"Ruth Naomi Floyd's vision and commitment to the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works is leading by action and not just words."

Aaron Graves was raised in Reidsville, North Carolina. He learned to play various instruments including piano, bass, organ, and drums, in the church where his father, a great musician with a musical family, was the senior pastor.

Aaron eventually moved to Washington, D.C. at the age of sixteen to play bass guitar with the acclaimed gospel music legend, Richard Smallwood, and attended The Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts. This is where he began sharing the art form that some call jazz music.

After touring with various artists that included Richard Smallwood, Myrna Summers, The Voices Supreme, and Henry Davis, Aaron entered Howard University and received a Special Talent Scholarship. After two years he transferred to the University of the District of Columbia to study with Jazz Master Calvin Jones. While studying at UDC Aaron auditioned for a National Endowment of the Arts grant, was accepted, and studied with Jazz Master Kenny Barron. He has also studied with Jazz Masters Barry Harris and Stanley Cowell.

Aaron has been blessed to perform and/or record with greats that include Stanley Turrentine, Oscar Brown, Jr., Dakota Staton, Houston Person, Ernie Andrews, Marlena Shaw, Linda Hopkins, Cassandra Wilson, Antonio Hart, Greg Osby, Keter Betts, Bill Lee, Grady Tate, Kenny Burrell, Frank Foster, Grover Washington, Jr., Vanessa Rubin, Earl May, The Blackbyrds, The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Jann Parker, Donald Byrd, James Moody, Kevin Mahogany, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Al Jarreau, Denise King, Mr. Jon Hendricks, Barbara Montgomery, Jimmy Scott and many others. 

Some of Aaron’s television credits are: The award-winning documentary “Eyes on the Prize with Sweet Honey and the Rock”, The Bill Cosby Show
, The Lou Rawls Show, Good Morning Australia
, Japan Airlines, Conjurers: Women in Jazz with Cassandra Wilson, Theme for the Carol Randolph Show. 

He performed on the soundtrack for the movie “Ashes and Embers” by independent filmmaker Haile Gerima; was the conductor on Broadway for “Truly Blessed” about the life of Mahalia Jackson, written and performed by Queen Esther Marrow; was the conductor for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” with Criss Calloway in Edinburgh, Scotland; and was the conductor for “Essentially Ellington” at The Prince Theatre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has also performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.


"It has been such an honor to be a part of Ruth Naomi Floyd's vision of the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works. To hear Fredrick Douglass' wonderful words under scored by Ruth's powerful and inspirational compositions is a must".

Keith Loftis has been described as one of the most dynamic jazz saxophonists of today. Keith received his B.A. in music from the New School for Social Research in NYC, and his Masters in Composition/Film Scoring from New York University. 

Keith has traveled extensively around the globe performing regularly throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and parts of the Mid-East. He currently performs with The Baylor Project, Master Drummer, Michael Carvin; the Roy Hargrove Big Band and Drummer Carl Allen. To discover more about Keith, please view Keith Loftis' full CV.



"Freedom. Resistance. Artistic expression in the music. Ruth. These are the reasons I am part of the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works. The message is timeless and the merge of spiritual and jazz speaks to my soul. This is not work. It is a gift we all get to share with each other, on and off the stage."

Matthew Parrish, has ‘come into his own’ as a sought after performer, arranger, and composer. Matthew brings skills and swing as he puts his heart into every note he plays. He has a genuine warmth and loyalty to the music that transcends into every note, every tune, and every interaction with his fellow musicians.

Born in central California to hard-working, music-loving parents of four children, Matthew is the youngest to his next sibling by eleven years. With a variety of jazz, rock, and classical music being played around him since birth, whether live or recorded, and a father who played acoustic bass early in his military career, Matt was destined for a life dedicated to music.

Although he started on trumpet in middle school, he switched from that instrument for the acoustic bass in a last minute decision of the heart right before his Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts music program audition. He was accepted as an acoustic bass student in jazz studies and he has never stopped learning his craft.

Matt’s young bass career is grounded in Philadelphia, PA. He had the blessing, in his late teens and early twenties, of performing with Shirley Scott, Mickey Roker, Bobby Durham, Cecil Payne, Johnny Coles, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Jimmy Oliver, Danny Turner, and fellow young musicians, Orrin Evans and Byron Landham. Matthew went on to have the unforgettable experience of touring with legendary trombonist, Al Grey. This era also included performing with Clark Terry, Marion McPartland, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lou Donaldson, Joe Cohn, Savion Glover, and Bill Charlap.

After the sad passing of Al, an important mentor and friend, Matthew continued to tour with the bands of Greg Osby, Jon Jang, James Newton, Stefon Harris, and Regina Carter. Matt came to be relied upon as a gifted composer and arranger in addition to his steady performing. His own works, as played by Matt on bass, are on his debut CD, ‘Circles’ (Hipnotic Records), as well as on recordings from Regina Carter and Dave Leonhardt, Denise Montana, and Ben Schachter.

