Joe Brent (mandolin) and Sara Caswell (violin) are leading lights on their instruments, creating a unique and gorgeous blend of instrumental virtuosity. Brent’s indie-pop sensibility, combined with Caswell’s jazz-inspired lyricism, is at once a breathtaking display of color, melody, and rhythmic drive.
Sara, recognized as a “Rising Star” in the 2013 DownBeat Magazine Critics and Readers Polls and as one of the top jazz violinists in both the 2011 and 2012 JazzTimes Readers Poll, regularly performs with her two groups, the Sara Caswell Quartet and the Caswell Sisters Quintet, as well as Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro, clarinetist David Krakauer’s The Big Picture, and the genre-defying quartet Rose & the Nightingale. She has toured extensively with Grammy winners bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding and violinist Mark O’Connor, soloed numerous times in Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, and performed and/or recorded with many artists including Regina Carter, Fred Hersch, Alan Ferber, Fabian Almazan, Nadje Noordhuis, Gene Bertoncini, and Skitch Henderson. Currently on faculty at Manhattan School of Music’s Jazz Arts Division, Sara studied classical violin with the legendary Josef Gingold, has won over 100 awards and first-place prizes in the jazz and classical competition worlds, and has released two highly-acclaimed solo CDs – First Song and But Beautiful – and a CD with her sister, vocalist Rachel Caswell, entitled Alive in the Singing Air. Says O’Connor: “Most good violinists will never experience what Sara creates with her instrument. It is beautifully refined emotion that lifts the spirit and at the same time, crystallizes for me this thought: jazz violin could really have something to offer again.”
Joe Brent, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, also studied the mandolin in Italy before relocating back to New York City. He was a longtime member of pop sensation Regina Spektor’s touring ensemble, and has performed and recorded with Woody Allen, Jewel, Gary Smulyan, and Stephane Grappelli. Simultaneously, he has maintained a career in classical music, having performed as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, The Boston Symphony, and countless others. He released his first album, Point of Departure, in 2007, featuring music by Astor Piazzolla, J. S. Bach, and Manuel de Falla, and in 2009 released solo. EP, an album of solo mandolin arrangements of songs by rock artists such as Animal Collective and The Flaming Lips. He has recorded the complete mandolin music of David Loeb and an album of the lute music of John Dowland, and in 2009 was added to the faculty of Mannes College, where he remains the only mandolin instructor at a major American conservatory. Music journalist Don von Schrilz said, “There has probably never been a mandolin player with better technical skills, and he matches that with an enthusiasm for every imaginable role a mandolin can fulfill,” and he has been described as, “One of the truly exceptional musicians of his generation,” by David McGee of The Bluegrass Special.
Together, Joe and Sara weave a broad musical tapestry, using the delicate strands of folk music and the incendiary embers of jazz and rock. Drawing material from artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder, Astor Piazzolla, and Weezer, along with original compositions reflecting their diverse backgrounds, Brent and Caswell are a musical experience not to be missed.