Damian is known for his ability to fit into any musical situation, extraordinary reading and improvising skills as well as being an educator and columnist. He has played in the studio or on the stage with the likes of • Peter Erskine • The Jaco Pastorius Big Band • Les McCann & Javon Jackson • Gino Vannelli • Jeff Lorber • George Colligan • Sveti w/ Marko Djordjevic • Vardan Ovsepian • Charmaine Neville • Tony Furtado and many others as well as being featured on the GospelChops.com "Shed Sessionz Vol. 1" DVD. Damian is an adjunct professor at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon and has also appeared as an instructor at Gerald Veasley's Bass Bootcamp, the National Guitar Workshop as well as the Berklee College of Music's Guitar Week. Damian has also written for Bass Player Magazine, NoTreble.com, Bass Musician Magazine as well as authoring his own book, "Right Hand Drive".
In 2003, he won the Jazz Society of Oregon Young Musician scholarship. He was the winner of the 2008 Downbeat Award for Outstanding Big Band Performance. His second Trio album, “Ode To Consumerism”, was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2010 Portland Music Awards, the only jazz album in it's category. In late 2009, the Ben Darwish Group was invited to audition at Jazz At Lincoln Center for the Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program. Although they weren’t chosen as finalists, Darwish used this experience to develop an educational presentation on the history of Jazz that he will be presenting in several schools in the Portland area. Most recently, he was the winner of the 2010 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award for his composition “Under The Bright Red Sky”.
John Nastos was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. There, he studied with local jazz luminaries like Warren Rand, Renato Caranto, and Thara Memory. Before he was out of high school, John was enrolled at Portland State University, studying under Darrell Grant, Alan Jones, Charles Gray, and Rob Scheps.After Portland State, John went on to get his Bachelor’s degree in jazz at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City, where he finished the four-year undergraduate degree in just three years. While there, he had the opportunity to study composition and saxophone with Bob Mintzer, Dick Oatts, Steve Wilson, and Michael Abene.
John has performed around the Northwest and in New York City with groups and artists such as the Mel Brown Septet and B3 Quartet, Gordon Lee’s Big Band, Bobby Torres, Art Abrams Swing Machine, Ben Darwish, and Portland Center Stage. He has played at many major festivals, including the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, Portland Jazz Festival, and Ellensburg Jazz Festival. He currently maintains a busy performing and teaching schedule in the Portland area.
Drummer Reinhardt Melz currently lives in Portland, OR and has made a living as a freelance drummer since the age of 17. Born into a family of musicians and dancers, Reinhardt was exposed to a large variety of musical styles from birth which has led to his "top call" status as a drummer . Over the years Reinhardt's versatility has led to gigs with a diverse combination of international artists including Buddy Guy, Earnestine Anderson, Steve Miller, George Colligan, James Carter, Luis Conte, Tony Furtado, Charmaine Neville, Jeff Lorber, Randy Porter, Curtis Salgado, Les McCann, Javon Jackson and many more. Currently, Reinhardt tours internationally with Gino Vannelli and with Les McCann & Javon Jackson. When not touring, he also keeps a busy schedule in Portland and Northwest area teaching and gigging with several local artists.