9 Horses is comprised of Joe Brent (mandolin), Sara Caswell (violin), and Shawn Conley (bass), leading lights on their instruments who create a unique and gorgeous blend of instrumental virtuosity. All three hail from a classical background, but Brent’s indie-pop sensibility, combined with Caswell’s jazz-inspired lyricism and Conley's extraordinary virtuosity, taken together are at once a breathtaking display of color, melody, and rhythmic drive.
Joe Brent, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, also studied the mandolin in Italy before relocating back to New York City. He was a member of pop sensation Regina Spektor’s touring ensemble, and has performed and recorded with Woody Allen, Jewel, Kishi Bashi, Gary Smulyan, and Stephane Grappelli. Simultaneously, he has maintained a career in classical music, having performed as soloist with the Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, and The Boston Symphony, as well as chamber ensembles such as International Contemporary Ensemble and Speculum Musicae. He released his first album, Point of Departure, in 2007, featuring music by Astor Piazzolla, J. S. Bach, and Manuel de Falla, and in 2009 released solo. EP, an album of solo mandolin arrangements of songs by rock artists such as Animal Collective and The Flaming Lips. He has recorded the complete mandolin music of David Loeb and an album of the lute music of John Dowland, and in 2009 was added to the faculty of Mannes College, where he remains the only mandolin instructor at a major American conservatory. Music journalist Don von Schrilz said, “There has probably never been a mandolin player with better technical skills, and he matches that with an enthusiasm for every imaginable role a mandolin can fulfill,” and he has been described as, “One of the truly exceptional musicians of his generation,” by David McGee of The Bluegrass Special.
Sara Caswell, recognized as a “Rising Star” in both the 2013 and 2014 DownBeat Magazine Critics and Readers Polls and featured on the cover of the September 2014 issue of Strings Magazine, regularly performs with her two groups (the Sara Caswell Quartet and the Caswell Sisters Quintet), as well as clarinetist David Krakauer’s The Big Picture, Grammy-nominated jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro, and cellist Jody Redhage's Rose & the Nightingale. She has toured extensively with Grammy winners bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding and violinist Mark O’Connor, soloed numerous times in Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, and performed and/or recorded with many artists including Kishi Bashi, Regina Carter, Jenny Scheinman, Fred Hersch, Alan Ferber, Fabian Almazan, Nadje Noordhuis, Gene Bertoncini, and Skitch Henderson. Currently on faculty at Manhattan School of Music’s Jazz Arts Division, Sara studied classical violin with the legendary Josef Gingold, has won over 100 awards and first-place prizes in the jazz and classical competition worlds, and has released two highly-acclaimed solo CDs – First Song and But Beautiful – and a CD with her sister, vocalist Rachel Caswell, entitled Alive in the Singing Air. Says O’Connor: “Most good violinists will never experience what Sara creates with her instrument. It is beautifully refined emotion that lifts the spirit and at the same time, crystallizes for me this thought: jazz violin could really have something to offer again.”
Shawn Conley grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. While in high school, he won a position in the Honolulu Symphony, and both the State and Southwest divisions of the MTNA solo string competition. He continued his studies at Rice University with Paul Ellison where he received both bachelors and masters degrees in music performance. Shawn also won a Wagoner fellowship to study in Paris with legendary bassist and pedagogue François Rabbath, earning both performance and teaching diplomas. Shawn has attended many prestigious summer festivals including The Tanglewood Music Center, The Henry Mancini Institute, Domaine Forget Academy. Along with teaching privately, Shawn was on the faculty of the Hawaii Contrabass festival for its 06’ and 08’ seasons. In 2007 he was the third place winner at the International Society of Bassist Scott LaFaro Jazz competition. Shawn frequently performs with innovative chamber ensemble The Knights and Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Together, Brent, Caswell, and Conley are a musical experience not to be missed. Through Brent's compositions and his unique ability to seamlessly weave together different stylistic threads, 9 Horses forms a rich musical tapestry of diversity, virtuosity, and lyricism. The trio's debut album, Perfectest Herald, will be released on Sunnyside Records in the fall of 2015.