Jeremy Viner is one low-key cat. Ask him about the fact that he just got nominated for a Grammy Award, and the Bangor native smiles but remains completely modest.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Viner, 24, a master’s degree candidate at The Julliard School in New York City. “I thought it might happen, but it was still unexpected. It was a nice surprise.”
Viner was nominated earlier this month for a Grammy for his work with the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, a jazz group in which Viner plays clarinet.
The group’s newest album, “Eternal Interlude,” was nominated for Best Album by a Large Jazz Ensemble. In the five groups Viner plays with regularly, he switches between jazz clarinet and tenor saxophone with seemingly effortless ease; two instruments he’s been playing since he was an elementary school student in Bangor.
While his roots are in the Queen City, his musical journey has taken him all over the country. He’s been based primarily in New York for the past six years, but Viner recalls his time spent learning from such Bangor musical luminaries as George Redman, Scott Burditt, Steve Norris, Beth Wiemann and Darrell Rhodes. Viner also comes from a very musical family — older Bangorians will recall the old family business, Viner’s Music, while younger residents probably have seen his brother, Chris Viner, playing drums in jazz and rock bands, from Jack’s Wild to the Colin Graebert Trio.
“My dad played piano. We always had a piano in the house. The Viner family is definitely pretty musical,” he said. “My grandfather gave me my first saxophone, even though he prefers it when I play clarinet. I like both sax and clarinet equally, though. For completely different reasons.”
After his freshman year at Bangor High School, Viner attended Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for most of the remainder of high school. For college, he went to the New School in New York and now attends Julliard.
He’s immersed in the New York jazz scene, and at the age of 24, he’s a sought-after performer. He’s a versatile performer as well. He plays with groups as diverse as Bing and Ruth, a minimalist classical ensemble, to sessions with hip-hop megastar Ludacris — he’s performed with the rapper on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Saturday Night Live.”
“I was playing in a street fair for New School students at the beginning of the school year, and Ludacris’ keyboard player worked around the corner from where I was playing,” said Viner. “He heard me and got my contact info, and a few days later he called me up. We were on Letterman. It was a lot of fun.”
Aside from the aforementioned groups, Viner plays with the Steve Lehman Octet, a contemporary classical and jazz ensemble, the Jesse Elder Quintet, a modern jazz group and the Curtis McDonald Group, which plays straight-up jazz. He’s a busy man.
“I’m interested in playing anything. I would never want to limit myself strictly to traditional jazz,” said Viner. “Of course, I love to play that too. I like to try different things as much as I can.”
As relaxed and soft-spoken as he is in person, Viner is anything but that on stage. His energy is focused, and his intelligent, sensitive performing style easily mesmerizes his listeners. In New York, he often plays in apartments and basements, in addition to clubs such as Barbes and Le Poisson Rouge, two hubs for jazz, world and contemporary classical. This spring, he’ll tour the Netherlands and Germany with the Steve Lehman Octet.
Where does he see himself in five years?
“Hopefully performing as much as possible, and teaching,” said Viner. “I knew a long time ago that music was going to be my career. I’m pretty happy to be living where I’m living, and playing with some pretty amazing musicians.”
Jeremy Viner can be heard performing on the Grammy Award-nominated album “Eternal Interlude,” by the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, released on Sunnyside Records. For more information, visit www.jeremyviner.com.