Since Matthew has always believed that recording music is paramount to his career as it is timeless and marks musical milestones, he is grateful to have recorded with the above musicians. Matthew also has recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paquito D’Rivera, Clark Terry, Etta Jones, James Williams, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, James Newton, Miri Ben-Ari, Gary Thomas, Vana Gierig, and Orrin Evans, to name a few. Currently, Matt continues to tour throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America with bands of the legendary Freddy Cole, Houston Person, and Vana Gierig.

For over three years and counting, Matt has also presented his own popular showcase concerts in the Philadelphia area, with everything from an old-school, Philly-tinted ‘tenor sax battle’ with Larry McKenna, Bootsie Barnes, Houston Person, and Tim Warfield, to a Brazilian ‘jungle jazz’ concert featuring Amazonian performers Karine Aguiar, Ygor Saunier, and Vinicius Barros, with Vana on piano, and Marcello Pellitteri on drums.

No stranger to the New York City jazz scene, Matt frequents the Jazz Standard, the Blue Note, Dizzy’s ‘Coca Cola’ Club at Lincoln Center, Smalls, Birdland, and the Iridium. He is also no stranger to Washington, D.C. and Boston, MA jazz clubs and, of course, he is a devoted Philadelphia, PA performer. With decades of his life devoted to the art of jazz bass, Matthew shares his experience by teaching and mentoring young children through adults in assemblies, master classes, and lectures throughout the United States.


"The Frederick Douglass Jazz Works stands firmly at the confluence of Art, History and Social Justice. It reflects greatness in all three realms, and I'm humbled to play a small part in presenting it."

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Mark has developed into one of the premier drummers in today’s music scene. Honing his skills at Howard University under the expert tutelage of the legendary Grady Tate, as well as maintaining a strong classical background as a National Symphony Fellowship recipient, his versatility is a sought after attribute amongst the musical community both nationally and internationally. Upon graduating from Howard University, Mark began a six-year stint with cutting-edge keyboardist Andy Milne.

His time with this band served as a rewarding platform of development, being thrust into the complex, but intensely groove-driven arena of M-BASE music, a fusion of funk, jazz, astrology, mysticism, and any other pertinent influence, was a perfect match for Mark’s unique style of drumming, which draws from influences equally as vast. In this context, Mark developed a relentless sense of groove, making the most complex of rhythmic patterns danceable, a skill that he deftly applies in many different styles. During this period, Mark also toured and recorded with Carlos Ward’s Radius, Opus Akoben, Debbie Kirkland, Davey Yarborough, Alex Bugnon, and Charles Fambrough, gaining a strong reputation as an extremely versatile drummer, playing styles ranging from hip-hop and R&B to contemporary and straight-ahead jazz. These attributes, coupled with Mark’s Classical background allowed for opportunities to work in New York’s contemporary ballet and Broadway arena.

Receiving back to back calls from the Jose Limon Dance Theater, as well as Broadway and R&B Legend Jennifer Holliday, Mark’s stock was raised once again, as the greater musical community embraced his ability to function in the specialized world of show music. As yet another facet of his eclectic style is established; the calls continue to pour in more frequently from interesting and important artists all over the country.

His work with the seminal World-Beat/R&B sensation Fertile Ground has caught fire all over the U.S., Europe and Japan. Three albums with Philadelphia-based Jazz phenom Ruth Naomi Floyd have garnered critical acclaim, as well as tours with smooth jazz pioneer, and piano virtuoso, Bobby Lyle., along with the most recent collaboration w/ the Bobby Lyle/Paul Jackson, Jr. Organ Trio serve to solidify Mark’s potent presence amongst the international drumming community.

In 2011, Mark held the distinct honor of adding the legendary Jeff Lorber Fusion to his extensive list of drum chair credits, in a band featuring the great Eric Marienthal on Saxophone. 2012-2013 have been busy with tours and dates with Earl Klugh, Nnenna Freelon, the Three Mo Tenors, and South African Legend, Vusi Mahlasela.

In 2014, Mark toured Paraguay under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State as an Ambassador of Jazz with the Dani Cortaza Group, performing concerts and serving as a clinician to hundreds of aspiring musicians, while seamlessly fusing the idioms of American Jazz and Paraguayan Guaránia. In addition to leading his own ensemble, and performing all original material from his critically acclaimed debut release, Fraction of Infinity, Mark also co-leads a world-class organ trio - Firm Roots with Brad Collins and Benjie Porecki. Add his work with the eclectic and adventurous group, Sine Qua Non, lead by world renowned bassist, Michael Bowie to the mix, and you would be hard pressed to find musical career that would span a wider spectrum. Mark has also begun to gain a strong reputation as an excellent clinician and teacher, joining the Sidwell Friends School Music Faculty in 2011.

