine Jensen
Selected by Down Beat as one of the " 25 most important improvising musicians of the future" and rated in the top three in a number of their critics' polls for " talent deserving wider recognition", Ingrid has already garnered an impressive reputation. Raised in Nanaimo, Canada, she left home after receiving a number of scholarships and awards to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Since graduating in 1989 her life has been a whirlwind of musical activities. From her days in the all-female band DIVA, to establishing herself and her music in a wide array of musical genres, Ingrid is definitely making her mark. Her three CDs' for the ENJA label won her numerous nominations from the Canadian Juno Awards and a win in 1995 for her first of the three, Vernal Fields. Her career within New York has taken off in recent years. Performing with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band and most recently with her own group at the Wall to Wall Miles celebration, Ingrid has received rave reviews and a strong reputation in the jazz circle. Some of the many musicians she has played with nationally include; Steve Wilson, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Dr.Lonnie Smith, Marc Copland and Bob Berg, Gary Thomas, Gary Bartz, Bill Stewart, Terri-Lynn Carrington, Geoff Keezer, Billy Hart, George Garzone, Chris Connor, Terrence Blanchard and Clark Terry. She is currently on faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, as well as having spent time in Austria as professor of Jazz Trumpet at the Bruckner Conservatory of Music. She continues to travel and perform extensively, conducting clinics and workshops as well as playing with her own groups and appearing as a guest with numerous ensembles from around the world.
Since basing himself in New York City in December of 2000, pianist and organist Gary Versace has performed and/or recorded with a wide variety of artists. Versace has become a regular in the working bands of musicians including, saxophonist Tim Ries, the Dave Scott quintet (including Rich Perry, Jeff Williams, and John Hebert), the Jay Azzolina trio (including Adam Nussbaum), the Sheryl Bailey trio (including Ian Froman), vocalist Kendra Shank, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and bassists David Friesen and Glen Moore. In January of 1999, Versace performed in a two-piano recital with Marian McPartland, and in April of 1999 appeared on her acclaimed National Public Radio program, "Piano Jazz." In the spring of 2002, Versace will be featured on new organ trio recordings with both Jay Azzolina and Adam Nussbaum, and Sheryl Bailey and Ian Froman, as well as touring Germany in an organ trio with guitarist Christian Eckert, doing a piano recording/concert tour in Poland with bassist David Friesen, and touring the Midwestern United States with both violinist Christian Howes and trumpeter Dave Scott. Besides a busy performing schedule, Versace maintains an active teaching career as well, and has served as an associate professor of music at the University of Oregon, as well as continuing to give clinics at colleges and high schools around the country, including the Eastman and Berkelee Schools of Music. He has served as a regular faculty member of several summer jazz workshops, including programs offered at the University of Kansas, Birch Creek in Wisconsin, and the New West Jazz Clinic in Vancouver, B.C. Other aspects of Versace's musical career have included serving as musical transcriber for Marian McPartland, publishing a book of transcriptions of her solo piano performances, Marian McPartland - Live at Maybeck, Vol.2, with Warner Brothers Publishing. Versace's education includes performance degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Connecticut in both classical and jazz piano.
Currently based in New York, 33-year- old Jon Wikan is a jazz drummer garnering praise on the international scene. He has accompanied a cross-section of leaders, which have included Ernestine Anderson, Mark Murphy, Freddy Cole, Bud Shank, Ingrid Jensen, and Pete Cristlieb. In 1996 Wikan immersed himself in the Seattle jazz scene and was taken under the wings of multi-horn man Jay Thomas, Bill Ramsay, and composer James Knapp. During this period he became one of the busiest sidemen in the northwest area backing international artists including Pat Labarbera, Herb Ellis, John Fedchock, Rick Margitza, Buddy Collette, Roswell Rudd, Mark Murphy, Kurt Elling, Bobby Shew, Brad Turner, Jessica Williams and Dan Faehnle. Wikan's recent move to New York City has already landed him a record date with pianist Geoff Keezer, a tour of Japan with downbeat vocalist of the year Mark Murphy, a week at the Blue Note with Grammy winning group New York Voices, and many other gigs as a sideman with Karrin Allyson, Sam Yahel, Ron Affif, Jay Collins, David Budway, Mark Elf, David Berkman, Jeffery Smith, Antonia Bennett, and young piano prodigy, Aaron Parks. Wikan does not limit himself to being just a sideman. He is an active clinician teacher, and is currently on staff as a private instructor at The New School University. He is also and emerging composer, writing music for various large and small groups which he leads. Wikan was recently chosen to participate in the BMI jazz composers workshop in New York City where he works with great composers such as Jim McNeely and Mike Abene.
New York based tenor sax player SEAMUS BLAKE is gaining increasing recognition as one of the finest and most creative young players emerging in jazz. His inclusion in the 1997 Downbeat Critics Poll as an artist deserving of wider recognition attests to this fact. Pat Metheny has described him as "the best tenor player I¹ve heard in a couple of years" (JazzTimes April 1997). John Scofield, who hired him for his ŒQuiet Band¹, calls him extraordinary, a total saxophonist". He continues to tour with Scofield and recently finished a summer 2001 quartet tour. Born in England but raised in Vancouver, Canada, Blake was first asked to record at the age of 21 with drummer VICTOR LEWIS while Blake was still a student at Boston¹s prestigious Berklee College. Following his graduation, Blake moved to New York, where he rapidly established himself on the New York scene. At 30, Blake now has 4 releases on Criss Cross Records, including the 1995 premiere release of the"BLOOMDADDIES"-- a "funky, alternative grunge jazz" band featuring 2 electrified tenors, electric bass, vocals and 2 drums (Downbeat July1996). His latest for them entitled "Economics" features Dave Kikoski and Victor Lewis. A CD of originals entitled "Stranger Things Have Happened" has also just been released on the Fresh Sound label with Kurt Rosenwinkel, Jorge Rossy and Larry Grenadier. Blake is long standing member of the Mingus Big Band and is featured on their last three recordings for Dreyfuss. He continues to play and record with the Victor Lewis Quintet (Enja, Red), as well as with BILL STEWART and KEVIN HAYS (Blue Note Records). He has also recorded with FRANCO AMBROSETTI (Enja), MARK TURNER and BILLY DRUMMOND on Criss Cross.
He recently placed 1st in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in February 2002.