Joe Whalen, Piano
Joe Whalen, sometimes called “Wailin’ Joe at the pi-ano,” was born and raised in New England. He started playing piano in high school in his cousin’s combo and then small groups led by two sax-playing uncles. He worked his way through college and graduate school leading and playing in small combos. Joe spent 20 years in Washington, DC playing solo, booking small groups, and as a backup pianist in several big bands. Joe loves to improvise on tunes, and counts among his favorite musicians Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Miles Davis, and Wynton Marsalis. Joe and his wife, Judy, live in Chelmsford, MA. They have 2 married daughters, each with children. Joe has recently retired from a systems engineering position with a local industrial company.
Chris Guild, Bass
Chris has played the bass on and off for 40 years. He began instrumental studies with the ‘cello in the 3rd grade and started playing the bass in high school. During college Chris was the bassist in a trio which played at a local restaurant. He also formed a band called the Five Sounds with fellow collegiate players which made a record for audition purposes for cruise ship gigs. In 2004 Chris resumed his bass playing and formed Jazz First , a piano, bass, and drums trio at First Church, Nashua. In addition to his current teacher, Volker Nahrmann, of Billerica, MA, Chris counts Ray Brown, Wilfred Middlebrooks, Roger Spencer, Gary Peacock, and John Lamb as positive influences on his jazz playing. Chris has also sung bass for many years in the Chancel Choir at First Church, Nashua. Chris owns a computer consulting and database development business. Chris’ hobbies include boating and digital photography. He and his wife, Marty, reside in Merrimack, NH, and they have two adult children and three grandsons, two of them being identical twins.
Chris Narainen, Drums/percussion
Born on the island of Mauritius, Chris started playing drums when he was ten years old. Self-taught through listening and observing, he played in his first band all over the island the following year. Chris began in metal bands, and then gradually fell into the progressive-rock band “Scar ” with whom he toured around the Indian Ocean. Following his move to the U.S. in 2004 to attend U-Mass Boston, he’s played in many bands including Veneer, Blue Boy Productions, ThunderSquad, The Chroma Concept, MistyBlue Jazz, and Rack Em Let’s Go. Chris is also a DJ with the name “The Madmauritian.” Chris’ playing experience counts the following venues: The Middle East, TT the Bears, The Wonderbar, Brighton Music Hall, The Cantab Lounge, The Lizard Lounge, Johnny D’s, Church Boston, and many other places in the Northeast U. S. As co- founder and resident DJ at Music Ecology, a weekly electronic dance music program in Boston for the past five years, Chris has met many bands, musicians and artists. Since the summer of 2013, he has been teaching drums at The School of Rock Boston.
To expand his drumming experience, in February 2013, Chris joined Jazz First as their lead drummer. He has played several venues with them in and around Boston, as well as recorded a demo CD with vocalist Pamela Smith. He continues to perform with Jazz First as much as possible. Chris says, “I am looking forward to playing, progressing, and pushing as far as I can, to fulfill my musical goals.”
Mark Malysz, Drums
A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, Mark started playing the drums at age 11 and joined his first band when he was 13. After graduating high school, he spent almost three years playing the club circuit in Western New England with several successive bands before enlisting in the Marine Corps. Mark returned to music in 2007 after a long break. Since then, he has performed at more than 200 gigs throughout New England with other bands, as well as with Jazz First.
Miki Matsuki, Drums
Miki Matsuki was born in Matsuyama, Japan. She moved to the United States to study jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 1996. During her school years, Ms. Matsuki’s band was selected “Best of Berklee” in 2000. Since graduating from Berklee, she has performed and recorded in various musical settings including soundtrack work, performances at radio and television broadcasting stations, and a tour of Korea. Ms. Matsuki has performed with great musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Joanne Brackeen, George Garzone, John Tchicai, Darren Barrett, Frank Lacy, Cecil Brooks, Dave Bryant, Stan Strickland and many others. Ms. Matsuki received her MM and GPD in Modern American Music Performance from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA, with a full scholarship and award.