He has also lead and co-lead clinics (along with keyboardist Andy Milne) and master classes in the U.S., Canada, and South America. In addition to his teaching endeavors abroad, Mark frequently gives back to the community that supported his development, by giving lectures and demonstrations to students in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Public School Systems, further punctuating his versatility, as well as his commitment to sharing the gift of music. Performed / Recorded with: Ronnie Laws, Steve Coleman, Andy Milne, Charles Fambrough, Alex Bugnon, Terence Blanchard, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Ralph Peterson, Gary Grainger, David Gilmore, Steve Wilson, Federico Pena, Opus Akoben, Carlos Ward, David Fiuczynski, Tyrone Brown, Geri Allen, Wallace Roney, Talib Kibwe, Matthew Garrison, , James Williams, James Weidman, Essiet Okun Essiet, Ravi Coltrane, Gary Thomas, Ruth Naomi Floyd, Bruce Cockburn, Julian Joseph, The Jazzyfatnastees, Greg Phillanganes, Billy Childs, Gregoire Maret, Donald Harrison, Jay Hoggard, Marty Ehrlich, Jennifer Holliday, Nestor Torres, John Blake, Fertile Ground, James Newton, Lonnie Plaxico, Don Braden, Rodney Jones, Peabo Bryson, Ruben Studdard, Chuck Redd, Tom Schuman, Bobby Lyle, Sergio Brandao, Peaches and Herb, Jean Carne, Melba Moore, Norman Connors, Paul Jackson, jr., Jeff Lorber, Eric Marienthal, Earl Klugh, Three Mo Tenors, Nnenna Freelon, Marvin Hamlisch, Vusi Mahlasela, Bakhithi Kumalo, Eric Roberson, Javon Jackson, Fred Wesley Television Appearances: DC Jazz Legends, Comcast Cable feature Star Jamz, TVOne Network w/Ruben Studdard Cully Jazz Festival, European simulcast, w/Andy Milne & Gregoire Maret Live at the Knitting Factory, BET Jazz Network, w/Carlos Ward Good Day Dallas, Fox (Dallas), w/Andy Milne Fox Morning News with Lori Williams El Mañanero - Asunción, Paraguay.


"It has been such an honor to be a part of Ruth Naomi Floyd's vision of the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works. To hear Fredrick Douglass' wonderful words under scored by Ruth's powerful and inspirational compositions is a must".

V. Shayne Frederick is a pianist, vocalist, arranger and musical director with nearly two decades of stunning performance. He has been featured at such illustrious venues as Minton's Playhouse (Harlem,) Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Barnes Foundation, Sugar House Casino, Suzanne Roberts Theater, Resorts Casino, Valley Forge Casino, Philadelphia Clef Club for Performing Arts, South Jazz Parlor, World Café Live, Kelsey’s Supper Club in Atlantic City, and the African-American Museum in Philadelphia. He has also headlined the John Coltrane Jazz Festival, Center City Jazz Festival, Lancaster Avenue Jazz and Arts Festival, and the Piton International Film Festival in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Cited by the Broad Street Review as “one of the region’s busiest and best jazz singers,” and by All About Jazz as “one to watch” and a “shining light,” V. Shayne’s singular voice—with its dulcet texture and substantial range—has a classic appeal with a bright, innovative flair.


"Ruth's undying commitment to the revolutionary, prophetic and incisive words of Douglass are swaddled in her own very inspired composer's ear. Here's to all the Frederick Douglass Jazz Works to come!"

Valerie V. Gay is a Creative who uses music, words and objects to bring people together, inspire and encourage them to explore and connect to their own life’s potential. An active performer across several genres, including operas, jazz and solo concert recitals, Val has had a solo performance at Carnegie Hall, was awarded First Prize at the Summit City Art Song Festival Competition, has performed with several artists including Kathleen Battle, Opera Libera, Poor Richard’s Opera, Gospel artists Dottie Peoples and Walter Hawkins, and Jazz trumpeter and composer Hannibal Lokumbe (world premiers). As a keyboardist and conductor, Val has formed and directed several Gospel choirs across Philadelphia. She also co-founded the EVER Ensemble, a collective of women musicians, including Ruth Naomi Floyd, Elizabeth Steiner and Ezgi Yargici who perform diverse musical genres, from classical to hip hop. In 2006, Val founded Fortress Arts Academy, which provides arts and skill building lessons to children and adults, especially those in underserved communities. 

Val earned a Professional Studies Certificate and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, a Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from the University of the Arts, and completed degree course work at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University.


Violinist Diane Monroe bridges the traditions of jazz improvisation and classical composition. She performs her own solo, duo, trio, quartet, and sextet projects, and toured for over a decade as first violinist of the Max Roach Double Quartet and the Uptown String Quartet.

She performed extensively as a member of the String Trio of New York, and has performed on stage with renowned jazz artists such as Max Roach, Percy Heath, Steve Wilson, Bruce Barth, John Blake, Dave Grusin, Joe Lovano, Reggie Workman, Wycliff Gordon, Uri Caine, Jim Ridl, and Avery Sharpe. Her debut recording, with her long-time collaborator and friend, vibist Tony Miceli, is due to be released in August 2014.

Entitled Alone Together, it will be released on Dream Box Media, a label that features artists from the Philadelphia area. An avid composer, Monroe recently wrote a piece for the Highland Mountain Women’s Correctional Orchestra with Violin and Vibes, and is currently working on a new extended work for her sextet and dancers.