LITTLE BIG BAND: the band that could!

The ColaJazz LITTLE BIG BAND is our premier outreach ensemble. We offer “Jazz for Young People” edutainment concerts with a focus on SC Jazz Culture, jazz history, styles, composers to our annual season full of specialty concerts and features such as our “Eve of the Eve” holiday show. This dynamic ensemble presents repertoire from small group jazz to the greatest compositional works of Gil Evans, Count Basie, Duke Ellington to modern big bands such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The LITTLE BIG BAND entertains, educates and furthers the love of jazz history and community.



The LITTLE BIG BAND: the band that could! is comprised of some of the most talented jazz musicians from Columbia, Greenville, Augusta and Charleston.
~ ~ Depending on availability, the below lists our frequently swinging cats! ~ ~

Mark Rapp trumpet

MARK RAPP – bandleader, trumpeter
Rapp has released 8 diverse recordings and appears as a sideman on a myriad of projects including Disney’s “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” alongside Roy Hargrove, Dave Brubeck, Esperanza Spalding, The Bad Plus, Joshua Redman and more. Rapp’s celebrated 2009 debut release “Token Tales” earned him a spot as a “Top Emerging Trumpeter” in Downbeat Magazine, sold out the Blue Note (NYC) and debuted at the famed Newport Jazz Festival. Rapp is a featured artist in Mellen Press’ “How Jazz Trumpeters Understand Their Music” among a prestigious list including Terence Blanchard, Lew Soloff, Freddie Hubbard, Tim Hagans, Dave Douglas and more. Rapp also composed and produced a jazz ballet “Woven: Life in Notes and Steps” ( He has performed in jazz clubs and festivals around the world from Croatia, Brasil, Austria, Switzerland and USA including back-to-back appearances at the 2017 & 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

nick vlandis

NICK VLANDIS – pianist, arranger
Nicholas Vlandis is the pianist and one of the arrangers for the ColaJazz Little Big Band. He received his Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from the University of South Carolina, where he studied jazz piano under Bert Ligon and classical piano under Phillip Bush. Nicholas has been actively engaged in the South Carolina music scene since 2015 when he began performing with local Myrtle Beach party and cover bands. Since then, he has dedicated his time to becoming an avid music lover, performer, and teacher of all genres, although he has found quite a warm and happy home in jazz music. 

Eboni Ramm: ColaJazz Festival Family Day

EBONI RAMM – vocalist
Deeply rooted in South Carolina, Eboni Ramm fell in love with the arts at a very young age and was encouraged throughout her youth to express herself. Today, an accomplished jazz singer and poet, she invites audiences of all ages to share her passion for combining these art forms, highlighting her belief in the powerful influence of jazz on the American cultural heritage and literary experience and aesthetic. She has taught her unique Jazz Poetry Salon at residencies with the Richland Library, Arts Access South Carolina, Youth Corps, Fairfield School District, McKissick Museum, and ColaJazz’s partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center, among others. As ColaJazz’s Education Outreach Coordinator, Eboni provides youth programming, including residencies in schools, libraries and Cola Jazz’s summer camp, as well as youth-focused concerts. She is a Richland Library Lifetime Literary Artist in Residence. For the South Carolina Arts Commission, she has developed and implemented the Communal Pen Writing Workshop, a partnership with South Carolina Humanities and Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program.

adams way

ADAMS WAY – vocalist
Adams Way is a guitarist and vocalist from Columbia, SC. Adams has been studying music since he began playing the trumpet in the fifth grade. In 2017, Adams began his freshman year at the University of South Carolina as a Trumpet Performance Major. Soon, he would leave the program and begin to pursue a degree in history. In January of 2019, Adams played his first gig on guitar with the Columbia-based band When Animals Dream, led by Reginald Frederick, when their bass player was unavailable. It was here that Adams found a love for the guitar and a hidden talent for singing. Ever since, Adams has been pursuing a career in music as a guitarist and vocalist. When Adams is not performing with the Cola Jazz Little Big Band, he is performing solo Soul and R&B sets in the Columbia area.

