Next up on February 11 at our Rising Stars Series: jazz pianist Sean Mason

November 15, 2023

The Gilmore’s 2023 Rising Stars Series closes its season on Sunday, February 11, with the Sean Mason Trio in a 4 pm performance at Kalamazoo’s Wellspring Theatre.   

Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sean Mason began teaching himself piano at age 13, starting with the music of his upbringing–gospel, R&B, and soul–creating an original jazz style steeped in southern culture. As a bandleader, he leads the Sean Mason Quartet and the Sean Mason Trio, each band assembled to play Sean’s original music. On December 3, he will be joined onstage by bassist Butler Knowles and drummer Malcolm Charles in a performance sponsored by the John Stites Artist Awards.  

“Sean Mason is an exciting young jazz artist who has garnered attention with jazz fans and industry professionals alike,” says Gilmore Director of Jazz Awards Seth Abramson. “He first came onto my radar through my friends at Jazz at Lincoln Center, then I heard him perform as part of NPR’s Jazz Night in America program. In addition to being a considerable jazz pianist, he expresses a clear vision for his music and how he wishes to contribute and add to the dialogue of this great art form.” 

During his time in North Carolina, Mr. Mason met jazz legend Branford Marsalis, who was immediately taken by Sean’s musicality and recommended he move to New York. “I told my brother [Wynton Marsalis], ‘Be on the lookout for this kid’,” Marsalis has said. Upon his arrival, Sean hit the ground running, quickly securing performances and residencies at some of New York’s most prestigious jazz clubs, all while attending The Juilliard School. Mr. Mason has played at Smoke Jazz Club, Smalls Jazz Club, Lincoln Center, the Rochester Jazz Festival, and the Montana Folk Festival. 

He was featured on National Public Radio’s Jazz Night In America on its “Youngbloods” series, and he played on the soundtrack for the Netflix production Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre on The History Channel. His debut record of original compositions, The Southern Suite, produced by Branford Marsalis, was just released on Blue Engine Records, the label of Jazz At Lincoln Center. 


North Carolina native Butler Knowles is a bassist, producer, and engineer who founded Worry Less Studios, based in Raleigh. He is versed in jazz, R&B, rock, folk, and hip hop, and has performed in jazz clubs including Dizzy’s, Smalls, and Smoke in New York, and The Black Cat in San Francisco. 

Drummer Malcolm Charles has a breadth of artistry who started playing drums at the age of three. Also a bandleader, pianist, composer, and vocalist, he was born in South Carolina and graduated from Northwest School of the Arts. He has performed with Grammy-award winning Dianne Schuur and actress Jennifer Holiday.  

General admission Rising Stars Series tickets are on sale for $28, and livestream access is available with pay-what-you-choose pricing.  

Buy Tickets

Join us for our in person and virtual events!

Learn More

All content © 2024 Irving S. Gilmore International Piano Festival