Alvin R. Atkinson, Jr. (drums) grew up singing and playing music alongside his parents who were the directors of the gospel choir at their church. A drum student at age 8, he was content to play gospel music until by chance he heard a Stan Getz and Elvin Jones recording and by his own admission was "hooked on jazz." The Marsalis brothers encouraged him to play jazz and now he balances a very demanding career as a performer and an educator.
Recent highlights include: 2006 selected to participate in The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad Program (sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center) featuring Alvin Atkinson and The Sound Merchants; 2005 Vail Colorado Jazz Festival, Drummers Wall of Fame in Vail, CO, Jazz Winnipeg Festival and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Live Jazz Concert Series; 2004 Jazz Ambassador-tour of Africa and South America sponsored by the Kennedy Center and the U.S. State Department; 2002 performed at the White House for President George W. Bush, house drummer for the 2002-2003 season of the Emeril Live television show on the Food Network Channel, Harlem National Tour with the Kennedy Center, a movie score with Freddie Cole entitled A Tale of Two Pizzas; and performed with Wycliffe Gordon on the 1925 Paul Robeson film Body and Soul commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Alvin tours throughout the US and abroad with his group, The Sound Merchants and with other artists like Tom Browne, Mo' Jamaica Funk, 1996-2001 and Grammy nominated Nnenna Freelon, Soul Call tour, 2001. He created sound effects for the theatrical production of Red Badge of Courage at the Kennedy Center, 2002. In 2005, he participated in Jazz at Lincoln Center's workshop with Paquito D'Rivera and their Jazz in Schools tour.
Alvin served as the Visiting Professor of Drum-set Studies at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada teaching Jazz ensemble, vocal rhythm seminar and private lessons during the 2004-2005 school year. Prior to that, he served as Professor of Drum-set Studies for University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Alvin currently teaches Jazz Language and Rhythm Studies at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Middle School Jazz Academy, and he teaches private lessons and serves on the audition committee and the sophomore jury committee at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City.
Alvin has been featured in concert and has recorded with various artists such as: Freddy Redd, Benny Powell, Benny Green, Ellis Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, Barry Harris, Roy Hargrove, Donald Brown, Steve Wilson, T.K. Blue, Russell Malone, Eric Reed, Fred Wesley, Mark Elf, Houston Person, Curtis Fuller, Branford Marsalis, Ray Codrington, Eve Cornelious, Charlie Byrd, Oscar Brown, Jr., Ernie Andrews, Frank Wess, Johnny O'Neil, James Carter, Cecil Bridgewater, Reggy Workman, Harold Ousley, Luciana Souza, Miguel Zenon, Luis Perdomo, Steve Turre, Vanessa Rubin and Wycliffe Gordon.