Trey Sorrells lit up the room. From his first song of the evening, he radiated energy, moving to the music coming from his saxophone and throwing himself fully into his performance. Sorrells hit note after note, barely seeming to breathe as the walls of the Mansion at Strathmore reverberated with the sounds of jazz fusion.
Sorrells is one of the six artists in Strathmore’s Institute for Artistic and Professional Development 2019 Artist in Residence (AIR) program. Beginning in 2005, AIR has mentored over 80 talented musicians ages 16 to 32 as they develop their professional music careers. Over the course of the 10-month program, the 6 artists selected each year write commissioned pieces, hone their skills, and host education workshops to teach others what they know. The artists also give live performances at the Mansion at Strathmore.
…it was clear that Trey Sorrells is one to watch.
Sorrells gave the final performance for the AIR Class of 2019. A 2015 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Sorrells began playing the saxophone at age 12 and credits the early development of his skills to playing music in church. He specializes in hard-bop jazz, a jazz subgenre influenced by R&B, blues, and gospel music. Both a composer and performer, Sorrells also incorporates elements of funk and hip-hop into his pieces.
At the closing of AIR 2019, people packed into the mansion’s Dorothy M. and Maurice C. Shapiro Music Room to see Sorrells close out the AIR season. The tight squeeze for the sold-out show can be attributed both to the popularity of the AIR program and to Sorrells’ ability to draw a crowd. Additional viewers could access the live stream hosted by Strathmore.
Accompanied by the members of his Richmond-based band Future Prospect, Sorrells performed seven pieces, including his Strathmore-commissioned piece Halfway. Band members Morgan Burrs (guitar), Jacob Ungerleider (keyboard), and Brandon Lane (bass), as well as recent VCU graduate DeSean Gault stepping in for Cleandre Foster on the drums, took turns in the spotlight with various solos. Notably, Gault learned all the music in just four days. Anjali Taneja, another 2019 artist in residence, lent her ethereal voice to Halfway. Everyone meshed well and seemed to enjoy performing as much as the audience appeared to enjoy listening. As he played, Sorrells conducted it all.
Sorrells’ musical style is both familiar and experimental. He composed two of the seven songs the band performed and combined impressively drawn-out solos with abrupt song endings and tempo variations, giving his pieces additional depth and complexity. The show-stopping number was MJ 2.0, a song composed by Future Prospect’s drummer Foster while he and Sorrells were part of an exchange program at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Named for its Michael Jackson-esque style, MJ 2.0 featured some of Sorrells’ fanciest fingerwork of the night and some truly powerful sax solos.
As he concluded his performance and thanked his sponsor Dale Rosenthal, the Grammy award-winning AIR director Betty Scott, and the family members who came to support him and the band, it was clear that Trey Sorrells is one to watch.
To find more information about upcoming events at the Mansion at Strathmore visit https://www.strathmore.org/mansion or call 301-581-5100. More information about the Artist in Residence program can be found at https://www.strathmore.org/education/artistic-development.