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Meet the 'one-woman wrecking crew,' saxophonist Alexa Tarantino

Saxophonist Alexa Tarantino
Courtesy of the artist
Saxophonist Alexa Tarantino

You've been hearing Alexa Tarantino's latest album "Firefly" on KNKX Jazz. Find out why Wynton Marsalis calls her "a one-woman wrecking crew."

The full quote from trumpeter and managing/artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, Wynton Marsalis, goes like this:
“Alexa is a one-woman wrecking crew, an indomitable force for expression, education, and absolute excellence.”

That's a lot to live up to, and Tarantino is giving it her best shot.

She plays alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet, flute, alto flute and piccolo.

She holds a master’s degree in jazz studies from The Juilliard School and bachelor’s degrees in jazz saxophone performance and music education from the Eastman School of Music.

Tarantino was named one of the “Top 5 Alto Saxophonists of 2019” by the JazzTimes Critics’ Poll and nominated as a “Rising Star — Alto Saxophone” by Downbeat Magazine’s 2020 Critics’ Poll.

She has performed regularly as a leader and side musician in a wide variety of ensembles and genres, including vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant's Quintet and OGRESSE Ensemble, drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.’s Generation Y and Big Band, the Lioness Ensemble, Arturo O’Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Sherrie Maricle's DIVA Jazz Orchestra.

Tarantino is on faculty for Jazz at Lincoln Center's Youth Programs and represents the organization as a clinician and educator for various schools, festivals and workshops.

She's also the founder and director of the Rockport Jazz Workshop in Rockport, Massachusetts.

"Firefly" is Tarantino’s third record for the Posi-Tone label. It displays her growth in performance and composition.

We can't wait to see and hear what's next from Alexa Tarantino!

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.