Edwin G. Hamilton is professional musician, recording artist, and educator. Edwin earned a Jazz Fellowship to study with Herlin Riley in New Orleans, Louisiana. Edwin has performed, recorded and/or worked with notable names such as: Teddy Adams, Explorer’s Club, Chris Crenshaw, Michael Dease, Calvin Edwards, Delbert Felix, Mike Frost, Aaron Goldberg, Wycliffe Gordon, Niki Haris, Amos Hoffman, Enrique Hernandez, Charmaine Neville, Delfeayo Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Shannon Powell, Marcus Printup, Vinny Raniola, Eric Reed, Herlin Riley, Christian Sands, Tye Tribbet, Donald Vega, Frank Vignola, Christian Winther, Ben Wolfe and many more. In August of 2015, he released his debut album, The Whole World Must Change. The record has received rave reviews in All About Jazz and Jazz Inside. He serves as the Minister of Music at Greater Young Zion Baptist Church (Augusta, GA) where Dr. William B. Blount is the Senior Pastor. Edwin also teaches private lessons and is an active session musician.

CHRIS CHURCH – drummer
From fashioning his first set of ride cymbals from upside down orange cones in the snow-covered suburbs of Buffalo, NY, Columbia-based drummer and vocalist Chris Church has performed with an array of artists. He has shared the stage with country star Lee Brice, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, as well as opening for Toby Keith as a vocalist with the 3rd Infantry Division Rock Band at Camp Victory, Iraq. Most recently he’s focused his energy on the Columbia jazz scene, playing with the likes of Skipp Pearson and Fred Wesley.

Chris received his Bachelor of Arts in Music Education at the University of South Carolina, Aiken and is currently a member of the 246th Army Band in Eastover, SC as a percussionist and full-time support staff.

Ed Fuqua Bass

ED FUQUA – bassist
Recently relocating to the SouthEast after living in NYC since 1987, Ed Fuqua has appeared with groups at the JVC Jazz Festival, the Highlights In Jazz series by Jack Kleisinger and performed in many historical jazz venues (Birdland, Lenox Lounge, Angry Squire, Village Gate, Sweet Rhythm, Danny’s Skylight Room) as well as newer spots (Knitting Factory, Karavan, Kavehaz, Augie’s, Small’s, Fat Cat). He has worked with established jazz luminaries like Dakota Staton, Frank Gant, Bernard Purdie, Eliot Zigmund, Rich Perry and Jimmy Lovelace, as well as up and coming “young lions” like Leon Parker, Dave Berkman, Randy Johnston, Doug Raney, Jacob Sacks, Dan Weiss and Tatum Greenblatt. He is the author of the Sher Music Publication book WALKING BASSICS: The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing and appears as bassist on the play-a-long CD to the Sher Music Publication THE BLUES SCALES: Essential Tools for Jazz Improvisation by Dan Greenblatt.

Ben Eidson Alto Sax

BEN EIDSON – alto saxophonist
Ben Eidson is a saxophonist/improviser originally from Columbia, South Carolina that now attends school at The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He has played concerts throughout the South East and studied under Jerry Bergonzi and Donny McCaslin, among others. 


Stuart Ray

STUART RAY – baritone saxophonist
Stuart D.E. Ray is a native of Columbia, South Carolina and a graduate of Spring Valley High School. He was the Director of Bands at E. L. Wright Middle School and Assistant Director of the Spring Valley High School Band from 2011-2016.  Mr. Ray earned a Bachelor of Music with an emphasis in instrumental music education and performance certificate from the University of South Carolina in 2009. Mr. Ray proudly serves as part of the 246th Army National Guard Band here in South Carolina. As a saxophone player, Mr. Ray teaches privately and works as a clinician. He plays in both the Soda City Brass Band and The Little Big Band. Mr. Ray is married to his lovely wife, Meghan Ray. 

Chris Bussell tenor sax

CHRIS BUSSELL – tenor saxophonist
A native of Augusta, GA, Chris Bussell came to the Columbia area in 1995 to attend the University of South Carolina where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. Chris plays saxophone, flute and clarinet with a number of groups in the area, including the Capital City Big Band, Cotton Town Soul Society, and Sweet Heat. For the past two decades, he has been the saxophonist for The Root Doctors, recording several albums and performing in venues across the country. He also serves as an educator for the Cannonball Musical Instrument Corporation. When he isn’t playing the saxophone, Chris is the assistant principal at Midway Elementary School. He lives in Lexington, SC, with his wife, Shannon, their three kids, and two miniature dachshunds.

