The Story

Raised in a musical household (his father is a pianist, his mother a vocalist), Philadelphia-born bassist-composer Alexander Claffy has become a fixture on the New York scene since moving to the Big Apple in 2011. A regular at Small’s, where he has appeared as a sideman with the Itamar Borochov Quartet, Josh Lawrence Color Theory, Josh Evans Quartet, Joe Farnsworth Quartet, Jim Snider Quintet, Orrin Evans Quartet and many others, Claffy has also been leading his own quintet of late following his sophomore release, Standards: What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? (SMK Jazz), which features a guest appearance from fellow Philly native Kurt Rosenwinkel.

A one-time student of such esteemed bassists as Ron Carter, Ben Wolfe, Gregg August and the late Dwayne Burno, the ascending bassist arrives at the Exit Jazz Festival for the second time (Joey Alexander) and the first fronting his quintet featuring inventive guitarist Ben Eunson, in-demand drummer Lionel Forrester Jr. and vocalist Alina Engibaryan. Currently based in Harlem, Claffy takes an all-encompassing approach to jazz standards, befitting that famous maxim by Dizzy Gillespie: “As a musician, you have to have to keep one foot back in the past and have one foot forward into the future.”

The Sound

Not only does Claffy sing and play acoustic and electric bass in this group, but he's composed and arranged some of his favorite music across genres. Vocalist Alina Engibaryan and guitarist Eunson provide the sparks while drummer Foster Jr. fuels the proceedings with his deft, interactive touch on the kit.

Where & When: SeaSalt Stage in the Ocean Club Hotel, Saturday + Sunday

Michael Kline