Dave Morin (previous member)
Dave grew up in Rhode Island listening to music and knew by the age of 8 that he wanted to be a drummer. He practiced at home on pots and pans, furniture, walls, anything on which he could pound out a rhythm, until he found his way into a drum and bugle corps and eventually into the Naval Recruit Training Band at the naval base in Bainbridge, MD. When he returned to civilian life he headed straight for Berklee College of Music in Boston, and over the decades since then has enjoyed long stints with many professional jazz bands including Solid Gold, led by well-known jazz saxophonist Hal McIntyre, as well as with society band leader Jason Tobias and various concert, country, and marching bands. If it was music, he played it, and if it was jazz, so much the better, whether Traditional, Be-Bop, West Coast, Modern or Classic. “Mr. Rhythm,” with an uncanny precision for tempo, supported his large family as a computer systems programmer/manager by day, and as a drummer nights and weekends. Retired now from his career in computers, he devotes his time to music and travel. His grown children live in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Hawaii, where he spent a recent honeymoon with his bride, Samantha. They now live in Nokomis, FL, and together have seven children and fourteen grandchildren.
Joey Placenti, sax/flute/clarinet
Joey is originally from Southern California and is a graduate of the US Navy School of Music. Following graduation he traveled throughout Europe with a Navy band entertaining. After his departure from the Navy, Joey settled in Pasadena CA, where he studied with studio musicians and played in several local bands in the area. In the mid 70’s Joey was on staff with the “Dick Grove School of Music” and was privileged to have performed with several well-known jazz and studio musicians. Joey has performed in a wide variety of venues over the years from tour groups, concert halls, jazz clubs, casino lounges in Las Vegas and also was featured with several big bands. He is comfortable with backing singers and sitting in with groups that enjoy adding a sax player at times or in need of a singer for their venue. Joey plays soprano, alto, and tenor sax, flute, and clarinet, as well as performing vocals. Joey also directs the Tall Granite Big Band based in Concord, NH. Joey has been performing with Jazz First since 2015.
Joey relocated to Manchester, NH, in 2013 and is a full-time Technical Sales Engineer dealing with laser equipment.
Debbie Nordyke, vocalist
Debbie grew up in Indiana and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music. She then traveled to New York where she appeared as a professional actress for almost 20 years on Broadway and in national tours of the Tony-nominated show, “Romance, Romance,” the Mitchel Parish musical revue, “Stardust,” and in “Snoopy” as Sally Brown. Debbie also performed in “Jerry’s Girls” with Carol Channing, Leslie Uggams, and Andrea McCardle, and in “They’re Playing Our Song” with Lucie Arnaz. Debbie now resides in NH with her family and works in education.
Pamela Smith, vocalist
Pamela grew up in southern California where her earliest recollection of an American Standard was singing along to the strains of the Sons of the Pioneers’ “Cool Water” on her grandparents’ RCA Victor. From a musical family, performance was always a given. During college in San Diego, she built her reputation as a blues singer and songwriter and was part of several groups eventually ending up in Los Angeles recording for Capitol Records.
Moving to New Hampshire in the late 70’s, Pamela became a member of the NH Commission (now the State Council) on the Arts, interpreting jazz with Robert C. Babb, currently conductor of the Granite State Symphony among others. She continued both solo and group work as a singer/guitarist, performing a wide spectrum of music from blues and jazz to country and folk. Always evolving musically, the chance to appear with Jazz First has allowed her to return to her first love – blues and jazz standards. “My growth as a vocalist has been spent preparing for this opportunity. In my mind, there is no better music worth preserving and performing. I am home.”
Pamela is a retired art teacher and lives in Merrimack, NH, with her husband, Paul, where they delight in four grandchildren, one cat, travel and a garden that won’t quit.