LARRY DEAN – lead trumpeter
Larry Dean has over 20 years of professional experience that has expanded from orchestral music to genres such as jazz, rock, and Latin music. Most recently, he has performed with the South Carolina Philharmonic, the Dick Goodwin Big Band, and was lead trumpet for the Columbia, South Carolina production of Wicked (North American Broadway Tour). He currently serves in the United States Army as the First Sergeant of the 282d Army Band, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Larry is often called for theater shows and has performed three separate productions of Dreamgirls, The Wizard of Oz, and Bye, Bye, Birdie. As an orchestral trumpeter, Larry has also performed with The Virginia Symphony, The Austin Symphony Orchestra, and The Austin Lyric Opera. He has been a soloist with multiple United States Army Bands and school bands in Japan, Norway, and the United States. As an educator, he has taught privately and served as a Wind and Marching Band clinician in Texas, Virginia, and Vicenza, Italy. Larry studied with Jack Laumer and Dr. Keith Winking from Texas State University and Armando Ghitala, former principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Larry was a finalist in the 1997 International Trumpet Guild Mock Orchestra Audition Competition.

Dave Allison

DAVID ALLISON – trumpeter
David C. Allison, Director of Bands at Spring Valley HS, earned a Masters degree in Music Performance from the University of South Carolina after undergraduate studies at Ithaca College and at the Eastman School of Music.  As a trumpet player, he maintains a busy freelance schedule in both the classical and commercial fields performing in shows, recording sessions, clinics, and teaching. He has performed with many orchestras in New York, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Georgia. Currently he is Principal Trumpet Emeritus with the SCPO after performing 25 years as Principal Trumpet. He is a founding member and solo trumpet of the Palmetto Brass and performs with the Dick Goodwin Big Band and the Palmetto Concert Band. Some of his  commercial credits include engagements with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, the Temptations, Natalie Cole, Henry Mancini, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Olivia Newton John, Rich Little, Doc Severinsen, Dizzy Gillespie and Chuck Mangione.  As an educator, he has taught in public schools, privately, and at the college level.  Currently he is in his fifteenth year as Director of Bands at Spring Valley High School, after nineteen years as Director of Bands at Summit Parkway Middle School.

DAVID CARTER – trumpeter
Dr. David W. Carter, Jr. currently serves as Assistant Professor of Music Education at Coastal Carolina University where he teaches undergraduate courses in music education and supervises preservice music teachers. Most recently, Carter served as the Director of Education and Outreach for Charleston Jazz–a non-profit organization focused on preserving and promoting the art of jazz. Throughout that time, Carter established a community school of music (Charleston Jazz Academy) focused on jazz education for students of all ages and experience levels.

Mack Hester Trombone

MACK HESTER – trombonist
Mack was born in Lexington, South Carolina where he started playing trombone in the 5th grade. He’s now a student at the University of South Carolina working on a jazz studies degree and a member of the 246th Army Band.

DAVIS HERNDON – trombonist
Davis Herndon is a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist from Cayce, South Carolina. With a background rooted in the Southern Baptist church, Davis draws much of his ability and passion from years of learning hymns and playing a wide variety of roles within the Music Ministry of his church. In 2013, he left Columbia to attend the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities where he studied tuba with renowned educator John Sizemore as well as notable teachers: David Hamilton, and Gary Malvern. This experience led to an enrollment at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY where Davis’s musical tastes and practices began to diversify. While studying with Don Harry at Eastman, Davis had the chance to perform and record with the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman New Jazz and Jazz Ensembles, Brass Guild and with a number of outside acts including Jon Batiste, Bobby McFerrin, The Dave Rivello Ensemble and Shag Mantra. As a bandleader, Davis founded, directed and played sousaphone for The Boomhauers brass band, while also working as its chief arranger. Since moving back to Columbia, Davis can be found exercising his restless creative energy with a number of projects ranging from Barbershop singing to handbell ringing and he is always willing to seek out new musical experiences in the name of peace and unity.

GAVIN SMITH – trombonist
Since attending the Berklee College of Music, Gavin has returned to Charleston and continues to perform with various groups in town and abroad. Recording and performing with Hootie & The Blowfish on their song “Turn It Up” has been one of the highlights in his music career, especially because he was able to share the experience with two musicians he holds in high regard – Charlton Singleton and Mark Sterbank.

Little Big Band