Bridging jazz, klezmer, rock, and groove, this five-piece group carries a progressive yet inviting presence, exploring beautiful melodies while defining new boundaries. Awarded a Five Star Highly Commended rating by the 2019 UK Songwriting Contest for their compositions, as well as being a Jazz Finalist in the 2018 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for their song “One Provision”, Big Brooklyn’s original compositions, as well as their adaptations of jazz and rock standards, captivate audiences with a unique depth of passion in expressive melodies and harmonies, touching on on the inseparable exultation and pathos of the klezmer sound, all interwoven over a fabric of jazz and groove.
Big Brooklyn was formed in 2014 by Willie and Melody Dornfeld. Having both been involved in music for a long time, they wanted to create a group where they took freedom to write music they love, that spoke to their hearts, that was passionate and all-out, and which brought together different styles in which they had been immersed. Melody Dornfeld began classical music studies at a young age,
studying with Dr. Ramon Kireilis, principal clarinetist of the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra, and later the esteemed and highly-recorded Andrew Marriner, principal clarinetist of the London Symphony Orchestra and of The Academy of St. Martin in the Field. In high school she took first place in the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Young Artists’ Competition, being noted by the Colorado Springs Gazette for “the depth of emotion” with which she played. Her love of music continued to flourish at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music where she first met Willie and took first place in the Lamont Honors Competition, performing as a soloist with the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. She was also awarded the Lamont School of Music’s “Junior Recital of the Year” award, was named the University of Denver’s Presser Scholar as the outstanding junior musician of the year, and graduated as the University of Denver’s Most Outstanding Senior in Performance. While her classical studies expanded and enhanced her technical skills, Melody yearned for another level of freedom of expression and creativity. She began studying jazz improvisation at Lamont with Lynn Baker. During her junior year she attended a klezmer performance given by a clarinetist and made a soul-connection. Feeling an instant and providential connection, she undertook a Partners In Scholarship Research Project titled “The Art of Klezmer Music” where she travelled internationally, attended camps, and studied with internationally renowned klezmer and jazz clarinetist, David Krakauer.
A Branford, Connecticut, native, music has always been a magnet for Willie Dornfeld. He studied with New England’s in-demand drummer Ric Hadad and spent countless hours of time in deep connection practicing, performing, and venturing through rock, blues, and funk with some his favorite buddies in early years. While resonating with rock and blues, he was also growing in his love of and skills in jazz. Willie headed to Colorado and studied with Mike Marlier, Paul Romaine, and John Kinzie earning his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies Performance from the University of Denver. Willie has played in numerous venues and theatres throughout Colorado, traveling up and down the front range, playing in mountain ski towns, and logging studio time.
Big Brooklyn is actually named after a cliff on an inactive granite quarry in Branford where Willie and his friends spent many hours swimming while growing up. And, yes, it was big! The Colorado-based band began to take shape as Willie and Melody were joined by other fantastic musicians. Tenor sax player Luke Soasey joined them first, an amazing student of sax, well-versed in jazz, and an active performer. Luke studied with many teachers, including John Gross, Rob Scheps, Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Allan Jones, Bob Mover, David Valdez, David Friesen, Stefon Harris, among others. Aaron Summerfield joined next, a masterful guitarist, comfortable in any genre, from playing a sweet ballad to soloing in free and chaotic sections, and able to play passionately while instantly technically navigating the simple and the complex. Aaron earned his Masters of Music degree at the University of Denver where he was the jazz department’s “Outstanding Graduate Student.” Aaron is a full-time active performer, composer, and college music educator in Denver, Colorado. Finally, Jo Asker joined the group on bass. Jo earned his Master of Music in double bass performance from Colorado State University and performs widely in the classical and jazz worlds with such groups as the Erik Bowen Trio, the Twirling Zucchini Trio, the Mood Elevators, the Modern Art Duo, the Palouse Choral Society Festival Orchestra, the Idaho Bach Festival Orchestra, the Mood Elevators, the Twirling Zucchini Trio, Mark Sloniker, and many more. Jo is also a music educator, teaching double bass at two different colleges.
While thriving in live performance, Big Brooklyn released their first album, Purpose, this year, having the opportunity to work with Denver’s master recording engineer Colin Bricker at Mighty Fine Productions, who has also recorded artists such as Ron Miles, Brian Blade, Bill Frisell, and Dave Liebman. Their music has been well-received.
“Serious talent in an eclectic and unique package.”
