James Merenda is a Private Lesson Instructor for Piano and Saxophone at Northeastern. Since 1998 James has been leading the Masked Marvels, assembling an ever expanding core of energetic and razor-sharp musicians, ranging from three to nine pieces, to showcase the masterworks of legendary bassist/composer Charles Mingus. James and The Masked Marvels break open Mingus’ compositions and bring them to life before live audiences throughout the area and on record with the 2002 release, Live at the Block. Merenda and the MMs don’t treat the works like something to be seen and not touched, but instead use them as a launch pad for innovative and incendiary improvisation. The Masked Marvels have performed at Boston’s Hatch Memorial Shell, WGBH radio, WERS radio, Ryles Jazz Club, Zeitgeist Gallery, The Acton Jazz Cafe, the Gardner Museum and many more venues and have been featured in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Cadence Magazine.
James also performs on piano with the James Merenda Trio and in a duo setting with vocalist Vanessa Morris. He currently collaborates on the experimental, improvisational project Noise is Music’s Dream of Us and with bassist John Voigt’s Something Different Series. James has also led and performed with Portrait of Mingus, Tribute to Horace Silver, Phenus Khaben and Perilous Foil.
Creating a thriving jazz scene for musicians of all levels to play live and make connections, James has been hosting weekly and monthly open jam sessions at Costello’s in Jamaica Plain, the Center for Arts in Natick and Matt Murphy’s Pub in Brookline since 2001.
Always active, James has performed with; Ran Blake at the Knitting Factory, the Darmstadt Jazz Festival in Germany and recorded on Hatology Records; with Roswell Rudd and Beat Science, Cameron Brown, Joe McPhee, Joe Hunt, former Ornette Coleman keyboardist Dave Bryant, Grammy Award winning pianist David Maxwell, the Either/Orchestra, the Ardvark Orchestra, the Slip, contemporary guitarists Marc Ribot, David Fiuczynsdi, Dave Tronzo and with drummer Bob Gullotti. James has also performed on Radio France, Radio Europa in Italy and in Holland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium with Perilous Foil.
As an educator James has created a curriculum infusing classic music instruction with third stream concepts to students ranging in age from infant to age twelve at Paige Academy in Boston. He’s led jazz ensemble classes at New England Conservatory of Music and Northeastern University and is currently on the staff of the N.U. Department of Music. Since 1992 James has taught privately and since 1994 he has taught piano at the Brookline Music School. A native of Brooklyn, New York, James is a 1991 graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, studying with Ran Blake, George Garzone, Geri Allen and George Russell.