Kalia Vandever is an American trombonist and composer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her approach to the trombone is distinctive and defined by her sonorous tone and lyrical improvisational voice. She leans into the challenges of the instrument and allows patience and melody guide her process.
In her compositional practice, Kalia draws from her love of songs and improvisation, creating a landscape of sounds that resonate in the body and hold the listener. She released her debut ensemble album, "In Bloom" in 2019 which has been described as "the rise of an exciting voice for the music" (Seton Hawkins, Hot House Jazz Magazine). Her sophomore album, Regrowth released in May, 2022 on New Amsterdam Records and "confirms her strengths as a composer and bandleader with a distinctly contemporary point of view." (Nate Chinen, WBGO Jazz) Her debut solo album featuring her works for trombone, voice and electronics will be released on AKP Records in March, 2023.
In addition to her work as a bandleader, Kaila is active in the collective, tilt. The Brooklyn-based group brings together the voices of performer-composers Isabel Crespo Pardo (voice), Kalia Vandever (trombone/voice), and Carmen Q Rothwell (acoustic bass/voice). The warmth of their songs is an intimate reflection of each individual, heard and seen by the collective. tilt will be touring the West Coast in February 2023 in anticipation of their first album.
Kalia received her Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies at the Juilliard School in 2017. She has toured and performed internationally with her quartet, performing at festivals such as the Winter Jazz Festival and BRIC Jazz Festival. She is also known for her work as a side-woman, performing with jazz artists including Joel Ross, Immanuel Wilkins, Fay Victor, to name a few. She has also performed with popular artists including Harry Styles, Lizzo, Japanese Breakfast, Moses Sumney, Jennifer Hudson, and Demi Lovato. She has appeared on Saturday Night Live twice, as well as Samantha Bee's Full Frontal.
Kalia is an awardee of the 2022 Next Jazz Legacy, a program founded by New Music USA and the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. She was also selected to curate the 2022 Music Series for The Arts Center at Duck Creek in East Hampton.
Along with her performance work, Kalia has been commissioned to write works for groups and individuals including Tesla Quartet, The Westerlies, Katherine Kyu Hyeon Lim, and Hats & Heels Duo.
She is also experienced as an educator, having led masterclasses at universities including California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago Illinois, Cal State Northridge, Saddleback College, University of Maine Farmington, and University of Missouri. She has also led clinics for organizations including CWU Jenn, Women of Jazz and Creative Music, Women in Jazz Organization, and Live From Our Living Rooms.
Kalia endorses Conn Selmer and Bach instruments as well as Denis Wick London.
photo by Alex Joseph
tilt - Isabel Crespo Pardo, Kalia Vandever, Carmen Rothwell (left to right) - photo by Kas
34 Great Records You May Have Missed: Spring/Summer 2022
"On her second album, Regrowth, Kalia Vandever sculpts her trombone’s golden tones into dazzling compositions. Starting with the gentle liftoff of opener “Soft,” the record unfurls like petals in early spring. Vandever illuminates a relaxed and sumptuous corner of her own world with her brassy billows, while touches of piano and percussion bring earthiness to her ebullient rays. Even the spare snarls of “An Unwelcome Visit” and its reprise ripple out into a dizzying wash of horns and drums. Vandever’s journey on Regrowth is a pleasure to follow, and her open-hearted melodies make her a trustworthy guide. " –Allison Hussey, Pitchfork
"Vandever's forthcoming album — fittingly titled Regrowth, and due out on New Amsterdam Records on May 6 — confirms her strengths as a composer and bandleader with a distinctly contemporary point of view. Consider the lead single, "Pick It Up (And Drop It Again)," which begins with electric guitar ostinato in a strobing 10/8 time, before bassist Nick Dunston and drummer Connor Parks join the fray. (The guitarist is Lee Meadvin, who produced the album.) The groove shifts to triple meter as Vandever enters to state the melody before the minute-and-a-half mark, first in a sturdy midrange and then an octave higher. Her solo nods at times toward hard-bop precursors like Curtis Fuller, but with a billowing urgency rooted in the present tense." - Nate Chinen, WBGO
"Regrowth as a whole is unsuspecting – it is as much a mystery as it is a synchronized stream of consciousness, emotion, and perspective. It is what emerges when stagnation feels imminent and creativity is daunting. It speaks the language of growth through songs like “Lift,” “Pick It Up (and Drop It Again),” and “An Unwelcome Visit.” The notes ebb and flow between the intense and the simplistic, ultimately building to a jazz-induced crescendo. This album is for anyone and everyone with main character energy." - Jasmine Ivanna Espy, I Care If You Listen
"Vandever just released her debut album, In Bloom, featuring original compositions for a quartet of her peers: pianist Theo Walentiny, bassist Nick Dunston and drummer Connor Parks. On the title track, which opens the album, Vandever employs a bass ostinato with an offbeat syncopation throughout — a simple but effective way of setting the song just slightly off its axis. Her melody features a similar rhythmic displacement, which she plays with classical precision. The solos, first by Walentiny and then Vandever, are adventurous but rooted. This is a cohort that has obviously metabolized many different approaches, and chosen its own path." - Nate Chinen, WBGO
"We might not immediately nominate the trombone as the lead melody instrument in a jazz quartet. However, In Bloom, the debut album of trombonist and composer Kalia Vandever not only makes a compelling case for the format, it also documents the rise of an exciting new voice for the music." - Seton Hawkins, Hot House Jazz Magazine
"Slow and viscous, the original music on "In Bloom," this young trombonist's debut recording moves with an unhurried, sighing attitude. She writes melodies with long, held notes, and her songs usually linger between slow and mid-tempo. The idea, seems, is to dip you into a feeling or a pattern or a breathing speed, and keep you there." - Giovanni Russonello, NY Times