-Avogadro’s Number, Live Music Venue
“With a sound that laughs and sobs at the same time, Dornfeld on clarinet is a master of nuance. Her reed speaks in a universal language that needs no translation. These outstanding musicians have created a sonic supernova.”
–Debbie Burke, Jazz Author
“The clarinet is used incredibly well, and both hits notes spot on and deliberately slinks up to them, showing very different techniques and lip control, adding a slightly laid back feel. “Lazy Environment” is worth many listens for Melody Dornfield’s [sic] clarinet playing, let alone the rest of Big Brooklyn. Sumptuous.”
–Sammy Stein, Jazz Reviewer, Something Else Reviews
Melody Dornfeld began music lessons on piano at six years old, adding the clarinet five years later. Growing up in a family of seven children, all who took music lessons, she grew much from an early age in listening to, performing, and teaching music. She studied clarinet with
Dr. Ramon Kireilis, principal clarinetist of the Colorado Springs Symphony orchestra and professor of clarinet at the University of Denver, through the midst of attending five different schools during her high school years. Music became an anchor and an avenue of personal expression as she graduated as valedictorian of the final high school and also took first place in the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Young Artists’ Competition, being noted by the Colorado Springs Gazette for “the depth of emotion” with which she played. Her love of music continued to flourish at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music where she took first place in the Lamont Honors Competition, performing as a soloist with the Lamont Symphony Orchestra. She was also awarded the Lamont School of Music’s “Junior Recital of the Year” award and named the University of Denver’s Presser Scholar as the outstanding junior musician of the year. She placed in numerous other concerto and young artist competitions, in addition to performing as principal clarinetist in various orchestras and ensembles.
While her classical studies expanded and enhanced her technical skills, Melody yearned for another level of freedom of expression and creativity. She began studying jazz improvisation at Lamont with Lynn Baker. During her junior year she attended a klezmer performance given by a clarinetist and made a soul-connection. “Music of uncontrollable joy fused with irrevocable pathos,” as another musician named Inna Barmash stated, echoing the sounds of Eastern European Yiddish culture. Feeling an instant and providential connection, she undertook a Partners In Scholarship Research Project titled “The Art of Klezmer Music” where she travelled internationally, attended camps, and studied in New York City with internationally renowned klezmer and jazz clarinetist, David Krakauer. This project led to the giving of lectures and live performances of klezmer music in the Rocky Mountain region and to the formation of Neo Nigun, a five piece klezmer band. Melody graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music with a Bachelor of Music in Performance as the “Outstanding Senior in Performance.” She continued her studies after graduation in London, England, undertaking an independent klezmer research project and also studying classically with the esteemed and highly-recorded Andrew Marriner, principal clarinetist of the London Symphony Orchestra and of The Academy of St. Martin in the Field.
Melody has continued to play in many musical ensembles and settings, including recording as a featured soloist on a major soundtrack. She currently loves practicing, composing, and performing with her husband, Willie, whom she met while studying at the Lamont School of Music, in fusing the sounds of klezmer with modern jazz, rock, and groove into soul expression.
Luke Soasey is an Oregon native -- transplanted to the northern Colorado foothills in the spring of 2012 to follow a work opportunity, the lure of adventure, and sunshine. By day he is a member of a dedicated team of engineers working on the next generation of microprocessors. By night (or any other time that seems appropriate for music) he is playing saxophone to express, compose, improve, or perform. Relocating to Colorado meant re-building a network of musical connections and relationships that he had already established after almost two decades in Portland. Now, in and around Northern Colorado, he can be heard performing in a variety of local jazz groups.
From a relatively young age music has been a core element of Luke's life path. Growing up in the country -- very close to his paternal grandparents -- the roots were planted early: Countless nights of listening to his grandfather's Hammond organ playing, his grandmother's interest in unique stringed instruments (Appalachian dulcimer, steel guitar, and nylon string guitar), and his father's devoted piano playing, singing, and song writing. These experiences undoubtedly shaped and formed what was to come later. After a couple years of basic piano lessons, Luke picked up the saxophone in 5th grade as part of the junior high's basic concert band program. The defining moment, however, was hearing the neighboring high school's stage band at junior high assembly. He knew jazz was the music to feed his soul and there was no turning back.
