“WaFoo,” which is made of two Japanese kanji-characters “Wa” and “Foo,” stands for “Winds of Japan” or “Japanese style.” The prototype of this music ensemble was formed in 2001 by four Japanese musicians, under the concept of “Beauty of the music across the East and the West.” After a numbers of performances praised by many audiences in New York area, in 2004, the ensemble added more talents to broaden the scope of artistry and became WaFoo.

WaFoo is not only a performance group but also a group of active award-winning composers with a variety of music careers and backgrounds, which makes this ensemble very unique. All the repertories of WaFoo are their compositions or new interpretations of Japanese folk music created under the one strong concept, “Blending Japanese philosophy, such as Zen, Shinto and Confucianism, into a variety of music styles to create lyrical, aesthetic and delightful sound for body and soul.”

Major Performances Include: Haruichiban Japanese Music Festival (Drom, Manhattan, Mar. 2008); White Plains Cherry Blossom Festival (White Plains, May 2005 ~ 2008); Nagasaki Hiroshima Reflections by SI OutLoud (Staten Island, Apr. 2005); Greenwich; SeptemberFest (Greenwich, CT, Sep. 2005); NYC Culture Fest 2004 at Battery Park (Manhattan, Oct. 2004); NYPL Concert Series (Staten Island, Queens, (2008 ~ 2009); Talent on the Terrace by Greenbelt Nature Center (Staten Island, 2008 ~ 2009); WaFoo Seasonal Concerts at St. Peter’s Church (Staten Island, 2005 ~ 2009).

Learn more about WaFoo at http://www.wafoo.info/

Vinnie Ruggieri

Vinnie Ruggieri was born on October 23, 1946 in Staten Island NY. He began playing piano at 5 years of age. At 16, he studied theory and composition with Werner Oberbedr, then attended CSI in Staten Island as a music major and also studied with pianist Jaki Byarrd. In the seventies he worked in bassist Vinnie Burke's quartet when he shared the bandstand with such notables as Thad Jones Phil Woods, Joe Newman and Grachan Moncur III. In the eighties, he worked with the Billy Mitchell Quartet. In the nineties, he was a member of the Staten Island Chamber Ensemble Jazz quartet which gave concerts and lecture demonstrations in the NYC area. Vinnie is musical director for vocalist Annette St. John and he performs at Smoke Jazz Club in Manhattan every Sunday afternoon.

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David Jones

David Jones has been playing piano almost every day for the last 30 years in his home in St. George, that overlooks Curtis High School and, beyond that, New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. He comes from the avant garde wing of the great experiment, known as American Jazz. David played on the West Coast with bass clarinetist Patrick Wallace and the late drummer Joe Kelly in the group New Bay Ensemble, and on the east cast with Philadelphia-based group, Image. In his travels, from east coast to west and back again, David has enjoyed playing all kinds of music in every setting.

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Born and raised in New York City, Darrell Smith has been dazzling the stages for the past 16 years. A Staten Island native, Darrell had the good fortune of being accepted into the esteemed Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School (a.k.a. "The Fame School") for percussion performance.  He exceeded all expectations while attending LaGuardia and after graduation, attended The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, achieving a Bachelor's Degree in Jazz Performance. Darrell is a professional drummer who has performed with some of the most in-demand musicians around today and has graced his presence on many of the most world-famous stages. Some of his instruction comes from those of exceptional caliber including Kenny Washington, Ali Jackson, Dafnis Prieto, Bernard Purdie, and Billy Hart, to name a few.

Not only is Mr. Smith a masterful drummer, but a fine instructor as well. He teaches privately with Jazz at Lincon Center, Staten Island Academy, and Victory Studios.

Currently, Darrell is attending New Jersey City University soon to receive his Masters in Performance and is looking to further his education to ultimately obtain his Ph.D. while growing as an elite musician among his peers.

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Joy Welan

Joy Whelan is the daughter of jazz singer and bassist Phil Whelan, who had a hit with the song "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" with his band The Five Encores. Her childhood was filled with her father's rehearsals and her own piano lessons from the age of four.

Joy Whelan embodies the best of all possible styles as she delivers a melange of classic rock, r&b and neosoul. Though Ryder has been called a blues singer, she is a jack of all trades: jazz stylist, punk diva, and rock 'n' roll rabble rouser. She has performed with with Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and others. They also toured the USA for Rock Against Racism, from NY to Texas.

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Earl Sauls

(Gandharva) Earl Sauls (Acoustic Bass) has been a professional musician for over thirty five years and has played with some of the all-time jazz greats such as Stan Getz, Howard McGhee, Woody Herman, Pepper Adams, Chuck Wayne, Warren Vache and many more. He is also featured on recordings by Joshua Breakstone, Rob Reich, Peter Prisco and others.

Earl currently freelances in the New York / New Jersey area.

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Paul Von Thadden

Von Thadden has been producing, composing, arranging and performing for over 30 years. His experience and diversity are evident in his fluid yet precise playing style. His command of the instrument is direct, yet effortless. He has studied with jazz masters such as David Baker (Cycles) as well as Theory legends like Bob Bianco (Shillinger System). He is currently co-producing with Motown Producer George Kerr (his current credits include a song on Jill Scott's latest CD & a song sampled on Kanya West's latest CD). Paul has performed with icons in the music industry such as Ashford & Simpson, Debrah Cox, Melisa Morgan, Bobby Humpfrey, Micki Howard, Vickie Natalie (Star Search Grand Champion), Chantell Dorset (Star Search Champion), Sherrod Barnes (Beyonce / Whittney Houston), Omar Hakim (Madonna / Police), Bernard Davis (Anita Baker), Allyson Williams, J-Nyce, Maridalia, Andre Smith (Roberta Flack), Cuba Gooding Sr., Sidney Barnes (Motown / Northern Soul), Timothy Wilson (Motown), and George Bien.

Paul has performed at both The Apollo & Beckon Theaters, The Soul Cafe, Sugar Bar, Le Barbat and Iridium Clubs in New York City, not to mention his extensive touring of the entire United States and performing during the Medim in France. One listen, and you will hear his virtuosity and command of the instrument!

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