There is a synergistic balance between Luke's interest in design engineering and music which often plays itself out in unexpected ways. Improvisation, Inspiration, and Creativity. These skills are are of equal value when designing a complex microprocessor or composing a meaningful and lasting melody. They inform and support each other across disciplines. Despite choosing engineering as a "career path" when entering undergraduate study, this never meant a departure from Luke's core love of music. He continued to prioritize and make time for the study of the saxophone and jazz performance. That pursuit has endured and taken different shapes. Starting from his junior high years and extending to today, he continues to learn, seek out, and play great music.
It has been a pleasure for Luke to study with remarkable musicians at various times along his musical journey. This has taken the the form of private lessons, intensive workshops, focused ensemble work, etc... John Gross, Rob Scheps, Charley Gray, Darrell Grant, Allan Jones, Bob Mover, David Valdez, David Friesen, Stefon Harris, and Peter Sommer only name a few... As most musicians would probably agree, the musical pursuit is an unending opportunity to grow and learn. Luke trusts that this list continues to grow as he looks to what other musicians have to willingly share.
Aaron Summerfield is an active performer, composer, and music educator residing in Denver, CO. He is currently an adjunct guitar instructor at the Community College of Aurora. Aaron holds degrees from Portland State University (BA) and the University of Denver (MM), where he was a graduate teaching assistant for Jazz Theory and Aural Skills. At DU, he was recognized as the Jazz department's “Outstanding Graduate Student” and was also the 1st runner-up in the 2014 Lamont School of Music Jazz Soloist Competition. Aaron has taught guitar classes in many different settings and is passionate about helping students of all levels and backgrounds develop their skills.
Aaron's performance experience is wide-ranging, and he maintains a busy schedule that includes stints in pit orchestras and cruise ship show bands. He can currently be seen playing guitar all over the Denver area with various jazz ensembles as well as wedding/event bands and church praise bands. Recent performance highlights include a concert with the Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra featuring renowned trumpeter Byron Stripling and a month-long residency at Dazzle Jazz Club with the contemporary Jazz collective, CP-3O. Aaron is a member of the Pi Kappa Lambda music honor society.
Jo (Jordan) Asker is currently based in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he recently finished his Master's in double bass performance at Colorado State University. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree in music performance at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. Jo has performed widely in the classical and jazz styles with ensembles such as the Washington-Idaho Symphony, the Oregon East Symphony, the Erik Bowen Trio, the Twirling Zucchini Trio, the Mood Elevators, the Modern Art Duo, the Palouse Choral Society Festival Orchestra, the Idaho Bach Festival Orchestra, and three of a mInD. He is actively playing in Colorado with The Mood Elevators, the Twirling Zucchini Trio, and Mark Sloniker in addition to working as a freelancer with many engagements in Northern Colorado. Jo teaches bass at Casper College and at the Larimer Campus of Front Range Community College. He also maintains a private studio.
Originally from the shore line of New England, Willie Dornfeld was drawn to music at an early age. His early experiences were marked by his parents playing music around the house, sometimes loudly, as well as sitting behind the drums while his uncle’s blues band took a break. It was around 5 or 6 years of age that he received a toy drum set, and soon after received a real one. From about 9 to 15 years old he spent many hours intently listening to music, being impacted by the emotion, and making some sweet mix tapes. By the time he was 15, Willie had been checking out live music and listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, among others. The drums were a magnet for him. He began studying with New England’s in-demand drummer, Ric Hadad. From Ric, Willie learned reading, technique, rudiments, formulating creativity, the essence of groove, and also received his first exposure to jazz. At that time, he began to have opportunities to play with local musicians, got involved in jazz groups, and eventually settled into a rock band with some of his favorite buddies. They spent countless hours of time in deep connection practicing, performing, and venturing through rock, blues, and funk, influenced by the likes of the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan, George Clinton, and James Brown.
Willie’s passion for playing music made the choice of future pursuit an easy one. While resonating with rock and blues, he was also growing in his love of and skills in jazz. Willie headed to Colorado, attending the University of Northern Colorado for a couple of years before earning his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies Performance from the University of Denver. While at the Lamont School of Music in Denver, he spent several years studying with Mike Marlier, Paul Romaine, and John Kinzie. Willie has performed in a wide variety of musical situations, including jazz, rock, funk, big band, Latin, and more. He has played in numerous venues and theatres throughout Colorado. For several years, Willie played drums with Colorado’s seven piece funk band “Trump Mother Jones,” playing up and down the front range, throughout mountain ski towns, and logging studio time. Willie’s passion for music thrives as he continues to practice and play in various groups and assorted settings, focusing on jazz and fusion - although he certainly loves to rock!